Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birds, Seasonal Happenings and Friendship Shadows

Cedar Waxwings love the English Hawthorn berries and all the other flocks dine on seeds, while the Bluebirds seem mostly interested in checking out the rustic housing. There were several pairs eyeing and flying to and from this particular house this day. They do not require anything fancy and I like how this dwelling blends right into the landscape. You can see some of the earlier goings on with the Blue Birds and this house here and here. You will see more than just the Blue Birds when you click on the links. Just keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling and I promise you will not be disappointed. You will have to scroll thru this one too on the second link. 

When Eva arrives we take a quick spin in the garden to see how the brush hog clearing is going. I eye a bit more blue . . . in a flower this time. Some little creature is munching on the last Myrtle flower. I would bet the Juncos will kick up a few leaves and find a tiny caterpillar or some other meaty morsel.

The golden yellow of the Crabapples, I do not recall the name of, is a mirror to the fluffy coat the Goldfinches wear late spring, summer and fall. Nature protects her creatures by having them molt at about the same time the leaves are forced to fall. This little Goldfinch is enjoying a meal of Anise Hyssop seeds. Perhaps the aroma of the seeds will give the bird a fresher breath. A Junco is looking on and will join in on the seed nosh.

Afternoon light is so lovely . . . giving a brilliant glow to the gray and white birches. There is music in the grasses as we walk down towards the lower garden to see my neighbor busy with his tractor. Kris is a wizard with his machine and I so appreciate his vision merging with mine own in keeping the land open. What he is not able to do with his tractor, I must go in and cut with my hand machines. It is a great deal of hard work on this hillside. A good bit of pruning will occur over the winter months too. 

The mowing occurs after all the leaves have fallen making it easier for Kris to see, as there are rocks everywhere. If it were not for the many birds nesting here I would do this twice a year and have more of a chance of winning the on going battle with mostly sumac, briars and vines. The forest too is trying to reclaim the open areas. Who is this little fellow?

As we were heading back up and to the car, this Cedar Waxwing greeted us with a bit of a wary eye . . . perhaps the confusion with the tractor had him wondering what was going on. It is rare for one to sit so close and let me capture its portrait this way. We are off and seven minutes down the country road by car we come to one of my favorite waterfalls 'Chapel Falls'. I will share the falls in a future post. For today a sneak preview with peace shadows and a birthday wish for my dear friend. Many Many Happy Returns Eva. 

The sun settling towards the west painted our shadow silhouettes . . . upon the tree . . . a bit like graffiti . . . only it faded very quickly and left no mark upon the bark. Here is a turtle rock for you . . . since your imagination gave it that form. May your foundation be as solid and your beauty constant.

After lingering a good long while within the sounds and sprays of positive ions we headed back to Flower Hill Farm to see the open land. I so long for an orchard in this south facing field, mostly going down the slope . . . but that will take mowing a few times a year to kill all the saplings that grow back each spring. Maybe one day I will just do it! I must dash off now, grab my camera and try to catch the Red-tailed Hawk who is perched in the English Hawthorn! 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blooming Friday Brilliant Sky Painting to Dried Muted Garden Blooms

Sunrises this time of year are very colorful, vibrant  and each day creates a unique sky painting. Clouds absorb the suns violet and lavender brushstrokes and offer rich texture to the composition, while in the last photo of another day, wood stoves join the river in creating a smokey mist rising from the valley. When I look out over the Mount Holyoke Range, I feel very young compared to its 200 million years. The seven mile ridge was formed from lava flowing from the valley floor. Then later its jagged peaks reaching about 1,000 feet were smoothed by glaciers. There is a rich history here that I will share in another post. It is a wonderful lofty feeling walking around the garden looking out towards these wondrous hills. Now the sun is up higher and subdued by clouds... lets take a walk about the garden.

Various Hydrangeas along with grasses and buds of future Magnolia, stellata paint a lovely dried landscape. It is as if all the shrubberies have  taken a deep breath drawing their essence and energy down . . . down into the core of their being. While breathing inward they shrink in outer form, from what was lush and full becomes dried, brittle and lifeless. However when observing closely we see the tiny buds in wait, for the exhaling sigh of life  which will swell them all alive in spring. The bare trunks of trees and shrubs offer sculptural points of interest and call to my pruning clippers for more airy forms. Today is the last Blooming Friday of November. To see other garden blooms from around the world visit Katarina's Roses and Stuff 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Myths and Mourning Thanksgiving

Here lies the harbor of the first landing of the Mayflower. Pilgrim monument stands as the tallest granite structure in this country to commemorate those Mayflower settlers that first came to this land.  While in this sheltered harbor of Provincetown, a child was born aboard the ship. Perhaps at the same moment a few children were birthed by indigenous women, more comfortably situated in their warm wigwams not far from this tip of Cape Cod. As with much of recorded history, "facts" and stories are misleading and especially in the portrayal of the indigenous peoples that had populated this land for 10,000 years or so. The first Thanksgiving is only one of the many myths told to children through history books and performances, in regards to our ancestors coming to this "New World."

Most children were never told of the thousands of Native Americans called Wampanoags that inhabited Cape Cod and inland through the southeastern parts of Massachusetts, when the "first settlers" set anchor in Provincetown and soon after in another harbor later named Plymouth. This map shows not only the Wampanoags location but other tribes as well within an area later named New England but to the native peoples it was called Dawnland or 'Land of the First Light'. I am not certain of the accuracy of this map but it shows a land heavily populated. These gentle wise peoples depicted as "savages" by settlers and history books, lived simple, perhaps difficult but rich lives within the rhythms of nature. In the spring and summer months the Wampanoags would set up their villages near the ocean and harvest its many bounties including oysters, clams, lobsters, eels and a variety of fish and fowl. They would swim and bathe in the oceans, rivers and ponds, make large clambakes that could feed the entire village and had many celebrations around their fruitful harvests. Nothing was wasted. Their clothing and shoes were created from the skin of animals they killed for food. They made jewelry from the shells of quahog clams and feathers from birds. In early spring before leaving their inland winter sites, they had planted corn, beans and squash. As cold winds reclaimed their coastal paradise, they retreated from the harshness of winter by the open ocean to their more protected interior landscape and fall harvests, along with age old rituals of feasting and preparing for the severity of the months to come.

Wampanoag children were raised and taught by their elders how to live and survive through an understanding of nature's cycles and gifts. A very spiritual peoples . . .  they also nurtured within the hearts and minds of their children a deep sense of reverence towards nature. These aspects and so much more are left out of the pictures painted about some of our ancestors' arrival in this world, that was already home to many people. Though the structure of their villages were not meant to be as permanent as the clapboard cape houses that are now clustered and dotted along the shore, they had a governing body and treaties with other tribes regarding issues of territories and respect for each tribes rights. These pacts were also drawn up by the leading Elders to encourage peace between all the nations. Though like all of mankind they did not live always in peace. Without the help of these very native peoples the 'Pilgrims' would not have survived. The separatist settlers had left England to flee religious persecution and then, when they were secure in their new environment, in large part due to the help of the Wampanoags, they attempted and succeeded in many cases, to impose their religion onto the Native Americans, insisting they abandon their own customs, language and dress. How soon we forget.

There is no myth to true thanksgiving. I cherish the many gifts from Nature, family and friends that fill my life. I am truly thankful for the freedom I have, to explore my world and dreams, but I do not believe that the wars of Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan have in any way protected or enhanced that freedom. I believe quite the reverse. These wars too are full of myths and lies and have tragically taken the precious lives of our brave soldiers and those of the countries we overrun. It is not only the death or mutilation of soldiers in these distant lands we wage war against, but civilians and their land also suffer unbearably from bombs and biological weapons used against them. The cost also has been in wasted resources that might have helped build a better world for all our citizens... better health care and better education. Sadly we do not even take care of our returning wounded soldiers, in body, mind or spirit, who put their trust in our leaders. We began this country we call the United States of America by invading another peoples' world and we continued to invade other countries and claim their land as our own... such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico (seized from Spain) just to name two. This is part of our history and that of most every country in the world . . . exploiting, invading and conquering others who would be weaker in 'might' alone . . . than that of the conquerors.

So why do I write all this on a day of celebration and thanksgiving. I write this to perhaps touch one or two, who might read this and hopefully not hate the writer, but who might agree our holidays deserve truth within the festivities. I write for Native Americans still protesting this holiday that depicts their ancestors in an unkind and biased light. Today there is a group of Native Americans gathering in Plymouth to protest not so much our celebrating Thanksgiving . . .  nor do they wish to take it away from us. They are calling today a 'Day of Mourning'. They stand to demand truth and justice and should be offered our thanks and reparation. I stand here on this land I love . . . in solidarity for truth, with the threads from a fabric of my soul trailing from the distance past, to my paternal great grandmother Sophronie of the Choctaw nation. I wish Peace and bountiful harvests to all peoples the world over. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Radiant Resident Red-tailed Hawk

There is a more expansive view of forest, fields and gardens for the Red-tailed hawk, now that the trees have signaled their cloaks of leaves to fall. This young buteo has claimed it's territory and I wholeheartedly welcome it. I sighted him as he flew up into the naked limbs of the old Rock Maple next to the house and quickly reached for my camera. You can see him in the photograph above . . . high up in the branches viewing the land he considers his own. I envy his view! He must sense my fondness towards him or at least that I am not a threat, for he remains perched  for quite a few minutes allowing me to take these portraits. I am certain he heard me open the door and can clearly see me standing and holding an odd black object aimed in his direction. Most often hawks are very shy and fly off right away once eyeing me. I assume from my long chat with this handsome fellow that he was raised here and perhaps has accepted me as part of the landscape. He seems to be astutely alert and fully in the moment eyeing me with an uncanny awareness of my presence.

I was quite animated at times in my conversation with him. He (I realize he could be a she) did change his head position a bit, when I suggested he fly. I hope he did not misunderstand, for I only  wanted to capture his flight, before I myself had to take leave of this place. He did linger several minutes until finally moving on. I watched him leap into his dive, fly and soar away on his beautiful broad rounded wings and wished him many hearty meals of field mice, rabbits and voles. It is good to share in the stewardship of the land with such a noble colleague. You can see other shots of this mighty buteo taken earlier this year here  (just keep scrolling down and you will see the older posts). Could it be the same one? Or are the earlier ones the parents of this seemingly younger raptor. I have read that the oldest "known" Red-tailed hawk lived to be nearly 29 years old.  Just about the age of my son. The link above will also take you back into spring for a bit... a time we will all be longing for soon enough. This Birder Link will take you to other great bird sites.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Smith College Botanical Gardens Camperdown Elm

Three weeks ago.

Today I would like to take you back to the Smith College Botanical Gardens to go under one of my favorite trees ... a Camperdown Elm just outside the Plant House. The leaves have all fallen now but when I first took these photos there were still some holding on.  We can see the wildly weeping forms of its canopy. Once beneath the umbrella-like sweep of boughs we enter into a secret realm hidden by the falling zigzagging branches somewhat secretive when the leaves are still attached. Here the graft between the Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) and the Camperdown Elm is clearly visible. It is told that the Earl of Camperdown of Dundee Scotland had a forester who eyed an unusually distorted limb growing along the forest floor and he gave it to the gardener who grafted it to a Wych Elm... now how did he know that was the only compatible species the Camperdown would take to? He must have tried a few others or just got lucky. It is said that every Camperdown Elm on the planet is connected to the original root stock ... every cutting was taken from the first "mutant" cutting... can that be true?? If my information is correct, it seems sadly that every cultivar in England is lost... victims of Dutch Elm Disease. In North America the disease does not care for the Wych Elm for some odd reason. I hope it remains that finicky.  You can see the form of this bizarrely beautiful tree more clearly in the last six images. There is a sign hanging from the Camperdown asking people not to climb on the tree... this would indicate to me that it is somewhat fragile. I have visited this sage often over the last thirty years and I trust it will continue to stand and inspire all who happen to see it. 

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