Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In The Cranberry Glades

Last month at Allegheny Echoes, our creative writing class took a field trip to the Cranberry Glades, a unique ecological area atop one of the states highest mountains. The Glades support plant life not found anywhere else at this latitude, and their unusual beauty make them a perfect place for quiet reflection on our beginnings, and on our endings.

The ferns in the glades reminded me of pictures of the dinosaur era, when the giant ferns covered much of the land. Ferns here grow to immense size in the boggy, soggy ground. An orchid found shelter beneath these.

Can you imagine the first man to see this place? Or the first settlers in these high mountains, trying to traverse such tricky terrain?

We were expected to not only wander, observe and reflect, but also to write. I took many photos, and then found a quiet spot to stop and jot down the story poem that came to mind:

What is this place of tropic ferns, unknown flowers and pines
shaped and acquiescent to the wind,
this place where no man has left his trace, or made his mark? 

My feet sink, my legs up to my knees in muck and moss--
no easy travel here; careful steps on uneasy ground while above
the birds sing unconcerned, unfamiliar melodies that rise from hidden perches.

 Beneath my feet tiny white blossoms, above clouds bloom and shift in a moody sky.
Here, in this thicket of tangled laurel, yew and fern, 
a deer bedded last night. Her shape lingers
in broken skunk cabbage, and I sense that she is close by, 
watching, waiting
for this cursed bog to suck me under.

Through, under and around, a tiny creek 
that surely springs from the roots and death 
of these twisted yew pines gurgles over its blackened bed; 
the scent of death and life is everywhere assaulting, 
beckoning with pungent sweetness

beneath sun-gilded leaves,
beneath verdant ferns,
beneath my sodden feet.

I am the stranger here, the one thing that does not belong.
Long have I traveled to feel and smell and be of this mountain,
and in my own time
the smell of my death will mingle with the rotting leaves,

the decayed trees until at last
I am no more than the soil and the root
from which new life will spring.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Quinn said...

Just my kind of wander, that - although do I try to keep from getting into the muck if I'm only wearing sneakers:)
I love the little orchid peeking through into a spot of light. And by a funny coincidence, I just a few minutes ago posted a photograph of pitcher plant flowers (like yours, but closer-up) on twitter, to share with some folks who had posted an old botanical illustration of the same plant. They are amazingly beautiful, aren't they?

Granny Sue said...

There is a boardwalk through the glades, Quinn, and they strongly discourage getting off of it because a)the ground is so soggy and treacherous, and b) there are so many fragile, rare lifeforms in the glades.

I was so intrigued by the pitcher plants-I've been to Cranberry Glades before but I do not remember seeing them. There were not as many orchids are there sometimes are, probably because it's been so hot this summer. But what we saw satisfied me!

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