The wind picked up as I hit the fourth mile mark. The warm breeze wrapped around my face and lifted upward and to the East.
It had been a cool fifty degrees when I started my trek an hour and a half earlier, but once the sun crested thirty degrees above the horizon the temperature had been in a steady climb and was fueling the wind gusts that reminded you that the invisible vapor we breath is a powerful force. One not to misjudge. It is tornado season after all.
The stream channel I was flanking formed a perfect wind tunnel between the Sycamore, Willow, and River Birch that lined its banks. I cinched the chinstrap down on my hat so I wouldn’t be chasing it down that serpentine route. While the air was warming, I knew that water was still ice cold from the snow melt up North, and I didn’t relish the idea of wading through it to retrieve my headgear.
I’ve hiked many a mile with this head-cover. Through deserts, forests, mountains, caves. Sun, rain, and snow. On foot and on horseback. Even submerged with it in a river I was floating when the current, not so gently, rolled me over a hidden boulder.
I’ve kind of grown attached to it. And it to me, with that leather lanyard firmly weaving it into an elongated extension of my silhouette.
You might say, we’re a team.
It had become an essential part of my wilderness ensemble. Just as important as my knife or my water bottle. It shielded me from the elements. Protected me from low-lying branches or a low rock ceiling. Served as bucket when I needed a drench of water to refresh and revive.
And here we walked. Easter Sunday.
While many were gathering in confined structures to express their beliefs, I was traversing an infinite cathedral. The natural world I feel so at home in.
I remember once having a discussion about my love of the wild with a very religious fellow. He said, “It sounds to me like you’re worshiping the creation, instead of the creator.” My response, “Well, if the creation is part and parcel of the creator, then actually, I am worshiping the creator.”
We all have different ways.
I try to get in touch with the Source with the best way I know how. And this was a day filled with many gifts. Many spiritual connections.
Caw, Caw, Caw! The crows cried out to me as they carved a wide circle. A westward spiral.
A group of Turkey Vultures circled in low, having sniffed out a dead Opossum, while perched high in the top of a Sycamore, a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks were feeding their newly hatched young. The cycles of life and death. Every spirit playing their part. Death and rebirth.
A Groundhog cheerfully rooted about in the fresh grass on the hillside on the opposite bank of the stream. It didn’t care about my entrance. I posed no threat.
And then my whole body shook with the burst of a seven-foot wingspan. A Great Blue Heron alighted from the stream not ten feet in front of me. This four-foot tall Thunderbird had stood motionless until I was uncomfortably close. Camouflaged in the Horsetail Reeds it stood tall among. Unseen until it took flight. Then impossible not to see.
The Heron. Symbol of fierce self-determination. One of my spirit totems. Tattooed on my right shoulder. It was time to pause and closely examine my surroundings. What gifts must lay before my feet. The messenger had said LOOK!
The Star of Bethlehem flower.
I was standing in an entire bed of these flowers, but I had been so busy looking up and around me, I could have easily passed them all by. And I had never seen, or at least don’t remember having ever seen, these flowers before.
Ornithogalum umbellatum. The word Ornithogalum is Greek, with “ornithos” meaning bird and “gala” meaning milk. “Bird milk” apparently, was used to describe something really incredible. Incredible it was.
And here I had just encountered the majestic Heron telling me to pay attention.
A perennial plant with delicate, six petaled, white flowers. Also known as the “Wonder Flower” or “Arabian Star Flower.” It’s a fascinating plant in terms of its symbolism.
A compilation of ironies.
Biblically speaking, it’s linked to the birth of Christ. And here it was Easter Sunday. The rebirth.
The Star of Bethlehem symbolizes purity, atonement, and reconciliation. And while the color white is usually associated with being pure, fresh, good, or flawless, in the sense of wavelengths of light, white is not a color at all. It has no spectral wavelength. It is more accurately defined as the sum of all colors.
And being the opposite of “good,” every part of this plant is poisonous. Perhaps, it could be said to be “purely” poisonous.
It is nicknamed the “florist nightmare” for having so long of a shelf-life.
After death, it still lives.
And if it enters your garden, it is invasive and rapidly overtakes other flowers and plants. You can’t get rid of it with herbicides either as its waxy leaves are impenetrable.
If you want them gone, you must dig up each and every bulb.
The number six, as in the number of its petals, embodies immense symbolism. Six is the number for home, hearth, loving relations, family and service. It represents the Mother Goddess – the Mother Bear – it protects and nourishes.
A six-petal flower is also the symbol of love, associated with divine sexual energy. The petals have been linked to the six days of creation and the six kingdoms – Animal, Human, Plant, Mineral, Angelic, and the Unknown.
The number six has also been said to represent “sacred geometry,” depicting the fundamental forms of space and time.
Yet, the feminine and sexual connotations associated with this number resulted in the Catholic Church labeling it “the number of sin.” And everyone knows the feared “Mark of the Beast,” the number 666.
Pure. Poisonous. Birth. Death. Creation. Destruction. Nourishing. Suffocating. Good. Evil.
So much to think about embodied in this little beauty.
Pleasant hiking, and may your discoveries be so rich.
With my hat in hand.
Photos: From yesterday’s trails . . .