Before I begin, I received an inquiry from Jim Monaco, a book publisher who lives in the south Sag Harbor hills, about deer and the underbrush. He has no ladyslippers, lilies, or other pretty flowers in the groundcover of his nearby woods, only huckleberries and blueberries. True, deer eat orchids, lilies, and other pretty flowers, as do rabbits, squirrels, and other wild beasties in our area.
The water is rising. Well, not all over, but in many places locally. Chatfield’s Hole in East Hampton’s Northwest is well and good, having almost dried up last summer, as are all of the other ponds in that area — Staudinger’s, Crooked, Two Holes of Water, Scoy, Little Scoy. and Wood Duck Ponds. The quiet little pond that wants a name, just north of Swamp Road where it meets Two Holes of Water Road is so full that it now runneth over into Northwest Creek.
It’s a jungle out there and I don’t mean New York City at night, I mean out there out here. Whether you walk in the woods or through an old field, try to catch a clam or two with your toes, or sit outside at night under the starry sky, at this time of year there is always something lurking, ready to unsettle you.
As you ride along some of our scenic routes where you used to be able to get a good look at the water, be it a pond water, the ocean, a bay, or a creek water, you will often find the view obscured by one of the world’s tallest grasses, the common reed, or phragmites. Linnaeus himself in the mid-1700s first described the reed and gave it its first scientific name, the binomen Arundo phragmites, one of thousands he created. Phragmites stems from the Greek for “growing in hedges,” and describes its tendency to form vegetative walls that block the view.
The native deer population has been blamed for a lot of things, hosting ticks, causing highway accidents and vehicle damage, eating favorite ornamentals, even defecating on manicured lawns. For several years now deer have also been blamed for removing the underbrush or subshrub groundcover across the South Fork.
It’s a mixed up world, that’s for sure. There are some who have the point of view that world ethnic groups, world languages, world religions, and world nations shouldn’t be mixed up and homogenized in the same melting pot. Others say it’s inevitable, why fight it? The human being is one of the few species that is racing toward one cosmopolitan worldwide identity.
What happened to all the turtles? Of all the years since 1974 that I’ve been riding the roads and watching out for them, this is the year I’ve seen the fewest.
The two species that regularly cross roads in late May and June, the eastern box turtle and snapping turtle have been few and far between. I have yet to count a single turtle roadkill in 2013.
The Sunday Newsday crossword puzzle requested a five-letter word for “swamp plant.” I’ve been doing all of the Newsday and New York Times crosswords, seven days a week, since the early 1980s. In other words, I’ve done thousands of crosswords and saved them all.
“There’s a tree in the meadow with a stream drifting by.” Some of you may remember that song from the 1940s. It’s old, but the message is still good. The tree stands for constancy, the stream for the passage of time. It’s important to many of us to see that same tree over and over. We may even take it for granted, but when it’s cut down or blown down, we grieve its passing.