…Thoreau’s Journal: 15-July-1854
Rained still in forenoon; now cloudy. Fields comparatively deserted today and yesterday. Hay stands cocked in them on all sides. Some, being shorn, are clear for the walker. It is but a short time that he has to dodge the haymakers. This cooler, still, cloudy weather after the rain is very autumnal and restorative to our spirits. The robin sings still, but the goldfinch twitters over oftener, and I hear the link link of the bobolink (one perfect strain!), and the crickets creak more as in the fall. All these sounds dispose our mind to serenity. Perhaps the mosquitoes are most troublesome such days in the woods, if it is warm enough. We seem to be passing, or to have passed, a dividing line between spring and autumn, and begin to descend the long slope toward winter. On the shady side of the hill I go along Hubbard’s walls toward the bathing-place, stepping high to keep my feet as dry as may be. All is stillness in the fields. The calamint (Pyenanthemum muticum), standing by the wall with its hoary upper leaves, full of light even this cloudy day and reminding of the fragrance which I know so well, is an agreeable sight. I need not smell it; it is balm to my mind to remember its fragrance.
How I Lost A Hobblebush or Knowing Where You Are
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 town. 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 over the years I let the woods go by in a blur on my way to the bog. But it turns out the woods changed over time as woods tend to do. I just hadn’t noticed. The remains of the same very ancient tube tv are still there in the same ditch but nature has all but engulfed it.
One day on our way back from our regular visits to the bog to see what we could see, I single outstanding shrub in full bloom. Wham. I yelled out to my unsuspecting husband — 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 .
I am in love with what I find on the edges, the transition zones, the ecotones. I even remember how long ago I spotted the old tv in the roadside ditch. Just recently my husband, while mowing, spotted a patch of Jack In The Pulpit hidden under an old battered Spruce. When he told me I did not believe him. That Spruce had gotten strangled by porcelainberry. I was responsible for the invasion. I had planted the pretty exotic Southern vine thinking it would die back hard and never spread. And yet it still persists on the edges of the yard. Once we cut out the pernicious invader from the underbelly of the old Spruce, Several years later a fairly generous patch of Jack In The Pulpit has appeared. My new take on gardening is not gardening but rather watching. i.e. 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 it. A couple of days after the first sighting we went back to nail down the location. On first sweep I could not spot it. Then Bill created a plan. I checked the photos for time stamp and calculated the spot was about 3 minutes going 20 miles an hour from the edge of the bog where I had been photographing a basking turtle. No hobblebush. We changed our speed. We changed our route. The bush was not to be found. It had vanished.
By now, two weeks later, the blooms are long gone and if that bush is there, it has now blended back 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. But — from now on I will look at these woods with renewed interest and respect. I want to be paying attention to spot the next undervalued native beauty.
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. Remember?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
It is now April 9. The Hooded Mergansers are coming through in numbers on their way from the wintering areas in the Gulf of Maine to breeding grounds on the the St. Lawrence. They travel as the ice recedes before them.
“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.”
February 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.
already melting at 7 am.
The spruce cones that I tied up in the apple tree
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.
What would it take
to do our small part,
to mend the circle,
to be part of the circle,
instead of its destroyer;
to be compatible
with the eagle and the fish,
to be poets again?
“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
“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
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.
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.
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)
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 Sutra. 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.