Perched on a rock in the rapids
A large muskie swam up and rested beside me
wondered if I should be panicked.
Hoped that I was not wearing anything shiny
that looked tasty to a muskie.
Welcome to the underwater world.
This northern pike was blind on the right side. No wonder it was so friendly.
Be open to the unknown. Beauty and the mystery awaits you.
Bowfin or dogfish, a bottom feeder. Primitive, creepy and beautiful.
Life abounds, a spiritual connection with the water beings.
This painted turtle swam right up to me. I thought it was going to bite my nose.
The lake water is part of you now.
The water inside your body
may have once been part of the lake.
Light changes constantly
Depending upon the clouds and the wind.
It dances on the plants and the fish,
Creating a hypnotic connection.
Sometimes you see things that makes you thankful to be alive
And you stop breathing
Because you are afraid the experience might end.
My first large northern pike
Inching my way slowly towards it.
Hoping it would stay just one more second
Making promises that I could never keep.
Awed by its tremendous power and elegance.
magical living beings
Connected to all the elements of life.
Their roots are in the earth
And live in both the water and air.
The sun is needed for photosynthesis.
This bass sashayed past me and told me it was the king/queen of its neighborhood.
Swimming out into the hinder lands
Turned to see a muskie following.
It circled once and then swam off.
Humbling to experience the raw wildness of nature
And how it feels to be something’s prey.
For the past 21 years, four of us have transformed an abandoned lot into a native prairie. The project has given us an opportunity to express ourselves as guardians of the Earth. What would our Earth be like, if all humans did even 1-2 years of guardianship service for the land?
Hoary Vervain Likes to grow in dry conditions.
There is a lot of talk about “saving the planet’, but I don’t believe the Earth operates on such grandiose terms. The caring of one person is important even if it doesn’t make the evening news.
Queen of the Prairie A wetland plant in the rose family with beautifully scented flowers.
After 3-4 years the land took on a life of its own. A blooming prairie, bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, mice, sparrows, and us guardians – formed a web of life. The more connected to the land we were, the more life we felt because we were included.
Cup Plant The leaves of the plant form a “cup” that birds and insects drink from.
When we first started creating the Friends of the Trail Prairie, people walking by on the bike path would shake their heads in disbelief. Once a policeman stopped and asked me if I was feeling okay. One observer summed up all the other people’s thoughts, “What are you doing down there, do you know?”. It is no wonder, people were in disbelieve. It was an abandoned lot sandwiched between a suburban road and a bike path. One acre of European spurge, Canada thistle, ragweed, and brome grass.
Native Big Bluestem We plant over a hundred plants a year. We use burlap from Peace Coffee to control weeds for the first two years. All new plantings need to be watered by hand.
The weeds in most restored prairies are treated with a heavy dose of Round-up and land is left fallow for a year. In 21 years we have not done any herbicide spraying because of the detriment that herbicides have on the land and on the subsurface water table.
Being at the prairie is like ingesting a type of food that I need for my own survival.
Butterflyweed A favorite of monarchs and pollinators.
This past season many of our native grasses did not grow. The thatch has built up over the years and smothered many of our plants. We need a burn on the prairie to reduce the thatch and weeds, but have been unable to get a permit from our city. Now we must extend our guardianship to the city government to speak up for the land.
Mountain Mint An August favorite of many types of pollinators.
People walk by the prairie now and say, “It looks beautiful, thanks for your service”.
My thought is,“It is not a service, but a partnership with the land. We get more from the prairie, than we actually give”.
Rattlesnake Master A favorite of pollinators in July. The plant is a a northern type of agave .
The prairie has been beautiful this season because of all the rain we have had. But there have been several drought years. During those years, it was painful to be on the land and watch the plants slowly die from the lack of water. However, following those drought summers, the plants emerged, alive again.
Friends of the Prairie 21 years and counting
Having a relationship with the land is different than landscaping a yard. At the prairie we encourage some plants to grow, by watering and protecting them from aggressive weeds. But in the end, the plants tell us whether they want to live or die there.
Ironweed Blooms in late July to early August
Monarda or Bee Balm If you give it too much love it tends to take over. A favorite of pollinators in mid July.
A true story by Eric Wickiser and the Old Naturalist. Only the names have changed.
One day weasel and deer mouse traveled to one of the canyons in the Badlands of South Dakota to connect with the spirits of the land. Weasel found a rock that had special powers and would speak to him. The rock told him that there were spirits alive in the bluffs and weasel waited for them to make contact with him.
The spirit offering
But every time weasel stood beneath the bluffs, the spirits were silent. Weasel began to look around the canyon and noticed that there were beautiful stones everywhere. He collected them in his bag and made an offering to the spirits, but the spirits were silent.
Weasel moved up the canyon examining the rock walls. The patterns in the rocks and the tall spires made his heart soar. Weasel thought, “Surely, the spirits will speak to me here.” Weasel’s body felt heavy and he fell into a deep sleep in the shade of the summer sun. When he awoke he realized the spirits did not speak in the weasel tongue and that he needed to start listening in completely different way.
mouse tracks in mud
Fossilized deer jaw
Possible squid fossil
By taking his time, weasel was able to notice things he had never seen before. Beautiful fossils, rocks and plants and skeletons of other animals laying on the ground. Slowly weasel came to understand that this canyon was untouched by other weasels. His brother, deer mouse, told him that the land in this canyon was totally alive and that nothing could be removed because everything was sacred. Time was no more and they were surrounded by abundant life.
Natural rock sculpture
Weasel and deer mouse slowly moved through the canyon in awe. Rocks, plants, grasses, old cedars, and even mud sculptures were all speaking to them. It touched their spirits deeply to be connected in such a way to the land.
Weasel knew that if he started taking objects, the magic of this land would be destroyed. His paws were quivering with the desire to take some of the beauty for his own, and that is when his friend, coyote appeared and told him that all this beauty was already a part of him and he only had to search inside of himself to find it.
Weasel and deer mouse’s pace increased, something was calling them up the canyon. The river bed ended at a huge dry waterfall. They could go no further. Deer mouse said that the land did not want them to enter the sacred place. Weasel and deer mouse lingered at the base, savoring the feeling that their souls were being nurtured by the sacredness. As they walked back down the riverbed, their hearts were full and they realized that they would carry this story back to their friends and relatives. Walking along quietly, they were aware that to really see and hear, they had to open their hearts, their minds and ears and take the time to drink in the rich beauty that surrounded them.
Felix Fettig is passionate about butterflies, native plants and amphibians. In 3rd grade Felix started raising monarch caterpillars and has done this activity for the past five years.
“ I just feel really passionate about this. I have raised monarchs, painted ladies, red admirals, polyphemus moths luna moths, cecropia moths, red spotted purples, viceroy, giant swallowtails, black swallowtails and tiger swallowtails. In all, I have raised and released hundreds of butterflies. This has got me a lot more interested in life science. I also like to growing carnivorous plants and love amphibians. That is why we built the pond up on the hill. Amphibians are very important because they are an indicator species.”
Butterfly garden, designed and planted by Felix when he was in 5th grade.
Felix’s original butterfly garden plan
White admiral in his butterfly garden.
“Black swallowtail larvae. I found the eggs on the parsley and dill and am feeding them Golden Alexander leaves.”
“This one is the tiger swallowtail. It is in its 5th instar and will turn brown soon. That is when you know it is going to pupate. I feed it green ash.”
Felix was in 5th grade when he made this drawing.
Monarch pupae. “I raised the monarchs from eggs that were on the milkweed in my butterfly garden.”
Salamander yearly migration cycle.
“The drawing above shows vernal pond and wintering pond/lake. The adults can’t breed in the wintering pond because the fish will eat the larva and adults. In the spring salamanders migrate to a vernal pond (has no fish and dries up in late spring). The adults lay their eggs and the larvae metamorphose before the pond dries up in the spring. They then spend the summer underground in the moist soil of the vernal pond and travel to the wintering pond/lake in the fall.”
Amphibian pond that Felix designed and built last year.
Old Naturalist: The Hopkins Field Biology Camp has been run by Scott Stillman for 18 years. He recently received a “Life Changer” award for his work with children and nature. During this year’s camp, I was surrounded by natural beauty, but the most inspiring thing for me was interacting with the young adults campers.
Photo by Jack Gunderson
The Shadow Like death falls the shadow The blue, the green, the yellow Everywhere this shadow lurks Waiting Until the golden rays bleed through. Not to end, but to aid. And when the shadow rises You will learn its name Silence Like the fog coming to trap the trees. We can learn many things from silence.
Jessie Kurus photographing a pitcher plant
I think I have been killed one thousand times. Although it is hard to count over the chimes. For that’s the noise I make as I do die I think it is God making a small noise For each moment I lived in gentle poise They count carefully and would never lie I know the answer is carved in the stone With this knowledge, I will not be alone. So there is no reason to sit and mope It is okay that I will die again. For that means I will be a thousand men. My future is all, at least I hope Sarah Coval
Photo by Jackson Risser
Nuala Kelly – Foley
Old Naturalist Note: Nuala said her work represents the expansiveness of the universe and the Earth is the blue dot at the top.
The summer sun is setting Everyone is forgetting The troubles of the day. The calmness of the fallen trees The serenity of waving leaves The sun sinks towards the rolling hills. Taking with it daytime’s thrills The night bears arms to the open sky Where the moon is soon to rise. Bringing with it night’s unrest The darkness pressing in your chest.
Then sleep will come And next the sun, Will rise outside your window.
A water droplet on a water lily. Photo by Soso Waterman
Tiny explorers determined and quick High up above and deep under wet earth Climb the trees tall and lark off at a flick Forever never to learn caution’s worth Tiny explorers hungry and buzzing. Alighting on those that just wish them gone Shooed half away with distracted fussing Returning as soon as defences yawn. Tiny explorers, jewel-bright and alive Crawling and winging to sights unforeseen.
Mink Frog photo by Taylor Hedlund
The leaf Jackson Risser
An old gnarled giant of a tree Fell from cloudless skies To a darken underworld and buzzing flies Illuminated by its old friend, the sun.
The broken branches envy the lofty trees And remembers standing tall Having leaves gilded with light Whispering to the wind passing by.
The old tree finds happiness on the ground It grows to like the chatter of squirrels The whistling of grass and buzzing of flies No longer missing the sky. Lucy Smith
Rock Wall Dancer photo by Maggie Lund
The Dragonfly Gliding on cellophane wings A master of flight Chasing other males from its spot Feasting in the warmth of the day You bless the land for all to see What is it like to live a pond as a nymph? And then take your first flight? I feel the freedom in your wings And long to be a partner with the wind To see the world through your eyes Teach me dragonfly, to let go Of my tether to the land And come to your world. Lawrence Wade
The ArtStart Camp run by Carol Sirrine is in its 25th year. The theme this week was the Galapagos Islands. The students in our classes were between 6 and 11 years old. Their dedication to their work and attention to detail was beyond their years. It was very inspiring working with these children. I have included material from three different classes taught by Jeanette Dickinson (mosiac), Sarah Honeywell and Louise Mader (visual arts).
Becca Richman Flying Fish
The flying fish is name the flying fish because it can “fly” above the water for more than two football fields. It lives in pelagic oceans and hunts smaller fish and zooplankton
Maya Vossen Nelson Orca Whale
Orca or killer whale males get up to 30 feet long and have a 6 foot high dorsal fin. They live in family groups that are usually controlled by the oldest female. Orcas feed on large fish, dolphins, and whales, usually hunting in packs. They are known as the wolves of the sea.
Pria Stauning Dolphin
Dolphins can have up to 250 teeth in their mouth. They do not drink water, instead dolphins get all of the water they need from the fish they eat. Dolphins find their food by using echolocation, a type of sonar. They can’t see all the colors, but they can sea shades of grey as well as the blue-green spectrum of light.
Elena Metzger Octopus
Octopus have four pairs of arms and two eyes. They have rows of suckers on each arm.
Nolan Andresen Blue Ringed Octopus
The blue ringed octopus is packed with enough venom to kill 26 people within minutes. It is the most venomous octopus in the world.
Alex Loes Breaching Humpback
Elizabeth Tuttle Tuna and Shark
Tuna can grow to be over 1,000 pounds in weight. The tuna is one of the fastest fish in the world and if a schooling fish.Sharks are the tigers of the sea. The great white shark is the most feared man-eating shark.
Mikey Barshack Green Sea Turtle
Calla Massari Batfish
They have long dorsal and anal fins that five them a unique shape. The batfish is two to three inches in height. The pinnatus batfish’s scientific name is Palax pinnatus. They are found in the Galapagos Islands.
Alex Loes Squid
Squid have excellent eye sight allowing them to locate food. They have 8 arms and each arm has sucker discs that they use for grabbing their prey. They eat small schooling fish and plankton. They tear the prey apart with their parrot like beak.
Abby Sikora Green Sea Turtle
Callum Schultz Marine Iguana
The Marine iguana is the only existing marine lizard on the Earth. They are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They feed on algae in the near shore waters. To filter-out excess salt that he/she consumes, this iguana has specialized nasal glands that expel it from its nostrils.
Ingrid Johnson Octopus
They are 24-36 inches long. It has eight long limbs coming out form its head. It has two rows of sucker discs on each limb, and they use them to sense and taste the environment. The octopus has a useful ability to grow back a tentacle if it loses one.
Luna Scorzelli Green Sea Turtle
Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures, living more than 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. The shell or carapace is streamlined so it can swim quickly through the water. Unlike other turtles sea turtles can not use their legs on land, since they have developed into fins over time.
Pearl Gordon Moray Eel
Eels are 10 feet long. They have long needle-like teeth them grab and hold their prey. Eels will attack a human if they are wounded or disturbed in their dens.
Naomi Fink Macaroni Penguin
Beela Kelly Octopus
They spend most of their life under rocks, leaving at night to hunt for crabs and clams. They have a beak-like mouth that allows them pry open or break open shells. They can change color rapidly if a predator is near.
Eight teenagers face the wilds of the Mississippi River and try to be true to their art and creativity. Carol Sirrine of ArtStart offered a residency to some gifted art students. This week their challenge was to create experimental art in partnership with nature.
Found River bank Art
Lucy Niemann A prayer for nature and healing
Confluence between the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers
River Bank mud sculptures
Great Blue Heron Tracks
Ella Barsanti, – Wild Raspberry Dream – natural coloring with black-capped raspberries
Lilia Murphy Tree of Hope – natural coloring with mulberry
Beckett Grice – Olympian Natural coloring with mulberry.
Becket Grice Natural coloring with Crow’s foot flowers.
The parade of frogs to the breeding ponds begins soon after the ice is out (usually after April 15th), as they fulfill their yearly mating ritual. In the spring I try to spend as much time as possible in the local frog ponds. Although it may seem gross to be slogging around a mucky pond, it is actually very healing. It is a world unto itself: the frogs calling; dragonflies darting around; and red wing blackbirds calling from the cattails. All you need is a decent pair of waders or rubber boots and a walking stick to keep from falling in the water.
American Toad – One of the dominant night sounds in May is the calling of the toads. I often have my window open, so I can be lulled to sleep by the trilling of the toads.
Chorus Frogs – The chorus frog is about 1/2 inch in size. The sound can be deafening when they are calling. However, they are very difficult to find if you are searching for them. Chorus frogs have also been called “cricket frogs” because their call resembles crickets.
Wood Frog – The wood frog is 2-3 inches, brown with a black eye line. They are a woodland frog that spend the winter in the leaf litter. They freeze solid over the winter, but their internal organs are protected by glycol, an antifreeze chemical. This frog is usually the first to visit the breeding ponds. They are very quick breeders, often only staying at the pond for two weeks. While breeding, the males aggressively move about their territories. The male’s call is a “clucking” type sound, similar to a chicken.
Gray Tree Frog – The gray tree frog can change colors from gray to green depending on its surroundings. They are two inches in size and have small suction cups on their feet which allows them to climb on windows and in to the treetops (over thirty feet).
Gray tree frogs overwinter under leaves on the ground. Their body completely freezes like an ice cube or “frog cube”. The frog survives by filling major body organs with an “anti-freeze” substance.
Tree frogs breed in mid-May in woodland ponds. After leaving the ponds, they feed on insects living in shrubs and trees.
Bullfrog – Bullfrogs can reach up to eight inches and are the largest frog found in Minnesota. Bullfrogs are a game species and are hunted for their tasty legs. They do not naturally occur in the Twin Cities, but have been introduced in many areas of the state.
Bullfrogs breed later than most frogs, in June and July. The call of a male bullfrog sounds like someone plucking a banjo string. Tadpoles take one to two years to metamorphose. Young frogs take 2-5 years to develop into adults.
Bullfrogs are rarely found far from water. They will eat any of the native species of frogs and have caused the population of native frogs to be lower in areas where the bullfrog has become established. Bullfrogs will eat anything that they can fit into their mouths, including: worms, insects, small turtles, snakes, bats, mice, and ducklings. Predators on bullfrogs are raccoons, mink, pike, bass, and humans.
Spring Peeper- Spring peepers are the smallest frogs in our state. They are approximately one inch in size. They are brown in color and have a distinctive “X” on their back. Peepers are woodland frogs and are uncommon in the Twin Cities because they like a natural setting without humans. Housing developments and roads have caused spring peeper populations to be reduced because of loss of habitat.
In the spring, peepers come to the ponds and make a “peeping” call that sounds like a chick. A pond full of spring peepers calling can be overwhelmingly loud.
Leopard Frog – The leopard frog is the most well known of all Minnesota frogs. It is a large green frog, three to four inches in size, with many black spots. Leopard frogs are exceptional jumpers.
Leopard frogs spend the winter buried in the mud in lakes. When the ice thaws, leopard frogs migrate to their breeding ponds. Many are killed as they cross roads at this time of year.
They begin breeding in late April. The males make a low snoring call to attract females. Leopard frogs complete their breeding in only two to three weeks, but remain near the water or in wet meadows throughout the summer.
Leopard frogs feed on insects and worms. Herons, raccoons, snakes, and owls feed on leopard frogs. Humans use leopard frogs for fishing bait, and many are killed by mowers and cars.
Chinese ink and Brush paintings – James Gregory I like painting nature because in order to paint I have to get out of my analytical mind and actually see the scene in order to paint it. This experience of turning off my expectations of how I think something should look allows me to access parts of my awareness which get blunted in daily thinking.
editor’s note – click on the horse to see it full size
Photo by David W. Nelson
I almost cried. There was an affinity in the woods, A stillness of calm, And peace, And pride. The wind filtered through the brush And touched Ever so lightly, The rustling leaves And the flowing current. Gusts, Upon which the Egret Displayed their grace with dignity. There was an affinity And I almost cried.
Robin Sanislo – photography and poetry
The question of art for me Is in my home and surrounding gardens. My gardens are one way I connect to nature And the promise of spring Is my favorite time to witness nature. And birds…. I love their visits to my yard And I provide lots of suet and thistle for them year round. Oh, and the bees, too. I love them when they move about all the flowers. I love to listen to them do their work. And then, voila… I reap lots of raspberries and plums and even peaches.
Christina Gregory – Chinese Ink and Brush Painting
I feel the beat of Spring today in crescendo and legato Of wind that stirs the chimes to rise And practice their scales. da da daaaa da da daaaa. Da da da da da. Da da da da da
I feel the beat of Spring today in the heartbeat of Mother Earth Held tenderly in the dark and moist home Singing a lullaby to the new born flowers.
I feel the beat of Spring today in the sap that pulses upward to feed new leaves To touch the buds with nectar sweet And treat humankind to sweetness on their pancakes.
And I hear the grace notes of the rain Quickly against the window pane in the early morn Lightly lightly tapping out a rhythm the stars can dance to.
And on the lakes I hear the creak and sway of cracking ice Thundering like the largest drum Releasing with each beat the water for the boats to come.
The lone wolf comes in from cold Shoulder to the wind Never needing anything Not asking for help Independent and strong Surviving but not living The lone wolf comes in from the cold I see you are child of light You are safe here in my arms And you will always be valued for who you are The lone wolf comes in from the cold You are always welcome at our table I will give you my chamomile tea I will listen to your stories There is no need to be silent anymore I will hug you if you are feeling sad You will never be ignored again The lone wolf, alone no more.
Falling into Spring
The wind is blowing warm across my skin. Urgently it draws me into the night. I sense you there And I begin to play. You whisper, I dance. The wind caresses my face. I am alive under the stars. I hear the flutter of night wings, The flutter of my heart. I am still. The night moves around me. The moon smiles down. I reach out my arms I’m filled with joy. I am falling into spring.
Christina Gregory – Chinese Ink and Brush Painting
Chinese ink and Brush paintings – James Gregory The Chinese say, all Chinese ink and brush paintings begin with understanding how to paint a rock!