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The hunt for wildflowers

I can’t wait for spring to arrive!

As winter recedes I can feel the anticipation of warmer weather and longer days.
Spring brings hope and promise for the future. I become energized and have a renewed attitude when I wake from the darkness of winter and walk into spring.

I love feeling the coolness meeting the warmth of the sun. Every change of season that we get to enjoy in the Midwest is inspiring.

When I lived in Texas, the signs of season changes were less dramatic. I missed the longing for one season after another. I didn’t get to see the vivid greening up of grass and the abundance of daffodils in the spring.

This time of year feels magical.

Some of my best memories of spring are roaming the hills with my siblings looking for wildflowers. Our seventh grade science teacher at Waterloo elementary, Mr. Wayne White, always assigned a wildflower project and, since three of us girls were in grades back-to-back for at least three years, we went through the same routine.

Mom bought us a small book of wildflowers with pictures and identification information.

We’d pour over the pictures until we had memorized what they looked like. We’d identify the flowers that were often seen in our particular area.

Then, we’d painstakingly search for the flowers. With book in hand, we’d compare what flowers we found to be sure we found the correct name.

I remember being excited when we found Blood Root, Mayapples, Trilliums, and Lady Slippers.

Climbing the steep hills and examining every large sandstone jutting out of the ground, we’d set our eyes to focus in on the tiniest places and scream out when we found a new blossom.

We marveled at how delicate the blooms were and how perfect the names were for some of  them. I could see a preacher in the Jack-in-the-Pulpit and the Dutchman’s Breeches always brought a laugh. But the nickname for Bluets really put a vision in our minds: Quaker Ladies Standing by the Garden Gate.

We’d carefully carry our bounty back to our house, where Mom would help us gently place the flowers between two pieces of wax paper then tuck them into a heavy book for pressing.

We’d stack books upon books to be sure the flowers were pressed perfectly.

After a few days we’d take our construction paper and paste the flat blossom onto the page.

We’d write a description of the flower on an index card and paste it with the appropriate flower.

When the wildflower assignment was due, we’d carry a portfolio of usually uneven construction paper, tied together with ribbon for binding. For three years in a row, the sister preparing the wildflower assignment gave us an opportunity to relearn the beauties of the woods we lived among.

Mr. White did us a favor by assigning this project. I wasn’t really fond of school, and adding homework to my regular schedule didn’t appeal to me. But this project took us outside and made us really consider the beauty of creation.

Lawrence County holds a treasure chest of jewels spread out among the steep hills. You just have to intentionally look for the multicolored gems that lay at your feet.


Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com.