Vandalizing our spectacular landscape
They are blossoming only a few feet apart, one a beauty, the other just beastly.
The beauty is a pink lady’s slipper, the orchid Cypripedium acaule, with the Greek origin of Cypripedium meaning “Aphrodite’s sandal.”
Just right now, they’re everywhere, the combination of temperature and water just right for their arrival — if you know where, or maybe how, to look.
You see them all of a sudden, as if, even with their abrupt difference in colour, they blend into the background until all at once your eyes become accustomed to seeing them. Then, you see not one or two or six but 20 or more, and they range though all states of their short blossoming life, like a taxonomic textbook come to life.
The bright full-bladdered new blooms, the older ones, softer and bulging a little, the pale oldest flowers, the ridgework of their white veins working the surface so they look like the unlit mantle of an old Coleman lantern.
A tiny woods choir, all ages, standing straight up together, open-mouthed.
The lady’s slipper I took a picture of was on a walking trail along the wooded shoulder of a huge St. John’s city park, a wire fence away from a commuter road.
The beast I mentioned at the beginning of the column? A couple of old fans, a greasestained toaster oven, a brokenup dehumidifier.
Just dumped at a quick convenient spot by a parking area for the trail, clearly by someone who had turned in, turned their car around, and just unloaded their special gifts into the woods.
It never ceases to amaze me: the East Coast of Canada has some of the most beautiful scenery and natural places that anyone could imagine, and at the same time, no shortage of residents who obviously don’t care about their surroundings.
I have a photo in my phone of a ripped green leatherette armchair, tipped sideways, simply left on the side of the road on Nova Scotia Route 311 heading north to Tatamagouche — another of coffee cup lids built into the sand like plastic seashells on a long beach above Alberton on Route 12 in P.E.I. A cliffside dump of household garbage running 100 feet downwards on an oceanfront rock face on the way to Newfoundland’s Caplin Cove.
(Special bonus there — look down for trash from diapers to car parts, look straight out to sea for the pristine white and bright blue of a coast-hugging iceberg.)
I can be on a river so distant from others that I can spend a whole day walking into a wilderness area, not once see another soul, and come across a fire pit and a half-dozen empty beer cans on a sandy spit next to the water. I’ve hauled more trash out of the woods than I can remember.
Sometimes, it’s downright unbelievable the distance someone will take an old television, only to dump it and enjoy the special pleasure of putting a rock through the screen for good measure.
Finding trash amongst our outdoor treasure never fails to make me angry.
But, to add insult to injury, I came around the corner from the orchid at exactly the same time as a pair of young hiking tourists, one with a backpack with a small German flag sewn on, came from the other direction.
I caught them in the act of looking down at the trash, and then looking at me as if they expected me to offer a plausible explanation before they moved past me, shaking their heads.
I couldn’t even summon anger just then.
We’re better than this. Aren’t we?