Between the Bends

The first time I visited this swath of green caught between the bends of Campbell Creek, the world was shrouded with smoke, awash in the worry cast by nearby wildfires  That day in middle August, I couldn’t help but relish the work–the fencing and irrigation and animal care–that went into keeping this riparian verge green even as the the surrounding forests baked in the Summer of 2021. 

The second time I visited, in middle February, the pastures were cloaked in white even as the hills above had already melted out into grays and browns.  One place, two seasons. One place, two different palettes. Sitting in place, the world felt placid, rich with the minute events of a northern landscape still shrouded in cold.  Yet it was difficult, in my camp chair, pencil in hand, to shrug off the memory of this morning’s special radio broadcast, full of long-distance worry and conflict. Difficult to shrug off the sight of the protestors I’d driven past earlier, their clustered bodies waving red and white flags, their mouths shouting slogans.

At first, I’m frustrated with my inability to focus on what is in front of me. But then I remember. Pasture, or city lot, road or trailside, worry is part of the garden we cultivate in the Anthropocene. Plants and people; people and plants. Of course these investigations will be washed with dissent. Is it any wonder that I end my winter visit to these pastures relishing the first sign of green that I find at the base of the crabapple tree?  In the midst of truck convoys and dissenting opinions, what counts more as faith than the green insistence of our world?

The Gift of Time

This new year began, for me, with the gift of time.  After the last decade’s worry about the shifting relationship between plants and peoples, I have a sabbatical to use my field journals to document and explore the co-mingled lives of nearby plants and people.  In the third week of January, I travelled the short distance to Sorrento, to sit in the snow and the draw the landscape of the farm called Notch Hill Community Growers.  Clouds hung low, hoar frost filigreed the bodies of nearby and more distant plants. Northern shrike, rough-legged hawk, coyote, cow, rooster, farmer.  Just a few of lives that depend upon the beings rooted in this valley.  What a gift to know that I can return throughout the unfolding of this coming year.