Showy Lady’s Slipper
Where Cinderella dropped her shoe,~Elaine and Dora Goodale (Apple Blossoms: Verses of Two Children, 1878)
‘Tis said in fairy tales of yore,
‘Twas first the lady’s slipper grew
And there its rosy blossom bore.
And ever since, in woodlands gray,
It marks where spring retreating flew,
Where speeding on her eager way,
She left behind her dainty shoe.
On pensile-stem it drooping sways,
Pale, pink-veined blossom, lightly swung,
Here, brushing thro’ yon tangled ways,
‘Twas lost these withered leaves among.
Like Prince of old, on romance bent,
We bring it home with tender care;
But all in vain–the magic lent
By fairy lore still lingers there.
Yet see, alas! no foot we find
To fit that shoe so slender-small:
Our Cinderella’s left behind,–
So let her lady’s-slipper fall.
The end of June, when strawberries are ripe–that’s when the Showy Lady’s Slippers bloom. They stand out in the road ditches, so that even driving by at 55 mph, they’re easy to spot.
As long as anyone in my family can remember, the Minnesota state flower has always grown out in the swamp–or rather, the popple island in the middle of the swamp, as well as the tamarack woods behind it. To reach them, one must brave woodticks, mosquitoes, and during some springs, up to knee-deep icy water. I grew up with stories of my great aunt taking her nephews and niece on treks out there to see them, and my grandpa writing to the state to request permission to pick them for bouquets for church.
During my years in 4-H, I exhibited photographs of these flowers roughly every other year from 6th grade until I graduated, finally scoring a reserve champion my senior year of high school.