Thursday, November 26, 2020

Gobble Gobble Gobble

  We’ve already done the gobbling part — Thanksgiving dinner is history (boiled shrimp fresh from the docks, collard greens, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pie).  But there’s still time to wish all our fellow American friends and family a

Happy Thanksgiving!


And if you’re not an American celebrating Thanksgiving, 

count your blessings and have a happy Thursday anyway!  

Friday, November 20, 2020

Thanksgiving Thoughts From a Tree Hugger


  Outdoors is my Happy Place and I’ve never loved it more than now, in these months and months of Covid. Thanksgiving is coming up and with so much that brings us joy closed to us, I am beyond thankful for the time we can spend in safety outside. 

  I have always had a special relationship with trees.  

  Growing up in a Wisconsin oak forest,  I cached books in a secret knot hole and read the hot summer hours away on a broad branch. My skinny young back supported by the strong rough-barked trunk, a tree was for me a perfect hideaway for daydreaming of the life I planned to have.


 In the fall I stockpiled acorns and fought silly acorn wars with my friends.  

  The older I got, the higher I ventured into the canopy. 


I still have a scar from the time daring exceeded ability and I fell to the ground, impaling my forearm on a stick.  It didn’t dim my affinity for being a tree hugger one bit then and now I live in a Southern place with new trees to discover, new arboreal friends to make.  The behemoth  above is a favorite — a live oak so old that I can’t even imagine its age.  

  So many trees in the South are not lone sentinels in the woods but a host, a jungle gym for the amazing vines that grow here.  

    This oak supports a whole world of plant life — resurrection ferns, vines, and mosses, including the ethereal and iconic Spanish moss.

  Trees give shelter and support to spiders, insects, fungi, birds, and small mammals in, under, and on themselves.  



  They grow in funny shapes, to accommodate insects and their tree neighbors.  Can you see the deer head silhouette this branch has taken on?

Or the complete circle here?

  Trees communicate through a complex system in their underpinnings beneath the ground and are sensitive to and supportive of the other trees growing around them.  They clean the air, shelter from the wind, moderate temperature, provide oxygen and food, calm the soul, home wildlife, heal patients, herald the seasons, reduce violence in cities.  I always feel better after a day spent deep in the presence of these old and gentle souls.  

  My tree climber days may be over but am still a tree hugger, an enthusiastic appreciator of the beauty of trees. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

What’s Ghostly White and Grows in the Deepest Forest?

  It was exciting to come across a plant in the woods this fall that I’ve only seen a couple times before. It’s a flowering plant with no chlorophyll and it’s not a fungus. 
  I’ve always called them Indian Pipes but I like the name they go by in the South: Ghost Pipes.  

  Can you believe it’s a member of the blueberry family?  Personally, I don’t see any family resemblance! 
  Notice anything missing besides the color green?  Pipes have no leaves because they don’t make chlorophyll. They need no light for the same reason.
  To sustain their short lives, they “network” with the fungus (mycorrhiza) that roots of trees are using to obtain the minerals trees need to conduct photosynthesis.  While the tree doesn’t seem to benefit at all from the pipes, the pipes don’t seem to damage the trees either.

As the plant matures, “flowers”, or seed heads, form at the top.  

Looking down into the seed heads below, you can that they have emptied and soon the whole plant will turn black and melt back into the earth below it.  


  Waxy and white, eerie and haunting, the Corpse Plant was the favorite flower of one of my favorite American poets — Emily Dickinson.  So much so, in fact, that it graced the cover of her first published book of poetry. 

“February, that Month of Fleetest Sweetness”

White as an Indian Pipe 

Red as a Cardinal Flower 

Fabulous as a Moon at Noon 

February Hour—