I am grateful to be in the fellowship of writers, poets, scientists, culture keepers, composers and art-makers of all types, as a participant in the 2023 Bloedel Reserve’s Creative Residency Program. There I was able to completely loose track of all the usual markers of time in my life. For me, the gift of time for reflection and discovery is an opportunity for personal growth and affirmation. On the last day of my residency, I read entries in the guestbook written by past residents. Some had clear expectations of what they meant to accomplish during their time; some needed time to rest and find inspiration; others to develop ideas for their next projects; and many, like me, seemed overwhelmed with surprise, delight and wonder.
My expectations fit on this post-it note.
There are so many employees and volunteers who keep Bloedel Reserve alive, functioning as a place of refuge, respite, refreshment, contemplation, meditation, inspiration, and psychic healing – and I am grateful for you all. I’d like to mention that one of the many generous funding sources for the Creative Residency Program is the Suquamish Tribe, through their Appendix X Funding. I lift my hands in gratitude to the Suquamish Nation for their continued outreach and support of the community I live in – through grants to public schools; environmental education groups; land-trusts; culture and arts organizations; food banks; culvert removal for salmon health; beach clean-ups; reseeding beaches with Eel grass and shell fish; Tribal police response; and road safety and community health initiatives. There are are so many actions made by the Suquamish Tribe that reflect their deep values beyond what I’ve listed here. These actions of support benefit the whole community of Kitsap County, the Salish Sea, and beyond.
Being able to walk along the trails at the Bloedel Reserve, was indeed a joy for me. Now I’m back to our own small garden and the raspberries are ready to pick!
In my first note about this residency I focused on the Quiet House, to show you the beautifully crafted wood and stone shelter that was my place of comfort and inspiration. In this note, I’ll share a few views of some of the special ecosystems that the forty or so gardeners who work here tend diligently, with such skill and care.
In our world today a healthy forest does not just happen. We are clearly in the Anthropocene era, and English ivy is a perfect example of human action having far reaching consequences. Brought to our shores from Europe by early settlers in the 1700’s, three-hundred years later, our lowland urban forests in the Puget Sound Salish Sea Basin, are actively being colonized. Walking through the healthty forest on the Bloedel Reserve gives sharp contrast to what is happening to the “untended” woodlands nearby.
When I first began weaving baskets, we had just moved from the city of Seattle to what was then a rural town on the Kitsap Peninsula. Most of the land between the small unincorporated towns was zoned as Timber land, owned or acquired by Olympic Resources, which I think was formerly Pope and Talbot. So there were expanses of forests here when we arrived, and they were routinely replanted after logging.
In the 1980’s people actually planted English ivy in their gardens as a ground cover, even though their berries and leaves are toxic to humans and many animals. As a new weaver foraging for materials, I found that the ivy vines running along the ground were a great weaving material. The vines came in various thicknesses. The thicker vines when coiled around themselves could become handles or rims. Thinner vines were great for lashings. The ivy could easily be split. It was a strong and long-lasting material in a ribbed or spoked basket. But my exploitation of the ivy in my neighborhood, even teaching others to use it for their weaving, could never hope to keep up with the exponential growth habit of this opportunistic plant.
Just up my street are numerous examples of land, once or twice clear-cut and then left fallow. There, left untended, the ivy has taken over the understory, propagated by birds eating the ivy berries, then spreading new plants from the seeds in their droppings. It only takes a few decades of neglect, but once ivy begins to grow up a tree, it chokes the tree of needed sunlight, weakening it, eventually using the tree as an armature. The ivy is in charge. Just like a healthy forest community of plants are all inter-connected to the “Mother Tree”, English ivy usurps that position in the forest and becomes like a “Monster Tree”. Its vines weave themselves across the ground like a carpet, rooting into the soil at any place of contact, crowding out all the Native plants in the understory. Eventually, as the tree is dying, the ivy occupant dominates the canopy, becoming like a sail that catches the wind and ultimately pulls the giant trees to the ground. This is how we’ve seen English ivy behave in the forty-four years we’ve lived here.
So, when you see a healthy forest, like this one at the Bloedel Reserve, with multiple varieties of Native ferns, mosses, and herbs; shrubs like Salmonberry, evergreen and deciduous Huckleberry; small trees like Oso Berry, Vine Maple and Oceanspray; and young Hemlock, Cedar, and Fir trees – thriving in their forest nursery, in the shadow of their mature tree family members – when you see a healthy forest like this – one immediately understands that there are many humans caring for this forest, tending it, keeping it healthy.
I am grateful to all of you who when you see ivy, or other invasive plants, you pull them out! Ivy didn’t come here naturally. Humans brought it without understanding, or caring to learn about the Native plants they were replacing. Those Native plants were responsible for sustaining the Coast Salish Peoples here in the Pacific Northwest of North America – since time immemorial.
Here are a few plants you might see in a healthy, tended, meadow.
Lots of mixed native grasses and ferns in this meadow.
At the edges, are some of the richest places to find birds, berries, roses…..oh the glorious scent of the Wild Roses!
Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) is one of my favorite reminders of spring, and that the sap is up in the bark of the trees.
I’ve always loved this plant. I remember it’s fragrance from childhood’s spent at my Grandmother’ cabin. I know this sounds corny, but I didn’t realize until this visit to Bloedel Reserve, that each of the Nootka Rose’s five blushing petals are shaped like a heart.
More to come. Thanks for listening!