In late winter I transplant seedling plants from the ravine's trails to more protected spots to help restore this semiwild, seminatural landscape. Right now seedling Ohio buckeyes are moved from germination experiments that yielded a forty-five percent success rate but no insight concerning scarlet versus green first leaves. Over-wintering butterflies greet me, and little brown (ground) skinks rustle through the leaves as the mid-day temperature reaches sixty-two degrees. I can't find a Missouri violet in bloom, although it's the right time to look. Violets, plateau spiderlilies, roughstem sunflowers, baby blue eyes, and hill country dayflowers are replanted in east-facing draws. A few degrees warmer and sulphurs and goatweeds join the anglewing butterflies in sunny spots. Green anoles put in a brief appearance. All are especially wily because the air is quite cool though the sun is warm. Cold-blooded creatures like insects and lizards don't allow a close approach now, because they are relatively cool and thus slow to escape predators. They are genetically programmed to need more space and time to compensate.
Finally -- one violet is blooming on the creekbank in a patch of afternoon light as if, like a butterfly or lizard, it picked that spot for sunning. Around my house and the surrounding woods above the creek, I can't find any others. That's curious, because over the twenty-nine years that I've made the comparison, violets on the sunny ridgetop bloom an average of six days before those in the cooler ravine, and others near my house, aided by its escaping heat, bloom earliest of all. But there are always modifications of repeated patterns as environments change, and that keeps me looking.
Some years Missouri violets bloom in late January but don't peak until mid-March. Then they enliven woods walks until the tree canopy closes. Their sky-blue freshness is so much more appealing than the dark blue garden violet imported from Europe. Missouri violets die back and may disappear in mid-summer, as the air turns hot and dry, but reappear with the first autumn rains, when they produce freeze-resistant leaves and a capsule that explodes seeds in profusion, too often onto trails. This time next year violets will again grow on the footpath and I'll continue transplanting.