Kind of a goofy story: I happened to spot this Cyripedium pubescens or Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid while I was having a bad moment during our trip to the Smoky Mountains this spring. The sight of it changed my day for the better.
As we were driving out to bike at Cades Cove, I suddenly had to GO. Funny thing about being in the mountains: there were no restrooms anywhere nearby or even any good stopping points. Too bad. I made my husband pull over and I just bounded out of the car before it had even come fully to a halt and bolted off into the woods like a startled and slightly frantic deer. (Which basically sounds like the setup to a not-so-creative horror movie and is not a course of action I would generally recommend! It’s easier than you might think to get turned around or lost in the woods when you aren’t on a trail.) I was feeling frantic, embarrassed, and worried that I was ruining our planned schedule for the day,
At any rate, seeing this flower stopped me momentarily in my tracks and changed my whole mood/mindset. I noted where it was, bounded much deeper into the woods to take care of business, made it back to the car, we did the bike ride, it was great, and then afterwards, I somehow navigated us back to this flower so my husband could see it and we could take some pictures.
You see, this variety of lady’s slipper is fairly rare. I’ve been to the Smoky Mountains about a dozen times, have hiked miles and miles of trails, and this was the first time I’ve ever seen one. They are fussy about the elevation they grow at, they need exactly the right amount of moisture (not much), and they like acidic soil. They aren’t found in gardens because they don’t like to be disturbed and they are nearly impossible to propagate. They also don’t tend to grow in big masses or clumps, aren’t very large, and have a fairly short bloom time.
Seeing one so unexpectedly was a quiet moment of grace. I can be prone to running around in the hamster wheel of my mind. The sight of this pulled me out of my head and put me right back into the moment. It made me stop and appreciate the simple wonder of a flower blooming in the forest. I felt very fortunate to have the life that I do, and realized how lucky I was to be there at that moment.