Every year beginning in April and throughout June our Pacific Northwest woods come alive with the effusive pink blooms of our wild rhododendrons. The small community of Florence, Oregon proudly proclaims its title as the ‘City of the Rhododendrons, and home to the 2nd oldest flower festival in Oregon; the Rhododendron or ‘Rhodie’ Festival.
Commonly and lovingly known as ‘rhodies,’ this particular genus (rhododendron macrophyllum) is unique to the Pacific Northwest coast from Vancouver, BC to Monterey, CA. To drive along the Highway 101 and all secondary roads, to hike or walk through our woods is to experience the sheer riot of these prolific bloomers. For rhodies to be here at all requires many specific conditions. Their interdependence on trees- the Douglas Fir, Western hemlock, Sitka spruce, Western red cedar, the coastal shore pine (and further south the Port Orford cedar, Myrtlewood continuing into the the CA Redwoods) along with the temperate climate and sandy, shallowly layered, low nutrient soil, brings a very specific eco system to our NW coast in which they thrive.
Rhodies can grow up 30+ feet tall weaving their long branches upward through the trees or hike their way along the ground creating a thick underbrush supported and protected by the native salal, huckleberry and wax myrtle thus becoming needed shelter to bird and mammals both large and small. Through the thick weblike maze Rhodies find their way upward toward the light in these dense , sometimes dark, coastal forests. They withstand drought by curling in their broad leaves. Liking moisture not rain, they look for drier spots and love to nestle among the trees where they can thrive off their coolness and moisture. They spring up from a mother root ball just below the ground and wander as far as mother allows which can be great distances yet still staying connected. Their surivial depend on that connection to its mother root and its interconnection to the trees and undergrowth surrounding it. To move a wild rhodie is like tearing a child from its mother, its family…its roots. .. possible but takes tremendous care, patience, constant attention, training, nurture and, yes, love, to re- create perfect conditions and environment in which to grow and thrive.
Almost daily I walk through these woods with Scarlett at my side. I marvel at nature’ s lessons, nature’s truths of dependence and interdependence, of connectedness and interconnection, of thrive, of survive, of seasons and cycles; of life, of death…certainly of change. Nature teaches us… she teaches us to notice, to allow. She teaches patience, to trust her ways. Nature teaches us to see, to listen and to hear… maybe to let go and not interfere. We see that the earth has her own system of intelligence, wisdom, brilliance. She is alive and pulsing, from her core out, from her atmosphere in! She is efficient and generous. We continuously receive her bounties, her blessing, her beauty through all of our senses. Nature heals.
Nature is also a great teacher. She teaches that we need each other; that the very success and vibrancy of lives and our survivial depends on our interdependence one to another and to our earth. We do not exist outside the laws of nature. We come in through a planted seed. We grow rooted into our mothers wombs which gives us the conditions and sustenance to grow and thrive. Then we spring forth out of that root into our first breath lovingly connected to the one there who will mother, nurture and sustain us. We are all born into our own unique conditions and environment. Our dependence is great until our gradual independence allows us to extend out and upward toward our own experiences knowing we are supported by the the undergrowth, the thick and complex web woven around us of safety, of shelter never far from the root ,that connection from which we sprung. We climb along the strong ones (the trees) trusting their steadiness, their support as we reach higher aspiring toward that higher ground moving ever closer to the light… the light of knowledge, of understanding, of wisdom, of virtue. And when we are uprooted or when there is loss, a tearing away, there is something innate in us like in nature that will seek to reclaim or find again those conditions, that environment in which we can thrive. We have the experience of a mother root. We use those innate and given qualities, our intuition, our perceptions, our intelligence, maybe our vision, and our learned skills to reach out, to extend ourselves, to look to ourself and others as a source of strength and support. We have to trust. We have to learn patience. We give. We receive. We care, we take care. We create communities. We learn. We heal. And we seek our new way… a way that will continue to sustain, protect, support and, yes, love… and we will thrive!