It is past “midsummer” and we are moving into the hottest time of the year without a drop of nurturing, healing rain… When I walk around I find myself focusing on the many different ferns that grace the forest edges – ferns that hold in precious moisture creating damp places for toads and frogs to hide, places for young trees to sprout, places for the grouse and turkey to hide their nestlings, ferns whose lacy fronds bow low as if in in prayer. Sweet fern covers the hill above and around the brook. The Ostrich ferns are giant bouquets that sprout up around Trillium rock shielding tender wildflower roots. Maidenhair is being devoured by insects, sadly, the only fern having difficulty here. New York ferns are stiff with ladder like fronds and the few cultivars provide soft shades of dark red, blue and green. Along my woodland paths the tall pale green bracken stalks have to be pulled although I leave all that I can around the edges to protect the mosses. All the ferns are forever unfurling in a state of becoming, spiral gifts for any discerning eye.
Ferns are just one of nature’s ways of dealing with drought. Without this lacy lime, fading emerald, gray green covering the soil would crack because it is already so parched; I imagine I can feel the stress of thirsty plant roots. Small leaves are yellowing and falling from fruit trees even in June.
I find myself wondering what mycelium highways are being created beneath the surface of the soil. The hyphal root tips are seeking water to feed what plants? Nearby trees? New seedlings? We know from Scientist Monica Gagliano’s work that these mycorrhizal fungi hear the brook’s barely rippling water and are making their way to its source… but I can only imagine this… I cannot see it. I do however, trust nature’s ability to adapt, and this knowledge brings me the greatest comfort of all. Nature can be trusted; S/he has seemingly endless ways of managing even during the destructive age of the Anthropocene.
When I meander around the house under the thick shade of the many trees I planted so many years ago, feel the soft moss beneath my feet, and smell the scent of moist air and water preserved in part because of my effort to work with nature, I cannot help but give thanks for living in this hollow, a well forested glen, where I find reprieve from lack of rain.