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.