A Rising Green

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, February 2, 2017

After weeks of fruitless horizon-scanning and radar-consulting, the roiling smoke plume rising over the southwestern horizon seemed promising. Before long, I’d found confirmation: a scheduled burn at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge was underway, and the section being burned would be accessible by road.

February 2

I’d been hoping to visit a native prairie after a prescribed burn, and my opportunity had arrived. The January 31 burn, carried out under the supervision of the Texas Mid-Coast fire crew on 515 acres of land, would be accessible via Hoskins Mound Road, my usual route to the Brazoria refuge.

When I arrived at the refuge on February 2, a portion of the world I’d known there appeared to have been obliterated.

February 2

Donning boots to work my way across the prairie, I found the combination of ash, scorched stems, crawfish remnants, and brittle, broken reeds adding to a sense of other-worldliness. Here and there, bits of human detritus lay revealed. Among the beer cans, I found a tiny, ruby glass bottle, embossed “Segovia.” Plucking it from the ashes, I tucked it in my pocket.

Even wetlands hadn’t stopped the fire. A familiar stand of cattails and rushes had been scorched and thinned as surely as the grasses.

February 2

Still, the water also had provided protection. Wading into the slough, I found bits of growing grass breaking the surface of the water, and round-leaved plants just below. The juxtaposition of this green and growing world with the surrounding ash-covered prairie was remarkable. How soon, I wondered, might the prairie itself begin to recover?

February 2

For two months, I traveled to my bit of prairie on a weekly basis: photographing, sketching, and recording observations. In time, I’ll write about that experience in more detail — including the story of the flora that turned out to be fauna.  But while the science of it all — the rationale for prescribed burns, and their remarkable results — is worth sharing, the miraculous aspects of regrowth are equally compelling.

As the weeks passed, I found myself remembering a lovely hymn written by John MacLeod Crum (1872-1958). Set to the popular 15th century French carol melody, Noël Nouvelet, it was added to the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928: the year Crum began serving as Canon of Canterbury. 

The song pairs perfectly with my images of a green and growing prairie, just as it points to the improbable beauty of Easter. In the end, whatever we believe, or don’t, about the historicity of those events, this much is clear: miracles do happen. For proof, we need only look to the prairie.

  

(Click to hear Stephanie Seefeldt’s version of “Now the Green Blade Rises”)

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
February 5
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat arising green.
February 12
In the grave they laid him, Love by hatred slain,
Thinking that he would never wake again,
February 12
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat arising green.
February 12
Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
February 18
Raised from the dead, my living lord is seen
Love is come again, like wheat arising green.
February 18
When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
March 19
Your touch can call us back to life again;
March 19
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
March 19
Love is come again, like wheat arising green.
March 19
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
March 28
Love is come again, like wheat arising green.

Comments always are welcome.

Analog traveling, Part 2 ~ Landmark and Lifemarks

pawneeblackPawnee Rock ~ George Sibley’s “remarkable rocky point”

Tempting though it may be to imagine early Santa Fe trail surveyors as a grim, distance-obsessed lot, pressing across the plains in sixty-six foot increments while their lagging chainmen whined and complained, there was more to life on the trail than measured miles and weary feet.

Survey parties camped each night by necessity, but occasionally they stayed in the same spot for several days: a decision sometimes dictated by  circumstance — a swollen river, delayed messages, Indian threats — but just as often occasioned by pleasant surprises. Rich grasses, good timber, or an abundance of game were gifts along a dangerous, difficult road, and gifts were not to be received lightly.
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An End to Autumn Envy

My Iowa Autumn, 1949

Let big people call them leaves. My dollie and I knew them for what they were: piled-up heaps of love, colorful and crisp, raked and arranged, ready for fort-building, rolling, jumping, falling again and again into the safe, soft cushion provided by the trees.

It was a season of falling: falling leaves, windfall apples redolent of cider or sauce, drifts of smoke falling from chimneys and sloping around our ankles. We pressed fallen leaves between sheets of waxed paper, to hang in windows. We carried leaf bouquets to favorite teachers, and decorated supper tables for the pleasure of our families. We named their colors to suit ourselves and reflect our world: bittersweet, cornstalk, snow-fence brown.

And we traveled. Sometimes near and sometimes far, far beyond the boundaries of our maple and elm-filled yards, we gloried in even more dramatic autumn colors along the rivers and hills. Brilliant as sunsets, heart-rending in their beauty, the riotous mixture of oak, hard maple, and ash blinded us to the realities of a winter yet to come.
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Seeing Here, Seeing Now

Deep-rooted sedge

Lovely though the flower of the deep-rooted sedge may be, the plant often becomes invasive. When that happens, it deserves to be dispatched, but its very attractiveness can lead to a certain dithering among those who encounter it on their property. At such times, a variation on the  advice offered by Peg Bracken, household management maven of the 1960s, proves helpful.  “When in doubt, throw it out,” she liked to say. In the case of the unwelcome sedge, “When in doubt, dig it out,” would work just as well.

Like all good aphorisms, Bracken’s has endured over time and seems infinitely adaptable, even beyond the realm of plant management.  I’ve grown fond of my own variation for writing: “When in doubt, leave it out.” It’s not only good editing advice, it’s far less harsh than, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Continue reading

Loping Along

Expansive skies, a far horizon, an open road and time to explore – what more could a woman want?

In my case, not much. I love a good road trip, and it’s been far too long since I’ve taken one. In a day or two, I’ll put the necessities in the car – a clutch of maps, some books, notebooks and pens, a few hand-written notes, a collection of tunes, a laptop and a camera – and head north.

Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri are guaranteed stops. I’ll visit friends and family, tour a museum and see a few historical sights that intrigue me.  Then, I’ll  head south and west from Kansas City, eventually picking up the Santa Fe Trail. I’ll spend time in Chase County, Kansas, memorialized in William Least Heat-Moon’s expansive “Prairy Erth”.  In Council Grove, I’ll visit the places I’ve missed, and then I’ll bunk along the BNSF tracks while I explore the prairies. Continue reading

A Gunkholer at Heart

It’s a shorthand we use, these preferences that define our lives. We’re morning people, or night people. We drink coffee or tea.  Some favor the sweet things in life; others seek out the tang of salt or the sharpness of spice. Entire advertising campaigns play to people’s passion for the PC or Mac, and in the sailing world there’s no avoiding the question: are you a cruiser, or a racer? How a sailor answers that question will determine a good bit, from choice of boat to the weekend schedule.

Racers generally commit themselves to light and fast, preferring Kevlar sails and carbon masts to canvas and wood – if the budget allows. Spending hard-earned dollars on new technologies, they push technology to its limits. Others, coping with older and heavier boats, ponder their PHRF ratings and do what they can to maximize performance.

Still, whether their vessel is a Sunfish, a J-Boat or a fully-fitted cruiser, racers share a few characteristics.  They’re tweakers at heart, constantly adjusting sail trim, seeking the currents and anticipating the wind.  Demanding of themselves and one another, they’re often focused to point of obsession. In the end, their goal is simple – to get from point A to Point B first, and in the shortest possible time. Continue reading