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Late May at Nixie’s Vale is lovely. I lucked out in the fly-catcher department: phoebes swoop, dragonflies buzz around (by June) and nocturnal toads set up camp beneath my deck. It has been a few summers since I’ve spotted a bat, sadly, but my woods are a sanctuary for birds. It was sunny today, and I went to the seamstress to pick up a few items that she transformed for me: It’s like getting a whole new wardrobe of clothes that I already love. I’ve gone from a size 16 to an 8-10, down to 162lbs., with a 29 and a half inch waist, having lost forty pounds over the past year. I’m just getting back to my natural shape and feel like myself again. Hurrah! My best friend from high school said I look “high school skinny.” Well, I’m wearing the old blue jeans I got in Wyoming with my cousin, Tara, in summer 2002 when I was 26! (I’m now 38, so this feels like a magic trick.) Besides feeling fit again, I feel inspired.

20150612_143934-1

Almost every day, I walk my dog through a wetland or along the road by the pond and back, swim in the lake (it’s warming up!) and do a little housework. Today I cleaned the kitchen, made a delicious lunch, which I ate while sitting on a bed of moss in my yard, overlooking the grove in my woods. I love the woods. But my new indulgence, thanks due in part to Matt’s handy work, is my hammock. It hangs between two trees at the base of a mossy slope at the far end of the yard. It’s the quilted kind of hammock designed for two people but I fit perfectly along with a notebook, water bottle–and sometimes the dog will join me and sprawl across my legs. A lush breeze sneaks through the trees from Raymond Pond and I look up at the silhouettes of tree branches, patches of blue sky beyond. Rays of sunlight pour through and fill me with optimism, hope and appreciation. 20150802_152908I feel so blessed to live here, to call this little piece of land my home. I call it “Nixie’s Vale,” but in truth, I’m just a temporary steward of the land. This spring I planted a garden with my father and I will tend it this summer, hopefully producing some vegetables. In between swims, gardening and hammock naps, I barely have time to write. Admittedly, I keep thinking of lines of poetry; I might sketch them in my notebook, but then feel more motivated to swim-walk-hike-weed-swim-cook-walk and make iced tea.

The trees at Nixie's Vale

The trees at Nixie’s Vale

Thank you for supporting me in this unique challenge of writing 30 poems in 30 days to raise funds for the nonprofit Tupelo Press. To make a tax-deductible donation to Tupelo Press, please click here.  Or if you’d prefer to support the literary press by subscribing to one of their fine publications, please click here.  In the meantime, my fellow poets and I have the 12 poems so far at the Tupelo Press 30/30 blog page. 

Rose-hip Jelly

My grandmother littered the house
With pastel post-it notes; I read her
Thorny handwriting, broken twigs
Her unfinished thoughts, seed-casings
Reminders, bequeaths, old recipes.

We opened the windows & doors
To let the trapped sea air out
When the river got winded, because
The Big House needed to breathe.

Her notes blew in the breeze,
Scattered, melting into damp soil
Wilted petals from the roses
Thrived in the courtyard
Of my family’s two houses.

My father tended to those bushes
Like Hawthorne’s Rappaccini,
He harvested their pungent oils,
Safely, wearing work gloves,
The pantry became a perfumery
While Dad made rose hip jam.

I pranced between the shrubs
We were sisters, like Beatrice
And her poisonous plants.

I collected the heart-shaped
Droplets, molded perfectly
Fitting my fingertips, a fresh
Pair of thumbprints. If I spun

Around fast enough, my pretend
Petalled fingerprints transposed,
Exposing a wishful identity
The wide rosehips, silky blooms
I hadn’t grown into yet, wild

And slowly solidifying, sun
Speckled inside a fly-eyed
Crystal set on the window sill
Bubbles of black currants
Like tempted insects sealed
In magenta jars of jelly.

~ Leah C. Stetson  TP Subscribe

SaintStatueLately it seems that I’ve been doing far more editing and texting than I have been writing. Not good. I’ve taken photos, collected snippets and story ideas over the past several months. In between blog posts, I usually write in my journal and let ideas percolate.  This has been a big trend in September (letting things percolate). Since the air has turned unseasonably cool prematurely, I haven’t been swimming either, not since early in September. Instead, I’ve hiked a mountain a few times, explored a sunken garden and prayed at the feet of a pregnant statue of Saint Guadalupe. More on this subject later (there’s a story behind this.)

I’m on deadline with the National Wetlands Newsletter but wanted to post something here to mark this period of …”busy work” – and the need to make up for it later. If you’re a writer and reading this, how do you make time to write? What have you found that really works?  In the meantime, I’m pretty happy. Work is keeping me on my toes, I’ve had new French doors installed for the patio entrance and I’ve gotten to spend time with close friends, including a trip to Simsbury, CT for my best friend’s baby shower. (Perhaps there was something in that wish and prayer I made on the statue of the pregnant saint! My friend certainly made out like a bandit at the shower.)

A new dress that my birthday twin gave me.

A new dress that my birthday twin gave me.

I started my new job as Editor of the National Wetlands Newsletter at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. It’s exciting. I’m busy setting up my new home office, getting technical things sorted out and underway with the summer issue. My trip to the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington was a treat. The cherry blossoms had already bloomed and dropped but it was still very pretty, though the air was thick with pollen. I developed crazy allergies that I had never before experienced.  Still, it was great to visit D.C. and get to know my new colleagues…and attend the event at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the evening of the new moon eclipse in Taurus (5/9).  ELI hosted its annual National Wetlands Awards ceremony at the Garden in its beautiful conservatory. The Hawaii exhibit was my favorite.

The National Wetlands Awards program, created nearly 25 years ago, recognizes professionals and landowners alike in wetlands conservation, protection and restoration. The stories are quite moving. When the new website for the NWA program is up and running, and I’ll have a little to do with that, since I will be the new manager of the wetlands awards program, I will post a link. In the meantime, there’s information on the existing webpage here about the program in general. The 2013 award winners’ photos and stories will be posted next week. May is American Wetlands Month, so there are a number of events happening all over the country. For ideas and to learn more, go here. 

Tonight I cooked a fiddlehead pizza.  The fiddleheads are local (from somewhere here in the Sebago Lakes Region, Maine) and the pizza has spinach, pesto, feta, kalamata olive and tomatos topping it. IMG_1818

Sweet fern

Sweet fern, not a true fern

Last week in the midst of meetings and deadlines, I slowed down long enough to learn how to identify northeastern wetland ferns. I participated in a Swamp School webinar and after the training, I earned a certificate. Since I’ve written about ferns a few times for my Strange Wetlands series, I thought I better check myself, before I made a fern faux pas. And as it happens, I was wrong about one plant: sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina)  is a member of the heath family, not a true fern.

The “Swamp Seminar” on wetland ferns started with the parts of a fern. Prior to this class, I knew to refer to the fern frond, which is the whole fern leaf, and I knew that rhizomes are the roots, but the rest of a fern’s morphology–well, that was new to me. It was fascinating to learn that a fern might be identified based on whether it is once, twice or thrice pinnate–meaning, the number of cuts on the pinna, or leaflet. Lady Fern, a common fern that grows in my “Fern Gully” at Nixie’s Vale, is three-times pinnate with a rough-edged leaflet, making it look lacy – the Victoria’s Secret brand of ferns. Other ferns have similarly feminine names like Venus Hair Fern (Adiantum capillus‐veneris) and Northern Maiden-Hair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), or Maiden-Hair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), which grows near waterfalls.  How lovely.

North Maid Hair Fern

Northern Maiden-Hair Fern

For wetland professionals, the training also addressed whether each fern is an Obligate Wetland species, meaning that it always occurs in a wetland, also known as a hydrophyte (loves water); a Facultative Wetland species, which means that the fern usually shows up in a wetland, but can also be found in upland areas; or, thirdly, it may be a Facultative species, commonly occuring in both wetland and upland areas. Ferns that fit this last category–facultative, are still important to know because they may help someone identify the edge of a wetland. Identifying wetland plants is fairly complex. See this USDA page on wetland indicator information, if you are curious. If by any chance, you’re a real wetland plant enthusiast, I encourage you to check out this presentation on the newly revised national wetland plant list, which is run by the Army Corps of Engineers. 

 

NWPL

National Wetland Plant List

Among the many types covered in the training, I learned how to identify Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), Fragile fern (Cystopteris fragilis) and Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana), which I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted in Fern Gully. I have my notes to take into the field this spring when the fronds unfurl like fiddleheads and I can go on a fern ID scavenger hunt. The Swamp School webinar included access to an online tool kit, which allows me to reference handouts–and to get my certificate. I found the website and webinar training well-organized and jam-packed with knowledge and inspiration. I really enjoyed this class.

For those who are interested, Swamp School also offers classes on wetland delineation–in both classroom, field and webinar formats with live, interactive training. Marc Seelinger is the founder–and he’s a terrific instructor, too.  Right now he’s got a series of wetland delineation classes posted on the SwampSchool.org website, but there are also webinars and workshops on occasion. After all, inspiring minds want to know.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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