Friday, June 21, 2024

Opening the Door to New Worlds

The air is warm, finally. The iciness of winter, that wasn't even a difficult winter, is over. Fan air swirls around my feet. We close our windows very rarely in the summer; it's just too much of a cutting off from the real world to be shut inside for the couple of months of warmth before the cold settles back in.

A spatterdock darner dragonfly visited one morning that was much cooler than now and they hung from the jade plant, back oriented east, soaking up the warmth. I sat in the chair on the right and did the exact same thing. 

Through the open windows, I hear the house wren nestlings begging for more food. The common yellowthroats and indigo buntings sing mightily from the shrubby thickets and meadows of goldenrods and fleabanes. The gray catbirds call and splash around in the stone bird bath and feast on the wild raspberries. We are lucky to eat a few here and there.

These thickets of plants and their edges are where we find the most diverse life. We work to emulate the excellent nesting structure of multiflora rose with the native climbing rose and interwoven shrubs

An incredible rain system found us on June 6 and this land slurped up 4 inches of rain. The soil saturated, the vernal pool and frog pond filled and the plants grew. It was magnificent! Now we are ready for more.

The heat and humidity wrap us all in warmth and moisture and the fireflies rest everywhere during the day. Steve and I watch from our open windows at night or we walk barefoot out onto the dry soil and feel the bite of the mosquitoes and observe the magic of thousands of flashing, bioluminescent lights. Everywhere. Tree tops. Shrubs. Tall grasses. We don't really know what to make of it so we just watch and witness other lives, living their lives.

If we had any question whether this land is a moist land, the moisture loving sedges confirm it in their reappearance and establishment. They are abundant here and we feel lucky to live with them.

The old 1970 camper we bought is serving its purpose at Persimmon South in Highland County, OH, allowing us to get to know another piece of land asking for a bit of tending. 

Persimmon South also offers access to many nature preserves that are maintained by incredible humans; we feel lucky to be part of this community. A box turtle laid her eggs on the side of the trail as we walked by. Upon returning 2.5 miles later, she was done and out and about doing her thing. We were so excited to witness a part of her life!

These lands protect so many nonhuman lives and offer strong holds for uncommon plants like American ginseng and green dragon.  

We find as we explore the 10.2 acres we purchased, that the plant growth is mighty and lush and much of our exploration will wait until the plant growth senesces. We are used to walking through tall plants and bushwhacking, but this feels like an intrusion here and unnecessary at this time. Many birds are nesting; insects are eating and growing and tending families; box turtles are eating and laying eggs. They are used to privacy in this land and we will keep it so during this time of intense growth and activity. 

We will get to work building a small, sustainable woodland path this winter, when the air is cool and the plant growth is minimal. We will follow the contours of the land and the well laid out path from the deer. We will stop mowing where butterflyweed wants to grow and we will work on removing invasive plants that are harming diversity promoting native plants. We will do this two places this winter. It will be an interesting balance, but it will work our bodies and get us outdoors. That's really what we live for. It's really where our hearts are. Outdoors. In nature. Moving our bodies.

We are one month away from accomplishing Steve's birthday hiking challenge that began in February. He said, "How about a hiking goal? A monthly hiking goal? We will start with 50 miles hiked for February and add 10 miles per month until we culminate with 100 miles hiked in July. Daily activity does not count." I, of course, was in from the first sentence. This is a celebration of the ability of our bodies to move. Not without pain. Not without limping or sweating or hurting. Sometimes not even having fun. But it's a goal, because we can and we should and so we go forward with happiness and gratitude and pride that we can do this. 

Black cohosh will flower soon. Daily I offer water to the ones we tend on this 3.5 acres, but we revel in the old and wise black cohoshes on our weekly hikes. We admire these tall plants and their resiliency. Not all native forest plants are as strong as this one or maybe this one is just in a place where it is strong. As always, we have much to learn. We watched Appalachian azures laying eggs on black cohosh, their host plant. I almost passed them by because they were first flitting around wingstem and I assumed, incorrectly, they were summer azures. My eyes kept flitting back to those fluttering butterflies though. 7 individuals flying around in the dappled light. My brain recognized something I didn't in that moment and it all clicked. I love this plant. The Appalachian azures love this plant. 

The gray treefrog offering cheer at the end of a 15 mile hike loves this plant. 

At the end of these days, we arrive back to an empty parking lot. Free of humans, but full of nonhuman life. The wood peewees sing from all parts of this mighty forest. I felt congratulated by the plume moth clinging to my door, in using my body the way they use theirs. Driving always feels a bit like cheating to me and it's not a challenge we've figured out. We drive a lot and arriving home...

to a rewilded piece of land, I dream of the day when humans open the door to new worlds of sharing space and and having trails of one sort or another everywhere - linking landscape to landscape, place to place, community to community - offering us humans the chance to play fair and to use our bodies for what they are made to do.