Cedar Ring Mama

Taking My Cues From Mother Earth

Once I Smiled In Secret at the Gossip of the Starlings…


Once I spoke the language of the flowers,

Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,

Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,

And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.

Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,

And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,

Once I spoke the language of the flowers…

How did it go?

How did it go?

                            (-Shel Silverstein)

When people ask how I like living in the country, I tell them there is nothing like being in a place where the ratio of trees to people is (at least) 100 to 1.  There is just a different quality here in what they call “God’s Country”.  When I moved to the country (five years ago this month!), I never imagined how it would transform me.  I don’t think I can put it into words, really.  But I feel very much as though I really came alive only recently, to a new plateau of existence in which I share in that beautiful quality of child-like wonder and amazement each spring as everything becomes new.  Like a child beginning to make sense of the world, I am realizing familiar patterns and beginning to piece together a consciousness of this circle of the year that I never really understood.  Oh, I enjoyed nature before.  I knew there were four seasons. But this? This feeling that happens as each individual animal and plants being wakes up each year, the excitement and anticipation, the awe and ache as I search for ways to contain the raw and overwhelming beauty of it all- it is new, it deepens each year, and it reshapes me.   Like this poem, I feel a constant searching to recall something I have lost that I am reconnecting to- and certain moments, especially during this “opening”, rising time of spring equinox, I have many moments where I feel like I have found it… even if I can’t quite put it in words.

Last night, my friends the starlings came back.  Starlings are most certainly extroverts in the bird community.  It is the curious starlings which fly down the (now unused) wood stove as they look for nesting spots, then fly wildly about my house when I open the woodstove doors to release them. It is the raucous, excited starlings which, after a long days’ work, gather altoghether every evening around seven in their special communal roost, a nearby tree in the woods that borders my house, to gossip, hoot, and holler as only starlings do.  Shortly after I moved here, someone asked me how I was enjoying the peace and quiet.  The starlings had just arrived, and I said “It is EXTREMELY LOUD here, actually!”.  Between the starlings and the peeper frogs, spring evenings are a party in my backyard. If you don’t believe me, watch this 20 second movie I took last night and turn up the volume.

I read a little about the starlings so I could tell my children more about them.  They were introduced to North America by Eugene Schieffelin.  He released about 60 birds in Central Park on a mission to introduce each species of bird mentioned by Shakespeare to the Americas.  It was a bad idea! It actually caused quite a disruption to the eco-system, and to this day native purple martins often require man-made nesting boxes protected from starling colonization to survive and compete with the now 200 million starlings of North America. Starlings can create gigantic swarms of up to millions of birds (thank goodness there are not that many in my backyard!).  They eat bugs like crazy, often flying in swarm formations and catching them mid-air (now that is good news to me! A few less mosquitoes, I hope).  The males build nests and sing to attract the females (wouldn’t it be lovely if more men did that?  I would love a singing man to build me a house!).  They even line them with insect-repelling herbs and decorate them with flowers! They share much of the parenting responsibilities, and while they will sit on the eggs for short periods of time for Mama Starling to have some “me-time”, Mama Starling is alone at night with her eggs or hatchlings because Papa Starling hangs out with the boys at the communal roost- that loud tree in my backyard!

This curious spring symphony- wild geese honking, robins singing, starlings hollering, and peeper frogs peeping- what will be next? The crickets chirping, I suppose!

In addition the sounds, the spring sights have been breathtaking.  I stumbled across a woodland spring the other day.  While the woods have been quite brown and dry still, the spring runs down the hill and creates a stunning green path.  Chancing upon it on St. Patrick’s Day, I told my children it is the leprechaun’s path and it turns green because of his magic little steps.  They tell me about all the leprechauns they’ve spotted lately- sightings are up!

Any clue what these are?

Finding this spring makes me feel so happy.  When I went to visit my parents recently, or when I go anywhere in the city or suburbia, the water leaves much to be desired.  From the tap it tastes like chlorine, and from plastic bottles of “pure” water it tastes bitter.  Here? It tastes like heaven! It is sweet, cool, and I have no worries about plastic leaching into it or the horrid idea that it is all recycled sewage and God-knows-what else (when I worked in a hospital pharmacy, we dumped litres and litres of expired/unneeded IV medicines right down the drain… off course the cancer medicines had to be disposed of differently, but there are a lot of chemicals in “treated” water.  There are also high concentrations of all sorts of other medicines going into treatment plants from urine- from anti-depressants, to muscle relaxers, to estrogen from birth control pills).  I hope, pray, and dream of this area’s water staying as it is.  We are threatened by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in my area, and I know some of the neighbors are pretty open to the idea.  But it can contaminate ground water in a radius of up to 3,000 feet- and the current regulations proposed allow for these wells to be built within 500 feet of private wells.  This has led to some devastating consequences for people in Pennsylvania whose land has become an eco-nightmare, or who can light their faucet water on fire because it is now flammable. As the anti-fracker’s mantra goes- “You can’t drink money!” I have a really hard time understanding how anyone can view “treated” water and pristine, “virgin” water as exchangeable.  There is a HUGE difference.  Dr. Emoto’s work with water, Kirlian photography, and plain old common (and spiritual) sense will tell you there are wonderful qualities to water that has not been swirled around in chlorine and fluoride.   Not to mention if your well is contaminated, you are completely dependent on outside sources for the water to bathe, do you laundry, drink, garden with… for me, that is the ultimate nightmare.  Clean water, air, and earth are the gifts we and our future children all deserve to have and fight for.

While the rest of the trees were still bare, the ones along this path showed the first buds. So it really did seem magical!

The wild leeks are going to be ready soon.  They are poking up all over.  And when I say all over- I mean ALL OVER.  There are thousands. This is like a dream come true; when I first moved out here I imagined country life to be just like this.  To walk outside and see hundreds of edible and useful plants, just waiting for me to eat them up!  This year I have looked up a bunch of great new ramp recipes, and also learned they can be dehydrated and used like a regular spice.  More on that later after Mama Monica and I do our wild foraging when they are mature.

Back at home, crocuses and daffodils are blooming.

In the garden, we’ve got chives, parsely, onions, and lettuces.

It’s a bit too early to plant willy-nilly, but if I am careful and use these small beds with pvc pipes to make a “hoophouse”, I can start many things right now. If the weather cools and threatens to frost heavily, I can cover the hoops with plastic sheeting from the hardware store to protect the fledgling plants.  We currently have two of these boxes, and I love them so much I’d like to build six more.  I will do most of my gardening within them, and have cutting flowers, corn, onions, potatoes, and squash outside the boxes since they require so much more space.   I am following biodynamic gardening, so that gives me a nice plan for when to plant what.  Today it will be leafy plants- after breakfast and a shower, I will be singing to my chard, kale, fennel, lettuces, arugula, celery, basil, and spinach seeds! Off I go…

PS- Don’t forget to read my guest post and enter the fingerdoll puppet giveaway on Donna Ashton’s blog… It ends tomorrow! There are 14 entries right now, so you have pretty good odds of winning! 😉

3 thoughts on “Once I Smiled In Secret at the Gossip of the Starlings…

  1. I love how connected you are with nature. It’s wonderful to see & read about. Even when I lived there it wasn’t exactly like that for me. Maybe it was because the woods were pretty far back from our house, it was mostly farm fields around us. It takes a special awareness to notice everything you notice, it’s so magical. Love that strip of green through the woods! And the sound of the starlings! It is loud in the country. but it becomes like a beautiful background music to fall asleep to. Did you ever see that Starling video I posted on facebook? I’ll have to post it again, it’s called A Murmuration of Starlings. They are fascinating!


  2. Love this post.

    I moved to the country less than a year ago and I finally feel Home for the first time in my adult life. I love the beginnings of this life and I look forward to seeing the connections and seasons come full circle.

  3. Pingback: weekend link love | everyday miracles

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