Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Chorus

I would be lying if I said that I was perfectly at home in our new environment. It took nearly four months for me to use the word 'home' to describe where we return to. It's not that the land isn't beautiful, clearly it is, or that I am not grateful for the house inherited by us, because I am. I think that it's largely the overwhelming change: leaving our home of nearly fifteen years, all of our ritualized attractions, each place taken in to distract from problems or ourselves, to quiet the disquieting internal dialogue. We've left friends and family (although some family is here) and the reassuring comfort they bring. We've removed ourselves from the network of artist acquaintances that, at the very least, gave us the sense we are part of an art "world." Finally, we left our university positions -my wife, adjunct professor at several universities, and myself, university adjunct professor and staff. Like nearly all artists we know, we also must work to pay life's expenses and do the things we want to do. About our move to Minnesota, work is the great, looming question.

At times it feels that it may be easier to land a position as CEO of a corporation than a university professorship. Despite the odds, my wife, with great fortitude, luck, and experience has made it to the final four in a local university faculty search. I acknowledge my bias, but it is well known across a spectrum of university administrators, students, faculty and artists that she is a great professor, artist and role model. She'll be interviewing with several people and giving demonstrations next week. There will be dinners with faculty, lunches with students, campus walk and talks. The whole process is an interview. Although one candidate of four, she may just have a fifty fifty shot at getting the call. If selected, we can move forward here with greater confidence.

If you pray, put in a word for her, us. If you cross fingers for luck, now's a good time to cross 'em. After next week, the months worth of work she has put into this application will be done and we wait. By May, possibly sooner, we'll know.

In the lull I offer the male Western Chorus Frog*, Pseudacris triseriata. singing their greatest hit, "Looking for love in all the wet places..." and the chuckling quack of the Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvaticus, who can hardly take it.

*The species may be the Boreal Chorus Frog, Pseudacris maculata. There are minor physical differences, like slightly shorter legs, that account for differences in species or subspecies nomenclature of North American Chorus Frogs. They are easy to hear and hard to find, and I'm perfectly okay with being mostly right on this one.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Subtlety

We returned at midnight from a week-long trip to southern New Mexico and Arizona. The following morning, the sun reflected not grey or brown of twigs and branches, but emergent bright green leaves of the lilac. Later, strong southwesterly winds carried thunderstorms and heavy rain and a chorus of frogs heralding the arrival of spring.

The following day, in the great wetland, shrub willows bloom. Although the oaks reserve their enthusiasm, there are buds or blooms on red maples, willows, and basswood.

 Colorful catkins decorate the woodland floor.

The earliest and predominant herb is garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata. Invasive precisely for this reason, getting it's start before the snow has departed, gaining ground in the leafless sunshine of early spring. The woods is an impeccable example of humanity and forest, neither untouched or wholly impaired, unintentionally altered to the benefit of some species over others. Should we remain here, its condition will be the project of my days. 

It will be helpful to identify some of the earliest plants, some of which may be detrimental to the spring ephemerals and some that may be the ephemerals. Minnesota shares several native plants with New York, so I am not completely out of my league, however at the earliest stages of growth, identification becomes quite a bit more difficult. This plant, above, is growing in the sunshine, in the garlic patch, in the woods, everywhere! It has blue-green, mildly glaucous leaves and reddened glaucous stem. My first guess is in the direction of buttercup, Ranunculaceae. Does anyone recognize it? Please, comment if you do.

Another early riser, looking more like columbine or possibly a meadow rue, Ranunculaceae?

This looks familiar, but I haven't found a good web source for early growth characteristics, Minnesota woodland plants, etc. etc.  Only so much time in a day.

Not garlic mustard, but what?

Ahh, something a different, lanceolate grey-green leaves. Asteraceae?

This grass, throughout the woods but primarily on paths, has been up since early March. Clump forming and flowering now, I'm guessing a sedge, maybe Carex pensylvanica.


Understanding what lies underfoot, what calls over the wetland, what tree is more likely to fall is quite a bit of my task now. Despite having visited here for a dozen years, although mostly in winter, I have yet to witness much of what happens. For this reason I temper my big ideas and ambitious projects, settling instead to witness the changes before me. Time is short, yes, but I keep asking myself if the ideas I do have would be any better than what is already there. So I watch, taking in as much as I can, and see my own ideas transformed in the process.