How I Lost A Hobblebush or Knowing Where You Are

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.


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.