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..

Sara

Mistaken Identity

I had the wrong family.

Story can be distorted.

It took a lifetime

to untangle mine.

Braveheart

Only now,

 approaching old age,

has Clear Sight

  become Reality

Grounding first, 

Illumination next…

What was, what is

what will be…

When people forget,

dismiss, denigrate,

Love starved Roots

Wither and die.

Redressing Imbalances: The Powers of Love meet those of Revenge

The planet will sing without us, for the harm we have done will be remembered by the Ancestors. The trees will shudder, the waters will weep, the winds will howl, the parched compacted arid soil will shrink at frightening memory, but life will continue.

Hemlock – I don’t know how old this tree is but S/he has a circumference of more than 12 feet…. imagine what this tree has seen and endured…s/he was spared from being cut because the tree was deemed useless – all that is changing…

 The lives that we destroy –  from birds to trees, to bears, to dolphins, (to innocent people) – become part of a “field” of memory that contains the seeds of each new form. Once purified the Earth will give birth again – but not to a species that was intent upon annihilating her.

 Earth learns from her mistakes. 

S/he is made of energy and a myriad of shapes  – neither created or destroyed  – Earth simply changes forms.

 S/he fashions a starry cloak of gold and silver threads woven into cerulean blue… those filaments shower the earth with sparks, invisible threads penetrate earth’s mantle singing the Song of Relationship to crimson roots and fungi who begin life at the bottom of the sea (the whales hear them singing) Root tips rise out of emerald waters – emerge out of knowing that we are One. 

Who will watch the Creators stitching human atrocities – holes we have rent in Nature’s fabric – Whole?

 Love survives madness by turning to revenge… 

The circle is closing. 

Dissolution lies ahead.

Earth’s revenge redresses imbalances.

Winter Light

Winter Light

It is the day before thanksgiving. For too many years, this was a time of great sorrowing – a day on which a young motherless woman said goodbye to her grandmother… a grandmother she couldn’t afford to lose, and later, much later, a grandmother she couldn’t become….

(Lily B helps bring in the dawn…)

This morning I awaken in the pre- dawn to a heavy lidded moon peering in my window… A deep stillness permeates the air – The Earth is a Lady in Waiting. The slow awakening of a late November sun decides it will take two hours to rise, and it is in this space that I give thanks for my favorite time of day. I bathe in the pale blue twilight; clarity heightens clear thinking, while my body opens to shinings. Cardinals arrive, flashing dusky crimson feathers… Around nine a golden eye overcomes night shadows and the house is lit like the brightest candle, the brook mirroring Earth Star’s rising. Chimes begin to ring. My Norfolk pines breathe out life giving oxygen as do the Passionflowers, their vining tendrils curling in spirals, emerald ringlets inching across the window.  My dogs lie on their backs, paws extended, soaking in the sun… I spray my woodland garden with water, moistening its startling red partridgeberries, snowberries, emerald mosses, tiny trees celebrating life.

(reflection from a rising sun)

 Winter Green is made of Gold.

(Norfolk Island Pine)

(mountain view at dawn)

(winter garden in a bowl)

Today or tomorrow I will weave my balsam wreaths into circles of prayer giving thanks for trees, for animals, for life, for winter light, for those capable of love, and for the heat that warms the fire within, animating me like my Star Baby does…

(Star Baby)

I see a circle closing as Grandmother glides through the door. 

Oh, like the Navajo, I walk in Beauty.

This House was built for Winter Light. 

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

The night before my maternal grandmother died my mother pushed me so hard I fell to the floor and banged my head. My grandfather and I had just walked in the door after spending the day at a New York hospital where my grandmother lay there unconscious as I moistened her lips, rubbed cream on her arms, wept at the sound of her labored breathing. I felt such guilt, such helplessness… My grandfather who was behind me, shocked by my mother’s violent actions and sneering words muttered “Oh, Jane please,” without conviction. He knew his stepdaughter well. No one ever crossed her. 

Stunned by the unwarranted physical attack and vicious remarks I picked myself off the floor and went into the dining room. The remains of thanksgiving dinner were still on the table. I don’t remember the conversation – just that my grandmother’s sisters were there. My grandfather and I left soon after, exhausted and depressed returning to his house three miles down the road. At 5AM the next morning the phone rang and I knew… my beloved grandmother was dead.

I was reeling – numb. My brother had killed himself the year before and now this. I remember nothing about the memorial service except that my grandmother was lying in a steel coffin. When my grandmother’s ashes arrived, I opened the door to receive them, took the box upstairs and put it in her closet…that was it. I spent the rest of the winter at my grandfather’s house feeling useless, returning home to Maine in the spring.

 My oldest son, still quite young at the time was an explosive arrogant kid who had to get his own way, and he was the one that pushed my grandmother down when she broke her hip. She never walked again. For the next nine months I went to NY every month to care for my grandmother who I knew was dying. The dead years were in full swing – I had no feelings at all except one – I wished I was dead. 

 My children were emotionally neglected while the dead years droned on. But even then I managed to rise to holidays, preparing elaborate thanksgiving meals for family that included my parents and aunts who made the trip to Maine from NY. At Christmas my parents invited the children to NY, and of course I agreed. I was withering away under Survivors guilt wondering why I was alive when Davey was dead. It barely registered that my parents didn’t seem to want me to join them.

 Ten years later I emerged from the underworld and began to mourn my little brother and the loss of my grandmother…My feelings, although painful were returning. I was coming to life again. Now I was able to be emotionally present for my children who had grown into young adolescents with an insensitive dead mother.

I tried to show my children how much I loved and needed them. I was consumed by even more guilt as I owned my inability to be present for them in meaningful ways during the years I spent locked in deep depression. I continued to cook elaborate meals. At thanksgiving I would bake pies and cookies that they would down without even a ‘thank you’ before they left for New York to be with their grandparents…

 The moment I was alone, clearing up the remains of a complicated meal, old memories of thanksgiving would surface, and I was once again overcome with guilt.  Thanksgiving was the last time I saw my grandmother. And she didn’t even know I was there. During that last year of her life she told me that I was all she had. That this was true was patently obvious. My mother wanted no part in her care and my grandfather who worked all the time had professional people come in to care for her. My grandmother was so forlorn and each weekend when I left her, deep loneliness followed me home. She lived less than a year after her fatal fall. I couldn’t seem to leave that sorrow, or the guilt that I carried for not being able to do more for her, behind. 

When my children left home I began the process of reclaiming my Native heritage. When I learned that thanksgiving was a celebration for colonists who massacred/poisoned the Indigenous peoples that had treated them so kindly I was revolted. 

As Nature became more central to my life a childhood circle that had been interrupted by my brother’s death began to close as I was returned to the arms of nature. I began to celebrate the seasonal rounds beginning with the solstices and equinoxes. Soon after I added the cross quarter turnings, discovering in the process that I had finally found my spiritual home.

The year I moved to the mountains my father died just before thanksgiving, the second family loss that occurred in the month of November. I survived the holidays that year by feeding the beavers in my stream and by preparing a place in the forest to receive my dad’s ashes bereft of human companionship.

 I didn’t know it then but I would never again celebrate this miserable holiday with anyone in my immediate family. Thirty years later I look back at that first thanksgiving spent with the beavers (and by extension my dad) as a turning point in my life.

Moving to the mountains funneled me into isolation on a level I had not experienced even after my brother’s death. This was the world of the good ol’ boys who bullied and dominated others leaving a person like me a permanent outsider and a target for abuse. I was also discriminated against for claiming my Native heritage. I longed for family. My youngest son who did visit occasionally, eventually made it clear that doing so was an obligation. A few years ago he stopped making the hour plus drive. Too much trouble.

 One thanksgiving I had an astonishing dream in which I was with my grandmother who was alive and telling me that all the time she was dying she knew I loved her and was with her…  When I awakened from this dream all those years of grandmother guilt dissipated, never to return. My love for her had been enough, after all.

hemlock trees are the longest living trees on the east coast… 400 – 800 years

 Soon after I began to create little traditions that I follow to this day. November is the month I begin to celebrate my love for every evergreen tree on the earth. The leaves of broadleaf trees have become nature’s mulch, yet forest green stays with us until spring, thanks to the conifers. Thanksgiving week is the time I choose to go into the forest to tip balsam boughs thanking the trees for being, always choosing a mild day when I can enjoy being outdoors. Then I weave fragrant wreaths sitting on my living room floor listening to choral music sung in Latin, a language I don’t understand, thankfully (!) This year my indoor Norfolk Island pines are already lit with rice lights for a few hours each evening lending a festive glow to the soothing cloak of darkness. 

 Recently I decided to include a dinner for this week of Wintergreen Tree Celebration and it turned out that the foods I wanted to cook were some of the favorite foods I prepared during those exhausting and meaningless thanksgivings, cooking that I did for others, including my children at my own expense. At first this idea of cooking a feast for myself, (after all the trees couldn’t join me) seemed silly until I recalled how much I loved my own food! I am an excellent cook and I can conjure up just about anything without a recipe.

mama partridge or ruffed grouse

And this is how I came to create the space for a celebration of all evergreen trees that includes food I love from old thanksgiving dinners. I have transformed thanksgiving! Every year I wait for one of my favorite birds, the partridge, to join me outdoors as s/he feasts on old crabapple berries. This year I have added a “Star Baby” to my celebration! 

I am no longer without human relatives! I will be talking to my cousin on thanksgiving, sharing memories and stories as well as whatever pictures/videos of the baby that may come my way…Capri Rose, my beloved little cousin was born just a few months ago on my dad’s side of the family, family that my mother made sure we never got to know. 

My two Cousins…. Billy and Star Baby!

My Star Baby is the youngest of the Pottetti line and I am the oldest. Together we close a circle, just as Billy and I have done.  (I think our two Dads would be very happy about this outcome). My first cousin and I have what is known as Sympatico – he tells me all the time “it’s natural that we should share and do things together because we are family.” He will never know what it’s like to be without loved ones, because his Italian roots privilege family over others – the exact opposite of what my mother did, and my own children continue to do today. 

 It’s easy to see in retrospect that my refusal to abandon my father when he died gave my mother another opportunity for revenge that she couldn’t resist. I set it up by challenging her decision not to have any kind of memorial service for her husband. The worst part was that she made sure her grandchildren wouldn’t attend their grandfather’s service.  This either or attitude of hers – choose her/her money, or me and a memorial service, helped split me away from my children/grandchildren on a permanent basis.  

Thirty years later my father’s nephew folded me back into  family. I have no idea when I shall visit my little cousin but she lives in my heart as a beacon of hope for the future, and oh, I love her so. She’s a girl and she’s family too! Billy doesn’t let a day go by without sending me pictures of her laughing, crowing, working hard to roll over, eating her first food, all the things I missed… This year when I weave my wreaths into the circle we call life I will be thinking of Billy and his family, my Star Baby, and the Pottetti Family Tree – the one with Love and Blessings for all Beings, (human and non human) at its center. 

Camouflage

  I have two partridge who astonish me with their ability to conceal themselves while pecking at berries on open ground just outside my window. They blend in perfectly with fallen leaves and withered grasses while wearing such stunning apparel!

male partridge

Because nature’s animals/plants often reflect a particular ability that is also mirrored by human behavior I started thinking about what the word camouflage really means for animals and for humans, reflecting upon the differences between how the two utilize this strategy.

In nature camouflage is not nuanced the way it is with humans. Camouflage has one primary purpose: to help animals survive as individuals and as a species. However the variety of ways that animals use camouflage is impressive.

Coyotes live in the shadows; they couldn’t survive if they didn’t. They use stealth to secure their prey. The Viceroy butterfly camouflages itself by looking almost exactly like the poisonous Monarch butterfly, thereby avoiding predation. Many other insects embrace this tactic. The Luna moth has four eyes on its wings to intimidate any aerial predator. Lizards turn the color of the stones they bask upon becoming invisible to all but the most discerning eye. Hiding out under juniper bushes like the rabbits do during the day, seeking tasty clover in the twilight hours minimizes the possibility of becoming a fox’s dinner. Weasels turn white in the winter. Wearing a disguise that mimics snowfall probably fools many hungry owls. Remaining still helps deer and bear to remain undetected during a long arduous hunting season. The examples I could give are endless.

look at those feathers!

Here in the valley Ruffed Grouse still find refuge. They are one of the few animals that continue to inhabit this sanctuary that is surrounded by forests that have been harvested, or trashed in raw human hatred. Every spring the males drum from the exact same location in my woods. During the summer I flush grouse regularly when walking through my young forest. Sometimes in the woods I will surprise a mother with babies who uses the broken wing tactic to distract me as her little ones escape. This year, mama, a bird who knows me raised her brood just behind the fence in an old brush pile. She let her chicks peck away contentedly even as I passed by. By mid- summer she routinely led her little family through the yard and down to brook to bathe while hugging tall grasses.

 Most impressive are the partridge who visit my yard each fall to feast on all the crabapple berries. This year I think I just have mama and papa, but I cannot be sure. Now that the mossy open area around the cabin is covered with slippery leathery brown leaves one of the partridges often struts across the lawn just before dawn. I can identify this one as a male because his neck feathers are a deeper russet color and his neck is thicker than that of the female but the differences are very subtle. I see the female pecking at the ground where berries have fallen from the only crabapple tree that still has some left. Mama’s colors seem slightly less defined to me but this might be my imagination. Both blend in so well with their surroundings that if I didn’t perceive slight movement I wouldn’t know they were there. Yesterday the two partridge appeared together giving me a chance to study them together. What I immediately noticed is that the male puffed (!) out his chest, while the female kept pecking the leaves for tidbits. These two were so well camouflaged that I had trouble following their movements while trying to get pictures of the two! The grouse couple knew I was watching them and peered in the window even though I knew they couldn’t see me because of the angle of the sun. 

Aside from the fact that I love these birds I am so impressed by their ability to wear a ruffled feathery cloak of invisibility in plain sight! 

mama partridge

 The primary difference between the way animals and humans  use camouflage is that the former use this strategy for survival,  while humans rarely do; Instead humans use this tactic to communicate with one another, or to deceive. Words are often used to harm others without their knowledge and can be more deadly than the wound from any sword. The opposite of using the Power of the Word to harm is to remain Silent. These two deadly killers of relationship leave a person walking on air. 

To lie to oneself or to others deliberately or through omission is another way that humans camouflage their intentions and motives. Righteous indignation, logic, false neutrality (everyone has an opinion), negotiation are ideological disguises that also use words to deceive; nothing is rarely what it seems. Betrayal lurks in the shadows… Humans are the ultimate tricksters. It is no wonder people dislike animals like coyotes that lurk in the shadows. We are looking into nature’s mirror and nature never lies. Humans are unmasked!

Nature’s Way

Nature’s Way

There is a giant pileated woodpecker perched above me just outside my window. He is drilling holes into one of the logs that cover my cabin walls, searching for dormant ants…Instead of scaring him away I look forward to his tapping – he is not only cleaning up my house, his presence reminds me that in order to create change, new space must be created; holes in the walls of what was must appear!

In the month of November I lean into the darkness with comfort and a prayer to stay awake for what is, to be present for the seeds of new beginnings… I listen to flowing river voices near my refuge who remind me to remain open and fluid. When walking through the forest listening to my feet shushing through papery mole brown leaves my thoughts turn towards the fertile earth beneath my feet. I note the presence of ground covers, partridgeberry, wintergreen, club mosses, trailing arbutus many of which are half hidden under nature’s mulch or the first snow dust. I take pleasure out of seeing crimson red berries.

Princess pine – club moss

wintergreen

I think about the seeds and nuts resting beneath the forest floor, readying themselves to burst in the spring, while existing roots are thinking, and making decisions underground in the warmth and darkness of rich humus, the womb for all forest life on earth. Root tips are so sensitive that they guide the remainder of their filaments around any obstacles they may encounter while exchanging information, nutrients and water with relatives and neighbors by way of fungal conversation. 

I am deeply impressed with this kind of communication – there are no secrets hidden underground. No traps waiting to snare the unwary. No lies are told. Survival of the whole forest organism is at stake and Nature makes certain her focus does not waver

.Oh, how comforted I am by this kind of honesty. It is not surprising that my body relaxes her vigilance. Betrayal is not part of Nature’s way. By the time my walk ends my eyes are heavy and I am ready to enter deep sleep. 

Star Baby

Star Baby

fell from the sky

to earth

on a cloud

of pinks roses..

a gift to

those who

 love.

The Moon Mother

kissed her Round.

 Star baby glowed, 

luminous pearl

 cloaked in

 human skin.

Star baby smiled,

her laughter

gilded the room –

in golden Light.

Feelings

of goodwill overflowed.

Joy would follow her

 all her days…

Star baby’s dark eyes

saw beyond

what was 

into an uncertain future…

Embraced by loving

family she knew no fear.

 Those who had come before

were Present as

 Protectors too.

Pottettis gathered…

And oh how they loved her!

Star baby’s

 Grandpa would

shield this child

from Monsters, I knew…

and so would I…

a Godmother too.

Love casts Circles

of Angelic Protection.

Partridgeberry

Partridgeberry 

As traffic increases exponentially and huge trucks belch dirty black smoke as they scream up and down the Gore Road at impossible speeds (no one enforces laws like speed limits – or much of anything else) I have given up walking on the road. It has simply become too dangerous. Someone I know almost got hit a couple of days ago.

(partridgeberry in the wild)

 Instead, I have taken to the woods, and oh what a summer and fall it has been. I have spent my time researching whatever caught my attention, the absolutely best part of being a naturalist/ecologist/generalist. It was mushrooms for months, trees, autumn leaves; now it is ground covers. I can barely stand the thought of coming snow that will soon cover the forest floor separating me from all my friends.  Shiny wintergreen leaves hide bright red berries. Trailing arbutus’s leathery leaves cascade over gentle hills and crowd together in large colonies on the ground. Princess pine snakes along the forest floor, candles aloft. Ground cedar fans her fronds in a circle, rosettes of pippesewa and other pyrolas – each have their niches – but my favorite woodland creeper is Partridgeberry. This seemingly delicate plant loves rich moist forest soil and because I spend so much time in the lowlands, I am surrounded by miles of this acid loving trailing vine that creates incredibly dense mats in places where it is particularly happy. All summer I kept an eye on the plants waiting for the berries to appear. By late August I began to glimpse a few hard lime green fruits. Now, almost half way through November the forest floor is covered with dark jade leaves that provide a sharp contrast to stunning scarlet berries. Frequently I need to uncover nature’s deciduous mulch to see the bounty hidden below. 

As a child I grew partridgeberry in a terrarium taking great joy from the sight of  crimson berries that lasted until spring. As an adult I kept a few berried sprigs in a clear glass ball that I hung on a Norfolk Island pine I kept in the house to decorate during the winter season. I also kept partridgeberry and other woodland plants in an open bowl watering this little garden daily. As soon as the soil was workable I would return these wild plants to the woods, grateful to have had a little piece of deep green forest floor that continued to thrive all winter long.

This year I have once again created a small terrarium for the house to remind me of my ‘Refuge’ and of all the ground creepers that will soon be sleeping under the snow while root tips remain in lively conversation. Root tips make decisions about next year’s growth with their underground partners and neighbors all winter long.

 I carefully lifted soil and leaf mulch from areas where Partridgeberry was growing in profusion so that the plants would have all the nutrients they needed for a few months. After adding the Partridgeberry I included lichens mosses and a small hemlock seedling for contrast. The ‘right’ stone turned out to be a piece of chert. Because I like the immediacy of an open forest no matter how small I mist my woodland daily keeping an eye on the direction of the waning sun. Even under the snow this collection of plants receives light and I am intent upon mimicking nature as much as possible. When I stick my nose into my tiny forest the scent is intoxicating.

With so many plant species disappearing I am especially happy to be writing about a plant that isn’t under attack from humans on one level or another – at least not yet. As long as some forests are left alone these plants and others like them will continue to thrive, but we are chewing up our forests at an alarming rate and you will not find Partridgeberry in any forest that has been logged recently because it takes so many years for the soil to recover from its trauma. The other issue, is ‘receationists’, my term for those folks that are now swarming through our woodlands, either on foot or by machine. Partridgeberry and all the other ground covers I mention in this article will not tolerate being stepped on, let alone run over. Although the creepers will not grow in animal paths they thrive to either side; animals create lighter foot traffic. Consequently, I respectfully urge hikers to stay on the paths that various land trusts/others have created so that these plants can survive. Machines of any kind compact the earth beneath them making it impossible for any of these plants to grow at all.

Partidgeberry is a native perennial that does not climb; it finds home on the forest floor in eastern North America from Newfoundland to Minnesota, south to Texas and Florida in forests that are left undisturbed.Partridgeberry inhabits deciduous and coniferous forests rich in organic soil thriving in dappled sunlight or complete shade. The trailing stems root at nodes that come into contact with moist soil. The dark green evergreen leaves are oval shaped with a pale stripe. In late spring two white tubed flowers appear. Each tiny four petaled flower is impossibly fragrant – I always get wet because I have to get on my knees to smell one of mine! The pair of flowers appear in two forms. In the first the pistal is short and stamens are long; in the second the reverse occurs, the pistal is long and the stamens are short making it impossible for each flower to fertilize itself (Amazing nature!). Both flowers must be pollinated by insects – primarily bumblebees – in order to produce one berry, and each is the result of the fusing of each ovary belonging to the pollinated pair. If you look carefully at one Partridgeberry it is possible to see two spots on the fruit… (for years I wondered about this feature but never looked it up). Each berry contains up to eight seeds that are eaten by birds (turkeys and grouse always eat all of mine here). A number of animals also eat the berries. Chipmunks and squirrels, foxes, skunks and mice feast away if the birds don’t get them first. The seeds must be cold stratified and may take two years to germinate if they fall into the ground or are dispersed by birds and animals after eating them.Although I have rapidly spreading clusters of this creeper down around my brook I will never feel as if I have enough of this evergreen. I have a huge cluster that has recently overtaken an old trunk that is now sprouting two pines, three kinds of mosses and lichen… A young hemlock’s fronds gracefully shade the area.

(fragrant spring partridgeberry blossoms)

Every year I check my Partridgeberry beginning in May looking for flowers. Last year most flowers bloomed in late May, almost a month earlier than usual. The tubular flowers in this area are almost pink reminding me of the trailing arbutus that also lives here. For anyone loving wildflowers finding either of these fragrant blossoms is a treat.

Gift of Silence

I stared through

the flames

hypnotized

by inner fire,

soothed by darkness,

peered through

a shivering window

at reptilian stone

ridges,

  gray lichen,

noted the faded glory

of baby beech,

partridgeberry

and wintergreen

warming his feet.

 Sturdy hemlock,

bare oaks and

 silver river flow

 my dearest companions.

Silence is

my refuge.