the bureaucratically-named north mendota wildlife area, prairie unit is a 63-acre prairie restoration close to the northwestern shore of lake mendota, sandwiched between governor nelson state park and holy wisdom monastery (an ecumenical benedictine community) along cty highway m.
this is one of those natural areas that i am so grateful for and that also can be hard to be in at the same time. it’s fantastic that the good work of preservation is being done here, yet one also sees the new development with its box stores, massive houses, and roads named after the habitats destroyed in order to build (prairie kettle road etc.) immediately adjacent. it’s not the adjacency that bothers me, as if natural areas should be free of human activity and building (cronon taught us how problematic the very idea of “wilderness” is, and would that all human development retained prairies etc. right nearby!), but that clearly the area was prairie too or could have been restored just as readily as the parcel that was.
anyhow, it was the day of our only lasting snow so far this winter here in southern wisconsin, and my brother and i made the most of it. refreshing to visit in the brisk yet desolate winter air and sun, but looking forward to visiting in summer’s height too.
burred balls and seedpods
all this wonderful
(***couldn’t help but laugh out loud and announce my “brilliant” line reminiscent of old english half-lines to my brother after i wrote the last line of this one…)
with its legal preservation going back to the 1940s and 50s among wisconsin society for ornithology members and friends, the honey creek preserve has ballooned with partnership with the nature conservancy to multiple parcels including bog, marsh, dry prairie, sedge meadow, pine relicts, swamp, and sandstone gorge on almost 400 acres. all along honey creek’s valley.
this is the second patch of the preserve i’ve explored, and i can’t wait to get back to explore more. this was a short and steep hike along the sandstone cliffs with unreal thorn thickets. close and dense and hot and humid. the baraboo hills just can’t be beat.
audubon goose pond is a turbid pond with surrounding prairie in a marshy basin of ground moraine. we hiked the prairie in the year’s first good snow—a little dodgy at points, but piloted with grace and confidence by my brother.
the pond itself is not accessible due to the protections in place for the many bird species who make the area their home, but the prairie was lovely as the snow fell and wind blew. something about prairies in winter; i just love it.
two further notes: this plot and some surrounding parcels are further remnants of the formerly huge empire prairie that spanned swaths of these parts north of madison.
haskell noyes is an oak and maple wood in the northern kettle moraine state forest in fond du lac cty. it was an early very cold day when we visited, and the serpentine trail up the interlobate moraine reminded me of how impressive the topography of this area is: dramatic, steep drop-offs; lowly, quiet kettles resting below; surprising plateaus between ridges; meandering piles of glacier-moved and -crunched earth.
gorgeous even at the height of winter-dark days.
moss will hang on
oak leaves underneath
in the firmament
thru white spread feathers
[this lune was based on our spotting of a bald eagle soaring on our approach to the forest…]
i was reading a biography of henry i on my east village porch in milwaukee last summer toward dusk. as the bells for vespers rang down the street, things crystallized and suddenly a triolet (an 8-line, 2-rhyme form) was just the thing to write. here it is.
first off, let me say here that the state natural area program, the nation’s oldest state-wide system of natural areas, turns 70 this year. you can read about the program and the new directions they’re going here.
winter is here in wisconsin. this trip from last week up to fond du lac cty took us back to the kettle moraine state forest. it was colder than expected, but we made our pathless way up white kame. on hands and knees at points due to shrub growth and thorns, it was all worth it as we looked over the ground moraine prairie and wetlands below the glacial till cone. also in view from there and from the plain was dundee kame, a 250 ft kame just north of the sna.
kames are just not photogenic (at least without serious photo equipment), so the pictures simply don’t do justice to the steepness and dramatic topography involved in this glacial melt-water sculpture.
white kame in its bulk
advent on moraine
jays to the left and right
no crane calls
in the open fields
if you made it this far, more oak grown solitary atop the kame:
i’ve admired lots of poems in foxglove journal over the last year or so, and so i was duly honored to hear that they’d accepted a poem of mine.
“bogquilt” is a quick read, my attempt at a meeting between seamus heaney’s historico-cultural attentiveness to bogs and lorine niedecker’s dense and playful gaze. it was made in snatches on our way to sapa spruce bog (which long-time readers may recall from sna poems” #25).
the milwaukee riverwalk goes from the former site of the north ave dam thru downtown and all the way out to where the river meets lake michigan. up by my area near the dam, just east of humboldt ave. bridge the fancy walk ends and it turns into a rougher path, which i happen to like a lot.
i had a bad headache a couple days ago that floored me for the morning, but in the afternoon i staggered out to clear the humors with a brisk walk in a cold, blustery, rainy milwaukee. headed down to my favorite spot between a couple white spruces right on the water to sit and watch the river flow past and on to the lake. some flowers were still putting their hearts into it, lichen and moss as well.
special thanks to the wisconsin dnr for helping me identify the white spruces!
donges bay gorge is a steep ravine that cuts thru an undulating bluff on its way down to lake michigan. this was part of a wealthy landowner’s swath of property but was purchased by the ozaukee washington land trust and, very thankfully, opened up to the public.
lots of spring ephemerals here during the early spring, but mostly going to sleep for the winter now. tho’ we met some delightful fungus, moss, and bark still doing their things. the lake could be heard whispering below and the low-angle sun cut faintly thru the trunks of white pine, maple, red oak, aspen, birch, and linden.
we were trying to get to a different preserve north of here, but it was closed for deer hunting. then we remembered donges bay gorge and how great it was, so we visited again. i think it deserves two slots in the supplementum series. why not?
light snug on the gorge
invite us along
water clutching rock
a small frozen fall
the mushrooms know well
it’s their time
below the white pines
anyhow, if you made it this far, i’m thinking this is what it looks like when moss smiles: