- Roslyn Imrie
- I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
This week I was pleasantly surprised that we got a cold snap and it snowed a little. I know most people are not big fans of winter (I actually don't mind it most winters) but I think we can all agree that winter is suppose to be cold and that type of normality is reassuring.
For northern states, snow is nothing special. But for the Ozarks, it is a rare and special occurrence, a gift from the heavens. Every year we get at least a dusting of frozen precipitation, but rarely is it more than a dusting. I am simply relieved that a little snow fell, that winter may actually set in this year. The cold will surely make next summer feel more tolerable.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
These small chorus frogs hibernate under leaf litter in winter. They do not dig deep enough to prevent freezing so their cold blooded body drops below freezing temperatures. Their bodily functions shut down and their body partially freezes. To avoid exploding they force water out of their cells so it turns to ice in between the individual cell walls. They also create glucose, from energy reserves, that serves as a natural anti-freeze. With these adaptations their core temperature can drop to only 21 degrees Fahrenheit!
However, this December has had highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's. So the spring peepers are not retreating under logs, rocks, and leaf litter, but instead singing at the edges of ponds. I worry that they will use up precious energy reserves and not have enough glucose in their system to last the winter, (if winter indeed comes this year.) Hopefully these frogs are fat and just happy to be hopping on a warm winter day.
Friday, November 23, 2012
|Ringed Salamander Tadpoles|
Thursday, November 22, 2012
I often talk to my students about appreciation, particularly about their appreciation for the environment. It is a notion we toss around casually. But the sheer magnitude of what our natural environment does for us is overwhelming. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and everything we buy came from the earth. We are made of earth, from the earth, and one day we will return to the earth. I am thankful for that which gives me life. I am thankful for the life and love that is all around me... the life that is inside me.
After such a beautiful day I am in awe of such beauty and splendour and so grateful that I will be waking in the morning to greet yet another glorious day. Yet, I know that so many people are not as lucky as I. Sometimes I feel guilty because I can not relieve their suffering. While so many suffer, I am so blessed. So I can not forget to give thanks for all that I have been given. It is the least I can do!
This Thanksgiving I am filled with deep gratitude.
So many of our holidays have good stories behind them but have become materialistic and Americanized in some way. But Thanksgiving is the opposite. It has a sad story. It celebrates a empty day full of empty promises and lies. If the Pilgrims and Indians came together on this day to feast, it was only followed by years of war, a great exodus, and the decline of a nation full of indigenous cultures. But like all American holidays, the story has been forgotten. And on this holiday I am glad! For me and so many others, it is not a celebration of the past but an appreciation of the present. A time to bring families together and give thanks. We need more days like today!
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Perhaps I am cursed to be stuck between these two worlds. I was raised in a constant state of change. We always had more that one home. My parents traveled often and since they were divorced my sister and me jumped between them as well. I want both... to live in the country and have a social life.
When I live in the city, I do not live in a way that I feel good about, but I am able to teach and help others. In the country I can not have much influence on the world, but I am living in a better way.
It is so hard to know how to live...
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
"Wolves," they said.
"We killed off all the wild red wolves. They exist only in zoos or parks, so don't worry."
"Same fate as the wolves."
|This Year's Jack-O-Lantern|
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
After such a long hot summer, the cool winds of fall are refreshing. Color is creeping into the green forests as the days become shorter. Normally I would be inspired; I am very fond of fall, but I have been out of touch this year. I am currently 15 weeks pregnant and having a particularly difficult time so far. As summer has faded, so has my energy. I have also been incredibly sick. Therefore, I have not been spending enough time outside. My camera has been abandoned and my thoughts left with summer's energy. In the coming weeks I hope to find more energy to write about this fantastic season.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
I found a turtle between the compost pile and the garden. It was obese! I never knew that a turtle could become overweight. But the fat rolls that were unable to fit inside of this turtle's shell were disturbing. What's more is that I feel responsible! Three days in a row I looked for him when I took the compost out and I found him every time.
My compost pile is not well kept or protected. It is a heap of food that is covered with leaves and left for nature to do as it pleases. I never thought much of it before now. I figured that some wildlife might enjoy it, but I didn't see a problem with that. Most of my compost is fairly healthy. However, looking at this fat turtle I realize that he is addicted to what I throw out and because it is so easy to eat so much, he has become unhealthy. I don't think he can get all of his fat rolls into his shell; therefore, he is easy picking for a predator. I am ruining this turtle's life!
It makes me wonder how many other obese animals are hiding in the woods between our houses, waiting for us to take out the garbage or throw those scraps in the yard. How many dumpsters are all you can eat bars, tempting fat raccoons, foxes, rabbits, and yes, even turtles!
I will properly fortify my compost pile this weekend!
Thursday, September 6, 2012
|Striped Bark Scorpion|
"Bark Scorpions?" I mused. "I'm not even sure we have them around here..."
"Oh yes, they are here. They live under rocks during the day and then climb trees at night in search for food. They hunt insects and stuff. They are only, oh, about this big..." she showed me a little over an inch with her fingers. "They blend into the bark, especially because it is night, so when you put your hand on a tree they sting you. But they won't kill you, its like a bee sting."
"Wow, I think you might need to teach me about them! Obviously you know quite a bit more about them than I do."
"I like to study them." Her gaze lowered and she seemed slightly embarrassed. Other students were snickering and rolling their eyes at her. At her age, being smart is NOT cool.
Throughout the rest of our time together, the girl continued to teach me things and I taught her what she didn't already know. She was full of questions and answers both. The bark scorpion did not come back up since I felt stupid not knowing anything about them.
This past week, while walking with fellow Ozark Natural Science Center teachers, during staff trailing, we flipped over a rock in the glade and found a stripped bark scorpion. Immediately I thought of the bark scorpion girl. As I asked teacher naturalist more about this species, I realized the girl had been right about everything she had told me, from its size to its habits.
"I knew a guy who picked them up!" someone said.
"I dare you to pick it up, Caleb," said Adam.
"I will rub nose burn on my nose if you pick up the scorpion." Adam dared. (Nose burn is a plain little plant or weed that grows in Ozark glades. People who touch it get a stingy or burning sensation that rarely last more than 20 minutes. However, Adam found it not to be painful when he lost this bet and rubbed it on his nose.)
Carefully, Caleb crept up behind the scorpion and then quickly plucked it off the ground. The scorpion curled its legs in and froze in the giant's grip. While taking a picture of the only Ozark scorpion I have ever seen, I wished the bark scorpion girl was there to see it too.
|Caleb Wardlaw Holding a bark scorpion|
Monday, September 3, 2012
Of course, herons were attracted to these fish filled pools. As we approached the river a small green heron perched and watched us suspiciously before flying into a nearby sycamore tree. Further downstream, a blue heron flew to the far bank and watched us from there. As I crept closer, the huge bird kept its eyes on my every move, but was reluctant to fly away from such a beautiful buffet of fish. After creeping very close, the heron opened its huge arching wings and lifted itself into the air. As it crested the trees it stopped flapping and began to soar.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Zane loves nature. He wants to be outside whenever possible, even in the heat or cold. If he sees a bug, he puts his palm out and asks, "hand?" Which means, "Will you put it in my hand?" He doesn't squeeze or poke at anything I place there. With a beaming smile, he just watches the creature crawl. When it is time to let the critter go, he waves and says, "Bye-bye!" Then he askes me, "Zane kiss? Zane hug?" If I tell him, "No," we don't kiss and hug worms, or frogs, or whatever, he will pout with his big sad bottom lip sticking way out. So I always cave, telling him he can, "Blow a hug and kiss." So he does. He blows kisses and hugs towards every snail, beetle, toad, and roly-poly we find. Of course, I won't let him put just anything in his hand. I have been pointing out spiders and wasps, explaining that these creatures might bite or sting him. I don't want him to be afraid necessarily, just cautious and aware.
When we are in the country we take lots of walks down the dirt road. It delights Zane that there are no cars in the road and it is safe to walk on. He is very observant, stopping to examine every ant. He is also learning which insects are ticks. When he finds a tick he knows to bring to me. He love for living things does not stop at sails or spiders, he has to hug and kiss trees or rocks too. It is almost like he just wants to show his love for life and the world. Maybe he is just trying to give thanks for being alive?
I am proud that he loves every thing so much. Love is much better than hate. But when we are in town, his kindness can be awkward. In the city, it makes people uncomfortable. Because he will hug and kiss nice old cars that he likes, or intersting holes in the sidewalk. Pretty much anything that he likes or finds interesting gets a hug and kiss. I have had to scold him for blow kisses to the lady in the check out line or hugging the random dogs in the park. And it just makes us both look crazy when he kisses the man hole cover in the sidewalk or hugs an street sign. He is passionate. I recognize the strength as well as the weakness in such passion.
Lately, he has become more reserved. His baby days of hugging and kissing everything he likes or enjoys is fading. Now I feel less embarrassed, now that he can be embarrassed. But when we are alone in the backyard and no one is watching, we hug the trees and kiss the ladybugs without an ounce of shame!
|Zane letting a millipede walk on his hand.|
Friday, August 10, 2012
Like so many amazing animals, this frog species is endangered.
What an amazing world we have! What an amazing world we are losing!
Thursday, August 2, 2012
What is growing in this drought? What life is stirring in the forest when the temperature is in the triple digits? I am sad to say, not a lot. This summer I am finding it hard to write about the Ozarks because the natural world is struggling. Silver maples all over the towns and villages are dead, eaten away by beetles and then taxed by the drought. All along the rolling hills oak trees have turned brown and will die this year. Some trees have dropped their leaves and gone dormant, I suspect these trees will come back to life briefly in fall and survive the year. Sycamore trees have found a way to drop 80% of their leaves. By holding on to very few leaves they are conserving moisture and might make it through the summer.
It is hard to find many animals other than grasshoppers, cicadas, cardinals and crows. Everything else seems to be hiding. Even at dawn, before the day is unbearable, the forest is quite. Very few birds are rejoicing in the rising of the sweltering sun.
I have tried to focus on my garden. It is the only sense of environmental control I have. Yet I can not seem to water it enough. And the squash bugs ate half my plants. And something stole every last peach! I worked hard to care for my peach trees this year. Then something came in the night and took every one, pits and all. What could it have been? All I can think, is that the desperate soul who stole them, needed them more than I. Even in the garden, I have no control. Nature is huge. The earth will do as she pleases.
It has been a depressing summer for environmentalist and naturalist. We can't help but think this is the beginning of the end. Climate change is taking its toll. How will we all survive? Will we all survive?
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
|Squash Bug Eggs|
|Squash bug nymph|
I hate killing in general. Even while pulling the eggs, I know there is potential for life in each one, yet to allow them to live would be to allow the squash plants to die. Both adult and nymph bugs will suck nutrients from my plants and could kills off my crops. If this garden were my only means to feed my family, it would be a life or death struggle, it would be a battle of the fittest. Gardening is unlike forestry. There is a balance, but it is also a battle ground.
|Adult squash bugs mating|
However, when it comes to (literally) thousands of squash bugs, who offer only devastation, something has to give.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Friday, July 6, 2012
But the children enjoy collecting yellow and red shapes for art projects.
The river level depresses me, as springs run dry.
But the children enjoy snokling in the shallow rapids and pools.
I am fearful of the future while we walk in the woods and find few insects.
But the children are delighted that they have not been biten by a tick.
I am envious of thier happiness and annoyed by my knowledge
They are envious of my knowledge and oblivious of their joy
Gazing at these dying trees
Digging in the lifeless dirt
Feeling all the pain and hurt
Gathering clouds that sprinkle rain about
Finding a bloom, a joyful sprout
Stumbling upon a chirping bird
Singing the prettiest song I've heard
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Yet life proceeds as normal. The man on the radio reports the weather, same as yesterday and tomorrow, in a monotone voice. Why doesn't he cry out, "Oh lord, we need rain. When, oh, when will it rain!" The grass is brown already. The creeks are dry and the rivers are low. Yet people still drive from air conditioned place to air conditioned place. They recall that we skipped winter and they remark on the hot day. But When will the people change. The earth is already changing. It is time to catch up before it is too late. When will the people stop and scream, "How is it that we have forgotten how to make it rain?"
Thursday, at the Ozark Natural Science Center, I went to the girls' cabin to help our new intern get the 11 and 12 year old children to breakfast. The sky was dark grey, and low, looming clouds were approaching from the north/west. I stood on the porch in front of the girls' lodge inspecting the sky with almost 20 kids while a the stragglers finished getting ready.
"Is it going to rain?" one girl asked.
"I sure hope so!" I answered.
Because we were planning on being outside all morning and the rain would change our plans to go down to the dry creek bed, I excepted a grumble or two. Instead, they all agreed without hesitation that the much needed rain was more than welcome to soak their plans.
"Let's do a rain dance," I suggested.
"How?" asked a girl.
"I don't know," I admitted. "I have forgotten. But our ancestors did them for thousands of years. So try to remember with me. Or just make it up as you go along."
We start dancing around on the porch.
One brown headed girl with squinty eyes stood staring at me as if I were a fool and then said, "You can't do a rain dance here." I stopped dancing and looked down into her laughing eyes. "You have to dance in the dust so that the earth can talk to the clouds."
Of course! I love it when I am outsmarted by a fifth grader.
We stepped off the porch and found a dusty spot in the trail. As we danced, we kick up as much dust as possible. Later I learned that dust actually does make it rain! There is a scientific reason why rain dances work. If enough negatively charged dust particles make their way into the clouds then the rain particles can bond to the dust particles and the water droplets fall.
We danced in the dust. We stomped and kicked until the particles were lifted by the wind.
Less than 15 minutes later, the much needed rain began to fall.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Three years ago John, my husband, asked me to produce "heaping baskets of vegetables!" I was declared the "administer of agriculture". However, it took me a while to give my husband what he desired.
I guess I don't really have a "green thumb". I garden with the same tone I forest, very hands off! But a garden, I have come to realize, is the opposite of a forest.
In a forest you want to insects, weeds, trees, and edible plants to all grow in harmony. Of course, much of the edible are eaten, shaded out, or never even sprout. And that is okay, because the forest will balance out if it is left alone. (Upon saying that I already can hear people saying, "what about invasive." But let me reiterate, "left alone," meaning from the beginning. There are very few wild places in the world that have not been tampered with and don't have invasive species, so leaving the forests alone is not possible in most cases. But back to gardening...)
In the past, when I have just drop some seeds in the ground and left it alone, I have been disappointed. Sure, the plants grew, just not very big. Those that did grow big were eaten alive and not by me. Some grew as a plant but never really made any fruits or roots. A garden needs structure, boundaries, and yes balance but a type of balances that yields food for my family. And this is hard for me because I don't want to kill anything, even the dandelions and beetles, but to put food in my basket I must.
This year I have being more aggressive, but still very organic. We tilled the soil, mulched around the plants, and watered them often. I even attacked the aphids with a natural method. I have also had a heavy hand on the hose, worrying less about "wasting water," especially in the hot weather! Because of all this my garden is growing and I have finally achieved a heaping bowel of vegetables!
Monday, June 11, 2012
But finding a bear at the Science Center, where I work, and finding a bear at my home, where I only sometimes live, are two very different things. The Ozark Natural Science Center is located in "Bear Hollow" beside "Bear Hollow Creek" and we teach children about the wilderness and wildlife of the Ozark Mountains. Therefore, we welcome a native bear. It would give flavor and excitement to our programs. On the other hand, bears around my house is a bit more troublesome. In the past, we have had problems with bears.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission relocates "problem bears," bears that raid cars and trashcans and become to dependent upon residential waste. These naughty bears get a red ear tag and are relocated to the deepest parts of the Ozarks, in places that far away from towns, where only the wildest roam... places like Owls' Knob! In the past, bears have broken windows and trashed our kitchen to lick a honey pot clean. Bears have destroyed bee hives, knocked over compost bins, and eaten entire bags of dog food. It is not that I am unwilling to share Owls' Knob with a bear, it is just that I hope it is a shy yet friendly sort of fellow. I hope this bear is a good neighbor.
Read More about bears and bear history in my ONSC blog post!