Backyard Wilderness Blog
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In his insightful and remarkably prophetic book, A God Within, respected microbiologist Rene Dubos wrote eloquently about the "spirit of place" that permeates landscapes around the world. In his view, there is a cultural spirit, unique to each place, created by a combination of factors including the clothing and appearance of local inhabitants, their buildings and architecture, the flowers, shrubs and trees they choose for landscaping, and their land use patterns. It is everywhere; in small, old fashioned New England towns, the rural, deep South, and the cornfields of the Midwest, too, where it engenders feelings and emotions of times long past. A different spirit, perhaps one of frenetic energy, is felt in modern, high-tech, cities filled with bright lights and tall, glass skyscrapers surrounded by ribbons of arterial highways.
Natural landscapes have a spirit, too. Complex interactions of sights, sounds, smells, temperature, and humidity, created by trees, plants, birds, insects, fungi, soil organisms, sunlight, wind and rain, make each field, forest, meadow or marsh just a little different from the next.
There is one particular place I visit often that is especially wonderful. Possessing a mysterious quality beyond that measurable with the five senses, this upland bog forest seems to welcome me each time I visit, almost as if there is a powerful, benevolent Consciousness living just out of sight somewhere nearby, that is appreciative, even joyful for my coming. The photos on the next two pages were all taken in this forest...
Bluebead Lily, (Clintonia borealis,) above, is always a welcome sight! Beautiful to behold while in flower, this plant later produces attractive, but inedible, bitter blue berries. Native to eastern forests in the U.S., the young leaves of this plant, as they emerge from the ground in late April, are edible until two inches tall, but make sure you check your field guide before sampling this one. Lily-of-the-Valley leaves, which appear at the same time of year, look nearly identical, but are extremely poisonous!
The spirit or mood of a landscape can change perceptibly throughout the course of the day. This particular spot, early in the morning with the sun shining low in the east through these Cinnamon Fern fiddleheads, (Osmunda cinnamomea,) was magical! It was easy to imagine fairy-folk and elves nearby while taking this photo! (below.)
Jewelweed seedlings, (left,) seem to grow everywhere and anywhere in northern boreal forests. Easy to recognize once you've become acquainted with them,they are edible after boiling, until three inches tall. As they grow larger they acquire a "soapy" taste that renders them unpalatable. However, boiling the plants for five minutes will produce a terrific shampoo. Simply save the water, let it cool, then use it to wash your hair.
Jewelweed leaves can also be crushed and rubbed on the skin to relieve the itch of poison ivy. See more about Jewelweed by clicking the link below...