Ed’s Corner

Walking recently in the crisp Fall air, with multi-colored leaves crunching underfoot, I was struck, as I often am, by the undeniable truth that surrounds us in nature. As I walked, the lyrics of Malvina Reynold’s 1964 folk song, “God Bless the Grass”, came slowly out of the recesses of my memory. I thought I’d share them with you here:

God Bless the Grass

God bless the grass that grows thru the crack.
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the truth that fights toward the sun,
They roll the lies over it and think that it is done.
It moves through the ground and reaches for the air,
And after a while it is growing everywhere,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that grows through cement.
It’s green and it’s tender and it’s easily bent.
But after a while it lifts up its head,
For the grass is living and the stone is dead,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that’s gentle and low,
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow.
And God bless the truth, the friend of the poor,
And the wild grass growing at the poor man’s door,
And God bless the grass.

Ed’s Corner

It’s About Time

We think we can manipulate time, twist it like a Gumby, do whatever with it.
For example, we say we can save it, spend it. But I don’t know of a time bank where you get time interest from the time you put into it.

You can have a great time, a terrible time; we believe we can even make time; take time out; be on time; waste time; lose time; run out of it; squeeze time.

To me, time is:

now….now….now….now….now….now…. You get the idea. We live only in this moment, this now.

Good news!

There are a lot of moments in front of you. You are blessed with many possibilities and choices of how you want to be or what you want to do in the next many moments. Yes, the choice is yours: what will you make of the most precious thing you have?

This month of October is glorious in so many ways. I hope you will choose to “spend” your time with your children out-of-doors.

Ed’s Corner

To those of you who are reading our blog for the first time, welcome! To those who are long-time readers, it’s good to have you back. Each year, when I am called to prepare my contribution for September’s issue of The Dirt and its corresponding blog post, it is a tell-tale sign for me that summer is over, and it is time once again to enter the magical and transformational season called ‘fall’.

As many of us know, beyond our personal, unofficial signs of fall’s arrival, there is in fact an official beginning to the season. This year, the autumnal equinox occurs on Friday, September 22nd at precisely 4:02 PM, when the sun crosses the celestial equator. On this day we will have equal parts night and day. From then on, nights will slowly become longer than days, until we arrive at the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice in December. From there we begin the slow lengthening of our days as the cycle through the seasons continues.

With the thought of this cyclical, circular motion in mind, I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote following our last day of camp, just a bit over a month ago. Though the season has begun to turn, the memory of that day is still just as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. It is one that I will hold dear as we enjoy each changing season, until we arrive at glorious summer once again.

 

Love Is All Aground

On the big field, on the last day of camp,
without fail, we take time for goodbyes.
Holding hands, we form one large circle
that this year held one final surprise.

With all of our campers and counselors
each holding the hands of two others,
no matter how many, how far afield,
we always find room for each other.

Once our living circle has formed,
the center we share gives us reason
to recall all the circles we have in our lives:
the earth, the moon…the seasons.

We may feel a little bit melancholy,
knowing this summer’s camp is now done,
but we take solace in the circle of time:
we’ll be back, under next summer’s sun.

As we stood hand in hand, I became aware,
my eyes tracing our ring, start to start:
though our ‘circle’ may not have been perfect,
it did form one great, perfect HEART.

The tipis that still dominated the field
had sent us a little astray,
enough to dimple our circle of souls
in this wondrously suitable way.

I was called to the middle to share
some meaningful, well chosen words.
I had them scripted, but this surprise heart
had rendered them moot and absurd.

All I really needed to do
was point out the heart we had made,
shaped by our own hearts and hands
though we hadn’t known what was at play.

Love and tears suffused the air,
the oohs, the ahhs were all profound.
We’ve always known our camp is Love —
here the proof stood on the ground.

 

 

Ed’s Corner

Ralph Waldo Emerson describes (though unintentionally) what many of us, regardless of our age, feel when at camp and in the outdoors:

“Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.”

Camp is just around the corner. The warm summer season to come makes it easy to ‘cast off our years’ and step outside. Fair, sunny days, thick afternoon thunderstorms, tall grass, blooming flowers, all of nature very much alive, gives us every excuse to drop what we’re ‘supposed to be doing’ and spend time just ‘being’ outdoors. Whether you have children at camp, or if your children now have children of their own, you too can be like a child again, outside in the green and growing world.

Ed’s Corner

Welcome to Dr. Ed’s Office.

Now, what are your symptoms again? Hard to stay still for a long period of time; feel like you’re missing out on something; you have some kind of notion that the sky is singing and is blue just for you; the scents unexpectedly brought to you on a gentle, warm breeze stop you in your tracks and you think that you have never smelled anything better in your life; you realize how ‘in the moment’ you are; it’s hard to focus on daily routines; you wonder why you haven’t noticed before how beautiful sunsets can be; you find yourself smiling for no apparent reason; you even smile at strangers; you slow down; you sing or hum to yourself Louis Armstrong’s song, “What a Wonderful World”.

I think I’ve heard enough. You’ve got the bug alright. You are not alone. Millions of others succumb every year at this time. Yes, it’s that old Spring Fever.

Now real fevers – like you may get in the winter – are usually treated in one or two ways. Some people, at the very first sign of a fever, run to the drugstore and buy whatever they can to chase that fever away, get rid of it at all costs, stop it in its tracks, take whatever drugs they have to.

Others will accept their fevers as a natural way for the body to deal with whatever bug, virus, bacteria or dis-ease is in their bodies. No drugs necessary here.

Being that I’m the kind of Doctor from the old school, I believe that fevers develop for a reason – a way for the body to heal itself.

So, my prescription for all of you with Spring Fever: get out! Into nature. The fever is calling you to partake in the growth and the blossoming of Spring and to rejuvenate your body and spirit. Go out and breathe, touch, smell, listen to, and lay down on the earth. Reconnect. Give in to the fever.

springfever

Ed’s Corner

The temperatures and weather of late have been all over the place: rain, fog, snow, 70 degrees, 15 degrees, ice. The expression, ‘if you don’t like the weather today, wait until tomorrow’, has never seemed more true.

The following is from an ancient book of secret nature lore (o-o-ah-ah), but we thought we would share it with you now, to help you keep track of the weather. This weather tracker will, as its name implies, track the weather in the moment – not 3 days from now, not last week – but in the present moment. There will be no screens, dials, or buttons.

Obtain a stick or twig (there are many on the ground now after some of the fierce March winds) about 6-8 inches long. Get a piece of string about 10-12 inches long. Tie one end of the string around the stick at the very center of the stick, so that when you hold the loose end of the string, the stick balances horizontally.

Find a place outdoors from which you can hang your weather tracker. Hanging it from a branch might be good. Make sure your tracker is not under an overhang, i.e. where your roof extends over. It should be as exposed as possible to the elements. Try to find such a spot near a window so that you can look out and observe it directly.

Weather Tracker

The following chart is essential:

If the stick is moving – it’s windy
If you can’t see the stick – it might be foggy or night time
If it’s wet – it’s raining
If it’s white – it’s snowing
If it is in bright light – it is sunny

You may add to this chart as you get to know your weather tracker and your microclimate a little better.

So, with tongue in cheek, I wish you happy tracking.

(I do wish you were able to receive this esoteric nature knowledge on April 1)

Ed’s Corner

A Miracle Once More

When we think of a miracle, we usually think of something that happens once. In fact, that may be one reason we consider ‘it’ to be a miracle, because it is so rare. The miracle I am thinking about happens yearly, just about now, as nights are still cold but daytime temperatures inch upward into the upper thirties and forties. The indigenous people knew about this miracle well before the arrival of the first colonists.

Throughout history, people have set out on pilgrimages that would lead them to a miracle. The Nature Place will lead you on a sort of pilgrimage on Saturday, March 4th, when we offer our Maple Sugaring program. It is our most popular program throughout the year. Perhaps everyone is anxious to see the miracle.

We all gather around the sugar maple tree, making sure the little ones are in front, with adults standing behind. Everyone seems to be quietly excited, almost holding their breath.

Drilling the Hole

I put drill to tree and begin to turn it. The first wood shavings to come out of the tree are very dark. Then, as the drill goes deeper, the shavings become lighter in color. These shaving are from the sapwood. We might then see the bark directly below the drill-hole begin to get wet. A slight cheer erupts from the crowd. I take the drill out, gently hammer in a metal spout (technically a “spile”) and we see the first drop of sap run down the spout, hesitate at the edge, and then fall to the ground. A big cheer erupts from the crowd! This is the miracle we have come to see: a drop of clear, cold, slightly sweet ‘water’ coming out of a tree that from all outward appearances looks dead.

How does this clear drop that looks like pure water get inside a tree and then come out when your drill makes an outlet for it? Isn’t it dirty coming from inside a tree? Why does it taste a little sweet? Is it OK to taste it right from the spout? Definitely!

Sweet, clear water from a tree. It always feels like a miracle to me. One that I can depend on seeing once a year.

Tasting Sap 1

Tasting Sap 2

In the last “Dirt” I suggested to take a Fake Break, to get away from the oftentimes overwhelming news that seems to bombard us every day. To go out into close-by nature to take in and be part of what is real, what is grounding. Tapping your own maple tree, boiling the sap into syrup and learning so much more by coming to our March 4th sugaring program, will take you to places that are very real and will help you reforge connections with the natural world – a world we have come from and are part of, although at times we may feel disconnected and disenchanted.

I hope to see you at our Sugaring program. Be part of this miracle with us.

 

Click here for more information our March 4th Sugaring Program!

 

Ed’s Corner

Fake News

These words have been bandied about over the last six months. People are questioning what they can believe; what’s made up? Is the ‘truth’ from yesterday a lie today? What are we not being told? Our own Scott Dunn went out to Standing Rock, North Dakota, for two weeks to stand with the Lakota people in their effort to stop the potentially hazardous Dakota Access pipeline from going under and through sacred areas. Underlying this is the indigenous people’s right to self-determination regarding the little land they still have left. When Scott returned he remarked how the major media did not really cover the nine months of protest until the dramatic end, when President Obama temporarily put a halt to the project.  So, it wasn’t fake news – it was NO news.

Conspiracy theories spread. We are even going back in time. More than one person has come to me lately asking if I thought the lunar landing back in 1969 was all filmed in the back lot of a Hollywood studio!

For many of us the future – no, really the present! – feels a bit shaky. What can I truly believe in?

Our answer to the last question (no surprise to those who know us) is to step out into nature.

We might call it a Fake Break.

I’m going to now close the computer on this, the 15th day of January, at 12:30 pm, and take a half hour walk – just outside my office. I’ll report back what ‘truths’ I discover. I did not plan on doing this when beginning to write this month’s Ed’s Corner an hour ago, so let’s see what happens.

I’ll be back. I’m going on a Fake Break…

…Whew. I’m back. I’m sweating because I tried to be quick about it and hurried. So, what truths did I find?

  • Warmth when I stepped out the door.
  • A rooster crowing from a distance.
  • In the small garden in front of my office there were dried, long stems from an ornamental grass, matted down in beautiful forms.
  • A slight breeze, bringing different earth odors as I walked around.
  • A surprising amount of the color green – on rocks, walls, tree trunks, and plants.
  • A few turkey vultures circling overhead.
  • Wet tree bark making the green lichens on them really stand out.
  • A slight sun shower, the drops falling into the Fairy stream, making for many beautiful concentric circles on the water.
  • Some clouds moved away, the sun was very bright, the sky opposite full of dark clouds. The perfect set-up for a rainbow! I turned so that my back was to the sun and my eyes, scanning the dark clouds, were hoping for a rainbow. None.
  • I saw a tree whose bottom trunk and branches appear as if they were a strong person making muscles/showing their biceps.
  • I lifted up/rolled away a cement-based stop sign and saw what looked like small ants with wings, hunkered down in crevices and moving slightly. I said ‘hello’ and put back the round base of the sign exactly how it was. But I am curious as to who they were. I’ll come back soon with a magnifying glass.
  • I now hear some blue jays, their calls, at least to me, always sound as if they are complaining about something.
  •  Big deer tracks in the mud on the pitcher’s mound in Mary Dailey Field.
  • A small oak tree on the edge of this field still holding on to its dead, brown leaves, appearing as dry leather and making a sound by rubbing together when the wind blows.
  • The warm sunshine on my face when I stepped out from the shade of a tree.
Muscle tree

Muscle tree

 

Deer hoof

Deer track

 

I know that there are many more truths to be found when out in the natural world. So I suggest taking a short Fake Break when you need to.

Margaret Fuller said “Nature never did deceive the heart that loved her.”

Ed’s Corner

December 21st, this coming Wednesday, is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter, although in times past it was also referred to as mid-winter. That term, ‘mid-winter’, is appropriate because after this day the amount of light slowly increases daily. Early groups of hunters and gatherers thought of it as the sun returning once again. Perpetual darkness – oblivion – has been avoided.

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All of us living on this part of the earth experience this change of seasons. It is something we all share in common. We – Republicans, Democrats, Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, black/white/Hispanic/Asian, men, women, boys, girls – just think, we could have a big Solstice party and without worrying about who to invite, we can ask EVERYONE to it! What a nice coming together that would be, to celebrate our common home.

If we think about the really big picture of the universe, the earth, its movements, space, other celestial objects, we will begin to appreciate how lucky we are to be living on the earth at this time. Thanks to author Bill Bryson for the following thoughts:

* We are the right distance from the right kind of star (our sun). And our star is just the right size.

* If the earth were 1% further from the sun, our planet would be uninhabitable.

* All of the elements (remember the Periodic Chart that was usually displayed in almost every science room?), well, all those elements are present in just the right amounts to enable us to live here … on the earth.

* The molten material (magma) inside the earth released gases that made our atmosphere, which protects us from cosmic radiation.

* Plate tectonics – the process of parts of the earth’s surface moving, sliding, continents changing/rising/sliding over and under each other – all of this makes for a surface upon which we can stand. If not, if the earth were perfectly smooth, it would be covered everywhere to a depth of over 13 feet of water!

* The moon’s gravity – because of its position and its size, influences our planet in such a way that we do not wobble like a top that is running out of steam, slowing down. The moon’s presence keeps us at the right speed and angle as we travel through space.

*  The earth’s climate and surface have been quite different in the past compared to now – freezing, ice, boiling hot, bubbly poisonous seas, constant storms, lightning.

* There is soil where things can grow!

* There is rain that falls.

* Sometime in the very distant past plants began to absorb sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, and thus we have efficient green plants today, making their food (and ours) through photosynthesis.

* The earth has not been hit by giant space rocks or meteors for a long time. The dinosaurs took a big hit (extinction!) after one of these collisions.

* Our ancestors left their watery homes a long time ago so that today we are land dwellers; and quite different looking!

We have much to be thankful for – just the fact that you are here, reading these words, is wondrous.

On Wednesday take a moment out of your busy day and look around you. Maybe notice how short the daylight lasts, and appreciate that from Wednesday onward, up until the Summer Solstice, the light will increase! Although the cold (and hopefully snow) will likely be with us for at least another two or three months, the darkness reaches its apex this Wednesday, and our part of planet earth begins to move slowly into the light.

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Ed’s Corner

Thanksgiving is a time for counting our blessings, feeling gratitude for what we have, for acknowledging the gifts of our life. Perhaps this year it might feel more challenging, for many reasons – political and otherwise – to feel blessed, to feel happy.

And yet, you may be happy at times and not even know it! Kurt Vonnegut (yes, the very same author of Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-five, and more) from his essay “Knowing What’s Nice”, has this to say:

“And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex…His principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

So, I do the same now and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘Well, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is! ‘ ”

I’ve taken to doing this myself, and it’s been great for me and others with me.

If this isn’t nice I don’t know what is:

* on a windy day watching the fallen leaves twist and twirl and go racing down the street or over the lawn, almost inviting me to join them.

* my first time this season catching a scent of smoke from someone’s fire place or wood stove.

* sharing hot chocolate or hot apple cider inside after being outdoors.

* seeing the first snowflakes of the season.

* hearing how everybody’s day was during a dinner with all family members present.

* venturing outdoors after a snowfall and being the first to make footprints in the blank, snowy canvas.

* watching a magnificent sunset (these November evenings are especially notable).

* getting up in the middle of a cold night and then quickly climbing back into bed and under the still-warm blankets.

* holding my new grandchild, leaning down, and taking in that indescribable baby scent; if heaven had an odor, it would be that.

* watching my dog run and play and get dog-tired.

* walking home in the early evening, in the cold, and seeing the lights of my home from a distance, knowing my loved ones are there, inside, where it is warm.

You can probably add many more of your own ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is’ categories to this list. You could even start a small journal (or keep a list on your phone, if you must) of moments like these. It will certainly help you feel thankful.

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