January 30, 2014

Rivers & Revolutions Students Render Impressions

Bringing our attentiveness to place and cultivating our own sense of and relationship to that place lies at the heart of stewardship.  For the past few months, I've again had the pleasure of working with Rivers & Revolutions students from CCHS, our local high school, as a mentor in their community stewardship program.  This semester, we collaborated on an exhibition for the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, conveying the experience of Sense of Place from various vantage points.

My students (Charlotte Copp, Rosie Alston-Follansbee, James Henderson, Haley Proctor, and Will Royal) and I began by visiting three historic and distinctly different wetland areas that thrive on or near the Concord River floodplain -- Great Meadows, Gowing's Swamp/Thoreau's Bog, and Moore's Swamp.  While memorable moments marked each engaged exploration -- discovering the red-headed bush crickets behind the chorus of song at Great Meadows...

or harvesting autumn olives near Gowing's Swamp...

Haley picking autumn olives aided by James' shoulders below
it was a sun-warmed, barefooted, autumn afternoon exploring the primordial basin of Moore's Swamp, in the shadow of Author's Ridge, that inspired their beautiful, evocative renderings, shown at the end of this post, and on display in The Square at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum from January 30 through March 30, 2014.

Our day exploring Moore's Swamp

James ventures out one of many red maple 'tip-ups' in the swamp, which was his "backyard" when growing up
Rosie experiments making inks from various wild berries

Charlotte rubs off jewelweed seed husks to reveal the beautiful blue kernals inside

Rosie finds a baby northern black water snake on the path
Below, each student's sense of Moore's Swamp, beautifully conveyed, is meant to inspire appreciation and thoughtful stewardship of this historic and special place.  Enjoy!


January 5, 2014

A Flurry of Snow Birds

Joy is a flurry of snow buntings reeling overhead on a late, gray January afternoon.  As I was leaving Verrill Farm at 3:45 today white wings flashed against the sky as some 70 snow buntings rippled past and danced above the fields behind the farmstand.  I wheeled back into the parking lot to watch their synchronized flights and feeding and enjoy their chatter.  Snow buntings often travel with lapland longspurs and horned larks.  This flock had about 20 horned larks in the mix.

Photographing snow buntings for me has thus far been a serendipitous experience.  They often appear by surprise and efforts to frame their constant movement yield surprising results.

January 1, 2014

Sliding into the New Year

Otter tracks at the Concord River on New Year's Da

Not until winter do we take possession of the whole of our territory.
Thoreau, Journal, 2/13/1859

My step over this New Year's threshold was a slippery one. The sub-freezing temperatures of the last two weeks, punctuated by snowfall and an intervening deluge, sealed Concord's wetlands under glassy smooth sheets of white ice framed by snow encrusted shorelines.  On New Year's eve and day, I donned my  layers, Sorel's, and ice creepers and set out to walk across these beckoning expanses at Moore's Swamp and Great Meadows - an adventure that only winter can offer.

Moore's Swamp stretches out some 20 acres to the north and east of Concord's historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  Now brimming from rising beaver activity and clogged drainage culverts, the swamp basin gleams with winter ice that's darkened by silhouettes of red maple tip-ups and a tangle of prostrate tree trunks and wetland shrubs.  Some 34 empty great blue heron nests tower overhead and underfoot rare turtle and amphibian residents sleep winter away in the mud.  As I slid along the open expanses in the waning light of New Year's eve, I wondered what fate 2014 will hold for the swamp and it's rarer inhabitants, see Historic Moore's Swamp in the Crosshairs.

A frozen allée...the flooded remnant of an historic trail through Moore's Swamp
Out the other end, a spot of orange (lower left) in the monochrome swampscape
A cinnabar-red polypore mushroom (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus), common but rarely seen

It has rained hard, converting into a very thin liquid the snow which had fallen on the old ice, and this, having frozen, has made a perfectly smooth but white snow ice.  It is white like polished marble (I call it “marble ice”), and the trees and hill are reflected in it... Thoreau, Journal, 1/31/1860

Ice doilies
Some of the 34 great blue heron nests high above the swamp basin
New Year's Day brought crisp, clear light to Concord's Great Meadows and it's vast frozen marshland and floodplain forest, giving a new meaning to "glare ice."

Buttonbush tangle in the floodplain forest
Encrusted twigs
Two coyotes
Winter river
"Glare" ice

Not only the earth but the heavens are made our footstool.  That is what the phenomenon of ice means.  The earth is annually inverted and we walk upon the sky...  Thoreau, Journal, 2/12/1860