My life on the backwaters of Westerhouse Creek near the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia is peaceful and bucolic, coexisiting serenely with the woodland creatures that live among the thousands of acres of open land around my waterfront home. Often I hike along a narrow and ill-defined deerpath that follows the general lay of the shoreline. Paddling Westerhouse Creek, a colorful saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay, in my kayak nearly every day has brought me many close encounters with the native wildlife. Catching deer swimming across the creek, watching bald eagles snatch fish out of the water and having a river otter swim right up to my boat, whining at me to give him space — what other surprises awaited me? After a few years I felt I had a pretty good handle on the lay of the land and felt that there wasn’t much more to discover in my woods and along the edges of fields.
Then, lo and behold, while placing my kayak on the post and beam rack I have built next to the dock, I caught sight of a bright pink object in the brown underbrush. It was tax time, April 15, and as I approached, this pink object took on a whole new form, joined by a couple of other ones sitting high and mighty on the ends of tall green stalks. I had never seen anything like it!
So, everyday for the next few weeks, I studied this peculiar flowering plant, the only one of its kind anywhere in the forest where I live. Soon it lost its luster and the bloom faded away leaving only the stalk and big green leaves laying on the ground. Having qualified as a Master Gardener with three months of classes and a year and a half of volunteer gardening labor, I felt I ought to know what this strange plant was. I asked around but finally I researched orchids and discovered that this is the hard- to- find Lady Slipper. Now, after five years, I always look for it around tax time when the tall stalks sprouting from big, sturdy, green leaves sprout the oddest and most beautiful pink blooms. This exotic show lasts for about a month and then fades away over summer, to return yet again the next spring with an additional stalk and flower.