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Ed’s Corner – They’re Coming…

Sometimes it feels that opportunities for earth art present themselves everywhere. One of these moments will soon be on your lawn or at least somewhere close to your home. You just may go out one day soon, look down, and feel like you have run smack dab into a wall, a sea, an avalanche (you get the point) of yellow! You will see hundreds of golden dandelions just starting to grow, and without much of a stem yet. There will be so many that you won’t feel guilty picking as many as you want. It might feel like you’re holding hands-full of sunlight, or tiny, bite-sized suns.


What to do with them:

You can lay them on the lawn, next to and touching each other, and make a long, meandering yellow chain, or snake, or just a beautiful meandering line of yellow, over hill and dale and rocks. Watch what happens to your art over the next few days.

Make a spiral with them, starting at the base of a tree and spiraling outward.

Rub them on a piece of white paper against a hard surface such as the sidewalk and see why they can be called ‘yellow crayons’.

Wait to pick them until they have a long stem. Peel the stem into 3 or so long pieces, all still attached to the flower end. Dunk the stem pieces into water (submerge them) for a quick one or two second dunk, pull quickly out and hold them in front of you and just watch. If they could shout we would call what they are doing ‘twist and shout’. Or better still, ‘curl and shout’.


Different parts of the dandelion can be used for food, medicine and dye. Read about these usages here, in Paul Tappenden’s dandelion article.

A long time ago people used to pull grass from their lawns to make room for dandelions!

The name ‘dandelion’ comes from the French ‘dent de lion’, which means lion’s tooth. Look at the leaves on the ground directly at the bottom of the stem and you’ll see why. Growl.

Dandelions are not native to this country but came to us from Asia.

The little dandelion seeds on their little white ‘parachutes’ have been known to travel up to five miles!

Look at dandelion plants growing in mostly sunlight and then at those growing mostly in shade. What do you notice that’s different about their leaves?


Ed’s Corner – Spring!

You may be feeling (as we ourselves have been) that the snow will never melt. Well it is melting, but it’s been a long, cold winter, which definitely makes this spring so much sweeter!

Heralds of springtime

Get outside to celebrate the arrival of warm sunlight, budding flowers, springtime, and all the good nature that comes with it:

  • Plan an outdoor lunch or dinner
  • Make a small outdoor fire (safely, of course) to help celebrate the sun’s return.
  • Look for any flowers that may be blooming or green leaves pushing through the soil.
  • Make bets (using acorns as currency) on when any left over patches of snow will melt.
  • Check some branches to see if any buds are getting fatter or even beginning to open.
  • Take an outdoor walk and be aware of any small, flying insects that may be out and about. Now where were they this winter?!
  • If it’s sunny, stand still and tilt one cheek toward the sun, close your eyes, and feel the warmth. Now turn the other cheek.

  • Lie down in a woodland or forested area, look up at the sky, its beauty, how it changes, and know that this view will not be possible once the leaves are on the tree again. Take it in while you can.
  • Walk across lawn and other areas and feel how soft and spongy they are, not like the frozen solid, cement feel of winter ground.
  • Look at the tiny creatures that may have spent this winter in the holes and crevasses of tree bark. Look at the bark carefully, up and down and all around. Look up close, and use a magnifier if you have one. Wish them all a happy spring!
  • Blow bubbles outside and watch how they make the paths of the winds visible.

The Vernal Equinox

The first day of spring is this coming Thursday, March 20th, at precisely 12:57 pm. It is a time when day and night are close to equal, and something that all people in the northern hemisphere experience, though most may be unaware.

Seasons occur because the earth is tilted 23.5 degrees. When the top, or northern hemisphere, is tilted toward the sun, it is summer. When the top is tilted away, it is winter. Most people would say that the earth is closest to the sun in the summer, and farther from the sun in the winter. Just the opposite, which might at first seem a little strange. In summer the earth is farthest from the sun, but our northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, making our summer. During winter the earth is closest to the sun, but winter occurs for us because our ‘top of the earth’ is tilted away from the sun.

Poking out toward the sun

Can you really balance an egg on its end during an equinox? Yes, you can! But, you can also balance an egg on its end any day of the year if you really try. An equal amount of daytime and night does not in fact make it any easy to balance an egg, and there aren’t any invisible equinox waves that give your egg extra stability. But it’s not surprising to us that folks think of eggs and the spring equinox together, as eggs are an old and reliable symbol for the new season of growth, sunlight, and rebirth.

This year especially we’ve been waiting for the day when we can say, “Ah, it’s the first day of spring.”


Ed’s Corner

Fitting in with the name of our newsletter, have you noticed more dust lately due to the lack of rainfall? In the house but also outside. Raking leaves will will stir up little swirls of dust, but if you really want to see mini-dust storms, watch what happens when the leaf blowers come to town, or to your own house or a neighbor’s.

So for a little ‘Ode to Dust’, we share with you the following:

The Us in Dust

right there in the middle
of the little word ‘dust’
we see the ‘u’ and ‘s’
and together they are ‘us’

we’ve heard from Joni Mitchell
that a good part of what we are
is dust that landed on the earth
from distant exploding stars

so while ‘us’ is in dust
there’s more to the word
the dust is also in us -
the other way, absurd

but wait just a minute
‘us’ in dust is true, too
for every time you sweep the floor
you are sweeping you

our skin is made of cells that shed
science tells us thousands per day
so every time you sweep the floor
you’re sweeping yourself away

so being ‘swept away’
or even ‘off your feet’
may now mean something different
that doesn’t feel so sweet


Ed’s Corner

What’s up?

Certainly not monarchs,
haven’t seen one all summer.
The black and orange Lepidoptera
might be gone, what a bummer!

I ask around:
‘Have you seen any monarchs yet?’
‘No I have not!
Now that you mention it.’

Now is their migration time
and every fall we’d see them flying
heading southward, day by day.
What’s the matter, are they dying?

I still search green milkweed patches,
Where I’ve found monarchs by the score.
But looking closely I’m dismayed
to find no traces, as before.

They used to flit about the gardens,
king and queenly colors flashing.
This year’s hues were certainly decent,
But missed those bright and royal fashions.

A world lacking monarchs
is missing much, we agree.
I feel that I have lost a friend.
Do you too feel like me?

Monarch butterfly in the New Jersey Botanical Gardens, Fall 2012

Yes, this has been the monarch-less year. Reasons proposed include more use of pesticides and habitat destruction both in their overwintering grounds in Mexico (they do migrate) as well as here, in their summer home. Milkweed is the plant that adult monarchs (the butterflies) lay their eggs on, the caterpillars eat it, and it’s the plant to which monarchs attach their chrysalises. Less milkweed means less monarchs.

I have talked to various gardeners and outdoor people and have gone online to see what others are reporting. And in most cases people are reporting not seeing ‘only a few’, but NONE! Zero. Not one. This feels a little freaky and worrisome.

Oh, I know there is a lot we can worry about – what is happening (or rather not happening) in Washington, the economy, wars and skirmishes around the world, bombings, road rage and motorcycle gangs, whatever educational reforms are now in vogue, etc., etc.

So who has time or energy to even think about a butterfly? I do. Maybe you, too. Watching monarchs heading southward in the fall has always connected me with this butterfly’s unimaginably long migratory journey, as well as with the mystery and rhythm of nature as a whole.

While the rest of America worries about ‘real life’ I will remember the monarch, and I will hope that this article is merely an off-year observation and not a eulogy.


Ed’s Corner

A Grand Moment

Did you ever have something happen to you that you knew was pretty special while it was happening and afterwards, maybe hours or even days later, you thought about it some more and decided that it was not just special but completely mind-blowing and amazing!?

A few years ago my oldest son, Daniel decided that he would like to join me in operating and directing The Nature Place Day Camp, a business I started more than 30 years ago. When he was very young he was a camper, loved every piece of it. Aging out as a camper, he worked as a counselor and activity leader for quite a few summers. Then he graduated college, became an active musician and did other jobs along the way.

Father and son

We had talked some years before about him coming to work for camp but that earlier conversation really didn’t lead anywhere. Time went by, we talked again about the same topic, my needs and his needs perhaps were a better match this time, and he joined the camp. Changes were happening within the camp (one of the big ones was called Recession Time) and he stepped up, took hold of what he needed to and has helped the camp grow again.

You might just imagine that father and son working together could at times be, shall we say, frictional. Yes, there were those times. And we still continue to work through some of those rough spots. But generally, especially this last summer camp season, we were right on with each other, respected what the other did, supported each other, laughed, shared the same goals, and worked our butts off – together. And it was a great season in so many ways. Sharing this with anyone is great, but with my son, my first-born, I am so fortunate. How many fathers get a chance to do this?

And how many get a chance to do what I’m about to tell you next? 

Our camp is located at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, NY. This is the second year that the high school teachers asked us to help them organize and conduct an Orientation overnight camping trip in Harriman Park for the 100 students, grades 9-12. We play games, hike, have workshops, class meetings, art projects, good food, campfire, storytelling, sleep in tents, sing and we’ve had great weather twice.

At the end of the high school camping trip, right before we left to get on the buses to go back to school, the whole group formed a circle. The teacher leading the trip thanked the Biebers – father and son – for helping to make this all happen. She asked Daniel and me to come into the middle of the circle and the entire group of 100 plus surrounded us with tones. The teacher began with a tone, the rest followed and with the teacher leading the group, tones of various types were hummed or made by everyone for one whole minute. Daniel and I, with eyes closed, felt inside the energy and heard the vibrancy of the different tonal qualities. It was like being in the center of a force field with each person directing positive energies toward us and that energy making us vibrate, soothingly and lovingly, inside.

Again, for this to happen for just me or with some others, that alone would have been great. But for this magic time – it could be called nothing else! – to happen so organically because of what MY SON and I have done and are doing together, and to both be recognized for it in such an unusual way, is even more than great! Me and my son, standing in the middle of this circle, because we both belonged there for who we both are, as individuals and as a team! Think of all the things that had to happen to lead us to this spot.

Fathers out there – you know what I mean?

I am so lucky. Completely mind-blowing and amazing!