This is what happened in October! The letting go has been so beautiful. I just walk around with my jaw on the ground. Also, October had several animal encounters including snakes, deer, and migrating flocks of birds!!!
Recently, I was fortunate to meet my Mom’s cousin Patti, and spend time learning about her childhood and her love of the river and living off of the land. Their home on the island was surrounded by shallow waters that offered fish, muskrat, and plenty of good stories remembered well by Patti.
By the time Patti was four, a dam upriver was destroyed, which caused their island to be flooded, house and farm destroyed. The Smith family was forced to move to the mainland, but chose to stay close to the river that fed them so well. They made their home in a small fisherman’s shack, which Patti’s son still owns today.
At age 83, Patti has decided to write her memoirs of growing up there for her grandchildren to know of her life. Despite growing up in poverty, she reports a life well-lived and rich in stories and experiences. She says she wouldn’t trade it for anything, and wishes her grandchildren had some of her skills - like poling a boat, and strength - like climbing a rope to her bedroom loft, and endurance - like surviving cold winters.
Some of her stories tell of her experience going to school in a one room country schoolhouse. Patti gave me permission to share her writing and also gave me permission to illustrate it. So, the following graphic essay is just that. I hope you enjoy it as I do. Patti’s spirit and memory is as crystal clear as the waters of the Fox River from her youth, and I am grateful for her generosity in sharing these stories.
Above is an excerpt from an excerpt from the Fall Issue of Woolgathering. Enjoy!
Learn more about Woolgathering and get your free sample issue here!
Fox teaches us about camouflage. When we blend into our surroundings we can become keen observers. This is particularly necessary in nature when we want to observe wildlife without disturbing it, but I also like to blend in at parties. #introvert
This illustration is from the cover of the Fall Issue of Woolgathering.
Are you good at blending into your surroundings?
Learn more about Woolgathering, here.
The Seasons are changing, and so must your desktop/laptop Wallpaper image!
Save the above image to your desktop and have Fall invade your digital space!!!
Last week, we lost another large oak. Its trunk snapped about 15 feet up and fell taking small trees and branches with it. The insides look like pulverized dust.
I was, of course, filled with tremendous sadness. I always take it personally. Was there something that I could have done to help it live a longer life?
Then, I am usually relieved that no one was hurt - other than the plants and trees in its falling wake.
And, I noticed the sunlight pouring through - into the void. It was beautiful.
What has fallen has made space for other things to grow and thrive.
I sat in the sun smelling the oak’s dust, thanking the tree for being here, and wondering what will grow next.
My neighbor Danuta Loane gifted us with the opportunity to care for a dozen monarch caterpillars, fatten them with milkweed, and release them after they emerged from their chrysalises.
We had never cared for monarchs before, and their appetite was astounding to me. At their most voracious we’d make a couple of trips a day to pluck leaves from the milkweed stalk, allowing its sticky milk to ooze out. We’d look underneath the picked leave to brush away any unwanted insect eggs.
Once delivered to the caterpillars, they would make the leaf disappear in hours.
Then, came the waiting time. The caterpillars climbed to the top of the enclosure, made a J shape with their bodies.
Okay, we thought, soon they will be forming a chrysalis. We’d watch and watch, and it seemed like just as we looked away, the caterpillar made a chrysalis in a blink.
Then, waiting for the butterflies was the same. The chrysalis would darken and become transparent. We could see the wings all folded up inside like origami. Surely we’ll see it happen - we’d catch the butterfly coming out, and sure enough we stepped out of the room and return to find a butterfly or two or three delicately moving its wings to dry them.
After each butterfly emerged, we’d keep it inside for a few hours to finish drying before releasing it outside wishing it a good trip to Mexico.
Butterfly is significant to me personally. It’s the symbol my Mom assigned to me - yellow butterfly to be precise, and I feel really lucky to have been able to witness the transformation of 12 monarchs. It was such an unstoppable process to watch, to be around, and I hope that for the four of us in this house, we are able to absorb that energy of transformation into this next season.
I can feel hints of the transformation in how we rearranged our house. I can feel it in the stirrings of my business. I see it in the kids who are growing as fast as those caterpillars and are as hungry. I can see it in Patrick as he is planning and thinking about his gardens. We are full of this butterfly energy and are so lucky to be here.
What if we could fashion a restoration plan that grew from understanding multiple meanings of land? Land as sustainer. Land as identity. Land as grocery store and pharmacy. Land as connection to our ancestors. Land as moral obligation. Land as sacred. Land as self.
This past weekend, I just finished reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, after two years of picking it up and putting it down - not because it wasn’t captivating, but because I was having trouble making room for reading in my day to day.
Anyway, if you have not read this book, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a look. It contains a tremendous amount of wisdom about our relationship to nature, the Earth, and ourselves. It is a book that will help you to mourn what we have lost, come to terms with what we have done, but it also offers a way for us to move forward.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed and lost in the panic of the climate crisis we are in, Braiding Sweetgrass and Robin Wall Kimmerer offer a guiding light and a mindset of reciprocity that will help to heal and hopefully grow out of this era of destruction.
You Are Nature!
While I just wrote more in depth about this in the Fall Issue of Woolgathering (New Issue coming out soon! It’s a good time to sign- up!), I thought it appropriate to share now since this is the first week of school for us!
Last year, I started waiting with Penelope for the bus each morning, when big brother Abe moved on to middle school and a different schedule, bus, etc. At first, I may have been a tiny bit resentful to spend my precious minutes that I could be working (self important - harrumph) waiting for a grumbling bus to arrive.
But, I soon realized what a gift these 15 minutes or so were to spend not only greeting the morning, noticing the weather, noticing the environment, but most importantly to spend extra time with Penelope.
With the construction on Rt. 31, the bus would often be late. So, we had to make our own fun, and we somehow began to study the Trumpet Vine that snakes around our Spring Bird sign and the honey suckle that lives there.
This Trumpet Vine is quite common in south to the point that it is a nuisance, but here at Spring Bird, the winter keeps it in check.
We notice all of the parts of the plant, the nubby bits that grow before the flowers and then the beautiful orange blossoms that remind me of the color of port wine spreadable cheese. We don’t pay too much attention to the green leaves that get sort of mixed-up with the honeysuckle, but the curious green pods that grow after the blossoms wither are our favorite. We watch the pods all year long. They grow brown and rattly in the winter. We watch what gets eaten and where. In the winter, the deer tracks in the snow give away the culprit.
We keep our eye on the trumpet vine each morning. It announces the beginning of the school year (for us, anyway), and will carry us into Summer vacation.
Have a great school year everyone! And for those not impacted by the school schedule, enjoy your empty local swimming pool, or lake, or park while the weather is warm!
Anne S. Writes: We are up in Alaska looking at the majestic mountains. Question is... why do trees grow only to a given elevation? Is it lack of oxygen, temp, or what???? Always wanted to know.
The short answer is temperature.
Trees will not grow beyond a certain elevation at a specific location if the climate is too harsh for survival. There are several factors that contribute to trees’ ability to grow and survive. As these factors vary in different locations, the elevation of the tree line also varies across the globe. For example, the tree line in the Teton Mountains is at 10,000 feet, while the tree line at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is at 4,500 feet.
The primary factor that determines the tree line is temperature. According to plant scientists, plants cannot effectively build cells when the average growing-season temperature is lower than 44° F. Trees can withstand quite cold winters but need a long enough and warm enough growing season in order to build up sufficient energy reserves to grow, reproduce, and survive. The Teton Mountains have warmer and longer growing seasons than Mt. Washington has, accounting for the difference in tree line elevation between the two sites. Similarly, mountains near the equator have a much higher tree line elevation than mountains at higher latitudes due to higher temperatures in the tropics.
Other factors also influence the location of the tree line, including moisture, sunlight, wind, and soil. The tree line in the desert or on the slopes of Hawaiian volcanoes is often at relatively low elevations because the soil is too dry for tree growth. Trees often become smaller and smaller as you approach the tree line because smaller trees need less moisture and oxygen to survive than tall trees. The larger canopy of taller trees also shades the ground and makes it colder. Taller trees are also more exposed to chilling winds that damage tender growing buds.
As the planet warms, the tree line in the Canadian Arctic is much higher than it used to be due to warmer temperatures and greater precipitation. But the tree line may not move higher in other areas due to the presence of other factors such as fire or increased insect pest pressures.
National Geographic - Timberline
Northern Woodlands Magazine - Autumn 2008 issue
If you have a question for Pat email firstname.lastname@example.org! He looks forward to answering your questions!
At Spring Bird we believe in following our curiosity - especially with regards to nature, but we realize that most of us don’t have the time or energy to jump down rabbit holes of information on the internet or comb through books at the library to find the answers we are looking for to our nagging questions.
In our family, however, when we have a question we are quite lazy and always go to Pat. He loves research and is uniquely gifted at finding that needle of information that you have been searching for in a haystack of misdirections. I have grown so accustomed to nonchalantly dropping a breadcrumb or two . . . “I wonder if it is easier to yadda yadda etc.”
I won’t even finish my question when Pat snatches a computer and starts searching. For larger projects, he returns home from the library with armloads of books, which he reads, taking meticulous notes by hand and later types into documents.
So, we have been talking about how he could put his gift to good use while fulfilling our mission of Spring Bird, “to deepen our relationships with nature”, and we came up with a project where you, our readers, could submit your questions to him. He will research them and answer them to the best of his ability.
Answers will be written in the form of a blog post so that the information will continue to spread.
So, readers, what have you been wondering about your garden, your landscape, and your environment? What are curious about? Migratory species - weeds- insects - skunks - forest gardening - forest bathing?
Send your questions to email@example.com, and Pat will start digging for answers!!!
Got a nature and gardening question? Ask Pat!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.