nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘along the shore’ Category

by the frozen lake, next year

with 12 comments

It’s mild here today and we are expecting lots of snow.  I’m working on my novel, doing edits.

I want this post to include an excerpt from my work, so I have chosen a wintry bit.

In this excerpt, the protagonist, Sadie, and her husband are near the edge of the lake, on the property they have bought.  They’re planning to bring the Landing Church to this location, to build a writer’s retreat.

Sadie’s husband, Tom, isn’t well.  He’s dying.  His way of coping is to be a stoic, to face his death as inevitable, and to plan his wife’s life out for her.  Usually, he talks about what she’ll be doing this time next year.  Until now, he’s refused to include himself in any talk of the future.  But, as the novel progresses, his thinking is changing.

~

the frozen lake

~

The lake, in the grip of November, had frozen to plates of glass, interrupted by pebbly bands where the wind mixed snow into the surface of the ice.  The distant shore presented itself in silhouette, an indigo strip between the lake and the brighter sky.  The dark images of trees were frozen into the surface of the ice.  The air was crisp, but we sat, as we did in summer, on the bench by the lake’s edge.

‘Next year,’ said Tom,  ‘we’ll clear the ice for skating.  And we’ll build a bonfire, here by the shore.  There’s certainly enough dead wood to fuel it.’

I sat still, watching the lake and thinking about Tom’s words –  ‘next year’ and ‘we’.  These words were so different from what he would have said, even three weeks ago.  Ordinarily, he’d be making plans for me alone.  Ordinarily, he’d have said ’Next year, you’ll clear the ice for skating.’

We sat in silence, as we always did, just watching the lake.  Tom probably didn’t notice how thoughtful I’d become.  I wondered how I’d missed it, this transition from ‘no future’ to ‘plans for tomorrow’.  Plans to be shared by us both.  My hands began to tremble.

To distract myself, I found a flat stone embedded in the frost at my feet.  I stood, moving a little closer to the edge of the lake.  I turned my arm and cradled the stone in my hand.  I pulled my arm back and propelled the stone toward the ice.  It hit with a clear ping and bounced across the surface, leaving a line of clear notes in its wake.  I tried another one.  It sang a semi-tone higher, and the ice vibrated between the crisp air and the ice-cold water below.   Tom bent and loosened another flat stone from the ground.  He stood beside me.  In another minute, the ice was ringing with the song of skipping stones.

We’d soon depleted the shore of every loose flat rock.  The lake was still and silent.  No note remained in its repertoire.  The ice in front of us was littered with flat grey stones. 

‘No skating this year,’ said Tom.  ‘We’ve planted enough trippers to last into next spring.’

We turned from the lake and followed the path back to the field.  As we navigated the alders and rounded a corner, we came suddenly on a sturdy bush of bright red berries.  ‘Look, Sadie.  Winterberry holly,’ said Tom. ‘It usually grows by the lake, but here it is, in our field.  Our very own burning bush.’  

The bush glowed with orange-red berries, set off by bronze-colored leaves, not yet fallen.  In the silver and grey of the thicket, it was a gift…

~

~

bush of winterberry holly

~

If you have any comments, good or bad, about this piece of writing, let me know.  Is there anything you don’t understand?  I there anything I could better explain?  Have you ever skipped stones on  the ice of a lake or pond?

~

Copyright   Jane Tims   2012

Written by jane tims

December 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

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

~

Warning:

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

poisonous Lathyrus – when ‘wild’ plants are not edible

with 6 comments

Yesterday, August 1, 2012, I posted a description of the Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus Willd.) and said the peas could be collected, boiled and eaten. This is the advice of the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants (1977).  My further reading, from more up to date sources, says you should not eat the seeds of Beach Pea or other species of wild pea.  Many Lathyrus species contain a neurotoxin that can lead to a condition called lathyrism, a type of paralysis.  Although there are other guides saying that Beach Pea is edible in small quantities, I have revised the post to remain on the safe side.

When we choose to include wild plants in our diets, it is very important to know for certain they will not be harmful.  In my posts, I have talked about avoiding berries that may look pretty to eat, but contain toxins (for example the bright blue berries of Clintonia (see my post for May 23, 2012, ‘Bluebead Lily’ https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/bluebead-lily-clintonia-borealis-ait-raf/ ) or the tomato-like berries of the Common Nightshade (see my post for July 16, 2012, ‘growing and gathering – barriers to eating wild foods’ https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/growing-and-gathering-barriers-to-eating-wild-foods/ ).

I have also talked about cases in history of people who risk eating poisonous plants when hunger or famine strike.  An example is the making of Missen Bread in Scandinavia, using a long complicated process designed to remove the burning, poisonous crystals contained in the roots of the Wild Calla (see my post for  June 4, 2012, ‘keeping watch for dragons #6 – Water Dragon’  https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/keeping-watch-for-dragons-6-water-dragon/ ).  Poisonous species of Lathyrus (for example Lathyrus sativus, the Grass Pea), in the same genus as the Beach Pea, have been used throughout history for food when people are desperate, in times of drought, famine or poverty.

So, please, take the following steps before you ingest any wild plant:

1.  check out as many sources as you can find, to discover the current wisdom and science about ingesting a plant

2.  be certain of your identification – many plants look very similar to one-another and can be confused

3.  think about your own sensitivities, since you may react to foods that do not bother other people.

4.  when in doubt, take the route of caution and safety and do not eat

~

©  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

August 2, 2012 at 9:38 am

Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus Willd.)

with 12 comments

During our vacation to Nova Scotia, we stopped at several places along St. Margaret’s Bay.  All along the beaches, tucked just out of reach of the highest tides, were crowds of Beach Pea.   Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus Willd.) is a common plant of the coast, growing on sandy and gravelly shorelines and beaches.

This plant resembles the garden pea.  It has vine-like, trailing, compound leaves, each composed of 6-8 leaflets.  At the base of each leaf is a clasping stipule; at the leaf’s tip is a curling tendril.  The flowers are showy, pink and blueish-purple, blooming from June to August.

The seeds of the Beach Pea are podded peas, from 1 to 2 inches long.  They are greyish-green and ripen in August.

Some sources, including Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants (1977), say that Beach Peas can be collected, boiled and eaten when they are young and tender.  Other sources, more up to date, say they are not edible because they contain a toxic substance that effects the nervous system.  In my next post, I’ll talk a bit about being cautious before eating wild plants.

~
~

Beach Pea

Lathyrus japonicus Willd.

~

she feints on the rocks

sighs on the sand

beckons with the tendrils

of her feathery hand

~

ruffles her skirts

in the salted breeze

and squanders her love

on indifferent seas

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Warning:
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 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

limits of the tide #5 – Samphire (Salicornia europaea L.)

with 16 comments

A beach-comber this time of year may easily over-look plants of Samphire (Salicornia europaea L.), also called Glasswort, Pigeon-foot, and Chicken-claws.  Unless it is plentiful, it becomes lost ‘in the green’ of other sea-shore plants.  The genus name, Salicornia, comes from the words sal meaning salt and cornu meaning horn.  These plants consist of a branched, succulent stem, apparently without leaves or flowers.  The leaves and tiny flowers are embedded in the stem.

Although Salicornia is typically a plant of coastal areaslike Sea-blite, it is also found far from the coast, in the vicinity of inland salt springs.

Samphire greens are salty, delicious as a salad ingredient, a pickle, or a pot-herb.

~

~

salt of the sea

               Samphire ( Salicornia europaea L.)

~

Salicornia smoulders

on a silica shore,

flute and fire

~

Glass pipes,

mainstem and branches,

pickle green

~

Light glimpsed

through crystalline,

transparent walls

~

Seawater, rarefied,

decanted

to a Samphire phial

~

Flask of salt-sap,

brine on the tongue

Always wanting more

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Warning:
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

July 28, 2012 at 7:56 am

coastal barren, coastal bog

with 11 comments

On our vacation to Nova Scotia last month, we revisited the Peggy’s Cove area near Halifax.  I spent a lot of time along this coast years ago, but I had forgotten the unique wildness and beauty of this landscape.

We explored two habitat types, the dry and rocky barrens, and the wet coastal bog.  As we found each new plant, I felt like I was greeting old and well-loved friends.

On the higher areas, growing in the thin soil on the bedrock were several species.  One of these included Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum L.), a small moss-like plant with spiky leaves and small pink flowers.  Later in the season, these will bear edible back berries.

We also found Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Sibbaldia tridentata (Aiton) Paule & Soják) with its three leaflets and the characteristic three teeth at the tip of each leaf.  The leaves are thick and outlined in red at this time of year.  Later in the year the leaves turn bright red.  The white flowers each have five petals, and are starry with stamens.

In the low-lying, boggy areas, we found a ‘merriment’ (my word) of Pitcher-plants (Sarracenia purpurea L.).

The leaves of these insectivorous plants are shaped like vessels.  Insects climbing into the leaves encounter downward pointing hairs.  They are trapped!  Eventually they drown and are digested in the water at the base of the ‘pitcher’.

We also found another carnivorous plant, the Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia L.).  The leaves of these plants are covered with tiny hairs… these exude a sticky liquid and trapped insects are slowly digested. For more information on the Sundew, please visit my post for October 31, 2011, ‘Round-leaved Sundew’.  https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2011/10/

All was not gruesome.  We also found Arethusa (Arethusa bulbosa L.), a member of the orchid family.  This beautiful pink orchid is also known as the Dragon’s Mouth.

Overall, our trip to Peggy’s Cove was a wonderful adventure.   We plan to return in the early fall, when the Crowberry and the other edible plants we saw have set their berries.

Have you ever been to Peggy’s Cove and what did you think of the coastal landscape and the plants growing there?

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Warning:
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.

a moment of beautiful – the sound of the sea

with 16 comments

the space: a park bench by the edge of the sea

the beautiful: the sound of the breakers, sorting over cobbles on the shore

On a recent vacation to Nova Scotia, we had the time to sit and watch the breakers roll into a cove along St. Margaret’s Bay.  The sight of the crashing waves was inspiring, but the sounds were unforgettable…  first, the sweep and crash of the incoming waves…

then the clatter as the outgoing wave dragged at the cobbles along the shore…

My husband suffered through my recitation of a few lines of Matthew Arnold’s poignant ‘Dover Beach’, but mostly we were quiet, overwhelmed by the sound of the sea.

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~

greed

~

jealous of its pretty

shaped and rounded stones,

the ocean mutters,

claws them back

clatters its dinner forks

over biscuits and gravy

hoards jellybeans

by the handful

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

July 7, 2012 at 7:25 am

limits of the tide #4 – Orach (Atriplex patula L.)

with 8 comments

Orach (Atriplex patula L.) is a common inhabitant of coastal areas in New Brunswick.  It lives in sheltered locations on the upper shore, out of reach of the highest tides.

The leaves of Orach are fleshy and arrow-shaped.  The margins of the leaves are variously toothed and the lowest teeth point outward (‘hastate’, similar to the leaves of Sheep Sorrel in the June 8, 2012 post under the category ‘growing and gathering’).  The leaves are grey to bright green and lighter on the underside of the leaf.  Orach is a highly variable and poorly known species with respect to taxonomy.

Orach flowers from July to August.  The flowers are like many seaside plants, inconspicuous and small, in the axils of the leaves.

Orach is tasty and salty.  It can be used in salads, or cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes and served like spinach.

Warning:
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.

~

~

hunting the orach

~

I know the place where the orach hides –

out of the way of the rising tides

between the rocks and deep in the sand,

with his halberd drawn, he makes his stand

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

June 30, 2012 at 8:12 am

limits of the tide #3 – Sea-blite (Sueda maritima (L.) Dumort.)

with 2 comments

Another edible coastal plant is Sea-blite (Sueda maritima (L.) Dumort.).  Sea-blite is a low-growing plant, often forming mats on the shore.   Sea-blite can also be found at inland locations, near salt springs.

Sea-blite has thick, linear leaves.  The flowers are small and fleshy, and grow in the axils of the stem.  At this time of year, Sea-blite is still a small, inconspicuous plant.  Later it will grow to between 3 and 5 dm.

The leaves of Sea-blite are very salty, and can be used as a source of salt in soup or stew, or an ingredient in salads.   Used as a pot-herb, they should be cooked for 10 to 12 minutes in two to three changes of boiling water, to reduce the salt content.

Warning:
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.

~

~

persuasion

               Sea-blite (Sueda maritima (L.) Dumort.)

~

fingers of Sea-blite

poke the salt air,

rebuke the salt sea

crave attention –

pick me!  pick me!!

~

fingers of Sea-blite

point politely at the pot

propose, diplomatically,

add a little more salt

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

June 29, 2012 at 7:00 am

limits of the tide #2 – Seaside Plantain (Plantago juncoides Lam.) – Goosetongue greens

with 8 comments

One of the edible plants we found at Oak Bay (near St. Stephen, New Brunswick) was Seaside Plantain, also known locally as Goosetongue.

Seaside Plantain, also known as Goosetongue, ready to pick… they have to be rinsed well since the outgoing tide has left a thick layer of sediment behind…

Seaside Plantain (Plantago juncoides Lam.) grows in thick clumps, forming an intermittent carpet across the shore.  The succulent, linear leaves of Seaside Plantain are grey-green in color.  Inconspicuous green flowers, not present until later in June, rise from the rosette of leaves in a terminal spike.  Seaside Plantain is in the same genus as Common Plantain (see the post for June 13, 2012,  ‘Common Plantain’ under the category ‘growing and gathering’).  Plantago is from the Latin for ‘footprint’ and juncoides means ‘rush-like’.

Goosetongue greens are pleasantly salty and are a local delicacy, eaten as a salad or pickle, or cooked like green beans and served with butter.  For a vivid description of the experience of gathering and preparing Goosetongue greens, see Nature of Words (www.natureofwords.com/2011/07/goosetongue-greens/) by Deborah Carr, and the post for July 14, 2011, entitled ‘Goosetongue greens’.

Warning:
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.

~

~

Sunday Dinner at Maces Bay

                 Seaside Plantain (Pantago juncoides Lam.)

~

dig right in

says your father

and nudges the pitcher of water

in my direction

~

I study the ‘goosetongue greens’ –

mound of green spaghetti

between spuds and chicken,

green eels diving

for the bottom of the plate

~

two things not in their favour –

they’re green,

they look a little like

the tongues of geese

~

I watch your Dad –

he adds a dollop of butter,

he weaves his fork to catch a little of each,

potato, greens and chicken,

chews with his eyes closed,

reaches for his glass of water

~

I sigh

and taste –

salt air and butter-cream,

crisp, the perfect crush,

mouth-feel, amazing

please pass the water

~

~

©  Jane Tims 2012

Warning:
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.
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