Celebrating the Seasons

Fall with its cooler temperatures and spectacular leaf colors has arrived in the northern hemisphere. Spring with sprouting plants and warming temperatures has arrived in the southern hemisphere.

Noticing these changes and taking the time to celebrate them is as natural to human rhythms as the various daily rituals we each have for rising with the light or retiring with the darkness.

Why not celebrate the change of seasons? At our home we mark seasonal changes with a bonfire, drumming, and using our garden lavender as prayer sticks.

Ann harvesting lavender for seasonal celebrations  Photo by Sarah MacDougall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not a complex celebration—something we design spontaneously that various neighbors have joined us for over the years.

Ann and Sarah drumming at opening of Fall Equinox celebration, photo by Christina Baldwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point is noticing the seasonal change and marking it by stopping to be outdoors in some self-designed ceremony. We are lucky enough to have a fire pit in our yard, but a person might just as easily walk to a city park collect a few colored leaves and take them home and arrange them on the dining room table.

Notice. Pause. Appreciate. Share your appreciation with a celebration of your own design.  You and the natural world come more closely into alignment. It is a form of activism.

Placing dried lavender sticks into the fire with each prayer, photo by Ann Linnea

 

 

 

 

In Search of Bioluminescence

In early August our dear grandchildren came to camp with us on the shore of Puget Sound. We had a wonderful time hiking, kayaking, and exploring. One of the magical things we experienced was bioluminescence.

puerto-rico-bioluminescent-bay from bvipropertyyacht.com

By definition, bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Some folks get to see fireflies in the summer.  Those of us around marine environments have to look in the water for our “fireflies”.

 

 

 

“Look, the stars have fallen into the sea,” said Christina as all four of us swished our long marshmallow sticks through the water at the edge of the dock.

Ever the literalist, seven-year-old Sasha looked overhead and said, “But the stars are still in the sky!”

Sasha balancing on a log in the same bay where we all discovered bioluminescence

 

“Right, some of them are up above and some of them are down below,” responded Christina.

 

 

 

 

 

“Wow, even in total darkness you can see a rock drop way down into the water!” exclaimed 13-year-old Jaden. “What actually makes the light?”

Jaden being his reflective self

“It is caused by energy released from a chemical reaction inside tiny organisms,” I explained. “When we stir up the water, they get activated.” While I am talking, everyone is busy swishing sticks through the water like magic wands.

Why do they do this?” asked Jaden.

“Lots of creatures have the ability to produce light—fireflies, jellyfish, even some sharks. These tiny creatures here are called dinoflagellates, a kind of marine plankton. We think they light up to confuse their predators. Other creatures exhibit bioluminescence to attract mates or to attract prey or to aid in hunting.”

We all returned to the beach, turned our headlamps back on, and filled our pockets with rocks. Though it was getting late, our exuberance did not wane for over an hour. Nearing 11:00 p.m., when we were finally satiated with swirling lights in the dark waters, we made the 10-minute walk back to our tent. I complimented Jaden on his persistence.

Jaden our 13-year-old night owl

“It took us three nights to figure out how to find the bioluminescence,” I said. “You were determined and kept me coming back each night. The first night all four of us tried to find it at the end of the dock but it was too choppy and didn’t feel safe to be close to the water. The second night you and I didn’t know to bring sticks. The final night we got everything right. Good job following through!”

 On the way back to the tent we paused to lie on the group site picnic tables with our headlamps off so we could see the Milky Way overhead. An infinity of stars, endless possibilities for life beyond what we know, complete silence and darkness.

“I miss Gracie,” said Sasha.

Sasha and Gracie together

 

“She is sleeping in her little kennel,” said Christina. “Let’s go back and check on her.”

Soon we are all asleep in the big Grandma tent, a satisfying end to our first camping trip with Sasha, and dreams that sparkled in the night.

 

 

Oddballs

No, this is not a derogatory term. It is actually a scientific category in Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon. And last week while hiking in a local forest a particular species of oddball was popping up everywhere.

Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora, popping up in a northwest woods. Photo by Ann Linnea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Oddballs” according to this popular botanical guide are plants that cannot turn sunshine into food. They are not green and contain no chlorophyll. Instead of being capable of photosynthesis, they get their nutrition in a variety of ways—by being insect eating, or saprophytic (living on dead and decaying vegetation), or parasitic (getting nutrition from a living plant/tree).

These Indian Pipes or Ghost Plants are parasitic and do not make their own food. Photo by Ann Linnea

Indian Pipe or ghost plant is parasitic. It obtains its nutrition indirectly from the roots of Douglas fir, western hemlock, and other conifers. Indirectly? Yes, these little ghost plants connect to conifers via microscopic pipes formed by a combination of fungal filaments and plant roots. These microscopic pipes are called mycorrhiza (meaning fungus-root).

Oh the mysteries of what lies beneath our feet in the forest! The remarkable neural network of the forest is just beginning to be understood by scientists. The work of Dr. Suzanne Simard, University of British Colombia, on communication and nutrient exchange between trees and other plants in the forest will be the subject of  another blog.

Ann and her dog, Gracie, walking in the forest with the ghost plants. Photo by Christina Baldwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last month my blog was about walking through the forest at the moment that my namesake flower, Linnea borealis, was blooming everywhere. This month it was my great good luck to be walking during the time of the bloom of the ghost plants.  A walk in nature is an open door to wonder and mystery always waiting for us to walk through.

 

My Namesake

This week on a summer solstice, forest walk in our local state park I was greeted with an enormous surprise. The flower I was named after was in bloom everywhere—from small patches to entire ridges.

Linnea borealis, the twin flower

A “field” of thousands of twin flowers in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never in 40 years of living in its range have I timed a walk to be in the woods at the peak moment of bloom for Linnaea borealis (the twinflower). I have seen one or two or a small colony of the tiny flowers blooming at one time, but nothing of this magnitude! I carefully sat down at the edge of one of these blooming fields and became completely still.

South Whidbey State Park on summer solstice

No human sound penetrated the forest’s deep silence on this cool summer day. I inhaled slowly. There is reputed to be an elegant fragrance that comes from these fairy flowers. I had never been able to perceive it, but here were thousands of flowers in one place. Slowly, steadily I found myself engulfed in a very slight citrus smell.

The ecstasy I felt must be akin to someone coming from a planet with no flowers landing in the northern hemisphere in June. I both wanted to shout out loud in amazement AND be silent in the temple of beauty.

This tiny woodland flower was my grandmother’s favorite in her Swedish homeland. She gave her fourth child, my mother, the middle name of Linnea. My mother passed that same middle name onto me. After kayaking around Lake Superior in the summer of 1992, I felt so profoundly changed that I needed an outward claiming of my inward change. So, I legally changed my name to Ann Linnea.

At this moment in the woods, I felt enormous connection to my mother, my grandmother, and my Swedish heritage. Since my mother is still alive, I eagerly called her when I returned from my walk. She has always lived a bit south of where this tiny plant grows. She knows what it looks like, but cannot ever remember smelling a Linnea flower. I sure hope my sweet, quiet grandmother had a moment like mine in the forest of her homeland when she was a child.

My grandmother’s favorite wildflower in Sweden. She immigrated here as a teenager.

Nature holds the thread of wonder if we look carefully. It is a powerful antidote for us humans—it has always been so.

 

 

 

The Trail Steward

The Trail Steward

Sitting on a bench in my beloved South Whidbey State Park, I was happy to be hiking again. Just 3 weeks after a partial knee replacement I was not moving fast, but I was relishing the return to my weekly medicine walks. Several old growth red cedar trees towered above me. Fern and salal plants were shoulder height and dense. The sanctuary of the forest surrounded me.

Ann at South Whidbey State Park’s old growth cedar

Within minutes of sitting there, a young family came by to admire the old cedar tree in front of me. The family paused to greet me and then the eight-year-old boy asked his father if he could go crawl into the hollowed out core of the ancient cedar tree.

The tree opening that the young boy wanted to explore

“Just a minute,” said the father. “We need to read the sign posted on the fence that protects this tree.”

The father read the sign to his son, wife, and newborn.

Please stand back. This tree needs protection. This ancient western red cedar is over 500 years old. During the 1970s under the organization ‘Save the Trees’ Harry and Meryl Wilbert and other dedicated citizens of South Whidbey, literally wrapped themselves around this and other old growth trees along this trail to save them from logging. Their efforts succeeded in annexing 255 acres of forest to South Whidbey State Park.

The old cedar now calls us back to the spirit of protection: this time people need to stop playing on or in the hollow of its trunk. Unless we all admire this ancient giant from a distance, the tree will die long before its time.”

 

Sign with the story of the old cedar tree

 I could see that the young boy was fidgety with the long reading. “But can I go and climb in the tree, Dad? I’ll be really careful.”

“No, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said the father. “The sign was put here to help us understand why no one should climb in and around the tree.”

I could not resist saying something. “Well done, Dad.”

The mom, who was standing close to me with her swaddled newborn, asked, “Are you a volunteer in the park?”

“Yes, I live nearby and visit often. You might call me a trail steward. Nineteen years ago I helped place that sign there because so many people were crawling in and out of the tree with little thought for what was happening to the tree itself.””

“Well, it’s really good to meet you. We’re from Seattle and have never been here before. We’re learning a lot.”

We all bid one another goodbye. After they left, I kept sitting a while longer. Nineteen years ago I was sitting in the same spot watching two young boys from the campground crawl in and out of the tree hitting the opening with sticks to make it larger. I, of course, asked them to stop. “Please don’t hurt that tree,” I had said. After they scurried away, it occurred to me that they didn’t know any better and that an educational sign might prevent further damage.

Trails and forests everywhere need stewards, and those of us who are frequent visitors can help educate newcomers in nature. A conversation here, a small action there—the natural world needs all of our attentiveness.

Ann and her constant trail companion, Gracie the corgi

 

 

A Tribute to My Daughter

I have just returned from a 10-day family trip to South Korea. Seven of us, age seven to 71, made the pilgrimage back to the land of our daughter and son’s birth. Everything about the trip was extraordinary, beginning with Sally’s invitation to have us join her.

Sally left South Korea in 1984 at age 17-months to begin her life in the United States as our adoptive daughter. Her return 34 years later with her entire extended U.S. family: two children Jaden (13) and Sasha (7); her partner, Joe; her father, Dave; my partner, Christina; and me was a pilgrimage of immense proportion. It will take us a long time to fully understand the impact of that trip on each of us. I begin my integration here with some photos and narrative and a bow of respect to a beautiful country with a long, complex and proud history.

Korean travelers: Joe (Sally’s partner), Dave grandfather, Jaden (Sally’s son), Sally, Sasha (Sally’s daughter), Christina grandmother, Ann grandmother photo by Joe Villarreal

On one level the trip is a story of spring time superlatives: gorgeous light pink cherry blossoms, multi-colored traditional hanbok costumes, fragrant food carts, and open-air market stalls of many, many items made in Korea.

Sasha at the cherry blossom festival

Traditional hanbok dresses

 

 

Joe and Sasha buying some street food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carefully advertised pride in local products

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another level it is a story of an American family discovering its roots. I knew very little about Korea when we adopted Sally and Brian. I am only slightly more educated now, but feel a new alignment and kinship with the country and its kind, thoughtful people. Despite the fact that we collectively only knew one word in Korean, gamsa-hamnida(thank you), we managed to figure out subway and bus routes, restaurant menus, and taxi directions using rudimentary communication and gesturing because people were so kind to us. In one case, a young man even came out of his shop to hail two taxi cabs to a nearby park whose name we pointed to on our map.

We spent several days in Seoul, which was still gleaming in all its post Olympic beauty. The mix of old and new and the sheer density of everything was immediately striking: spectacular skyscrapers next to the traditional south wall of the city; alleyways containing many, many small restaurants and shops.

Sasha and the guard at the traditional South Wall of the city—note skyscrapers extending beyond

 

Our family in a traditional Hanok village found a surprise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The corgi dog we spotted in an alley way.

 

 

 

Sasha,Sally, and Jaden heading off to explore the first morning in Seoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The longest stop and heart of our trip was Busan, beautiful port city and birth-home to our son and daughter. Sally said, “Somehow I imagined coming from a small fishing village.”  With 3.5 million people, Busan is the country’s second largest city and the 9thlargest port in the world.

Busan, the bustling world class port

Busy night scene in Busan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city with cherry blossoms all over its hillsides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent our first day enjoying a hike at Igidae Park which gave us expansive views of the skyline and the Gwangan Bridge. The walk itself took about two hours along a forested path just above the seashore. Though there were numerous Koreans out enjoying this coastal walk, our group of seven found a rocky seaside nook to share some stories about Brian’s life and then each of the seven of us took some time alone to scatter his ashes on the seashore of his birth city.

Looking at Busan from Igidae coastal park where we scattered some of Brian’s ashes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the spirit of honoring rituals, we journeyed the next day to the community of Jinhae where the annual Korean Cherry Blossom festival is held for 10 days. It is estimated that nearly 2 million people attend the 10-day festival. I would definitely believe there were 200,000 people there on our visiting day! Crowded, yes. Respectful, definitely. Beautiful, for sure.

Joe and Sally at the cherry blossom festival

 

Traditional male dancers at the Jinhae cherry blossom festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmothers dressed up for Easter and the cherry blossom festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding back to Busan on our tour bus, we were amazed at the number of high-rise apartment buildings alongside the roadway. Two-thirds of South Korea consists of mountains and hills. Only 22% of the land is arable. Every inch is needed to grow food for its 51.25 million people.

Our final full day in Busan took us to the Jagalchi Fish Market where we marveled at row after row of fish, eel, octopus, clams, sea squirts, and seaweed. Our granddaughter, Sasha, became intrigued with one stall where dozens of live octopus kept trying to escape from a crowded plastic tub. She and Christina wrote and illustrated a book titled, “The Girl who Saved the Octopus.”

Jagalchi Fish market stalls

A fresh basket of mussels, clams, shrimp, and octopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woman vendor selling octopus at fish market

Sasha and Christina writing their book, “The Girl Who Was An Octopus Saver”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That final night we took a harbor cruise to see Sally’s city from the water. Busan is lit up like a world-class city—office buildings, bridges, etc. I said to Sally, “Wow, you really come from some where beautiful!” It was an emotional evening for all of us.

Cruise ship at night in Busan

 

 

Our cruise ship going under the Gwangan Bridge in Busan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to Seoul for several of days of integration, we found comfort in our new familiarity with outdoor markets, local food, and subways.

Sally’s father and Christina eating at a Korean barbecue in Seoul which furnishes gloves to keep your hands clean

 

Lantern lights for the celebration of Buddha’s birthday in Jogyesa Temple, Seoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaden, Sally, Christina, and Sasha at Seoul’s Namdaemum Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home now, I offer a deep bow of respect to the incredible adjustment my daughter has made these many decades to creating a beautiful life in the U.S. And a bow of gratitude that we were able to bring some of Brian’s ashes to the shore where he was born.

Now we walk with curiosity into the meaning-making story this trip will have in the generations of our family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teachers Do NOT Carry Guns

I have been a teacher all of my life. My partner and three sisters are teachers. Many, many of my friends are teachers.

Teachers do NOT Carry Guns. It is the antithesis of what we are called to do with our lives.

We find joy in connecting with our students to help them learn things. We find challenge in articulating subjects so that students of many different learning styles can find the AHA moment that leads to new understanding. We work hard to prepare them for an ever-changing complex world. I cannot begin to list all of the disciplines we must master to be able to teach students of any age.

Our dear seven-year-old granddaughter attends a bi-lingual school in Los Angeles. Walking her to the playground where all children line up with their teachers before entering school, I see the world arriving—fathers with dreadlocks, mothers with hijabs, fathers in suits, grandparents in jogging suits. A “United Nations” of children walk in squiggly lines behind their teachers, eager to enter their classrooms—confident of the kindness and attention of their teachers, anticipating the familiar pattern of the day.

I watch Sasha’s first grade teacher lean over every child, helping with backpacks, giving hugs, looking each child in the face, loving and appreciating them into the morning. I cannot imagine, nor will I tolerate the idea that this teacher should be packing a loaded pistol.

The inalienable right of students of all ages is a safe and nurturing learning environment. Guns have no place in this scene. None.

 In response to the brave, articulate call from high school students who survived the recent horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida, the President of the United States has recommended arming teachers. This is a response from someone who has no understanding of what millions of teachers do every single day on behalf of children and youth—especially public school teachers.

At best it is a stupidly dangerous idea. At worst it is an idea that could lead to the disintegration of our society into a police state.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are following in the steps of their radical founder who said: “Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.”

As adults, we owe it to students everywhere to support the Parkland high teens. How do we support them? We continue to apply pressure on our elected leaders to find a solution to the horrific problem of gun violence in our schools. And we use great discernment about what is a good idea and what is a bad idea.

 

Medicine Walk

A Medicine Walk is different from an ordinary walk. It is done alone, in silence, and in solitary connection with the natural world. The intention of the walk is to see, hear, smell, observe, and sense as much as possible. It is a traditional part of the preparation for a wilderness fast and it has become a lifetime spiritual practice for me.

In this year when threats to our precious earth loom large I have begun the practice of taking a weekly Medicine Walk. It is a tangible way for me to communicate love and appreciation directly to the wild ones—from trees to birds. These walks on the wild side fill my heart and soul with calm and peace. It is, perhaps, one of my most powerful forms of activism.

Beginning in the darkness of winter, I took my first medicine walk shortly after the winter solstice. Each of the five weeks since then I have bundled up and ventured out to immerse myself in Nature for a few hours—sometimes on a local beach, sometimes in the surrounding forest.

Stopping for tea on a snow-covered, mossy bench

Carrying a small backpack with my ten essentials, a thermos of tea, a little notebook, and a lifetime of love for the earth, I head out on my excursion. Sometimes important insights come into my thoughts, “Wow, it is hard to quiet my mind. Just observe and appreciate. Don’t plan!” And then I return my meditative focus to observation of all around me.

Writing in my journal at Rosario Head, Puget Sound

Other times important memories rise up to inform some deeper issue churning inside me. That is where the little notebook and time sitting can be important. Twice already I have surprised myself with an important memory or insight when I pause to write.

Hiking poles, journal, cup of tea and a sheltered beach spot.

Always I return home with what Christina calls “the Medicine Walk aura”. I feel calm. The “to do” lists can wait. My attention span feels increased and I feel hopeful about life in general. From this place I am better able to be a good citizen, community and family member.

The winter mosses are incredibly plumped up.

Activism takes many forms. It is not just protests on the streets or letter writing or preparing for public hearings—though those things are important. It is also taking the time to engage in our own spiritual practices so that we bring a deeper, wiser, more unshakeable presence to our engagement with the secular world.

Rain, cool, wet—woodland mushrooms are at their most gorgeous.

Traditional Knowledge

I am an Anglo-American, descendant of immigrants: 50% Swedish and 50% northern European (Irish, Scotch, German, French). Blue eyes and blond hair, now silver; I was educated in public schools and state universities where western scientific knowledge provided the framework for my thinking. I appreciate this knowledge and I believe these times require me to continue to question and expand the worldview I was handed.

Books as Bridges to Traditional Knowledge

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and Tim Flannery; The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David Haskell; Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt: and A Rain of Night Birds by Deena Metzger have helped me on my search to reach through the veil of western scientific thinking into traditional knowledge. (See below for definition.)

This first book is written by a German forester, who after 30 years, began to realize how much more trees were than just lumber. He helps us understand how trees quite literally communicate with one another.

The second also focuses on trees. Written by a University of Tennessee professor, this very in-depth book leads us by the hand into forests all over the world helping us to perceive the music and poetry available there.

The third book, written by Seattle friend and colleague, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, is an exquisite example of a writer immersing herself in her nature topic. She and her family lived with a wild starling so she could better understand the role a starling played in the Mozart household, and the influence of birdsong on the great composer’s life.

A novel written by radical social ecologist, Deena Metzger, took me to the bridge between scientific thinking and traditional knowledge. Her book chronicles the love affair between an Anglo climatologist and a Native climatologist that leads them to the very edge of wild nature and across the shamanic barrier to traditional knowledge.

Traditional knowledge is long term environmental understanding held by people who remain immersed in and dependent on the natural world for subsistence and for social and spiritual lineage.

The commitment of the above authors to explore Nature beyond western educational frames and training enabled them to build a bridge to authentic traditional knowledge for all of us. In a specific example of how traditional knowledge can sometimes be wiser than scientific thinking, Dennis Martinez (“The Value of Indigenous Ways of Knowing to Western Science and Environmental Sustainability” (May 9, 2010) http://www.susted.com/wordpress/content/the-value-of-indigenous-ways-of-knowing-to-western-science-and-environmental-sustainability_2010_05/) explains how Canadian regulations on musk ox hunting nearly destroyed the population until Inuit hunters’ wisdom was acknowledged.

Musk ox—Elelur photos

“Western scientists can be unbelievably ignorant of animal behavior. Some years ago the Canadian government allowed the sport hunting of Arctic musk ox that had passed reproductive age. Inuit hunters objected. They knew that herd elders were critical to the survival of the herd when it was under stress, e.g., keeping the younger musk ox calm during sieges by wolves. They also knew that the larger, heavier older musk ox, like bison, are able to break through thick ice-encrusted snow, allowing smaller, younger animals to access the browse beneath the snow. It wasn’t until the herds began to crash some years later that scientists recommended stopping the shooting of “over the hill” musk ox. This mechanistic approach of scientists to animal management prevented them from recognizing the social ecology of animals.”

Experience as Bridge to Traditional Knowledge

Just over a year ago I made a pilgrimage to Standing Rock—the spontaneous camp on the banks of the Little Cannonball River to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline being drilled under the Missouri River.

Ann at Standing Rock, December 2016 photo by Anne Hayden

Thousands of Anglo allies came to support the Standing Rock Sioux. And people from 300 Native Nations joined the nearly yearlong encampment. I came to be of service to these people in their valiant stand and to humbly expose myself to their wisdom about keeping the protest peaceful and spiritually focused.

It was a remarkable learning experience. The arrival of a fierce North Dakota blizzard necessitated quick, shifting of energies—adaptability is a primary teaching of traditional knowledge. Instead of experiencing whole camp ceremonies, I learned instead from the privilege of some important conversations with individual Native peoples. (See blog: https://peerspirit.com/conversation-matters/)

Extended time outdoors in wild nature, in the garden, with our little dog—these are my ongoing sources of experiential learning along the continuum between scientific thought and traditional knowledge. I cherish the richness of the learning journey ahead of me. I invite you to join that journey. These are perilous times that require all the wisdom our species can bring forth. We cannot remain siloed and separated in any way.

 

 

 

 

 

Rituals of Readiness

I spin the globe that sits by my desk. All of my life I have lived in the north. I was born and raised in southern Minnesota at 43.6666 degrees N. latitude and over the years have migrated up to my current location of 48.0095 degrees N. latitude. (The 49th parallel is the boundary between the U.S. and Canada.)

Living in the north requires big attention during the shift from autumn to winter. Before the chill, important rituals of readiness for gardens, yards, and homes need tending. There are no precise dates for these rituals, only approximate guidelines that require me to pay attention during the darkening days of late fall. I love the challenge of being alert enough to track and respond to these changes. How I tend the third of an acre in my care provides much of the foundation for my sense of earth stewardship.

Here in the maritime climate of Whidbey Island, Washington the biggest sign of seasonal change is the return of the rains, coupled with cooling temperatures. Squash plants in the garden just give up—turn yellow and refuse to put any more energy into growing larger. Ritual #1—harvest the garden before things rot. Leave a few plants that prefer late fall.

Carrots in this climate will sweeten and lengthen well into December.

 

 

 

 

 

Kale provides another delicious harvest into December.

 

 

 

 

 

Because we get such heavy rains in the winter, it is important to plant a cover crop to return nutrients to the soil and to protect the soil from compaction. Ritual #2—plant the cover crop and, of course, the garlic! I love garlic. I plant the cloves from the biggest and best of the previous year’s harvest and green shoots begin to come out of the ground in January, just when I’ve given up all hope of spring returning.

Cover crop of winter rye, crimson clover, and Austrian winter peas planted  mid-October after squash is harvested.

Recently planted cover crop carefully protected from the birds until it germinates.

 

In the Pacific Northwest the biggest and most widespread trees are conifers. We are lucky enough to live next to a guardian Douglas fir tree. Stewarding this huge tree in our backyard requires periodic pruning by an arborist and many, many sessions of blowing needles off the roof and out of the gutters as the winter winds blow. Ritual #3—Clean up after the trees.

 

Ann blowing fir needles off her roof. photo by Christina Baldwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I make my way through my “outdoor TO DO list,” I find myself both focused down on specific tasks, and lifted up to notice the beauty and shifts around me. The red maple leaves are gone, but the birches shimmer yellow in the rain. The mountaintops lie under heavy clouds, then reveal their new snow cover. Rain forecasts for days also bring rainbows and pockets of momentary sun. The fourth and final ritual is the most important. Ritual #4—appreciate the beauty of the season.

Birds migrate through. Rabbits spend more time in their warrens. Chipmunks are virtually invisible. Deer bed in the pockets of undisturbed woods around our home. Evergreen plants and trees carry out their photosynthesis throughout the winter. Time to take a stroll in the State Park near our home as rains revive the mosses. Then home to split wood, light a fire in the stove, have a cup of tea and just be amazed. Ready: plants, animals, and me.

Young buck grazing in the front yard.

 

Cup of tea and a candle while I watch the garden from the dryness of inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me with one of our State Park old growth Douglas Fir trees. Photo by Margaret J. Wheatley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post script: Thanks to my father, Frank M. Brown, who taught me many of these skills. He passed away four years ago this month.

2012. My father at the beloved Colorado ranch where our family gathered every summer for 50 years.