24 March 2013

(spring is an adventure for the senses )

portraits of nature 
( spring is an adventure for the senses ) 
by “porcupine pat” mckinney 

an introduction: portraits of nature is a new feature to this publication, kindly contributed by patrick mckinney who is known to many across berks county as “porcupine pat” of the schuylkill county conservation district where he serves as an environmental education coordinator. mckinney does environmental programs for the berks county parks & recreationdepartment in the warm season as well. he is also involved in schuylkill vision and schuylkill on the move. as an avid lover of the outdoors and a fine appreciator of all things nature-swept, mckinney readily advocates time spent soaking up the good of life-minutes spent enjoying all of our earth’s gifts. portraits of nature will be included here for readers as often as mckinney is able to contribute the valuable messages of his words southward into this nugget of pennsyvlania. 

the switch has been thrown on the great engine that powers the transition of the seasons. our area’s forests, fields, and various water habitats—such as ponds, creeks, and rivers—rev up with natural events that make up the tapestry of winter transitioning to spring. 

( “porcupine pat” mckinney sits in gratitude of his space & the opportunity
 to rest here near the roots of the sacred oak tree in oley, pennsylvania ) 

late winter brings sap rising with its warmer days and still cold nights. our state is well-known for its tasty syrup boiled from gallons of sugar maple sap. in a bit of doctor-speak, if you by chance happen to have access to a stethoscope, listen to the sap rising from below the frost line as it gushes to the far reaches of the tree’s bud tips. it sounds like your stomach rebelling in hunger.

soon, the calendar will say that spring has arrived, even if the weather does not feel so spring-like. every season has its own sights, sounds, and smells, with the transition from winter to spring being the most exciting for the outdoor and nature enthusiast. it seems as though we slide into spring with early signs of the season beginning even in the first days of february as the constellation leo peeks up above the evening’s horizon.     

spring heightens your sensory awareness. here are ways this stimulating season can tune up your five senses:
·    sight: see birds hopping on your lawn or landing atop the branches of trees. look for colorful sweeps of flowers such as yellow coltsfoot or purple dead nettle. 

·    sound: listen to the spring peeper announcing its name: PEEP PEEP. listen to the rain falling as the water nurtures the soil in preparation for planting. hear the beckoning calls of migrating geese. 

·    taste: try some pennsylvania-made maple syrup on a tasty stack of flapjacks. open your mouth in the rain, and go ahead—taste a drop on the top of your tongue. dust off that grill, and enjoy some delightful grub grilled outdoors.

·    smell: smell some soil and then the air after a cleansing spring shower. smell flowers. use that olfactory perception well; breathing in breaths of beauty is a plus for the body, too.

·     touch: feel spring’s blustery winds on your face. close your eyes, and face the sun to feel its warming rays. touch an earthworm who ventured out to take advantage of the wet conditions.

can you think of more spring-things to sense ? treat yourself to some time each day to connect with your natural world. you’ll feel so much more alive !

( purpled aches )

a creative nonfiction essay from spring of 2006
by jennifer hetrick

once the boys are back from the car with a set of clothing in a plastic grocery bag, tammy pulls the tiger t-shirt out, holding it up by the shoulders of the fabric. she lays it neatly over our mother’s body, which is already in the costume of hospital bed sheets. shifting the cotton sleeves around to get the right look, tammy works her last adjustment, the tiger’s paws resting on our mother’s belly. a fleece hat is next, and we do not lift her head, so it sits atop her scalp as if she were a doll stuck in a box—all of us anxious for her to be dressed in clothes we might recognize. we want to see her stepping out of her car, waddling over to us at our family owned & established garden center, smiling, shaking her fist and chanting that she is a survivor and that she has brought us some fudgesicles. extra short stretch pants follow to fit her extra short legs puffed with fat, her five foot stature hiding from us in this place that never was her home.
“she looks like a snowman,” i say once the outfit is finalized.

tammy peers as at me wide-eyed and yells, “mom heard that ! you better watch what you do now; she’s going to be able to watch you all the time now.”
everyone in the room laughs, “ohhhhh, jenny !”
my voice is weak and wet with tears that have been pushing out for the past few hours. i curl my face towards its middle, crying out the words, “well, she does !” as everyone continues laughing at my half-joke, offering arms to my trembling shoulders, i notice something my siblings do not want me to notice. i am almost twenty-one years old, but i will always be the baby of the family in the eyes of this room, and even if i should somehow grow up, visions of my mother will always up, visions of my mother will always be stained a heavy purple. setting her clothing over her body has lifted up the blankets warming her icy hands—each finger turning from creamy lavender to a hot and lifeless plum hue. she will not use these tips and prints to test fruits for their ripeness in freed’s produce aisle, wrapping a twisty-tie around a blurry and crinkling plastic bag, locking in each bit of tree-made flavor. if she taught me how to check for fruit that is soon ready to eat, i do not remember the rules she gave me. i will feel helpless in grocery stores as summer approaches, as i crave a centerpiece basket of nectarines, grapes, grapefruits, but mostly plums. 


in the most unlikely of worlds, fire is not quintessentially of reds, oranges, and yellows trailing down to some fierce blinking of blue melting to white, but a color scheme of thick-stretching purples and baby-bottom soft lavenders. each stem of heat is a billowing blanket of warmth and comfort moving through late april blooms of the eastern redbud. we will rip twigs and branches off for ourselves and keep to the road of life that is shoving us forward still in quilted sadness, even though soon our actions will make every tiny flower fall away from us, the season itself repeating the pattern we’ve perpetuated—a death we’ll want to call premature. but that will be what it is despite our selfish craving to control the meaning built behind our lives, and in spring, the bursting color so contradicting to the rest of the green-set brown landscape around us starts out in the name cercis canadensis. we will be reminded of rebirth. we will better know that all we love eventually returns to the humble ground of earth to sprout again, whether or not we are familiar with its newest forms, and the gentle push of palest purple is always spelling this out—if we could just move our eyes upward to its many mapped resting places. 

16 March 2013

( lost love apple salad )

a doctor-keeping away recipe
by jennifer hetrick

this easy & especially quick-to-make recipe stirred its inspiration from co-workers’ creations & a more iceberg-swept menu item at ron’s original bar & grille in exton, pennsylvania.

you will need:

•    2 granny smith apples
•    a knife for slicing them
•    a good throw of gorgonzola
•    honey balsamic vinaigrette
•    dried cranberries
•    protein-savvy pecans


slice the 2 apples (sour-types are a must for best flavor-ways) into tiny bites. mix together the rest of it all with as much of each ingredient as you like; shake up, like elvis. enjoy swimmingly.