Lessons from the Earth

Dear Earth,

This year found me once again staying in my home territory to honor you and so while my guy did some yard chores, I chose to visit a few of your vernal pools.

Along the way, I stopped to smell the roses! Opps, I mean admire the flowers of the Red Maples, their pistils and stamen all aglow.

As I approached the first and nearest pool, I new love was in the air for I heard the deep wrucks of the Wood Frogs. That is, until I got to within about ten feet, and then the only sounds were small splashes that barely created ripples as the frogs sought cover under the leafy pool lining.

But, as you’ve taught me in the past, I stood as still as possible and waited patiently. It was then that my eyes began to focus on the pool’s tenants. And I realized that the usual population of larval mosquitoes, aka “wrigglers” already somersaulting their way through the water. That may be bad news for me, but it’s certainly good news for the birds and dragonflies of the neighborhood. While I try to practice mind over matter when I’m stung by a mosquito, I have to remember that your plan to offer “Meals on the Fly” sustains so many others.

And then, and then I spied something disturbing. Actually it was two somethings. Frog legs of two frogs. And even a head. Dinner? For whom? Typically, I rejoice at a kill site for I realize that one species feeds another, but this one disturbed me. Perhaps, dear Earth, it was because I think of this pool as mine even though it’s located on a neighbor’s land, and I want to protect it and all that live within, as well as all who venture to it for nourishment. Eventually, I realized that perhaps someone had been nourished by the frogs, but why didn’t they consume the entire beings? Could it be one of their own species who went into attack mode? I don’t have the answer–but once again you’ve given me more to question. And so in the end I realized I should be grateful for having the opportunity to wonder.

The good news–right behind the two dead frogs was a recently deposited egg mass. Its form made me think Spring Peepers, but I’ll need to watch them develop.

Death. Life. The cycle plays out as if a best seller in this dramatic genre.

I circled the pool looking for any other unusual sights or clues, but found none. Eventually I stood on my favorite rock and appreciated that you finally rewarded me, dear Earth. A Wood Frog appeared by my feet and we both remained as still as possible–that is until my feet began to fall asleep and I needed to move on.

As you know, dear Earth, I located several more pools, their wruck choruses giving them away. And within one, it was obvious by the egg masses that the lover frogs had found their mates.

Walking back toward home, I got a bit nosey, as you know, and turned over some bark that had fallen from dead trees. To my delight: millipedes, earth worms, bark beetles, slugs, and . . .

At least five Red-backed Salamanders. That reminded me, dear Earth, that though I wasn’t able to join Lakes Environmental Association for Big Night on Saturday, that rainy night when the temperature ranges about 40˚ and the amphibians decide to return to their vernal pools to mate and folks try to help them cross our roadways to do so, I trust that you made sure the Red-backed Sallies and worms made their presence known in the grass behind the Masonic Hall. Did you?

As for my walk today, I followed our trails and then an old logging road, where the deer and moose and coyotes and foxes and turkeys also roam.

And because part of my journey took me along the snowmobile trail, I picked up some empties and realized that not all turkeys are created equal.

But you don’t judge, do you dear Earth. Nor do you pretend that the world is perfect.

That being said, the sight of my first butterfly of the season, the pastel colored Clouded Sulphur, was rather perfect in my book.

Thanks for once again taking the time to teach me a few lessons . . . lessons from the Earth on this, your day, Earth Day 2019.

Dear Clouded Sulphur

Just as a butterfly goes through a life cycle known as complete metamorphosis with stages including egg, larva, pupa, and adult, so is the poem you are about to read.

p3

You see, last week, I had the honor of attending a poetry workshop at Hewnoaks Artist Colony co-sponsored by the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library. After listening to poet Judith Steinbergh share her poetry and the works of others, and listening to her talk about form as she laid eggs in our minds, we were sent off for a half hour to write our own nature-inspired poem. It was raining lightly at that time and my larva stage was a celebration of the rain that made the aspen quiver with joyous sighs and the lichens transform like a chameleon. When the group came back together and we read our first attempts to each other, I ended by mentioning that I wanted to somehow work the Clouded Sulphur, a small yellow butterfly, into my great work. And then, over the course of the past week, the larva began to mature, to pupate as I wrote draft after draft and suddenly the poem was only about the Clouded Sulphur. Yet, the language wasn’t quite working and though I sent a copy to Judy, and she responded with the most encouraging comments, and then I sent another draft, and again she was encouraging, I told her that I didn’t intend to read my draft at the evening celebration of poetry. The celebration was planned for last night.

As I often do in the summer, I awoke at 5:30 yesterday morning, brewed a pot of coffee, sat in the rocking chair on the porch and realized I was ready to write about the butterfly in an entirely different form. The words flowed forth and what you read is maybe not the adult, or even a teenager, but perhaps a ‘tween and I know my habit of revising constantly so perhaps one day this poem will reach full adulthood.

But for now, after such a long explanation, here is what I wrote and was actually brave enough to read last night:

Dear Clouded Sulphur,

As I walk
along the gravel road,
I suddenly realize
I am not alone.
Oh,
there are bees and birds
and dragonflies and grasshoppers
to admire,
but you capture
my full attention.

h16-clouded sulphur butterfly
I notice first
your buttery yellow wings
tinged with a hint of lime,
and margined
ever so slightly
in a subtle pink.
And then I see
your bright green eyes
that remind me of my own
when I spot a buffet and don’t know
which delectable choice
to first taste.

h19-field
So it seems
you are the same
as you dance
over the meadow flowers,
your wings flitting
up and down, up and down,
before you suck nectar
from one clover
and then another.

h18-dark band on upperside of wings
That’s when I notice
the thick black border
upon the topside
of your wings.
Why do you hide it,
only allowing glimpses
in a quick
flash of flight?
Perhaps you feel
it will draw
too much attention?
If that’s the case,
I understand,
for as it is,
I see only
you at first.
And then a sibling. Or is it a cousin?
The relationship
doesn’t matter.
What matters is
that my eyes cue in
and I realize
I am encircled
by you
and all your kin.
In fact,
I no longer know
which one you are,
but that’s fine,
for it is
more important
that you’ve made
me notice.

h17-butterflies puddling

What I thought
was one butterfly
becomes two
and then five,
and suddenly
seven of you
gather upon the road
where only moments
earlier
a few raindrops
slipped from the sky
and dampened the pebbles.
As I watch,
all of you pause,
then fly
at different moments
to a new spot
within the same small square,
and pause again,
dazzling me
with flashes
of your subtle palette,
I realize
you are puddling.

h21
For the first time
I begin to understand
what “puddling”
actually means
as your extended
mouthparts probe.
The road that seems
so dirty and dusty
to my blue eyes,
your green eyes
recognize
as a source
of the nutrients
you seek.
And though there isn’t
an actual puddle,
mere raindrops
appear to provide
what you need.
But do they?
Are you able
to extract
enough minerals
to share
with your gal?
That’s beyond
my understanding,
but I continue
to watch
for as long as I can.
I wish I could stay all day,
so welcoming
have you been.
Alas, I must
pull myself away.
But before I do,
I want to say
thank you.
Thank you, C.S.,
for capturing
my attention
and allowing me
to observe
a few moments
of your butterfly life.
Thank you
for your minute presence
as you twirl and pivot
in this very place,
for your being here
indicates
a healthy environment.
Despite the lack of rain,
you find goodness
and in so doing,
share good news.

h22-hidden
With that knowledge,
I take my leave
with a smile
upon my heart.

Sincerely,

Leigh