How I Lost a Hobblebush

If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.
E. O. Wilson

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a hobblebush on the side of the  Bog Road on the back end of my hometown.  I have lived here over thirty years and mostly I am used to seeing old washing machines and tv sets tossed along the edges of the local woods. Eventually I let the woods go by in a blur on my way to the bog.  But it turns out the woods have changed over the years. I just hadn’t noticed.  The remains of the same very ancient tube tv are still there in the same ditch but the edge has actually grown up nicely.  Nature always fights her way back eventually.

One day on our way back from our regular visits to the bog to see what we could see, I spotted a hobblebush in full bloom. Wham.  I  yelled out  – STOP. And then – BACK UP.  As I leapt out of the car  – I hear a grumbling sigh behind me but I was on a mission, camera in hand.  It was indeed a hobblebush – on the side of the Bog Road in Troy, Maine.

I am in love with what I find on the edges, the transition zones, the ecotones. I even remember the old tv in the ditch. So when I spotted a patch of  jack in the pulpit hidden under an old battered Spruce, I danced for joy.  That spruce  had gotten strangled by porcelainberry. I actually was responsible for the invasion. I planted the pretty exotic Southern vine thinking it would die back hard and never spread.  Once we cut out the porcelainberry from the underbelly I just left it alone.  Several years later a generous patch of Jack in the Pulpit has appeared. My new take on gardening is not gardening. Pull out the bad mistakes and see what happens. Well – jack in the pulpit happened.

Back to the hobblebush, I was so excited to spot the it. A few days later I went back to locate it again and get more shots. On first sweep I could not spot it.  Bill created a plan.I checked the photos for time stamp and calculated it was about 3 minutes from the edge of the bog where I had been photographing a basking turtle going 20 miles an hour. Nothing.  We changed our speed. We changed our  route. The bush was not to be found. It had vanished. By now the blooms are long gone and if it is there it has blended into the surrounding woods. I am still perplexed and a little sad. After years of seeing only abandoned refrigerators and deer carcasses – finally a beautiful hobblebush, and now it is gone.





by Marie Howe

(after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.

There was no   Nature.    No
them.   No tests
o determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home


Every Spring,
even at ten,
he turns into a wild animal,
stalking, crouching taut,
staring unwavering into the twilight,
hunting the hidden prey where I see only shadows.

Sometimes he remains motionless for longer than I have patience.
He hardly ever pounces
and when he does,
it is not until the perceived prey has long gone off into the night.

Then he looks around cautiously,  a little confused.
Standing, he meanders off
away from the porch light as if it never happened.

Like me he has a reawakening just before
the grass begins to green and the buds swell.
It is then that we go on high alert.
Leaping again to life
after many months of barely registering the day.

Earth 2018

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry


Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart

Of the townland; green and heavy headed

Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.

Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.

Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles

Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.

There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,

But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how

The daddy frog was called a bullfrog

And how he croaked and how the mammy frog

Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was

Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too

For they were yellow in the sun and brown

In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.


Be A Nuisance

“Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, & disappointed at failure & the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption & bad politics — but never give up.”

That is a quote from Marjory Stoneman Douglas; an environmentalist, journalist and activist whose name is now forever linked to the school shooting that rocked Parkland, Florida last month.

Awaiting Meteorological Spring

doveFebruary 26, 2018
A doe and her yearlings grazing under the big spruce
after two nights sleeping under our tallest pine.

The return of the school bus
Monday, the last in February,
fog thick and misty on warming snow,
crows about, calling in the ether.

The sole natural color comes from the deep maroon
of dried crabapples
too high for the deer to reach
on their nomadic path through for food.
The cedar waxwings have not come for the remains yet.

Winter’s shifting,
already melting at 7 am.

The spruce cones that I tied up in the apple tree
at Christmas,
after rolling in peanut butter and mixed bird seed,
now hang naked,
stripped of their nutrients.

An orange ratty plastic net bag
that held a ball of fat,
has been long ripped apart by marauding squirrels and jays.

I wait for this moment,
our release from the ice and darkness.
Water moves across the dooryard and drips from the rooftops.

Then March 1 came Thursday.





Be the best of whatever you are.”

“If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill

Be a scrub in the valley—but be

The best little scrub on the side of the hill….

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are.”


– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 4/9/67

The Small World of January

Just into January before the intense thaw, it was cold, not breaking 0 degrees all day.  My world shrunk to watching slate colored juncos or snowbirds , like Emperor Penguins on the plains of Antarctica, negotiate their world of snow piles looking for food.

The Blue Corvid Knows

“This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.”

This description from Cornell’s All About Birds site says so much succinctly. The Blue Jay is  a bird of intelligence and strong familial relations along with an attitude of screechy stridence. This is a bird who has played an important role in the ecology of our temperate forests for the last 10,000 years at least in part due to its passion for acorns. I can easily imagine it having close links to its ancestor, the dinosaur. It is ubiquitous and long lived, meaning it is resilient, adaptable, admirable traits.

I find myself asking why we do not worship this bird. It has a crown of feathers worthy of monarchy. And a sense of entitlement. Instead,  we tend to devalue the common birds very much like we reach for Round Up every time we spot  a so-called weed.

I hope in the years to come we awaken to the power of the weedy resilient flora and fauna and recognize their brilliance.  Then we might find the grace of living in concert with the other myriad inhabitants of this planet earth in order that all may thrive together. January 2018


Plant your Acorns

The story told of the Burr Oak is that it is not native to Central Maine, but as the native tribes paddled  the Sebasticook River seasonally, travelling between the Kennebec and the Penobscot Rivers, they planted the oaks along the way so that in years to come the generations could harvest their very large acorns for flour. Happy Solstice Everyone and plant your acorns.buroak


Quiet Time

Darkness becomes the atmosphere. Even daylight is softened into deep shadows that stretch long and are sometimes more distinct than the images that form them. I have been worried about my witch-hazel as it bloomed early – in September – it had no seed pods at all,  and now in December it has not shed its leaves. There are still gold frozen ribbons, the leaves are brown and worn, and next years seed pods are just forming. Thus in the stillness there is new life beginning, two small seeds each tucked inside each hardening pod, sheltered here among the crumbling leaves and frozen petals.

Gilles Clément, The Third Landscape (2003)

The Third Landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Plantary Garden -designates the sum of the space left over by man to  landscape evolution – to nature alone. Included in this category  are left behind urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land, swamps, moors, peat bogs, but also  roadsides, shores, railroad embankments, etc. To these unattended areas can be added space set aside , reserves in themselves: inaccessible places, mountain summits, non-cultivatable areas, deserts; institutional reserves: national parks, regional parks, nature reserves.

Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation by man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. Cities, farms and forestry holdings, sites devoted to industry, tourism, human activity, areas of control and decision permit diversity and, at times, totally exclude it. The variety  of species  in a field, cultivated land, or  managed forest is  low in comparison to that  of a neighboring «unattended» space..

From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future…..

Gilles Clément, The Third Landscape (2003)

Fall reaches a critical phase

when it is dark at 4:00 PM and at 2 you feel you have   to hurry to get chores done. And the Witch-hazel blooms on, this year since September. When the temperature finally fell into the twenties this past week, the leaves drooped and began to turn. As of yet no seed pods.


Happiness is

la-sorte-map-118-spp-64-725 This illustration of the seasonal migration of birds fills me with joy. Better than any church or meditation or prayer. It is, for me,  a prayer like the buddhist Heart SutraHeartSpiral. I even say the Heart Sutra while watching it. It is completion of cycle. It is life.  I feel the same way about the life cycles of lobster, the humble bottom feeding tourist food, and of frogs who die by the thousands for each that reaches adulthood,  and of the turning of the seasons and planet. There is no simpler way for me to feel the divine.