Wednesday, August 30, 2017

All Generations

Recently, I met a friend who has children at the local park. Thunder rolled as we pulled up. We had nowhere to go. The library was closed. There was nowhere for two women and their three children to gather away from the thunder.

Why is this? Why are there hardly places for families? Why are there so many places where families are not welcome? Why is age mixing in gathering places so inadequately met? Why are our activities often engaging only one age group at a time?


Some Wednesdays, Beren and I go to Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown. [It is our new Boro Bean, a cafe in Hopewell that was just a couple minutes form our old house.] A group of woman elders who all do fiber arts gather. 
I sip my chai, he sips his hot chocolate, and we watch the needles move. Felting, cross stitch, knitting, crocheting. The women talk family, travel, politics, and crafts. Every Wednesday they meet.

I encourage Beren to move closer. Occasionally, we talk with the women. One gives Beren a felted cardinal.


I want to be with all generations - 
Tiny ones, I learn from the way to see the world, new and unfettered and expectant of love.
Growing ones, I learn from how you grow and meet challenges. You are learning to walk - I am in awe of you.
Children, I learn your exuberance. You meet the world with joy and determination.
Youth, I watch as you navigate the world with certainty and uncertainty. 
Peers, I walk with you.
Elders, I come to you for solace and inspiration and assistance.

All, your good years are now. I need you all.
I have so much to learn from you. It is my responsibility to mentor and be mentored, to guide and be guided, to protect your joy and be protected, and to challenge and be challenged. It is my responsibility to now when to move closer and when to step back.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Another Way

 Clamming at the shore - providing for our needs for adventure and food

A tribe is a group of people that rely on each. They could not survive without each other. They care for each others' needs and well-being (food, shelter, companionship, challenge, conversation, love, collective courage, and getting things done that one, two or three people cannot reasonably accomplish).

Recently, I thought wryly that my tribe is Jimmy's, the ice cream and burger place in the next township. There's also the Warren Glen Deli, also known as "The Emergency Ketchup Store". Also, there's the local pool. Reliable, always there. I go to these places because I enjoy them or I burnt dinner. Or, because my kid taught himself how to swim, and I could not bear a quiet mother-child trip to the river. I seek connections to other human beings. I pay for them - meals out, days at the pool. I see the owner of The Emergency Ketchup Store less than my spouse, child, and parents, but more than many of my friends.

I am troubled by this. I am exploring this loneliness of the modern age. I will be writing about this frequently. I have been working through this for the past few years. Evolving my thinking, working on myself, trying to put together community, looking to hop onto existing community trains, watching communities I have been in dissolve and change.

My frustration and loneliness never ebbed no matter what I did. "Maybe I should set something up on the calendar," I proposed to Jared. "You have your nights out, I'll have mine. Or, we take have potlucks every month." Nothing came together. "What if I'm tired, or busy, or it's raining, or sunny and I want to go swimming?" Putting another thing on the calendar seemed daunting. But, I still wondered if I should schedule something regular anyway. Maybe I should work harder.

 And, then I went to a home school park playdate with Beren. No one showed up, not for the playdate anyway.  Hundreds of Roman Catholic Polish pilgrims showed up - they used the park as resting spot. That's life, but Beren and I were discouraged each for our own reasons.

One of the keys is proximity. Real, physical proximity. Nothing takes its place. Proximity brings its own challenges and hard work. Getting along isn't easy or simple. Disagreements happen, but the entire tribe relies on harmony and humor.

Proximity is what made my childhood friendships easy. We lived in a neighborhood. The kids, all ages, got along. No one needed a car. No one had scheduled activities. In summer, only sunrise, sunset, and Ben's father's whistle that meant "dinnertime, so get home now" organized our time.

"Is Carrie home? Can she play?" I might wonder, and she showed up. We found Ben and Chris. We rode up and down the block on bikes and trikes.

I realize I am putting myself out there as one or all of the following:
An *ss

I am ok with that because this lonely modern life is not for me. I can "work on my issues". I can figure out daily practices for self-improvement and balance. Still, this disjointed world I find myself in is here. This world where I bandage my loneliness by asking my husband and child to work harder at filling the gaps, to get along better. Or, we eat out or buy a shirt. Does anyone else notice how this is not working?

It is not working. There is another way. There must be.

Some of my lately resources for questioning:
Joe Rogan's interview with Henry Rollins -
Chris Ryan's interview with Alisa Esposito of Sparkroot Farm

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Communities and Villages

My Village. My Village is too small.

Dear Family and Friends, I need you. I enjoy your company. When I see you and speak with you, you set my scrambled mind to rights. We laugh. We have fun. We cry. We heal each other. We argue. We resolve.

How can we build a village together?

I’ve been taking time to think about friendships, and I’ve felt distressed that everyone is so busy, including myself. I started off feeling upset and hurt, and my thoughts have evolved.

Why am I so busy? Why do I not have the closeness in relationships that I need? How did my Mom have two kids and do this? I have one, and I hardly can handle this? Sure, she was at home, not working outside the home. This is what my fellow working-outside-the-home-(or home business)-mothers say. Remembering back to the infant Beren days before I went back to work… those weren’t easy either. My friends who are 'not employed’ are having no easier a time, it seems.

I’ve realized that it’s not me. I’m not unlikeable or a unreliable friend. I’m not overly sensitive, or easily stressed and overwhelmed. The whole set up is at odds with our human needs for support. Everyone is scattered so far apart and is busy. Busy with what. Everything. Paying the bills. Keeping up. Busy with nothing it sometimes seems.

I’m not sure what this means for me, but I have put aside the vague word ‘community’.

I can drift from one community to the next…conservation community, homeschool community, farm community, and so on. Of course, there’s online community, which is so impossible to hold. It is not real. It is not a replacement for sitting with myself or with others. I am unsure any of these communities are really communities, but instead are loose assemblages of people with common interest. Among these communities, I find friends. Good people. People I love. People I want to see but don’t because. Because I am too busy? Busy doing what?

I can easily slip from one community to the next. I don’t really ‘need’ any one community. I trust members of those communities as friends, colleagues, resources, and inspiration. If any of those communities would choose to dismiss me, I would survive.

I would be lonely, more lonely than I am now. I would grieve the loss. But perhaps I could find other communities. I could find other friends. I would survive. I would find my food elsewhere. I can get my goods and services at any market. I already have shelter. I have my own emotionally over-burdened nuclear family to care for my needs of companionship and love, and luckily I have support from my parents.

My nuclear family…The only community I really ‘need’ is my nuclear family. Because I live with them. If one of them left the community, especially my husband, I’d be lost. That’s frightening to me. Without him, I might move back into my childhood bedroom with my son. I would have to figure out how to start again, to retool my whole system. It is unreasonable to ask so much of one person, he of me and me of him.

I am tossing out the word community. Community is no one, it is nowhere. It is especially no one and nowhere because we are all so far apart. We are so busy. Our communication is often mediated and indirect. Our contact is irregular.

I am village-building. I need a village. A village is a place. People inhabit a village. The village connected to the village’s surroundings, to the plants, the animals. A village has a gathering place. A village has challenges. Right now, my village-building is me thinking. Me, waving my hands around. I need a village.

With spirit,

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vitamin G, An Essential Part of Summer

"Oh, the candy shop used to be down there. The head shop used to be down there, too... Look, The Sawmill is still there. Still has the old sign... I rode these rides as a kid. I've been coming here for forty years, at least," I told Jared as we walked along the Seaside Heights boardwalk. "Do you think you know this place better than any other place in the world?" Jared asked. I smiled at the thought.


Friends, I have been meaning to write, but we are a third of the way through August. I have been living this week as though this is the last week of August. As though autumn is about here. As though autumn is in the air. As though I finally got over how depressed I was that our trip to Seaside Park was over way too fast.

Sh*t, summer, don't you like me? Don't you want to hang around a bit longer? Can I order in a non-climate-change-related September heatwave, maybe one in October, too?


Summer is about glitz. I have always liked surface glitz, real lowdown glitz. On our July trip to Seaside Park, you could find me a couple nights at Seaside Heights, walking the boardwalk, just watching people, soaking in Vitamin G(litz) from the few remaining old-fashioned light bulbs that illuminate the tattoos, the bellies, the postures, and the bad-ass attitudes. I would have been there every night if I didn't have a kid to pass out next to. I would have dragged my husband there every night if he would have followed.

I have always liked loud buzz, real lowdown buzz. So, last week you would have found me happily watching several hours of the Mud Bog competition at the Warren County Farmers Fair. Happily, unironically, enjoying the trucks, the noise, the stink, and wishing the crowd was more excited.

I have always liked the combination of buzz, glitz, crowds, at least as long as I could make the choice. So, this week you can find me at Musikfest, watching the tattoos and haircuts, the propane tank pumpkin art and bonsai, the zip line, the cops, and the drunks. I could wander all night. I could.

Friends, why have you not been at Musikfest in Bethlehem with me this week? There is still time. It ends this Sunday.

Friends, are you getting your Vitamin G(litz)? Summer will end sometime, climate change or not. And as you know, harvest festivals and wine tastings of autumn have absolutely no Vitamin G. In fact, they have been clinically proven to reduce your body's Vitamin G stores to winter levels.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Man Dreams

I had what Jared and I called Man Dreams last night. Violent, chaotic. Bloody, frightening. 

Do you have Man Dreams?

Monday, July 31, 2017


I hollered "Help, Jared! Help! Help, Jared! Help!" My right hand in the wire deer fence. I was briefly helpless as hundreds of pounds of machinery cinched me there. I demanded my freedom.

By the time Jared sprinted across the field, I had freed myself from my stupid mistake. the mower was still hung up. Beren raced up shortly. Both of them offered their care.

I was stunned and yet I wanted to continue mowing the trails. I thought, "Arnica. This is really an Arnica picture." 

Jared offered to wrestle the machine out of Stuck City or to take me to the house and attend to me. "Looks bad, but I think you will be ok. Just let me know what you want me to do," is what I think he said.

When Beren raced back away, assured I was ok, I cried. Stupid mistake. Could be so costly. Could have really gotten hurt. Was glad I wasn't alone. Was relieved Jared wasn't using the trimmer and could hear me. Wondered who would hear me if I was alone. Wanted Jared to promise he would never use this machine alone. I just was sick of the Japanese stiltgrass and wanted a trail.

Jared hugged me gently. Once I gulped back the tears, he wrangled the mower up field. "Head inside. Take care of yourself," Jared softly said.

On the way back, Beren was crouched by the pond. He had a tiny bit of scarlet red Cardinal Flower pressed to his finger. I knelt beside him, curious. "I have this for this little cut," he said showing me a small, reddish scratch.

"I am going inside to get Aconitum for the shock of getting hurt," I said. "I'll get you some plants," he told me as he reached up and plucked a single yellow sunflower ray. He applied it to my hand. 

"I'll get you some Anise Hyssop. That will cool it off," he added. He put a Jewelweed leaf on top of that. My hand felt better, and a flush of life and pain came into my hand. "It feels better," I said.

He helped me get my gloves on with the herbs still in place. I turned the machine back on, and mowed for hours more. Many of my steps were accompanied by thoughts of injury, mistakes, and accidents.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Some f*ck up"

What just happened in my check book? How did it go from $200 off to $938.01 off to several dollar amounts off in between?

I finally balanced the checkbook. A happy bonus is that I magically (and actually) resolved what I had penciled in last month's ledger as "some f*ck up".

It was just a few dollars. I had adjusted the amount, making the account balanced. I then scribbled "ok", which means that this pain in the *ss thing balanced.

Although I heard my parents (Hi, Mom, I know you are reading this) in the background telling me I ought to figure it out, I decided less than $5 did not need to cause me mathematical distress. Therefore, I attributed the unbalanced checkbook to "some f*ck up", which fits in between "an act of God" and "self-imposed calm-the-hell-down".

Anyway, "some f*ck up" was balanced because of another greater "some f*ck up". Sometimes two wrongs correct "some f*ck up".

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The dog ate my writing

Damn it, just wrote something and google or the ipad ate it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Primitive Shelter, True Shelter, Deep Shelter

"To survive, all you need is shelter, food, and love," my son told me as he sat smiling in the primitive shelter he and his father made.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Jersey GIrl

Everyone else knows you're from Jersey when you say things like

tuh (to)
meeruh (mirror)
owe-weez (always)

There must be more, I'm sure of it because everyone from everywhere else knows I am from New Jersey even though I think I'm really slick.

I have no accent, I think. "Really, you can tell I'm from Jersey?" I ask. "Ooooh, yeah," is the grave reply. Always, I mean, owe-weez. Terrible, but funny. 

When I was a teenager, I planned to leave New Jersey. Maybe California. California would definitely be better than the provincial, boring stretch of New Jersey I grew up in, I thought. It was fine for running around in the woods as a kid (and as a teen, too), but for a sophisticated New Jersey teen who read poetry and listened to punk rock, Hunterdon county was sleepy.

My friends would occasionally take trips to New York, but did not want to explore. Instead, they waited around Washington Square Park until someone offered to sell them a joint. I couldn't be bothered, "We're in New York, and you want to stay in this little park and leave right after you buy a joint?" I thought.

I wanted to roam, look in shop windows, eat unusual food, and watch street performers. I couldn't be sure they wouldn't leave without me, and I didn't have the confidence to roam alone.

I had one friend with the will to drive to New York. He was a friend and neighbor, one year older than me. We had long been friends, sharing musical tastes and talking easily about life and philosophy.

One afternoon, I accompanied him on a search for an apartment in Brooklyn. He borrowed a car from his brother who sold used cars, if I recall correctly. As we merged into the traffic headed into Holland Tunnel, he purposely bumped a passenger bus on my side of the car. The bus driver yielded to us, finally respecting the alternate merge protocol, or perhaps the driver simply respected this madman in a sedan.

Once in the city, we walked through steamy hot, rundown neighborhoods and waited for realtors. Most never showed up. One did. Remember nothing about the realtor, just the apartment. It was a railroad apartment - kitchen/living room and bedroom all in a line. Two windows, brown paneling. Tiny bathroom off the kitchen. "You could have the middle room," he offered, which meant the room with no doors, between his bedroom and the kitchen.

I doubt I replied. I was intimidated. Despite my drive to leave New Jersey, I couldn't quite picture living like this. Years later, I did move to one of the outer boroughs. We had a few more windows. 

My friend settled on the apartment, and we celebrated by getting a lunch special in the Little India neighborhood. Appetizer, entree, and dessert all for a few dollars. This day was much better than my scant hours spent trailing buddies in Washington Square Park.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I love you best

How sweet to see you running through the house 
with berries in the your hand 
Biting your bottom lip
And smiling

The moments when I love someone the most are little moments. Maybe when I see a nice picture in an album or in my mind or from afar. Jared with his scythe down in the meadow. Beren holding a bird egg in the rain. Picturing Jared in the truck driving home towards me. Thinking of him, thinking of me. 

Sometimes I love you best when I am picking up your things, thinking of how you used them. Or, hanging your laundry on the line, knowing that your shirt will smell like our sunny mountainside.

I have composed songs and poems, mostly unformed, mostly without sentences and words, just thoughts, about you in your absence. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer Light

Greasy. The light in summer is greasy. The shining foliage of goldenrods reflects the light. The trees, too. Spring foliage is transformed, turned to a glossy armament ready for heat, sun, and wind.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) - We're all hip to it, the wild ones taste better than the cultivated. Mentioned it to Jared, not Beren. Didn't have to, Beren goes for the wild ones, too.

They're more warming that the cultivated ones. Solid red and strawberry sweet to the core.

 Purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cell Phone Master

In very early spring, I lost my cell phone, my second or third flip phone. The first cell phone I owned, I shared with Jared. We were living in Philadelphia and moving to the big sophisticated world of New York City around 2003 or so.

I bought my own flip phone a couple years after we left the city. Jared and I had both become gainfully employed as land stewards. I was working at an especially small land trust, and I was frequently alone in the woods.

I spent my days on and off trails, roaming with a GPS and paper map (no compass, I'm pretty awful with one, but I bet if I had worked in a more remote location, I would have learned), looking for invasive species. I sometimes had a companion, a volunteer named Chris who went to school for forestry, spent many decades in a different industry, but all the while remained an avid hiker. He was good with a GPS. He even helped me find a lost GPS in a sliver of wooods about 150' by 700' and between a road and a meadow. On Fridays, Jared often joined me on my invasive species surveys. We explored Hopewell Township, and I was glad for company, another fellow good with directions.

Without Jared or Chris, I had my GPS and at some point my flip phone. I would not advise anyone to rely on a battery powered device for directions, especially in the wilderness, but for me, I was able to call Jared and tell him, "I'm taking the red trail at Baldpate." Someone would know where I was.

I never met any weirdos. Never got too turned around. Never had an herbicide spill when I was doing invasive species control work. I was stung by a wasp in the *ss and had a bad reaction, but I was with a group of volunteers. That turned out ok - my face and palms remained swollen and itchy only for a few hours.

While at my land steward job, I only used my cell phone once for an "emergency" - I called my whole care provider when a branch of poison ivy smacked me so hard in the nose, the skin broke.

Jared, Beren, and I searched for my lost cell phone for about a week. The trail was cold. Somewhere, the phone is likely housing a few sowbugs beneath its plastic shelter.

I replaced the worn flip phone with another flip phone.

A"gangsta" phone, my young twenty-some sister-in-law calls flip phones. She once told me, "I think I want to get one and get rid of this thing." She sighed as she waved her smart phone around.

I have heard that human skeletons can reveal much of what occupied the bones before their former owner's skin fell away and bones dried out. Skeletons in the tri-state area will likely show a crooked left arm.

No, they weren't violinists. They were advanced cell phone users, constantly carrying their cell phone in their left hand at chest to waist high in case someone might call. When not carrying their phone and a table is available, the skeleton/person's phone is on the table within fingers reach. That crooked arm hovering over the screen in case someone might call.

I mean, text. No one makes phone calls, except me, apparently. At least two of my girlfriends agree that I am the only one they know who uses a phone for voice communication.

I acknowledge that I am part of another generation, or at least I choose to. I hopscotch between one and another generation, really. I still refer to myself as a "young person", thought I clearly look older than others who I refer to as "young people".

Those young people know how to use technology I don't. I read about half of Aziz Ansari's book Modern Love, and while I enjoyed parts and found humor in it, I couldn't relate. I had a very different experience dating.

For now, my gangsta phone serves me well. I am the phone's master, the phone doesn't master me.   My back and arms are crooked for other reasons. We'll see what stories my skeleton tells.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Long Time

 Watching a pileated woodpecker hunt for ants. Quietly and long, we watched.

June 2, 2017

9 A.M.
Words cannot express how much easier life is now that I don't have to pack school lunches or wake up a sleepy, crabby kid.

9 P.M.
I hear sounds of laughter. Jared and Beren playing with a football we rescued from the Delaware River after recent floods. Last I observed they were putting it on the clothesline, pulling the line back and launching the clumsy football. And, laughing in the coming darkness.


When Jared and I were wrestling with Beren's school situation, I talked with a friend who had homeschooled her three children. "You have so much more time," she said over the phone. She lingered over the word time, emphasizing it. Time.


We have nothing to do but earn our living and feed or bellies and hearts. Now, we (the members of this household) are each the masters of our own destinies, as much as one can be in a web of life with others who need us. I go to bed when I'm tired, mostly. Wake when I'm rested, mostly. And, eat when I'm hungry, mostly. The clock is no longer my boss.


Jared will tell you that I don't do well with time or timing. He once said that I was not colonized by the western clock in many ways. "And that's good," he said. Except when it frustrates the hell out of him, and reasonably so.  

"Leaving on time" sends me into a spin. Planning in time-based reality is not easy for me. I guess that's why the "watch your baby, not the clock" feeding approach worked for me.

Earlier this week, I had two actions to accomplish in one day: pick up the truck at the dealership and take Beren to the Crayola Factory (sorry, can't call it the Crayola Experience, just like I can't call a sale at a store an "event"). Simple, I suppose, and yet, my mind was overwhelmed.

As I pondered my options, Jared was packing to head out for consulting work. As he bustled around the kitchen, I said apologetically, "I know this is not really your problem, but can you help me figure out how to arrange my day?"

In fairness, I did have to schedule a shuttle and bring a six year old along during the lunch slot. And then, we be arriving at Crayola long after lunch with two hungry bellies but my six year old wanted to explore before eating, which resulted in only a minor meltdown remedied by the water feature (a replica of a canal in which the kids can float boats) and then lunch.

All in all, not bad, actually quite good. Maybe I should write things down. It doesn't sounds so bad at all.


Jared listened to an interview with a man who spent time with a San bushmen. Here's my paraphrase of Jared's paraphrase: the man, Jon, was speaking with a San man. Jon glanced at his watch, and the San man said, "We don't like those things." Jon asked why that was. "Every time one of you looks at one of those things, the next thing you say is rude."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Travels

 The mirror into which we look and see our fate. Along the Appalachian Trail.


 Beren asked me if this spurge was "non-native". Sheesh. Yes, it is. He has not really seen this plant (our distant neighbor has it, but we've not really commented on the plant in the past).

 I often tell people who are learning about plants that they will be able to identify plants at 65 mph, that plant knowledge is deep within each of us and that we just need to wake up. Seems so.

 Viburnum planting along the impoundment.

May is the busiest month for our nursery. May involves more logistics than I can handle. Deliveries, sales, emails, calls, events. My knees ached from how much I used them. I tried to give them a break whenever I could.

I kept it together until two-thirds through the month, just after my birthday. Then, I cracked. I stuffed down the tears, and kept working. Every time I considered losing it over how overwhelmed I felt or the state of the house, I repeated to myself, "You can let this bother you, or you can let it not bother you."

Right now, I sit at a desk overflowing with papers, pot sticks, Legos, kid's drawings, bits of plants for smudge sticks. The closet door, two drawers, and a cabinet all hang open. Someone (me) was too busy to close them. Or, maybe I can blame Jared for one or two of the open maws. Even if I closed the drawers and doors, chaos is all around. To my left are several boxes of business-related things to put away.

There's also a mostly empty shelf that is too big to fit in the attic and too nice to get rid of. I should get rid of it, I don't like it that much. It remained empty for awhile, until the pressure to fill it with unfiled items overwhelmed the desire to keep it clear and ready for the trip to the attic it just could not make.

To compensate for a lack of time, we bought many easy meals and snacks at the market. We ate well. That is new. The past five Mays we ate junk until the strawberries ripened. 

Though this May was hectic, we had many pleasant moments - visits with friends, birthday dance party, an evening out to see The Sword. I thought about canceling a few extracurricular events, but I didn't, for the most part.

Want something done? Ask a busy person. We have many of our systems in place. We've experienced May many times before, and we've been settled in our house for 4 years.

Somehow we finished prepping the bathroom walls and primed them. For weeks (months?), the walls were partially scraped to the drywall. The resulting pattern looked like a robot walking a dog. The robot's mouth was open and I stared at the robot's face every trip to the bathroom. Our bathroom closet was dismantled and spread between two bedrooms and the hallway until weeks later Jared put up a temporary shelf and organized the mess.

At the month's end, we spent a few days in the Catskills in a rustic cabin with no running water, no phone, and no internet. Before leaving, I thought I'd snap again with the logistics of packing. I waffled on staying home or going. The weather was iffy, but Jared declared we should go. I knew he was right because I needed a break from working.

Jared had set up a consulting job partway to the Catskills, so Beren and I had time to explore the banks of the Wallkill River which we agreed was rather beat up and weedy (in a uninteresting and sad way) and tick-filled. We decided to move on. We walked along wetland impoundments in the Wildlife Management Area admiring red winged blackbirds until we connected with the Appalachian Trail.

Beren was ahead of me. He peered into the forest, and yelled, "Momma, we have to go down here!" We walked a short leg of the trail, mostly on boardwalks. The swampy forest reminded me of the Sourlands - the place I learned my botany chops, the place I learned about stewardship and restoration, the place I honed my use of wild edible plants and medicines.

The walk was sweet for those reasons. We lingered over a just hatched dragonfly, pointing it out to several hikers who so briefly paused to say, "Oh!" or "Awesome" before trundling along. I wished they would have stopped so I could have told them all about this lovely spot, which Beren called Wild Geranium Road. 

When Jared finished up, we continued to the Catskills. Once there, I noticed how I needed to break my addiction to stimulation and activity. I slept well and long. I ate a lot. I sat. I read. I sat. For an evening and then a day.

Our trip was short, so on our second full day, we hiked to the top of Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills at about 4180'. The Catskills is the second place I honed my botany skills, and so a long walk there is a welcome one.

Above the 3500' mark we saw balsam fir, one of my favorite trees. We saw bethroot and goldthread, too. At the summit, we arrived to a noisy, startling crowd of hikers. The parking lot was full, after all. One of the Summit Stewards introduced herself. The other Steward knew a colleague of ours. Small world, big world. Looking out across the vista, I couldn't tell which. Crowded world.

I could have stayed another week, reading, sitting, sleeping, eating, but we came home. Emails, phone calls, orders. Yet, the time away was a recharge and a reminder to slow down.

And, as always, it was a kick in the ass. More than ever, I am fired up about wild plant restoration. If anyone reading this gives a damn, plant a wild plant.

Wild plants turn the jubilant energy of the sun in to protein. Sun, soil, water, plant, insect, mammal. You see? Food. Wild plants are the basis of our food. Not just because insects pollinate a watermelon or apple somewhere, but because insects eat plants and animals eat insects and most of us eat animals. I will hone this thought and bring it to you again.

 My hiking companions.

 Hermit thrush nest with cowbird eggs. We took the cowbird egg out. I began to explain to Beren why, but quickly decided not to. Instead, we built a nest for the cowbird egg. Beren went out in the rain to warm the egg regularly.

 Snail tracks.


 "Look it's Joe pye!" said Beren. In this case, Eutrochium maculatum.

 Insects use wild plants.