Nature’s Renewal

by David Phemister, Kentucky State Director

Trout Lillies © David Phemister
Trout Lillies © David Phemister

I had the great privilege of spending the Ides of March outside on a picture perfect day exploring woods and fields in Hardin and Grayson counties.   Rather than a day to beware, it was instead a day to celebrate being alive, with warm sun on our backs and a gentle breeze from the west.  Even the light seemed hopeful and optimistic, shining down through still bare trees and drying the leaf litter on the forest floor.   Perhaps spring’s most delicate and sublime gift – ephemeral wildflowers – were starting to poke up through those leaves, eager to drink in that sunlight before the shade of late spring and summer.  The spring beauties were blooming, delicate little white flowers with streaks of pale purple dotting the woods, enjoying their still uncrowded moment in the sun.   The yellow trout lilies were not yet in bloom, but they were so thick in places that I longed to return in a week or so to see their modest yellow flowers awaken the woods.

We moved along the base of 40-foot high cliffs, dripping water and dotted with moss.  Here were ferns and loads of spice bush in early bloom, little tuffs of yellow flowers at the end of thin branches.   A red shouldered hawk called from down near the creek, sounding excited about something.   Perhaps just the day.   We spotted a black racer sunning itself, looking very ready to shed its skin and start the spring jet black and shiny.   It moved off as we did, just a slight crinkle from the oak leaves as it headed for a quieter patch of ground.

© David Phemister
© David Phemister

There was a little ephemeral pool in a draw in the woods and the sweet call of spring peepers filled the air.   Not as loud as in the evenings, but they were up and chirping for mates.  I know of very few sounds that are so beautiful and which so immediately take me back to my childhood, lying awake in bed next to an open window, serenaded to sleep by frogs.

Back at home that evening, both our kids had trouble falling asleep.   Their rooms were warmer but not uncomfortably hot, with a nice breeze through open windows.   Still they twisted and turned on top of their blankets, asking for water or coming downstairs rubbing tired eyes that just would not close.   I told them they had spring fever, and after assuring them they weren’t really sick I told them were just like the hawk and the snake and the frogs.   Warmed by the sun, on the downslope to the vernal equinox, and excited to run through the woods.

Later, as I lay in bed, eyes open too, I thought of the day.   Of course, we were not out in the woods simply for a nice hike.  We were looking at conservation opportunities, places that need protection and restoration.   Spring’s return is eternal, but ensuring it continues to bear its full gifts – the chirp of the spring peeper, the call of the hawk, the delicate wildflower bloom – depends in large part on our choices, investments, and actions.   I closed my eyes.   The next day was back to the office, with plenty of work to do.


To help ensure The Nature Conservancy can continue to protect Kentucky’s beautiful natural spaces, Trustee Emeritus Tom Dupree, Sr. has issued the Spring Forward Match. Until June 30, he will generously match unrestricted gifts to the Kentucky Chapter, dollar-for-dollar, up to $60,000. Spring into action and donate today at nature.org/SpringForwardKy.