This week on the blog we are pleased to feature an essay by MFA student Mary Warren Bartlett. A student in Rita Ciresi's Mentorship Lab I course, Mary Warren wrote this beautiful piece as a response to an assignment to reflect on an ecosystem around her.
The trees look to the sky for sun and rain, and hold the rocks snugly in place with their roots. The rocks form a circle to cradle the lake. A few rocks pop up in the middle of the water, form an island, grow a tree, and invite the ribbonsnake and a Little Blue Heron to stay. The heron snaps dragonflies out of the air, pilfers the snake’s eggs from its nest, and plucks fish out of the lake. The lake holds fish: sunfish, perch, pickerel, small mouthed bass, and at the bottom, in the cool mud, the bullheads. Gliding by the bullheads are the snapping turtles, some as big as trash can lids, and the smaller painted turtles. Snappers will eat the heads and guts of fish we toss in the lake after cleaning, before we bread and fry the silvery fillets.
If we leave our dinner plates in the lake to soak – too lazy to wash them before bed - bullheads will eat our scraps in a sort of animated rinse cycle. The fish look in the mud for worms, on the stems of lilies for algae, and swim toward the surface to nab mosquitoes.
Spiders, making webs on the branches of trees, or across the seat of our canoe, catch flies. Dragonflies, my favorite, eat anything they can, and quickly, out-maneuvering others on the fly. Snakes eat mice, earthworms, and frogs. Mosquitoes bite us.
Catbirds, complaining from the bushes, gobble flies out of the air and worms from the soil. They, the bears and we all eat the blueberries. White-tailed deer, standing at the water’s edge, dine on leaves, berries, acorns and in leaner times, evergreen boughs.
My father hangs an upside down bottle of sugar water on the back deck, between his begonias, for the hummingbirds. Ants try to get in on this treat, but a ring of Vaseline is their end. The ants not on the hummingbird feeder are inside the cabin walls, eating the beams from the inside out.
The bobcat, mysteriously slinking through the night, eats mice, fish, insects and even my grandmother’s favorite, the Canada goose, to whom she feeds cracked corn. The goose poops on her lawn in gratitude. A brown bear, seldom seen, lumbers over a mountain peak pulling whole branches of blueberries into its mouth and spitting out twigs. He will also eat almost anything else I’ve named.
We sit in our cabin off the grid, by gas and candle-light, with our castile soap, sure that the animals appreciate the lack of lather and motor oil in the lake. The truth is that they don’t know any other lake, oil or soap, because as a community we have agreed, incorporated and mandated loving care of our lake, land, flora, and fauna.
Only we know there is another way, as we pack up, climb into cars and trucks, slam doors, turn keys, and roll down off the mountain to join other societies each October. And count the days until May.