Sabbatical Blog-week six

Here we see a reminder that we are not the biggest thing in the forest.  The bear prints were in a muddy stream bed on the Ramble Trail at Caledonia. Pretty neat, really!  This morning I did the Ramble hike at Caledonia since I don’t have a lot of experience in that park.  It combines with the Thaddeus Stevens Historic Trail and a bit of the AT, so it makes a nice stroll around the banks of the Conococheague Creek. Besides the bear prints I saw monkey flower, Mimulus ringens, which was a first for me.  This is not a great pix, but it is a violet colored orchid-like flower with a “monkey” face.

I have at last begun the much fabled trail guide, with an introduction finished and 3 of the 4 hikes identified.  I have a hike picked out for each of the 3 state parks in the Michaux and am looking at a 4th hike near Caledonia in the Michaux.  I’m hoping that the hikes represent a diversity of  native plants and habitat.  I think that they are all attractive with seasonal interest throughout the year.

Here is a brief excerpt from my introduction:

The genesis of this project was something  learned on a visit to Longwood Gardens some years ago.  A display in the Dupont House explained the early roots of the parcel of land that has become the world-class botanical garden.  The first white inhabitants of the acreage were Quakers, the Pierce family. Further, it was noted that the Quaker influence was the reason for the disproportionate number of botanical gardens in the vicinity of Philadelphia.  Some of the most famous American botanists were of the Quaker religion.  The intrigue of this influence of Quakerism on botany has never left me. 

I’ve gardened for years, taken courses, been involved with Penn State Master Gardeners, and still feel that I could spend my life learning about plants and never know enough.  One day someone shared with me that the definition of “botanist” is simply one who studies plants!  No level of expertise is implied in the definition.   Therefore,  I’m a botanist!  So, as a budding botanist, what could I learn from the Quaker botanists of Penn’s Woods?  How much of what I already know is because of their discoveries hundreds of years ago?  Could their spirit of exploration and passion for the natural world inspire my studies and explorations?

I’m hoping that now the introduction is finished I can get moving on the trail guide itself.  I would like to have the Koppenhaver trail section done by the time the sabbatical ends, in less than 2 weeks.  We’ll see!  On Wednesday I am going to Longwood to work in the library there and get some background on the various native plants that I will feature in the guide.  I have compiled a list of the plants discovered and named by John Bartram and those will be those the ones I will emphasize.  There is still a lot of work ahead, but I’m off to a decent start.

On Sunday I attended First Presbyterian Church in downtown Carlisle.  This was a great experience and I felt very at home in that church. We had communion by intinction which was very meaningful to me.   It is the oldest continually occupied building in the county, built in 1757.  President Washington worshiped here in 1794 and it was fired on by the Confederates in 1863.  The original gas lights are there, converted to electric.  The interior is very lovely and worth a visit.  The sermon was terrific and really spoke to a “sabbatical” theme.  The passage, as at Zion, was from 2 Samuel, chapter 5.  The passage talks about David setting up the new capital in Jerusalem, and beginning to live into this newly annointed status as king.  The pastor in his sermon pointed out that Eugene Peterson’s translation of verse 10 is “David proceeded with a longer stride, a larger embrace since the God of the Angel Armies was with him.”   The sermon then developed the notion that the longer stride and wider embrace allows us to see life from a vista, a distance, and that allows a greater perspective–and one that can include God’s purposes not just our own.  That struck me as a great theme for my sabbatical.  It has permitted me a longer stride and wider embrace, outside of day to day business, allowing me to see things from a vista.  I’ve appreciated it greatly!