BARE GRACE

My intention when I began this blog was to create a place to share reflections, essays, prose, poems and photos of the creatures that I have met or may yet encounter in the forest here in the western mountains of Maine or elsewhere.

As an cognitive ethologist and psychologist (Jungian therapist) when I observe animal behavior in the wild I am always asking myself what the animal might be thinking. I pay particular attention to the relationship that develops between an animal and myself over time. I also question the role of projection on my part when I am pulled into an animal’s field of influence without understanding why. Most important I follow gut feelings and any nudges when observing any animal. I am a woman with Native American roots – is that why I make the assumption that every creature has something to teach me? I think of the natural world as being a place of deep learning and wonder.

It is my experience that intention and attention on the part of the observer opens a magic door, and once over the threshold inter-species communication becomes possible. I would like to invite others to cross that threshold with me.

As a feminist, ritual artist, and a writer I am Her advocate, that is, Nature’s advocate. I believe that when I write about the animals and plants I am giving voice to their truths as well as my own.

I developed an intimate relationship with the black bear in the above photo for a number of years while I was engaged in an independent, trust based study of his kinship group (15 years). Little Bee interacted with me on a regular basis but always preferred to “hide” behind a screen of leaves and saplings while doing so. Whenever I was around him I felt touched by “Bare Grace”.

Please feel free to comment. I would love to communicate with anyone who wants to share experiences they have had in Nature or simply make observations about what I have written.

If you would like more information about me, please read the essay on how I became a Naturalist…

Unfortunately, I am dyslexic with numbers and directions and have a difficult time with the computer in general and with WordPress in particular so I ask the reader to forgive me for the errors I will surely continue to make.

Sara Wright

12/29/16

I am spending the winter in Abiquiu New Mexico and am currently using my blog as a journal of my experiences in this mysteriously beautiful place. I ask that the reader bear with me as I continue this process… some entries will, of course, be about my relationship with animals, but others will not.

As it turns out I am presently a “snowbird” having returned to Abiquiu for the winter and spring of 2017 and 2018…

Update: August 2020…. I have returned to Maine having spent four years on a circular journey the highlights of which are recorded here…New Mexico is a magical place, but the North Country continues to call me home.

In the past years I have used my blog as a kind of jumping off place for publication elsewhere – which is why many entries have errors that I haven’t bothered to correct. There is something about putting my writing on a blog that allows me to see it from a distance, and from that place I craft pieces for publication elsewhere… I  am still writing about animals and plants, and still enthralled by the powers of place – perhaps more so now than ever. Certainly more grateful. Without my primary relationship to the rest of Nature I would perhaps feel more isolated during this pandemic than I do.

With deep appreciation and gratitude especially to those who comment on what I write.

2021

I neglected to mention that I began this blog because of bear sightings than in the last years have become rare – and now with too much fragmented forest around me bears don’t visit here at all anymore. I have just begun to include poems about bears that I haven’t published before in honor of their scarcity.

I include some comments that have everything to do with why….

What Extinction Really Means…

Excerpts:  Eileen Crist

“What’s happening during this ecological crisis is the collapse of the web of life: biological diversity, wildlife populations, wild ecologies. We’re in the midst of a mass-extinction event. It’s called the “sixth extinction,” because there have been five others in the last 540 million years. Mass extinctions are extremely rare. They’re monumental setbacks, not normal events. It takes 5 to 10 million years for life to recover from one…Non human species are going extinct primarily because the environment is changing so rapidly, so catastrophically, that they can’t adapt. If we keep going as we’re going, we will likely lose 50 percent or more of the planet’s species in this century…

And in addition to outright extinction, there are wholesale eliminations of local populations of plants and animals. The killing of wildlife is so profound that scientists have coined the term defaunation to capture it. We’re emptying out the planet. Big or small, herbivores or carnivores, marine or freshwater or terrestrial — it’s happening across the board. There’s a sad and facile view circulating that extinction is natural, so what does it matter if it’s human-caused? What this ignores is that the vast majority of species becoming extinct are robust, meaning they’re well adapted to their surroundings. These are healthy species experiencing overwhelming pressure from the human onslaught…When we drive a species to extinction, we’re prematurely taking out of existence a unique, amazing manifestation of life that has never existed before and will never arise again, and we’re extinguishing all possibilities of its evolution into new forms.”

Black bears are only one example of an animal that is on its way to extinction.

How ironic it is that I should be writing about extinction on the day before Earth Day 2021 – a day that has become a time of global mourning for those of us who are still awake..

Only four percent of the non – human population remains on this entire planet.

7/22/22

I should note here that I do not advertise this blog – my intention is to combine writing that will be published with personal essays, poems, writing that may or may not be published elsewhere – I use my blog as kind of an editing place – and a place to keep track of my life as it occurs even when I have have no intention of publishing

…I live permanently in Maine now have returned for good a couple of years ago after some wonderful experiences in New Mexico – a place of wonder but a place I could not find home…

North Country Woman…

Sara

Mary’s Prayer

The words of the mantra suddenly materialized in my mind and spilled out of my mouth as I drove home, exhausted from the days chores. Simultaneously a sharp pain lodged itself in my lower back. Astonished by hearing myself repeat the familiar words as the pain  intensified it took a moment for me to connect the two. I was experiencing family anguish and it was coming through my words and through my body. Although I am not a catholic I repeated Mary’s prayer opening my heart to the person that needed deep comfort. I could sense a door opening…a threshold being crossed.

I had already dreamed that my aunt had died the night she did. “The Queen is Dead”, the dream said. My aunt Terry, a very simple, religious, and loving woman lived her life surrounded by a light that was palpable. Calling her Queen was appropriate. I sent Billy, my cousin, six pure white roses attaching the words “Roses in the Snow” to the card after the phrase appeared out of thin air while I was sitting on the porch at twilight. 

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 When I first fell in love with Mary it was in a grotto. Although I knew she was a statue she seemed like a living Presence in that lovely walled garden so fragrant with roses. My five year old self was still whole …

Mary was my first goddess.

In my house religion had no place, so I kept Mary and the secret garden to myself although Mary drew me back many times to be with her. A few kind nuns (I called them mums) told me stories about how Mary was the Mother of God – but god had no meaning. Mary, on the other hand became a kind of Muse. Is that where I learned the words “Hail Mary full of Grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”? The Jesus part didn’t become part of the prayer for me until much later, and that’s another story.

When I was older ‘Hail Mary’ comforted me even after I learned more about Mary – that she wasn’t divine but bore a god – god remained scary but Mary grew into one of the Mothers of all Living Beings and so she remains today.

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The phone was ringing as I entered the house. Billy was calling… I listened to heartbreak and a sea of tears that needed shedding, how his mother loved him as a child, held him in her arms comforting him… On and on. My aunt Terry was one of those remarkable women who seemed almost unearthly in temperament. I don’t mean that she wasn’t grounded. But there was that shining light around her that drew me to her as a child. I loved her, though I rarely saw my aunt because of family strife. Her life revolved around being a good mother to her sons and a good wife to my uncle. After my uncle Alex’s untimely death, my cousin Billy cared for his mother until dementia finally took her from him…Even then he continued to visit her regularly still caring for her in every possible way that mattered. Now, many  years after losing her in mind, he was finally losing her for the second time in body. She died September 8th. No wonder he was inconsolable (it doesn’t escape me that my father Billy’s uncle went through the very same thing with his mother – family patterns do repeat).

Billy and I are kindred souls, although apparently having very different religious perspectives. He is Catholic and I am an animist who finds the divine in Nature. What’s interesting about this difference is that Billy can’t reach across the chasm to experience my perspective as legitimate, yet mine encompasses his with ease. It took me awhile to understand that part of the reason for this split is that Billy does not live in his body – his religion tells him that his spiritual self is all that matters and he is presently struggling with the question around having a soul that survives death while being subsumed in mother grief.

Our bodies embody our emotions/feelings, senses, and intuition and without access to these parts of ourselves we live in a kind of intellectual desert that doesn’t allow other ways of knowing to seep in.

And this brings me back to what happened to me in the car. Something important was coming through both my mind and body; someone I loved needed my help. Thankfully, I have finally learned how to live in my body and to trust my senses to lead me, so I question nothing.  Most of the time. When mind and body come together with a message like the one I received I don’t have to understand the particulars. All I have to do is follow directions, and I did. By the time Billy and I got off the phone my backache was gone.

I will not be attending my aunt’s funeral today because I live too far away and have no place to leave my dogs. But as I told my cousin I will be with him. What I plan to do at 1:30PM is to be in a forest I love offering “Hail Mary” to my aunt and praying for Billy’s comfort as he navigates the difficult decent into grieving instead of running away from it, (something we have discussed at length and he understands and can feel the importance of doing), thankfully. I believe the forces of Nature will see to it that my heartfelt prayers and intentions will reach their destination…

“Hail Mary full of Grace, blessed are thou amongst women…”

Blessed is my Aunt Terry.

The Mother Goddess is always listening.

Rite of Passage

  Scything 

seeds and pods

grasses

flower dust

shears away

summer madness

heat and humidity

 a holy rite

celebrating

 sky stories

 cosmic patterns

golden light

 falling leaves.

Walking over

solid ground

 sturdy roots

 rise up beneath

my feet.

Each September just before the equinox I have my beautiful wildflower field shorn of her faded flowers, seeds and milkweed pods, opening a circle on bare ground… I invite the North -Eastern night sky to enter my body, and my awareness with intention. Even before nightfall I can sense The Great Bear  who circumnavigates the sky always staying above the horizon as she has since the beginning of humankind’s birth. She offers the discerning body-mind a glimpse into the Great Mystery of deep time…. 

 I sit in my chair –sometimes at sunset to watch the mountain catch fire, or later as night closes in… Stargazing as dusk falls earlier and earlier is an autumn ritual that I embrace that lasts until the first snow falls… For me this is a time to give thanks, and if my life patterns allow, a time to experience inner peace.

A Mossy Reflection

I spend a lot of time in forests that have not been logged for many years, and as a result, are recovering from being cut. Of course logging used to be selective, the logging machine had not yet become the norm so only some trees were taken and many stumps were left. These forests, and in particular old pine stumps support a fantastic amount of plant life. 

 Hidden behind old trees off one of my favorite trails there is a tree stump that is covered in pincushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum). I have not seen anything quite like this collection of moss that is piggy backing on itself and obviously thriving on its rich moist decaying substrate. I visit this tree stump every time I am in the area! 

Most folks are not aware that moss was the first living green being to leave the sea. At some point around five hundred million years to three hundred and fifty   million years ago an enterprising moss first attached its rhizoids (mosses don’t have roots) to bare rock and began the slow process of breaking down the surface to create soil for the plants and trees that would eventually populate the earth. 

What amazes me is that the structure of mosses remains almost the same as it was in the beginning giving me a window into deep time…Mosses reproduce sexually and in the fall (usually) you can see sporophyte capsules waving from the tops of mosses waiting for a breeze to free the seeds that will colonize just about anywhere including in between the cracks of city sidewalks! These amazing beings can also reproduce by cloning or branching – when a small piece is broken away from a cluster.

Mosses love lots of water so the best time to see them in all their glory is just after a rain when different species radiate emerald to lime to deep umber – we don’t have the words to describe the shades. All are photosynthesizing and will continue that process until a draught strikes. Then it’s as if they go to sleep. Crisp and desiccated they may look dead but are simply waiting for the next round of moisture to swell each cell.

There are somewhere around fifteen to twenty thousand species of mosses in the world today. Mosses not only retain water but act as filters. They are an important food source for beneficial organisms; they help with soil erosion and can clean the earth of toxins. Mosses are also one of the best air purifiers around, removing a massive amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. Combined, bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) unite with lichens and algae to take up about 14 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is a truly staggering figure when rising amounts of carbon dioxide comprise such a threat to all life on this planet.

 One caveat: most mosses will not tolerate heavy foot or machine traffic, so if you want to see a variety of different kinds visit the nearest wood or stream.

 And yet with that much said mosses grow where other plants cannot; they can survive on cliffs, rocks, steep hills, and tree trunks. Mosses colonize the barren rocks and exposed areas of hills, and make them suitable for growing larger vascular plants by depositing humus soil and plant debris. Even in winter under the snow, protected, they continue to photosynthesize.

Mosses also contribute to the environment by absorbing water from rainfall and runoff, then slowly releasing it to the ground or atmosphere. This reduces stream erosion and fluctuating water levels. Mosses inhabit every continent in the world.

Providing habitat on which many species ultimately depend, mosses underpin entire ecosystems providing shelter for other organisms such as small insects. The insects, in turn, provide food for frogs, which in turn provide food for snakes, which in turn provide food for carnivores like bobcats. 

Around here I have many kinds of mosses except on my paths. I prefer their soft spongy texture to grass, the plethora of greens. Ticks don’t like mosses, and the diminutive plants never need mowing!

 Pincushion moss is one of my favorites perhaps because I first noticed a small perfectly round dime sized clump on the way to the brook almost 40 years ago. This round being is now the size of a basketball! I almost always pat it when I walk by.

my pincushion moss right after a rain

This is a common moss that occurs throughout Europe and eastern North America stretching as far west as Minnesota. It likes filtered sun but will grow in deep shade. Pincushion moss grows in a variety of habitats including boreal, mixed wood, deciduous forests and wooded swamps It grows in acidic soils, on rotting logs, and around the base of trees. Pincushion moss even grows on rock ledges. Like all mosses it has leaves and stems that are tightly packed together. If you carry a hand lens as I often do, use it to peer into this miniature forest. You won’t believe what you will find there! The inner cellsare small and green because they contain chlorophyll. The outer cells are large, thin-walled, translucent and whitish. They are filled with water when moist, with air when dry. Male and female reproductive organs will appear on the same sea foam greenish gray domed cushion.

The tree stump pictured is a perfect example of what happens in a forest that is allowed to re-wild itself. Not only is the rotting trunk covered with fantastic clumps of pincushion moss, but it supports wintergreen, blue bead lilies, young trees, mushrooms and about ten other species of plants. But it is the piggy-back aspect of the pincushion moss that keeps me riveted to this particular ecosystem because I have not seen it elsewhere.

I confess there is another reason I am so drawn to pincushion moss. It has a common name that actually describes what this moss looks like making identification simple. Leucobryum glaucum tells me nothing about what I am actually seeing. (Linneas’s classification system works for those who know Latin but because of my dyslexia I cannot use it).

In the woods I have a tendency to make up names for the mosses I meet, and then I have a picture in my mind to help me identify the moss by it’s correct Latin name if I am not familiar with the species. Curiously, Indigenous peoples always identified plants by characteristics that defined them often using a verb to describe a plant’s process. For example Robin Wall Kimmerer explains that in her Indigenous language the word for mushroom is ‘the force that brings the mushroom to life’. 

 There is a second reason I use made up names that’s a little more difficult to articulate. Because I feel as if I am a part of all nature I am keenly aware that I am in relationship with every plant I meet, so it’s important to me to be on a first name basis!  If mosses intrigue you on any level, the next time it rains don’t wait. Give yourself a treat and visit the nearest forest. The mosses that hug the ground will astonish you! And if you are anything like me you will see them as a window into deep time.

Reflections on Butterfly Tagging

Reflections on Butterfly tagging

MLT Land Trust Tagged Monarch

The Center for Biological Diversity states that 80 – 85 percent of monarchs have declined over the past twenty years. The IUCN estimates that the native populations of Monarch butterflies has shrunk by between 22 percent and 72 percent over the past decade, and the western population has declined by 99.9 percent between the 1989’s and 2021, putting these butterflies at the greatest risk of extinction. Yet the monarch has only been put on the endangered species list this year. Why such a discrepancy?

Meanwhile scientists (and now just about anyone including children) have been tagging monarchs for many years so that folks could find out more about migration.

Nowhere do I see mention about the possibly destructive relationship between tagging and monarch survival. The loss of milkweed, the continued destructive use of pesticides, weather changes etc are all attributed to the decline of this iconic butterfly.

One salient point is made by some scientists: While touching a butterfly’s wings may not kill it immediately, it could potentially speed up the fading of the colors on the butterfly’s wings, wiping out patterns that are used to protect the butterfly from predators.  Thus handling a butterfly could potentially result in a shorter life expectancy.

Do we really need studies to tell us that monarchs that are captured in nets and then tagged undergo trauma and stress that might interfere with the insect’s ability to make a perilous 2000 mile trip to the mountains of Mexico for the winter? Some studies are in and more are being done, but common sense tells me that stress weakens immune systems leaving the insect more vulnerable.

Just imagine for a moment that you are a butterfly. You are caught fluttering in fright in a net and then held firmly by the wings by a human who places a tag on your lower wing removing precious scales in the process (I have also read that in some cases the scales have been scraped away before attaching the tags). This tag is supposed to be close enough to the butterfly’s center of gravity so that it won’t upset the insect’s balance. But do we know this for fact? Any weight that is not at the butterfly’s center is going to create some imbalance. Again, common sense.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a couple of scientist friends of mine who confirmed my hypothesis – namely that tagging obviously creates an imbalance. 

 MonarchWatch, an organization based at the University of Kansas has tagged approximately two million monarchs over the past 30 years. Out of those two million 19,000 monarchs have been documented to have made a ‘successful’ flight to Mexico meaning that when the tagged monarch was found the monarch was DEAD and would not be returning north in the spring. Death means that the butterfly’s natural cycle was interrupted. We don’t know what happened to the others but new research is indicating that there is an increasing mortality occurring during monarch fall migration. Are we going to attribute those missing in action to the use of pesticides etc without including tagging as one of the reasons these monarchs haven’t been seen again?

Why are we tagging monarchs in the first place? Historically scientists and now citizen scientists are “trying to help the monarchs” and learn more by documenting migration of the species. Obviously the intent is laudable but no one mentions how the monarch might be actually be faring.

Is this practice helping the monarchs survive? Is it beneficial to these insects in any way, or is it occurring because humans routinely sacrifice animals to acquire new information for themselves? Science prides itself on being ‘value free’ meaning that emotion and feeling are not part of the process, so who is left to care about how a butterfly might feel? Or ultimately whether an individual lives or dies.

I leave it to the reader to answer this very important question. 

Please see: https://www.monarchscience.org/single-post/recoveries-of-tagged-monarchs-in-mexico-what-do-they-really-mean for an informed discussion on this topic.

Butterfly Transformation: Miracle of Becoming

When the extraordinary creature emerged from a split translucent capsule I could hardly believe my eyes. Although I have witnessed butterfly transformation many times over the course of my life none have moved me like this butterfly birth did. 

For more than a week I had been eyeing the lime green capsule with its golden rim and specks imagining I could even see the butterfly inside! Patiently I waited and hoped. Anything could happen. Once about 45 years ago I raised a monarch whose wings were disfigured. S/he could not fly; so I knew what could go wrong…

Yesterday morning the capsule was black – too black I thought – I could barely see the outline of the monarch. Black capsules that are not translucent usually contain dead butterflies. No one knows why.

The miracle occurred while my back was turned! The next time I looked there was a perfect pale butterfly hanging next to the  split capsule. S/he hung on the tree for hours moving deeper under cover of some nearby leaves. Camouflaged as a leaf. I worried about the cool weather. Insects need warmth; butterflies are coldblooded creatures.

I took pictures of exquisite markings talking to the butterfly softly. Wishing her well. I was astonished when s/he moved up the twig and clasped my finger. Some inexplicable life force passed between us…Moments later the butterfly resumed her place under a leaf, her shiny black legs moving so deftly for one so young.

By mid afternoon the monarch was flexing her beautiful deep orange wings now filled with the fluid that had been stored in her abdomen, and I finally noticed that she was a he! Two black spots told the tale. I picked a bouquet of some of the monarch’s favorite flowers and left it clipped to a branch nearby and placed another bouquet on the ground as the dusky cloak of night closed in. The temperature had dropped so I wasn’t surprised that the butterfly stayed hidden in her bower for the night.

 This morning dawned a magnificent blue and gold September day. When I opened the door the butterfly was gone. No wind and mild temperatures will make ‘my’ monarch’s first flight to seek food more pleasurable. This monarch will be the one that makes the perilous 2000 mile flight to central Mexico. If he survives he will spend the winter with many others roosting in mountain trees until early spring when he will begin the journey north, mate with a female who will lay eggs, and then both will die. The next generation continues the flight. Others of their kind will finish the trip repeating the scenario again, some arriving here in western Maine around mid July. Most monarchs live only long enough to mate and lay eggs but this last instar lives about nine months. An extraordinary story.

two butterfly bouquets for my friend….

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This summer has been an amazing one because I have seen more monarch caterpillars than I ever have seen in my entire life, although I live in an area surrounded by fragrant milkweed. I started seeing monarchs here at the beginning of August. Some days I counted two or three caterpillars on one leaf. Some were less than an inch, others larger. Every morning I examined the milkweed and found more! I was thrilled yet baffled. What was going on here? Most folks know that monarchs are in steep decline – 80 percent are gone. 

I visited our local land trust whose pollinator garden attracts a multitude of monarchs. I spoke to the woman who runs the land trust. She told me people were seeing them everywhere, so I wasn’t alone. I also have a friend who has some milkweed in his garden and he was finding caterpillars daily – up to 40 in one day. I had less but enough, so I thought, until in mid – August mine began to disappear. At first I assumed chrysalids were forming. Then I discovered that caterpillars of all ages were being cut in two and left for dead on the leaves they had been eating. Next came some black insect I was unable to identify because after sucking the life out of the chrysalis or capsule that the caterpillar spun to transform; only a black oozing blob remained. This destructive predator pattern eventually divested almost all of the caterpillars on my milkweed. Chrysalids too.

Researching Monarch predators in some depth I learned there were just too many, and it seemed that all of them lived here. Even the tiny caterpillars on my butterfly weed only lasted a day before vanishing.

I re-visited the land trust and saw many caterpillars, some chrysalids and many monarchs, but also learned that some of their capsules weren’t hatching. It was hard to draw any conclusion from the multitudes that floated over the masses of Mexican sunflowers. The magnificent abundance of pollinators in such a small area was not the norm for most. I didn’t know how inflated the monarch population might be as a result.

 On the other hand my friend only had a small vegetable garden with milkweed growing here and there and a few Mexican sunflowers. Monarchs were in flight all day long and there were so many of them. Happily, he was also having much better luck with his caterpillars who continued to appear throughout August. Only in the last week have most disappeared, although he is apparently still finding a few. He did discover one black blob and that chrysalis didn’t hatch, nor did another black one. Birds swooped down and made away with another capsule. The last time I spoke to him he had four chrysalids left that he knew of. 

I am using his garden to compare what might be happening elsewhere in this area or in Maine, but in truth I do not know. There is one difference between my area and his. My friend’s garden borders on wilderness and I wondered if a healthier natural environment might have something to do with predator control?

The decline of caterpillars here was sudden and dramatic. Although my small property has been left wild it is sandwiched in between clear cuts, mutilated trees/piles of slash, open fields, and other ‘managed’ lands. Around here the remains of what once was forest have an abundance of predators attacking leaves etc. About 10 days ago I stopped looking for caterpillars or chrysalids. Too many dead bodies.

 Except for one.

 When my young butterfly emerged from the split chrysalis whole and healthy I was overjoyed. Although I didn’t witness his first flight I didn’t mind. All that mattered was that against all odds this butterfly had survived.

I had witnessed a miracle.

 I stood under the butterfly tree with blue -gold light streaming through her crabapple leaves.

“Thank you.” The words of my prayer floated up through the tree’s gray trunk and branches.

As scientist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us,  gratitude is the way we reciprocate. By giving thanks to Nature for what has been given we are participating in the Circle of Life.  

And Reciprocity closes the Circle.

Postscript:

 As I finished this essay I immediately went outdoors and lo – a large monarch butterfly was sipping nectar from the bouquet I left him. I stood there stupefied; he was a male. I watched him fly to the bee balm and white phlox before he disappeared down a woodland path. So yet one more gift had been given…

 A second miraculous ending to this story.

Betwixt and Between Two

Betwixt and Between; Hobblebush Bridges the Seasons.

A sea of green ranging from lime, deep green hemlock, balsam and fir, a few splashes of crimson, pale yellow birch, moose maple, ash and beech fading to ochre, characterize the trees in a healthy late summer forest. The discerning eye will experience a sense of being ‘betwixt and between’- the forest is a complex living organism that is heralding the coming of autumn. Every species tells the same story in his/her own way. All we have to do is to pay attention. The whole forest is seeding up – there is a quality of silence that permeates the air this time of year… For me at least, this quiet emanates presence, not absence. The forest is preparing for the future…

Labor Day weekend I visited some of my favorite forest haunts, places so familiar, so dear to my heart that they seem part of me. And yet there are always endless surprises. Hobblebush being one. This wild Viburnum  (Viburnum lantanoides) is a harbinger of spring and fall. In May the early blooming shrub startles me with its large pearl white clusters appearing at the forest edges. This is a remarkable plant, seeking the shade of the understory it is often found in abundance under hemlocks. These clusters are actually clones that develop from underground roots of a single bush (many wild viburnum species form their own clonal thickets). 

With its large deep green oval –heart shaped leaves and low growing habit the bush spreads over moist (but not waterlogged) forest floor. The shrub ranges from Nova Scotia to Michigan and south to the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. It prefers cool, moist habitat.

Maine has seven viburnum species (and four subspecies) that comprise an important portion of our forests’ understory. Generally the viburnums range from three to eight feet in height with loose branching and slender stems. Hobblebush branches extend outward, arch and descend, re-rooting where they touch the ground. This curious tangling habit is what gives this viburnum its common name. This characteristic is most evident in winter when the hobblebush is leafless and the shrub’s skeletal structure is highlighted. 

Hobblebush is easy to identify at any time of the year. It is one of the earliest shrubs to flower in spring as already mentioned; buds open around the same time as red maples begin to flower and the poplars are shedding catkins. Hobblebush blooms can persist several weeks at least, from early May, sometimes into  June depending upon location. Their flowers look like creamy saucers and attract many pollinators, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and wasps among others. The large showy flowers along the edge of the cluster are sterile while the small inner flowers have both male and female parts. 

The flowers although fragrant do not produce much nectar but ruby throated hummingbirds and the beguiling clearwing or hummingbird moth visit hobblebush flowers frequently. The hummingbird moth larva is a hornworm caterpillar that feeds on viburnum leaves.

It seems to me that a pearled light (like that of a white moon) has been extinguished in the forest when the hobblebush drops her petals in the spring, but the leaf display that follows is spectacular. 

The size and breadth of hobblebush’s somewhat heart-shaped leaves makes the shrub seem more leafy than it is. Each leaf is deeply veined and in the forest most grow low to the ground. The fruits are formed by mid – summer appearing as bright green clusters. Each fruit contains one seed. By late August the clusters have turned crimson startling me with their brilliance.  Although still unripe, some forest creatures break open the fruits and eat the seeds. When autumn arrives the berries ripen, turning a deep blue black or purple. Try the fruits – you might find them quite tasty!

Even before the berries are ripe some leaves begin to blush a warm burgundy. A few turn orange or yellow. Bare winter branches look fawn-brown and are radiant when set against a background of dark conifers in the deepest shade.

Hobblebush’s winter buds make the greatest display. There are no protective bud scales. Miniature pairs of leaves, exquisitely clasped together like moth wings, can be seen clearly. Some leaf pairs enfold a tiny, but perfectly formed flower bud, ready to grow in the earliest spring warmth.

The fruit is low in fat so it is not a first choice for songbirds. However, the black throated green warbler nests in hobblebush in the spring. Grouse love the fruit and twigs as do turkeys. Chipmunks and red squirrels also harvest hobblebush seeds. Deer, moose, snowshoe hares and cottontails nip the branches as they browse hobblebush in winter. Thank goodness this plant spreads by re –rooting itself underground! Here, every winter my hobblebush is denuded of next year’s flowers, but because I know where to go to find these beloved spring blossoms I don’t mind. 

In the 1940’s a European beetle arrived in Canada brought in by humans (of course). It was discovered in Maine in 1994. The infestation has ebbed and flowed. Because viburnum beetles eggs require a period of cold to gestate, New England and northern New York have seen the worst damage. Fortunately, throughout the infestation, Viburnum lantanoides has shown resistance to the beetles perhaps because of its somewhat fuzzy leaf surfaces (pure speculation). It may also be true that some predators, birds or insects, have developed a taste for the adult beetles. Warmer winter temperatures and shorter winters may reduce egg viability.  In any event these infestations are cyclical. Patience and biodiversity are the antidotes. Healthy forests left to re -wild like those I visit take care of their own. Virtually all the hobblebush I find in these places are gloriously green in summer and all are clearly healthy.

Every year I look forward to seeing the hobblebush in all her splendor when I enter the woods I love so well. These seasonal offerings are a gift without price and I encourage anyone who loves this “in between” season (in either spring or fall) to visit a forest that has been loved and left to care for itself.  

Hobblebush will find you there! 

Betwixt and Between

When tired leaves
crisp and wrinkle
drip old
summer’s humidity
bathing stems in steam
acorns hit the ground.
Tightly wrapped hemlock cones
sticky and green

fall like rain
Slanted sun

 continues
the tale 
threading
 light spun
 blue and gold
filaments tip
wet forest ground.
Bluejays screech
Autumn calling.


 Pods and seeds abound

limed partridgeberries,
Chrysalids too


Purple elderberry fruits
bruise winnowing hands….

A walk through
needle and leaf
 calms me
 willowy river
wends her way
around cobbled stones
pools of water ripple –
a fish or two

surface
cast circles

of becoming.
Trilium
ablaze with ripening berries
bittersweet to crimson
 gift food for all

Nuts and seeds precede 
flames of falling leaves.
Turkey and partridge
feast
astonished by 
 seasonal abundance
I pick a branch

of hobblebush
Remind myself:
 ‘always ask permission’.
Patterned
oval leaves
sharply veined

 hearts wining
 rose and red.



The most delicate
of wild viburnums
generous to a fault

 still trip the unwary!
Pearl blossoms
reflect white moon in May
Now swell with seed

 rubied brilliance…

Cool mornings betray
the shift
Night casts her veil
an hour early

  a slanted eye

rises over the

mountain 

half asleep.

 Fragrant orchids,

Ladies Tresses,
open stark white throats
seducing bees
as waxing harvest moon

Illuminates coming darkness. 
Oh!
Love has many seasons.

Refuge: Water Guardian

Refuge: Water Guardian:

I am watching pale ochre decaying leaves drifting to the ground, even as others shiver with dew. The air is fragrant. After all the rain it cleared last night and temperatures plunged. It is the first day of September and it is so cool that I am wearing a sweater…. Last night, dusk shadowed the forest protecting all the wild creatures that began to stir as darkness approached. Red deer munched on golden apples beneath my open window. Just beyond her I could still see my wild apple … only upper branches, leaves, and apples touch the sky as the first evening star appears. Leaf predation has been extreme this year with fruit trees everywhere; I worry that I will lose her. This little cabin, forest and field is an island in a sea of clear cuts, piles of now well hidden slash (thanks to miracle trees), open fields, and manicured lawns. Only one neighbor logs his land sustainably …thankfully this well cared for parcel borders my own.

I drift back to the Turning of the Wheel (from July to August) and a perfect day spent on a forest pond so well hidden that only a chance encounter might reveal the presence of this jewel. With only the slightest breeze the boat slides into glassy water; water so pristine I can see all the way to the bottom. Still water mirrors deep blue sky. I spy a giant bull frog with a brilliant buttercup throat. He’s peering at us through bulging gold-rimmed eyes as we paddle into deeper water.

Now frogs appear to be watching us from every protected nook at the edge of the pond! Oval lily pads float on silver mica, their stems creating intricate patterns. Fish swim by. Lifting my gaze to take in my surroundings forest greens craft their own horizon by painting delicate branches and evergreen spires on the surface of the water. A painted turtle is sunning himself on a floating log.

 The rich fragrance of deep forest permeates the air. A protruding cliff hangs over one side of the pond creating a permanent shadow. A guardian made of stone.

Two loons appear nearby, swimming around us before they dive again for food. I am listening to the sound of the paddle dipping into pristine waters as I begin to lose all sense of time. I gasp in wonder as we enter a sea of blue pickerel weed. Surrounded by cobalt blue and emerald green, leaves and flowers, a multitude of bees humming as they work the blossoms I am enchanted by impossible beauty before all thought ceases. My body becomes part of all there is – blue sky and water, bees and loons, all singing the same song. 

 

Our Love for Earth stops Time…

As we approach the shore I spy the most astonishing wooden log. Once submerged, the hemlock has become a stunning piece of Nature’s art. Now it stands as sentry marking the entrance of Refuge as Guardian of the Waters, and each time I pass by I remember that magical summer day.

Morning Mediations August

Richard Powers makes a salient point – there is a little evil in each of us when we are not able to perceive the miraculous…. August is the season of abundance – and the most ordinary day borders on the miraculous if we can pay attention to the gifts offered… around here I had that sort of day … trees bursting with fruit milkweed pods greening up turkey mamas parading their young ones -fire on the mountain in the form of blooms and best of all baby robins getting ready to fledge. I have been following this family for most of two months and mama trusts me enough to peer within inches of her babies – I am so honored – and yes joyful…

This has been a poignant turning because someone I really cared about and corresponded with has died. Light and Dark – dance as one.

Richards Powers says link enough trees together and the forest grows aware. 

In my world every living tree embodies awareness. Early morning after rain at the brook pool bathing and watching fish… come back into the house through maze of hummingbirds and Red Deer appears around the corner in front of the door. In all these years I have never had a deer that acted more like a dog than a wild animal – this animal greets me with obvious pleasure – hummingbird frenzy requires many quarts of food each day note where they live – why in the Phoebe tree where virtually no predator can get to them – it’s climbing into the house! that crabapple – and she too greets me at dawn.

AUGUEST 3  FIRST CATERPILLAR!!!

The most exciting thing that happened to me yesterday was that during my early morning walk ( 2 mile run) around here I discovered baby monarch!! You can’t tell from pictures but this little guy is only about an inch and a half long – first instar- so excited because I planned to raise one I brought him to the yard in a pail with surrounding milkweed and let him be – two hours later GONE – by this time I had discovered new research that is indicating that raising monarchs by hand may interfere with their ability to migrate – rechecked new research and there was more – oh I had made a horrible mistake I thought and now I lost him -once again reminded of how little humans know about nature I felt so sad… and then last night I am coming back from a walk with the dogs checking milkweed on my road ( have it everywhere) and there was an identical caterpillar munching leaves exactly the same size!!!! It had to be him – he could smell the milkweed and had traveled though the prickly lawn and trees to find a safer home than I could provide – I took a picture and then stepped back but when I went to take another he dropped out of sight!!!! “ Enough of her!” the message was clear – I’m another predator, though an unwitting one. From now on I shall err on the side of caution and let my friends be… hoping for a positive outcome for these 5000 mile travelers. 

I have raised many of these creatures over the course of my lifetime not knowing that I was putting them at risk… now I do. I am always learning the sane lesson : let nature be S/he knows how to care for her own – my job is to give thanks. Visit to MLT pollinator garden highlights Mexican Sunflowers – Monarchs love them – this bunch needs all the nourishment it can get to make that long journey south – blessings to them all – – watching fish the mirror of the sky I can hear the brook running now – it’s supposed to be hot so I’ll be walking early and NOT removing any caterpillars from their milkweed homes – I have learned my lesson!

On days like this monsoons bring no relief and nature is still…the ponds are made of glass with floating porcelain lilies – fall asters and September goldenrod are in full bloom a month early – my apple tree along with all the other fruit trees are losing leaves – a long term survival tool – all around me disintegration – daily haunts to my brook pool are a necessity – sinking into clear waters I walk up the hill naked drying by air! 

This is the world we have created I remind myself with a heavy heart.

Because I have been present. Oh so present to the joys of spring and summer I can let go -Hope has back problems and my beloved vet gives her acupuncture that brings her back to childhood – a joy to behold in an aging dog.

I remind myself that nature will endure even as the apples fall too early – the earth will be different in ways I can’t imagine but s/ he will endure as I have. A daily joy is walking up and down my road without neighbors with bullying dogs or tree killers both gone. Is it-my imagination that the trees are rejoicing as I I take each step? They are recovering from a holocaust as I am – thriving – how can it be that so much cruel destruction of leaf and crown could heal so quickly once the perpetrator leaves?- my road has once again become a joyful place where trees sing and I treasure each living being.

“knowing that you love the earth changes you…but when you feel the earth loves you in return that feeling transforms relationship…into a sacred bond”

Robin Wall Kimmerer

This has been my life experience – the earth has changed me and every day that I am alive that change continues….

Picture taken through the window – monsoon rains so heavy it almost looks like snow! Love my porch! I walk early these days – the air this morning is unbearably sweet and I am so grateful for my woods and paths that keep me shaded as I walk. Too hot to go elsewhere and too much happening here with monarchs. I never know who I’ll find- they do move around a bit but so far no one has been eaten – 5th instar caterpillar is ready to pupate but where? My next challenge!

Yesterday I found more monarch caterpillars – so happy to see my little one feasting on a pod – it turns out he likes the home he found and now when I visit him he doesn’t drop out of sight ! That drop by the way is planned – he spins a tiny rope to slip away.

Monsoons keep the water flowing and for this I am extremely grateful.

Oh this blessed earth!

(August 7th – 72 degrees at 6AM – Monsooning blesses the water but brings no relief – going into 4th week of unbearable heat – worst summer ever – and this after such a sweet beginning)

Robin Wall Kimmerer says “ that to become native to a place we must learn to speak its language” – 

a lesson I have been learning ever since I moved here.

Every day offers me an opportunity to learn a little more about the language spoken on this land…lately it’s been about monarchs – although I have raised them outdoors it wasn’t until I learned through new research that hand raising might be detrimental to migration – so this year instead of focusing on one caterpillar I am letting the insects and the land teach me how to enjoy this miraculous process without interfering at all! I have learned that babies drop by spinning skeins of silk to escape predators and that monarchs do not need full sun to thrive.. every day I find a few more around preferred milkweed plants in various stages of growth – yesterday finally a chrysalis with tiny gold dots …Finding even one is a joy – and I have the feeling that my attitude is helping to.create all these sightings. Last night I even found two that appeared to be conversing under the same leaf – those feelers were waving back and forth with enthusiasm…. Not all chrysalis capsules produce a butterfly I learned years ago so I am hoping that I will get to witness one “transformation” a word used so casually by people who in fact have no concept of what genuine transformation is about – a literal changing of forms – death is a transformation – so is birth and occasionally we have conversion experiences as humans but animal know what real transformation is all about… perhaps we should follow their lead. Red Deer has more apples than she can eat – they were so heavy on the tree the branch broke – to many extremes for these poor trees.

August 8 72 degrees 6 AM  I’m starting to get anxious about winter…. Too many fall chores that I am going to have to struggle to get done.

To paraphrase ROBIN WALL KIMMERER ‘as we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us’

These words came to me yesterday when a limb of my apple tree was torn from her trunk. Too heavy with apples she bowed over others and I feared the worst. I called my dear friend and professional arborist in a panic – I have known him since he was 19 and he’s 45 now – he loves and is as sensitive to trees as I am having come from a long line of tree cutters that stretch back generations – every tree on hundreds of acres cut sustainably and now he is so well known in the state that people call him and his large crew to do an enormous amount of work. Last year he won a prestigious prize for his impeccable judgement and work – as always I am thrilled to see him but he knew how much my apple tree meant to me and she was in trouble. He cut carefully and cleanly no power tools used at all – too invasive he said – climbing the tree with care and by the end of my trimming – whoops her trimming – he pronounced her healthy and safe – some earlier cutting by a young boy had created some issues. I was overjoyed and Red Deer had a feast! Thank goodness for friends like this one. He took every downed branch to a different spot to feed the animals – always thinking of the others – any wonder I love him?. As he said yesterday we are kindred spirits whose friendship has endured over time. He is one of the finest most perceptive naturalists I know!

Dips in the brook were a must and today clouds- I am so sick of sun – day after day so so boring.

Back to Robin’s remark – I had the strongest sense as we were cutting that the tree and Sheldon and I were in a three way conversation without words and that the tree was happy – projection? I doubt it – there was a strange buzz in the air that we both picked up on and commented about – Trees know when we love them! And healing them heals us – if only we could listen….a good day indeed!

Bird Migration has begun. Last night 132,400 birds flew over this one county.

PLEASE, LIGHTS OUT AT DUSK TO DAWN…. this is just the beginning and it is so important for the migrating birds, especially the first migrants to not be confused and thrown off course by these obscenely bright lights…

This morning the yellow bellied cuckoo who lives right down by the brook – a bird I have never seen – awakened me at 5:30 AM – he is still singing along with Red Deer (who has wiped out every fallen apple from under my tree). Until this year, I didn’t even know cuckoos lived here. His call is poignant and sweetly repetitive… I think there are two conversing ignoring the single gun shot that just rang out – some idiot shooting at some potential victim.

Seeding up is evident everywhere as is the lengthening darkness I collected pictures of some of the seeding up plants. Gosh there are so many… the first scarlet maple leaves are scattered across the forest floor.

It’s so nice to hear the brook running…

Last night I found three more monarch caterpillars… so the numbers are diminishing – two chrysalis adorn old sticks… lime green with gilded gold leaf – the most skilled artist in the world is nature –

RE MONARCHS – FIRST APPEARED IN Greenwood AROUND END OF JULY. I FOUND MY FIRST ONE HERE ON AUGUST 3TH AND SINCE THEN I HAVE FOUND MANY – ONE IN CHRYSALIS SINCE 8/6 (FOUND ACROSS THE ROAD), THE OTHER BECAME ONE 8/9 (TAKEN FROM Greenwood). DON’T INTEND TO TAKE ANY FROM HERE – JUST PLANT MILKWEED UP AROUND THE CIRCLE. VERY EXCITING – HOPE I END UP WITH BUTTERFLIES.

.

HEAT WAVE WITH HORRIBLE HUMIDITY DURING CATRPILAR EXPLOSION _ HOW DOES THAT FACROR IN? 

COOL DAMP WEATHER to get wood in 4 day marathon and its over for this year…

 – THUNDERSTORMS drop buckets of rain – HUMIDITY OFF THE WALL. EVERY SINGLE DAY BUT MOST OF WOOD IS EITHER IN OR UNDER COVER.

ROBIN WALL KIMMERER says that the world is a place of belongings (acquisition of stuff) or a place of belonging to… I am struck by a grief deeper than the deepest river when I read these words. How did western culture become so capitalistic where more cars, trucks, traveling, buying buying buying buying became the ‘end goal’?

This of course is how we destroy the earth whose trees and creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate. Four percent of non human creatures are left in the entire world.

I live in a place of “belonging to” – and am graced with wild animals that come and go – knowing how grateful I am to belong to some land that has me woven into the tapestry of the whole.

Yesterday Red Deer wiped out fallen apples – I used a broom to bring down more and now these are gone too! At dawn chortling awakened me and I got to see the 16 turkeys that live here picking up tidbits as they circled the house – there is one little guy who is smaller than the other 10 babies. So far this family has only lost one. Surprise for me on the butterfly weed. Two quarter inch monarchs appeared on the leaves – birthed by a too young mother too far from milkweed their only food source? (8/10) I moved them to milkweed and last night on our walk I saw them both mouthparts crunching leaves – still more caterpillars! One giant still hasn’t pupated – so far I have two capsules – I hear from the land trust that there are a couple of capsules on plants in their garden so folks will get to see how beautiful these are – I’m guessing another week for mine? Just don’t know.

All my wood is in for winter – nice and dry and stacked here and in the garage. I had real help this year so the work went fast with good conversation – we moved 3 and a half cords of wood!!!! And it was cloudy and cool! Next cages for vulnerable trees…. I like getting fall chores done early so I am free to roam come fall.

Meet “Little Deer” in the flesh on the First Harvest moon! There is a Cherokee story that speaks to Little Deer as a spokesperson and advocate for all the animals. Yesterday around 2 PM after I had used a broom to drop more some more apples down from the tree for his mother, Red Deer, – Mom must have been watching because she trotted right up the hill almost instantly – no surprise there – – and lo- just behind her came this absolutely gorgeous fawn that she has kept hidden from me for months! Baffling in view of how friendly she is – one day she almost came in the door!

Both were relaxed and enjoyed a feast.

Later a lovely rain that has the brook sounding a song – water over stone – the frogs were all croaking as the dogs and I sat on the porch listening to the rain falling in the porch metal roof – a lovely night!

Yesterday more caterpillars on the butterfly weed which I moved to milkweed. That’s five in all so far on butterfly weed a quarter of an inch long they must just have hatched but where in my wild Red Deer munched garden? Yet one more mystery – oh how grateful I am that all of Life is one Great Mystery! This morning Red Deer is here alone and cuckoo is singing away across the brook.

Robin Wall Kimmerer tells us that paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the Living World, receiving ( her/his – I refuse to “it” nature) gifts with open eyes and open hearts”.

Early morning walk through my predominantly hemlock forest has me enthralled by such beauty and bounty- just after a rain the scent is beyond description and the ground soft and spongy with rich duff. Some of my hemlocks are more than 200 years old – (have counted rings of downed trees) even sustainable loggers didn’t have much use for hemlocks because the grain wasn’t straight. Lucky forest and luckily me to be witness. 200 years is still young for hemlocks – that if left to grow reach 500 years the oldest trees in the east. Today of course we take them too- chip them and turn them into mulch that helps to spread Woolley Adelgid. Such greed and stupidity. But so far my little patch of forest is a cathedral of peace – in the open spaces left by downed trees who become seed beds for new life are growing wildflowers and, sprouting mushrooms and long runners of various club mosses becoming more complex every single year. It saddens me to have to have mechanical eyes pointed in every direction both in front and behind me but I have learned the hard way that neighbors are not to be trusted…. Hemlocks protect the streams keeping the fish cool even in the heat they are a foundational species helping to create diversity, stop flooding – could go on here but what I love is craning my neck to see those crowns against deep blue sky. In my favorite forest these trees are so old I can’t see the tops!! (8/13 first hint of fall – chilly yesterday and this morning! NWwind! Yes!

Robin Wall Kimmerrer talks about the” grammar of animacy” when I first heard these words a couple of years ago when reading Braiding Sweetgrass I realized that I had been doing this for so many years with my writing in regards to animals and plants. I never “it” an animate being – either using pronouns he she or s/he to describe or discuss a living being believing that to do so was participating in the subjugation of non human beings as “ less than” – it’s easy to take down a maple with a chainsaw if it’s an “it” not so easy when the tree is a she .. unless of course you had a deranged neighbor like the one I did who hacked trees to pieces because of his insane hatred for me… barring insanity giving personhood to any other species creates a relationship of equals where there was none…. Oh how I love these cool cool mornings and sunny days when the heat has broken – we can’t complain we only had a month of it – from cicadas to crickets just another indication of the changing season – I spent the afternoon seeding – although not gardening per say I collect pods and scatter whatever is ready to re – seed itself in places where it has the best chances to grow. Little Deer and mom were here at 5:30 munching apples  -yesterday she was within inches of Hope who just couldn’t’ stand the invasion through the screen and barked!!! Red Deer just backed away – found only one caterpillar yesterday – the ones hatching into the next monarch butterflies will be making the journey south, – Lily b became depressed after I stopped feeding his birds so yesterday I put up one feeder just outside his window and this morning he is enthralled by early morning activity – birds have to have regular stimulation and I was worried because Lily was staying in his roost – even pig squirrel is better than no one! Thick mist covers the mountain with her pearl white shawl and the waters flow…

Yesterday was our Mahoosuc Land Trust Monarch Festival – the numbers of visitors were staggering – what a success – someone took this picture of me at our bird table during a bizarrely quiet moment! We were so busy all day that on my break I had two choices – see other exhibits or go on a bird walk – I chose the latter and learned new information on thrushes. How I love these walks. MLT has merged with other organizations and so conserved land is growing – some folks really do care- the rest of the pictures I took befitted starting work in the fantastic pollinator garden that I am unable to stay away from for more than about 10 days! So chilly I had to close windows and doors around 3 AM when I awakened – love this touch of fall weather and now the leaves are shining outside my window silver green and gold. When I got home a beautiful wildflower bouquet was waiting for me – someone had been here checking mechanical eyes -and left me a present that included a new bat house!!!!

Freedom

There is no freedom

There are only ancient prophecies that scry the seeds of time and say which will grow and which will not.

Richard Powers

I leave the reader to make what s/he will of such words.

The clue of course lies in patterns – there are hidden patterns everywhere like the ones on Queen Anne’s Lace. Or my favorite “ bee “ hydrangea or bee balm or the multitude of monarch caterpillars each one delicately striped. (I’ve lost count of how many I have found what this might mean who knows)

The key for humans is to discern the meaning behind the patterns we live – willingly or not. Once we understand that patterns and proteins create all living things the story becomes one of fascination and wonder but freedom may be more of an illusion than we know – or want to know. 

Love these clear pre – dawn mornings with crickets singing “all is well” at this moment in time…

Another Theory in physics ( Steady State theory) that is also based on the same premise of red shift tells us that instead of the 

Universe racing further and further apart – the theory that is accepted ‘truth ‘- from nothing to everything as Powers states Big Bang- May be more about our human projections than actuality. In this equally valid theory the universe is being born and reborn again. When I first read about this idea it made so much more sense to me than nothing to everything because nature doesn’t work that way – cycles of becoming define natural ways of being in the world. I was also struck by the fact that this is what indigenous people think too…. Why do we not hear about this?…. cause BIG BANG IS ‘TRUTH’. People seem to need a concrete belief system even if science by nature is always in flux and truths are always changing….Food for thought

What follows is a visual feast Red and Little Deer and clouds here and an evening visit to the pollinator garden and surrounding paths – oh such beauty ! The deep purple flower that fascinates me so because it looks so strange comes from Korea and is not a verbena as I was told. Some flowers come from far away.- and that dragonfly!!!! And the goldenrod…. Oh such beauty… caterpillars everywhere there too and chrysalis’s hanging from the fence. Here my population continues to expand with only common milkweed and butterfly weed! What a year for monarchs! Enjoy!!!!

Chrysalides is the plural – I looked it up.

I am recognizing personhood in nature when I give thanks for this long slow rain that has been falling since yesterday afternoon soaking a thirsty earth clearing the waters, and calling up the sounds of frogs!! The big green frog was croaking with such enthusiasm last night that I could hear him from the bedroom on the other side of the house. This is the rain that turns the earth green again – almost emerald with lime accents. Rain like this is a gift beyond price. This summer we have had too much ‘male’ rain – thunder and lightning – colorful dramatic deluges – that don’t nourish the earth the way this ‘female’ rain does. These indigenous descriptions ‘fit’ the kind of rain that falls -we are respecting and giving personhood to the powers of both. I sleep and wake and sleep again to this soothing sound – each tree stretches her needles or palms opening them to the sky…. I spent a couple of hours rain walking yesterday hunting for more caterpillars – every time I think the little ones are gone I find a wee monarch under a leaf! A miracle year for caterpillars. I just had to take a picture of the gift I received from working at the festival – generous folks. The tee shirts were being sold and I am the only person I know that despises tee shirts – but not this one! I promptly cut the arms and neck away and now I have a new dress of sorts for hot summer days or a tunic. The picture is sort of weird but I had a hard time – don’t know how to work a timer!

Every morning now spider webs adorn the house and grass and the little oak acorn I planted three years ago is a healthy little tree about 2 feet high! Amazing Nature!

Inside and outside reflections of one another after a nourishing rain – equality and diversity dominate the sharing of Lily B’s feeder… all regulars and cardinals chirping for food at dusk!…one real treat was seeing three kinds of warblers in my apple tree picking off the predators that are munching through leaves but every time I tried to get a picture one flew away – these little birds move so fast it’s no wonder it’s so hard to see them or capture them on film! Migration is underway so these will be in flight before long… Twenty plus more monarch caterpillars yesterday and a chrysalis…so many teeny babies! Bright yellow poplar leaf and hobble bush full of berries promise that fall is coming – this morning a symphony of crickets – but cicadas are my weather report – when they sing I know it’s going to heat up.

I do think there is a relationship between weather changes and the collective mind that includes humans – all this instability and so many extremes seem to mirror what’s happening in our culture and others across the planet. Climate change isn’t just about what we have done to the planet it’s what is happening to humans too… the human mind has become as polluted as the body of the earth – we are all connected…… I always thought it was about me being connected to the weather in a  weird way – so much I thought was me now I see I just had a window into what was coming through my BODY that I ignored… David Abram talks about the weather being related to the human mind – and how our senses know… he is definitely attached to body.

****It is not a question of first getting enlightened or healed as our androcentric culture obsesses over and then maybe taking action – first we work to heal the earth and only then will the earth heal us….

Robin Wall Kimmerer – scientist/ author

Bringing the harvest in is a gift offered by all of nature – the very least that we can do is to reciprocate with the deepest gratitude.

And with birds migrating — 25,000 last night in Oxford County alone we can TURN OUR LIGHTS OFF at dusk and leave them off until dawn.

A morning like this one is a jewel – heavy dew 48 degrees and clear clear sweet air bathes late summer green… the picture of the hummingbird tree shows a fraction of what must be a thousand apples – maybe more hang from her branches – my two feeders are inches away from the tree and the hummingbirds never leave this protection except to feed on bee balm. I must have almost a hundred hummingbirds – 4 quarts a day – the most ever.

Last night a real treat – foxes yipping in the field – I’ve seen scat and glimpses at dawn or dusk but this yipping was hilarious – my old animal paths are being used – but some killers remain shooting at whatever crosses their paths. Red deer and Little Deer munched apples so noisily they woke me up at 4:30 AM! I could barely see them under our bedroom window! I love hearing the apples hit the ground at night. It’s almost as if the tree is getting ready to gift these deer. And maybe she is!

SOMETHING STOLE ONE OF MY BUTTERFLIES –THE CHRYSALIS JUST GONE – TONIGHT I BRING the other IN…..

(8/20 – ‘The Gathering In’ – just one day later than last year – elderberry bounty on Gore Road – little ripe elsewhere – have another week written morning of 21st)

“Plants are an integral way to reweave the connection between land and people. A place becomes home when it sustains you, when it feeds body and spirit… ”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer scientist/ author

Yesterday I spent gathering in. Going to the places where medicine still grows wild. Always my relationship to the land is strengthened by these forays into marsh and blackberry canes wild roses – scratches are part of the story as I choose clumps of ripe purple berries never worrying about taking too many because not one elderberry ripens her berries at the same time! There are always plenty left to spread next years bounty and to feed the birds…when my basket is full and I am exhausted from the heat of the noonday star I come home, take a bath in the brook pool watch fish peering at my feet and return to the cabin refreshed. Winnowing takes thours of work. I finished this batch at dusk just in time to walk the dogs into the coming cricket filled night scanning the clear horizon my eyes tuned to tree spires… I have been in this slow still place all afternoon as I sat on the porch – my fingers busy my mind still. I am part of what is, and it is enough.

Today I bottle my bounty to see how much more I need to gather for myself and others. Medicine for the next year …as I picked each cluster I gave thanks for the wild places that still support these bushes and of course for the berries themselves….pictures of my gathering Passamaquoddy basket , and the turkeys hiding in the ferns yesterday morning! All sixteen birds whose heads were barely visible! I asked the turkeys to leave me a feather and one did! This morning the cardinals are chirping long before dawn as Red Deer munched fallen apples … last night she was snorting just outside the cabin at something and when I went outside to see ( she acts like a warning system!) she was staring at the most beautiful gray fox stamping her foot in protest. He left!

Emergence magazine tells us that the latest heat wave broke all records in Maine and that the Great Tree Migration is underway although for trees it takes generations – to escape heat predation etc the trees are moving north. It is projected that within less than a hundred years black ash, sugar maples paper birch and red spruce will be gone … pictured is a miracle tree – one that survived being cut to a stump by a crazy person seven years ago…somehow this red pine survived and re- grew three small trunks and became a whole tree – with all the bad news about the loss of trees – the heartbreak – when I look at this tree that lines my road I believe that trees of some kind will survive the holocaust bearing down on them – not trees I know and love but trees of some kind – our most ancient elders. We may be gone but they will live on. Picture of what once was a popular trout brook now barely any water flows. Also pictured is my old fashioned hydrangea the only one that bees adore. Yesterday I stood under her listening to the wild hum of bees – six kinds and hummingbirds who also find the nectar sweet… fritillaries and monarchs along with other butterflies also feed on this tree – and speaking of fritillaries don’t forget to let your violets grow – because they are the only plant on which this butterfly lays her eggs! Please don’t mow them down!!!! This morning the cardinals awakened me a little after 5 AM – they want food! And the 16 turkeys are milling about the feeder under Lily b’s window – yesterdays bottled medicine – oh the color! All that work was worth it – one more run should give me all I need. The night before last 48 thousand birds migrated south over Oxford County alone. Here I see less male hummingbirds although feeding frenzy continues unabated. Unlike most migrants hummingbirds migrate by day…rain predicted for today and this morning it feels like it. Oh the turkeys are chortling – such enthusiastic conversation is now occurring under my bedroom window as turkeys peck at fallen apples – Red Deer left none but more just fell down with a few hundred to come.

What is magic? In the deepest sense,magic is an experience of finding oneself alive within an earth that is alive!

David Abram

Yesterday morning chortling and who should arrive but about 30 male turkeys who hung around all morning bathing resting an scratching – where did they come from? The night before gun blasts from stupid neighbor up the hill probably brought them in ( glad I’m not paying for the bullets!)- same with the new deer with her twins. Male impotence hiding behind a gun – ugh- this is power? What a joke – no wonder I have so many animals here. 

this morning my sixteen mothers and young are back working the feeder eating apple leftovers all the while in deep conversation. Cardinals are now coming in at 7:30 PM. All barrels brimming from long sweet rain with more to come… that quiet soaking warm rain which fell all night long – so soothing with more to come. Meanwhile in cool weather I moved some plants and then watched the rain clouds thicken the sky in layers – oh the air was sweet but not as sweet as now – all the leaves on trees are shining. How I love late summer greening….the brook is singing. 

Forest walk in the rain with me hearing Robin Wall Kimmerer s words “ How can we become better students of plants” By SEEING them for the miraculous beings they are – bending kneeling to close in on detail like the tiny toads that have just been born. A protected forest is a gift beyond measure Breathing in terpenes pinenes ionized sweetened air leaves me with a sense of well being I find no where else – is it any wonder that this is my cathedral? More rain and eventually I fall asleep to the sounds bouncing off the snow roof and didn’t wake up until 1 AM! Abrams is right the truly magical is simply being where one is communing with one’s relatives most who tower over my head – some barely specks hopping across rich moist duff – two days of rain and the world is singing a song of gratitude in late summer… sadly southern maine is in a drought – last year it was northern Maine here in the mountains rain but never enough for me – this round was both light and heavy – no wild thunderstorms that steal precious water rain crickets cicadas – it’s enough

In some Native languages the term for plant translates into those that take care of us

Robin Wall Kimmerer scientist/ author

Yesterday while gathering my last basket of elderberries it was these words that came to mind… such bounty and nourishment – how satisfying to wild craft with such gratitude… an early morning walk through my woods shows me how mosses, the first colonizers of dry land send roots ahead to attach themselves to stone. The second picture show the tiniest and deadliest mushrooms sprouting – some the size of a pinheaded – you can guess who they are…. Turkeys turkeys turkeys and Red Deer peering in the window as I was engaged in some task or another.

This morning the dogs and I were watching her eat her apples at first light when the bully up the hill let off a volley of gunshots – stupid impotent excuse for a man – bullies are fear driven – no wonder they have to shoot guns to feel like men – so different from the respectful hunters that I meet in the forest – not here- no hunting here please! But families who love the woods the way I do respecting her ways…

Lots of mountain mist – love the way it settles over the forest..and oh the sweetness of the air!

These last two should be reversed… and I also wrote about 25th’s talk about artist Jane Kim – highlight for me was sitting next to Mary and Larry – Larry hugged me. Wow.

“Gratitude is most powerful as a response to the Earth because it provides an opening to reciprocity – to the act of giving back”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer scientist and author

Early morning walk up through my woods after the rain – the earth feels like velvet under my feet – such astonishing beauty – later off to the pollinator garden – I can’t stay away from that place – Monarchs everywhere and oh those Mexican Sunflowers – friends in NM please grow them if you have a drip system! Very few caterpillars – same here – something is getting mine. Then off for the final round of berrying – today is process day…I think Red Deer has been here all night – every time I woke up crunching! And of course she’s here now feasting… the most solitary deer I know – most are in the field but she lives right here – Little Deer often comes alone too.

Pictures on a rainy day – my nasturtiums love the cooler nights and come into their own in September… labor intensive winnowing of elderberries continues and rain sweetened air accompanied Hope and I to the clinic for an afternoon visit with Uncle Gary our vet who calls Hope his little princess!! Beautiful view of rain and thick mist from Gary’s window. Seeding up butterfly weed – love those pods

“Youth hunters will get a jump start on the 2022 bear season this weekend. The unofficial start to Maine’s fall hunting season is right around the corner. The bear hunting season in Maine starts on August 29. Youth hunters will get a jump start on the season, August 27, on Youth Bear Hunting Day.”

In Maine we make sure that the young are inducted early into bear slaughter by kicking off the three month bear season today.

These shy and normally peaceful animals have been cast as killers and we perpetuate the myth. Most of the bears that will be shot with their heads in a bait can will be under two years old. First year cubs will lose their mothers and may not be able to survive on their own. Females do not bring cubs to bait areas. Most will need up as trophies on the walls of peoples’ homes.

Four percent on non – human species remain on the earth. We seem intent upon eradicating them all.

What happened to the Native American custom of honoring Bear as Healer????

Here’s a statistic for you: 27 million guns are owned by Americans. Gun related deaths are the third leading cause of HUMAN deaths in this country.

Once I had bears on this land – no more – all have been shot out. I never thought I would say this but I am actually grateful that I will not be losing personal friends this fall.

Unfortunately Dr Lynn Rogers Bear biologist, and friend who runs the North American Bear Center and WRI – a bear research station in Ely Minnesota will probably not be so fortunate. His wild bears are often hunted with a vengeance. Pictured are bears I know personally – bears that are allowed to come and go – free – for eleven months of the year. Minnesota has a hunting season that lasts one month.

Picture of a baby toad found in the woods. Here in my toad pond none hatched this spring the first time ever…we all need toads and frogs – they let us know how polluted our air water and soil have become. Their scarcity indicates that we are all in trouble. If they can’t breathe either can we – it just takes longer to kill a human than a toad.

Yesterday I witnessed a troubling exchange between a dog, his owner and a cornered toad. The dog was after the toad and the man encouraged him. “ Good boy!”

Distressed I mentioned that toads exude toxins that can harm a dog even if the dog just mouths the amphibian. Encounters like this one are potentially dangerous for both animals. Clearly this man was ignorant…

For anyone who is interested in details please see internet…

Thick mist obscured the mountains early this morning.

“Paying attention is a form of reciprocity…”

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Until I read these words I never thought of my attention to nature as being a form of reciprocity but of course it is….giving back by being fully present is a gift without parallel for only then are we truly “seen” – this is as true for nature as it is for humans…

Yesterday another caterpillar day – this time comparing notes with someone else trying to make sense out of our present monarch influx – many many caterpillars – I researched a couple of academic articles yesterday and learned that new studies are being done on caterpillar predators not considered such a threat until recently. This validated my own perceptions – caterpillars yes chrysalids yes, but hatching? I’m not having much luck here. I found a chrysalis that was being sucked up by an ant or spider not sure which. It’s just too soon to draw conclusions I am just keeping close track.. turkeys and more turkeys and I have around 34 now coming in two groups – this male was hot! They meander through the ferns down to the brook take a bath and lay around on the lawn … it was muggy and hot yesterday and I could smell the storm coming in. Last night after walking the dogs I just had to keep walking up and down my road – animals appearing from the edges of the road to peer at me deer grouse and another fox- all this while I am soaking in the sweet moisture and being serenaded by crickets – oh my peaceful road – I never thought it would be like this again 

When the rain came it was that lovely soaking rain and it is still falling…I can never get enough!END OF HOTTEST MUGGIEST AUGUST I EVER REMEMBER – AIR CONDITIONER ON ALMOST THE ENTRIE MONTH – EXCITEMENT OVER MONARCH CATERPILLARS TURNS DARK AS I SUSPECT DESTRUCTOR INSECTS ARE KILLING THE BABIES – YESTERDAY I READ ARTICLES CONFIRMING THIS THREAT IN ADDITION TO THE OTHERS. EVEN THE SHRYSALIS I DISCOVERED IN MY JAR HAD BEEN ATTACKED BY SOMETHING – 3 CHRYSALIDS DEAD – NO BUTTERFLIES EMERGE. 

Refuge Late August

The sun pours in like honey
casts shadows 
a small fire dries wooden floors….

Outside my window
beech leaves

 gild light

open
thirsty mouths,
 breathe 

poisoned air

 purifying… 
White pine
towers
over cobalt sky
as do hemlocks.
Steep gorge
captures pools
of fish
shrinking waters

an invitation extended

 to green herons
winding river wends her way 
through forest becoming. 
Stillness
interrupts
doing..
a gift
that
only nature
can provide.
Moss climbs
over outhouse roof
composting soil
Hobble bush
aflame with orange jewels
Arbutus still limed
leathery leaves
bursting
Stars in spring

Caterpillars spin

chrysalids


Oh Life in the Round

is a gift

even on steamy days!
Birth is in the wings…

three monarch caterpillars on one leaf

Star woman sleeps
waiting to be born
She’ll bend hemlocks
heavily laden with dew
Bathe white pines
in crystal waters
Sing to the birds
stories of Creation…


 Old Ones Caution

could this be a monarch caterpillar dead in spider’s web?

 Patience

 Transformation

is fraught with danger

Adult Monarch…

Even as S/he

parts the veilof Time..