poetry and prose about place

Archive for August 2012

ponds and pond lilies

with 12 comments

Water is a favorite feature of the landscape for many people.  On our drives we encounter streams and rivers, lakes and ponds.  Thoreau, writing about his Walden Pond, said that water features are the eyes of the landscape.  Reflected in those eyes are sky and clouds and the dazzle of the sunlight.

‘A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.
The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it,
and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows.’ 
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

This time of year, pond vegetation is lush and in bloom.  Some ponds and wetland waters are alwost covered by Duckweed (Lemna minor L.), Pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata L.) and Pond-lilies.

Pond lilies are in bloom and their flat pad-like leaves cover the water like pieces of a puzzle.  White Water-lilies, Nymphaea odorata Ait., speckle the edge of almost every pond…

and the yellow cup-like blooms of Cow-lily (Nuphar variegatum Engelm.) brighten the sluggish waters of meandering brooks and wetland ponds…

Last week we drove to South Oromocto Lake in Charlotte County and stopped beside the lake outlet where there is a dam, including a water control structure and a fish ladder.  The long, red stems of up-rooted Water-shield (Brasenia Schreberi Gmel.) were gathered in tangles at the control structure.

the red stems and green leaves of up-rooted Water-shield, gathered in the dam at the outlet of South Oromocto Lake

Do you have Pond-lilies and Water-shield where you are?


Copyright  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

August 31, 2012 at 7:22 am

growing and gathering – years and seasons

with 14 comments

As I work on my collection of poems about growing and gathering, I am aware of the passage of time.  I am in the revision stage.  This means my manuscript will soon be ‘complete’.  I will worry over it and list the last things to be done.  I will prepare my final report to artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board), the source of my Creations Grant, and send it away to them for approval.

The project will be over, but there will still be work to do.   I will have to decide what poems should go in the final manuscript, re-order them a few times, do some more revisions and them send them away, to a publisher, hoping I will be able to get a book from all this work.

Then I will be at the end and facing a new beginning, a new project.  I have a few to choose from, so I won’t be relaxing for long.

In all this is the dimension of time, with its deadlines and unforgiving rush forward.  Even in a project about growing and gathering local foods, there are poems about time.

A number of my poems are about the ephemeral nature of local foods.  Another way to think of this is ‘eating local foods in season’.  In spring, everything is plentiful – new plants arrive in a rush, so fast, you can hardly keep up.  Then there is the patient waiting for berries to ripen and, again, a rush… blueberries are quickly followed by blackberries and raspberries and so on.  But everything has its season, so leaves become too old to harvest, and berries shrivel and fall to the ground.

This seasonal aspect of local foods can be thought of as as a metaphor for aging, and some of my poems work with this comparison.  I have poems about resisting aging, and about the ailments of age including arthritis, lethargy, forgetfulness, and aging memory.

Many of my poems on the theme of ‘time’ overlap with other themes, about ‘companionship’, or changes to ‘place’.  For this reason, I find myself shifting poems around in my manuscript.  I ask myself if the poems flow well, one to another.

I also find I don’t seem to have many poems about the differences between our historical use of local foods and our present day use.  I have lots of source material, particularly among my great-aunt’s diaries… she loved to pick berries.  So away I go, to write a few more poems about time!



Old Man’s Beard     


Usnea subfloridana Stirt.


you and I

years ago

forced our ways

bent through the thicket

of lichen and spruce



caught in your beard

and we laughed


us with stooped backs

and grey hair?


found a game trail

a strawberry marsh

wild berries

crushed into sedge

stained shirts


and fingers


dusted with sugar

washed down with cold tea

warmed by rum



an old woman


lost her way in the spruce

found beard

caught in the branches

and cried



Published as ‘Old Man’s Beard’, The Fiddlehead 180, Summer, 1994

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

a snippet of landscape – glacial erratics and boulder fields

with 8 comments

Last week we went for a drive to explore some of the back roads in Sunbury County.  As we drove, we encountered large boulders everywhere along the road.  I know from my reading and a course years ago, these are a remnant of the glaciers that once covered this area.  Large boulders were carried along by the ice and deposited on the landscape far from their place of origin.

In one place, a clear-cut lay the landscape bare and we were able to see how frequently these glacial erratics occurred in the area.    In the photo, you can see the boulders scattered in a ‘boulder field’.   These boulders would have been deposited here by a glacier, thousands of years ago, perhaps during the Wisconsinan glaciation when almost all of Canada was covered by ice.

It is strange to drive along the road today and know that thousands of years ago, a sheet of ice, perhaps a few kilometers thick, would have covered us.



gravel pit


ten thousand years it took

a glacial stream to set

the sinew of the esker –

cobbles sorted to layers,

screened by a giant hand


ten scant years to sever

esker snake from his tail –

the excavator bucket

reaching, fingers lifting sand,

pit-run, ready for road



Copyright   Jane Tims   2012

Written by jane tims

August 27, 2012 at 7:14 am

keeping watch for dragons #8 – campfire dragon

with 6 comments

Late summer is the time for campfires.  We have to be careful, of course, to make sure there is no risk of forest fire and campfires are permitted.  But on an evening when the fire index hotline says OK, and we have a small stack of wood beside the fire pit and a bench for sitting, there is no better way to pass an evening.

Campfires are great places for telling stories.  They are also good places to dream and remember.   A campfire means getting smoke in your eyes, so the images can be a little blurry.  You can watch the sparks lift from the fire and ascend into the dark night.  The question is, are they also watching you … ?



campfire dragons 


dragons prowl

in balsam

back crawl in amber

blisters of pitch


dragons lurk

under mantles of smoke

blacken the stones

spurt throatfuls of fire


dragons leap

to the Drago sky

watch us grow small

with sparking eyes


close their lids

and sleep in flight



©  Jane Tims 1998

Written by jane tims

August 24, 2012 at 7:15 am

competition for space

with 9 comments

One of the discouraging aspects of our lake property is how fast everything grows.  In 2005, we bought 7 1/2 acres of field…

in 2012, we have 7 1/2 acres of alders and young trees…

I actually like the lush vegetation and we intend to always keep the forest of trees down by the lake, to help protect the lake environment.  But we humans need a little room to move!!!  Although we knew we would eventually have more trees than field, we always thought we’d be able to:

  1. keep the road and turning area at the lake end of the property clear of weeds and wide enough for a vehicle
  2. keep the area around the camp clear
  3. have some trails for walking and access to the various parts of the property
  4. keep our blueberries – they have trouble competing with the taller vegetation
  5. begin to groom some specific groves of maple and birch
  6. keep a small area of field so I can watch the grasses blowing in the wind.

The farmer next door was willing, for a price, to continue bush-hogging the area, just as he had done for years.  But there were trees and various herbaceous species we wanted to keep, so we bravely set out to manage things on our own.

For me, that means snipping away with my shears.  I get tired/bored very easily, so I am not much help.  I mostly spend my time discovering new plants to protect and putting wooden stakes up to mark their position!

me with trimmers and marking plants with stakes

My husband has tried to keep back the growth with his bush-saw, and last year he was able to keep the road clear and even cut a new trail to access our blackberries.  But progress is slow and within a few weeks, the alders, saplings and weeds have all grown back!

Finally, we became so discouraged, we began to think of alternatives.  In the last two years, we have tried pulling the alders and I planted beans in the holes left all over the place.   The deer really enjoyed my bean plants!

Now, we have the solution.  We bought a rough mower that pulls behind the ATV.  It is awesome!  My husband has fun and is able to make huge progress.  In just a couple of days, we have our road clear, there is a labyrinth of trails where we can walk, we have trimmed a selection of blueberry patches and we have our turning area restored at the lake end of the property.   Notice the use of the word ‘we’, although my husband does all the work!

our new Agri-Fab Rough Cut Mower, designed for use behind an ATV

You can see the before and after shots of the road trimming in the three photos below.  What you can’t see in the middle photo is the smile on my husband’s face as he mows!  He was able to trim, in a few minutes, the trail it took him days to cut with the bush-saw last year.

Now, my husband can use his bush-saw time to work on his groves of maple and birch.

the first path cut by the new mower, to the right of the road

The only problem so far has been the hawthorns.  We had a very flat tire on the mower after the first day.  The man who fixed it said it looked like a porcupine on the inside, it had been punctured by so many thorns!  Now, we are having each tire filled with foam!

5 cm thorns on the Hawthorn easily punctured the mower tires

©  Jane Tims   2012

Written by jane tims

August 22, 2012 at 7:24 am

a moment of beautiful – old-fashioned flowers

with 12 comments

the space: the side of a cottage in the late summer sun

the beautiful: a riot of Golden Glow, leaning against the wall


Last week, on a drive along the South Branch of the Oromocto River, I noticed the fall flowers have taken over from the summer species.  The fields are filled with Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and the ditches with Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea (L.) C.B. Clarke).  In some of the yards were three flowers I think of as ‘old fashioned’ – French Marigolds (Tagetes patula L.), Hollyhock (Alcea spp.), and Golden Glow (Rudbeckia laciniata (L.) var. Hortensia).  I love the orange of the Marigolds, the papery pinks and purples of the Hollyhock, and how the Golden Glow leans!

These plants were my first introduction to the concepts of  ‘annual’, ‘biennial’ and ‘perennial’.   The French Marigold was an annual, and grew only for a single year.  The Hollyhock was a biennial (although some are weak perennials), living a year without flowers and then blooming in the second year.  The Golden Glow came up year after year without benefit of seeds or fuss, a perennial.

I remember helping my Mom collect seeds so she would always have the Hollyhocks and French Marigolds.   If I close my eyes, I can see my hand holding the pointy black French Marigold seeds and the flat Hollyhock seeds with their furry edges.

When we first built our house, I was anxious to have these plants in my garden, but after blooming for a few years at the edge of the house, the Golden Glow died out, and I could never get Hollyhocks to flower.  Both need lots of sun and we have only shade to offer.  I often grow French Marigolds.  I still have the seeds I collected from our first garden here, stuffed in an old metal seed box.  I doubt they are still viable, but when I open the box, I see the seeds of the Marigolds that bloomed here 32 years ago!

The seeds I collected from our first garden of Marigolds in 1980… they are kept in an antique box marked ‘St. Albans England – Ryders Seed – D.P.’  Ryders was a seed company operated in England beginning in the 1890s.  It sold seed in ‘penny packets’ to be affordable for everyone.

What are your favorite ‘old-fashioned’ flowers and do you see them much anymore?



Pearly Everlasting

Anaphalis margaritacea L.


Pearly Everlasting

sign of summer’s passing

yet – immortelle

picked by the road

by the armload

hung from rafters

children’s laughter

runs beneath


downy leaf, wooly stem

white diadem

perfectly matched flowers

thatched in gold

dry and old


Linnaeus named

for Marguarite

memory sweet

paper petals keep

pale perfume

summer grace

in a winter room



Published as:  ‘Pearly Everlasting’, The Antingonish Review 92, 1993

Copyright   Jane Tims   2012

growing and gathering – value

with 10 comments

These days I am working to complete my manuscript of poems on the subject of ‘growing and gathering’ local foods.

As I sort my poems, I find several are about the ‘value’ of wild plants as food.

Sometimes this value is simple value for money.  Every cup of blueberries I pick is one I don’t have to buy.  When I pick enough berries to freeze, I can have blueberries or blackberries when they cost a fortune to buy fresh at the store.  I am also bringing the warm summer and its memories forward into the chill of winter.

A few of my poems focus on the value of substitution.  For example, I will never run out of tea leaves for my daily tea break.  I have Pineapple Weed, Sorrel and Sweet-fern teas to make.  Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, and my own little herb garden, I have a rack of fresh herbs drying, including Camomile and several varieties of Mint.  If I run out of salad ingredients, I have a stash of salad greens just outside my door.

Storage is the subject matter of a few of my poems.  When I was young, my Mom showed us how to collect Spruce Gum from the trees for a sticky but tasty chew.  During my project, I learned that some woodsmen make little wooden boxes for the gum, to keep it for later use.  I also have a few poems about making jelly and jam.

Thinking about the value of food, I can’t forget the people for whom growing and gathering local foods is an occupation, not just a ‘hobby’.  I have written poems about the people who sell shad and fiddleheads and lobster from their roadside trucks, about children who earn their summer money by picking and selling berries, and, of course, about the farmer.

Last but not least, there is just the joy of finding or producing and eating your own food.  I always say, the best part of a home garden is the taste of the first carrot or the snap of the first wax bean!

What do you think is the greatest value associated with growing and gathering local foods?

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

©  Jane Tims  2012

Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula Hook.)

with 8 comments

Sea-rocket, also known as Seaside Mustard and caquillier in French, is found on sandy or gravelly beaches along the coast.

Cakile is a sprawling plant with succulent, branched stems.  The leaves are thick and fleshy, with blunt-toothed margins.  The four-petalled flowers are small, purple and located at the tip of the stem.

The name Sea-rocket comes from the distinctive shape of the seed pods.  These have a narrow base and a pear-shaped tip, like a rocket.  Cakile is an old Arabic name and edentula means ‘without teeth’.

Sea-rocket is edible.  It has a hot, pungent taste, similar to radish.  The stems, leaves and pods can be added to salads or boiled for 5 to 10 minutes to give a milder taste.



Cakile wind


the beach sizzles today

the breeze a peppered wind

the sand Cakile-hot


wind scours the shore-bands

of seaweed – rockweed, kelp

bleaches them, crisped and dry


sand dries, adheres to skin

brushes away, a rub

a sandpaper polish


the tongue too hot for words

the seas too salt for tears

tans ruined, scorched  and red



©  Jane Tims  2012



1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Written by jane tims

August 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

a snippet of landscape – moose habitat

with 10 comments

Not far from Gagetown, on Route 102 in New Brunswick, is an interesting bit of wetland.  Sometimes there is water in this small area but more often it is just wet mud.  During periods of little rain, the mud becomes cracked and dry.  The area never seems to grow any of the grasses or other wetland plants typical of wet areas.

The reason can be discovered through two pieces of evidence.  The first thing you notice about the area is… the mud is carved with the tracks of a large animal.  The second thing you notice is the Moose Crossing sign not far away, along the highway.

I have seen a moose in this muddy place.  It is a dangerous place for a moose to be hanging out, because it is so near the road.

Moose visit these muddy areas for several reasons.  They need water, of course.  Also, salts from the road accumulate and moose use the wet areas as ‘licks’ to replenish their body salts.  Sometimes these waters are naturally high in salt content.

We have seen moose quite often this summer.  We watched a moose and her calf for about a half an hour during our trip to the Cranberry Lake area in July.

a moose and her calf

the moose sent her calf into the woods to hide and grazed quite a while, only a little concerned by us

Do you see moose where you are?

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

August 13, 2012 at 8:16 am

growing and gathering – a sense of place

with 16 comments

The theme of eating local foods has its essence in the idea of ‘place’.  The book ‘The 100 Mile Diet – A Year of Local Eating’ by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (2007), introduced many to the idea of eating foods grown within a certain radius of home.  Eating local is also place-based in terms of the settings we associate with local foods – the woods, the blueberry field, the home garden, the local farm, the roadside stand, and, of course, the farmers market are all places associated with obtaining food from local sources.

‘Place’ is a complex topic.  Most of my poems about ‘growing and gathering’ include at least a little information about the ‘place’ where foods are found.  Some poems, however, are specifically about ‘place’, and I want to group these together in my manuscript.

The poems I will include under the theme of ‘place’ will be focused on habitat, landscape, local food traditions, and the people-based concept of ‘home’.


1.  the ‘place’ where plants grow

Plants, of course, depend on their habitat to live.  The ideal ‘place’ for a plant is determined by the availability of moisture, light and nutrients.  These factors are, in part, the result of climate, soil type, slope, exposure, and interactions with other plants and animals.  In my collection, I have poems about the habitat of seaside plants, the need for water in landscapes where water is scarce, and why woodland plants often bloom in the early spring, when light is most available.

2.  plants shape their surroundings and their landscape

Plants create habitat, modifying the regimes of moisture, light and nutrients in a local space.  Plants also help to create the broader landscape.  I have poems about how ripening apples change the space under an apple tree, how large and small-scale characteristics affect the value of a property, and how plants contribute to the way landscape appears.

3.  ‘place-based’ food traditions

As a result of the interaction between wild life and the landscape, people have access to different kinds of foods and develop area-specific wild food traditions.  In New Brunswick, fiddleheads of the Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris (L.) Todaro) are abundant in the spring, along the banks of rivers and wetlands, and many New Brunswickers consider a feed of cooked fiddleheads to be a rite of spring.  In Newfoundland, a relative of the blackberry, the Bakeapple (Rubus Chamaemorus L.), is common in the bogs and barrens.  Children often stand beside the road, their arms out-stretched, to sell their bottles of yellow Bakeapples packed in water.  I have poems about these two local foods as well as others about traditional local foods.

4.  ‘place’ as a metaphor for home

Plants and their ‘place’ can be a metaphor for the relationships between humans and the spaces where they are raised, or where they live.  ‘Place’ may imply ‘home’ and ideas of belonging or familiarity.  Several of my poems are about this aspect of ‘place’.

As I am working on the theme of ‘place’, a song by the 1990’s band Toad the Wet Sprocket is going around in my head:

‘…show me your home
Not the place where you live
But the place where you belong…’

Toad the Wet Sprocket, ‘Something to Say’, Fear, 1991

Exploring the theme of ‘place’ with you has helped me to organise my poems, to revise them, and to understand that I still have a few poems to write toward my manuscript.  I am so grateful for this blog and for all my readers!





a veil draped across bones of the earth

pointed tents supported by forest

settles in pockets, lichens and moss


beneath the cloth is texture, the way

I know life on the land, fast or slow,

near or far, through clear eyes or through tears


to know form follows function –  practice

repeated, detailed observation

see the sweep of a field of brambles

also the berries, also the thorns


Published as ‘landscape’ on September 3, 2011


©  Jane Tims  2012

%d bloggers like this: