The Sanctuary

by Audrey Scharmen

Published in Potomac Review, Fall/Winter 2001-02.

In the aftermath of lighting,  thunder and a heavy downpour with the horizon streaking rose, and mauve, tall silhouettes of trees encircle a dooryard garden where the cardinal flower stands amid a bed of her offspring. She is regal and rainswept, unbowed by the storm, each scarlet spike of florets beaded with diamond droplets aglitter in the fading light.

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis,  older than time, the symbol of hope and continuity in an era when both are precarious, has chosen this garden of a herbalist and healer as a sanctuary. Here are boneset, lion’s foot and agrimony. Argiope spins silver among cats claw and zebra grasses where winged Luna and Promethea linger to meditate and metamorphose. Here is a strident chorus of tree frogs and birdsong, the fecund scent of a generous season, and the subtle fragrance of white sage burned in an ancient ritual of welcome.

Lobelia cardinals,  older than time, the symbol of hope and continuity in an era when both are precarious, has chosen this garden of a herbalist and healer as a sanctuary. Here are boneset, lion’s foot and agrimony. Argiope spins silver among cats claw and zebra grasses where winged Luna and Promethea linger to meditate and metamorphose. Here is a strident chorus of tree frogs and birdsong, the fecund scent of a generous season, and the subtle fragrance of white sage burned in an ancient ritual of welcome.
The gardener, who presides with the blessings of the natural world, describes an entourage of daddy longlegs spiders that came to spread a net about the cardinal’s buds when predators threatened. The spiders quietly retreated when the first flowers opened, and the plant remains flawless. She tells of hummingbirds who came to pollinate-among the few winged creatures able to penetrate the deep nectar of the florets-and of a fat bumblebee who sleeps nightly amid the blossoms.

And she tells of the cardinal’s coming. To this thickly wooded acreage that she has long tended in the watershed of a great estuary, where precious fossils of an inland sea abound, and where relics of Piscataway Indians who once hunted here lie all about, have come uncommon botanicals,  seeking refuge from the constant threat of progress. But her garden lacked a cardinal flower, an elusive plant she coveted.

It is a stunning survivor of the warm period that preceded the glacial epoch-its flowers so intense a hue the leaves often are stained with it. It is said that no color due to sustained sunlight could have originated in our temperate zone. Thus its birth has been traced to the Age of Flowers, to a sudden explosion that changed the face of Earth. The cardinal indeed may have been present at the creation.

The gardener’s efforts to transplant such a flower had been futile, and she had gone in search of it in a woodland beside the bed of a brook in a nearby glen protected by dense undergrowth and tall trees. Stalks of summer things spoke of a secret garden, and she thought it an ideal place for the Cardinal, a wetland plant with an aura of the rain forest, which craves a secluded habitat where it may keep its feet wet and its head crowned with sunlight. Hidden beneath a residue of autumn past were infant seedlings resembling those of the cardinal-flat green rosettes of leaves with baby fuzz still intact. But she was uncertain so she would return later when jewelweed and goldenrod bloom, in the time of the cardinal.

Fate intervened. A few weeks later four young people died instantly in a head-on collision beside the road that borders the woodland, steps away from a trail that leads down to a haven of seedlings. An entire community mourned, and the crash site became a shrine. Candlelight vigils were held there, and paper roses bloomed beside a white cross with photos of four smiling faces forever sixteen. The gardener considered the glen a temporary haven for the transitory souls of the children and so she did not return.

Autumn faded; winter turned quickly cruel, and the wilted roses shed red on new fallen snow. Spring came early with clouds of dogwood to grace the shrine. Chaste stars of Bethlehem shone on the hillside, and burgeoning foliage hid the path beyond from the eyes of passerby. Summer followed long and sweltering. No rain fell and the wetlands withered.

With late summer came rain, the heat subsided, Virginia creeper and sumac bled scarlet beside the road, and white blossoms of autumn clematis covered the carnage of drought. A semblance of peace came to the shrine, and the gardener returned to the glen. But the Cardinal hadn’t come. Black-eyed Susans bloomedin its place.
In early September it appeared in her garden-rising from tall stalks of feverfew and ferns beside the porch, undetected until a bright beacon of buds reviewed the presence. A rare albino deer had come, as well, to linger briefly at the woods edge, pale and ghostly in the blue twilight. Hummingbirds returned-none had been seen all that summer.

There is no explanation. Perhaps a single seed, dormant for centuries nurtured by one of many springs known to lie deep beneath the unique woodland, suddenly had awakened. It was the cardinal’s time.

Blog/Radio program with citizen scientist and pollinator activist

Here’s the link to Blog/Radio program on pollinators and more yesterday with

Annie Lindstrom and Mary Ellen Ryall on Talkupy at http://tobtr.com/s/4437119

Photo of wild bergamot, western sunflower and beloved bumblebee copyright Cindy Dyer.

Image

It was a joy to speak with Annie about pollinators and more to an audience that is tuned into ways to help community, creatures, and natural world. .

Even nature bows its head

I learned something new a few days ago. My sister had put fresh flowers in an antique flower base, she keeps on the kitchen table, that one of friends gave her. This was the first time I had seen the flower. Ronnie said the Latin name; she explained it was the obedient plant. She then showed me how individual flowers on a stem could be bent in any direction. It was as if the flower had joints. I was amazed because I had never seen this before. She said, “That’s way it is called the obedient plant.”

I witnessed a new discovery yesterday. I watched a small bumblebee land on wild bergamot blossoms. The bee grabbed onto a tiny extension (like a stiff string) at the very tip of the top petal. In all the years that I have gathered beloved wild bergamot for cold and flu season, I had never even seen this floral feature before. Then with patience, the bee was able to work its way into the open deep cave for nectar.

I heard the wood thrush again and loons flew overhead, even thought I didn’t see them. I could hear them. Loons have a primordial haunting song.

Ronnie had to return her grandchildren to the other grandmother, who lived closer to where the young couple live. Ronnie’s son Aaron and his wife Melissa live quite a distance from Fitchburg where the old farm ( Winter Hill Farm) is located.  It was the perfect time for solitude and aqua therapy after the hub was silenced.  While entering the pool, I saw a tiny tree frog swimming in the water. I scooped the frog up and deposited the amphibian on the cement pool patio. It was so sweet to see the frog leap away. Then I rescued a green cricket or grasshopper. Last but not least, I was able to gently scoop a nondescript moth up and land it on solid ground. The moth fluttered off.

I read somewhere that Buddhist monks would move earth worms so that no harm would come to them. Realizing that worms help make soil, I know how critical it is to ensure conditions that respect our under the soil relatives . We gardeners relish composting and mulching. Rich decaying matter can be broken down faster by worms. Isn’t it wonderful to rejoice because there is life beneath and above the soil?

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Butterfly Corner

Ryall, M.E., 06 June 2012. Washburn County Register, Butterfly Corner.

False indigo is in in first book after planting three years ago

False indigo is in in first book after planting three years ago

Saturdays at the Habitat:  8 a.m. – 10 a.m. The first and second Saturday Habitat Yard Sale for the butterflies took place. Folks came by to tell us how lovely the Monarch Butterfly Habitat looks. Others came on bike or by car and bought a few things. Saturdays are fun at the habitat. We planted a few violets for the fritillary butterfly. A Three Sisters Garden was planted, just before it rained. Weeds were pulled, wet newspaper put down, and topsoil added that Steve Degner delivered. We added aged sheep manure and a package of potting soil. This planting style is known as the lasagna method. The idea is to not dig into the soil, but add to it. We planted birdhouse gourd seed and hope they will grow among squash, heirloom beans, and Pungo Creek butcher corn, a variety of rainbow red, brown, yellow, and sometimes purple ears.  For 165 years, the corn has been grown by farmers of Pungo Creek, Virginia.

May 25: The once rare brown Argus butterfly of southern England has found a new food source according to Butterfly Conservation, a science and advocacy group in the United Kingdom. The butterfly was located in southern England within a small area with a less common host rock-rose plant. Now the butterfly has migrated north due to climate change. A cooler environment was critical for its survival. To scientists’ surprise, the butterfly caterpillar is eating geraniums, which are abundant.  “The change in diet represents a change to the interactions between species – in this case between a butterfly and the plants that its caterpillars eat – caused by climate warming.”  This is the first case of a butterfly that can survive with a change in host plant, due to climate change. More science research and documentation will be ongoing to track butterfly species adaption to climate change. Terry Root, Stanford University, states that for every winner, there will be three loser species. Source: Butterfly Conservation Organization.

Wet bumblebee after a storm copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Wet bumblebee after a storm copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

May 28 – June 1: It was a virtual butterfly and bumblebee feast at the property in Minong. I saw a fritillary, American copper, red Admiral and many monarch butterflies. The fritillary deposited eggs on tiny violet leaves. The monarch deposited eggs on milkweed.  Yesterday it was the bumblebees. I counted 18 large bumblebees on chive flowers. Some were sleeping while others drank nectar from flowers. Two species of bumblebees were noted: double banded rust and impatiens.

Red Admiral copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Red Admiral copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake was alive with red Admiral butterflies.

Common buckeye copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Common buckeye copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

There were several of them nectaring on native ninebark shrub. Common buckeye and

American Lady copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

American Lady copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

American Lady were also seen. American lady differs from painted lady in that the butterfly has two giant eyespots on hind wings.

June 2: Family Festival was held in Spooner at the Fairgrounds. Hundreds a parents, grandparents, friends, and children were in attendance. Fresh Start and Happy Tonics partnered together to provide fun activities for children. My newest book, Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book,  just came out on Amazon. Copies were made of the butterfly coloring pages.

Gideon Fegman coloring monarch from Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book

Gideon Fegman coloring monarch from Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book

Gideon Fegman enjoyed coloring a monarch and said, “I am a naturologist.” John Jess, of Minong, provided several clay birdhouses and paint. Dan Gunderson, Fresh Start, gave the bird houses a first coat of paint. Children painted decorative designs on the birdhouses. We plan to make a stand and exhibit the birdhouses at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake.

Remember to stop by the Habitat on Saturday mornings and join the flea market fun from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Visitors can volunteer to do a few morning chores also.

Environmental Film Festival Series

bumbleaserelainevans

APRIL 13, 2011
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College
13466 Trepania Road
Hayward, WI
12 p.m. Potluck (please bring a dish to share, your own plate and utensils)
12:15 p.m. Speaker: Elaine Evens, Arthur of Befriending the Bumblebees
12:45 p.m. Film: “Silencing of the Bees”
1:45 p.m. Advocacy to Action
How do we make a difference in our community?
 
Sponsored by Happy Tonics, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Sustainable Living Institute, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Bumblebee on aster copyright Elaine Evens.

PLEASE VOTE FOR OUR GRANT PROPOSAL on Brighter Planet

Happy Tonics has been selected again as a candidate for the April 1 – 15 VOTING PERIOD with Brighter Planet.  Our Grant Proposal Native Habitats and Community Gardens in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, needs your VOTE at
http://brighterplanet.com/project_fund_projects/100
We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Environmental Education Organization and Public Charity.  Officers and board work for free.
 
 
Please take a minute to REGISTER on BRIGHTER PLANET and VOTE for our Grant Proposal.  Thank you for helping us create a world of beauty for today and the future.  
 
Bees on Coneflower

Native Bumblebees on coneflower

  Our work is dedicated to helping the littlest of species the pollinating butterflies and native bees that need our help.  We grow native habitat and crops to promote biodiversity which pollinators depend upon.

Thank you for VOTING for our Cause at http://brighterplanet.com/project_fund_projects/100
 

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