Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beauty and the beast

What do I see in the woods. Why do I go to the woods. Why do I retreat from the wide sunlight of the green ball fields and the sedate islands of trees in seas of grass?

The goutweed is in bloom.

The air is seagreen.

The jewelweed, just a couple of inches above the leaf litter when we assembled for our first Litter Mob in the Midwood of Prospect Park, six weeks ago, is now thigh high.

You can see the Merchant Ivory credits rolling...

May apples are setting fruit, where they have not been trampled.

Full stop.

I really questioned whether to add the ugly pictures, this time. Over-exposure. Our own,  the readers'. A loss of sympathy. A weariness. Blunted outrage.  This blog is about looking the other way, when it comes to what is ugly. It is about the possible, not about the probable. And to show the beast with the beauty would imply that I have to do it with all my posts. But I won't. 

I will go on posting about flowers and food and gardens and green places, except in rare deviations, and with Prospect Park, where I will post the ugliness until it is contained. Because so far our litter gathering troop is a bandaid. And until the litter and its complicated causes are addressed humanely, intelligently, firmly and with integrity, a bandaid we volunteers will remain. And that is not good enough. 


But I guess I have to draw a line. Must not show what is really there. Distasteful. The Times had an expert on taste and style check/vet aspects of their story and so my internal expert just threw out the pictures: What were you thinking???- said the internal expert. So here is some of what was there today, before we picked it up and put it in our bags.  

The paths in the goutweed are beautiful. But follow them to a big old screening tree, look down at its base, and the verdure vanishes. 

You still hear the whistle of the chipmunk, the dead tree rattling under the hammer of the woodpecker, the cardinal advertising, the bee on the goutweed flower. 

But you also hear an internal buzz. An angry hum. And you see these woods, these beautiful woods, ruined. And you see no plan in place to change that. 

Later you walk a bit and see mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms. On a nice, high log. There's not much appetite for them. You are thinking about contagious diseases and biohazardous waste. But you feel happier.

Then you find a beautiful flower like a rose, that turns out to be Rubus odoratus. And soon you find more.

And you think of high summer, and berries. And then you go for a ride in a big truck and fetch woodland perennials to plant.

And the internal plant geek says to the internal style and taste expert, Snapoudof it! But the taste and style expert stands firm and hisses, Plant!

Which you do. Arisaema triphyllum - Jack-in-the-pulpit.

And that is how we end. Planting solidago and wood asters, too.

As usual, huge thanks to the litter mobsters who showed up today: Olga Kuchukov (above), Frank Meuschke, Paulo Freitas, Elizabeth Royte, Vincent Mounier (yes, him), and to David, John and Jessica. 


  1. that first beautiful, wish I could walk it to see around the corner.

  2. I cheer for you and your band of volunteers. Being a West Coast gal, I was shocked at some of the negativity you received over this issue. The woods are lovely, dark and deep and wanting to maintain their health and beauty is noble indeed.

  3. Good work follows the worst path.

    Our enemy here is the silence.

    Complicit, implicit, tacit.

  4. Not sure what the answer is. You could look at your lovely woods as a glass-half-empty and a sad story never concluded. I doubt that's in your nature, though. Better to give thanks for your own restorative instincts and do what you can. Imagine how many people have read the NYT story and pondered their actions. Focus on that, rather than on those who don't care at all, because those folks will always be around us.

  5. For the record, I must admit that my own eyes - for that particular area - have ceased to see the beauty and only find the beast. Evil has won. But I guess evil is the very reason we are going to the woods, these days. It's a sad loss. And then again, didn't someone say that nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won?

  6. I so admire your commitment to this. Despite all the litter, I still want to eat the oyster mushrooms. And a few of those goutweed leaves chopped up in your salad wouldn't be amiss.

  7. Loving your blog. Having been a Brooklynite in my growing up years, you brought back that which was all good and beautiful for me to see. You have a vision that I understand. Thank you. I found it interesting to hear about the "trash" from the 1950's- some of that could have been mine! Gave me a strange feeling.
    Your photos are top notch as well.

  8. LOL! I couldn't help but notice the "Where you came from" pamphlet among the condoms and "other" things. Trolling for sex in a public park is just plain sad, but using something like that to "get you in the mood" is even sadder.

  9. Goutweed! So that's wha all that photogenic stuff with the white flowers that grows wild all over London is! Thanks :)

    And very impressed with your cleaning efforts - I always thought litter was a 3rd world problem till I came to the 1st world :(

  10. I have made a difficult decision to step away from this turmoil. I have put a lot of thought into it and read more than I should have in the way of everyone's comments on the situation between this blog and the New York times article. Some were humorous and some were just closed minded and quite frankly, not well thought out. I enjoy having a bright outlook on things around me. And what I have to say is that all those condoms in that section say a whole lot for the fact that people are using them. It has taken years to educate people on the importance of using condoms and practicing safe sex. AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases still exist. Perhaps there should have been a public education on littering at the same time that public education began on condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS and loss of lives due due to that monster. I am not making excuses for the litter, it is downright disrespectful. And I'm not going to get into a discussion on why sex in public exists in the first place. But I do understand why the individuals that frequent such an area would feel personally attacked by the attention given to the area via the blog and the article in The New York Times. I knew it was going to be a sensitive issue for everyone involved. And I'm glad I at least said something and gave a bit of perspective from that side of the fence. I know what it is to be on the lower income spectrum, I know what it is to be gay and I know what it is to have been the victim of gay bashing. I know what it is like to live in dangerous areas of the city. I know what it is like to be harassed by the police just for being gay. And I know what is to lose several friends within a small period of time due to HIV/AIDS. And perhaps you need to have walked a mile in another persons moccasins to understand that persons perspective on the world around them. I am not perfect, but I am a human being on my own path in the road of life with many lessons learned. I don't know what the lesson here is just yet. I never expected a miracle to happen. I was just happy to do my part in helping in the cleanup. I never wanted to get politically involved, but I couldn't just stand by and watch a sector of people be demonized in the process. We have way too much of this tactic in the world. People really need to step back and look at situations around them from a whole perspective before they start mouthing off their opinions from their skewed point of view.

    My constructive suggestion here is to educate the public from a grassroots level on litter and how it devalues us as humans and as a community. We've come a long way... we still have a long way to go. I will continue to do my part on picking up litter in The Midwood as I have in the past on my own free private time. And I do hope a sensible, thoughtful and respectable solution is found to the litter there.

    Peace, Light, Understanding and Healing... ~♥~ Darren

  11. Karen - I found these endless white flowers breathtakingly beautiful...

    AutumSR - is everyone on the West Coast really very nice? :-)

    Frank - yup.

    Janet, thank you, only time will tell.

    Beence - I see no evil, here. Just total apathy and lack of awareness.

    Ellen - there is enough goutweed there to, hm. To ...whatever. There's a LOT of goutweed. After stepping through human ordure, though, I don't think you'd want those mushrooms. Even though they seem safe, higher up.

    Anita - how funny. Maybe I have some of your bottles? And thanks!

    Thomas - I know! It was pretty incongruous.

    Jeanne - yours may be goutweed, but Queen Anne's Lace looks very similar, too.

    Hi Darren - thanks for all your help. It was greatly appreciated. Hopefully it is apparent that the people who are actually picking up the litter are doing just that: picking up litter.

    I believe that if the Alliance and the Parks Department wanted to solve this litter problem they would start an outreach program and be far more active in collecting the litter, budget or no budget. They have had years to do this.


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