also while in California….

I spent a few days with Lydia, my dear friend and long-ago mission trainee.

My Wisconsin-centric brain was so giddy to spend Christmas Eve playing outside in 60 degree weather. I went barefoot as often as I could.

Lydia’s great family and I shared colorful stories, ate mind-numbingly-delicious food, hiked abundant countryside, discussed heart-expanding topics, evangelized the wonders of kefir (which may or may not actually be manna), sweat liters at the Bikram yoga studio, and slept in as long as we wanted. Looking back through my camera, it turns out I mainly just took photos of plants.


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Visiting Bri.

Over Christmas break I flew to San Francisco and made a visit to my friend Briana Blackwelder’s grave. Thank you for the great directions, Candice.

For those who haven’t yet visited, here’s a bit of the journey to Fernwood:

That’s her grave in the foreground.

A few small plants have begun sprouting over the freshly-turned earth.

Despite being the winter solstice, it was one of the sunniest days I’d seen in a long time.
I laid down right next to her grave and just started talking.
It felt so much like the last time I saw her, when we’d spent a sunny
April afternoon lounging under the sun.

I believe Bri is doing much more exciting things than lying under the earth,
but here are some photos of the view she’d have from her final resting place:

I felt a lot of peace being there.

Afterwards, my friend Lydia and I scouted out some delicious food
and soaked up the city that will forever remind me of Bri.

Man, I miss you Bri.


Schizocarps!

I found my old nature journal this week. My last entry, dated Fall 2008, inspired me to fulfill a dream I’ve been scheming for some time now. I woke up early Sunday morning to begin gathering schizocarps–those helicopters that fall from maple trees–from around my neighborhood. Thanks to the three friends who helped me gather these wonders throughout the day. I will still need to gather more before our next snow fall, if anyone else is interested in helping 🙂 First I’ll share the journal entry, then I’ll tell you about my dream that will soon become reality…

Fall 2008
I have become enamored by schizocarps. Seriously?! Billions of twirly-birds all falling to the earth in unison?! Billions of winged maples-in-embryo spiraling over the Northern Hemisphere. Billions over BYU’s campus alone.
 
One afternoon I gathered 4 grocery sacks of schizocarps. It took no more than two hours with 2 of us gathering. The street gutters were lined with them. The grass cupped them like children hoarding candy on Halloween. The sidewalks were blanketed with them- all facing the way of the wind.
 
In the half-inch cracks between cemented sidewalk slabs, schizocarps were packed tightly, nose down, just like an over-zealous litter of piglettes all trying to get a mouthful of teat.
 
I like that metaphor: the Earth as a giant mammary gland, a wellspring of mother’s milk. Countless numbers of tongue-like roots pressing earth-ward, pulling in moisture and nutrients, grabbing hold to the solid ground. Filling and stabilizing. Supporting and nurturing.
 
 

My plan is to  find a nice courtyard with high walls from which the thousands of schizocarps can be let loose. While the magical spirals descend, people will dance and frolic. Doesn’t it sound lovely? I’m excited to make it happen.

Let me know if you have a decent pile of schizocarps near your house.

 

a magical childhood.

I had a magical childhood. My family lived in a large old Victorian house, where the ballroom-sized attic and the dungeon-like basement made for wonderful play-time adventures. The house is in a small town in southern Wisconsin, a place where I still know dozens of people when I walk into the grocery store. The small-ness of Baraboo made me feel very important. A large-sized photo of me made it into the city newspaper many times each year– for attending a parade, for reading a book on the steps of the library, for setting up a lemonade stand, for participating in a basketball game or a cross country race, for going to a highschool dance…

Today I was home sick (trying to sooth way a sore throat), and started to feel a little homesick (wishing I could just walk into that old familiar grocery store and chat with people who knew me back when I was an adorable toothless toddler). So, I was grateful that google images could take me on an at-a-distance tour of some of the places and things that contributed to my magical childhood. I thought you might like to join me, so I kept a log of my google-travels.

Here’s a view of one of my favorite hikes and swims, a 3 mile drive from my house. I went here with my mom this summer, and will have to share some of those photos soon:

Baraboo’s ‘International Crane Foundation‘, where you can see all 15 species of crane on one reserve. In grade school we learned how this organization brought the Whooping Crane from near extinction to it’s current thriving population. I felt so proud. It’s a magical thing to see this bird dance and play in the water near my home.

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Aldo Leopold’s Shack is the site of both the writing of ‘A Sand County Almanac‘ and a contributor to my environmental ethic. It’s a ten minute drive from my house, but it took traveling half way around the world to discover how famous both Leopold and his shack are. I’m hoping some day to name a son Leopold.

….

Jewel Weed, Impatiens capensis, was one of my first magic plants. I learned to identify it very quickly because the juice from its stem will instantly remove the burn and sting from poison ivy or stinging nettle. And, to top it off, the seed pods spring out in confetti-like spirals when touched just right.

Devil’s Lake State Park. These bluffs were once part of an ancient mountain range. I remember feeling so proud when I learned that the ice-age glaciers stopped and melted when they reached these rocks. I felt like, if the bluffs could stop a glacier, they could protect me from anything.

Forevertron, a random sculpture behind Delaney’s Junk Yard. I don’t know the story behind it, but I always looked for it when we drove along Hwy 12 toward Madison.

Al Ringling Theater, modeled after a theater in Versailles (palace of the French Sun King). I performed in Cinderella and Pinocchio and numerous band and choir concerts on this stage.

The Circus World Museum: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. In the summer months, you can hear circus music all over town. I used to dream of being a contortionist and running away with the circus. It’s a shame that never happened. But, my mom does use elephant dung to fertilize her garden each summer.

The Ho-Chunk Nation. They treated me to my first pow-wow. Afterward, I begged my mom for fry bread so often that she taught me how to make it for myself.  (That was before I’d learned about the unfortunate and sad history of how fry-bread came to be a traditional food for Native Americans…)


Amish and Minnonites. My grandparents sold their farm to a Mennonite family, and I was lucky enough to become friends with Norma, a young girl my age. I felt sorry that Norma only went to school until she was 15, but I was also jealous of her connection to her community and the land. I still dream of moving back to be a midwife for the Minnonites…one day.

Canopied roads. I love the mountains of the west, but my soul feels most at home in a forest.

Well, thanks for joining that little journey.


Color Migration

(Maple Canyon. Mid September.
 ps- I didn’t even saturate this photograph. These colors are the real deal.)

Fall colors. I guess that’s what they do. Colors fall. Over a month ago I danced in firey trees, but I had to drive high into the canyon to find the most extreme color palettes. In following weeks, the yellows and oranges and reds came dripping down towards me. The lowest skirts of the Wasatch Range were an unbelievable patchworks of lobulate colors, decorating the dips and channels where water flows.

Then the colors flooded down to the valley floor, starting at the upper tips of branches and working inward to each tree’s core. During summer months, plant life agrees on various hues of green. But come fall, each family proudly flags a different color. And the heavy branches reveal how successfully each species reproduced.

Now the high mountain paths are fading to brown and the valley floor is swallowing up its rosey copper meal. Only the lowest tree branches still wear firey gowns. The earth will hold the fallen colors in until spring.

As the earth thaws in spring time, the valley floor will awaken and the colors will travel—in reverse direction now—slowly across the valley floor, up into the tree canopies, and then up the mountain sides. It’s a journey that takes many months. Not until very late summer will the mountain tops again be decorated in a rainbow of flowers.

(Big Cottonwood Canyon. Late August.)

fall must be a lover’s time.

After reading Emily Dickinson’s poem from my last post, I keep seeing yellow. Everywhere.

– golden amber beech leaves
– lemony yellow ginkgo leaves
– outer lining of the sunset
– etiolated tips of sprouts
– quince butter
– moon’s waning crescent
– under-exposed photo pigments on the Norway Maple
– Aspen…a whole clonal colony of them
– blistered plums
– carrot water
– squash
– reflection off the Great Salt Lake
– pile of Silver Maple leaves under a rope swing
– heart of a pansy
– unwatered grass
– apple’s patchwork skin
– Liquidambar styraciflua
– a schizocarp’s halo
– refracted light off praying mantis’ egg sac
– stained fingers from curried potatoes

 


Yellow.

Nature rarer uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets,–
Prodigal of blue,
Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover’s words.

Thank you, Emily Dickinson, for helping me to appreciate
the spectacular colors of this season.