Kate Abbott: Collecting wildflowers on a Mother's Day walk


Marsh marigolds are out by the hundreds at the edge of the pond, and the white blossoms are fully open a foot above my head -- the shad blow.

I am walking slowly and waiting for the motion and the almost-80-degree heat to loosen my shoulder. It's that once-a-year afternoon when the leaves have uncurled enough to be recognizably maple leaves even from three stories below, but the sun still shines through.

I am sore and tired and loopy in the sun -- because I have handed in the 72-page Summer Previews magazine. It will come out in Friday's Eagle, inside the May 10 paper, but it is due from me earlier, and finishing it always leaves me breathless, like the last scramble up Ragged Mountain to reach the rocks above the tree line.

So now I am catching my breath and enjoying the view. This view is closer and quieter than the sweep of the valley. It's a view a few feet at a time, along the curve of the pond, past last year's cat-tails bleached to straw -- across the channel of a stream between hemlock trees -- between maple roots to spy out a trillium.

It's a view of the trails at Berkshire Sanctuaries in Lenox from 5 feet above the ground. And it's one my mom taught me to see.

I grew up down the road from a small preserved wood in southern Connecticut when hemlock trees still grew there, and in the spring she would take me to the plank walk, past the dinosaur rocks and the little island by the knee-high waterfall. She taught me the names of the dog's-tooth yellow violets and the trout lilies.

So her voice went with me as I came down the ravine with sweat between my shoulders, and as I came around the last bend of the boardwalk here, carrying photographs of the marsh marigolds in the sun.

And at the visitors center, I learned that the woman retrieving my trail map has lived just up the coast from my old hometown. As she told me about the coastal back roads she used to drive, I thought of my mom, who knows her way around those roads -- because she loves exploring double-lane roads worn smooth as old jeans almost as much as she loves walking in the woods -- and because she has worked and lived there long enough to know them -- and because she meets people, walking in the woods, getting groceries at the green market, finding bird seed for the feeders -- and she talks to people, and they tell her their favorite places.

Talking over the counter in that quiet and breezy room about the Italian grocery stores in East Haven, I thought of the natural food store on the Guilford Green that we called Ron's store -- Ron still runs it -- that had pink frozen yogurt in bulk before you could get frozen yogurt anywhere else, and honey that welled out of the crock in a thick, golden stream to fill a glass jar.

My mom used to take us there. It smelled of oats and rice, and we would peel back the wrappers of oblong sesame candies while we waited for her at the counter, as she talked.

Of all I owe her, it came to me then, this is a warm and solid part of it -- the back roads and the fringed polygala blooming on glacial rocks, the habit and friendliness of talking over counters -- the heart of my job -- and the playfulness that makes it sing.

To reach Kate Abbott:

(413) 496-6244



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