Through rain, sleet, snow and drought, Silverstone the Younger watches over the South Mountains, as she has done for at least hundreds of thousands of years — before, certainly, humans arrived in what one day would be called south-central Pennsylvania. We met one day as I wandered in Michaux State Forest, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, poking her nose into the warmth of the afternoon sun.
I sit looking out my upstairs window at four trees poking through mostly lawn. Last year, we planted a 4×16-foot wildflower plot on a piece of that lawn. This year the strip will be 4×100, roughly — a divider between our suburban lot and the one next to ours and, we hope, a larger magnet for butterflies.
It might seem as though I’m bragging, but …
The trouble with green
March wind waves the blossoming red leaves of the maple, bluebirds and cardinals clinging to the branches as they try to overpower the blossoming red leaves with their own raiment. It’s not yet Easter, but many critters are eager to show off their colors.
Grabbing seeds from the grass, diminutive Dark-eyed Juncos in their white vests and dark gray waistcoats, weave across the yard, among the sparrows and dove, like tiny preachers chasing down sinners in need of salvation. A pair of Northern Cardinals jet through the branches of our Silver Maple, shouting at each other the taunt that has marked boys’ and girls’ spring ritual since time immemorial. “You can’t catch me — yes, I can.”
Half full, but leaking
There is continual discussion among us concerning whether the glass of our continued inhabitance upon this planet be half empty or half full. I choose to believe the latter, although plenty of us are hard at work draining what is left.
Every body gotta eat
Outside my window, birds and squirrels and a presumable variety of other critters are pairing up in my backyard — bluebirds and house sparrows have commenced their annual fight over the bluebird houses that, if history is prognosticator, will soon be home to a clutch of sparrow chicks.
Cabin Fever is that ailment that forces one, eventually, to either leave the house or kill everyone too slow to escape. I opted for the former action.
“Where are you going?” She Who Must Be Loved queried.
“Up on the mountain,” I replied.
Welcome to Emanon
The thing about development is it never seems to work out as well as it was planned – except for the developers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to growth. I enjoy, for instance, trees large enough to make shade on a summer afternoon, and creeks wide enough to have pools for swimming. My favorite growth is the fish that grow larger each time I remember them.
Human population growth, on the other hand, has some drawbacks.
Life was good for many years in Emanon. (All names are fictional to protect the storyteller.) Herons and osprey hunted the creek, and people generally enjoyed living here.Continue reading Welcome to Emanon
Only the past is pristine
There is much discussion in conservation circles about, on the one hand, species disappearing from sight, sound and memory and, on the other, species newly rooting in places they have not always been.
As I wandered along a deer trail through a section of otherwise pristine woodland and discovered a rock wall with no apparent historical connection, I remembered an experience when I was a daily news reporter covering the machinations of a county planning board.
Preparing for rebirth
Spring is nigh upon us. At least it seems that way. The forecast “one-to-three inches” of snow this week was gone the next day. ’Tis nearing the season for taking a youngster fishing.
Name that tree
As a youngster, I spent most of my time afield by myself. I had a brother and a sister, and later a second sister, but there was something about wandering in the forest that appealed to me in ways it never did to the others.
I tended, when not involved in the daily chores of mid-1950s pre-teen country living, to wander off alone or jump in the rowboat to go fishing among the shore-bound deadfalls around the perimeter of the 500-acre pond outside our home, or simply peel down save for a pair of swim goggles and paddle around with the beaver and the loons.
With all the time I spent in the woods, I knew the names of only a few trees, much like living in a human neighborhood in which we know the names of a few neighbors, although we are often friendly with several others we label by sight but not by name.Continue reading Name that tree
Racist weeds in a conservationist garden
Most of the men – and they were mostly men – I looked up to back in the day have turned out to be racist. Or misogynistic. Or both.
George Washington, for instance, was the Father of Our Country, though I was suspicious even then of the story about him being unable to lie? I know no young person who could not, when pressed, cultivate an untruth to some degree.
Happy New Year! The future is just over the horizon
Time is merely a construct to aid cataloging significant events. As a kid, time began when I was about 12-years old. That was the year we built the big house.
As I look back through my anthology of stories from that era, building the house was not significant because it meant heating with oil (no more splitting and stacking wood for the stove) or ending the practice of heating kettles of water for the wash tub (hot water poured from a faucet to fill a real bathtub).
Continue reading Happy New Year! The future is just over the horizon
Christmas by any name
It’s almost time. In a few hours, the Jolly Old Elf will be sliding down chimneys, decorating trees that so far haven’t been, and leaving gifts for girls and boys.
Well, a lot of girls and boys, anyway.
So here’s to the church groups and offices and motorcycle groups and numerous others I couldn’t know or remember if I made this sentence 15 inches long – the groups who collect and deliver Christmas, with toys and necessities, to children who otherwise would not share the joy.Continue reading Christmas by any name
They don’t make winter like they used to
I have not yet pulled out our snowthrower. I am counting on the natural snow fence at the western side of the county to save me from enriching Exxon.
I learned about snow fences as a kid. Farmers would stretch what looked like rows of slatted window blinds turned sideways across their roadside fields. Wind-driven snow would hit them and rise up, to be dropped on the other side, well before it reached the road.
Sparkling diamond dust and summer sausage
The moon the past few nights, when we could see it at all, has been amazingly bright, like a humongous spotlight angling through the trees, casting stick shadows across my desk. The grass between my home and the woods is sparkling, as though a troop of elves has danced across the greensward scattering powdered diamonds.
The Good, The Bad and The Zucky
There are piles of books in the Messeder residence, as the Resident Home Decorator often reminds me, especially when she enters my atelier – which is a French word for “studio,” itself a fancified substitute for “office,” which, to me, sounds too darned, well, officious. I’d much rather sit in my studio with a drink and my books, and maybe … But I digress.
On being thankful
“Here we go again,” Granddaughter Kass said one Thanksgiving mealtime as I prepared to “say Grace.” She knew I don’t normally subscribe to the pre-formatted version of my childhood:
“Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord, amen.”
Dogs who have owned me
One thing I’ve learned about dogs is, “don’t buy one.”
The first dog to occupy my life was my mom’s, an English Setter named Devil, short for JAM’s Devil Dog (a story that is a dog for another bone.)
I was about 12 when Devil came into my life. We romped and swam and on hot summer days, he was a great pillow for a youngster taking a break from sweating chores.
We are not alone
It was like standing on the edge of a pool, watching the trees change color as a river of fog flowed over the far ridge, filling the valley in front of me, flowing up the slope to gently, silently wrap itself around me.
The fog condensed on the leaves of pines and Scarlet oaks, collecting into drops that fell gently onto my shirtless shoulders. Trees shivered at the impending winter, shaking blizzards of expired summer raiment cascading to the soil. Even as they fade into the soil, the leaves create a kaleidoscope of color, illustrating the diversity of life surrounding me.
Trust the experts
During the debate last week between Republican incumbent Dan Moul and Democrat challenger Marty Qually, a question was asked about our response to Covid.
Qually pointed out the challenge of getting everyone to believe the science.
“We’ve got to get to a point where we believe the people who are specialists in these areas,” he said. “We believe in the people who make our cars, that they won’t explode on us, but we don’t want to believe the doctors – people who we trust every time we go to get medicine.”
Moul agreed with his opponent about a need for personal responsibility, then added, “When you have elected officials that really don’t know a thing about medicine – they’re not scientists.”