A Day on the Farm, by Ashley Thompson

As we drove to the farm I felt nothing but anticipation. It felt like I was back in Vermont driving through mountains on nothing but backroads. When we pulled in I immediately noticed the chickens, goat, and the remains of wilted sunflowers. The farm was quaint and you could tell they were almost all volunteer run. After signing my life away on the dust covered paper I grabbed a pair of gloves and was eager to begin working.

Due to our group size we were split into two groups; one was picking beans closer to the animals and my group was closer to the road. Our whole group immediately jumped in and started working. After picking some smaller beans towards the top I began to notice that the longer, perfectly green beans were more towards the center of the plant, shielded from the hot summer sun that has seemed to have stuck around into the beginnings of the fall season. My friend had reached to pull a perfect bean when she jumped back, a grasshopper had staked his claim on the bean and was not backing down. We tried to try and push him off but from our childhood memories of “A Bugs Life” we decided to let him have it. After seemingly all the beans had been picked we wondered onto our next adventure.

Milkweed. It was very strange to just see a plot of milkweed growing in a farm but since this is a certified organic farm they do not use any pesticides or herbicides which means “weeds” are welcome. Weeds are simply an undesirable plant, but what might be undesirable to some is the lifeline of a small bug. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed and the butterflies use it to lay their eggs and continue the life cycle. Most farmers kill out all the milkweed simply because they do not want it to interfere with the crops they are growing, not realizing how that might affect the Monarch population. I learned a lot from being at the farm that day but I felt like I was still missing a lot of information on the small farm in Fairhill.

Since our class period at the farm was only about an hour and fifteen minutes I decided to attend the Sheep Shearing Day. The last time I had seen a sheep being shared was when I was in Australia in fifth grade so clearly quite long ago. When my boyfriend and I arrived to the farm we had just missed the tour so I decided to give him a little tour of what we did in class on Thursday. After the little tour I gave we walked through the cedar chips, passed the chicken coop, towards the loud “BAH’s”, up to a fenced in enclosure. Thirteen Gotland sheep were patiently awaiting the removal of their thick wool.

The shearer had arrived and honestly I was shocked. She was quite small. They told us we’d be shocked when we saw her and I definitely was but let me tell you, she went right in there, grabbed the first sheep by the bottom jaw (since they only have teeth on the bottom she uses their lips to cover the so they can’t bite), and wrestled her over onto the mat and began the process. She uses the Bowen Method which means, you start on the stomach and work your way around, hopefully resulting in a solid coat of wool on the ground. This solid piece depends on the type of wool you are working with also. Some that have more lanolin which holds the wool together during the shearing process however requires more work after the sheep is sheared. Overall, the was a great experience and I think Scott Russell Sanders said it best; “This farm was not just so many acres of dirt, easily exchanged for an equal amount elsewhere; it was a particular place, intimately known, worked on, dreamed over, cherished.”

Learning to Walk Again, by Grace Hassler

Perhaps it was because I’ve been reading Aldo Leopold. Perhaps it was the movie I just watched about John Muir. Perhaps it was just the beautiful day and the desire to re-enact the summer that I just can’t seem to let go of. Maybe it was all of these things plus a few more that led me to walk into the woods barefoot. The soles of my feet touched the ground and felt the unfamiliar dirt. I took one step and a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly landed on a jewelweed flower right in front of me. It fluttered around from flower to flower, paying no mind to my attempts to capture a decent photo of it. It was not there for me, it was simply there. It fluttered away, and I moved along.

I have to walk on about 100 yards of rocky path on the way to my spot. I picked my steps very carefully, slowly, adjusting as necessary. Every movement was deliberate. I thought about my friend Julia, who basically lives barefoot. She could walk on anything as if it was a bed of clouds. I once ran 3 miles with her (barefoot) down the gravel C&O Canal towpath. She’s been walking without shoes for so long that she doesn’t have to think about how she steps anymore, and I realize that I have forgotten how to walk. I suppose I never really learned. Yes, I can physically walk, but usually I rely on shoes for help. As I cautiously take each step (and wish that I had Julia’s feet), I think that walking barefoot is an interesting metaphor for our society’s need to return to simpler times. Shoes serve practical purposes, but we don’t need them all the time. All it would take is some practice. This is like all the chemicals and plastics and disposable everything we use. Yes, it is possible to live without these things. Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but it will teach us to take our (metaphorical) steps very deliberately. We will have to think about our decisions instead of just blindly relying on our technology to keep us comfortable, ignorant of what we may be stepping on. Slowly, but surely, we will get there. Even the rocky places will get easier, and not every place we have to walk will hurt, as I found out next.

The soft grass of the meadow meets my feet kindly. I look up and see the beginnings of what I like to call an autumn sky. It is still a summer sky, but the richness of the blue autumn sky won’t be long. There’s a sweet, light breeze blowing through the trees. I walked through the field, newly aware of how awkward and heavy my steps were. Some leaves have already started falling, and they crunch without mercy under my feet. “I’d make a terrible predator” I thought, “if I were a wolf, pre-conservationist Aldo Leopold certainly would have shot me by now.”

As I walk down the creek, frogs jump from all directions in front of me. One even squeaked, a final warning of my approach to its comrades? Maybe it was just surprised. Most jumped into the water and disappeared before I could see them clearly. I was able to observe one that had sneakily hidden itself under a leaf in the water. When I removed the leaf it stayed perfectly still, still enough for me to take pictures. It had a bright green back with warts all over: a Green Frog, according to the internet. I wondered if it thought it was going to die then. I gently placed the leaf back over it.

My thoughts turn back to Leopold while looking at the trees. They seem to be almost entirely sycamores and tulip poplars. Blue Jays dance through their branches. Minnows wiggle in the creek. Every so often a frog splashes into the silent stream. I think about how interesting it would be to listen to the history the trees have seen and lived through. If we could understand them, what would they tell us? What did this place look like before the stilt grass invaded? I think of the story of Sky Woman, and try very hard to come up with an example of how humans have helped nature. It’s not hard when I consider those people who were raised on Sky Woman and similar creation stories, but draw a blank when it comes to those, like me, who were taught the story of Adam and Eve. Sure, we’ve helped things, but usually (if not exclusively) they’re things that we damaged in the first place. I will have to bring it up in class.

I stand up to leave, but a rustling in the undergrowth across the creek from me stops me in my tracks. It’s getting closer, and I am frozen. I now have an idea of how frog must have been feeling. I am just about to accept my inevitable doom to the hidden beast when I see a frog no larger than my big toe jump. How the tables have turned! As the terror leaves my body and my muscles relax, it is time for me to leave. “One foot in front of the other,” I remind myself. I focus on the controlled placement of my feet the whole walk back.

Creekside Wonder, by Molly Bado

Today, the White Clay river current is strong, so I watch as debris from the forest flow on to lower points. Over the hour that I am present, I observe sticks bounded together by emerald green algal strands float in clumped formations down the creek. Other objects pass by the riverbank, including a group of three people sitting on rubber doughnut rafts. The water must be deeper than it looks in the center of the creek. I wondered where to get tire tubes, and how much they might cost. The appearance of others distracted me. Although White Clay is a shared space and I have no rightful expectation of solitude.

The river is striking, afternoon sunlight creates bright diamond pointed accents against the dark and murkey colors of the creek. On the riverbanks sediment deposits are layered and extend about two feet out and into the creek. Higher water levels decrease the size of the banks, remove pebbles, and plant life from their surfaces. There wasn’t much precipitation this summer in Delaware, although there wasn’t a drought. The river levels are lower than last year, which can be told by looking at hard numbers or by examining clues left on the riverbanks. On the soil that I’m sitting on there are clover, and vine plants that I suspect are non-native and part of the mile-a-minute invasion. They have broad, deep leaves cleaved into a rectangular shape without right-angle edges. The mile-a-minute plants are dangerous to native fauna and decrease biodiversity through competition for water, sunlight, space and micronutrients. Viney plants with shallow root systems benefit from the air pockets in loose riverbank soil because their hair-like protein structures can then occupy previously empty spaces.

On the walk through White Clay to the riverbank I noted another invasive plant species present in the forest. The honeysuckle plant is not distinctive outside of the summer months without it’s yellow and white flowers and sweet scent. By late summer the plant has returned to a light green high-growing shrub characterized by thorny tendrils able to hold onto trees and the metal fence where I saw it. The honeysuckle plant had red colored vines between the inter-locking layers of green leaves. I judged this distinction of red vines to indicate Morrow’s honeysuckle is an alternate relation to native Trumpet Honeysuckle which has less notable brown colorations.

When wonder matures, it peels back experience to seek deeper layers of marvel below. This is science’s highest purpose.” (Haskell, 139). This layer of the mandala transcends Haskell’s explorations, into a deeper realm where the junction of curiosity and methodology intersect to explain the forest. The typical catalyst to environmental study is an introduction leading to natural world and encouraging exploration and awe. Scientific study is the authentic reaction to wonder, and it is rare that the original joyful admiration dissipates. Edward Abbey laments the formation of national parks and their visitation, but expresses this disappointment from government posts pursued in the interest of experiencing life at the locals. The jaded appreciation expressed by other naturalists is lost on Haskell. The distinct pleasure elicited by the forest and experienced by the author is remarkable and admirable. This pleasure is childlike and uninhibited flying in the face of western values, creature comforts and commercialism popularly expressed in every facet of visible iconographic propaganda. I doubt if Haskell will name these pervasive and destructive forces, but I will.

The Stillness of Complexity, by Leah Deter

On Sunday evening, after a busy weekend of traveling, I walked the mile or so down the path that leads to my spot in White Clay Creek. As I walked I tried to take everything in, the different trees and plants on the sides of the path, the insects I could see and hear flying around my head, the sounds of the crickets and birds, and the feel of the evening breeze. I thought about the intense complexity around me, and how interesting it was that such complexity could bring me such stillness and tranquility. In “The Forest Unseen,” Haskell suggests that nature does not conform with the human being’s desire to “draw firm lines.” Nature is ever changing and unpredictable, which makes is difficult for humans to do what humans do best, to know. We want to analyze and understand the ins and outs of everything going on in the world around us. This desire to draw lines is opposed by nature’s fickle and erratic behavior. However, the more and more I learn about the depth and intricacy of the ecosystem, the more I feel a part of it when I am in my spot. Being able to recognize the trees and organisms around me on different layers of the ecosystem instills in me a deep appreciation for the environment that I had not had before. This appreciation included a beautiful pair of Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies that were fluttering around low to the ground above the ripples and landing once in a while on the small island of rocks in the center of the creek, the blue on their wings standing out against the dark black with every movement of their wings. For a while, the proximity and movement of the butterflies were so aesthetically pleasing that I was completely captivated by them. However, eventually I noticed a large bird perched on top of a log in the distance. I approached slowly so that I would not scare the bird away, and as I got closer I saw the black feathers and bare black head that distinguished the bird as a black vulture. I was amazed by the size and beauty of the bird and as I looked around, I realized there were six of them on the nearby branches. The vultures almost created an eerie presence as they flapped their giant wings to fly from branch to branch. One of the vultures stood with its wings wide open for several minutes in order to increase its surface area and allow the sun to more easily warm it, which was an interesting phenomenon to witness. After about an hour passed, I got up to leave and on my way out I paid close attention to the trees just along the edge of the creek. Three of the trees I noticed were a sycamore, a planetree maple, and a shingle oak. These three trees differed greatly in their structure and leaf shape. The planetree maple tree was the lowest hanging of the three and its leaves were thinner with smooth edges. The sycamore was surrounded by a weeded area but seemed to be thriving and had leaves that were broad with three lobes and pointy edges. The shingle oak tree’s leaves were similar to those of the sycamore, but with deeper, more defined lobes that distinguished it. The similarity between the leaves of the sycamore and shingle oak trees brought my thought process back around to the beauty of complexity and how one small difference in a leaf can account for an entirely different tree. Even on one tree, no two single leaves are exactly the same. The uniqueness of the leaves on the trees is mirrored throughout the entire world, the most noticeable example being in that no two human beings are exactly alike, and that is part of what makes the world so beautiful.

Into and Out of the Shadows, by Sydney Dennis

White Clay feels different today. The air is much more still and aside from the noise beneath my feet I am surrounded by silence. I look around and find three fallen leaves that grab my attention. The first one is green, oval leaf with slightly serrated edges, belonging to the American Elm tree. The next leaf is long and green with four lobes on either side. This leaf had fallen from a White Oak tree. The final leaf I found is orange with three points on both sides that appears to be from a Sycamore tree.

Ever since last week I can’t seem to get the blue and black butterfly out of my head. I was so intrigued with its beauty that I had to figure out its name. It was a Red-Spotted Purple. I was hoping that I would see my butterfly friend again but I wasn’t expecting to. I turned around a corner in the path and I immediately stopped. There it was. Right in front on me in the exact same spot as I first saw it. I almost burst into tears. I’ve heard that butterflies are signs from loved ones who have passed and that specifically blue butterflies in your presence are asking you to look at healing. When I was young my dad passed away and the past year and a half has been exceptionally hard. I was too young to get a chance to know him and the absence of him from my major life accomplishments so far has left me feeling empty lately. In the beginning of the year I met a boy, and he began to bring my life out of the shadows. He made all of my sad feelings disappear and I have never connected more with someone. I had never been happier. He left about a month ago to join the Navy and we decided not to continue our relationship. Ever since then, I have been absolutely devastated and broken. Seeing this butterfly causes all of those emotions to swirl around in my head, yet my heart feel safe and warm at the same time. It’s hard to believe that my recent depressing emotions will fade, but maybe this butterfly is a sign from my dad, saying that I’m going to get through this dark time in my life and that my heart will soon heal.

The butterfly flutters onto a bush and allows me to get unbelievably close to it. It landed in a bright circle of sunshine, where I can see every fiber in its wings. It reminds me of Haskell’s passage, “the sunfleck’s sweep across the mandala illuminates everything in its path…iridescent wasps and flies shine like metal shavings scattered across the mandala.” The blue at the base of the butterfly’s wings shines like a reflector in the sunlight. This creature is absolutely breathtaking. After examining the butterfly’s wings, I notice that the edges are broken. Small chunks are missing from the base of its wings, like something just plucked them off. I instantly feel a sense of spiritual connection with this butterfly. She is broken, and some of her pieces are missing; yet she still shines and emits such beauty as she ever so independently flutters around the forest. She doesn’t let her missing pieces slow her down or have any effect on her natural beauty; I need to do the same. I can’t let my broken heart stand in the way of me and my happiness anymore. The butterfly made me believe that it’s possible to still be beautiful and carry on loving life, even when you may feel otherwise because you’re filled with missing pieces. The enthrallment that I now have for this butterfly is surely overwhelming, and I never really believed in spirit animals up until today.

Metamorphosis, by Neil Mathur

Welcome to the first weekend of September. This inaugural week of school was significantly more trying than I previously anticipated, with teachers already bombarding me with assignment after assignment. Luckily, it is Labor Day weekend, a time for relaxation. I live at home, 20 minutes from campus, in area of sparse foliage and minimal wildlife. There is, however, one location in my neighborhood that I can happily recommend to any individual in need of isolation. It is a reservoir, where a great number of insects and birds congregate often.

On this particular day, the spot is uncharacteristically uninhabited. Normally, the reservoir is occupied by gaggles of geese and flocks of duck wading in the water, completely unfazed by the humans that occupy the surrounding areas. Dragonflies are constantly fluttering on top of the water, performing acrobatic maneuvers in order to attract prospective mates. It has always intrigued that dragonflies have four wings where most creatures that have the proclivity to fly only possess two wings. I have always wondered by more creatures have not adapted the way of dragonfly to possess more than a pair of wings. In my eyes, it would only seem beneficial to a species to possess more wings, for increased maneuverability.

Today, however, I am unable to witness these creatures in action. It may be due to the impending seasonal shift, when most birds decide that it is time to travel south in search of a more suitable climate, or it may be the previous heat wave that plagued this area just two days ago. Either way, I see nothing but barren, stagnant water on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Today, the weather is temperate, no warmer than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds are blowing at around 5-10 miles per hour, providing me serenity as the sun beats down over my head. Dew from the early morning is still visible on the ground, and begins to seep through my shorts. Monarch butterflies have just arrived, using the winds as a means to travel gracefully throughout the neighborhood. They have begun to dance around me, curious of my presence. It is a rare sight at this time of the year, given the propensity of their species to travel south to avoid the impending shift in climate. The sounds of crickets chirping and crows squawking begin to disrupt my peaceful visit. Additionally, much to my chagrin, the mosquitos have decided to make their presence known. I can already feel three new bug bites on my legs; the desire to itch is all-consuming, and is starting to distract from my writing. I see these bloodsuckers wading on top of the water, likely looking for the opportune spot to lay their eggs.

The water is a veritable cesspool of plant and animal life. Algae have grown to a point where it has engulfed the entirety of the reservoir’s surface. They cover the water with a nearly opaque, forest-green color, making it almost impossible to visualize the wildlife that lives underneath. Cattails have also grown out of the water with their brown stalks swaying in the wind, distracting me from the other members of the ecosystem.

As I venture closer to the water, I begin to see tadpoles swimming quickly through the water. It has always fascinated me, metamorphosis. With both caterpillars and tadpoles, the ability to transform into an organism that looks nothing like its former self is rather extraordinary. I can only imagine humans would like in adulthood, if babies underwent the same type of genetic transformation. Evolution, at its core understanding, is a ludicrous concept, but becomes increasingly more fascinating as scientists continue their studies.

I have now been sitting for so long, that my legs have fallen asleep. That numb feeling is starting to set in and I can no longer feel the mosquito bites that plagued me a few moments ago. It is time for me stand up and saunter back home, back to civilization. My time spent here has been truly enlightening. I feel at peace with nature and wish I could continue to sit. Unfortunately, I have tasks to complete and people to please. I have goals that must be accomplished, but I can always set aside one day a week to appreciate this reservoir as a culmination of both animal and plant life living in harmony.

Awareness of the Small, by Emma Lacour

There’s something that happens when bare feet meet sand, something internally that travels all the way to your amygdala and suddenly you’re at complete serenity. I sit down on the pebble filled beach and gaze out at the Hudson River, so far that the water looks motionless. I’ve sat here so often, completely blind of the life that is going on beneath the surface, unaware of the small intimate details of the ebbs and flows of the river, the diversity of life exploring the sandy floor just as I am. Sitting here I make a conscious decision to focus, and really focus, on getting up close and personal with nature in a way that I have yet to experience. As I recline all the way back until my head has made an imprint in the sand, I feel the knots in my stomach filling me with trivial worry about the creatures that may use my body as a bridge to their next location. So caught up on the human labels of small life creatures as pests, or spiders as scary, flies as nuisances, and things to be exterminated that I had forgotten we are all one in the same. I tilt my head to the side; I am now centimeters away from the ground, face to face with the floor beneath me and the life that lives within it. At first, nothing, no movement, just pebbles and rocks half buried in the salt and pepper sand, varying from shades of whites to greys. I run my fingers through the sand, disrupting the stillness, and just close my eyes as I attempt to feel each grain of sand fall back on to the bed in which it was taken from. I am suddenly awoken when coldness quickly hits the heel of my foot. The water now has small ripples in it, the wind is starting to pick up, the ripples now start to turn into mini waves and then the wind stops, and all becomes still again. With each new flow of water that meets the sand, the Hudson swallows up a diverse spread of rocks and then drops off a whole new set that is perfectly polished and shiny. A buzz whips by my ear, I swat the air, monetarily forgetting the conscious decision I had made so I decided to see where the fly was going to land. I lift myself up and slowly walk over to the edge of the water and squat down. I have not disturbed the fly or the three other flies that were hovering over a washed up dead fish. The fish was small, no skin was left on the body of the fish just a some grey shiny scales left on the head, surrounding the beady eyeballs which I will admit was hard to look at up close. The small bones of the fish were exposed; the smell was that of a seafood market covered in salt. The sodium smell in the air is what really overwhelmed me. I have never taken the time to watch a fly; they are always getting swatted away before they can even land. I sat down only a few inches from this deceased fish and watched as the flies would hover over the fish and then land only for a few moments and let out their proboscis, much like a straw for humans, that then sucked up the fluid mixture the flies produced taking what they can from the remains. The cycle continued for minutes, this landing then flying away and coming back for more, eventually inviting in two new flies to the mix. An occasional rest would take place on my shin and instead of swatting the fly away, I allowed it to sit and I could feel its legs feeling around on my skin, the faintest touch on my skin I had ever felt. If I had been asleep or even looking in another direction, would I still feel the fly? Well I tested it out, I closed my eyes for thirty seconds or so and I could still feel the fly, was this perhaps because I am already aware that it is there, or do even the smallest beings of our world still hold an impact you can feel. I tried to remain as still as possible so I would not encourage the fly to leave but the stiffness in my leg caused an unexpected twitch in my foot and off it went, right back to the carcass. A few moments of unity with one fly alleviated the impatience and eagerness to remove these beings from my presence. I leave the feast and make my way back to where I was originally laying down. At first glance, nothing new had taken place, but then about arms length away was a black spider, the size of a quarter, climbing up and over each small rock in its way. The bigger the rock it had to go over, the faster it moved, looking like it was just gliding over the tops of the rocks then disappearing in their crevices. He was not moving in my direction, but instead headed directly for the water, perhaps he was going to find some food just as the flies had, or perhaps I am not a destination in which he wants to come into contact with. I watch as he continues down closer and closer to the water, but then I lose him faster than I can blink. He has tunneled his way underneath the plush ground, underneath the pebbles and is not resurfacing in my field of vision. My mind has shifted from what I can see on the surface, to now imagining the life taking place right beneath me that I cannot witness, that I must not disturb by digging, and that I must wait to observe in its natural state when they come up for air. My first day really observing nature it its raw state, free from threat in that moment, flies free from hands swatting them away, spiders free from being stepped on or sprayed with pesticides, I grew an appreciation and compassion for insects and species that have not been given the same respect or care as say a loved puppy. In one hour, I felt the true essence of earth.

The Loud Quiet, by Caitlin Lloyd

After a short trek down a gravel road, through a patch of prickly plants that I do not recognize and past a “closed trail” sign I found a spot that not only looked comfortable enough to spend some time at but also was appealing to the eye. I am perched on a fallen tree that is at least three feet in diameter and would of stood about 60 feet high. The tree hangs off a bank and over the water. The highest point above the water is about twenty feet but because of my fear of falling in and having to walk to my car wet and soggy I am perched right where the tree and the bank lose their connection. Just close enough to the water so that I can still see in to it but far enough away so that I will remain nice and dry. This particular tree looks familiar to me, with its thin, flaky bark that almost resembles camouflage but the name escapes me. That is something I will have to research when I return home. Even though the tree has fallen it is still full of life. There are multiple birds’ nests that hang recklessly above the water, almost begging the wind to try and knock them off. The tree itself also seems to still be alive. With leaves on its branches parts of the roots must still be intact, feeding the still growing tree. I never considered a tree to still be living once fallen but this tree proves its possible.

As I sit and listen I start to take notice to just how loud the quiet actually is. I consider this place to be quiet because it is void of sounds from my everyday life like cars, the TV and even other people but when I actually stop and listen it is quite loud. By loud I mean active and alive. I hear the water pushing past rocks on its never-ending trip down stream. I hear birds and bugs communicating within their own little communities. Grasshoppers and crickets seem to be the dominant noise but ever so often a small bird will add something new to the conversation, breaking up the familiar clicking. As I was contemplating climbing higher into the tree I noticed two buzzards circling the sky over a nearby field. I wonder what had to die in order to feed the two ruthless birds in the sky; a groundhog maybe or a small deer hit by someone mowing down the grass? That is something I have grown familiar to. I come from a farming family that grows and sells hay and straw. Both of these things need to be cut down by a large mower type piece of machinery in order for us to further manipulate them and unfortunately there are always at least one causality. Baby deer are by far the most likely to be injured or killed. Their mothers leave them in the tall, protective grass in hopes that when she returns all will be well. Although this a very common experience for farmers, most (especially myself) never grow used to the usually gruesome scene and the guilty feeling.

The longer I continue to sit on this tree the more I notice how consistent and comfortable the breeze is. The breeze has allowed me to sit here for about an hour without even thinking of breaking a sweat. This is something I haven’t experienced in a few months. I find it extremely refreshing. Each time the wind picks up I glance at those nests just resting in the branches and each time the refuse to move. It amazes me how something so fragile can be so sturdy and strong.

Cape Henlopen, Take One by Amelia Harrison

On the road, I could not hear the turning of my pedals or the changing of my gears over the traffic whizzing past me. Now, as I ride through Cape Henlopen State Park[1], where the only sounds are the birds singing and the wind whistling through the trees, the whirring of my bicycle seems invasive.


Today I am scouting, trying to find an inspiring location for journaling. Having never been to Cape Henlopen before, I take my time, wandering down nearly every trail I encounter. I am not sure of what I’m searching for, but I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it. The sky is blanketed in gray and the threat of rain has kept many people inside, so I encounter few others in the park.


It’s about an hour after entering the park that I find it: the perfect spot. As I reach the peak of a sand dune, I see the Atlantic Ocean before me. The beach appears unpopulated except for a large tree trunk running parallel to the water line. I cannot pinpoint what is so captivating about this view. Perhaps it is the simple beauty of it, the rolling dunes gradually giving way to a secluded and empty beach. Or maybe it’s the precise way that the waves roll into the shore before quickly falling back down the slope of the sand. For all I know it could be both of these things, the way that the entire landscape fits together combined with the small details that makes this place unique, both factors working in harmony to create a single ecosystem.


Contemplation put aside for the moment, I drop my bag next to the log, take off my shoes, and run into the surf. A sense of peace and well-being washes over me and I am content to simply feel. I stand completely still for a few minutes, letting the salt water lap at my feet and the sea breeze tousle my hair.


Once the initial excitement of seeing the ocean has worn off, my eyes open and I notice a pattern in the sand. A perfect lattice keeps appearing as the water recedes. Is this evidence of some manmade structure beneath the sand, perhaps to combat erosion? Or is it an example of nature’s mathematics, like the Fibonacci spiral on a pinecone? This could be something to explore later.


I am shaken from my thoughts as thunder starts to rumble in the distance and rain begins to fall. In the face of the storm, the water seems relatively calm, dampening the sound of the thunder and swallowing the raindrops. Knowing better than to stand in water during a thunderstorm, I let one last surge of water move over my feet. I watch the water retreat at an angle and as it does, the Earth seems to shift beneath me and I stumble to the side. A moment later I realize it was all a trick, my sense of balance at odds with my sight, like when a car speeds past you in traffic and you feel as if you’re moving backwards.


Regaining my balance, I turn and walk back the way I had come. During the short trek, I notice things that had escaped my attention in my rush to stand in the waves. Most conspicuous are the holes. Scattered in the packed sand all round me are holes with small diameters that vary slightly in size but never in shape; they are all perfect circles, clearly created by some unknown burrowing creature. I make a note to ask a professor tomorrow.


Reaching the waterlogged tree trunk, I recognize that I had initially misjudged it. The log has been smoothed and shaped into a cylinder, clearly by machines. My best guess is that it used to be a telephone pole or the like. I sit down on it, hoping that I have a little more time before the rain starts to pick up and forces me under cover.


Looking out in front of me, the only footprints I can see are my own. Messy footprints lead to the water, sand kicked up in my haste, while clearer ones return. I know that by mid-afternoon, all signs of my visit will have been washed away by the high tide, as the high water mark extends past the telephone pole.


The ocean is becoming rougher now, and I take that as my cue to leave. The beach is at a relatively sharp angle and the Delaware tides only differ by a few feet, so the sand dunes and plant life are only steps away from my log. The vegetation is sparse and scrubby, especially on top of the dunes where the wind is strongest. Not many plants are able to survive the high salt concentrations in the soil or the loose sand. Off in the distance, I can see the tops of coniferous trees, but closest to me are only grasses and scrub brush. Although I love the ocean, I have never had the chance to live near it, so most of the plants are foreign to me. On a day when I have more time, I will have to try to identify some of plants.


As I descend the hill to return to my bike, the flora becomes denser with each step inland. Of course, the path I am on has been cleared of vegetation for the beachgoer’s convenience and the “wild” area fenced off. A bright blue bird (an indigo bunting!) suddenly flies across my path, headed inland to seek shelter from the storm in the tall pines. It hits me that this is the only bird I’ve seen in the past hour, a result of the wind and rain, I decide.


I unlock my bike from a metal pole that has been grounded in cement and asphalt. All I can think as I pedal away is that I cannot wait to return.

[1] This semester, I am living in Lewes, DE as a Semester in Residence student at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus.

Wishing to Cross Over, by Anthony Kathreptis

As I approach the creek time begins to slow down. The flow of the water is slow. Smooth gentle ripples blur the water like a Monet painting. Within the ripples, air bubbles pop up to the surface. The slow flow of the water carries decaying leaves, most of which are of brown, yellow, and pale red colors, with some hints of green. The surrounding vegetation in the creek has all green-leaved trees so the decaying leaves came from upstream.

Beneath me lies a ground covered with a forest of moss and clover. The bright green color and fuzzy texture of the moss juxtaposes nicely against the darker green and fun shape of the clover. Tiny plants are also spread throughout the ground, but the moss and clover are the main stars of this floor. Oddly, I’m having a really good time staring at the clover. I love their interesting shapes and the way they move when a breeze comes by, and that there are so many of them bunched up together like a happy family. They’re rubbing their happiness off on me. I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

Startled from the sound of fast movement parading through the forest, I look up. Across the creek, three deer with puffy white tails dash across the forest, like stallions in the sunset. One leads the way, perhaps a mother, or friend, etc. She comes to a stop to walk slowly over some flat boulders. She turns to the right and then turns to the left. At that moment I could see a perfect glimpse of her face. Purity and freedom were shining in her brown eyes. Although our eye contact was brief, I felt as if we had made a connection in some way. Motioning forward she then took some careful steps over the rocky terrain. I could see the motion of the careful placement of her legs through her muscle movements. The trio then began to pick up their pace and continue their journey. I wonder where they were going.

Surrounding the creek I can’t help but admire the varying lights and shadows. The sunlight trickles through branches, displaying unique dendritic shadows near my feet. The sun also begins to shine its rays on the trees and shrubs on the other side of the creek, every few minutes or so, illuminating a new tree or shrub that I haven’t noticed. It seems that the sun is trying to shine its light on different vegetation, maybe using its powers to make me aware of the different natural beauties of the creek?

I can sense the flow of the creek. The flow of the water, the decaying leaves, the warm breeze and the gentle falling of the leaves into the water. It’s all very cyclic, repeating over and over again.

I can feel the life on the other side of the creek. No paths on the other side allowed nature to flourish. A blue bird, what I think is a blue jay, glides by. Across the creek, four butterflies flutter around near the water. Vibrant yellow flowers line the soil in patches. The wind picks up. Gentle breezes caress my face. With the increase in wind comes the vibrating of the leaves. The creek is welcoming me with the song and swayed dance of the leaves. The wind gets stronger. The more the wind picks up, the more I believe that it wants to lift me up and carry me to the deer, to discover their secret lives and to join them across the creek.

Oh, what I would do to be on the other side. Living the typical young American life is boring. Study. Eat. Class. Repeat. Think about your future! I really never wanted any of this. Being born into the typical American lifestyle is boring. It’s like a cycle. School. Work. Marriage. Kids. Death. We are expected to follow these rules. But the only thing I ever really wanted was to have a small cottage in the woods, with a garden. A peaceful life. I could eat from the garden and make art all day. A life entangled with nature. A life entangled with creativity. Behind me lies a road. In front of me lies a creek. The other side of the creek lies my true desires. A life with no stress, a cottage, a simple life. One day I’ll be ready to follow those deer, but not yet. For now I have to continue what’s expected of me.