Alpine Lady

Honoring the natural world through prose, poetry, music, sounds, photographs and musings.


2 Comments

A Sod House Renovation in AKP

Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, lies along the continental divide in a valley of the Endicott Mountains of the Brooks Range, half-way between Fairbanks and Utqiaġvik (Barrow). It is where the last of the semi-nomadic Nunamiut, People of the Land, the inland Iñupiat, chose to settle along the major north-south caribou migration route and establish a community in the late 1940’s, soon with their own school, church and airstrip.

Fall time on the tundra nibbling “Raven’s Eyes” a small, mealy black berry.

Michael and I came to the community to be teachers in the early 70’s for Alaska State-Operated Schools.  He was to be the administrator and teach the upper fifth through eighth grades and I, the elementary wing, first through fourth. After the first year, we found ourselves house-hunting when he accepted an assignment to help plan the North Slope Borough School District in 1972 as its acting superintendent, traveling out of Barrow to the villages in the Borough. I took over the role as Principal-Teacher, still with the elementary grades, and awaited his replacement to share teaching responsibilities. That teacher would live in the teacher’s quarters.

August, 1971. John River to the north, the school on a windy plateau above the village. High winds took the roof off the school the school year before we moved there.

In the spring, we purchased a sod house but not the land from Zacharias Hugo. He had built a larger plywood house nearby and no longer used our sod house. With youthful enthusiasm and the help of our Nunamiut friend, Jack, we removed the old, worn sod and replaced the roof boards where it leaked, recovered it with plywood, then plastic and contracted out for a new layer of sod for the roof. Most of the old pieces of sod were incorporated into the existing side sod.

With Jack’s help we repaired the leaking sections, and put on new sod.

Old linoleum covered over the sod walls and floor. A willow stove made from a fuel barrel sits on the floor. It would be used in fishing or hunting camp.

Indoors , we removed ceiling and worn flooring, but left some of the old linoleum wall coverings. Everything got washed which was no small feat in that every drop of water had to be hauled from either the John River which flowed by the village in the spring but then went underground in dry weather and resurfaced a few miles south.

Our two, paned windows were of old glass and one was recovered with thick, milled plastic film. The other Mike removed and inserted a clear, thick plastic one to allow for more light, a view of the mountains to the south and the village laid out along the main travel route from airport to school which also passed by our bedroom corner.

A small entrance shed or wanigan on the west protected us from a direct blast of wind through the main door and provided a place to store kerosene, snowshoes, snow machine cover, tools, etc. and in winter, we stored frozen food out of the elements. Entrance to the sod house was through an, old thick, handmade door hung on leather hinges. It was held tightly closed by friction.

The sod house in the very early spring. Junior, our sled dog stands to the left of the tin wanigan which along with the snowdrift on the front added protection from the winds.

Mike was called away for important meetings and couldn’t help finish up. After scrubbing the walls, adding cardboard to fill in the gaps, I stapled wide burlap material to the ceiling and north wall. On the other walls I used adhesive-backed wall paper. The flooring was squares of stick-on outdoor carpeting. The house only measured 12 x 20 with ridge pole and support posts were hauled by dog team from thirty miles south of the pass. Michael is tall and could walk only comfortably for the six feet along the ridge pole as that was the tallest space in the house! Everywhere else he had to bend down, and I being shorter, had to bend my head only near the end walls.

Tallest space was aside this ridgepole for Mike to walk.

A studio-style propane range provided a means to cook and an small old oil stove, heat. Two kerosene lamps gave us light. Ventilation was all important from all the fuels and cooking fumes––stove oil, propane, kerosene. Sod houses were built with a “nose,” consisting of a boxed-in hole, open to the fresh air above. A small flap door on the inside, attached by parachute webbing for hinges and a parachute cord with knots holding it shut against a bent nail, made it quick and easy to use.  We also  could open the main door a crack.

We weren’t the only occupants of our household. We had two dogs, one was Junior, a large sled dog who spent his time outdoors and the other was Buffy, a Heinz variety and definitely an indoor dog. Oh, we also had mice but more about them later.

Using basic carpentry skills I learned in 4-H and from my mother, I built Junior a house and then used it in place of saw horses and work bench to cut 2×4’s and plywood to construct kitchen shelving. Our bed was a piece of plywood, with foam mattress, mattress pad and extra-warm sleeping bags. Furniture came from the extras up at school, from friends who shipped in chairs, and the ubiquitous furniture of bush Alaska, the Blazo box which at one time, contained two five-gallon cans of kerosene.

The kitchen and wash-up corner behind the small oil stove. The kettle was kept full of water for adding moisture to the air, for cooking and washing up. You’ll notice I used Blazo boxes liberally  for shelving.

Inherent with living in this particular geographic position in the Brooks Range, and with its quirky winds capable of shifting between north or south within minutes, it could perplexing and challenging at the same time. In other words, winter could be cold, cold, cold if its bluster came off the arctic ice 250 miles away. This wind bringing in the fine snows would drift tightly on the south side and cover over a good share of that wall, adding its bulk for protection. The house would be warmer inside with a south wind so we had to be careful to check our lanterns to make sure they didn’t soot up. If those interesting globs of carbon were attached to the white filmy mantle of the Aladdin lamp, we’d quickly open the nose for ventilation and let the orange tones of glowing carbon burn off. Another challenge: the oil stove might blow out from a sudden wind gust leaving a sooty oily residue and stink throughout the house. Again, open the nose and ventilate.

We dealt with a similar but more complex event the winter before in the old school and house when all stoves blew out from record-setting gusts of wind and coupled with the fifty below zero cold forced us to close school. Michael climbed on the roofs and braced himself against the wind to take off the chimney caps. Our few house plants got stuffed in the oven, the only safe and warm spot in the buildings until everything was cleaned and aired out.

School, teacher’s quarters, generator shed, and Presbyterian Log Church. Aug. 1971

Because we had no electricity and no refrigeration in the sod house, in the fall and winter I relied on cold spots in the kitchen corner to store the perishables and only in winter, did we put freezables out in the wanigan. I got quite good at ordering through the mail to a bush-friendly grocery store in Fairbanks, “Lindy’s.”  I seldom ordered fresh salad greens in winter due to the possibility of a weather-delayed flight. We ate lots of canned and dried items supplemented by local fish and meat.

During the summer, we stored extra meat (a skinned caribou leg and a few packages of bacon)  in underground rooms or cellars dug in the permafrost adjacent to the graveyard, a few miles from AKP . We descended a pole ladder to the coolness and fortunately that kept the mosquitoes and black flies at bay but which continuously spiraled above the entrance opening waiting for us to come out!

Entrance to underground storage cellars dug into the permafrost to keep frozen items cold. Notice mosquito net on my head!

Village noises surrounded us but were somewhat muted by the sod: dogs barking and howling, hunters leaving the village by snow machine, laughter, voices as people walked or rode by on their bicycles, the all-important airplane bringing in mail, supplies and passengers. Inside except when we turned to the battery-operated cassette player or a transistor radio for music, to get the Armed Forces bandwidth for news and sports or KJNP at North Pole tuned into “Trapline Chatter” with important messages to trappers, villagers, travelers, etc. in the outlying areas or Bush, it was just household chatter and banter with few sounds but the wind blowing around the house and over the nose or the sounds of lit lantern and stove flames. This was the rhythm we grew used to hearing and knew something was off, if it didn’t sound right.

Our dog Buffy standing behind her favorite seat, a sheepskin-covered chair.

Oh, those mice? If we left the village for a few days, the mice came out of hiding since Buffy wasn’t around to keep them at bay, and invade the kitchen carting off rice which they stuffed into shoes, boots and over the course of a one week when I was off to a conference, filled up a hairdryer blower stuck under the bed. Our fault for not securing the rice in mouse-proof containers. Lesson learned. And during the winter, they’d take to running above the bed in the cardboard and roofing buffer zone, keeping us awake before descending into the crawl space between the linoleum on the walls and sod covering. Argh!

In the spring, the sod mosses soaked up the snow and rains and began a slow process to cover over with grasses, sedges and wild flowers like the tundra from which it was cut. In the not-too-distant past, when this happened and the house thawed and it got wet inside, many people went to spring and summer camps until everything dried out. When we lived there, only a handful of sod houses were occupied but still any chance for the villagers to get out once the sun returned to the bottom of the Pass in late February, we went to the willows for tea and picnic and to let the kids run off their energy. A delightful time.

Picnic and tea in the willows with Judy and Rhoda. A good getaway time for everyone!

The summer’s heat and breezy conditions were not kind to the sod roof which dried it out so we placed weights on top to keep the pieces from blowing off. It would take awhile before the sod pieces grew together and formed thick turf. The grasses in the front of the house grew tall and fireweed proliferated, its beautiful pink spires in full blossom right outside the window taking advantage of the protection of the house and wanigan.

It wasn’t fancy but was a good arctic home for over a year before we moved to a homestead at Salcha, in the interior of Alaska, east of Fairbanks. There we began building outbuildings, garden, sled dogs, sauna and lots of trails, wild animals and challenging journeys.

Forty years after we left, a friend sent this photo of our sod house. This is what is left. Now along with memories so graced by the majestic mountains, skies and the tundra’s beauty it lies vacant…except for some critters, I imagine!

Until, our next journey stay safe, seek peace and offer beauty. ~ P

 


Leave a comment

Artistic Impressions: “A Gold Talisman” and “Still Water Runs Deep”

In a search for a way to incorporate my love of the natural world with photos, prose and poetry for reasons of brevity and space, I have come to appreciate the many Japanese forms of poetry. My interest in haibun is fairly recent, yet I feel the form fits me well and I enjoy writing it. The westernized version follows traditional rules to some extent but allows for a great deal of latitude.

Haibun is a combination of prose and poetry popularized by the poet monk, Matsuo Basho, in the late 1600’s, made famous in his book, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” containing four of his travelogues. Writing in “How to Haiku,” Bruce Ross states, “If a haiku is an insight into a moment of experience, a haibun is the story or narrative of how one came to have that experience.” I hope you enjoy the following haibun, its essence captured on my way to a recent spring equinox mandala meditation and drawing retreat. Following the haibun is the actual mandala I made with an explanation of how it came about.

 “A Gold Talisman”

My breath quickens as I clamber over the graveyard’s uneven grounds, eyes feasting on golden sunlight reflecting off the snowfields, glaciers and peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range to the south and silvery-white trumpeter swans still at rest in the greening fields below. 

On reflex, I retrieve the camera out of my thigh pocket and snap a few photos as a reminder of the prairie’s verdure and mountain snowpack mid-March, 2017. Slipping it back carefully, I reach for my grandmother’s necklace dangling from a thin golden chain, nervously reviewing my way up the ridge in case it fell off. The pathway is strewn with moss and lichen-encrusted headstones of the early settlers to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley. I touch the pendant’s reassuring presence.

Grandma’s gravesite lies several hundred miles east of here overlooking Lake Pend Oreille and the Green Monarch Mountains. A Welsh lady, she is buried amid pioneers in a small northern Idaho community of farming, railroad, logging, fishing and mining families. She and I were bonded to the natural elements and made many a stroll on hillside trails of the community visiting and sharing stories, pointing out wildlife and wild fairy orchids, watching storm activity, a snake shed its skin, and honeysuckle vines grow.

I silently finger the ornate pendant, turn and hurry along to spend the day participating in a spring equinox mandala meditation and drawing retreat nearby, feeling all the more richer for spending a moment in the sun.                                       

gnarled fingers clasping

pearl seeds and violet gems ––

an eagle’s shrill cry.

 

My grandmother’s necklace of gold filigree, seed pearls and amethyst.

 

“Still Water Runs Deep”

This is my first-ever mandala, the result of the Spring Equinox Mandala Meditation and Drawing Retreat led by Ruth Marcus on the lovely grounds of  Dungeness Barn House B&B, Two Crows Farm, overlooking the Straits of Juan DeFuca.  Done on black paper, the drawing of the mandala is specifically to show us how we can begin a journey as one dot of white in a pre-creation state of blackness. And with the placement of that dot of whiteness, with each breath and at any given moment, to radiate light and weave a rainbow of color throughout our lives.

“Still Water Runs Deep,” my first-ever mandala done on black paper.

At the retreat, I titled my mandala “Still Water Runs Deep” and had in mind the importance of water and my support of the Standing Rock Water Protectors and others around the globe. Michael pointed out to me when I came home that it was a “Sparkle Drawing in the Round.” I find that extremely interesting in that “Sparkle Drawings” are universal impressions I get in the moment that I express on white paper with colored pencils, never to be repeated quite the same. I’ve been doing them for about thirty years, finding them as a means to observe nature’s insight and practice compassionate grace, all in one.

At the Celebration of Spring Retreat, which took place in the afternoon, a holistic therapist mentioned that it was the last day of “Winter’s water element, a time of greatest stillness.” Unbeknownst to me as such and with the coming of Spring, we entered into the wood element represented by Hun, the wood element in Chinese Medicine. Now, through that lens, I see my mandala being very much about water and the influence of its impulses throughout the year.

The Triskele in the center signifies movement and the casting off of drops of water, the wavy lines and dots represent the different aspects of water through the seasons…dots for snowflakes, the wavy clouds for mists and gentle spring rains, the heavier dashes for summer hail/heavy raindrops, and the clouds for the heavy buildup of clouds, storms and thunderstorms of fall time. The rainbow brings in the sun and warmth aspect and is represented in the colors of the center circle, and in the developing buds of the vine as it circles the seasons. Guess what the red hearts surrounded by the golden rings signifies! The stems on the vine represents the shift from water to the material of solidity…hence pre-wood.

Today I feel if I were to draw one, it would begin centering on shrubs and trees. Very humbled by the process and interested in how I will finish out this mandala and what I do with the next. Perhaps I will try on dark, forest green paper.

Below is an example of a “Sparkle Drawing,” done in the moment. I found it far different to draw on black paper and get the light to radiate forth from the white dot when doing a mandala. Which do I enjoy drawing more? I’m not sure at this point but I may incorporate more of the “Sparkle Drawings” with poetry and see where they take me.

A rainbow of light lies within each seed we cast.

Blessings to one and all. Until we meet again, may our journeys be on paths of balance, beauty and beauty. ~ P

 

 


3 Comments

The Gateway Month: January

The Insight that comes from Observing Nature

My birthday occurs in January, the opening month of the year in the Julian calendar. Its name is derived from Janus, an earlier god of the Roman pantheon, the god of change and transition, of gates and doorways. He faces two directions, forward and back, and yet, there’s a third face. That face is the imperceptible instant when the event passes into its other form or status: snow tumbles from the trees as it gives into the effects of gravity; upon walking out into the cold air your warm breath becomes visible as “Dragon Breath”; the full moon gives way to waning moon and the cycle begins anew; but the ultimate Janus moment for December is, of course, the winter solstice whereas the shortest day gives way to lengthening days. These ephemeral, Janus moments offer incredible opportunities for the curious mind.

Full moon gives way to waning moon

Full moon gives way to waning moon

An interesting celestial event involving such moments occurs with Saturn’s fifth and sixth satellites, Epimetheus and Janus. Saturn is my astrological birth planet. Two of her sixty-two moons are “co-orbital.” In essence, their orbital velocities are about equal and their orbits so similar that when the lower faster one overtakes the other, they exchange a bit of momentum, the end result boosts the lower one into the higher orbit and to drop the higher one into a lower orbit, thus approximately every four years they exchange places. I wonder what amount of energy is produced at that exact Janus moment of exchange. Is it a hard bump, a gentle pulse or like a magnet, a definitive repulsion? Something to ponder…

Saturn as seen from Cassini UVIS Mission.

Saturn as seen from Cassini UVIS Mission.

Of course, those who live in rural areas may have more opportunities for observing and appreciating the natural world and these fleeting moments that occur; however the simplest action that gives me the fullest potential for observing natural cycles no matter where I am, is my breathing. As a meditator, I spend time observing the natural inflow and outflow of the breath and its regulating effect on my bodily systems.

Reflection pool in the Japanese Garden.

Reflection pool in the Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

In mindful practice, we acknowledge a thought happening but releasing any attachment to it so that insight may occur. However there are many times during the day when I’m not actively sitting that I can become aware of my breath, checking its speed and rhythm, if it’s from the belly or the chest, stuffy or flowing easy. At the same time I can acknowledge my thoughts. Is what I’m thinking the reason I am holding my breath? Is my heart racing because my thoughts are anxious? Maybe because my body is flooded with emotion at the sight of thirteen eagles perched atop a cottonwood tree at the edge of a lake. Maybe from watching a red-tailed hawk dive at 120 mph to grab a pocket gopher off the lip of its mound; recognizing that a tall, ancient cedar tree which we have honored for years, has crashed on the wetlands adjacent to the river; or when I catch the subtle fragrance of a wild ginger wafting up from the forest floor.

Grandmother Cedar along Dungeness River lies at rest

Grandmother Cedar lies at rest along the Dungeness River, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Creative artists naturally seek attunement to the fleeting moment that gives them insight, that Gestault moment, the Janus moment, the Eureka moment in the construction or play of their piece.  That opening where it all begins to flow as one…

Puka shell on Hana, HI beach.

Puka shell on Hana, Maui Island Hawaii beach. Puka is a Hawaiian word for hole.

By keeping the natural rhythms and cycles of life in tune with cultural events such as Solstice and Christmas, the Spring Equinox and Ostara, we balance the demands of the holiday on our  health and psyche; and by taking time to examine the patterns in the heavens, the cycles of the natural world before focusing in on issues within our environmental, political and global society, by taking that breath, or noticing the way a bird’s wing curves through the air, how storms signal their approach, or in hearing a frog croak, we may be able to open space long enough for insight to assist in the finding of creative solutions.

A gull drifts over riding the wind currents

A gull drifts over riding the wind currents

Relax, seek stillness
allow for insight to rise ~
the answer is nigh.

~

Still…
stillness,
an impulse
that activates thought…
utmost potential.

~

Mists and the full moon
rising and passing away,
Morning’s mindfulness.

Until we journey together again, may your path be filled with reflective moments of peace and beauty. Stay safe. ~ P


Leave a comment

4th Friday Writers on the Spit Readings

4th Friday-October, 2016

Once a month, about forty to sixty authors and listeners gather together in a conference room at “The Lodge” in Sequim, WA listening for an hour and a half to readings of prose and poetry. The authors have five minutes of uninterrupted time to read aloud their works. Applause is generous and since many of us are seniors, there is a level of gracious awareness for less than perfect delivery. Many of the readings are from life experiences gleaned around the world working on pipelines, sailing, military maneuvers, battling forest fires, breaking horses, treks into the wildernesses of by-gone days, heart-break romances, kidnappings, etc. shared with tearful or maybe belly-laughing descriptions and clarity of thought. Some readers are published authors, others who just do it for the pleasure. We welcome young readers, too, and I admire and am humbled by their talents.

What follows is my “Play List” for this Friday. Since my name was drawn but I didn’t get called due to lack of time at the September reading, I get to be among the first to read on the next 4th Friday. Mine tend to be theme-based and this group is about autumn. I’d like to try out my experimental Triune of Haikus, a threesome of haikus centered around a subject or season. From the following poems, I will read perhaps five with maybe a haiku if the 5 Minute Bell hasn’t sounded. These poems are all new to Writers of the Spit but regular readers of this blog or my public Facebook page may find some of them familiar; however, most have been reworked.

Play List – 10/16

“An Awakening unto Autumn”

What colors you ask?
I’d say rust and amber…
for I no longer carry red inside
to enrich generations unborn.

Rust, the stain of oxidizing iron,
the central molecule of blood
and amber, the color phase of youth
before the ivory of age.

Rust and amber
mineral and resin
releasing and encapsulating
awakening muses of poetry.

The beauty of rust an amber leaves piled together begging to be shuffled through.

Rust an amber-colored Bigleaf maple leaves just before shuffling.

“October’s Melancholy”

Shaken loose by autumn’s gales,
washed with copious rain drops,
apples and pears lie strewn upon the ground;
the tang of their sweet fermentation fills the air
reminiscent of a champagne cider
but melancholy plucks my heart strings,
for even Indian Summer must end
when winter signals its approach
on the distant mountain tops.

October bounty

October bounty

“The Weaver Archetype”

The Weaver spins the mythos of our lives,
into tapestries rich with sensual awareness;

from our nightly dreams and daily visions
she plucks wistful strands, hopeful strands,
stringing them on looms
framed by our personal stories;

she threads them with silvery rivers and creeks
from tears shed, joys shared;

she weaves colored strands into sunrises, sunsets,
fields of wildflowers under brilliant blue skies
embellished with smiles and laughter;

she weaves evocative poetry
into breezes carrying exotic aromas
of cedar and cottonwood, a sagebrush prairie;

she weaves vibrational thread sounds into the music
of birdsong and quivering aspen leaves;

the rhythms of movement and the passage of time
into dance and labor;

taste into sweet, ripened fruits
and the comfort of a full belly;

touch into safety and a loving embrace;

and she also weaves in threads
of tolerance to language and habits
amid humans diverse in culture, nature and form
all sharing a greater mythos journey;

from birth until death, the Weaver watches over us
helping to weave our destinies into living tapestries
full of potential, beauty, gratitude…

and she waits for us at death’s door catching our last out breath
spinning it into the mythos of our new incarnation
along the spiraled path.

The Weaver plucks threads from our life stories to add to our personal mythos.

The Weaver plucks threads from our life stories adding them to our personal mythos.

“Grandmother Cedar and the Lilliputians”

Behind a living screen of shrubbery and brambles
Grandmother Cedar remains at rest
becoming one with her wetland community.

A gigantic spiraling opened running her full length
exposing wooden flesh to the elements
when she collapsed onto the silty, storm-drenched river soils.

Inherently armed blackberry canes hold her steadfast with
Lilliputian diplomacy; their slender vines exploring Grandmother’s trunk
with territorial rights to festoon clusters of purpling summer fruits.

The matriarch’s displacement from the skyline not noticed
save by eagle and raven seeking her familiar snag top
and the wandering soul coming to offer prayers.

Grandmother Cedar held by the blackberry canes' Lilliputian diplomacy.

Grandmother Cedar held by Blackberry Cane Lilliputian diplomacy.

“Dusk”

Imagine dusk ascending the mountains
becoming the backdrop for the valley filling in
with mists and haze, the smell of burning leaves.

Dusk ascending the mountains and filling in the valley.

Dusk ascending the mountains and filling in the valley.

“Autumn Triune of Haikus”

A wet, sodden leaf
assisted by gravity
onto ground below.

Litter piling up,
detritivore community
breaking, ingesting.

Autumn’s legacy:
decaying vegetation,
enrichment of soil.

A wet, Bigleaf maple leaf

A wet, Bigleaf maple leaf

“Frost Fairies” Haiku

With frigid fingers
frost fairies nip autumn’s fare,
the chill has begun.

Fairy-Frosted Fare

Fairy-Frosted Fare

“Evidence of Change” Haiku

Wind changed directions,
red rose petals south of fence
yellow on north side.

Frosted Fall Roses

Frosted Fall Roses

Thank you and for more of my work join me at https://www.facebook.com/patriciamay.demarco
May your journeys be filled with beauty and your walk peaceful.

 


2 Comments

In Celebration of the Dandelion Seed

We’re all familiar with the dandelion, Taraxacium officinale, a member of the Asteraceae family with tiny flowers or florets collected together into its composite, bright yellow flower head. Dandelion roars to life come springtime to aid us in flushing out a rich accumulation of debris from the indulgence of richer wintertime fare, helping us to rebuild and support our health. Then in late summer, it blossoms again as a reminder that it’s there to help us ease into the winter rhythms after the sweet excesses and energetics of summer and autumn.

The center florets surrounded by the ray flowers arranged in a Fibonacci spiral.

The center florets surrounded by ray flowers and all arranged in a Fibonacci spiral.

Named for the French “Dent de lion”, meaning lion’s tooth from the appearance of its tooth-edged leaves, the whole plant has a rich tradition as a food and beverage source plus it is used in folk and modern herbal medicine. Actually its best known medicinal attribute as a diuretic is in it’s French name “Pissenlit” meaning piss-a-bed.

One hundred to three hundred florets making up the blossom and may be pollinated by insects, by the wind or according to a website “Buzz About Bees”, they have even evolved a unique method to pollinate themselves: “The stigma grow through the middle of the anthers. As this happens, pollen is automatically transferred onto the style. If no insect aids the pollination process, the stigma curls back on itself, picking up the pollen that caught onto the style below”. Thus even when it’s shut tight and unable to open because the weather is gray and there’s a lack of sunlight, it can pollinate itself by a process called apomixis which develops seeds identical in genetics to the parent. Sunny days and insect pollination, on the other hand, lead to a healthier diversity of plant seed. For a really good photographic showing of the apomixis process: http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.com/2015/05/bees-need-dandelions-but-dandelions.html

The flowers open and close for three or four days and then stay closed for good, forming seeds inside. When ready, the stem grows high to catch the breezes, and on a dry day the seed head turns inside out forming the familiar “blow-about top” to be dispersed where they may. Cut open a seed-forming elder and examine the cycle for yourself.

Here is a photo journal in celebration of the dandelion seed head’s cycle. I hope you enjoy this aspect of the plant that many of us take for granted or bemoan that more seeds mean more weeds.

A springtime gathering of dandelions, probably all from one root.

A springtime gathering of dandelions providing an abundant source of nectar and pollen for hungry insects.

Come, rest a moment,
join me in community,
see me as bud, blossom and elder
waiting for the rhythms of the year
to open me to the heavens,
that I might pollinate and propagate.

And stand please
in wonderment,
rejoice when I pose
on tippy-toes and twirl
with the wind o’er the meadow
on a journey of a lifetime.

Dusted with dewdrops, the seed head awaits drying before it can begin its journey.

Dusted with dewdrops, the seed head awaits drying before it can begin its journey . . .

Mesmerizing moment . . .

A mesmerizing moment . . .

Once pollinated, up to 300 seeds position themselves where the breeze can catch the parachutes . . .

Once pollinated, up to 300 parachuted-seeds position themselves high above the main plant . . .

 And standing on tippie-toes , catch the breeze and twirl across the meadow . . .

and standing on tippie-toes, catch the breezes and twirl across the lawns and meadows . . .

Eventualy to fall to the g rond and with its unique seed head, auger in to begin afresh . . .

providing bird food for American  Goldfinches, Savannah and White-Crowned sparrows . . .

Imagine the potential bird food for goldfinches and sparrows.

eventually to fall the ground and with its unique seed head, auger in to begin afresh . . .

and with the balancing of community, space, and time . . .

with the balancing of community, space, and time . . .

 with the rhythm of the morning's full moon reflecting the dawning sun.

within the rhythms of the seasons as viewed by this morning’s full moon reflecting the dawning sun.

 

Until our next journey together, may your travels be safe and peaceful. ~ P

 

 


Leave a comment

The Augustness of August

August bares a poignant truth
that summer’s on the wane;
thunder storms announce the news
and hail stones chill the rain.
Summer apples, soft and sweet,
jar loose and plummet to the ground;
bald-faced hornets hone in and eat voraciously
the rotted morsels that can be found.
Cornucopia gardens fill to overflowing,
best intention’s weeding falls behind;
harvesting takes a bow at center stage
with preservation methods clearly now in mind.
Yellowed grass stalks hang richly-seeded
upon which herds of cattle graze;
seeds that fall upon the ground
may sprout come warm spring days.
Fields lie strewn with tightly-bound bales
for hay cutting and curing have been good;
the bucking crews quickly shift them to the barn,
stacking cut-ends-up under weathered wood.
Countless bird nests lie hidden and empty
from whence noisy fledglings took to wing;
mornings and evenings are filled with songs
their species instinctively yearns to sing.
Passerines and waterfowl practice flying in formation
for the flight young ones cannot comprehend;
it seems everywhere the natural world prepares
to feast and fatten before the season’s end.
And so the yearly spiral spins
moving forward in time;
another summer progresses
into autumn’s cooler paradigm.
What better plant to exemplify August than the prolific zuchinni squash?

What better plant to exemplify August than the prolific zuchinni squash?

Until we next journey together, may your travels be peaceful. ~ P


5 Comments

An Evening Quest for Goldenrod

 

Recently Michael and I felt the need to take an evening drive and check on the tall spires of Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis ) which we collect beginning in late July. We could tell a storm was on brewing above the Olympic Mountains to the south and the timing was perfect to gather some herb before the rains came and delayed harvest. At our favorite collection spot in the drying grasses adjacent to a cattle pasture, the rich conical heads shone golden-yellow in the setting sunlight.

Conical spires of Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Conical spires of Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).

Thousands of sun-drenched blossoms, each its own golden-rayed orb, attract a myriad of pollinators hungry for nectar to store for winter. It also hosts insect herbivores and predators all utilizing some aspect of the plant or those that come to visit it.

An insect attractor for pollinators and herbivores

An insect attractor for pollinators and herbivores.

Goldenrod has a spicy aroma and citrusy flavor which I find numbs the tongue slightly when chewed raw. It has a solid place in folk lore medicinals with many applications including treating urinary tract infections, alleviating allergies including cat allergies and hay fever, reducing sore throats and fevers, and relieving muscle soreness. Michael makes a soothing and effective muscle salve using coconut oil as the base. I use it to ease muscle stiffness and as an ankle rub to remove edema.

Golden-rayed orbs of beauty.

Golden-rayed orbs of beauty.

After a successful gathering, the throaty wild call of a bald eagle caught our attention and we watched as it flew to a tall snag overlooking the valley backlit by a faint rainbow gracing the darkening sky.

The distant rumbling of thunder beckoned us back into our car and we drove along the rim of the valley taking every advantage to see the majesty of the storm sweep through. The sky above the Dungeness Cemetery was particularly picturesque.

Storm brewing above pioneers cemetery where we like to take photographs of the valley below.

Storm brewing above Dungeness Cemetery, a favorite spot to photograph the valley below and the Olympic Mountains throughout the year.

Once home, the Goldenrod was put away to wilt for an evening, computers shut down, and we continued to watch the storm and rain squalls sweep across the valley, lightning crisscross the sky, and the trees start to sway as winds picked up the smell of dust and then of damp earth. I waited in anticipation when suddenly a bolt was launched in front of me that jarred my nerves and left an imprint on my retinas. I stepped back under the porch overhang as the heavy, cold drops descended smelling of mud.

Later as the storm passed, the sun sinking quite low on the horizon found spots to break through the lowest layer of cloud cover casting a deep, golden-yellow glow punctuated by horizontal flashes of lightning. A perfect ending to an evening quest for Goldenrod.

The golden-yellow sky after the storm passed through.

The golden-yellow sky after the storm passed through.

Until our next journey together, may peace grace your lives.  ~ P