Questing for northern orchids in Hawley Bog

Orchids grow here. I knelt on the boardwalk, balanced over the floating peat mat, to look up under the hanging blossom of a rose pogonia.

Sunday morning — hot, bright and quiet — and I’m nose to nose with four pink petals and a white fuzz of sepal I didn’t know lived in the wild this far north of the Amazon. But I’m high up east of Charlemont. The mountains have bogs too, and here in Hawley, in 25 acres the Nature Conservancy and the 40 the Five Colleges look after, I’m learning all over again how many beautiful things live here.

The air smelt and sounded sweet. My companions told me I heard a veery, a tanager and a cedar wax wing overhead. Ornit hologist David St. James and naturalist Thom Smith, the Eagle’s long-running columnist, had invited me on a visit to a place they have known for many years.

Red buds open into white bloom in Hawley bog on a sunny day in June.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Red buds open into white bloom in Hawley bog on a sunny day in June.

Bog Laurel buds show deep pink in Hawley Bog.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Bog Laurel buds show deep pink in Hawley Bog.

It’s a gift. As Thom said later, many people have strong feelings about the beautiful places they know. A place where you feel at home becomes your place, and you want to keep it safe — make sure no one crashes through and breaks the bog mats. I understand this feeling very well.

But as I answered him, I also understand wanting to share. Dazed by the brilliant yellow of the horned bladderwarts, I want to tell everyone I know.

Later, in Bog Pond in Savoy, we floated between them and stands of pitcher plants — Thom dipped up water in one cup-shaped leaf and poured it out.He handed it to me to show the spines that catch insects. I touched a Sundew’s fuzz of hairs tipped with a clear, sticky muscelage, that traps an insect while a leaf curls around it.

And in a week or so, the blueberries will be ripe.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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