Category Archives: Flora

Earth Days: Past, Present, and Future

daffodils

daffodils

Since January 2017, I have belonged to a Facebook group, March for Science. This group has been focused on organizing Earth Day (April 22) marches in support of science. In my life I have been mostly an English teacher, not a scientist. On my registration form for the march, I checked “science enthusiast.”

For months, March for Science group members have been posting “Why I march” comments. I loved almost all of the comments I have read and sometimes I cried about the stories. I never laughed because the current repeated attacks on scientific truth are deadly serious.

I love—I really do—the scientific method. I have read about, known, and admired many scientists.  I admire many of my mentors in the Rivanna Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists. In literature,  John Wesley Powell, who scaled canyon walls with one arm, is one of my heroes.  Farley Mowat, who railed against the decimation of human and animal populations in Canada, is another. However, my reasons for marching next Saturday in Washington, DC are, perhaps, more in keeping with my English major sensibility.

Exploration

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

Why I Will March for Science on Earth Day

I attended the ENACT (Environmental Action for Survival) Teach-In on the Environment at the University of Michigan in March 1970 (see https://blogs.lib.msu.edu/red-tape/2016/mar/march-11-14-1970-university-michigan-holds-environmental-teach/ for more information about the teach-in). I was a young idealist then and I am old idealist now. I won’t give up.

I march in honor of my mother. I planted my first garden with my mother: popcorn and radishes against the side of the house in Detroit. Counting that garden and the one I grew with my brother George, that’s 45 years of gardens, most of them organic. Food and beauty. I won’t give up gardening now.

swiss chard, "Rainbow Mix"

swiss chard in my garden: “Rainbow Mix”

I march in honor of my father. My father taught me how to fish, skip stones, rake leaves, and shovel snow. He put up a hammock between two tall oaks, so we could see the sky, the water, and the leaves while we rested and dreamed. I won’t give up the dreaming.

Scenic Lake, Michigan (my brother's lake; I don't have a photo of mine)

Scenic Lake, Michigan ( my brother’s lake; I don’t have photos of the lake I grew up on)

I march in honor of Michigan and the Great Lakes, my first home. They want to cut EPA research for the Great Lakes by 97%. I want them to hear my “no.”  I remember the crayfish and the sunfish in the sunny shallows of our lake. I remember the power and strength of Superior. I will not let them destroy our lakes without a fight.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

I march for the Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier and all the rest of the federally protected lands.

Transept Canyon from Widforss Point

Transept Canyon from Widforss Trail, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

I march for the Kaibab squirrels of the North Rim, for the condor who glided past us on the South Rim, and for all the crows and ravens everywhere. I march for the bees, and for the butterflies, and for the American hornbeam that we planted in our yard last month and for the ponderosa pine, iconic tree of the North Rim (and food for the Kaibab squirrels).

butterfly with black-eyed and verbena bonariensis

butterfly with black-eyed and verbena bonariensis

I grow old. I do, in fact, sometimes wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, but I will not stop now.

I have many more things to say. Maybe I will write about them another time or maybe not, but I will march and I will not stop.

Happy Spring.

 

Facts and Photos

A seldom recalled fact (except by me) is that for three years in mid-1960s, I wrote the column “Milford High School News” for The Milford Times in Milford, Michigan. Through my teen years, I also wrote articles for other junior and senior high school publications. I mention this here because the title of this post reminds me of high school verbiage: you know, “Roses and Cabbages” or something.  If I remember my columns accurately, I used plenty of passive voice, such as, ” the French Club had their spring dinner and a good time was had by all.”  I want now to write about the  hikes Tom and I have taken, the clear skies north of Sierra Vista, the kangaroo rat that jumped into our camper shell on a dark night, the Arizona sycamores, and much more.

However, I haven’t been able to clear my mind  sufficiently to write because, when I have access to the internet, I keep taking looks at my Facebook feed, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and then I fret instead of write. We have so many problems: the attempted Muslim ban, the environment, the judiciary, the wall, women’s rights, and deranged tweets about Saturday Night Live, for god’s sake. I need to focus on what I know: There is truth and there is beauty (AKA facts and photos) and I am striving to hold onto both.

Facts I learned

  • It is generally agreed that there are four distinct desert regions in North America: Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin. Arizona claims to be the only state that  contains parts of all four deserts (for more information, see the article from The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum).
  • “By the time Big Bend National Park was established in 1944, there were virtually no resident bears in the Big Bend area.” However, in recent decades black bears have returned and there are approximately 8 to 12 adult bears living in the park now. (for more information, see Black Bears in Big Bend).
  • “The San Pedro River [near Sierra Vista, Arizona] is one of the last free flowing rivers in the Southwest. In 1995, the American Bird Conservancy recognized the San Pedro as its first ‘globally important bird area’ in the the United States, dubbing it the ‘largest and best example of riparian woodland remaining’ in the Southwest (from a brochure of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area).”
  • The Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii)  grows in the Sonoran desert “in riparian washes and canyon bottoms between 2,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation in Arizona, New Mexico and northwestern old Mexico” (see Arizona State University online publication for more information).

Photos I took

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Tom among the sacaton, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Tom among the sacaton ( Sporobolus airoides), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don't know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don’t know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

Observation

I see turmoil, anger, confusion, and sadness in our public life now. I saw a great deal of scat on the desert trails where Tom and I walked.  I am an organic gardener, so I know that scat and other organic debris enriches the soil so beautiful plants can grow. I am going with that: We have scat now, but beautiful flowers will bloom, I do believe.

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 

Big Bend National Park

Sierra Vista, Arizona

Last week my husband and I spent four nights camping in Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas. The days and nights were so windy in the Chisos Basin Campground that, when we were away from our campsite, our brand new tent ripped and became airborne until some kindly neighbors caught it and secured it with our camp chairs and several rocks.

our tent, Chisos Basin Campground, not yet airborne

our tent, Chisos Basin Campground, not yet airborne

It was also cold. Note to daughter: Both day and night, I wore  up to five layers on the top–including my fancy Patagonia long underwear–and I was still cold!

keeping warm in Chisos Basin

keeping warm in Chisos Basin

Mostly, we didn’t hear the news. The wind and the cold cleansed us.  The rocks and the sky were grand, as always.  The desert and mountain plants and animals helped us focus on being close to the ground. We had to walk carefully on the rocks and gravel. (See Geology of Big Bend National Park for more information.) We had to bend close to inspect the plants, bark, and rocks. I took photographs to help us remember what we saw.

candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphitica)

candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphitica)

Chisos Mountain pricklypear (Opuntia chisosensis)

Chisos Mountain pricklypear (Opuntia chisosensis)

cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata?

cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata?)

giant dagger yucca (Yucca faxoniana)

giant dagger yucca (Yucca faxoniana)

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis)

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis)

View fromLost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P.

View from Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P.

The Window, Chisos Basin, Big Bend N.P.

The Window, Chisos Basin, Big Bend N.P.

There is so much more to learn: how volcanoes helped build the Chisos Basin, why the black bears came back to the park, who was that snake we saw in the rocks (he looked like the little ones in my garden), and what will be the impact of climate change on this and other natural sanctuaries? Luckily, Tom and I always find enthusiastic and knowledgeable National Park Service workers to help us with our questions.

another friendly and informative park service ranger

another friendly and informative park service ranger

Sometimes, especially now, I feel uneasy and unsafe in this world, but not from the  slippery rocks or bears or lions. I feel uneasy and unsafe about any who would try to take away our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and our public lands. However, I will keep walking and talking and working to help protect this lovely land and its people.

dangers that I prefer

dangers that I prefer

 

Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

D’Iberville, Mississippi

I see that I am a year behind on writing “Refugees, Part II.” I also have been hanging on to a draft of an article where I parse my long (and glorious!) history with doughnuts. In that piece, I keep trying to connect fried cakes with some sort of existential optimism. I think I understand why I am not finished with that one yet.

I need to feel close to the ground again. I need to clear my heart and head and fill them with flowers, birds, and the smell of pine needles in the sun. My husband Tom and I are on the road again for several weeks: the Tree Steward and the Master Naturalist walking about together before they aren’t able to do so anymore. My current plan is to write short nature-based posts, which I will post more often than has been my habit.

So far in this journey we’ve visited Highlands Hammock State Park in Florida, Everglades National ParkBig Cypress National Preserve, and, today, Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. Here are some photos from today:

wet pine savannah

wet pine savannah

box turtle

box turtle (Terrapene carolina)

parrot's beak pitcher plant (Sarracenia psittacina)

parrot’s beak pitcher plant (Sarracenia psittacina)

inkberry (Ilex glabra)

inkberry (Ilex glabra)

Note: I am not abandoning our country to ethnocentric, sexist, despoilers of all this beauty. I will not be watching television on January 20, 2017. On January 21, if we are near a city, Tom and I will march for women (and their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers). If Tom and I are in the hinterland, our hike will be a march for equality and respect for our people and our land.

 

Still, Life is Beautiful*

summer garden

summer garden

Awakening, November 2016

“Awakening,” November 2016

holly, "Savannah," The National Garden, United States Botanic Garden

holly, “Savannah,” The National Garden, United States Botanic Garden

dim sum, Wheaton, Maryland

dim sum, Wheaton, Maryland

community concert, Charlottesville, Virginia

community concert, Charlottesville, Virginia

food for the hungry

food for the hungry

ump Mountain Vineyard, Rockbridge Baths, Virginia

Jump Mountain Vineyard, Rockbridge Baths, Virginia

birds

birds

*Even though (some days, at least) I think the world is beautiful does not mean I am unaware of the challenges facing our country. I will continue to shelve food at the food bank, help 4th graders learn about the local watershed, and garden organically. It’s time for me to renew my membership to the National Museum of the American Indian, and to donate again to the ACLU.  I believe in the the Constitution (I actually studied it in high school,  as an undergraduate, and in graduate school), including the entire Bill of Rights. I am earnest. I am strong. I believe in the rule of law and in tolerance. I told you before that I didn’t like strife.  I still don’t, but I will speak when I need to speak.

 

Bee’s Knees and Bears Ears

So far this morning I have: skimmed the front section of the New York Times, worked on yesterday’s crossword puzzle, swept the floor (picking up stray oat shards that fell off the bran muffins), emptied the dishwasher, washed and dried clothes, plumped up the bath rugs in the dryer, tried to clean the cushions for the porch chairs, and corresponded with friends and relatives. All of this was not in an effort to be neat and efficient, but to pile up more tasks in order to avoid finishing this blog post. I began this post over three weeks ago, but I have not wanted to finish it. Part of this reluctance may be because, especially in this over-heated political climate, I want to avoid writing about political topics. As my friend Sharon said once, I do like to please people. I think, though, the bigger stumbling block is that I don’t know how to synthesize my ideas and feelings to express them succinctly in these few paragraphs. Synthesized or not, succinct or not, I am done waffling. Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies*, I’m going back in.

By the time I was 20 years old, I had pretty much given up the idea that politics could or would save the world. Earlier on, I had thought that non-violent political and social engagement could do that. That’s why I majored in political science. That’s why I had canvassed for Martin Luther King Jr. and had rallied against the war in Vietnam, had tried to organize to save Biafran babies, and had written about preventing the Alaskan pipeline. Well, the war in Vietnam did end eventually, but, in significant ways, the other causes haven’t worked out well.

I was 20 when the news of the Kent State massacre wafted into Zion Canyon where I was living. I felt pain and outrage for a bit and then the canyon and the sky took me back.

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

I spent three summers on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Back then we were mostly isolated from the news. Instead of the news, we listened to the wind in the ponderosas and the calls of the ravens.

ravens over the Grand Canyon

ravens over the Grand Canyon

When I was 22, I taught public school for one year in Page, Arizona, just outside the Navajo Nation. This was challenging for me because of loneliness, school bureaucracy, and fairly rampant ethnocentrism. This experience was also an honor for me because of the land outside my classroom, some caring colleagues, and the students themselves.

Those early years in wild country passed quickly and I settled in close to the ground with my husband, my children, and whatever little bit of land I had to garden. This is where I have mostly remained. However, sometimes I force myself to bring my head up.

our garden

our garden

Bee’s knees: Already this spring, I have seen a few wasps, several bumblebees, several types of native bees, one cabbage butterfly, a couple of yellow swallowtails (or one twice) and another unidentified butterfly flying across the street. A few blocks away, I saw what looked to be a couple of honeybees among the flowers. I am hopeful that we legions of organic gardeners and farmers, and other assorted tree huggers will stem the tides of poison, disequilibrium, and destruction of our earth and its inhabitants. I plant my garden and I look (and find) signs of hope. Recently, I moved a clay pot that had over-wintered on my front porch and I startled a red-backed salamander. About a week ago, Tom discovered a garter (most likely) snake in one of my rock piles. Two evenings ago, I attended a presentation about non-honeybee pollinators at Ivy Creek Natural Area here in Charlottesville. It appears that many varieties of native bees and other arthropods are continuing to pollinate the flora for us, but we need to plant more native plants, and, of course, refrain from using poison.

bee and flower, Idaho Botanical Garden

bee and flower, Idaho Botanical Garden

Bear Ears: Ever since it came in the mail last Saturday (now almost a month ago), I’ve been wearing my “Protect Bears Ears” tee shirt to the gym and around the neighborhood.The few people that have commented on it seem to think this is an initiative to make sure that bears have adequate hearing protection.

No, it’s not about that. I have brought my head up from my comfortable dirt, rocks, and plants and I am becoming political again. Bears Ears is the name for an area of Southeastern Utah, east and south of Canyonlands National Park. Many Native Americans and environmental groups are calling on President Obama to name this area a national monument through the Antiquities Act. Some people  advocate leaving the control (and designation of use now and in the future) of this approximately 1.9 million acres of land to the state of Utah. Since I am adverse to, well, adversity, it’s a relief that people around here don’t seem to know what my shirt is referring to.  Confession: A couple of weeks ago realizing that many other gym goers’ tee shirts sport names of races, vacation spots, or bars, I chickened out and started wearing my wordless tee shirts again. This week, I toughened up and tried to put my body where my heart was.

My heart is with the native people of the Colorado Plateau—Diné, Hopi, Ute, Zuni and others. In many instances back in Page, my students, their families, and their cultures were not respected. It looks like there are still some people now who disrespect and disregard the cultures and histories of the groups who have lived in the Colorado Plateau hundreds (and thousands) of years before the pioneers settled there in the latter half of the 1800s.

bullet holes in pictographs, Southern Utah

bullet holes in pictographs, Southern Utah

My heart is with the rock, sand, and sky of Southern Utah. I believe that this land should be preserved for all the inhabitants of this earth. I hope that President Obama will designate the Bears Ears a national monument.

Southeastern Utah

Southeastern Utah

There. I have said my piece and I am hunkering down close to the ground again.

protect Bears Ears

protect Bears Ears

For more information about Bears Ears, please see: The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, The Grand Canyon Trust, and many articles in the Salt Lake Tribune and other periodicals available online.

* Thank you, William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg (see the introduction to Howl and Other Poems).

 

Today

This morning I washed the sheets and put them back on the bed.

I washed, rinsed, and air-dried my hair brushes. What can I say? Is this some proto-spring cleaning of personal gear? Maybe so: Last night, I also darned my husband’s sock. I really don’t know how to darn, but I used my mother’s darning egg, so it gave me another opportunity to think of her.

I made granola. For this batch, I put in oatmeal, oat bran, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, unsweetened coconut, raisins, dried apricots*, cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, three tablespoons of coconut oil, and three (plus) tablespoons of maple syrup. When everything that should be baked was baked and when all the ingredients were mixed together, I added some vanilla.

granola

granola

I cleaned out the shelf where some of the baking ingredients reside. Sometimes, I like to straighten shelves. I believe that doing so makes me think I have some control over the universe. In this case, I was also trying to round up stray flax seeds.

I watered the plants. This takes about one half hour of wandering around the house. (I mention the amount of time because I don’t think I will make it to the gym today but I want to get 10,000 steps on my pedometer). I don’t have an indoor watering can, which is okay, because I don’t like them much. I feel like I have more control when I use my big green plastic cup and the bit of old pink towel I use to mop up mistakes. Note: I am good with plants indoor and out. That started a long time ago when my mother and I planted a tiny garden of corn and radishes against the house in Detroit. In college, I rooted some pussy willows and my dad planted them down by the lake, where they prospered. Later, during Tom and my salad days, several of my indoor plants were given to me by my sister-in-law, Betsy. My friend Pat just gave me back a little bay tree that I had given her plus the scion of a clivia that I had given her years back. I like watering the plants.

house plants

house plants

After lunch, Tom and I drove to Ivy Nursery to pick up some spring flowers to take up north tomorrow to some people we love. Daffodils, because sometimes we all wander lonely as a cloud.

daffodils

daffodils

One thing I didn’t do today: I didn’t write Refugees, Part 2 (See, Refugees, Part1) as I should have done. I will soon, though. Spring is coming and my frozen heart will melt.


 

*I chopped the apricots with my trusty nine-inch Henckels French knife. I call it trusty because it has been my constant kitchen companion since my first summer at the North Rim in 1971. Our chef, Floyd Winder, required all the cooks and “pantry girls” (my designation in those unenlightened days) to buy their own knives. With my own knife at hand, I felt professional. The knife still works fine. However, when I searched this morning for the peace symbol I had etched in the handle, I couldn’t find it. I hope that is not a portent of the future. Update 4:15 P.M.: Tom and I both think we see the marks of the peace sign, but they are too faint for me to photograph.

French knife

French knife