natural internet

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
contrast of bright sunlight and shade for a mushroom
7.2.10 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

Every time I see mushrooms I think of Paul Stamets and his theory about mycelium, “the vegetative part of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching thread like hyphae.”

I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate. Through cross-species interfacing, we may one day exchange information with these sentient cellular networks. Because these externalized neurological nets sense any impression upon them, from footsteps to falling tree branches, they could relay enormous amounts of data regarding the movements of all organisms through the landscape.
~ Paul Stamets
(Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World)

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

I first read about Stamets a few years ago when I was waiting and skimming through magazines at my aunt’s dentist’s office. The idea of the earth being conscious was something I already believed in and the article I was reading mentioned something about the connections between fungi physically resembling the neurons in human brains. I was captivated and ordered his book that night. At some point I found a talk he gave on TED, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
tree with burl

I have to admit that I began reading the book but couldn’t continue because it was scientifically way over my head. I brought the book to my Dad, the microbiologist, and my brother-in-law, the botanist, and they devoured it and were impressed by the theory as well. My brother-in-law commented that the idea was in line with what they were researching when he used to work at The New Alchemy Institute, before it evolved into The Green Center.

But I digress and must return to our walk. Yesterday I was having a lot of trouble organizing the post and accidentally published it before I was done. Wasn’t sure if I could un-publish it without deleting it so I decided to call it a day.

Janet and I kept leaving the trails in pursuit of getting a closer look at some of the more unusual trees. The first one had a benign tumor, or a burl. The burl could have been caused by an injury, infection, or an unformed bud gone haywire. Any of these things can trigger the cells to grow excessively and unevenly, leaving it with unique shapes and ring patterns. Woodworkers and artists often find creative ways to use the patterns found in burled wood.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
close-up of burl

We saw a lot of poison ivy and thought we did a pretty good job of avoiding it. But it would seem I got zapped somehow and within 48 hours broke out in a mild rash. Apparently as we age there is a tendency for the reaction we get to be less severe, which seems to be what is happening with me. Benadryl is keeping the itch pretty tolerable. One thing is puzzling though, the rash is on my neck and arms. I’ve had it on my neck another time – four years ago after we attended outdoor concerts two nights in a row at the amphitheater in Saratoga Springs, New York. We were in the woods but stayed on the sidewalks. On our way home the rash broke out so I went to the walk-in clinic here and they said it was poison ivy! Such a possibility had never entered my mind.

I wonder why it broke out on my neck that time and this time, too. The only other time I’ve had it was when I was a kid and it was all over my face and arms. That time I could logically trace it to the fact that I had been crawling around on my hands and knees playing hide and seek in the bushes at a picnic. It was a crummy way to start the summer, and it was much worse than this episode.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
a closer look

Janet noticed a tree which seemed to have four or five trunks reaching up from the main trunk. So off we went to get a closer look, leaving the trail behind us – somewhere…. Goodness knows what we were walking through…

Still can’t figure out what was so mesmerizing abut this tree. I just had to touch it. It has a very strong energy and I bet we couldn’t find it again if we were required to. (I’m still looking for another tree I saw there last winter…)

A Murmur in the Trees – to note –
Not loud enough – for Wind –
A Star – not far enough to seek –
Nor near enough – to find –
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #433)

After meandering around, not really that lost, we spotted a bright sunny clearing beyond the trees! So we forgot about locating the trail again, and headed off to discover what we might find in a  summer meadow. Maybe dragonflies?

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
a glimpse of a sunny meadow

The meadow chapter of the story will have to be put into the next post…

He walked and he walked, and the earth and the holiness of the earth came up through the soles of his feet.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(Legacy of Light)

beneath the trees

7.2.10 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

…Cool, verdant spaces
Beneath the trees
Secret empty places
Nobody knows…
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (I Have a Need for Solitude) ♫

Last week we had a spell of absolutely perfect weather. No humidity and comfortable mid-70 temperatures. One morning Janet and I went out for a lengthy walk deep into the woods. We were beckoned off the paths a few times and got a little lost, well, not terribly lost, just a little confused… As far as I can tell, we only went around in a circle once, and only had to retrace our steps one time.

I have only recently learned that stone walls, which I see everywhere I go, are almost completely absent outside of New England. The first European settlers to arrive here started clearing the woods for their farms, and the exposed topsoil began to erode. Rain would soak deeper into the subsoil, which was full of rocks. When the moisture froze and expanded, it pushed these rocks to the surface, and they began to call them New England potatoes. What better thing to do with the “crop” than to clear them off the fields and build them into stone walls?

In the 1800s people began abandoning their farms to live in cities or to move out west as pioneers in the westward expansion, and the woods came back to much of New England. And so it is that one cannot take a walk in the woods without encountering at least one of these ubiquitous grey stone walls.

7.2.10 ~ wondering who built this stone wall

On this day the sky was bluer than blue and the sun was so bright, its light penetrating through the tree canopy wherever the leaves let it through. The contrast between the splotches of bright light and dark cool shade was striking.

7.2.10 ~ to see the summer sky

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1491)

Sun-stone’s kiss, midsummer pleasure,
Welcome all and some.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

7.2.10 ~ sun-stone’s kiss

The stars speak through the stones. Light shines in the densest matter. Earth and heaven are one. Our physical beings and our heavenly souls are united in the mystery of being.
~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)

a secret garden

Yesterday Janet and I took a three-hour stroll through the Connecticut College Arboretum, and I came home with 147 pictures! First we made our way through the native plant collection…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
tulip tree ~ 5.22.10
Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

… and then hiked through the woods, noticing the abundance of mountain laurel and flowering dogwood under the dying hemlocks, which used to rule the forest. Finally we made our way to a secret garden hidden in a corner of the arboretum, the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We opened the gate and were soon greeted by a Cheshire cat, who let us know that it ‘didn’t matter which way we went’ in his lush and untamed neck of the woods. He appeared and disappeared as we explored the maze of paths, drawing our attention to various wildflowers and settings.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Janet will have to identify some of these flowers…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We were surprised to discover that maidenhair ferns have black stems – the black and green contrast was striking!

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
“Who are you?”

See the cinnamon sticks in the cinnamon fern?

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
cinnamon fern
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
star of Bethlehem
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
lady slippers

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
~ William Blake
(Auguries of Innocence)

There are a couple of Jacks-in-the-Pulpit (aka Indian Turnips) in this picture if you look carefully – they’re not fully in bloom yet.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
Jack-in-the-pulpit or Indian turnip
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
yellow birch
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
May apple
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
waiting patiently

Sadly, all the hemlocks are slowly dying…  new life is taking hold under bare branches…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
hemlocks over wild phlox
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
he was so tame and affectionate

The Cheshire cat disappeared before we could say good-bye.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
an enchanting garden

After this delightful sojourn we sat and rested for a bit and studied our map. We still haven’t seen the whole arboretum, even after three hours! So we’re planning another visit in a month, when different things will be in bloom, and of course, we hope to come and see Shakespeare-in-the-Arboretum in July, too. Plans made, we then headed for Ruby Tuesday and quenched our thirsts with two strawberry lemonades each!

rails-to-trails

3.20.10 ~ Janet and Barbara

Yesterday we had a taste of summer. Low 70s! Janet took Tim and me on an adventure through her neck of the woods. First we took a hike on the Old Airline Trail – can’t remember which section – that runs across eastern Connecticut. It’s one of those Rails-to-Trails projects. We crossed over a very tall viaduct and were treated to lovely views, although everything is still brown and gray from winter. The trail also cut through some hills so we saw a lot of water from the saturated earth dripping down the moss and rocks bordering much of the trail.

3.20.10

Next stop was the Hebron Maple Festival. By then it was lunch time and uncomfortably hot in the sun. It was a relief when we got to the chainsaw woodcarving demonstration that was tucked in the woods on a back road, and of course we bought some real maple syrup!

3.20.10

And finally we stopped at Tangletree Farm in Colchester where Roger had been joyfully riding his horse, Tsultan. Janet introduced us to all the horses in the barn, including a new foal. He was born on Saint Patrick’s day, so his name is, of course, Patrick. He was very busy nursing so I couldn’t get a better picture of him!

Also, I did a brave thing, brave for me. I fed Janet’s quarter horse, Cruiser, a couple of carrots and actually petted his nose! When I was in eighth grade a girl in my class fell off a horse, broke her neck, and died one weekend. It was such a shock to come back to school on the following Monday and hear this news! And back in those days they did not have grief counselors come to a school to help students cope with their losses. The whole episode left me profoundly afraid of horses. But I have a feeling that this may be about to change.

Needless to say, we were pretty tuckered out by the time we got home last night. Today we’ve been catching up with computer stuff and a stew is in the slow cooker, and dinner is smelling good!