January has been long and stormy. The days have begun to lengthen and we have emerged from the multiple days below zero. And the goldfinch flocks have returned to the feeders. These are the small increments that begin the journey to Spring.
“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
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.
“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
When I get up at first light these cold dark days, there are few birds at the feeders. The snowbirds are always there and the blue jays followed by the woodpeckers, downy and hairy. Later in the day the goldfinches flock in.
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)