Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Summer's End

I walk in my neighborhood all year long. Each season brings its treasures. This summer I saw the wildflower, Hibiscus trionum, tucked in around the bottom of a street light pole. The plant is commonly called "Flower-of-an Hour" because it blooms for a short period in the morning. The stem is prickly but the cream flower with the maroon center and yellow stamen is beautiful. Blue jays flew from tree to tree with their familiar shrieks. They seemed to be checking in with each other. "I am here. Where are you?"  "I am just down the street." All summer the trees do a yeoman's work absorbing noise, dust, and carbon dioxide while giving back green color, shade, and shelter. When we moved into this subdivision in 1991, the area was being developed. Newly planted saplings now provide bountiful shade. As summer ends, the vibrant greens fade. The trees begin to let go of leaves, following a natural rhythm. 

Whether the life cycle of a tree is long or cut short by disease or storm, losing one is hard. Trees are lovingly attended on the Great Plains. Willa Cather once remarked, "Trees were so rare in this country we used to feel anxious about them." Thousands of ash trees grow in southeast Nebraska. All of them are threatened by the emerald ash borer beetle. The landscape will look very different without the ash. As I understand it, chemical treatment may extend the life of the tree for five to ten years but eventually the tree will die. The poison treatments damage the tree and need to be repeated. We don't have an ash in our yard so don't have to decide whether to remove or treat a mature tree. I understand it is a tough call. I venture into controversy when I wonder: What are the long term effects of the chemicals on ground water, or the birds that shelter in the trees, nearby pollinators, or children who play in the soil underneath the canopy? What conditions created the ability of this insect to thrive? I don't know the answers but I think the long view is worth considering.

These ideas are on my mind as summer nears its end and I unravel my knitting. I am knitting swatches and then unraveling them. I knit loosely so achieving correct gauge can be a challenge. I'd like to knit the sweater Archer. Both stitch and row gauge are critical for shaping the yoke of the sweater. I have modified patterns based on a different gauge but the construction method of this sweater makes modifications seem quite daunting. Monday evening I ripped out and reknit the thumb gusset on the second mitten. Last night I knit on the mitten only to discover the cable was two stitches too wide and ran up the side (instead of the center!) of the hand. What was I thinking when I set up the pattern on this mitten?! I unraveled it and went to bed to read A Gentleman in Moscow. I've only just begun this novel but am enjoying it. Reading about the gentle kind intelligent man is a treat.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today as  I leave you with a poem I wrote over the course of three summers of walking. Who knows I may unravel and work on it again next summer.

Morning Walk

Walking with knives and forks clattering
in my mind, I sink into the stretch of my calf.

Air conditioners hum as the sole
of my shoe scuffs the pavement.

I nod to a runner. Chickadee calls.
Cardinal marks his territory.

I pause under trees, compare
canopy of pear, linden, and ash. 

Beneath a maple I plant my feet,
breathe into side ribs.

Rib to vein, vein to spine, breath
from breath, I meet another.

Jane A. Wolfe Copyright 2018



  1. Oh my... this post is overflowing with beauty! Your words are so well painted I can see your view clearly!

    And, A Gentleman in Moscow is one of my all time favorite books.

    Perhaps a suggestion on your gauge problem (and this is something Mary told me and I knit my first well fitting sweater because of it!) Knit a swatch that you like the fabric... and then alter the size you knit. It requires a little bit of math, but it was so worth it. At any rate, good luck that sweater is glorious!

  2. We also have a problem with Emerald Ash Borers and also Spotted Lantern Fly. The suspicion is that they come in on transports (ship/truck) from countries that do not fumigate their equipment.

    Our township's response to the problem is "kill the ones you see".... uh .... sort of like putting out a refinery fire with a garden hose.

    It's sad to see so many trees whither and die.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful, thoughtful post, Jane -- and especially for sharing your poetry. Lovely. XO
    (Have you read The Understory by Richard Powell? I'm thinking you might really enjoy it. After A Gentleman in Moscow, of course. Which is a really wonderful book!)

  4. DUH!!!! It's "The Overstory" by Richard POWERS. (My mind is mush today.)

  5. I do so enjoy your thoughts and words from your walks. Our area is also well into the devastation from the emerald ash borer, and it seems like most parts of the country have some sort of tree-killing insect threat, like the pine bark beetles that have killed thousands of acres throughout the west. And if it's not insects, it's fungi and bacteria, like Dutch elm disease and citrus greening disease. I'm not an arborist, but I do love trees and think that all of these have something in common - global warming. Winter temperatures no longer get cold enough for long enough to kill these insects and pathogens, so they can overwhelm our trees. Sorry for my long rant, but like Willa Cather, I feel anxious for the trees.

  6. I too so enjoy my neighborhood walks... and yours! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I love your poetry! Willa Cather is also one of my all-time favorite authors. Your bringing her to mind has me making a note to “taste her (work) again, for the “first” time.” Have a great weekend...and better luck with your knitting!

  7. that bore beetle has hit our ashes and they fall over eventually or they have to be cut down. We've had so much rain that other trees just fall over! We do not use any chemicals because of those thoughts of yours. If the deer eat it we let them eat it. Our front bushes (yews mainly) have been chewed up because of the deer and look 'odd'.

    yay for poetry!