Growing up there were several “events” that happened on a regular enough basis that my sister and I came to count on them as part of our normal lives. We became accustomed to them, and we really didn’t think of any of them as “odd’, rather, they were just part of our life. It is only now, as an adult, while I’m trying to re-create many (but definitely not all) of those experiences for my own girls, that I’m really beginning to understand what a unique, one-of-a-kind childhood I had. Erika, my sister, and I were so very blessed to have been raised the way we were – out of touch with media most of the time; noses buried deep in books constantly; and imaginations that ran wild with such creatures as the culvert whale, our “butterfly tent”, the net (a big net suspended about 5′ off the ground between trees to sleep on); and free run of acres and acres of National Forest every year.
- Most children would not need to help clean off the dining room table after dinner so their dad could taxidermy whatever dead animal had been lurking at the back of the kitchen freezer for the past few weeks.
- Those same children would probably not have lost their first tooth while with their dad in an old barn looking for owl pellets.
- Digging a new outhouse at Lily White with Erika and I being lowered down into the hole by rope to dig (kind of frightening, now that I think about it).
- Most children didn’t have summer college students and professors teaching them how to press flowers, pan for gold, identify hundreds of different animals, birds, and insects.
- Most children were not nearly as lucky and blessed as Erika and I were.
One thing I can vividly remember every year while we were at Lily White was when the Indian Moccasin Orchids would begin to bloom. They are rare, very hard to find, and they have a very short growing season. It was a special treat every year for our whole family to make almost daily hikes to wherever we knew they had grown in the past so we could all see them blooming. I loved the hikes with my family – the long walking and the sore feet – because each time we went it was an adventure with such a wonderful reward at the end of our journey.
I have not seen an Indian Moccasin in the wild for probably twenty-five years. My dad stopped running the summer college at Lily White, we spent more time engaged in other activities in the summers, and quite frankly, I turned into a snot and never wanted to do those kinds of things with my family.
Yesterday, Aaron, the girls, and I went to the Blue Mountains above Heppner to get more firewood for Aaron’s dad and step-mom. We were just starting to carry the chunks of wood from the very first tree Aaron fell when I stumbled across an Indian Moccasin Orchid. Literally – I tripped over a branch on the ground and that’s when I noticed the blooms. I was so astounded that I found them out of the blue, not even looking, and right in the prime of their blooming season, I was giddy with excitement! I made Harley run back to the pick up and grab my camera (never leave home without it) and my cell phone (to send and instant picture to my mom), had Aaron turn off the saw, and gathered all the girls up so I could explain to them what the flower was and why it was so important to me. By the time I was done talking, I’m sure they all were ready to commit me to an asylum. The instant flood of memories that washed over me was so profound, special, and dear to me that the rolled eyes were totally worth it!
Another botanical experience Erika and I couldn’t wait for each year was the blooming of the Butterfly Lillies. I am only now finding out (or at least remembering) that the actual name of the flower is the Big Pod Mariposa Lily, but Erika and I always called them Butterfly Lily. The meadows immediately surrounding Lily White would become seas of delicate, white blooms. We would pick and pick and pick them – the main building was always full of bouquets. They are somewhat plain, though pretty, to look at from the outside of their petals, but when you look inside, they are absolutely stunning! The colors are so pretty, and the little yellow spot on each petal? That is a gland (I have no idea what it does, though).
Much like my experience with the Indian Moccasin Saturday, I was trudging through an open rocky area with an arm load of wood when I noticed it was full of Butterfly Lillies. Perfection!
Even though we were working really hard to get wood, my day could not have been any better. The path I was able to take through the memories triggered by these two lovely flowers allowed me to re-live and reminisce about the experiences I had as a wild child, running through the woods with only my imagination and my sister to guide my way.
A salute to all of our almost-forgotten memories and the triggers that cause them to come flooding back to us! It is oh so worth it!
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