Category Archives: Flora

November 21, 2020

Thursday morning, I thought of a title for my latest (this is it) post: Hope in the Time of Pandemic. At 9:30 A.M. while Arlington County staff and volunteers were restoring native habitat in a corner of a little park [Benjamin Banneker Park) formerly covered with invasive bamboo, this self-assured title sounded about right.

Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

getting ready to plant, November 19, 2020

planting, Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

A few hours later, I decided that my nod to Garcia Marquez was too flippant when more than 250,000 people have died in our country. So, I thought I would call this article Hope and I wished that word would be appropriate and accurate.

Then, Thursday afternoon the news came about the mess in certifying the Wayne County, Michigan presidential votes. I took this issue to heart; I was born in Wayne County.  I did not feel hopeful at all.  Now, I didn’t have a name for this piece I was trying to write.

And so it has gone these last months: I am hopeful; I despair. My mind, heart, and gut seesaw.

Friday and today, Saturday, November 21, I feel more balanced. I am seeing the hopeful signs again: in my family and friends, in nature, even (sometimes) in the news.

I realized, again, that I do better when I am close to the ground.  When I tuck in the native plants, cold soil invigorates my senses and my hope revives. The fall palette–heavy on yellows and browns–calms my soul.  In the evening, the early darkness comforts me. The concurrent bonus for this early darkness is that Tom and I watch beautiful dawns from our living room almost every morning.

Amsonia (bluestar), Freedom Park, Rossyln, Arlington

strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), November 20, 2020

stonecrop I planted in Hillside Park in late summer

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

My condolences to the families and friends of those who have fallen ill and died. My thanks to all those helpers out there.  Like Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to do, I do look for the helpers and I see them out there all around.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Autumn 2020

Note: I dithered so long that the title of this article originally was “September 2020.”

I think of my mom and dad every day and–almost without exception–that makes me feel happy and as contented as I am able to feel these days. Autumn is a little bit different, though. Sometimes, in the fall, I really miss them and I feel sad. This feeling doesn’t usually last long, but this year it is worse.  No surprise there, I think.  I miss my brothers and their families. Tom and I see all of our children in Zoom meetings and–every couple weeks–most of them outside at a park. I pet the little dog, Randi, but I also want to hug the children. Tom and I–socially distanced/masked–see some of our friends, but I miss our dear ones far away.

I am fine enough, and I think I am lucky. I mostly try to be grateful.

I don’t want to leave you with the memory of my carping, so below are several photos I’ve collected in the clouds, mist, and sunshine of September and October. Love, Lynda


clouds, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

U.S. Capitol from Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.

Mathews Arm Campground, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

bee and flower after the rain

pearl crescent on white snakeroot

strawberry bush, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

milkweed and milkweed bugs, Bluemont Park, Arlington, Virginia

eastern hemlocks, Cathedral State Park, West Virginia

Comforts

Note: I began this post the last week of May 2020.  I had an idea to write about things that comfort me in, as they say in those T.V. ads, “these uncertain times.”  I have been thinking about these uncertain times.   I thought about the plagues of Europe I had read about. I thought about the Navajo Nation. I miss being with my children, but I know I am lucky; I just can’t hug them right now.

Then, things fell apart (even further than they ever have since January 2017). How can a pandemic with over 100,000 dead not be first on my list of sorrows this morning?  I feel like I am back in the uncertain times of my youth, circa 1967-1968, but worse.

I need comfort even more today and I hope I can offer some respite for a few minutes.


About seven or eight years ago I asked my sister-in-law Judy if she would teach me to knit and she said sure.  I have always admired my relatives and friends who could knit, crochet, and do other crafts.  I thought I would enjoy knitting while I talked or watched T.V.  Lord knows I could use the comfort and calm that such activities are supposed to provide.  I bought enough soft brown (mostly) alpaca yarn to knit Tom a scarf.  You will see below how far I got on the scarf.  I wanted to concentrate on my knit/ purl tasks, but sitting with my family on reunion weekend, I just couldn’t. The words were more important to me than the task, I guess.  Back home, I asked my friend Robin to help me back on track a couple of times, but I did not understand. I did not persevere.

my knitting

A couple of years later when my friend Donna heard this story, she offered to teach me to crochet instead. I tried. Donna was very patient. She told me there were YouTube videos I could watch to help me when I forgot–again–what I was supposed to do. You can see how far I got on whatever I was making below.

my crocheting

While I have not yet learned to do calming and lovely crafts–no March sister here knitting socks for the Union Army while waiting for Marmee to come home–I can do some things that comfort me some in these times.

 

 

For example:

I love nature and I love writing lists. Related to that, I have–sort of–wanted to be a naturalist for about 50 years. So, I love writing lists that include plants, animals, and specific tidbits about nature.  I recently started a list describing the flora and fauna of Hillside Park, a nearby little public park where Tom and I volunteer.  Just setting up the table and starting to list the trees helped me feel more relaxed than I had in days.  Here is a sample from the list:

Name Scientific Name Native? Notes
Trees/Shrubs  
arrowwood viburnum Viburnum dentatum yes
beech Fagus grandifolia yes
black cherry Prunus serotina yes
fragrant sumac Rhus aromatica yes
black locust Robinia pseudoacacia) yes
catalpa Catalpa speciosa yes blooming now; end of May
hackberry Celtis occidentalis yes
kousa dogwood Cornus kousa no
mulberry, prob white Morus alba no if this turns out to be red mulberry, it is a welcome native, but not likely, I think

oaks, Hillside Park, Arlington Virginia

Books about trees comfort me. Last week, Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests by Joan Maloof reminded me of old forests I have walked in. Just writing this now, this morning, calms my anxious heart a little.

Like so many others, I have been doing quite a bit of baking these last months.  Actually, I have needed to curtail this urge somewhat because a) while we do exercise and take walks, there has been a great deal of sitting while reading, watching T.V. and, for me, compulsive solitaire playing b) we don’t have the metabolisms we had back in the day when I would bake a treat every day.

butter tarts with Michigan cherries and walnuts

Even more than my baking, watching Tom cook old favorites–remembering happy times with family and friends–comforts me.  Both my appetite and my heart have been satisfied with Tom’s meals: Lasagna, albondigas soup, chile verde, meatballs and tomato sauce!

I don’t think listening to music calms me down; more like it excites me, makes me cry, and, sometimes gives me the shivers–but those reactions provide their own comfort. Mostly, we listen to classical music, but lately we have also been listening to folk and rock, too.  Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, the Beatles, even the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), have caused that sharp intake of breath.

I have been thinking about Leonard Cohen these last several days. The song I am particularly  thinking about is Democracy. I hope Leonard is right and that someday (soon) , “Democracy is coming to the USA.”  This idea comforts me and I still (mostly) believe it. Please be well. Please be safe. Peace.

Love,  Lynda

 

This May and Others

At least by my personal reckoning, we didn’t have real winter this year here in Arlington, Virginia. There were a handful of cold days and some smatterings of snow, but that was it.* Missing winter, spring began earlier than usual.  Maybe that was a foreshadowing of catastrophe that I shouldn’t have missed.

I last went to a museum on March 11. We had two of our children over for dinner on March 13. We went camping March 14. Things were changing and then they were changing more.

March ended and April came–sometimes with its showers–always with sadness and worry.   It is May now and we do have flowers.  I still have few words worth sharing, but I thought I would post some May flowers from now and from other times.  I wish you well; I hope you will be safe.

May 2, 2020, Arlington, Virginia

May 22, 2019, Arlington, Virginia

May 22, 2019, Arlington, Virginia

May 4, 2018, Washington, D.C.

May 4, 2018, Washington, D.C.

May 10, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia

May 19, 2016, Washington, D.C.

May 16, 2015, Charlottesville

May 16, 2015, Charlottesville, Virginia

May 19, 2014, Denver, Colorado

May 14, 2013, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia


* I admit to wearing my long underwear quite a bit on my walks even without the winter, but  that’s just because I am such a bona fide sweater-wearing old person now. This from one who used to pride herself on running out to the mailbox barefoot through the snow!

Trees, Part 2: Photos

I’ve had plenty of time on my hands and I haven’t been reading as much as usual, (except for the coronavirus news). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been going to the condo gym and exercising in the living room hasn’t been too interesting or invigorating.  Anyhow, to soothe myself, and maybe you, I thought I would put up some more tree photos with little narratives to go with them.

Well, I found the photos I wanted, but the little snippets sounded like I was back in high school journalism class (if not junior high journalism class).  The writing needs work, but I don’t have the words right now.  However, Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, just gave us the stay-at-home order. I want to send the trees out now with the promise of some words soon.

Please stay safe; please stay well.

Trees

Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) in the neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

Garden of the Gods

Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) Garden of the Gods,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

smoothbark Arizona cypress

smoothbark Arizona cypress (Cypressus arizonica), Sedona, Arizona

Congaree National Park

old growth bottomland hardwood forest, Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) at sunset, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Transept Canyon from Widforss Point

ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa), Transept Canyon from Widforss Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Shenandoah National Park

mixed forest, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

 

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) near Canyonlands National Park, Utah

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

old growth white pine (Pinus strobus), Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania

Trees

treehugger, Inyo National Forest, California

I love–and I don’t believe that is hyperbole–many kinds of trees. When I was a small child,  I loved the Colorado blue spruce on a nearby street in my Detroit neighborhood.  Even as a little kid, I think I knew what an excellent blue spruce it was and at Christmastime there were holiday lights on it.

In my mind, I see the trees of our home on the lake almost as vividly as I see my dad raking the leaves or my mom taking care of the petunias in the window box by the door (later, as the trees grew ever larger, I think she had to put in impatiens). Mostly we had oaks–my Dad said they were black oaks– and hickories.  We had a sassafras down by the lake and, for a while, a cherry up by the mailbox.

Once I traveled west in 1970, I loved the ponderosas, pinyons, junipers. aspens,  bristlecone pines, and many others. When I moved to Virginia, I fell in love with the tulip poplars.

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

 

aspens, La Sal Mountains

bristlecone pine, Great Basin National Park

tulip poplar, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

What I can’t understand is how I failed to focus on sycamores for so many decades. I started noticing them about six years ago in Arizona.  Then, back here in Virginia, I finally noticed that sycamores stand sentinel along the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers (among others). Wild, ragged, and ghostly:  Sycamores make me think about the tangled beauty of this world.

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Arizona

sycamore on the banks of the Shenanandoah River

American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) on the banks of the Shenandoah River, Virginia

The News I Need

I started  compulsively reading The Washington Post online the morning of September 11, 2001 in my office in Northwest Washington, D.C. After the attacks there were the anthrax letters and the snipers. My office was only a few miles from my home, but it was across the Potomac River. I used to fantasize about how –if Chain Bridge were blown up–I could swim across.  I didn’t need to resort to that and things returned to an uncomfortable new normal.

The last few days, I have been reading the  paper compulsively again. Sure enough, almost every time I log on, there is a new red (or sometimes black) breaking news banner. I am resolving to control myself. Tom and I plan on going camping tomorrow.

The News I Need Today

Although people will not be able to see it for awhile (the Smithsonian Institution is closing for now), there is a lovely exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Chiura Obata: American Modern. Obata’s art and his words are the news I need today. Please be well.

Sequoia feet

Sequoia feet

 

 

Today (EST)

About thirty minutes ago I gave myself the choice of spending the afternoon finishing Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, watching an afternoon NFL football game, or–now that summer appears over–putting up some final summer flower photos.  I think the novel is wonderful, but it is too emotionally challenging for me today.  I love football, but I was in the stands when Michigan beat Maryland yesterday; that is enough.  So, I am posting some photos. With them, I send my (still) hopeful wishes for us all.

tulip poplar flower, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

pitcher plant, Bartholdi Park, Washington, DC

Dutchman’s pipe vine, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Washington, DC

bee on phlox, Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware

monarda

unidentified, June 14, 2019

at the National Arboretum, Washington, DC

pickerel weed, Punderson State Park, Ohio

pinkweed, Punderson State Park, Ohio

pussy ears, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Washington, DC

toad lilies, Bartholdi Park, Washington, DC

swamp titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), USBG Regional Garden, Washington, DC

Pleasant Peninsula

Introduction 

I have always felt lucky to have grown up in Michigan. I always bought into the state’s motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” I spent my childhood looking about me: Higgins Lake, Kensington Park, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron (I think I only met Lake Superior when I was a bit older). The Detroit Zoo, Belle Isle, Boblo, Greenfield Village, Scotty’s Fish and Chips, Cape’s Ice Cream in Milford:  the list is diverse and goes on and on. A few weeks ago, Tom and I were lucky enough to take a trip to the Lower Peninsula. Below are some photos of the trip.

Mackinac Island

Lake Huron

Lake Huron

milkweed pod, Mackinac Island

milkweed pod

rocks, trees, steps, Mackinac Island

rocks, trees, steps, Mackinac Island

Sleeping Bear

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

pine needles and fungus

pine needles and fungus

shore, Sleeping Bear National Lake Shore

shore, Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Detroit

at the Rouge Plant, Dearborn

at the Rouge Plant, Dearborn

from Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Murals, Detroit Institute of Art

from Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals, Detroit Institute of Art

Cotswold Cottage, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

Cotswold Cottage, Greenfield Village, Dearborn

 

at Scotty's Fish and Chips

at Scotty’s Fish and Chips

 

 

Coat, Hats, and Words

I am still here.  However, it has been 82 days since I last wrote in this space.

First, some words about clothes, and then some other words.

Clothes:

In the winter, especially when I wear my pink coat and my little aqua hat (rimmed with pink), people sometimes offer me their seats on the Metro. Some of the people who offer me seats seem pretty old themselves. Most of the people who offer me a seat are immigrants. I am learning to either politely accept or politely decline.  It’s difficult, but I am what I am–older than I used to be. It’s just that I wish that that fact wasn’t so apparent to everyone on the train.

pink coat, aqua hat

In the summer, I mostly wear two hats. I say mostly because my daughter gave me a third lovely broad-brimmed summer straw, but I almost lost it to the wind walking across Key Bridge, so I hesitate to wear it much. Instead, I wear a Michigan ball cap and when I wear it I look like Michael Moore. I like Michael Moore, but perhaps it is not my best look. The other hat I wear is a loose, rustic straw hat.  When I wear this hat, I feel like Ma Kettle.  Now, I just googled Ma Kettle and I see that she wore a variety of hats.  In any case, I feel like a rube and I can only hope to emulate Ma’s good sense.

broad-brimmed straw hat

Michigan ball cap

country straw hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other words:

  • I have had a good spring and summer, so far. I have walked with my beloved one in many lovely gardens. Actually, we have also walked in the same gardens many times over and watched the plants change week by week.  I have visited with many friends and family here in  Washington, D.C. and Virginia and also in Ohio and Michigan. Tom has been on a cooking spree from Francis Lam’s kimchi and Spam fried rice and Jacques Pepin’s paella to Ruth Reichl’s chocolate jewel cake. It’s good that we spend so much time walking and going to the gym.
  • And yet, there is a pall on my heart and in my mind. I feel like I am  wandering in Minas Tirith when the darkness from Mordor starts to roll in.  Let me see if I can explain. Every day on Facebook, I click furiously on angry and sad emojis: destruction of our lands-click; rampant racism-click; women’s (and everyone else’s) health and well-being assaulted-click; children ripped from their parents and put in cages-click, click, click; mass murders of innocents-click, click, click, click. You get the idea. I pray–and that is hard for an agnostic–for the light to come in the morning, I want to be as brave, cheerful, and effective as a hobbit. I am not, but I try.
  • Some are sick and some are well. I am not the only one growing older.  A friend dies unexpectedly and a sweet baby girl is born.
  • Some days my glass half-full mantra irritates even me.  That my close to the ground cheerful wishes could stand up against all the lies and the forces of hate? Do I really believe that? Well, yes, much of the time.  I believe in kindness, generosity, earnestness, hard work, bravery and good humor. I see it in my life and I hope to die before I give up on such ideals.
  • Beauty helps me, so I will end with that.  See you in the gardens, mountains, lakes, and deserts and at the marches and maybe on the ramparts. Maybe I will be wearing a hat.

in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Natural Bridge, Virginia

robin’s eggshell and plants

bee on phlox, Mt. Cuba Center, Delaware

in the gazebo, Gotelli Collection, National Arboretum