Ode to My Place

There are places that throughout my life have been there for me. Places where I find peace, respite, relief.

As a child it was behind my house, above the river, on a platform a friend and I hammered onto a fallen black locust log. I could hear my mother calling from the house but it was far away. I belonged to a forest with a river running through.

We moved from Aurora to Garibaldi, Oregon when I was sixteen and I needed a new place. Unsettled I sat on the roof out my bedroom window. Looking up at the hills above town a hawk once circled so close I could see individual feathers. From our new home, I could get to the ocean in ten minutes. The ocean absorbed everything. Bring me to any ocean with the smell of decomposing plankton and seaweed and I am home.

At Oregon State University, I didn’t have a car and bicycled to places at the edge of town where wild met academia. I once spent the night alone under a cedar in the hills. I swear I could hear the trees sing as I lay exhausted after straining to hear every eerie forest sound.

Everywhere I live I am drawn to a spot. My place to sit through thick and thin.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico I would go to the beach, plug my ears and gaze to sea. In Kaikoura, New Zealand a bench on a trail held me. In Spey Bay, Scotland I would sit on the rocky beach, listening to the Moray Firth lap the land.

Beautiful places. I owe part of who I am to the places that ground me.

For the first time, I now own my place. I have permission by humans to plant, grow and tend to my backyard, my place.  And the walnut tree that has stood here long before my time. A morning in my place, listening to flickers above, sitting still so as not to scare the juncos. An evening sitting unseen by the opossum heading to the neighbor’s compost. There is peace and quiet in my place even with the sound of busy Lombard St. in North Portland. I sit under the walnut and I am home again.

Bookworm Review: Bringing Nature Home

The viceroy butterfly develops as a larva on willow leaves. Photo by Benny Mazur from Toledo, OH

Douglas W. Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature Home,” shares his passion for native plants and insects as the base of the terrestrial food web. Want to support birds, butterflies and bees? Plant a variety of native plants in your yard and they will come. With habitat loss threatening species small and large, Tallamy offers a solution through restoring native plants to our yards.

His experience as an entomologist and gardener include intriguing and inspiring stories on gardening with native plants to support insects, the majority of whom are adapted and highly specialized to specific families of native plants. Insects in turn feed 96% of all terrestrial bird species. In short, more native plants leads to more insects, which leads to more animals and ultimately a more biodiverse, healthy and resilient community. For those worried about insect predation of their favorite plants he outlines how, “In a balanced community, with rare exceptions, no one member of the food chain dominates another, and if one species in an essentially sound system does start to run rampant, it is soon brought back into equilibrium by the other members of the community.” – Douglas W . Tallamy.

The book is packed with photos of moths, butterflies and larva that are so beautiful and intriguing that I’m inspired to plant their food sources just to have a chance to see them. With a detailed list of which plants support which beneficial insects, I’m looking forward to gardening as fodder to support my wild neighbors.

 

 

 

 

Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere

Dew web 2017.

 

On October 11, 2017 at dusk while standing in my backyard I notice the first fog of the fall form from my breath. On cue a flock of geese fly past heading directly South. The crickets, humming every evening since August, are silent.

Curious about the changes temperature brings I noted that it was 47 degrees Fahrenheit, or 8 degrees Celsius with 88% humidity. Indeed the Exhale Condensation Calculator confirmed that the conditions were present to induce the condensation of breath, otherwise known as fall in Oregon, USA.

Happy fall to the Northern hemisphere and happy spring to our Southern half!

 

Reading Fire

Sand-brown grass.

Twigs that snap.

Crunchy leaves.

Dry. Desiccated. Hot.

Smokey the Bear teaches 5 year olds to read the signs of flammable.

Read nature, only you can prevent forest fires.

Post-Totality Tuesday

“Winter is coming!” cries a young boy as the moon slowly eclipses the sun. A warm summer morning in central Oregon turns to downright chilly as dusk sweeps across the land. I watch as a line of fire ants scurry onward seemingly unperturbed. At 10:18 AM totality is marked by a small group of humans shouting: “Stars! I see Venus! I see Sirius!” Coyotes in the canyon below join in with howls. For a full minute,  the plasma of the sun radiates in an uneven diamond shape around the black disc of the moon. I choke up with tears, in utter awe of the beauty and power of our solar system’s star. A burst of light serves as both a promise of the sun’s return and a public service announcement to all humans to don their eclipse glasses post-totality. I feel jittery yet still, like I had drunk far too much caffeine beneath a lake, and am utterly grateful to live as a tiny ant human on this planet.

“A million moons” whispers an 8 year old boy crouched over the crescent shadows on fine desert dust. Barring mathematics, intuition and years of tracking the sun, moon and earth’s arcs to predict such an event, I am delighted to learn that to predict an eclipse one could read the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground at 90% totality. If I see crescent shaped shadows, I’ll know to get ready to shield a baby’s eyes and get comfortable should I ever find myself in an apoceclipse.

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

– Albert Einstein, February 12, 1950

 

 

Preparing 4 Totality

Packing for the path of totality, half a minute of total solar eclipse, feels like prepping for a gourmet apocalypse:

Destination: Sisters, Oregon

Transport of choice: 1980 Rabbit Truck with full cans of biodiesel

Shelter: Tent, two cots, sleeping bags and pads, pillows

Water: 6 gallons of water for 2 x 3 days

Fire: Colman stove. No campfires allowed. If we really need a flame there are wildfires blazing all around our destination of Sisters, Oregon

Reading: “Armageddon in Retrospect” by Kurt Vonnegut

Food: Potato chips, corn chips, cheddar cheese crackers, gummy bears, hummus, broccoli, kale, peppers, avocados, bread, cheese, boiled eggs, peanut butter, milk, cereal, boxed mac’n cheese

Bartering goods: Red wine, cider, beer, bubbly water, coconut macaroons, gummy bears

Playlist: Tom Waits

Media: Eclipse glasses

Medium: Nature

See you on the other side! Post-totality Tuesday.