Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nature's Bad and Good Sides

I was recently in New Hampshire, visiting MH's family over Memorial Day weekend, and I had planned to put here some notes from that visit.

But for the moment I am ticked off and want to concentrate on the not-so-good part of nature, specifically something that happened this morning while sitting on my screened-in porch, an area that I had considered a refuge from the mess in the house and my favorite place from which to view the birds.

Specifically, I was drinking coffee when I felt something on my right leg. It was a tick.

I have written before about ticks. They wait in long grass until they find something to jump on. Many times it is an animal - deer or dog, for instance. But changing global conditions are making the life of a tick easier.

I've found them on me before after hiking on trails at Great Swamp or in New Hampshire's Audubon sanctuary outside Concord. In the case of the latter I had checked my clothes but found the tick on my torso as I was about to take a shower.

In today's case, the tick was on the enclosed porch. I had been puttering around, pulling an extension cord out of the corner to plug in the fan, checking on my plants. I was in pajamas and hadn't gone outside. Somehow it had found me. MH said it could've been on the porch for days. It must've been mighty hungry.

I probably should've used the match trick I learned from a former sister-in-law: Light a match, blow it out, apply the hot match head to the tick. It will stop biting and start moving. You don't want to pull out a ticker and leave the head and those teeth behind.

But I grabbed and pulled and it looks like since it had only just jumped on it hadn't gotten its bite in too deep. It was brought inside and flushed to meet its Maker.

Now, however, every itch has me checking for ticks. I am leery of going out on the porch in my pajamas with my coffee as I do most summer mornings. With all the deer that pass through our yard I've often warned MH to be extra careful when he mows our long grass, and tuck his pants into his socks and then check himself before coming into the house. Now I must do the same just to sit outside.

I know, it's only a tick and only one bite, It is not a home invasion or a burglary when you come home and feel violated. But the porch is my refuge and now I'll have to be watchful.

A Change of Scene

Every time we go to New Hampshire - and MH and I have been going for more than two decades - I see something I've never seen before.

Most of the time it is something bad - another swatch of trees cut down and a large house put up, for instance - but this time it was a wondrous sight.

We stopped at a bookstore across the road from one of central New Hampshire's many nice lakes, Massasecum. We've come here for years. I park and the owner lets me bird out in back of her property while MH helps pay for her groceries.

This time I parked and in front of the car, slightly up a hill, was a pink lady's slipper orchid.

May 27, 2013, Bradford, NH, by Margo D. Beller
When I have seen orchids they've either been the "moth" type (allegedly easy to grow but mine hasn't flowered since the original blooms fell off) or the exotic ones that are seen in hothouses such as the one at the former estate of heiress Doris Duke. But orchids are found in the woods. There are some in the New Jersey Pinelands that are unique to there. Some people have such an obsessive desire they steal orchids. Sue Orleans wrote a book about one such person.

According to my Audubon guide to New England, the pink lady's slipper blooms in April into May and is partial to bog and to hillsides, particularly under conifers. This one was growing in the shade of many hemlocks.

The owner of the bookstore came out as I was photographing the orchid. She pointed out two more plants that were growing but had not yet flowered. She said the orchid had only flowered in the last two days, probably delayed by this spring's wacky weather conditions.

When she first moved to the property there were many more of these orchids, but when land was cleared for the house and the adjacent bookstore there were no more orchids. It was only this year when the conditions were just right for this orchid and her sisters to grow. The owner hopes there will be more this year and next, and I do, too.

But this orchid teaches a lesson. Development creates and it destroys. The beauty that draws us to an area is fragile and mankind can too easily destroy it.

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