Wonderstruck by splendor of spring

Waist deep in a flowerbed full of colorful zinnias, I stopped weeding. I looked up and saw a monarch butterfly and then it hit me - I was wonderstruck. Its beauty was so captivating that it filled me with awe. I often feel this way when I experience the presence of something bigger than myself. Perhaps you have felt it, too.

It's easy to get lost in a nature's great splendor - a starry sky, a technicolor sunset, a summer garden in full bloom. Have you ever observed the way flower petals open or watched a humming bird in flight? Small moments like these are how I caught the gardening bug. I have always loved flowers, but I didn't begin gardening in earnest until I came to Illinois.

After a long first winter I watched in wonder as everything began to wake from its snow-covered slumber. The trees were suddenly covered in brilliant green buds. Everywhere I looked there were cheerful snowdrops and daffodils.

One Midwest spring and I was smitten. I had to find a way to create my own spectacular spring garden. I began studying flowers at botanical gardens and stopping to look at every beautiful yard on my walks. Then I began to dream and plant. The next year I planted 200 bulbs, mostly grape hyacinths and tulips.

The only problem with being a gardener is the temptation to grow more every year. I now grow dahlias, zinnias and hollyhocks. My big project last spring was to create a new kitchen garden. This fall, at my home and my daughters' school, I planted nearly 1,000 spring bulbs. I love the thrill of creating something beautiful.

Early March has me eagerly awaiting all those spring flowers. I am already growing seedlings in my basement. A large stack of seed catalogs and gardening books sit on my desk as I plan for summer. Reflecting on this past year, I realize all the digging, weeding and watering has been a balm for these anxious times. My garden is where I find joy and peace.

I've always found gardening to be very hopeful, as planting requires the belief that with time beautiful flowers will come. As naturalist John Muir once said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

Like that monarch butterfly that flits from flower to flower, I too have been chasing small wonders. I look forward to traveling again, as I long to see more of nature's great miracles. But for now, I am grateful for homegrown moments that connect me to nature and leave me wonderstruck.

- Amy McCauley

of Hinsdale is a

contributing columnist.