In the Pacific Northwest, ferns are a kind of everyday object. They’re ubiquitous: overflowing in camouflage green across neighborhood parks, hiking trails, garden rockery — you name it. For most of my years living here I vacillated between not caring about them and passively disliking them.
On trail runs at Cougar Mountain, I’d cruise by areas that I called Fern Gully, tolerating them because I knew up ahead there was a stand of white-bark trees that make my inner Pocahontas swoon.
Until … until…
I met my husband.
When I heard him talk about his love for ferns with misty eyes, I thought he was joking. I didn’t know it was possible to love ferns. But in time, I understood.
It was February. My husband went to trim the line of overgrown scraggle-puss ferns along our driveway. He cut them down to nubs, you wouldn’t have know anything had been growing there. “That’s better,” I thought to myself, after he removed the green-brown overgrown mops.
Then we waited. The first twinkle of Spring arrived.
I had no idea. When ferns grow back they’re adorable curly queues of wonder. I watched these skinny little fronds rise out of the ground and turn into slender music notes. How did I never notice these babies?
I loved watching them grow back over the weeks. Then I noticed how ferns were coming back to life in their full bouquet-ness everywhere. (Private-owner ferns were cut back and tidy; the orphan park ferns had these easter egg tendrils hidden inside their ragamuffin fronds.) Eventually, I started noticing all different types of ferns. I’d point them out on walks to my husband, noting, say, how I liked the lemon-lime decorative ferns the most, and discovering new ones. Now I appreciate ferns. I notice them. Since it’s spring, I find myself walking past ferns and looking inside to see the new growth cuties unfolding. I wave to the newbies in all their slender Coca-Cola-curve glory.
I love how knowing the bigger story of something can change your relationship with that person place or thing. It happened for me with the artist Mark Rothko. (No fern of course!) I thought Rothko’s rectangles of color were puzzling until I ventured into this enlightening online tour of his art and life. I’m a rabid Rothko fan now.
And back to ferns. Look at this jaunty junior uncurling itself in our rockery.
Now when I take a walk two things happen: I notice the ferns with some level of interest — especially during springtime. And I see the new life uncurling inside the well-worn cacophony.