Sunday, March 18, 2018

Snag, You're It!

"Nature has a funny way
 of breaking what will not bend." 
Give it a listen.

Pauchaug near Voluntown, CT.  An isolated snag near a man-made dam between Green Fall Pond and a waterfall that pours into the ravine.  Snags are important in a forest's ecology, providing shelter for animals such as owls, other birds, squirrels, fishers, and more.  As they decay, they become the food of beetles and other insects (which in turn are food for many birds and other animals) and eventually fungus, bacteria, and other decomposers return the nutrients to the soil and subsequent forest growth.

A storm-damaged tree at the Powder Mill Ledges
Wildlife Refuge in Smithfield, RI, two weeks ago.

The Earthen Fellowship began our group hike at the bottom of the ravine, climbing up with the help of micro-spikes and each other.  We crossed several bridges, some board and nails, some fallen logs.  Crossing one snowy, slick log, two of our companions stood in the water, their arms outspread, acting as railings to the rest of us.  We all made it across.

At one point, I bumped my camera and the lens cap popped off, falling into the ravine.  While I started taking off my camera, camera bag, and pack, also finding the "hole" beside the boardwalk bridge when my foot when through the snow into nothing and my brain was trying to figure out how to reach the cap far below me, a man in our group went down into the ravine without hesitation and retrieved it for me!  I'm still so used to being a solitary tree, not realizing I'm in a forest.

Most of these fallen trees succumbed to the recent Northeasters,
breaking when they could not bend.  The resulting snags remain standing,
while the fallen trees take on new purpose.

Fallen logs form steps, but also bloom with this turkey mushroom.

"I want to live bravely and love without fear.
I want to always feel the wings of grace near"
- Jewel, Innocence Maintained

I have been actively photographing birds, waiting for them to leave their perches so I can catch them in flight, waited for just the right moment to press that button on my camera. What I have learned from this practice of waiting and watching is that birds do not lift their wings and take off. They keep their wings tucked in to their sides, falling head first into the open air in perfect trust it will lift them when they spread their wings.  "May the road rise to meet you..."

Sometimes, sliding is better than climbing.  We trusted others to catch us before we slid too far.

Later, we came upon a cave.  Sean, our guide (who has exceptional perception of distance) said it was just ahead.  I looked straight at the path, but saw only the hole.  I went feet first, on my belly, shedding my camera and pack as the space got smaller and smaller.  But I wasn't uncomfortable and I wasn't scared.  Someone kept checking on me as I looked around and took pictures, even pulling on my foot!  I kept saying I was fine.

The hole!

Inside the hole.

The other side of the hole.
The actual cave.

The actual path to and from the cave.

So...I took the steep path back after checking out the cave.  At first, I couldn't get up to the first rock.  I climbed up the side, kneed my way onto the first rock, then climb-walked the rest of the way, only to trip at the top on two rocks buried under the snow, smashing both my knees.  (Later, I would need to ice my swollen left knee, but I'll survive.)  I told Sean about my (mis)adventure and he threw snow at me.

A month before, I had joined this group at Heritage Park.  I wanted to climb this tree.  I tried pulling myself up.  I tried balancing on the bench and pulling myself up.  I got there with a knee and a shoulder not my own.  We should all lift each other up when we can.

At my job, we are getting new training for conflict resolution.  One technique involves teaching assertiveness.  When someone tells you they were wronged, you focus on the "victim" and ask them if they told their transgressor that they didn't like it, asserting their boundaries with the person.  Such an issue happened just this past Friday.  I asked the girl if she told the boy to stop.  "Yes.  Three times!"  I looked at the boy and asked, "Did she tell you to stop?"  He just looked down.  I reiterated that if someone tells you something is bothering them, stop.  

But it's not so black-and-white.  The girl WAS assertive, but she needed back-up.  She was still not listened to.  Once, a male friend of mine was being pushed around and bullied by another male.  My friend didn't want to fight him.  I told the bully to stop several times.  Finally, I pushed him into a phone booth and punched him repeatedly in the face.

We were kids then.  I got threatened with retaliation, but nothing came of it.  Then, in more recent years, a man at my church of all places was showing people pictures of eviscerated animals on his phone and laughing about it.  I told him I didn't want to see the pictures and walked away.  Later, at the church picnic, he put his phone up to my face.  I told him I didn't want to see it.  One of my male friends of almost a decade just stood there.  The guy tried to show me again, so I stood up, got in his face, and screamed as loud as I could, "I DON'T WANT TO SEE PICTURES OF DEAD ANIMALS!  I ALREADY TOLD YOU THAT! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!"  Both guys' eyes were wide and I think the sicko with the phone muttered something about "crazy b****" before walking away.  My female friends, now aware I had been in trouble, hugged me and gave me soothing words.  

Being assertive is important.  But so is being supportive.  A tree can be the strongest in the forest, but it can't withstand everything.  And it shouldn't have to.  Sometimes someone needs a hand, or a fist, or money, or a ride, or an ear, or a voice, or a vote.  Each one of us has at least a few of these they can give.  I get caught up in my own world like a lot of other people and could give more.  After discussing with several white women like myself how to get more minorities into nature, I was able to raise $370 for Outdoor Afro, which supports African Americans with African-American leaders and mentors on outdoor excursions like hiking and camping.  It doesn't have to be something that big.  It could be bigger.  It could be a lot of smaller instances.  It could be holding a door or carrying a bag or giving a smile of keeping anger in check when we feel annoyed, impatient, or misunderstood.  Be open to that moment when its needed.  Recognize we're all part of something larger.

"The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe because its handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them." (Facebook meme)  Be part of the forest instead of just a tree.  Look out for each other instead of looking for someone who will look out for you.

Meanwhile, in the forest...

Gnome home.

Strange ice.
Earth, water, ice, air, sleeping trees.
Communal home.

Locust tree?
The trees serve many purposes.

This old and large fallen pine needed to be cut to clear the road.

Foliose lichen was abundant here.

After hemlocks, birch, and pitch pine, we found a Dr. Seuss tree!

Being St. Patty's Day, there was treasure!  Peaking out from large boulders under the snow were crystals and crusty lichen:

This same site November 11th, 2017:

In November, strange ice crystals mesmerized us.
One of many bridges now covered in snow.

Crossing a bridge, we found a golden creek: 

These pitch pine were heavy with pine cones.  The ones near my home drop branches when they have three in a cluster.  Fairy wands...

Sean reminded me of the Fibonacci pattern here. 

More caves...

Heavy snow melt makes for great waterfalls.  I visited parts of this trail last November at it was a different creature.

Enjoying just being.

Wooly adelgid.  Not a team player!

Deer tracks through the snow.

Ferns and bearberry peaked through the snow as well as this moss.  Spring is coming!

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