nature


The Secret GardenI was riding the train to NYC, when I decided to reread The Secret Garden, which my (adult) daughter had downloaded onto my Kindle. I vaguely remembered the simple plot, written in 1911 by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and thought it would be entertaining.

 To be honest, I started in a grumpy frame of mind. We’d had some difficult times over the past few months, spurred by the Newtown shootings and several snowstorms, including one that dumped almost three feet of snow at my house,  took me days to shovel out, and left water dripping on the inside of my porch from clogged gutters. So I was perfectly matched with character Mary’s initial sour looks and nasty mood. By the time I was nearing NYC and halfway through, I had followed her to the secret garden, put my hands in the soil, heard the robin sing, met interesting friends, and was immensely cheered. On the reverse trip home, I finished and sat back to say, “Ecotherapy at its finest!”

 For truly that’s the gist of the story. Get out in the fresh air; it will do you wonders, it will heal your physical and emotional wounds, and will bring you great joy! I highly recommend it, available as a free download from Amazon.

The lady slippers are out! With all the blowdowns this past year, I hoped they would manage to erupt through the rubble. A group of fifteen to twenty plants, a third of them blooming, are yet again scattered across the curving slope of a conglomerate outcrop.

Lady slippers. The concept of orchids growing in New England is staggering. I think of them as tropic, difficult to raise, picky and delicate. Not winter-hardy or robust enough to flourish in our acidic woodlands.

And their blossom is, well…I’ll say it. Erotic. Scrotal. Yet girly pink. Maybe showing us the common ground shared by our two genders.

Native Americans, calling it moccasin flower, saw it with different eyes. Some said it could invoke spirit dreams just by its presence. Others used is as a sedative for mental health issues and women’s issues.

Me? I see them as a symbol of resistance, persistence, and spring. Welcome back, beautiful ones!

And you?

Do you miss that peaceful feeling you get from spending time outside?  Would you like to be inspired by nature? Are you interested in advocating for nature’s creatures? Join a four-class session, HealingNature, offered through the Middletown (CT) Park & Recreation Department for an introduction to ecotherapy to help us balance ourselves through connections with nature.

Instructor Beth Lapin brings 20 years experience as a field biologist and an equal amount as a social worker — and masters degrees in both – along with decades of experience leading outdoor excursions and therapeutic groups. “Not just another hike in the woods, although that’s included, we will use our senses to strengthen our connection with the natural world,” she explained.” Anyone with questions can contact her: Beth@HealingNatureCT.com or call 860 398 4470.

Sessions will meet on Thursdays in June from 6:30 until 8:00pm at Ron McCutcheon Park at Crystal Lake in Middletown, CT. Pre-register by May 21: send a completed registration form (email for copy) and check for $65 to Middletown Park & Recreation Department, 100 Riverview Center, #140, Middletown, CT 06457. Open to all mobility levels.

Photo: K. Hammerson

Ooh-ah-coo-coo-coo! It’s spring. Well, at least the mourning doves are at it, with males defending territories and enticing their lifelong partner for a little fun. Since they eat primarily seeds and feed their young pigeon milk and predigested matter, they can get an early start.
Certainly our mild winter give them an edge, too. Today it’s in the fifties, sunny, and almost balmy. The mail carrier was covering her route in short-sleeves.
By no means do I think I have enough clout in the world to make much of an impact, but I did my part to bring about this unseasonable winter. I bought several snow shovels, as mine had been hammered into oblivion during last winter’s barrage. And, for the first time in decades, I did NOT hang my snow banner. For as long as I can remember, I have ceremoniously replaced my summer flags with one large blue one, filled with large white snowflakes. This year, I rebelled, as just the sight of it made my shoulders ache.
Perhaps it helped! Spring: I’m ready for ya! Bring it on.

It was Groundhog Day and I was filled with hope that winter might be over. Looking out the kitchen window as I washed my breakfast dishes, I glimpsed a black cat beyond the compost near the creek. I confirmed mine was inside and wondered if it was the stray black and white cat that had been MIA for a month or so.

Grabbing my binoculars, I started to focus on what became a moving target. Initially, its back was towards me and then it turned to cross my backyard, go up my driveway, across the street, and up my neighbor’s drive into her back ten acres.

All the while, my brain kept registering small bits of information. It was more of a brownish black with no other colors. Its fur was very lustrous, with a full, thick tail that curled up a tiny bit at the end. Its little face looked more like a teddy bear. It was the movement—front feet together, followed by the back—more of a lope that finally brought identification. A fisher!

I watched the beautiful animal with awe, simultaneously grateful that both cats were in the house. Suddenly, it didn’t matter much more whether it would be winter or spring today. It would just be.

Photo Credit: Gloria Augeri

Looking at the calendar, I realize that the solstice will be here in just over two weeks. Then, the days will start getting longer again! Maybe it’s been the balmy weather (except for Storm Albert) or my personal busy-ness, but it doesn’t seem that it’s been hard to adjust to the darkness this year.

I expect there will be more snow (in fact, some is predicted in the higher elevations for tonight) and I am certain we will have frosty nights again. For now, I am grateful it’s been a gentle November and December thus far. And I look forward to the not-so-distant day when the minutes of daylight begin to accumulate and we inch toward the time when taking an after-work walk does not include carrying a flashlight.

How do others feel? Has the darkness been difficult or not?

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The other night, I was having dinner with several friends who spontaneously spoke about the healing value of nature. The first person talked about how she “listens to the quiet.” Just sits in the same spot and observes and listens to what is around her and how this provides her with a sense of peace and connection.
The second person said that nature was the only place that gave her a sense of power and strength after the loss of her husband and son. She would walk for hours in the woods and find solace and felt the return of her self. “It was only outside that I could find that.”
“When I’m inside, my container of troubles fills the house,” said the third friend who held out her arms in front of her, fingertips touching, to form a big circle. “But when I go outside, the world is big enough to hold them all.” She went on to say that, outdoors, she would realize how small her troubles were in the scheme of the whole universe.
Three unsolicited ideas about the importance of nature to our health. What are your experiences? Do you agree?
Not in CT this year

After “Irene,” many trees turned prematurely brown. Perhaps their leaves were damaged by heavy salt content of the accompanying rain and winds. A hint at the possibility of a dull fall.

Extended Indian Summer provided hope that, somehow, the maples might erase those previous weeks and resume their transformation into autumn brilliance. Mission impossible with no frost or cooling nights before “Albert” dumped heavy snows at the end of October.

Fall color is cancelled. All along the Connecticut coast, it’s the same story. Leaves either ripped away, shed, or clinging in dull browns, muted oranges, and pale yellows.

For me, it’s hard enough to say goodbye to summer’s delights. The usual cacophony of color soothes my disappointed and  cocooning spirit. Not this year. I wonder if October’s storm suggests a brutal winter. Or perhaps that was the worst of it. Ah, time will tell. One thing I love about this Earth–certain of its secrets can’t be pried loose, even by the best of scientists.

Last week, we had no power, which means, for me, no water. I considered every drop of water I used. How much do I need to brush my teeth? Wash my face? How many more toilet flushes do I have before I must trek to the creek for refills?

Now that my power is back, I can easily meet my needs. But I wonder if I should pay more attention to my water consumption. According to www.drinktap.org, each of us in the United States use 69.3 gallons of water every day. Every day! England, for example, uses only 14% of what we do (http://chartsbin.com/view/1455).

Don’t get me started on the use of bottled water (107 liters per person per year in the US) …..

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Yesterday, I knew I was cold, but I didn’t truly believe that we would get snow. We hadn’t even had our first frost yet! When I heard sleet pelting the windows, I brought in my begonias. Only a short while later, there it was–flakes of the white stuff filling the air, covering the ground, blanketing the rhododendron leaves.

It had been a long Indian summer; I knew I shouldn’t complain. But snow in October did not seem fair. I decided that I would sleep inside. Since June, I had been spending my nights on the back porch. I was reminded of those who don’t have shelter, the increased number of homeless and those occupying various squares and parks. I was grateful for the option.

I settled into my bed and listened to the bang-bang as one cat came in (or perhaps out) through the cat door. Bang-bang. Another. Bang. There are only two cats. It’s a revolving door for them. The noise drove me crazy and the porch was probably only 15 degrees colder. Out I went.

Sleet hit the windows, the wind blew. Ah! Sounds that put me to sleep.

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