Michelle DeMarco: A walk on the wildflower side

  • On a spring walk through the former Hickory Ridge golf course in Amherst, artist and illusrator Michelle DeMarco writes she was “astonished by the amount and variety of wildflowers,” including these buttercups, on the 150-acre site this spring. CONTRIBUTED/MICHELLE DeMARCO

  • Some Dame’s Rocket near a bridge on the site. Michelle DeMarco

  • Clover and vetch at the 150-acre, town-owned property.

  • Brilliant yellow flags waving in the breeze. Michelle DeMarco

For the Gazette
Friday, June 24, 2022

The inspiration for my walk came from an idea rooted in the sense of place.

Think about where you spent the pandemic years and maybe still do. If you are like me and many lucky people to work remotely, you spend much of your time at home.

Some of us got out and walked. It was about all we could do, and it gave us a sense of peace and normalcy. The pandemic forced us to counteract physical isolation and connected us across the globe. And to the earth.

Change is inevitable, and we all are adjusting to the new normal. Here’s something new.

The town of Amherst has purchased the former Hickory Ridge golf course and is deciding how best to use this reclaimed acreage. This 150-acre open space parcel located on West Pomeroy Lane is available to the public through cart paths and walking trails. With two miles of the Fort River winding throughout, it is rich in natural beauty.

While the town is deciding how best to move forward, nature is running its course, bringing back wildflowers which are the backbone of ecosystems. Today, the land falls somewhere between a maintained park and natural meadows. Parks are designed, like golf courses, to make you feel good wandering.

I was the only person walking on this warm sunny late spring day. As I strolled along paths, across bridges, and through open meadows, I was astonished by the amount and variety of wildflowers. And the numbers of birds that flittered and sang around me.

The buzz of bees and flutter of butterflies atop bunches of wildflowers made the scene feel even more alive. Wildflowers help pollinators, and pollinators help our local farmers.

Maybe this is one positive aspect of the new normal we are embracing.

Maybe a walk on the wild side is in order, and like Lou Reed’s single, the A-side is a Perfect Day.

Here are a few of the flowers I encountered: tall stalks of pale lavender Dame’s Rocket, deep yellow pools of creeping buttercups, dainty blue puddles of true forget-me-nots, little white droplets of cuckoo flowers, and brilliant yellow flags waving in the breeze.

Michelle DeMarco is an award-winning artist and illustrator. She earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the UMass Amherst. She created “A Year of Wildflowers-SPRING,” a 99-page coloring book and wildflower identifier. She is at work on Volume 2: “SUMMER.”