The secret world of the artificial fishing fly

Recently I received an artificial fly used to “allegedly” catch the biggest, badest trout around. While I am very aware of a long list of Wooly Bugger designs and configurations, this one came with the name of Mink-tailed Supreme Wooly Bugger labeled by me as a MTS Bugger for easier discussions, and I like acronyms. I am not able to give a more accurate description of this well-crafted fly due to it being the handiwork of a friend, commonly referred to as Rick. To disclose the true nature of a lure of this magnitude would border on the verge of a national travesty subject to a Grand Jury investigation or a Trout Unlimited full disclosure request.

It wasn’t but a day after receiving this beauty, and after having mightily demonstrated the shear effectiveness of this fly by catching an unmentionable amount of large trout, that I received another creation called a Super-Deluxe Pinky Dink (SDP Dink). While I was unable to confirm its prowess (it was rumored to have prowess) due to a fast moving storm, I was able to float it on a local pond as a way of getting a feel for it. The beauty issued delightful floatage, with a delicate touch of natural ambiance, coupled with a flash of pink, sassy but not pretentious, all meant to entice the most cautious fish.

After marveling at the SDP Dink and the MTS Bugger, I remembered last year I bought a couple of Modified Chernobyl Ants in Wyoming. These puppies look like giant ants with white legs, black foamy bodies and iridescent wings. Clearly, an ant that had close contact with some U238 or was it bomb grade U233. The thing was obnoxious, and possibly made to frighten fish, maybe irradiate them—and it was misshapen as if the meltdown had altered its genetics. Word had it they worked on the North Platte River and like a Russian Oligarch, I bought a couple while humming Watching Ivan Glow, and an old Ukrainian folk song in D minor.

A local favorite that I first saw in Alaska was a Purple Egg Sucking Leach, but it was more commonly called a Lawyer Fly. Now someone needs to come up with a Bodacious Giuliani, which is a bigger lawyer fly and makes a gurgling incoherent noise as it imitates a massive leach about to be eaten by giant carp (not political but just an observation).

So after reviewing some catalogs filled with various feathered flies, I found others with entertaining names including Galloup’s Butt Monkey, (might as well have called it Rick’s Ass-Clown). There on the steamer page was a Meat Whistle fly which I thought was creative but I don’t think it made noise like the B. Giuliani. Still, this fly had a nice implication as it might provide sustenance. It was then I found one called Sex Dungeon at $6.95, which must have been targeting migrating fish, you know the ones that swim upstream for a little action. I wasn’t that attracted to it even though swimming upstream still has a nice metaphorical ring to it.

There were other flies that looked like giant centipedes, the kind that drop on you when you are trying to sleep in some third-world prison. You know, they walk across the damp concrete ceiling and then lose their grip and fall on you. I can remember not being able to move even slightly because they would lay down a vicious bite at the slightest provocation. It is an uncomfortable eight inch lure but one that could be used to keep swimmers out of your trout hole.

It was then I realized I had purchased a number of really massive flies for fishing the mighty Musky and they must have had names but I didn’t recall hearing them, other than big honking fly, or something like that. These things are nine inches long, weigh half a pound wet, and require three months of weight lifting to enable the caster to chuck one of these things to distant holes. Mine ( pictured above)  has most all the feather of an entire chicken including the wing primaries, half a Guinea foul, three parrot hackles and a sparrow’s breast feathers for a delicate touch,  not to mention a special canted hook previously used for great whites. I’m modestly calling it a Womping-Stomping Deep-Diving Winky-Dinky, Goat-haired Lip Ripper. The other one, the truly large one, the one that looks like a muscled-up Norwegian rat, is a Horse-nippled, Flatulence-spewing, Short-haired Mousy.

What this all comes down to is that fishing goes way beyond just securing that one giant trout but also exercising the art of accumulating lures and even occasionally spinning a slight fabrication for the purpose of entertainment—particularly when one doesn’t really want to tell folks where or how to secure the big ones like I catch.




Aging in Place

A couple of days ago I learned something new that had a profound affect on me while at the same time potentially adding a new categorization system for various forms of behavior.  A gentleman by the name of John, a new acquaintance from Minneapolis, like me, was a touch age challenged. It seems someone asked him what he was doing while he was sitting leisurely in a most comfortable lawn chair, smiling foolishly for no apparent reason, and like a Buddhist monk, clearly taking in the afternoon as if he was one with life. His reply was, “I’m Aging in Place.”

“Absolutely profound,” I thought, “Enlightened”.

Of course, one cannot spend the rest of his or her time “Aging in Place” in such a matter but that does sum up his time in the lawn chair and I am sure, left his questioner speechless.

What did occur to me is that this outlook on life might have other almost academic applications even though I did not want to spend the rest of my life sitting in the front lawn like Bruce Dern in the film Nebraska waving at all passers-by saying, “Looking good.”

I thought,”Wow, this simple set of words may well be an inspiration for those studying aging, even make a topic for my PHD”.  As a brief note, I would suggest that some of the younger readers not rip-off this thinking, for as of this presentation, it is copyrighted and in order for you to use it in an academic setting, I will have to be compensated like any copyrighted idea. One case of Muddy Puppy Porter will do.

It works like this. If an individual is plopped in his favorite easy chair, say a lazy boy, and is watching pornos this would be aging in place (AGIP) but for clinical reasons could be called AGIP-N. The N being for naughty and connote a dirty old man.

On the other hand, the older person who insists on riding a bicycle at speed, could be said to be AGIP but due to the activity might be seen as AGIP Cat. 5 Ex. The Cat 5 is for category 5 and the Ex for extreme, meaning that the aging here is life threatening and from a clinical point of view borders on idiotic if not insane—potentially self-induced rapid aging.

There, of course, are many in between options to this system. Let’s say I am Aging in Place by sitting in a favorite chair accompanied by a nice single malt Scotch. AGIP-S1 would fit here with the S1 representing special level one. This designation could be amended with, say, Mx for maximum if the beverage was served by a spouse who would say, “Dear, could I prepare an appropriately selected beverage for you?” AGIP-S1-Mx seems fitting.

Aging in Place can take many forms but in the proposed thinking it has to be leisurely and pleasurable which could include a wide range of activities, some of which will not be discussed here, but in this day and this age of non-uniformity, could require a PHD study of a sort all unto its own.

So, we have had the AGIP-N grouping which has negative connotations, but still commonly found, and the positive grouping more to my liking, and easier to talk about in this format. Fishing from a comfortable seat in my boat, on a windless slightly overcast day, in full possession of a Point Special, cleverly attired in my second-and, but handsome Orvis shirt could be AGIP-Cat S3-Mx.

Another category for Aging in Place, and maybe the most important of the bunch has more of a group setting, or we might say a community setting. It could go like this. A content individual is Aging in Place by sitting on a tidy beach on a local lake. The chair is uncommonly comfortable. The person, yours truly in this case, is relaxing after catching a 20-inch bass, a fine wine properly chilled is gracing my hand, I am surrounded by no less than 20 individuals all Aging in Place by chatting (AGIP-C), not necessarily about my caught fish but about the pleasure of life in this community. There are a number of younger folks around (not necessarily AGIP), all of them still contributing graciously to my Social Security fund, some children, all handsome and above average, are there admiring the older AGIP adults and in their hearts intent on taking care of our world. My eyes are partially closed, my mouth in a subtle smile and nothing hurts. I am Aging in Place very nicely and in optimal position. Categorization for this is AGIP-Cat5-S5-Mx 5. It would seem there is this need to designate this condition and take pride in Aging in Place.



VISITATION: While this word almost sounds like something one does at a facility of some sort, say a hospital or a mental institution, it also can mean nothing more than a situation where one person visits another, or one group visits another group. In our case, it means the children and the one grandchild coming to town for a visitation. However, if a person were to witness these events, the vision of a mental institution quickly comes to mind. It’s not an Ed Gein facility but just a loony bin of chaotic characters, much like in The King of Hearts, all full of nonsense and gibberish.

While it is not possible to demonstrate, or discuss all of the buffoonery that goes on, I will offer but one as a way of not defending my family but one that offers insight.

It seems we were on the way back from Madison after visiting friends and other relatives, themselves questionably not totally intact, when we stopped at the ice cream shop all wanting that one big delicious cone. While most of us chose traditional flavors, the twelve year-old kid decided on Blue Moon. We adults looked at each other with a certain level of disgust knowing the flavor was derived from bubblegum, or some lab-produced ester we used to concoct in Chem. 204 at the University.

No sooner had the kid laid a lip on the double scoop, when he was asked if the flavor was Tidy Bowl. Now Tidy Bowl is a color, but also I suppose, has a flavor, but seeing as how it is used to perfume up a toilet bowl, the visual was not enticing.

The cone melted and dribbled up and down the kid and colored up the parking lot as well as making it smell like a facility for relief. It was then the group went mental. Besides the mess, Tanya, our daughter and Jake’s mother, suggested the flavor might be called Luscious Latrine or Porcelain Pony Pop.  The kid grimaced but kept up the pace trying not to be grossed out.

He headed off to a pond of stagnant water looking for his long-sought-after  Bugle-Mouthed Salmon better known locally as a carp. We assumed he was eyeing-up a possible dumping ground so I let fly, “Don’t throw that thing in the water. It will kill the damn fish.”

Jake responded “Knock it off. This is the best and I’m not sharing. You guys are bunch of chum buckets. Scumbags.” Alarmingly, it appeared much of the cone, in this eighty-five degree day, had done some serious migrating about his self and clothing. We reluctantly hopped in the car with all the adults appalled at the sight—and realizing a painter’s tarp may have to be hauled out as well as the six hp power-washer.

Back in the car, the kid kept lapping on the dribbling, artificially colored cone while the rest of us had trouble staying close to sane. “Hey, how’s the Porta Potty Blue going?” was one comment. Then “Porta Potty Periwinkle” followed by Ann’s Eau de Toilette. Everyone in the car was bent with laughter, cringing at the associations and gastronomical implications, maybe a certain disdain, and clearly all fraught with general chaos.  Folks passing by as we left town certainly must have wondered what was going on when they heard the howling coming out of our lunatic filled car. It was a moving Cuckoo’s nest with a grim-faced kid still trying to engage his ill-chosen double-dipper feature cone. The ice cream dribbled wildly. Tanya claimed she had found the perfect name—the final entry in the naming contest, Ice Cream ala Commode.

Jake, the soiled kid, announced he had a belly full and was tired of the Tidy Bowl nonsense. A couple of the critics took a final lick as a confirmation of judgment and jettisoned the remaining mess out the window in a final fit of disgust making note that while the thing was vile, it was probably organic and would quickly return to the soil where it belonged.


Woodpile Envy

Woodpile Envy—Maybe Jealousy.

Is it jealousy, or maybe just green envy that rattles my cage when I see a well-constructed woodpile? Jealously has a personality weakness connotation and I don’t really find myself wanting to push someone’s pile over but rather stop and admire—then maybe twitch with envy, thinking everyone should have one of these—particularly me. I have always burned wood but don’t recall ever being serious about stacking, then again I lived in the dry west and I do not recall an indigenous, wood stacker culture.
wood teppee

Here in industrious Wisconsin the situation is different. If a person casts a wonder eye, it is easy to spot some rather impressive monuments to man’s relationship to wood—and work.

Rick, the Pendleton-clad woodman, boasts a rectangular style, meaning a conventional stack all laid out in parallel rows as if trying to make a statement of organization and convention. He clearly has a solid fixation with one-hundred eighty and ninety degree alignments, and featuring piles to a height of 4.5 feet, but extending lengthwise some 20-30 feet and 10 feet deep. This method would allow one to calculate cubic feet and thus the cordage—thereby pleasing the Chicago School of Economics and mathematicians studying fractals. What is most admirable is the precision of the presentation. Each corner is cross stacked but the interiors are laid on each other horizontally creating a wonderful texture. It is a thing of beauty but rather hidden in the forest and I am sure makes a nice chipmunk condo. Placed by the road it would be a hazard and might create admiration crashes.
wood jim

Jim, in an act cleaning up his woods of windfall, prefers yurt shaped piles with the pieces being stacked on their ends or on some occasions horizontally. The top has a taper of maybe 25 degrees and makes the entire effort look like a Mongolian yurt—even though he is decidedly Irish. The master works of log lugging range in size from 6’- 12’ feet in diameter with a fluctuating edge similar to me after a couple of fine local brews. One standout pile incorporated an upright, and live, oak as if he needed some natural assistance.

I ran into another dramatic style north of town sitting ever-so comfortable up on the hillside next to the road. This endeavor was conical with each piece of hard wood laid against the side in a flawless manner until the finished work was a perfect teepee. However, the biggest surprise was hundred yards up the road and to the south, where there in a field was maybe six pieces of piled, yet to be pilfered, artworks. One of them so large it could be seen from space—say from Nelsonville. All were perfect in effort with the final precipice making the perfect tepee. For the life of me, it didn’t seem possible that a man on foot could assemble this. A ladder had to be used which did beg some questions, like how many person-hours had to go into this prize? There had to be 10 cords in this mound all of it placed in the most deliberate artistic way.

Like I said, I have woodpile envy, maybe some jealousy, so questions had to be asked as to why folks do this. Considering the extra work, there has to be a profound motive. Yes, some people like to be organized, they enjoy having things in place so they are easy to find and use. This may account for some of the efforts. Others are a practical sort who have concluded, maybe by some distant tradition, that by doing it a particular way will encourage drying as the water will run off in a very organized way not promoting fungal growth.

Still, there has to be something else. Each one of these three have an aesthetic touch and that is why I marvel. They are immensely appealing and I am sure every passer-by notes the effort. Still, everyone of these individuals, and this includes me with my scatter schizoid piles loves doing the work, they love being outside, embracing the weather and probably making note that cutting and storing wood warms them multiple times. This includes cutting, loading in the truck, then unloading, splitting, hauling, stacking, toting inside and ultimately cleaning the house from the messes (which very well may be done by someone else.)

The final kiss is the smell of wild wood, drifting smoke, and of course, that radiant heat.

So, the admission here is envy got the best of me, not in a big way, but some and I had to prove my worth. After all, most of the above merits appeal to me. I thought possibly I could take it the next step, a one small step for mankind, and make a holz hausen I had seen while researching woodpile aficionados.
In a fit of labor, and a couple of glorious fall days, the hausen formed with my pride-and-joy of bark shingles. For this winter, I am full of myself, maybe not up to the others but watch out next year.


In Love of Walnuts

In Love of Walnuts:

By David Wright

I was once young, an eight-year old, and by any explanation that was some time ago, in this case embarrassingly close to sixty-five years. This time span is not child’s play and for reasons, not totally apparent, I can’t account for the speed which has consumed that span. Fortunately, there is still a certain lucidity in my mind so that it is possible to recall some things from that time, not only recall them but, most interestingly, to have sensations and vivid memories pertaining to smell. The sensation, I suspect, is only part of it because with the odor of certain items or situations comes images that, while somewhat ethereal, are still, to this old mind meaningful and rich.

We returned here to our home ground 12 years ago. That first fall on our return to Wisconsin, and really, every year since, we have almost without effort, managed to round up at least some walnuts. Initially, I recall simply finding one in glorious repose under a tree. It was unmolested by the resident squirrels as it sat their half buried in the duff like a lost golf ball. Almost instinctively, I lifted the light green orb to my nose. I knew hidden there was a crisp pungent odor of the earth. I knew there were memories, maybe ones lost from living in the west all those years. Like every person, there are childhood experiences associated with distant odors, be it faint hint of a mother’s perfume, or secret smell associated with Port Orford Cedar, the wood used to make our own arrows or the smell of fall as the western Chamisa and sunflowers bloomed on the August prairie of Colorado.

In this case, it was the Black Walnut. Like flying birds rattling through my brain, I was taken back in Sauk County there on the Wisconsin River. In the distant haze of magical memory, I recalled, almost seeing our band of foragers flopping from the car in disarray, gunny bag in hand, heading for some known Walnut tree where waited the green nuts ready for grabbing.


In early October, we would get packed in the old ’36 Chevrolet, in a fashion probably not much different than the family dog, who in glee would hang from the window, jowls flopping in the breeze with spittle running wild, and head for the Baraboo Hills.  While we two kids might have been slugging it out in the back just out of the reach of the old man, I would not be surprised if we two ratty-assed kids were also face to the wind, head out the window yelling and drooling. It was adventure time.

Duward’s Glenn rings a bell as does Parfrey’s Glenn and from there our disheveled troupe would scrounge around looking for all sorts of things including walnuts—but I still recall distant stories  of watching for Timber Rattlers—and hearing the old man excitedly carry on about how he almost put his hand on one—to that we paid attention.

The trip was a family thing and a chance to touch and smell all things wild. I didn’t know then my father was born in New York and raised in Chicago, so in looking back I’m not sure how he managed to become so engaged in this country life. Maybe it was the quiet presence of my mother who had been raised in a more rural setting in northern Illinois. What is now very clear is they had a genuine love for the countryside, the uninhabited, the quiet settings of the forest and fields.

I know at the age of maybe eight, I was already fascinated by the newts, frogs, butterflies and wild growing food my parents were showing us. The smell of the walnut was impossible to miss. Just the slightest scratch of the hull and from it came this rich, earthy odor only found in that one species.

I don’t doubt, knowing our families later history, that it was there we learned to throw things at each other—like fat walnuts. It wouldn’t even surprise me if the my father started it. Later in life there were many childish, rowdy fights with acorns, walnut and apples accompanied by pock-mark wounds, and a few tears all of which that were met with little sympathy. It was the old man, I’m sure.

So therein lies the memory that still drifts around in my head. Scratch the newly fallen walnut and there in front of me is a soft spot, a vision of a family picnic and a sack of walnuts—maybe the burn of being hit by a 65 mph fast (ball) nut from my lousy brother. It is all just good.

Of course, this is not the only wafting odor that sets off the winds of memory, but it is a pleasant one, and one I could wish on any one.

In the last few years I have taken it farther than just momentarily dwelling on the gift of smell but also harvesting local walnuts, hulling them, slowly picking the meats out and then in the great glee of an easily impressed child, introducing them into pancakes and cookies. When the first cookies were made, I noticed the taste of the nuts also rang one of those tiny bells in my brain, not the ones damaged by a few too many concussions, but silver bells of a warm kitchen and still-steaming cookies.

walnut meats

The walnut holds a dear place in my life and due to their abundance around here, we are now able to enjoy every aspect of them almost every year—and that is, without throwing them at aging, still-mouthy brothers—not that we wouldn’t try.






Befuddled—–Board Games and Life

By Matt Geiger


My favorite activity is gathering with friends to talk, for hours on end, about whatever we please.

The conversations can be about anything – hopefully Peter the Great, competitive axe throwing, or my daughter – but they all have one thing in common: they are freestyle. There are no written cues, no cards, no dice and no board determining what we can and cannot do or say. And, aside from the general kind of social scorekeeping we all do in our heads whenever we’re in social situations, there is no one allocating points.

Nothing brings these enjoyable evenings to a screeching halt as quickly as party games. They always makes me feel like someone who, on the verge of a spontaneous romantic encounter, sees his partner head to the hallway closet and return with a vast assortment of gear, complete with special chairs, whips, handcuffs, Viagra and other aides.

“Shouldn’t we at least try to do it ourselves, first?” a reasonable person would respond. “I mean, shouldn’t all these things be a last resort if we find out we can’t get the job done on our own?”

These games come in many forms, but they tend to have names like “Befuddle…” or “Incoherence!”

They have subtitles that only serve to further confuse me: “The card game where you learn the mating calls of each state bird!” or “The board game where nouns are verbs, and adjectives are golden tamarin marmosets in estrus!”

I try avoid them the way most people avoid contracting malaria, and I often check the closets at friends’ houses to see what awful nonsense lurks within. Many parents, I’ve been told, ask other parents if they have any firearms in the house, and if so if they are adequately secured, before bringing small children over for playdates. I do the same, but with these dreadful, colorful affronts to the fact that we all have a limited amount of time on this planet.

My wife, Greta, says I dislike them because I always lose, and therefore am not acquainted with the sweet nectar of party game victory. She is only partially right.



The Poet From Ireland


Mr. William Yeats in Ireland


Travelling to other lands is always a lesson of sorts, not just to see the scenery but to experience the lives, history and way of life of others outside of our own personal space. While some of these characteristics may be known to us, being up close and personal with the very land from which sprang their culture and their view of the world, is not so easily perceived until one is almost standing in their shoes, if only momentary.

In those lands totally outside our western world, it is, of course, almost impossible to grasp much of anything in depth.  But in a place like Ireland, a land from which many of us have ancestors, and a land that has a common language, the task has more prospect.

Being in Ireland presents many new opportunities to experience, however briefly, the outcomes of their life patterns. Here is a land that has faced multiple starvations, internal revolutionary struggles, and the confrontations of living in a tired land, one overrun by swarming people trying to gain sustenance from a thin soil. There is a certain sadness in that.

Still, from all the struggles came a culture rich in so many ways, maybe not as obviously material as our own, but still an endowment rich and enlightening.

So, it was during a recent visit, that I ran into Mr. William Yeats. Like many of us, I had known him before, but not while standing on his home ground, among his people, looking over the “terrible beauty” of Ireland.  William Yeats is celebrated as a hero, as an intellectual giant, and currently, an economic attraction. As a result of the latter most interesting aspect, his work is ever present as we explored Ireland.

While Mr. Yeats has not been around sicse 1939, his words have endured.  While jumping from pub to pub, from Cork to Sligo, it was almost impossible not to be confronted by his musings. The delightful quotes were even on pub walls, the marquees of banks and written on sidewalks.  I could not help reading the words, some scattered and out of true context, others complete, many causing me to pause and maybe reconsider my own worldview—which I suspect is the intention of poetry.

On one page, I found the following line taken from a poem titled The Cloths of Heaven, “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”  I found myself wanting to make a change to that because at the age of 73, my dreams for just myself are waning as I am facing limitations. But then, I would suppose my dreams are now very much including those that will follow me, my children’s children. Tread softly. Does that mean the activities of humanity, the relentless hammering of the earth for financial gain? Is it a warning, an insight by a gifted mind? Damn poets.

Alternatively, does it imply a request to a lover—but is that not the same? I suspect that in the poem “The Cloths of Heaven” it can mean many things – maybe moderation, sensitivity, almost the Golden Rule. It is but a simple request.

So “afoot and light hearted I took to the open road” and had a few conversations with Mr. Yeats, wanting to discover the land on which I was now standing. I bought a book of poems to learn of the Emerald Isle through his eyes. I found a poem the following day after listening to the sound of the Uilleann pipes at Crane’s Pub in Galway. It was a musing on the sighting of swans right in Galway County just a few miles from last evening’s frolic.

He wrote:

But now they drift on still water,

Mysterious, beautiful;

Among what rushes will they build,

By what lake’s edge or pool

Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day

To find they have flown away?


Like many great poems, this required me to think and wonder why the question mark after the last statement. He marveled the sight of swans but implied one day they might be gone. Was he discouraged by what he saw, thinking the presence of swans was fleeting? I had seen a swan during the time we were there, so his concern may have been unfounded even though Ireland has long ago lost its natural environment to sheep and cattle, there are still swans. Was the statement an insight? Was the swan a symbol of a lover?

For the days we were there, Yeats was always about, and I’d like to think offering me a glimpse into a great mind from a distant land.  Along with the visual delights of emerald green fields enclosed in ancient stone walls and music trickling through the evening streets, the words of Mr. Yeats accentuated the place called Ireland. While the tendency may, in these times, be to only see those things pleasant, the history has other stories and as Yeats said in a poem called Host of the Air, “Never was piping so sad and never was piping so gay”—-insightful words assembled to prod the brain into reflection and introspection.

Travelling is that way it would seem, a chance to live outside our own shoes. To see the world through another’s eyes. For that, I am grateful.



Rituals of the Hearth

by Eleonore Hebal

Several weeks ago, a very loved and very worn cookbook, entitled Ritual of the Hearth, was generously bestowed upon me by a dear friend. As my fingers slowly wrapped around the tattered binding, a wave of tingles washed through my hand and opened up my heart. . . what a treasure. As I flipped through the pages, recipes for some of my favorite dishes passed by: Whole Wheat Challah, Lavender Eggplant, Pumpernickel Bagels, Falafel. Completely enchanted, I laughed as I read the colorful back cover, “Suitable for a picnic by moonlight, a seaside supper, a banquet of colors, an “Oriental Dream,” and Aquarian feast. . .”

I am a most fortunate woman to be receiving such magical gifts as the autumn winds slowly transform the lush, green forests of the heartland into a shimmering mosaic of crimson and gold. Below is a favorite passage and two traditional recipes by Roberta Sickler, sure to enrich the long, spooky October evenings awaiting us.

While we drift in sleep an autumn chill penetrates the night.
Ripe fruits fade and shrink from clinging night shadows.
Apples drop from mother trees, and take their seed to the earth.
I wake at dawn to cool cinnamon smells of mud and overripened fruits.
New morning of an aging year, green forests transformed so soon to scarlet orange.

Pumpkin Soup
1 small pumpkin (4 cups cubed fresh cut into 1 inch cubes)
1.5 cups boiling water, salted
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
3 cups milk, scalded
Black pepper to taste
1 pinch cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a heavy covered pot, the pumpkin is cooked gently in boiling, salted water, until tender, about 1 hour; it is then pressed through a sieve. The beaten egg yolk is added and the mixture is stirred into hot scalded milk, and seasoned lightly with fresh ground black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg.

Croutons are prepared by browning little squares of rye or wheat bread in a skillet with plenty of butter. Hot Pumpkin Soup is poured into a large tureen, and garnished with whipped cream and croutons.

Ginseng Clove Tea
1 tablespoon minced or powdered ginseng root
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 thick slice of orange
1 quart boiling water
4 small pieces of orange rind

The ginseng root, cloves, cinnamon, and orange slice are steeped in boiling water for 15 minutes. The tea is poured into 4 cups, each garnished with a piece of orange rind, and served hot.

The Dragonfly, The Common Green Darner, Brings Beauty and Service.

Monday was partially overcast, seventy-three, and clearly a typical day here in the heartland. Maybe it was a lazy day, in that I found myself dozing off, but I am supposed to be retired and this, only a few years ago, would be great day to work outdoors. Still in a walk-about-the-grounds, early-morning state of mind, a ruckus broke out among the party about to go shopping. There on the handle of the car was a giant dragonfly in repose, motionless, wrapped in a brief bit of morning sunlight.

Its wings were spread-out sheets of gossamer so thin the shining door handle shown through as if the wings were made of the clearest piece of thin glass. The wings like all wings, man-made or otherwise, had veins running through them in an organized fashion obviously put there for strength by the head engineer.

The thorax was a color of green so profound that Prada, my clothes maker, would have died to put that into a Paris garment fit only for the beautiful people, the ones so hung on self-aggrandizement that they almost fall over themselves. We had that color, right here latched firmly to our door handle. The shopping adventure had to wait as all individuals who could be summoned, gathered around and marveled at the insect so intricate, so delicate that there seemed no reason for the accumulation of such beauty.

For a brief moment I worried, it had attached itself there and then exhausted, died for there was no visible motion. At the same time, the insect was completely void of any signs of wear. It was pristine.

Having been a beekeeper it didn’t take long to learn back then, insects are no different than we humans, and worker bees wear out. I remember seeing  bees In their age, struggle back to the hive for that one last flight and then die on the entrance. Some worker bees could be found in the field, clinging to the flowers, motionless and dead, worn out from a life of toil. Had this beauty done the same after weeks of eating mosquitos? Not likely as there was not a single indication of doing a day’s work. It was new to this world.

Inquisitively, I placed my figure in front of the dragonfly and it slowly but deliberately, walked on to my finger to take a new position, still almost motionless and not seeming intent on flying away. It posed for the camera moving slightly from side to side much like the skinny Paris models but not arrogantly lifting its head in an ever-so-glamourous posture.

Then in a moment as we all pushed forward for a closer examination, the bedazzled bug took wing as if a jump jet and flew to a distant bush. Everyone looked at each other as if to say, “What was that? “

With little research, our visitor proved to be a Common Green Darner and was a juvenile,  meaning it was fresh out the pupal stage and probably just hanging out waiting to be an adult thereby avoiding all that immaturity and hormonal changes that go along with our species. The plan of attaching to an automobile door latch as a way of going through its entire juvenile period seems pure genius from my point of view—- and probably some educators in the junior-high system. Even when slightly prodded, the dragonfly was cool, calm and collected. A little reading also made mention of the fact this dragonfly will now change colors much like a modern day youth going from a tightly cut hair style to a purple Mohawk.

In my perusal, it turned out there is also a Dragon Fly Society, meaning there are organizations that do little other than exploring the beauty, behavior and life of Damselflies and Dragonflies. This species has a wondrous variety and diversity. It seems, each one of these jewels has its own glory and a long history of eating other insects—and yes, many of the prey have the ability to drain my blood.

So, while we cheered the grace and beauty of the Darner, and were even willing to compare it to any of the posing models in Vanity Fair, none of the human “beauties” consumed mosquitoes like the delicate, gorgeous but very predatory Dragonfly. Such a service they provide.

Ghost Pipe – An Extraordinary Botanical Curiosity

By Eleonore Hebal

“All good things are wild and free.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Early this morning, as the first bird songs warbled through August’s lush canopies, I stumbled across the most curious and ethereal of creatures peeking up from beneath the towering firs on the southern edge of my property – Ghost Pipe! To my amazement, dozens of thriving colonies were slowly emerging from the dark, rich earth, tangled between layers of decaying leaves, fermenting mulberries, and crimson capped toadstools. Three tiny bees were pollinating each of the fragile, down-turned bell flowers, carefully entering upside down. Spellbound, I silently observed the surreal scene for at least five minutes before continuing on with my hike. Before long I spotted more ghostly colonies arising in rings around my favorite oak tree, coiling underneath a large patch of poison ivy, and surfacing between the dead wood and viridescent moss along the path. An eerie, otherworldly light seemed to pulse through the stunning, bright white florets that gracefully bowed down to the decay of the fertile forest floor, instead of the mighty sun above. A wide smile spread across my face, what a delightful little ally to have around, an unexpected gift of the wet summer.

The unusual life cycle and strange beauty of Ghost Pipe has intrigued me for years. This delicate and mysterious plant, also known as Monotropa Uniflora, Corpse Plant, Ghost Flower, and Indian Pipe, is a translucent non-photosynthetic flowering epiparasite. They do not require chlorophyll. Instead, they parasitize mushrooms, commonly forming relationships with at least a dozen different tree fungi, many of which are edible. Upon researching the plant a bit more today, I learned that Ghost Pipe is completely dependent on its hosts for nutrients, requiring no sunlight. Renowned botanist Ryan Drum noted, after much observation, that nothing seems to eat this plant and after consuming more than an ounce himself, he felt nauseous and very weird.

Resembling a spine and a brain-stem, Ghost Pipe is a powerful nervine, used by traditional herbalists for hundreds of years to stop seizures, convulsions, insomnia, migraines, mental disorders, and chronic muscle spasms. In 1898, Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd wrote in King’s American Dispensatory that the powdered root can be used “as a substitute for opium, without any deleterious influences.” Many herbalists have observed that Ghost Pipe often makes people feel more grounded and present in the moment when overwhelming pain has been dominating their physical and social experiences. It appears to heighten one’s pain threshold. Several of my friends have successfully eased chronic physical pain and anxiety with small doses of its deep purple tincture. Ryan Drum does give caution that the consumption of 15 ml or more of Monotropa tincture “can bring deep sleep and ultra vivid dreams, often bizarre, frequently erotic.” The hazards and/or benefits of long-term regular usage of its tincture are still undocumented.

As twilight approached, I decided to visit the magical little ghosts again. A soft, shimmering light enveloped the entire Tomorrow River Valley, as the heavy summer sun sank below the horizon. As soon as I entered the forest, a serene feeling washed over me. I began to notice many new, or at least previously unnoticed, fungi. On my way to the fir grove I spotted at least a dozen more pipes and large colonies of turkey tail and coral mushrooms. As I came upon the ethereal little creatures that had enchanted my mind all day, I realized they looked more alive than ever in this in-between hour. Eerily quivering in the twilight breeze, they invited me to learn their secrets. Smiling, I accepted the generous invitation, mesmerized by their ghostly petals. As an herbalist, I like to believe that the plants choose you sometimes, especially when they emerge on the outskirts of your home. Perhaps these beautifully weird little parasites have something important to teach me. I will be a patient student and sit with them this year, always holding in mind my favorites quote by Thoreau, “All good things are wild and free.”