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and another as my heartbeat accelerated.

Audrey and I both feel passionately about keeping their secret. Their preservation requires them to propagate, and the only way they can cast seeds is to be left alone. People want to pick them, and that’s detrimental to the species. Others try to transplant them to their backyard environments, but that almost never works. They rely on a certain fungus in the soil to grow and thrive. The fungus breaks open the lady slipper seeds and attaches to it, passing on its nutrients so that the orchid can flourish. When the orchid is mature, it shares its nutrients with the fungus. They help each other.

I looked around, and when I was certain no one was watching, I shimmied up the hill to get a closer look. Each plant has two base leaves and a main stem that shoots up eight to twelve inches from the ground. At the top, a pastel pink pouch with darker magenta veins juts out, underneath something that looks a little like a leafy street lamp. They are some of the oddest plants I’ve ever seen, but they are spectacular.

There’s a passage in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” that I think about often. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” Shug says in the story. I believe this to be true about the color purple, about clouds, about birds, about trees, about everything in the natural world. There’s so much beauty around us, and it is designed for us to marvel at and appreciate, but we have to slow down. We have to look for it sometimes.

I think it pleases the universe when we see something beautiful, stop for a moment, take it all in, and smile — just as Audrey and I stopped and adored those pink lady slippers last Friday.

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