Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poison Ivy?

Everything grows where we live; abundantly green and lush, our woods are some of the most diverse in the world.  Of course, along with the spring ephemerals and rarities, we have some of the most aggressively growing vines of poison ivy I remember seeing.  Dan has discovered that he is quite allergic, seemingly destined to catch it with the first woodsy golf game of the season, so we have become adept at identifying it.  

I should actually give the credit to Eliza, who is a master of identification and does not have to remind herself, as I do, what she is looking for every spring.  I'll holler, "this one? Is this poison ivy??" and she'll dutifully come and refresh my memory.  It doesn't help that our woods are also full of box elder, which looks surprisingly similar to poison ivy, which was alarming when we first arrived here.  I thought poison ivy grew as big as trees!  Actually, the vines can grow so large that at first they can appear to be a tree.

Ack! Is it a tree?? No! It's a Poison Ivy vine!
Poison Ivy vine on a Walnut tree at Blennerhassett Island
This is what it looks like here this week...Shiny, small, a little sneaky.  The girls reminded me on a hike a few weeks ago that I'd better not squat to pee in the woods this year, 'cause last year let's just say that I saw nothing and found out the hard way that poison ivy had started to grow...

I need a tutorial every spring on what to look out for, so Eliza drew this for me a few years ago, and I find it very handy!

Opposite stem = Box Elder, Alternate stem = Poison Ivy
Hairy vine, shiny leaves, red dot where the three leaves join
Here is another illustration of what alternate stemming looks like. Wasn't it nice of the plant to pose so beautifully against the wall?

Should you find yourself rubbing up against some poison ivy, have a look around for some jewelweed, which is just starting to grow here.  When I'm on the ball I'll puree some jewelweed in the fall and stick it in an ice-cube tray for those first encounters with poison ivy in the spring.  The stem is juicy and if you break it open and rub it on the contact area, it will help to counteract the chemical urushiol in the poison ivy and can prevent or minimize a reaction.  This works best if you treat it within minutes of contact with poison ivy.  Dan reacts so quickly that last year he actually took a poison ivy pill - meaning, a pill that contained poison ivy, as a homeopathic preventative.  You have to take it before you have contact with the plant or it can exacerbate your reaction.  I have to say, it was the first year in many that he did not have a terrible rash at some point in the summer...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

the poem from my pocket

When you can't find the poem

you want, the one that travels
out to the frozen river

at dusk, and listens
for the first crack

of ice breaking
apart, revealing veins

of pewter and white
in the dark, that moment

when meaning opens, a current
under the rigid surface

loosening, beginning to pull
the world along

into the first days
of spring, into the question

that answers everything - seems
to answer everything - 

when that poem
will not be found, you must

celebrate its small life
with another

 ~ Wendy McVicker
If you are not fortunate enough to have this poem handed to you in passing with Wendy herself, it can be found in the collection A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

hello, buckeye!
"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night." Rilke

pear tree

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pysanky egg decorating

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Trillium - photo by Eliza
Pesto from market ramps, redbuds sprinkled over everything, the sweet smell of onion grass as the grass in the neighborhood is mowed, every flowering tree has exploded into fireworks...hikes, decorating eggs, feasting with loved ones, dance recitals, story-writing - it can feel so busy, but maybe it's just full.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

nobody loves me true like you do*

Yes, she is fierce.  Fiercely funny. Fierce in her loving. 
Fiercely loyal and so wicked smart. 
She is my little sister.

Goofball, playmate, wrestler and driver-of-long-distances. Oh my gosh, we love you.

She cleans out our grossest cupboards. She's the keeper of the birthday wish lists.  She's the one who doesn't laugh that you have a "grown-up size tricycle" on your list, and tells you to keep putting it on there, 'cause one day who knows?? (Same story with "puppy", thank goodness)

Lovely lady. She had me in belly laughs for much of this visit - once because I just knew we were thinking the very same thing while watching a dance concert and the shaking of the seats was unbearable, like trying not to laugh in church. I thought we might bust, but we lived to do our own version of the dance (grapevine quickly across the floor and then FALL) whenever the mood strikes us.  She remembers the pop songs I remember from junior high (and plays them for me so I can dance in the kitchen when I should be washing dishes or something more useful) and can harmonize to the song we made up once when we were kids on a long car trip across Europe.

Oh yeah, and she has this amazing child who is a sister to my girls. Maybe even better than a sister, with all the deep love and less of the bickering.  This girl sparkles and only sits still to write and draw with her cousins.

Wake up and PAINT

Writing, writing, many stories.
When my girls are feeling less than grateful about having a sister, I remind them that mine became closer to me than I imagined possible.  One day maybe they will be that lucky.

SISTERS! photo by Lucy
*lyric by Andrea Wittgens

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Hepatica americana
Several years ago I read an article that claimed that your average American would not be able to name 100 plants in their neighborhood. I have been meaning ever since to start an official list of our own, as I have an obsessive need to know the names of things.  For me it gives the forest shape; if I take the time to identify something, I've probably taken the time to look at it pretty closely and won't be as likely to forget it.  On the other hand, there is a plant here that grows all through the forest and it took me YEARS to be able to identify it.  I had a mental block against it - it's just one of those things.  I've also told myself that some year I'll learn The Yellow Flowers, but for now they still exist as many-petalled vaguely dandelionish things.  

So, it seems fitting to kick the list off with the first flower of spring: Hepatica.  The three-lobed leaves are visible all year long, but the flowers emerge early in the spring.  I think that the photos here are all of the Round-Lobed Hepatica, or Hepatica americana.  It is also sometimes called Anemone americana.  The name Hepatica means "of the liver", refering to the liver-shaped leaves and according to the Doctrine of Signatures (whereby a plant could treat the organ it resembled) it was thought to help the liver. 

The flowers, which sport sepals, many stamen, but no petals, range in color from white to deep purpley-blue.  As Ani observed, these plants are also really hairy!!

My information comes from one of my two trusty wildflower field guides: the Lone Pine Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians.  I use it in tandem with Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. The former has wonderful photographs and includes native lore and traditional uses in the description; the latter has taught me how to key out a plant, and is great for identifying an unfamiliar flower.

The girls love knowing plants too, and I'm hoping this is something we continue together.  We'll aim for the plants we know already, that are in the woods, yards and fields of southeast Ohio, but I'm guessing it will be added to during our travels around the country as well.  Maybe you'll find something helpful here!  It feels like a nice way to celebrate spring...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

the love language we can never remember...

I've written about love languages before - remember I added one about food??  Well, Dan knows that one of the languages that speaks to me is quality time, and that has been in short supply around here. I want it for myself and I want it for my kids and their papa, and there is often just so little time to squeeze in.  But when Dan does have time, he gives it all to us - a gesture that I know costs him some buddy-time with colleagues and alone-time by himself. So when we can make some quality time work for us on many levels, it is such a win, and that's what happened this weekend: a date night in another STATE, seeing theater!! 

SITI Company is the theater company that Dan focused on for his dissertation research, which entailed interviewing members, attending rehearsals, viewing hours of past productions in the collection at the Lincoln Center Theater on Film Archive.  It was with SITI Company that he attended a 5-week workshop in NYC just over a year ago, and with whom he will train again for a month this summer.  He believes in their work and is always looking for a way to see their current efforts.  When he learned that their new production, Steel Hammer, was being performed at the Humana Festival in Louisville, KY - a mere 4 hours away - he asked me if I wanted to go!  Mind  you, he opened a play last week himself, and Sunday was his first night off in something like 13 days, but Yes! a road trip for a play - quality time in the car, seeing amazing theater, an evening of adult conversation...huge sigh of happiness.

Molly's loving arms are LONG!

The whole trip was couched in other love languages:  it could not have happened if our friend Jen was not willing to take the girls under her wing for 2 days (where they would run around in their underwear with the goats and the chickens, planting potatoes and playing hide-and-seek in the woods - and eat really really good food!) and when we arrived at the fancyschmancy hotel there was something waiting for us...our friend Molly, whose hometown is Louisville, had arranged for her sister to drop off a bag of treats for us to enjoy on our night in her town!!  WHAT??? 

More love languages: acts of service, and gifts. Oh, and food! That's wonderful homemade green tomato salsa in that picture.

So, this is me, with my first ever taste of Kentucky bourbon, enjoying the view, feeling loved, relaaaaaaaxing. Wow. That feels good.

the view from the 17th floor

I am not sure how to articulate how I felt about the play we saw.  I understood so much better what Dan is working on with his voice and movement students:  the focus and intensity of connection between the performers, the trance-like moments that they sustained, the physical and emotional endurance of actor and audience.  During one scene the actors ran laps around a raised center for maybe 10 minutes, and the energy that was raised was electric!  My body had a physical response to the experience, buzzing and excited in a way I've only felt rarely through a visualized meditation. The music - recorded by Bang on a Can and Trio Mediaeval - was mesmerizing. 

My point is, it was exactly what you would hope to experience, having traveled to another state to see a play.  We came home tired but filled.

Dan had one other night off this week, and now that we are in the forget-the-dishes-let's-get-back-outside part of the spring (right? aren't we there?), we headed out for a sunset hike all together.

"The sky is like a bowl! A huge dome I hold in my hands!" 

So many I love you's. Words of affirmation. Physical Affection. I think we've met them all this week.

Photo by Eliza.  It is NOT 2007. Damn date stamp, how do we get rid of you??