The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Hammock therapy, what the resident nurse ordered

(Looking out over my toes at the passing wonders of natureFirst printed in the Gettysburg Times, 6/21/2013)

We have a new hammock, given us for Fathers Day by the Resident Nurse. It is a great place to spend a Friday afternoon, with Grady the Golden lying beneath, making sure I don’t decide to wander without him knowing.

Hammock therapy, the Resident Nurse calls it.

Atop a nearby fence slat, a robin chirps – if that’s what to call what she is sounding. She must be pleased with the worm hanging from her bill; with each chirp she pumps her throat and tail, putting her whole body into her celebration.

Occasionally, a member of the robin colony will pull a worm and just stand there quietly, upright, chest puffed, as though saying to her fellow wormers, “See what I’ve done. I bet you can’t find one as big!”

A white truck with green lettering stops, a couple times a summer, at a neighbor’s home and a man in a white uniform drags a hose across the grass, spraying a fluid laced with ingredients to make the grass grow. Over here where the robins and I are employed, no such truck stops, my spouse enjoys mowing entirely too often, and robins and some gray bird I’ve not yet identified feast on earthworms I’ve not seen them bother to even seek where the white truck with green letters has stopped.

A week ago, one of the red-breasted ladies had a clutch of four sky blue eggs. Now the worms she collects are for the youngsters nested in the neighbor’s holly tree.

Around me, the world is alive with all manner of species, including a tiny fly of some sort that flits, like a miniature hummingbird, around my book, as though reading along with me.

Several miles south of where I lay, history is being made. The Solar Impulse, a four-engine aircraft powered by the sun, is a little southeast of Charleston, W.Va. About halfway on this leg of its journey from Mountain View, Calif. to Kennedy Airport, New York. It took off from Cincinnati, Ohio about 11 Friday morning and landed, 380 miles later, at Washington Dulles at 15 after midnight.

It’s not exactly a speed record – nearly 400 miles in 13 hours – but here’s to the naysayers whose roadside billboards announce the impracticality of solar-generated electricity because the “wind stops and the sun sets.” It ain’t necessarily a problem, the wind stopping and the sun setting. In 2010, the craft flew a record-breaking 26 consecutive hours. When it landed, the it reportedly had enough battery left for another six hours in the air.

It’s four motors total roughly the power of the engine in the plane Wilbur and Orville Wright flew 120 feet at Kitty Hawk, S.C. Neither plane is practical in its initial configuration, but look where we are from Kitty Hawk.

Nearby, a pair of House Sparrows make their own history. I set up a camera about six feet from the house to get pictures of the birds and they arrive with food for their youngsters. The camera is a new fixture, and Mrs. Sparrow is not sure what to make of it. She lands on the fence behind the house, then jumps from one vertical slat to the next, keeping a wary watch on that thing that wasn’t there all day until now, and that chatters (six frames a second) every time she flies ’round to her front door.

Coincidentally, that’s also when I, lying unthreateningly some 30 feet away, press the button of the wireless shutter release. I’ve got a few pretty good shots of mister and missus, their wings frozen in flight. I’ll show them to you one day.

When I’m not in my hammock, contemplating life, the universe, and everything.


  1. Great story, John. So glad you are enjoying your summer. Perhaps we’ll see your pictures on PBS. I must say I have a case of hammock envy. Also good to know you are a Douglas Adams fan.

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