A Midsummer Night’s Dream

"Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing" by William Blake.  c.1786.  Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night's_Dream.
“Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing” by William Blake. c.1786. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Midsummer_Night’s_Dream.

 

Shakespeare comes to Brushwood Center:

A performance in the woods with Citadel Theatre

Shakespeare aficionados and neophytes alike can relax among the lush vegetation and sound of crickets at Ryerson Woods on August 1, 2 and 3 when Citadel Theatre performs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” outdoors.

“The hour-long performance is perfect for those who already know and love Shakespeare as well as those who want to enjoy theater in a beautiful setting,” said Heather Meyers, the show’s production manager. “It’s a great introduction to Shakespeare, and we’re making it accessible to a modern audience.”

All the audience needs is a blanket or lawn chair, and a picnic if they like, as they watch a fully costumed production of Shakespeare’s bewitching tale of fairies, enchanted forests, and of course, lost lovers.

“The show has a little bit of everything: comedy, love and romance, mistaken identity, chase scenes, the magic of the fairies. It will be fun to watch,” said Meyers.

Sophie Twichell, Executive Director of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, said she encourages families to attend. “Because it’s only an hour long, and because of all the fun characters in the play, it is a wonderful introduction to magic of theater,” said Twichell. “Attendees will revel in the outdoor experience, which ends just before sunset.”

Brushwood Center, along with the Lake County Forest Preserves, is partnering with Citadel Theatre (based in Lake Forest) for the first time to present outdoor theater at Ryerson Woods.

“This is our first outdoor Shakespeare theater ever, and we’re happy to be doing it at Ryerson Woods,” Meyers said. Meyers said the actors are being directed by one of the best: Frank Farrell, a Chicago director and actor.

“Bringing Shakespeare to Brushwood Center furthers our mission of nurturing art, nature and discovery,” Twichell said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with a theater company based right here in Lake County.”

Tickets are available for three shows beginning at 6:30 p.m., August 1, 2 and 3. Pre-registration is recommended. Registration deadline is July 31. In the case of inclement weather, the production will be held indoors, with limited seating available.

For more information and to obtain tickets, call 847.968.3321 or visit www.brushwoodcenter.org. Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.

 

About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Through innovative arts programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.

WHAT TO READ: Identifying Plants

Glenn Adelson, PhD, leading an Introduction to Botany class at Ryerson Woods in the spring of 2014.
Glenn Adelson, PhD, leading an Introduction to Botany class at Ryerson Woods in the spring of 2014.

We recently invited our friend and frequent nature seminar instructor Glenn Adelson, chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, to share his favorite books for identifying plants in our region.  Here are four books he recommends you have on your bookshelf and with you in the field to get familiar with our region’s flora.

 

PCRjacket_blowupFloyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm, Plants of the Chicago Region, 4 ed.

We are very lucky to have a book like this dedicated to our region. The habitat and plant associates information is essential. It will be frustrating for a beginner to try to key plants out, but it is well worth the effort to learn. Make ample use of the glossary while learning.

 

Sunflower-FamilyThomas Antonio and Susanne Masi, The Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest

The Compositae (also correctly called the Asteraceae) is the flowering plant family with the most species in flower in our area in the summer and fall. This book provides an easy to use set of symbols, based upon inflorescence color and presence or absence of disc and ray flowers to get you to the species you’re trying to figure out. Excellent photographs and nice natural history essays.

 

wildflowers_of_wisconsin_and_the_great_lakes_region_by_merel_black_emmet_judziewicz_0299230538Merel Black and and Emmet Judziewicz, Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region

A very good companion to Swink and Wilhelm, as you can often talk yourself into believing you have the right plant when using a key. I often check the pictures and descriptions in Black and Judziewicz immediately after keying out a plant in Swink and Wilhelm, because it’s far more difficult to talk yourself into a mistaken identification when you have a picture in front of you.

 

Carol Gracie - Spring WildflowersCarol Gracie, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast

An astonishingly beautiful and deeply researched book treating many of our woodland spring wildflowers. Its strength is the amount of depth given to each species it treats, which leads, of course to its weakness, which is how few species are accommodated. The macro photography is the best I’ve ever seen in a botany book.

 

IMG_8376Glenn will be teaching “Flora of the Autumn Prairie” this fall.  Classes will meet three consecutive Tuesday evenings (5:30-7:30pm) starting September 9. Participants will explore the profusion of yellow and purple wildflowers dominating the late summer prairie. We’ll learn plant biology, as we investigate the wide range of aster, goldenrod, mint and sunflower species, as well as the prairie grasses.  We’ll also explore the relationship between plants and their environments. Includes field trips to other preserves.  To register, click here (scroll down to Sept. 9).  Glenn will also be teaching a nature seminar on “Endangered Species & Endangered Languages” in October.

 

 

Glenn Adelson leading a Summer Flora class in summer 2014.
Glenn Adelson leading a Summer Flora class for Brushwood Center in summer 2014.

Glenn Adelson is the chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, Chicago’s national liberal arts college. He teaches several field botany courses, as well as Evolution, Ecology, and Environment; Endangered Species and Endangered Languages; The Environmental Connections between Chicago and New Orleans; Introduction to Environmental Studies; Troubled World Geography; Botanical Imperialism; and Poetry and Nature. Glenn taught for fifteen years at Harvard University, where he became the only Harvard teacher to twice win the campus-wide Levenson Award for teaching. Glenn has a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

Avian Spirits

Thrasher 1 © Julie Meridian | Image courtesy Julie Meridian
Thrasher 1 © Julie Meridian | Image courtesy Julie Meridian

Group Art Exhibition Contemplates Bird Imagery

as Metaphors for the Human Spirit

 AVIAN SPIRITS

OPENING:  Sunday, July 13 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

RUNS:  July 13 – August 31, 2014

 

Curator Franck Mercurio hanging fabulous bird portraits by artist Marlene McCauley.
Curator Franck Mercurio hanging fabulous bird portraits by artist Marlene McCauley.

To curate Brushwood Center’s latest art exhibition Avian Spirits, Franck Mercurio began with a famous Emily Dickinson quote: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.”

“I used that as a starting point, how artists have been inspired by birds,” said Mercurio. He has gathered more than 40 pieces created by 14 artists, which include paintings, sculptures and photography for the exhibition that opens July 13.

The works will not only grace the walls of Brushwood Center in Riverwoods, but the scenic forested outdoors as well. Painted directly on the front lawn with environmentally safe products will be a work reflecting bird migration by the collaborative DOEprojekts. On the back lawn, visitors can view an unusual installation by Annette Barbier of waterfowl, feeding as they do with their bottoms up.

Visitation B © Steph Roberts | Image courtesy Addington Gallery
Visitation B © Steph Roberts | Image courtesy Addington Gallery

“I wanted to create something whimsical and explore why we give human characteristics to birds,” said Mercurio. “I chose artists who use bird imagery as metaphors for the human spirit.”

The Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods creates a theme each year used to unite its programs. This year, the theme is Extinction/Survival. Mercurio curated an art exhibition at Brushwood Center in spring entitled, Facing Extinction. “It was all about artists who respond to human-caused extinction and what people are trying to do to ensure survival,” he said.

Avian Spirits is intended to be lighter, more whimsical, more hopeful,” he said. “I want to have some accessible works for the audience as well as some challenging works, and strike a balance.”

One artist he chose is Molly Cranch, who creates colorful oil paintings of birds. “The imagery is really accessible. You can tell what types of birds they are, but there’s an anthropomorphic quality to the birds. They are almost human-like in their expressions,” Mercurio said.

The outdoor lawn painting might need a bit more explanation, he said. Labels will be placed with the installation to explain the symbols that relate to bird migration.

Passenger Pigeon wearable sculpture © Julia Kemerer | Image courtesy Helen Maurene Cooper
Passenger Pigeon wearable sculpture © Julia Kemerer | Image courtesy Helen Maurene Cooper

In addition, artist and Brushwood Center staffer Julia Kemerer created a series of wearable sculptures featuring extinct and endangered species. She collaborated with photographer Helen Maurene Cooper to showcase them being worn.

What brings all these art works together is how the artists have responded to “our affinities with birds in different ways, but often with whimsy, humor, and joy,” Mercurio said. “Avian Spirits aims to celebrate our relationships with birds.”

Avian Spirits opens July 13 and runs through August 31. The show is free and open to the public during regular Brushwood Center hours. A free opening reception will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. July 13. Mercurio will present a tour of the exhibition on August 23, preceding the 2014 Film Festival in the Woods, an annual outdoor film festival hosted by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods.

Participating artists include:

  • Annette Barbier
  • Sarah Belknap and Joseph Belknap
  • Cosmo Campoli
  • Helen Maurene Cooper
  • Molly Cranch
  • DOEprojekts (Deborah & Glenn Doering)
  • Julia Kemerer
  • Barbara Koenen
  • Marlene McCauley
  • Julie Meridian
  • Steph Roberts
  • Dan Streeting

For more information, visit www.brushwoodcenter.org.  Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.

 

Extinction-Survival_logo_final_OL_grey-orange-blue

The exhibition is part of the extinction |survival series of public programs being offered by Brushwood Center over the course of 2014. The series seeks to promote a broader understanding of extinction and species survival.  We’re exploring why extinction happened in the past and why it continues today, as well as celebrating success stories. Programs include book talks, art exhibitions, lectures and film screenings that will run throughout 2014.

 

Brushwood_Logo.smallAbout Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Through innovative programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.

 

BRUSHWOOD CENTER HOURS:

Monday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Sunday: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Or by appointment: 847.968.3308.

 

Avian Spirits is partially sponsored by a grant from:

FinalIAClogo

 

Party on the Prairie

middlefork_savanna_2
Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve. Photo by Nick Bothfeld.

 

PARTY ON THE PRAIRIE

Saturday, June 21

6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Join us for a celebration of the Summer Solstice. Watch the sun set over beautiful Middlefork Savanna while mingling with like-minded nature lovers on the patio of a private Lake Forest home with a truly breathtaking view. The evening will include a presentation by Jim Anderson, manager of the Natural Resources Division of the Lake County Forest Preserves. He’ll share information on the extensive work being done to restore this incredibly rare and beautiful tallgrass savanna – a gem in our community! Beer, wine, refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

$50 per person. Only 50 tickets will be sold. Visit www.brushwoodcenter.org to register, or call 847.968.3346. 

Joel Oppenheimer to present new “The Birds of America” by John James Audubon at Ryerson Woods

oppenheimer gallery-portrait-10x6x300dpi - small
Joel Oppenheimer in his Chicago gallery with an original double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s “The Birds of America.”

Wednesday, June 18

7:30 – 8:30 p.m.         

BOOK TALK

The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition

 

When Joel Oppenheimer recognizes a bird, it’s not because he’s a birder, but rather because the renowned art dealer has been intimately acquainted with the quintessential avian paintings of John James Audubon for decades.

Now, Oppenheimer, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Audubon, has produced and written “The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition.” Oppenheimer has written text to complement the first complete reproduction of the Bien chromolithographs: 150 full-color illustrations in facsimile form of “The Birds of America,” which Audubon painted more than 150 years ago.

Oppenheimer, a Chicago-based art dealer and art conservator, will give a free talk about this seminal project at 7:30 p.m., June 18 at Brushwood Center, 21850 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, Illinois.

"Pileated Woodpecker" by John James Audubon.
“Pileated Woodpecker” by John James Audubon.

Through his seven years of research and working with publisher, W.W. Norton and Co., Oppenheimer discovered some intriguing information, not so much about John James Audubon himself, but about his wife, Lucy, and their son, John Woodhouse Audubon.

After Audubon’s death, his son commissioned Julius Bien in 1858 to produce a new edition of his father’s works with a revolutionary chromolithographic process that omitted the painstaking steps of hand coloring each piece as had been done previously.

The family still owned the original paintings and all the original copper plates.

“The family put everything into this,” Oppenheimer said. “Lucy Audubon mortgaged their estate to finance the project. When the Civil War came, however, the project could not be completed and the family suffered a devastating bankruptcy.” Audubon’s original watercolors were sold to the New-York Historical Society in 1863.

Only 150 plates were produced in the Bien collection. They are among the rarest and most sought-after Audubon prints. When Oppenheimer secured a complete folio of the Bien collection about eight years ago, he was inspired to produce the new book.

book_image_-_the_birds_of_america_-_the_bien_chromolithographic_edition“There was something about the quality of this printing that captured my imagination,” he said. “In previous writings, the Bien edition had been cast aside and much maligned as being a poor quality reproduction. I bought this set and it was an exquisite example of chromolithography and Audubon’s work.”

Oppenheimer said his new book “is a very specific treatment of one particular edition of Audubon’s work that had never been examined in depth at a scholarly level. There’s a lot of new information in the book, a lot of discovery from original research.”

The June 18 event is presented through a partnership between Brushwood Center and Lake County Forest Preserves. A limited number of books will be available for purchase ($350) and signing. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Brushwood Center. To reserve your copy in advance, call 847.968.3308. Registration is required. To register, call 847.968.3321.

WHEN:     7:30pm, Wednesday, June 18

WHERE:   Brushwood Center, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL

COST:       Free

Registration required.  To register, call 847.968.3321.

 

Folklore of the Forest Floor: Part 2

bird girl in spring
The Bird Girl, the 1938 work by sculptor Sylvia Shaw Judson, oversees the arrival of spring at Ryerson Woods.

by Luke Buckardt

The emergence of Wild Leeks in early April provides some of the first signs of green at Ryerson Woods in spring.
The emergence of Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum) in early April provides some of the first signs of green at Ryerson Woods in spring.

After some rain and a few warm days, the forest floor began its push to beat the leaves.    Spring ephemerals must take advantage of the slim margin of time between when it is warm enough to flower and when the leaves pop, cutting off light to the forest floor.  This two to three week period is perhaps the most active time of year for the forest floor, where hundreds of species quickly take advantage of sunlight in order to reproduce.  The leaf litter is suddenly changed from decay into a vivid carpet of green.  The flowering species have a very short time to reproduce and take advantage of pollinators.  Historically, this brief period every year was essential for Native Americans and early settlers.  The plants that grew were harvested for food and medicine, as well as many other resources.  Following the phenology of bloom is something scientists are fascinated by, and in recognizing these patterns, can determine the many uses of these spring ephemerals.

Perhaps the most common plant in Ryerson right now is the Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum), which can be seen in many of the wet areas of the preserve.   The Wild Leek, a type of onion, is a member of the lily family.  It, however, is unusual in the sense that it does not flower during this crucial time before trees leaf out.  The leek flowers in late June.   Leek is touted as a savory flavor, perhaps the most delicious of all of the native wild onions.  Settlers used the strong odor of the leek to cover the taste of spoiled food.  They have been used for centuries for food, but they were also thought to have some medicinal properties.   Chippewa tribes used it as a cure for the common cold, and also as an emetic, or something that forces vomiting.

Trout Lily (Erythromium albidum) is currently in bloom at Ryerson Woods.
Trout Lily (Erythromium albidum) is currently in bloom at Ryerson Woods.

Another common plant right now at Ryerson is the Trout Lily.  Trout lily (Erythromium albidum) is an abundant plant on throughout the floor, and can be seen flowering right now.  The flower opens downward, so to get a good look at it one must get low to the ground.  Trout lilies are fascinating flowers for a few reasons.  Most surprisingly, they are colonial.  A large swath of these flowers may actually be one individual plant.  The bulbs extent stems throughout the soil, and each year add growth from one initial bulb.  The flower gets its name due to the leaf spots present, which look very similar to the spots on a trout.  The flowers are open until they are fertilized by insects, and then whither away within a few days.  The trout lily is very interesting in that the flower is very sensitive to temperature.  In order to maximize the potential for pollination, it will not open until the air temperature is 55 degrees. This, according to the plant, is the right temperature for insect activity to be abundant, and therefore giving it a better chance at pollination.  Historically, this plant has been used for food as well as medicine.  Sioux tribes ate the bulbs, as they are high in nutrients.  Some of the first botanical literature cited the medical uses of the plant as a cure for gout, as well as a treatment for boils upon the skin.  Trout lilies are beautiful, and their colonies in some parts of the forest take up much of the current forest floor.

Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) blanket the forest floor at Ryerson Woods.
In spring, Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) blanket the forest floor at Ryerson Woods.

Perhaps one of the most well known spring ephemerals in the eastern forests is the Mayapple.  The Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) grows in every section of Ryerson Woods and can be easily located by their large, umbrella-like leaves.  The Latin name comes from the Greek word “podos”, or foot and “phyllon”, or leaf.  Early taxonomists believed the leaf resembled the webbed foot of a duck.  Mayapples are also colonial, and reproduced via rhizomes underground.  This is the reason you will see large “stands” of Mayapple in different parts of the forest.  The plant blooms in early to mid May, and has a large white flower attached to the stalk under the large leaf.  The flower is quickly pollinated, and the plant stays on the forest floor for up to three months while the fruit ripens.  The unripe fruit has a toxic resinoid in it called Podophyllum, and can be lethal to children or adults if consumed in large quantities.  However, these are no longer present once the fruit ripens and can be eaten.  It is said that they taste like strawberries.  The fruit was consumed by many woodland tribes, but also used in the unripe state as a purgative or emetic.  The Delaware tribe also used the unripe fruit to treat arthritis.

luke buckardt 11.14.13

 

This blog post was written by Luke Buckardt, who assists Brushwood Center with social media.  Luke graduated from Northland College in 2012 with a degree in biology.  He grew up in Riverwoods and has roamed Ryerson Woods since he was young, knowing the preserve intimately.

Moving Targets

Image

 

Art exhibition linking passenger pigeon and Jewish heritage comes to Ryerson Woods

MOVING TARGETS

OPENING: Sunday, May 4 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

RUNS: May 4 – July 3, 2014

Artists and friends Steffi Domike and Ann T. Rosenthal often focus on environmental issues in their work, sometimes weaving bird imagery into their pieces. Both also have traced the history of their Jewish ancestors from Ukraine. Now the artists have created a unique exhibition that links their heritage and environmental ethics. Moving Targets will open May 4 at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. A free reception will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Using digital media, painting and layering techniques, the artists will install collages, wood box paintings, maps and photos to tell the story of migration, loss and survival.

The exhibition weaves the story of their ancestors’ migration from Ukraine to Canada with the migration of the now extinct passenger pigeons in the United States. With help from historian Ruth Fichman, the artists learned about their ancestors who left the Ukraine circa 1910 to escape anti-Semitism and pogroms (organized massacres, especially of Jews). “As part of Moving Targets, Steffi and I are each creating a visual journal that will interpret the story of our mothers’ families, along with the migration of passenger pigeons in the United States,” said Rosenthal.

Image
Steffi Domike and Ann Rosenthal at Ryerson Woods.

This year marks the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in North America. The species was hunted to extinction within 40 years. “Both the birds and the people made tremendous voyages to survive,” Domike said. “On the one hand, our families obviously did survive. Yet the birds did not ultimately make it. Some of our interest is in the commonalities of this flight to survival. Some of it is about differences.” Rosenthal said they use maps as backdrops, with mixed media pieces hung on the maps. “There are two maps. One represents the pigeon. One represents our family.” The maps will be presented in sections, each telling a part of the story.

In addition to exhibiting their own work, the artists have invited 14 artists from states where the passenger pigeon formerly lived to create a portrait gallery in Brushwood. Each artist is using wooden birch boxes upon which they will create their work whether it be through collage, photography or painting. “One of our submissions is the ghost of the passenger pigeon, another is a formal portrait, another one is a half dozen birds flying madly as though in a large flock,” Domike said. “They are absolutely beautiful.”

They said their inspiration for creating the exhibition came from Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction. Greenberg will receive a conservation award at the Smith Nature Symposium to be held May 17 at Ryerson Woods. Symposium attendees will be able to browse the Moving Targets exhibition during the Symposium.

Image
Ann Rosenthal shares her family’s journey from the Ukraine to Canada to California in the “Moving Targets” exhibition.

The Smith Nature Symposium is an annual benefit event for Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. This year will mark the Symposium’s 31st year of bringing luminaries in the fields of science and conservation to the citizens of Lake County. The 2014 Symposium is part of a year- long exploration of the theme extinction | survival. Key sponsors are Abbott and Bartlett Tree Experts. For more information on the Symposium, visit www.brushwoodcenter.org/smith-nature-symposium.html.

Greenberg’s book and Rosenthal and Domike’s exhibition are part of an international effort to familiarize as many people as possible with the history of the passenger pigeon and its extinction as well as to raise awareness of how the issue of extinction is ecologically, culturally, and morally relevant to the 21st Century.

Domike and Rosenthal have been collaborating on environmentally themed artworks for more than a decade, exhibiting throughout the U.S., Japan and Germany. The exhibition runs through July 3, 2014.

For more information, call 847.968.3344 or visit www.brushwoodcenter.org.

The exhibition is part of the extinction | survival series of public programs being offered by Brushwood Center over the course of 2014. The series seeks to promote a broader understanding of extinction and species survival. We’re exploring why extinction happened in the past and why it continues today, as well as celebrating stories of species survival. Programs include book talks, art exhibitions, lectures and film screenings that will run throughout 2014.

 

About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Through innovative nature and arts programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.

BRUSHWOOD CENTER PUBLIC HOURS:
Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Sunday, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Or by appointment, 847.968.3308.

Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015. 

Learn Spring Wildflowers

Close up of wild geranium from Ryerson Woods.
Close up of wild geranium from Ryerson Woods.

NATURE SEMINAR

LEARN SPRING WILDFLOWERS . . . ALL THE

MERRY MONTH OF MAY

 Tuesdays, May 6-27, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Join Glenn Adelson, chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, for this nature seminar that focuses on learning all about our spring wildflowers.  We’ll learn plant biology, as we walk the woods searching for trout lily, trillium, hepatica, wood anemone, marsh marigold, spring beauty, wild geranium and more.  We’ll also explore the relationship between plants and their environments. Four sessions. Dress appropriately for walking in the preserve.

WHEN:             Tuesdays (May 6, 13, 20 & 27), 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

COST:              $250 ($225 Brushwood Center members)

LOCATION:   Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd.,                                          Riverwoods, IL   

Registration required. Click here to register or call 847.968.3308.

Folklore of the Forest Floor: Part 1

Brushwood Center in spring with a field of spring beauty in bloom in the grass.
Brushwood Center in spring with a field of spring beauty in bloom in the grass.

by Luke Buckardt

Although it may seem that winter will never let go of its tight grip, the forests and fields of Lake County are about to bloom with force.  Spring is here despite the dusting of snow and below freezing nights.  Over the next month, many wildflowers will poke out of the leaf litter and continue their cycle of life.  Many of these flowers have very short adult lives, often only living for a brief amount of time.  These spring ephemerals are an exciting part of our local ecology, but we are not the first generation to take note of their beauty and usefulness.  Native american tribes, as well as the first European settlers, used the flowers both medicinally and spiritually.  Although you may recognize the spring beauty or bleeding heart, there is a storied past behind each spring flower.

Spring beauty
Spring beauty

One of the first flowers to show itself after the snow melts is spring beauty (Claytonia virginica).  The flower of each plant is open for an average of three days, and within that time it is pollinated by a plethora of insects.  It is the perhaps the most abundant flower seen during the spring as it grows in a variety of habitats.  Many woodland Indians used spring beauty as an immediate food source after long winters.  The root is a tuber and is said to have a nutty flavor.  The leaves were also eaten.

Perhaps one of the most commonly seen spring flowers is the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).  It is a weed, growing in backyards, along roads and everywhere in between.  The flower is actually made of hundreds of florets, each being pollinated during the dandelion’s life.  The dandelion has a fascinating history and has been associated with humans as early as 300 BC.  Both the Europeans as well as many American Indian tribes, including the Potawatomi and Ojibwa, have used the dandelion for myriad medicinal purposes.  The leaves of the plant have diuretic properties and can be used in salads or tea.  Native Americans used the plant in order to help ailments such as kidney disease and swelling.  Today, specialty winery’s still make dandelion wine from the flowers.

Bloodroot
Bloodroot in bloom

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) may already be up in the forests, as they are also one of the early bloomers.  The plant gets its name from the “sap” it expels when the rhizome, or root section, is sliced.  It is in fact not sap, but a form of latex.  This plant, like many spring ephemerals, follows the Doctrine of Signatures, which states that plants were most useful through association.  Because the plant secretes this red liquid, it was thought that it could cure blood related illness.  The reddish liquid that comes out of the plant, in fact, had many uses by both settlers and Indians.  Due to its strong color, it was used for dyes, both in painting one’s body as well as for coloring baskets and decoration.  Bloodroot also has many medicinal properties.  It was used to stop bleeding, treat the symptoms of fever and cure a sore throat.  The Winnebago tribe used Bloodroot as a digestive aid and a way to sooth a toothache.

These are just some of the early spring flowers that will be showing up at Ryerson Woods and other local woodlands.  Please remember that you cannot extract anything from the woods, so just enjoy the intrinsic beauty of the flowers.  Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, which will feature flowers during the later portion of the bloom.  Spring is here, go enjoy it!

 

luke buckardt 11.14.13This blog post was written by Luke Buckardt, who assists Brushwood Center with social media.  Luke graduated from Northland College in 2012 with a degree in biology.  He grew up in Riverwoods and has roamed Ryerson Woods since he was young, knowing the preserve intimately.

In honor of Earth Day, some thoughts on environmental literature by Ben Goluboff

A dense "Atlantic White Cedar swamp" in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. These habitats are characterized primarily by dense stands of Chamaecyparis thyoides, which grow tall and narrow in close proximity to one another. Image by Famartin from Wikipedia.
A dense “Atlantic White Cedar swamp” in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. These habitats are characterized primarily by dense stands of Chamaecyparis thyoides, which grow tall and narrow in close proximity to one another. Photo by Famartin from Wikipedia.

 

by Ben Goluboff

Sophie Twichell was kind enough to invite me to submit a blog post for Brushwood Center, and to share, in anticipation of Earth Day, some thoughts on Environmental Literature. Even though this means tearing myself away from Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, a book I find extraordinarily compelling, I am more than happy to do so.

Founding Fish coverYesterday, in the company of a room full of students who were polite enough to act interested, I indulged myself in a medium-long digression on the environmental writing of John McPhee, whose The Founding Fish (2002) veterans of Ryerson Reads will remember as a natural and cultural history of the American Shad. McPhee, I wanted my students to understand, is the environmentally-inclined member of a group of writers remembered now as Sixties New Journalists. These writers, in response among other things to the Vietnam-era distrust of government and media, produced non-fiction prose that abandoned traditional journalistic objectivity, in favor of a subjective, sometimes novelistic reportage in which strict fidelity to fact was abandoned. In his Encounters with the Archdruid pine barrens(1971), for example, McPhee joins David Brower, then president of the Sierra Club, and Floyd Dominy, then Comissioner of the U.S.  Bureau of Reclamation, in a rubber raft on the Colorado River not long after the completion of the controversial Glen Canyon Dam.  The dialogue McPhee reports between the conservationist and the dam builder was certainly invented or adapted (the three of them were in the middle of a deafening rapids after all) but nicely dramatizes the clash of two opposing philosophies about the natural word.

Elsewhere, as in his The Control of Nature (1989) and Annals of the Former Word (1998), a collection of his writings on geology, McPhee writes with a more traditional objectivity.  My favorite of his books, and the one I am most interested in re-reading is The Pine Barrens (1968), a survey of the landscape, ecology, history and folkways of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a wilderness of more than a million acres in one of the most populated corners of the nation. McPhee writes:

The Pine Barrens are so close to New York that on a very

clear night a bright light in the pines would be visible from

the Empire State Building.  A line ruled on a map from Boston

to Richmond goes straight through the Pine Barrens.

The halfway point between Boston and Richmond — the

geographical epicenter of the developing megalopolis —

— is in the northern part of the woods, about twenty

miles from Bear Swamp Hill.

Mullica River in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Photo by Mwanner courtesy of Wikipedia.
Mullica River in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Photo by Mwanner from Wikipedia.

I am nostalgic about the New Jersey Pine Barrens. As a kid growing up in the seventies, first as a camper then as a counselor at a Quaker-Hippy summer camp in Jersey, I became confirmed as a nature nut on a series of excursions into the pines.

ArcadiaCoverSM-webAnother book on my mind right now is an anthology of very current environmental poetry edited, with G.C. Waldrep, by my wonderful colleague in Lake Forest College’s English Department, Joshua Corey. The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (2012) is a collection of challenging poems that repurpose the ancient mode of pastoral writing for a moment when not only is the environment in crisis, but when, to the artistic and philosophical imagination, the line between the natural and the man-made has been decisively breached. Corey writes:

 

Postmodern pastoral retains certain allegiances to the

lyric and individual subjectivity while insisting on the

reality of a world whose objects are all equally natural

and therefore equally unnatural. Celebrity websites

and abandoned factories and telenovelas and the New

Jersey Turnpike are all eligible objects of postmodern

pastoral’s dialectical nostalgia, sites in which the human

and the unhuman mix and collide, as much as in any

mountain peak or jungle or wetland.

To learn more about the book, visit: http://arcadiaproject.net

gardensOne of the environmental titles that I am looking forward to reading in the near future we will take up as a group next year at Ryerson Reads. Robert Pogue Harrison, a scholar of Italian literature at Stanford, was first known to me for his powerful work of environmental history, Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992).  In his new book, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (2008) Harrison offers, as I understand it, not a survey of garden history, but a series of philosophical reflections on what gardens – from Eden to Versailles – reveal about being human both today, in the shadow of environmental collapse, and throughout the long history in which our species has sought beauty, calm, even enlightenment from the artistic manipulation of natural materials.

Let me close by offering Brushwood Center’s readers a small specimen of my own writing – a poem on an environmental theme that is set in a landscape Brushwoood regulars will find familiar.

The Vegetation of Wisconsin

August corn

grows right to the doors

of the Adult Superstore.

Burdock and Mullein

live among the

Ho Chunk burial mounds.

At the Aviation Museum

in Oshkosh,

where they keep a shrine

to the Doolittle raids,

Loosestrife and Chicory

blaze by the parking lot.

A well-kept lawn

covers the landfill.

At its base,

and at a little distance,

they fly the flag.

From the Hamilton Stone Review, Issue #30, Winter-Spring 2014.(http://www.hamiltonstone.org/hsr30.html#poetry).

 

Ben Goluboff - Ryerson Reads
Prof. Ben Goluboff leads the Ryerson Reads book discussions (four per year) for Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods.

Ben Goluboff is a professor of English at Lake Forest College.  He has led vibrant discussions for our RYERSON READS book group for 10 wonderful years.  Here are the selections for the 2014-2015 season. Hope you’ll join us!

Sept. 10, 2014: When the Killings Done by T.C. Boyle

Nov. 12, 2014: The Paradise of Bombs by Scott Russell Sanders

 Jan. 14, 2015: The Last Animal by Abby Geni

Mar. 11, 2015: Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison