Today should have been a happy day. I found a rare gem…for me, a first-time discovery. The occurrence had been documented before, but I have stood poised through winter, waiting for the moment that I would encounter the elusive and rare snow trillium (Trillium nivale). The plants are minute–about the same height as a Kennedy half dollar on its side, and similar in width to the same coin on its face (at least those encountered today). Their foliage is glaucous (with a bluish hue), and the flowers are white, giving double meaning to the name, “snow trillium,” as the plants also often bloom through the last fits of early spring snow. Anyone walking with eyes looking forward rather than to their feet would miss these plants. It’s almost as if snow trillium exists because one thinks there should be beauty at one’s feet or where one is, rather than in the forward view or future. The first plant I found was not in flower, but it was promising to reveal its beauty soon. The feeling I had at that moment is one that only searchers–birders, botanists, other similar types–understand.
However, I was immediately concerned by my setting. It was clear I was near the edge.
I stumbled out into the open, beneath the power lines, into an area within the greater realm of the snow trillium, carefully outlined in pale green colored pencil by my predecessor on the old aerial photo I carried with me. I was immediately sober, angry, and mourning.
I thought I had been desensitized long ago, perhaps even before I ever wore a cape and gown or even drove a car.
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.