Tuesday, September 24, 2013
It was extremely sunny and bright, the light blue sky almost cloudless. I told my college class, in order to have a "Zen" in the moment experience, that they needed to turn off their cell phones and just experience things then and there. And I think most of them did.
We first parked ourselves in the Alumni garden. This is a good place to sit and relax, I tell them. I point out the "purple leaf" plum tree, which has tiny little fruits, the tiny, peeling, paper bark maple, and that there are many sayings on the wall that enclose this garden, such as Keats' "a thing of beauty is a joy forever" quote. We sit among some meadow sage with its smelly, almost minty scent. I pull off a piece and pass it around for them to smell. The red and white begonias (the school colors) surround an old, black bell in front of us.
But the class (as it turned out for those who wrote about this) was more entranced by the koi and goldfish pond across the way, where the fish casually swim about and there are benches nearby they can sit on and watch them on. A kind of murky little waterfall goes into this pond, and they tell me they'd never been here before.
At one point I take these heavy guidebooks out of the backpack I've got on (I'm usually carrying my papers in a laptop sized briefcase) and hand them out. I point out a tree with round, heart shaped leaves and ask them, based on the guidebook, what tree it is. "I'll give you a hint -- it has pink flowers?"
"Redbud?" Michael asks.
"Right!" Mostly, though, they didn't know ANY of the trees on campus, not the unusual Bald Cypress (a swamp tree in the middle of campus), not the Dawn/Don redwood (with the reddish bark), not the hemlock or tulip tree.
With different groups you get different reactions to taking this kind of walk. I think "both" groups I took seemed to hang back behind me, like 15, 20 feet (!) like I bite or something. I'm sure they thought me an odd duck with all my "nature" stuff, and some of them STILL had their cell phones, on, the addicts!
Friday, September 6, 2013
So a few weeks ago I did a little volunteering at "Pandapas Pond". It is called "Pandapas" as it is named after James Pandapas, local industrialist with some money who used it for his own private hunting grounds. Now it is part of the Jefferson National Forest (which I hope they don't ruin with anything like fracking), and has many Poverty Creek Trail system trails off of it.
With the other Master naturalists in my group, we did some weeding in a "rain garden" area off of the butterfly garden that fellow member Barb Walker had started, a nice addition to something you can find along the trail, not too far from the pond and surrounding woods themselves. Butterflies are a unique addition to any habitat. For a delicate insect they can last a while (those born in October will fly all the way to Mexico and then overwinter there, come back in the spring and then mate, lay eggs and die). I learned a few things about them recently at the Virginia Tech Paula Hahn Horticulture Center.
Some say weeding is a meditative process, a way of being one with the soil. You concentrate on this one action and things slip away; you forget about current entanglements and worries. And if your legs, as you get older, are getting weak, instead of bending over everything the whole time, you can get yourself a little stool to sit on (found this short, green plastic job in the garden dept. at Wal-Mart). That's what I did part of the time. Yes, the butterfly garden area is really coming along, and besides butterfly bush there are some unusual shrubs, like senna and a bit of ironwood too, I believe.