About Me

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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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Boxely Valley Spring

At the foot of a mountain, on the south side of Boxely Valley, a fast flowing spring brings clean, clear water forth from the depths of the earth. Locals from all around fill water jugs and drink the pure water that flows there. To many of us, water are sacred. Water is at the base of all life. Clean, drinkable water is becoming harder and harder to find. However, near the headwaters of the buffalo river springs feed every stream and ripple throughout the valley. In fact, these mountains are actually part of a plateau which was originally flat on top when it was formed. Over the years, spring fed streams and creeks have shaped the land, creating deep valleys. The old saying goes: "It is not that our mountains are high, but that our valleys are low."

Down stream from the spring's opening, water crest grows. Water crest is an edible aquatic plant that will only grow in the clearest springwater. Above the spring, grows the largest beech trees I have ever seen! Many of the largest trees have died in recent years, presumably from old age. One of the large dead trunks is covered with carvings and initials tracing back through time. On the road nearby lies the remains of an old one room school house that burnt in 1997. I was a young girl then and I remember that the school house fire was the talk of the county for weeks. Beside the school house a smaller building, probably a root seller, still stands.
While examining the ruins, my son found a sweet gum ball. He brought it to me, asking "that". I explained it was a seed and would grow into a big tree. We walked up to a big tree. Zane look back and forth, from seed to tree, trying to wrap his mind around how such a change could have taken place. Meanwhile, I tried to imagine what the little valley must have looked like when that huge tree started out as a seed so many years ago.

Boxely valley has a rich history of settlers, natives, and animals. Once is had been a favorite hunting spot for Osage and other tribes of Natives to hunt buffalo. Settlers found the valley to be beautiful and hospitable. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the valley had a much larger population than it has today. People in the valley were divided by the civil war, brothers were fighting brothers in their grandparents yards. After the war, the valley became a center of 'progress'. Timber was gathered from ever hill and valley, leaving the steeps barren. Every last buffalo, elk, bear, cougar, and wolf was hunted to extinction. Once the resources were all used up, the people moved away. Years later the Buffalo River became the first national river. The surrounding land fell under nation wilderness protection. The forest service reintroduced elk and bears. Deer and other wildlife populations increased under new protection laws. Today the upper buffalo wilderness area is a favorite vacation spot for nature lovers, campers, hikers, and canoeing adventurers.
My favorite spots are the hidden springs and ancient trees off the trail. The valley contains magic. In the mossy cliffs, crystal clear water, and arching ferns the purest beauty can be found. You just explore with open eyes.

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