outside experience: capital-n nature

It was Sunday morning, or rather early afternoon by the time we forced ourselves to put the reading down & pull the sheets back. We heated Joe’s buffalo chili on the stove, put on extra shirts, slipped toes into socks for the first time this season.

It is fall. It is official. The change in season was highlighted in my day planner months ago. We were going hiking.

On weekend mornings, the public radio station plays bluegrass–setting the perfect tone for a drive through the trees of Indiana just beginning to blush with autumn colors. There was coffee in the thermos.

It had been a year since our last hike through Brown County State Park, and we used the time to reflect on the progress we’d made in our lives & where we hoped to go next. Mostly, we took time to look at the shapes of leaves & states of trees’ decomposition. We realized we still couldn’t quite recognize poison ivy or how to treat it naturally*. We couldn’t forage for mushrooms or edible roots. We had purchased a tent & proper hiking shoes; we’re on our way.

We stopped to watch a bumble bee cling to the last flowers of fall, holding on after a near-frost. I retold Joe, eyes again brimming, about the British man who revived a dying bee by hand-feeding him honey.

We found a tiny pine pushing through the already fallen leaves, & I recalled a scene in Michael Pollan’s Second Nature. When Cathedral Pines was hit by tornadoes, the Nature Conservancy-owned land became the center of an environmental ethics dilemma: Do they clear the ruined pines & replant, for aesthetics, or do they let the old-growth forest run its course & ultimately become a climax pine forest?

I wondered where this tiny tree fit into the equation, as it sat amid its deciduous neighbors. I wondered what had happened in Cathedral Pines–and what was happening here–with invasive species now that human progress has made undisturbed Nature impossible. As Pollan notes,

This is the paradox faced by the Nature Conservancy and other advocates of wilderness: at this point in history, creating a landscape that bears no marks of human intervention will require a certain amount of human intervention.

We winded our way back to Ogle Lake for a sit on the shore & read outside–something we haven’t done together in ages. I tore my way through Nathaniel Perry’s Nine Acres, which felt like someone reading my own heart back to me. An example:

Vegetable Crops to Avoid and to Choose

We need the right varieties,
spring shell peas for half-full sun,
the long “breakfast” radishes
that grow well here and on your tongue

sparkle like spun light, potatoes
we can dig when they are new.
When we were new, or smaller-hearted,
we did not care at all for the few

things that matter to us now.
I’m still learning what that’s to do
with this catalog of seeds we’re pacing
through, but if someone knows, it’s you,

you who have traced such lines in the garden,
you I follow with all my eyes;
we’ll get the carrots right this year,
we’ll tend to the baby when he cries.

This Wednesday, I’ll be heading to Green Drinks for my second official Outside Experience for class–look for that in next Monday’s post. See you Wednesday, when I’ll be a big Debbie Downer & talk about how much food the U.S. wastes each year.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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One Response to outside experience: capital-n nature

  1. Pingback: outside experience: capital-n nature | francofile

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