Saratoga Springs New York then and now

For the past 27 years, I have been estranged from my home town, home to my genealogy:  Great-Great Grandfather William Ryall, my Great Grandfather William Ryall, Grandfather James Ryall, My father William Alfred Ryall and mother Mary Rose Sullivan and our family of four children. My parents are gone now and like the prodigal son, I went full circle to the place of my birth and first 18 years of my life. I returned to memories, my heart, preservation, elegance, tradition and beauty. Saratoga Springs is a crown jewel in the league of fame and fortune.

Oran2-S.V_1 by Regis Brodie

Oran2-S.V_1 by Regis Brodie

My cousin Jim and wife Stephanie gave me two stunning pieces of pottery. One was made by my Aunt Pat. She has had a brilliant pottery and ceramic career over the years. She studied under Regis Brodie who permitted her to work on her craft in his art studio at Skidmore College. Matter of fact, he encouraged her to come.

The piece I have is a blue bowl that was crafted by using my Great Aunt Sarah and Mary’s doilies of intricate pineapple shapes. Aunt Pat stated that she made a paste like dough that she pressed the doily on.. Then she rolled the shape out to a flat sheet, which was somehow incorporated into the pottery. I feel like I have a intricate art piece that has my own family’s history in it. I  Sarah and Mary Renolds, my great aunts, were outstanding seamstresses, who at one time worked in the garment district of New York City. You can learn about Regis Brodie, the other famous potter at http://www.rcbrodie.com/

Sunday morning, Jimmy and I watched as hundreds of Canada geese flew over North Broadway in the biggest migration formation I have ever seen in my life. Later in the day, my sister, her husband and I saw thousands of Canada geese resting in the large reservoir. Jimmy lives on land that goes right to the edge of the pristine reservoir.  It is gorgeous to see beautiful water and forest, which was carpeted in oak leaves and a sporadic bright green ground-cover. To hear the sound of thunderous wings fluttering and geese honking, was to witness the power sounds of nature’s force in action. On reflection, it was a wonderful prayer I was honored to see and hear.

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Sunday walk in the woods

Lots to do out here at Winter Hill Farm, Fitchburg, MA. Today I walked over to the an area that has wild grape vines draping the trees and cascading over prickly forbidding wild rose plants. The roses are invasive and have made it difficult to harvest the grapes.

Today I took pruners and began to cut them out and discard the thorny pests into a pile. Many of the stems wanted to cling to me. They cut through my woolen shirt and tore at my jeans. No they didn’t like being moved to a waste pile and they let me know. I only was able to clear a small area. I will return again and again to cut away the thorny dominant community. The wild grapes will then be accessible  hanging like a tarp over the trees. I can envision how lovely it is going to look, as early as next year, if I am persistent in this endeavor.

My sister wanted to take me back to the wetlands and show me a special area that is dear to her heart. It is an enchanted wetlands. I saw where she marked wild azaleas. Ronnie said, “It is so beautiful out here when they are in bloom, just like a fairyland.”

Later I walked back to the house by another route so I could possibly come to know how witch hazel (Hamamelis Virginia, Linn.) smelled. I never did have the privilege of knowing the scent, it eluded me. Recently somewhere I read about how one could sit in the woods in frosty November (we aren’t really there yet) and listen to the witch hazel fling its seeds, just like a sling shot. It is interesting that I found the information in a book, “Trees Worth Knowing,” by Julie E.Rogers, published in 1922. Ed, an elder in Minong, WI, presented the book to me one day. He told me that his mother-in-law had all kinds of plant books. He was happy to pass it on. The book binding is falling apart, but is interesting with its colorful language. “The witch hazel thicket is veiled with these gold-mesh flowers, as ethereal as the haunting perfume which they exhale.”

elusive witch hazel

elusive witch hazel

It is a November flower that has stubborn brown leaves clinging  to twigs. How odd it is. I picked a few stems and am drying it. Not sure if it will work or not.

Years ago my husband (d. 2010) would walk across the Mall in Washington, DC, stopping in the herb garden, next to the Smithsonian castle,where I would meet him after work. He told me how much he loved the scent of this elusive plant. This is the reason I am  tracking the scent. I wish I could have this experience so I would know what he experienced. Perhaps it was an experience meant just for him.

The plant is a species of elm. There are people who supposedly know how to use the forked twigs to locate water. The twigs have astringent properties and is sold in pharmacies for topical use.

Thanks for joining me today for a Sunday walk in the woods.

Be well insectamonarca where ever you are.

Dragonfly forest and other stories

Sympetrum olcinum dragonfly

Sympetrum olcinum dragonfly

Amelia, my niece was overhead saying to her brother and sister as they looked out the front door facing the expansive gardens and lawn, “It’s a dragonfly forest.” There were hundreds of dragonflies dive bombing mosquitoes and it did look like a dragonfly habitat.  We often see them by the masses at sunset around the pool area when we have our dinner out at the picnic table. Honestly, there are no mosquitoes because of the dragonfly patrol. No need to spray here. I did get a photo of the red or rust yellow-legged meadowhawk (Sympetrum olcinum). We saw a twelve-spotted skimmer (Libfellua pulchella). The skimmer has a white abdomen and several spaces on the wings that are clear, with darker accented markings. It is rather large and noticeable.

Looking in a field guide for vernal ponds, I learned that the eastern box turtle is of special concern in Massachusetts. I feel fortunate to have a shell that my dog Tia and I discovered near the pond that was on the back side of our property in Lusby, MD. In December 2000, I carried the shell with me when I moved to Wisconsin. Once I was there, I learned that the turtle was a significant part of Ojibwa culture in the Great Lakes region. There is no such thing as coincidence, seeing as I had moved to Indian Country and would be studying with the Ojibwa at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC). I graduated from LCOOCC in 2003. You can read about my journey to the Midwest online at http://www.tribalcollegejournal.org/archives/8298

I was granted a Creative Writing Award from Tribal College Journal where the article was published along with other tribal college authors. I am thrilled that the prestigious Journal published the  issue online for prosperity.

Amelia, my grand niece

Amelia, my grand niece

Continuing our woodland walk, Amelia and I saw many frogs. I saw a wood frog  that wears a black mask across its eyes and has a yellow line that distinguishes this particular frog species. Frogs were not all we saw. There was cucumber root . My sister Ronnie told me what it was. Here is a photo of the plant. The upper set of leaves were growing through the beautiful ferns that exist within the woodlands.

Cucumber root

Cucumber root

The plant is unique because it as two separate sets of leave with berries within the top array of leaves that form a circle around the plant stalk. Ronnie also pointed out running cedar that grows near the far boundary of the property near the frog pond. . I have to jog my memory re: medicinal plants and look up both running cedar and princess pine. Something is nagging me about one of them being a medicinal plant.

On the walk down Ashby West Road yesterday, I came across lady slipper leaves visibly growing near one of my favorite grandfather boulders. I was really taken aback. There are at least eight sets of visible plants growing along the side of the road. I drove down the hill yesterday and Ronnie was able to be my eyes as we passed the large glacier boulder. Ronnie, being a plant expert herself, was able to spot the lady slippers. I love them because they are part of the orchid family and hardy enough to grow in our northern climate.

ladyslipper

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