The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Spring and the Rebs are coming

I’m pretty sure Spring is not far. I base that prognostication not upon annotations on a calendar or the profundity of a rodent in conversation with a group of men in stovepipe hats – but upon a flock of at least 100 Robins in my back yard as I write these thoughts. First ones I’ve seen this year.

Grady and I have cabin fever. Grady is a Golden Retriever who’s been living here a few days more than 6 years, and who loves being in the woods at least as much as he loves stealing from a bag of Hershey Kisses left on the couch by an inattentive human.

My favorite canoeing pond was covered with ice the last time I was up there. Most of that ice should be gone now; I’ll have to go look. And there’s a stream nearby I’ve not visited in a few months, but alongside which I love to shoot pictures of water flowing around large and small rocks. In about a month – more or less, depending on the changing climate – the woods along its banks will be walls of redbuds.

It will be good to finally put away the snow thrower for the season. We bought it two years ago, when winters seemed to be getting snowier on our street. This year I have used the machine twice, and then only because I was too lazy to shovel and too impatient to wait for the snow to disappear on its own.

Unfortunately, Spring 2013’s arrival won’t be so obvious in downtown Gettysburg. The chainsaw gang has been hard at work making me glad I got out last year to catch the streets lined with white flowers. (What were those trees called, anyway? They sure did dress up the town for a couple of weeks.

Gettysburg expects to make a killing, financially speaking, on the sesquicentennial of one of the most famous battles in human history. Re-enactments on the five year anniversaries are normally favored with larger crowds than the ones in between, but this year is a biggie. It’s been 150 years since generals Meade and Lee met upon the greensward to send their minions into the fray.

The results are well-known. A fellow from Maine led a charge after his men ran out of ammunition, then returned home to head a college and be elected governor. Lee and his boys gathered up their stuff and went more or less into retirement. President Lincoln, if we are to believe a recent movie, had a delegation of southerners who desired to negotiate for peace waylaid in order to extend the war, giving time for Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, thereby eliminating the question of whether the Emancipation Proclamation might have been an illegal use of presidential privilege.

(And we’re quibbling over whether President Obama might not have authority to use drones against U.S. citizens thought to be aiding and abetting our enemies.)

Visitors to Gettysburg this July will be treated to plenty of history, including a walking tour of Gettysburg’s African-American timeline and significant locations. Unfortunately, they will not see a Black History museum. That remains a source of befuddlement for yours truly, given that here was the deciding battle of a war fought to end – or not – slavery in this nation. On the other hand, a group has been collecting materials and has identified a location a location for such a center. On day, perhaps soon (though not by this July) the center will help describe the reason for the American Civil War.

I have reported on most of the past 15 re-enactments, and learned a lot from the experience: to chew a cigar while sawing off a wounded soldier’s leg, to count the number of layers in a young belle’s finery, and to shoot pictures with a box and a piece of specially treated glass.

On the other hand, maybe Grady and I will go find a wooded trail to walk along until the smoke clears and we can see the green, green trees of home.


  1. Yay! Spring is coming. Been very mild winter here. We looking at lots of ticks and stink bugs this year. Yuck! Hope you have a great turnout for Gettysburg. We’re having lots of activities down here too.

  2. As long as gas stays below $10/gallon,we should all do well.

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