Category Archives: Nature

Back in Red Fork

I got back from my mom and dad’s about an hour ago. The stars were gorgeous on the way home. It had been cloudy all morning, and then as I was leaving Southern Illinois this afternoon, the sun broke through the clouds, and I had a pretty drive home (although I spent a lot of time squinting and trying to leave extra space between my car and the one in front of me as I drove into a Missouri sunset between St. James and Rolla).

By the time I got to St. Robert, it was pretty well dark, and somewhere between Vinita and Tulsa, I glanced up and noticed Orion above me. It made me think of a song we used to sing in sixth grade that went: “Orion is a-rising; you can see his stars a-blazing/In the middle of a clear-eyed country sky.” It was a good song. It was about the environment. We used to sing that and Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” all the time … which is probably another reason I grew up to be a hippie. 🙂

(NOTE: If you surfed in here while searching for “Orion,” please click here to find a recording of the song.)

Somewhere west of St. Louis, I saw a seagull — my second on this trip. I think it had been fishing in a retention pond on the north side of I-44. It came gliding across the highway.

Speaking of seagulls, I saw something interesting a few weeks ago while I was interviewing a guy for an article I was writing. I was talking to the guy who runs the big sewer plant here in Tulsa, and he was showing me the different parts of the system and how they all work. One piece of equipment is a sort of giant paddle submerged in a huge vat of blackwater. The paddle turns, very slowly, to help separate the sediment from the water, or something like that. I don’t remember exactly how it works, but it’s very popular with seagulls. There had to be 50 of them perching on the top of the paddle, riding it around in circles, and scavenging stuff to eat out of the water.

The guy said the gulls mostly eat bits of grease that get in there from people’s dishwater and bits of food floating around from garbage disposals. I always felt vaguely guilty when I used the garbage disposal, like I was depriving my compost pile. But I like seagulls, so if I feed them instead of the compost pile now and then, I think that’s OK. Especially right now, while I am waiting to have a fence installed to keep the dogs out of the garden and the compost pile. They seem to think the compost pile is their personal buffet, and no amount of yelling will convince them otherwise.

I didn’t find much going on in the yard tonight, aside from a dandelion growing next to the house. (No blossoms yet — just leaves.) I expect our honeybees will be out tomorrow. Ron says it is supposed to be 70 degrees. It was warm enough tonight that I didn’t need a coat to go out and putter around the yard.

Hope you’re warm wherever you are.




I went over to Carbondale for church this morning. It was nice. One of my eighth-grade English teachers, whom I had not seen in years, is the Second Reader over there.

On the way back to Herrin, I was driving across Crab Orchard Lake on Illinois 13 and saw a seagull gliding from the south side of the road to the north. It was really pretty.

My sister and her boyfriend are visiting his family this weekend, so their dogs are spending the weekend with my parents. I took their corgi out for a run around my parents’ property. He’s a good dog — very attentive on-leash. I hadn’t gone for a run in about a month, so we had a good time.

It was misty out, but not too cold. The sky was gray, but the rain had intensified the color of the grass and the tiny patch of moss we saw on the ground. I love moss. I love the texture — soft and spongy and nice to walk on barefoot — and I love how it looks like a zillion minuscule ferns, all bunched up together, when you look at it up close.

I think the thing I like best about it, though, is where it grows. Moss is a shade lover, so it brightens up dark places with its vivid green color. I wish I could replace my whole front yard with moss. 

My little brother is here now, and Mom is making some kind of dessert for us. I need to fill up the gas tank, and I think everybody would like for me to pick up some ice cream while I’m at the convenience store, so I’d better get offline.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying your Christmas.



I got to my parents’ house around 10:30 last night after a nice drive home that included a stop in Belleville, IL to visit old friends at the paper.

We spent this morning on the Boardwalk in Makanda, where I picked up a copy of the 2006 Waterman and Hill-Traveler’s Companion, along with a new skirt, a calendar that includes a listing of natural events, and a cool butterfly ring made by Dave Dardis of Rainmaker Art. Dave free-flows metal to make beautiful hair barrettes and bracelets and things in his cavelike little shop on the Boardwalk. Behind the shop is a stunning and elaborate garden (scroll down to the July 5, 2004, entry to see a picture and description). We wandered around back there for a while and discovered the following:

Two kinds of ivy (English and something I couldn’t identify);

Lots of rocks covered in moss and lichens;

Frost-killed hostas with dried seed pods that had burst open and were scattering their bounty to the ground around them; and

A friendly tabby cat.

Dave named his shop Rainmaker because he used to go to a lot of medieval fairs and things to sell his work. Every time he would go to a festival, it would rain.

I mention this because, in an interesting coincidence, while I was puttering around in Makanda, Ron was e-mailing me to take credit for being Tulsa’s own Rainmaker: We have not had any significant amount of rain in Tulsa in weeks and weeks, so with weather forecasts calling for warm temperatures this weekend, Ron decided to wash his car yesterday. There was supposed to be only about a 20 percent chance of rain, so he figured it was a good time to wash his car.

He came out of the office last night to find the streets wet, and this morning, he awoke to find it had been raining steadily. So he’s the Rainmaker today. 🙂

Gotta run. My little brother and his wife just got here, and I don’t want to miss the fun.


Purple deadnettle

I had a long day today and didn’t get home from work until almost 1 a.m., but the dogs and I went outside a few minutes ago to look for signs of life. I suspect their sensitive noses and sharp ears found more than I did, but I discovered three survivors in my back yard:

The false strawberry growing in the flower bed on the north side of the garage — which choked out my watercress and stifled my pineapple mint last spring but looked too pretty to rip out — is still hanging in there.

The sage I planted in my herb bed is still thriving.

And next to the house, I found an old friend: A small patch of purple deadnettle is growing right next to the foundation.

Deadnettle always makes me smile. It grows in the winter, little fuzzy green leaves with tiny, pale purple flowers. It’s one of the few plants with the audacity to stand up to the cold and bloom in the watered-down light of December and January.

I like it because it makes me think of my maternal grandmother. One winter afternoon when I was maybe 9 or 10, Grandma and I were out on the back stoop at her house for some reason, and Grandma called me over to look at something amazing: Flowers blooming in the dead of winter.

She had discovered a patch of purple deadnettle blooming next to her house, up against the foundation. She let me pick a fistful to take home so my mom could see those crazy flowers that bloomed in the cold.

Purple deadnettle is a member of the mint family that looks similar to henbit, except its leaves aren’t as frilly, and its flowers aren’t as bright.

When I count my blessings tonight, I will have to count purple deadnettle … and memories of a grandma who loved me enough to take me outside to pick flowers in the middle of winter.


A new beginning …

If you read the title of this post and immediately conjured up an image of the cover of the January/February 1970 issue of The Mother Earth News … welcome home.

A few years ago, while living in Southern Illinois, I ran across a little publication called The Waterman and Hill-Traveler’s Companion. Created by Jim Jung — owner of the late, great Hillside Nursery in Carbondale — the almanac contained all sorts of fascinating information, including a wonderful day-by-day account of all the interesting events occurring in the forests and fields of Southern Illinois.

When my husband and I moved to west Tulsa last year, I searched in vain for a similar publication covering northeastern Oklahoma. I finally gave up and decided that I would simply have to keep my own record of what was going on in my back yard every day … my own personal little Red Fork almanac.

This is the beginning of that effort. If you feel like listening to the musings of a latter-day hippie, come on in, pour yourself a cup of Red Zinger and tell Scout to make some room on the papasan for you.

It’s 2:30 a.m. CST, and Red Fork is dark and quiet. It’s cold and clear, and as I went to let the dogs out one more time, I looked up through the pergola and saw a star twinkling so frantically I almost mistook it for a plane.

It’s a grand night for sleeping. Rest well.