Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bob Stewart’s Never-Ending Nursery

With scientific curiosity and the playfulness of youth, Bob and Brigitta Stewart have made their Michigan nursery an exploratorium.


Adjacent to the greenhouses of Arrowhead Alpines, Fowlerville, MI, a long border of herbaceous perennials

Photo: Arrowhead Alpines

By Allen Bush

I’ve been to Hell and back.  The visit didn’t fit my notion of what small town Hell, Michigan, might look like. The biker bar was uncommonly tame and the Pleistocene prairie was heavenly.

Nurseryman Bob Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines lives nearby in a different hell. He has cancer and is fighting back with a chemo pump, a pile of meds and the support of Brigitta, his wife and fun-loving sidekick-in-plants. The cancer is a particularly nasty Stage 4 colon cancer, “…pretty much 100% death rate,” Stewart admitted. “Having cancer is strange. I’ll never recommend it as lifestyle,” he told me. “I try to deal with things as they come.  And I have mostly had great support from friends and customers, although some treat you like a leper or expect me to suddenly get religion – born again pagan with a dash of Buddhism…Chemo kicks the crap out of you, but you can’t let it run your life…Attitude matters but needs to be tempered with realism. “

Bob Stewart has an attitude.  “Don’t believe what people tell you,” he says, which means—Look and listen.  This is not a tall order for Stewart. Profoundly shaped by a lifetime outdoors, he looks, listens and questions common assumptions. It understates Bob’s genius to call him simply “a nurseryman.” He’s a thinker who can see Mother Earth beyond greenhouse and garden.

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Posted by Julie on 10/26 at 02:04 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapeSciencePermalink

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Durga’s Finale

After working a huge city up to an excited high, how does festivity end? Sandy Ao records the last hours of this year’s Durga puja in Kolkata.


Images of the Hindu goddess Durga, their mouths filled with sweets, are prepared for ritual immersion in Kolkata.

Photo: Sandy Ao

Oh, the water!

The Durga puja, Bengal’s most intense festival of the year (and in India’s that’s an achievement), has just ended. Sandy Ao took to the streets of Kolkata and has once again sent a dazzling photo-docucumentary, this year focusing on the dramatic, aquatic conclusion.

Durga is Hinduism great feminine deity. Maternal, though not in the lullabye-murmuring way, she’s more like Grendel’s Mother, a warrior. She was unleashed by the combined anxieties of Hinduism’s other great gods when a monster on the cosmic loose proved too powerful for them.

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Posted by Julie on 10/23 at 04:34 PM
Culture & SocietyReligious RitualsPermalink

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Dyeing Life in Tokyo

Not exactly your nubby center of handicrafts, Tokyo has everything—even dye-your-own textile shops for experimenting with a time-honored and luscious shade of blue.


Hureai, a do-it-yourself indigo dye shop in Tokyo.

Photo: Bill Bishop

Sunday morning in Tokyo, and on the way to Rikugien Gardens, “known as the Waka poetry Garden,” we came upon blue, bustling, and a strong smell, which we must unpoetically compare to cat pee.

It turned out to be a tiny indigo dye shop on in the Bukyo precinct. Scarves, hats and blouses were being toted out to the sidewalk for display. The lure worked and we ducked inside. There were three young children and a woman all too intent on their tasks to pay us much mind. The woman was bunching and knotting up a swatch of cotton fabric, seemingly experimenting with shibori – Japanese tie-dye (which by the way has been re-discovered this fall by several high fashion designers).

The youngsters were up to their elbows in two big sinks, stirring their own textile experiments in indigo. Liquid in the vats looked thick, brackish-blue. Two boys glanced up from their activity but then quickly returned to the work/play at hand.

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Posted by Julie on 10/20 at 10:31 PM
Art & MediaSecular CustomsPermalink

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Dannebrog Maple

In a town on the Nebraska plains, one tree’s radiance has been THE autumn occasion for generations.


The Tree’s glistening Fall color palette has long fascinated the citizens of Dannebrog, Nebraska

Photo: EarthScholars Research Group

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

We were inspired and moved by a two paragraphs from humorist, folklorist, and journalist Roger L. Welsch, of Dannebrog, Nebraska.  A retired senior correspondent from CBS News Sunday Morning, Welsch is well-known throughout the state for his popular segment-series of the past called “Postcards from Nebraska.” Here are the arresting passages from his essay “Beating a Live Horse.”

In Dannebrog, Nebraska, a town close to my farm, there is a maple tree just down the street east of the bank and the hardware store. Each fall that tree explodes into the most exquisitely formed, flamboyantly iridescent blast of color that has ever been seen around Nebraska. Admittedly, there may be ten thousand trees on Lake Otsego or in Brown County, Indiana, each of which is more beautiful than the Dannebrog tree, but in Nebraska where there are so few trees and where there are so few varieties of trees, this tree is awesome in its splendor. I cannot adequately describe the beauty of that tree…

The four hundred citizens of Dannebrog watch that tree and anticipate and hope. They worry about the early frosts and high winds; they resonate with the easy chill of a fall night. They watch the slow, uneven change and use body English to push the color into its most splendid intensity. Scarcely a conversation passes in Dannebrog without some mention of The Tree. The Dannebrognagians roll the vision around in their heads like a cabernet should be rolled about in the mouth. They compare its color and brilliance with those of previous years. They speculate on the reasons for such variation…. New photos are taken. Then the whole town permits a reluctant submission to the inevitability of the Tree losing its color and its leaves as fall becomes winter…. For a while the discussion in the streets has not been of cents per bushel or hundredths of an inch of rainfall but of aesthetics… and, I would say, of community history, social solidarity, local pride,

spirit, as well.

We were captivated that single tree could mean so much and become so beloved by the citizenry of a village on the prairie in rural America. Since Welsch wrote his essay some 30 years ago, we wondered if the tree were still alive. We were also eager to find out what species of tree it was and what colors its fall foliage exhibited that made it so remarkable.  Most importantly, we wanted to know if it continues to arouse a sense of wonder in the townsfolk of Dannebrog, if it had indeed entered the 21st century.. And so we traveled to Nebraska this autumn. Was The Tree still there?

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Posted by Julie on 10/17 at 08:30 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsPermalink
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