Un-Natural Disasters is a suite of social justice themed prints that will be on display at Expressions Graphics next month - where one may see an unusual amphibian.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Last week on my rounds I was quite excited to see a Butternut (Juglans cinerea) tree growing (barely) on a site I was visiting. It's the much rarer cousin of Black Walnut, and it is endangered in Illinois. It is prone to a fungal disease, and the tree I saw below had a half-dead crown.
I have tried to describe how the bark of these trees differs from the dark uniform ridges of Black Walnut. The adjective I have settled on is kind of a tiger-stripey appearance, and if you ever see the two side by side you'll know what I mean.
Underneath the tree I scouted around hopefully for fallen nuts, and saw none. So, no guerrilla gardening projects this time. This is one tiger that will likely fade into the urbanizing jungle fairly soon. Threatened species or not, I can't imagine the homeowners will want to abide a sizeable dying tree for too long.
Monday, September 12, 2011
On vacation last month I purchased John Fowles excellent book The Tree. I wasn’t planning on doing much reading on our trip to the sea, but I can’t resist bookstores and I bit on this one. It was a skinny book after all, and I was traveling light. Anyway, I’m nearly done with it, and it has almost single-handedly swept away my recent mixed opinions about nature writing. I won’t get into it much (for now) except to say it has nicely punctuated some recent little jaunts, and spurred some thinking about people and nature.
Path #1. On our way back homeward E and I stopped to gawk at a Carolina lighthouse where we were nearly carried off by mosquitoes. Safely back in the car (air conditioned, at that) we traversed miles of swamps as we made our way west. We admired the strange beauty of these enormous coastal wetlands and estuaries. It took a minute or two before we laughed and realized that we could nicely appreciate such landscapes from the comfort of a chilled steel capsule hurtling briskly at sixty miles per. If we were deposited into said swamps in our shorts and teva sandals we’d be miserable in maybe, hmm, five seconds we reckoned. Should all swamps be drained? Well no, but those skeeters sure got me moving.
Path #2. Over the holiday we went to the Morton Arboretum where we explored the maze, the kid’s garden, and did a little hike to the Big Rock. It was a fine day, and the place was packed, especially around the visitor center. I’m very fond of the Arb, but this was one of those times where it felt more like a trip to the zoo. I’m not knocking the zoo, but that’s a different, ahem, animal. Should this experience of nature be packaged thusly - with hot dogs selling (briskly, I should add) at ball-park prices?
Path #3. Later that day we ventured through the paved paths of Wolf Road Prairie, one of the finest prairie remnants in the state. One of my favorite haunts, I thought it would make a nice bookend to our visit at the Arb. Well, a prairie is a prairie, and in short order we were pushing our way through grasses and flowers well over our heads. It was just uncomfortable. We were dressed too lightly and we were soon covered with hundreds of burs that made the little hike rushed and unpleasant. Whatever beauty was nearby was dismissed as we labored back to 31st Street. We did however gain new respect for whatever peoples ventured into and lived in the real prairies so long ago.
One of the captivating things about The Tree is how Fowles describes how he and others approach, define and manage the natural world they live in, be it urban or rural. This book and these recent pathways I have trod have made me think about what my own comfort zone is. I like to think of myself as a person who is pretty comfortable “in nature” but my recent bug bites and scratches have at one end reminded me that I should wear long pants on such ventures. And at the other end I may have to face the idea that I may not be as comfortable “in nature” as I imagined I was.