I’ve been occasionally joining Jackie when she does stewardship workdays at natural areas around the county as part of her Master Naturalist work. They’re fun, and they fit in very well with my shift away from exercise and toward movement. Our work Sunday, clearing garlic mustard from the South Arboretum Woods, is a great example.
(Garlic mustard is a nasty invasive, largely because the first-year growth leafs out very early, and covers the ground almost completely. Native plants emerge a little later in the spring, by which time they can’t get enough light to get going. The upshot is that the understory loses most of its natural diversity, becoming just a vast carpet of garlic mustard.)
What we did Sunday was make our way through the woods, spotting and then pulling up all the second-year garlic mustard. (It’s a biennial. The first year is the low ground cover. The second year it puts up a flowering stalk and produces seeds. If you can get the flowering stalks before they set seed, you can make a dent in the local garlic mustard density.)
What struck me was how similar our activity was to “gathering” à la hunting and gathering. It was physically similar—walking through the woods, and then squatting, bending, reaching, and pulling. It was also mentally similar—doing exactly the same pattern-matching that someone seeking to gather edible or medicinal plants would do.
I suspect that both of these aspects of this activity enhance the well-known beneficial effects of “forest bathing” (aka spending time in the woods).
The area we were clearing has a lot of downed branches, big and small, some partially or completely hidden by the ground cover, making for a complex walking surface—more good stuff for both the body and the brain.
Of course, volunteering for and participating in a stewardship work day produces all sorts of additional benefits—in particular, doing something good for the local communities (both the human community that uses the space and the natural community that inhabits it) is rewarding, as is making social connections with the other volunteers and engaging together on a common effort.
Every time I do one, I am reinforced in my desire to do more stewardship workdays, despite my slothful nature.
(The picture at the top is another view of the Cecropia moth that Jackie spotted while we were there.)
On a stewardship work day clearing garlic mustard at the arboretum, Jackie spotted this guy just out of its chrysalis—a Cecropia moth still trying to get its wings pumped up enough to fly:
Sculpture in downtown Urbana.
Since going low-carb a year ago, omelettes have been a breakfast mainstay. To provide some variety (besides mixing up the fillings—a lot of onion, peppers of various colors and hotnesses, sometimes a little smoked meat), I’ve taken to adding various spices: most often paprika, turmeric, and black pepper.
Yesterday the turmeric wasn’t in its spot in the spice rack, but I saw a spice jar out on the counter and had already added some to my omelette before realized that it was not turmeric, but rather nutmeg.
So, my gratitude for yesterday was that an omelette with nutmeg turns out to be delicious. (Who would have thought?)
My gratitude for today is that, having gotten my carb consumption back down after letting it creep up while we had visitors and then again after Jackie’s big walk, I’ve once again got my allergy symptoms under control, and have my weight (which had crept up as well) back down to exactly where I want it.
Rapunzel was poorly yesterday. In the morning it was just some weakness in her front legs that we’d seen before, but in the early afternoon it got much worse—rather abruptly, she was unable to stand.
I tried carrying her to her food and her water and her litter box, but being unable to stand, she couldn’t make use of them.
At bedtime I put her in one of her favorite nighttime spots, then laid down on the floor next to her for a long time.
In the morning we found that she’d somehow made her way downstairs under her own power and curled up on the floor in the living room. She still couldn’t stand, still wouldn’t take water even when I brought her water dish to her, even when I tried holding her up.
I called the vet and made an appointment for mid-afternoon.
The vet examined her and offered a new diagnosis. Before, when it was just the front-leg weakness, the doctor had thought it might be a nerve problem, perhaps pinched where they exited her spine. Based on how things had progressed and her other symptoms, the vet now thought it was probably a brain tumor.
She offered to get us an emergency consult with a veterinary neurologist, but that didn’t seem promising. Rapunzel was a very old cat. If they found a brain tumor, what could they do? I doubt if she would have survived either surgery or chemotherapy. I didn’t see any prospect for a return to health, nor a long life. The vet agreed that euthanasia was probably the best choice.
So this afternoon Jackie and I said goodbye to Rapunzel after 17 years.
The image at the top is how I remember Rapunzel. She always liked to be on top of things. But here are another few pictures.
Here is our best picture of Rapunzel as a kitten. I haven’t liked to show this one around, because I didn’t think much of it as a picture of me, but it’s such a good picture of Rapunzel I’m letting that go.
Rapunzel always liked to get into things. I actually have a bunch of pictures of that—Rapunzel in baskets, Rapunzel in buckets, Rapunzel in boxes, Rapunzel in drawers, Rapunzel in the sink. But here is a picture of Rapunzel in the loom, shoving her face through the warp threads.
Finally, here’s a picture of the way I imagine Rapunzel would have been looking at us toward the end, if she’d been still able to jump up to the window sill. (In actual fact, this picture was taken when we were running the vacuum cleaner, and she was looking on disapprovingly, waiting for us to stop.)
Rapunzel was the best cat. She was friendly and fierce. She tolerated us and never held a grudge. She could get along on her own just fine, but was always glad to see us. She sat in Jackie’s lap most mornings. Instead of sitting in my lap, she liked to climb into my arms when I sat at the computer—and I was happy hold her, although it made it hard to type.
Good bye Rapunzel. Thank you for 17 wonderful years. We already miss you terribly.
Lots of years here in central Illinois it pretty much goes straight from winter to summer. This year we’re getting a legit spring, with many days already having had some mix of cool, wet, windy weather.
After a long gap (years) Field Notes finally (as of about 6 weeks ago, but I just found it) once again has an RSS feed for their Dispatches.