The Golden Spring


Golden tree of early spring, at sunset.

I read Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay way back in my first or second year of college – 53 years ago or so. I’m a bit amazed that I remember it, though vaguely, because I don’t have clear memories of many things that I learned way back then.

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold…

The impact of this poem has been that I’ve marveled at the golden hue of buds on trees, that haze of gold in very early spring that tells me green is soon to come. The golden mist on the horizon that in a day or two turns to a bright green. Frost was right that the gold of early spring doesn’t stay. But as I reread the poem, now that I’m in my 70’s, I hear a meaning that my 20-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend – at least not emotionally.

…So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.


I’ve been thinking of the aging process, triggered by the 5-day stay of our grandson and his family. They brought with them a 4 year old very active son and a 2 year old daughter. Zachary is turning 30 this year and they seem to have the same response as I had as I was approaching my 30th birthday – “Boy that seems old.” Allison is a few years behind him.

They have energy and take raising their children very seriously. This makes me very happy because I am the biological great-grandparent of the two year old and love the 4 year old as if he were a biological descendant. We are great-grandparents and we are emotionally invested in our young people and also all the parents and babies in all places.

Having our grandchildren and great-grandchildren in our home really tired us out, but I remember the energy I had as a young parent, to work and to play and to love. I also remember the worry and stress, and the numbing tiredness at the end of the day. Yes, those may have been golden days that quickly passed away, but they weren’t perfect days. There were times when I was eager to have a stage of family life move on into a new one.


The kids left at noon on Monday to visit Zachary’s maternal grandparents. It didn’t take long for us to ease back into our retirement routine of quietly greeting the morning with a cup of coffee on my purple porch swing, of coming and going as I please. Days of mixing up housework and quilting, reading and knitting, gardening and friends so my body is happy and my soul finds meaning.

Daughter, Carol, asked me when it was that I was able to become “great,” as in great-grandparent. Yes, I do feel great, and I have a lifetime of memories of great times. Maybe Robert Frost was right that nothing gold can last – but maybe he should have added another stanza that addresses the fact that the green of summer that spring gold moves into is just as wonderful.

I wonder what the golden days of my today will evolve into as I continue my spring and summer, fall and winter days. There is a darkness in this poem,

So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.

Yes I have grieved the loss of those golden days of young adulthood, but an advantage of having an aged brain is that I am better able to hold the totality of life, the vast continuum of good and bad, within my heart and know that it was what it had to be and I did the best I could with what I was given.



I have a few tulips growing in my garden but this isn’t one of them. The ones in my garden never bloom because the deer eat the emerging leaves and bud stalk in very early spring, before we return to Michigan to use our deer repellent.


I really don’t mind sharing my space with deer but my garden – not so much. I’m a little tired today so I don’t really want to think or write about options for co-existence with wildlife – today I’m standing firm that my flower garden is my space.


Obviously, as I look out my window at the topped-off leaves of a few clumps of tulips, the deer have taken the same stand. How lucky I am that we found some beautiful tulips at the Hidden Lake Garden last week and the images I brought home bring me joy after a week of very grey skies and lots of rain.


The tulips had blossomed between our weekly visits and were probably the biggest change in the garden last week – at least they gave the biggest punch of color.


Watching for More Spring



Dateline: Hidden Lake Garden, M-50 in southern Michigan.

There was no mistaking that we were still in an early spring woods, but our spirits were full of anticipation, fueled by glimpses of the ethereal haze of pale green or red buds on the occasional tree in the distance. It was warmer this week – I was comfortable in crop pants and a short-sleeved tee.


There were more daffodils out this week, especially in the woodland areas – but we saw large beds in the meadows that were still all green. Maybe they will be out in the next couple of weeks.


Spring Beauty – Claytonia Virginica

Julie & I talked about how fragile the early spring wildflowers seem – but then realized that they are really tough to survive the unpredictable transition from winter to spring. In my early career as a mental health therapist and even as a professor and mentor to college students, I met so many people who seemed fragile, who came from less than nurturing environments but were making it. They had the same beauty and toughness as the early spring wildflowers. It was so rewarding for me to watch them as they bloomed – in all their glory.


Yellow Trout Lily – Erythronium Americanum

Now, many years later, I was thoroughly enjoying my camera time, working from different heights and angles, with different setting, working to capture the delicate beauty of these early wildflowers. Our first stop is at the hosta garden that slopes down a steep hill to the Hidden Lake. A few hostas are just beginning to push through the ground. They are all marked with black tags as wildflowers and summer bulbs are allowed to grow and bloom before the hostas spread their leaves to cover the ground.

The garden also has a vast area of woodlands where the natural ecosystem is allowed to run its course, with hiking trails and a single lane drive. There isn’t much traffic during the week in early spring so we stop frequently to admire and photograph the flowers flourishing in the sun – before the trees leaf out making a shady canopy.



I was excited to see a few Vinca blossoms because the floor of this woods sloping up above these stone walls is covered with Vinca and in a couple of weeks should be covered in blue.


We found large patches of wildflowers growing along the road where the trees thin out close to the upland meadow. These blue ones captivated me and I took several photos trying to capture how I experienced this patch through the integration of eye and heart.



I couldn’t find them in my reference books, nor could I find a useful on-line flower identification site – but I’m sure one (or more) of my readers will be able to tell me their name(s).


Here are two more wildflowers we found at stops along the drive through the wooded areas. They are very familiar, in fact the blue one has found its way into my front garden bringing a bit of early spring serendipity and color into a garden I am trying to keep under control. But I can’t recall ever knowing their names and my reference books haven’t been any help.

We received a couple days of rain and spring is really popping in our neighborhood so I’m looking forward to returning again to this woodland garden.

Very Early Spring


I was having a conversation, about us leaving for the north, with someone who lives year around in Naples, Florida and we talked about changing seasons, the coming of spring. He said he enjoys watching spring come to Naples. My brain couldn’t understand this statement because I frequently slip and say something about spending the summer in Naples because it sure looks like summer in January, February and March. And October, November and April. We finally reached a two-person consensus that seasonal changes in southern Florida are very subtle. The biggest change is the number of cars on the roads and how long you have to wait for a table at your favorite restaurant in season compared to out of season.

Change of seasons are very obvious in Michigan. I have a lifetime of experiencing the movement from winter to late winter to early spring to spring to late spring to summer to late summer to early fall… you get the picture. I have so many northern season because I have visceral knowledge of the subtle changes that lead to the real change. The most eagerly awaited for me, when I constantly scan the woods and tips of shrubs is that transition between late winter and early spring.

Friend Julie and I went on our first photo outing of the year, deciding to go to Hidden Lake Gardens to photograph the signs in nature of very early spring. The day started out more like late winter with heavy cloud cover and a very brisk cold wind. As we were driving down the woodland lane the sun came out and it began to feel more like early spring – until we stopped at an open parking lot and felt that bone-chilling wind. All a part of early spring.


The most exciting sign of early spring is the faint coloring that comes to woodland areas, that first faint pale green on the underbrush and the haze of color at the front of the tree line.


Our first visit is earlier this year than previous years, so we were excited about seeing the first wildflowers to emerge. Lower Michigan had snow two weeks ago. It was cool on this morning, somewhere in the 40’s, and the white hellebore didn’t seem to want to face the day. The pink ones seemed a bit braver.


I was surprised at the number of different wildflowers that were blooming. One of the staples of moving from early spring to spring is the blooming daffodils. They were just beginning to come out so we figure the meadows and woodlands will be carpeted in yellow and white within a week or two.


We made the decision to do our weekly photo shoot at this same place for the next three week so we can document spring unfolding in this woodland setting. Stay tuned to this space.



A Vernal Morning in Michigan

Friend Julie and I did our “Down Dirt Roads” photo excursion last Monday, but went down the paved paths of the Hidden Lake Garden in southern Michigan. This large expanse of land is own and maintained by Michigan State University as part of their Land Grant College mission. They do a wonder job of maintaining the natural landscape of the woods while also having landscaped areas like the conifer gardens and the hosta and wildflower garden.

The hosta garden is the first stop on the one-way driving path and we were excited to see trillium growing in the woods. We made our way, with cautious steps, through last year’s leaves and fallen limbs. Walking on uneven terrain, up and down hills, feels more precarious every year – but the reward still seems greater than the risk. There was a large trunk of a fallen tree that we needed to get over to get the best shots of the trillium and I couldn’t resist sitting for a while. I love the calming stillness of the early spring woods – the birds singing while the sun warms me. It was cold on this morning, cold enough for gloves to be welcome.


I found I was in a gentle, delicate mood and was drawn to photographic images that reflected my mood. Or maybe my mood was in response to this early spring environment. I kept thinking about how delicate and fragile early spring can seem in the northern United States. In a very real sense it is delicate, and fragile, because a couple of nice days doesn’t predict a smooth unfolding of the season. We can get a freeze that destroys the blossoms on fruit trees. When I left the house on this middle of May morning there was still frost on the lawn where the sun hadn’t yet reached.

After quietly and intently photographing the wildflowers growing among the hosta we drove around the end of the hidden lake where the view was at lake level. It’s a hidden lake because it is surrounded by high hills.


On both of our first spring excursions, Julie and I frequently spoke about the multitude of greens and golds of the emerging leaves on the previously dormant deciduous trees. There is such a stark difference once the bare, almost sinister-looking trees start to leaf out. And of course we marveled and took lots of photos trying to capture the graceful beauty of the dogwoods and redbuds blooming along the edges of the woods.

Our next stop was on the stretch of road that goes up and around the west side of the lake. I like stopping here on the road and on this day it wasn’t a problem because there weren’t many people or vehicles. I like stopping here because there is a tall stone retaining wall that allows a different perspective of the wildflowers and trees that grow above.

I stopped using my tripod because there was a breeze gently tossing the more delicate blooms. I figured that if I took enough shots, the moving flowers, my less than steady hands, and the vibration reduction of the lens would all come together for me – and sometimes it almost did.

We continued around the trails, stopping frequently and not wanting to hurry. We have driven this trail before so we know where there may be daffodils and other flowers growing wild. It was a perfect spring day and we wanted it to last forever. We lingered at every stop. It was so beautiful that I even forgot that we had decided to visit a quilt shop in the small town down the state highway before we headed home.

Our last stop was at the arboretum but that will be another post. I hope that you are also able to find some gentleness in this season – or if you are from down under you find it in your transition from hot weather to cold. (What a strange way of saying “from the southern hemisphere.” Do you say that we in the northern hemisphere are from “up over?”)

My photo outing this week fits perfectly with Paula’s Thursday’s Special: Vernal. You need to check out her beautiful photograph and what others are linking to her post.