Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ode to the Perseids

(The Perseids are winding down after another glamorous show this year. They'll still be visible for a few more days, even though the peak just passed. A poem in honor of shooting stars)

Look up
Perseus is calling
Glare into celestial canopy
and look deep beyond meaning
Past twinkle and glimmer from so many years ago finally reaching your eyes
And you may catch a glance of tiny particles speaking
Like stones skipping across a pond
Of stardust and trails zooming through night sky in short heroic bursts
This moment has been waiting for you

Radiant point is northeast
These shooting stars skip across our invisible roof
and burn out and disintegrate
In such flashy fashion
Ephemeral and lingering in retina
their death rings like victory
and we are left in awe
of how epic their last words were

We dignify their deaths with wishes
and hopes
and rekindled lore and love towards space
For we are stuck here for now
and perhaps in that fleeting moment
we are exactly where we are meant to be
As our place in time and space coexists with something greater than random chance
Serendipity zooming particles reach out and we are more alive in their death

Look up
And face your fate
Look up
And dream that dream you are afraid to speak
Look up
You are entering new terrain
Look up
For you are meant to see that we too
are returning home.

Blueberry Medicine in the Highlands

The Highlands

Bumblebees and others pollinators making blueberry medicine

The Highlands are always a special place
But in early August they take on a different magnetism
Where bears and mammals and animals of all sizes
ascend from the woods to our Appalachian balds
Birds chirp closer in territorial hostility
and even more people from all around
come for a taste of sweet blueberries and huckleberries

They come with buckets, jugs, bags, and eager tongues
Some driven by simple survival
Some with pancake dreams
Commencing to pick
We look for the plumpest of the plump
Those barely hanging on
Gobbling as many down as we collect
Wise spiders build webs amidst them
and we are amidst a much bigger one

I grab a clump of 7 perfectly ripe in a tight cluster
and somehow feel a small victory
And can’t help but grin
hoping it happens again

You can spend 30 minutes on one bush
And look out and see more than one can fathom
I’m viscerally reminded of the necessity of the wild
And I’m viscerally reminded of the chlorophyllic magic
of sustenance provided by the land
Of sunlight converted to sweet sugars
and vitamins and antioxidants
And untold compounds
that also nourish the soul.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Firefly Dance

Firefly dance
of optical glamour
at its country finest

I love Virginia’a fields
for the firefly dance
of summer
Who ever seen a fireworks display so wild and dreamy?

Firefly dance swoons me into the surreal
in its courting fervor and pulsing rhythms
Electrical impulses, these lightning bugs
look like synapses of the forest and field firing
Sometimes I think I see what it all means

Sparks and circuitry leaking from circle of life
little dreams flashing like reminders

It appears like chaos
or lack of pattern
But every so often I see flashes
of that clear communication
cascading upwards from the ground to the top of the tree line
A rolling upsurge of summertime magic

I am barefoot
and blown away
hypnotized by firefly dance

This night is so sweet
I feel the impulse to get closer to you
Blink into silence
It is always the silence that shows the words
Like the night showing your sweet, sweet light. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Preternatural Luminosity (revealing all I ever wanted to see)

My eyes swiftly meet
the fairest sun I’ve ever seen
You are the bright future, brighter still
Like a dream I’ve never dreamed
And I am thirsty
for your sunbeams

Exposing subtle details you stretched my horizons
as well as my lips into a soft curve that spins my world round
A sweet arc of grace and a grin
I cannot wipe clean
You warm my words
and shine clarity on cloudy thoughts
or better yet essence
your sweet rays fill me
as everlasting days after the longest rain

I am ablaze in your resplendent outpouring
like a prism revealing true color
the spectrum of my reverence is laid out before you

My eyes eagerly greet
the fairest sun I’ve ever seen
You are the bright future, brighter still
You are a dream I’ve never dreamed
And I am thirsty
Thirsty for your sunbeams. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Running into a Stranger from a Missed Exit - Deception, Biodiversity, and the Sexiest Flower Around

~I’d rather have honest eyes, but being full of cunning and guise is what it takes to keep certain other organisms alive. 

After three and a half long, draining, and super informative and inspirational workshops and talks with great folks at the Virginia State Parks Ranger Academy: 2013 Spring Interpretive Workshop, it was time to head back home and prepare for one of my last days of teaching high school for the 2012-2013 school year.

Part of the Soar Program, including this one-winged eagle
I was reflecting on some of the sessions and wise words from Interpreters and Educators, cruising up I-81, music playing, arm out the window, and before I knew it I MISSED my 118 Exit for Blacksburg. By the time realization occurred, it was too late.

Brain mushed from data-overload, being underslept and drained, my mind jerked about momentarily, but sometimes, rather than curse your situation (knowing it is miles before a turn around) I try to view it as a blessing in disguise. Call it weak justification for inattentiveness, call it a chance. I once witnessed one of the biggest shooting stars of my life because of a wrong turn.

Moaning at that moment of ‘wasted time’ in disdain, I tried to look for a bright side. I’d seen over 20 wildflowers over the past 2 days in the rich mountains of Hungry Mother State Park, but there was one member of our Appalachian community I have yet to be graced by thus far this year. The timing seemed appropriate so I made a detour. And there might just be a few tasty morels left.

Wild Geranium in Hungry Mother State Park
Wild Iris along a stream in Hungry Mother State Park
An unusually early rhododendron (outlier)

Nope, no morels, they have passed their fruiting stage here, but my original hope came true, in a most graceful and elegant way.

Morel from earlier in season

And now I sit in the woods, a brook rolling by, a thrush singing in his smooth and fluid way, ferns waving in fractal fancy, and beside me, one of the rarest gems inside the biodiverse living bounty of our Appalachian mountains, the yellow lady slipper. Sometimes missing your turn winds up restoring your mind and spirit. The world is funny and serendipitous like that sometimes. 

The yellow lady slipper, member of the orchid family, shape is exquisitely elegant, demanding respect and awe from anyone who adorns flowers, and getting some from even those who don’t. Twisted sepals more pronounced in this rarer breed compared to the pink lady slipper, it is a special plant indeed.

Yellow Lady Slipper

Pink Lady Slipper from elsewhere for comparison

God and Mother Nature felt particularly sexy when the lady slippers were made. I sit in the middle of three, awestruck, unable to withhold a grin. I wonder if an insect will fall for her age old trick, a trap with no reward, forced to deposit and brush against pollen through the only escape route. Then another flower has to be lucky enough to tempt and fool an insect again. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, and pollinate a living rarity.

Spirals of serene 

Nectar for pollination is an almost ageless trade, a simple and fine example of mutualism where both partners benefit for and from their interaction. Pollination, many a person’s first real experience of different organisms being dependent on one another in nature, that simple bee or butterfly landing on a flower.

But certain plants do survive by trickery as well, in a variety of shapes and forms. Some orchids fall in this category. And if the trick isn’t fooling enough, that plant may enter the realm of genetic weakness from purely vegetative reproduction, and some fall even further into extinction. It’s survival of the fittest at its simplest. Deception comes with a price and risk.

Imprisoned insect - click picture for larger image

That nice bright yellow, a fragrance, and a landing platform all attract bees and other insects. But no nectar is there in return for the uncertain chance of pollination. One member isn’t holding up their part of the beneficial bargain. Hairs and the different shape of their flower force most insects out exactly where the flower wants. Translucent spots guide imprisoned insects. Nature does have her deceptive side now and again, keeping others and us on our toes.

Unsustainable collection and habitat loss have disastrous effects on this very curvaceous and attractive flower. People try to transplant the flowers to their landscapes, but without proper mycorrhizal fungus (mutualism again) common to their habitat’s soil, attempts are often in vain and the flowers die, no longer a perennial but compost instead.

The roots take year to develop, undergoing an intense confluence and union with their fungal partners before being a seedling; another reason landscape germination is difficult. It is still much longer, sometimes 5 – 10 additional years, before some flower in nature! It is a fragile gem of Appalachia, and something to cherish when one is lucky enough to be in the company of.

Interestingly enough they have always been used medicinally, but most herbalists and naturalists, including myself, warn against picking and using them any longer because population numbers are so painfully low. I am unsure if a doe or a greedy person clipped one of these few around me. My hope is that it was a deer.

The bloodroot, toothwort, and trillium around me have come and gone, leaves leftover like subtle whispers of their recently colorful and seeking selves. The lady slippers are patient, seeming to wait politely for the other flowers to bloom and disappear before bursting with color and temptation. Perhaps it is a strategy for survival. Perhaps every action is. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

in the hush of Nature and God

Sanguine serenity
and iridescent opulence
we give thanks to
this organic, evolving tilt and sway
giving change and season and never ceasing brevity

fettered teetering is unsettling
Gve us this stillness of being
as birds enter clouds
and leaves reenter the ground

we fly in between these dreams
as we all settle in the moment
and smiles paint our face in the hush. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A wave of trilliums

I rode a wave of trilliums
dappled pink and white on
a million shades of green
upon waves and waves of Appalachian landscape
etched like fractal dreams

Blooming biodiversity aches of budding thought
swinging dogwood blossoms
sweet to the tongue redbud flowers
dangling columbines, unfurling ferns, crumpled cohosh
and clear cascading waters

I rode a wave of trilliums
to an old stand of tulip poplars
hiding below a thick network
of mycelium and bacteria and the
synergistic chemistry of soil and Life
showy orchis sings it is time
as fruiting bodies of cerebral bulbous folds 
explode through thirsty dirt
miracles of a different kind

so I am frying morels and poor man’s pepper
with a dash of ramps for supper

I rode a wave of trilliums
into a small piece of heaven
into the resurgence of Spring
Nourishment for my body
And more importantly my soul
And I am all the stronger for it
a step closer to our fragile and wondrous world.