I have learned to talk nice to our lawn mower. My spouse tells me if I am friendly to the machine, it will work better, or at least longer. It makes sense, sort of. The thing is, I’m not a lawn mowing kind of guy. Grass has been growing and dying and growing back for a very long time, with no human help necessary. In the world according to Sam Emery, every time we mow a lawn some Arabian princess…
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…
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.
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.
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….
It’s fall in Adams County and the South Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania. A variety of native trees, like an artist’s brushes, color the land in oranges, yellows and reds as though they had been spilled on an artist’s palette. As I stood talking with Pa. Forest Ranger Scott Greevy, acorns fell from the surrounding oaks, crashing like gunfire onto his truck. Deer hunting season was about to open and our main topic was an illness carried by Whitetail deer.
When I was many years younger, I cut wood in summer, pulled it from the forest, then chopped and split it into stove-size pieces and stacked it neatly to dry for winter. Winter was cold in those days, though as a youngster I only felt it when there were chores to do. Snowball fights and sledding were not cold. Bringing in firewood and water from the well were frigid activities.
The evening news this week has treated us to newly recorded images of many objects which, at the time the they were sent to earth, may no longer have existed. In the time taken for light to travel from the as yet unknown end of the universe, stars previously unknown have birthed and died.
It has been noted by people who calculate such things that if the 4.5 billion years this planet has been a-making were converted to a 24-hour clock, we humans have been here less than five minutes. Sixty-six million years ago, give or take a few months, what must have looked to the universe to be a small pebble hurtled through the blackness we humans would eventually call “space” and crashed into a larger rock circling what humans eventually would call…
Several years ago, when I was still a daily news reporter, I covered an event in which three busloads of youngsters from inner-city Philadelphia arrived to visit a potato chip factory. It was the first time most of them had been out of the city. “We saw cows!” several of them reported excitedly.
Grandma and her offspring’s offspring lit out for Classic Movie night at the theater. I get to sit in the backyard, write a column, and watch fireflies.
I often wonder what is going on behind the eyes of critters I observe as I wander the creeks and forests within range of my home. I went wading in a local stream this week and found a whole feast of mud puppies – it would have been a feast had I brought along a net – and an assortment of bugs and fish of multiple species.
I love watching the stars, like LED Christmas lights pinned to a blanket stretched like a child’s bedroom tent over my head. They all seem to be the same distance from where I lay, just out of reach of my fingers, though in my mind I know the distances from me to them varies.
There was a time when I enjoyed laying up wood for the winter fire. I would go into the woods to look for trees with signs of demise. Maples with dead limbs often were hollow, leaving a heavy shell of would-be human and, sometimes, field mice, comfort on dark frigid nights.
Imagine a movie in which you could walk around among the characters and activities. You can reach out and touch them, talk with them, and see them interact with each other. Wandering in the forest is like that, where you’re an actor in a perpetually changing story, where trees are the stars of the show, providing the environment for the panoply of other characters.
The pandemic has been a boon to plastics makers. Nowhere is that more obvious than in hospitals. It seems nearly everything in the hospital is plastic, single-use. They once provided a cup of ice and a pitcher for the patient to have a steady supply of water. Since the pandemic set in, water refills come each in a new cup, which goes, when emptied, in the landfill. Another plastic peskiness comes with take-out food. I have to remember to tell…
I always have preferred to aimlessly wander, even on seemingly well-defined pathways, with little or no clear destination in mind. My Partner-in-Travel says I’m always looking everywhere except where I’m going. She exaggerates, but not by much. I look also where I’m going. There is so much going on out there, and I don’t want to miss any of it, and it’s not really difficult to look in multiple places at one time.
A few years ago, a nearby township turned down a proposed zoning ordinance. Opponents declared a god-given right to do as they wished with their land – until a neighbor opened an entertainment venue in which young, mostly unclad, women danced and served customers. Suddenly, zoning was a divine protection.
A couple of us were sitting around swapping tales of winter and keeping our coffee from getting cold. We all had seen snowy mornings, though not lately. Our first snowfall of the year had left about an inch on the ground. The resident Keeper of Order In the Home gave her permission to not even shovel.
Reading a book this week about Mother trees, I felt a need to find a picture of the author. I do that a lot. It is part of my relationship with the storyteller. Sometimes I dig a little deeper into her background. Mostly I learn of her life from the story she tells, but my mind always wants to see her face.