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A brush pile of opportunity

| 06 Feb 2023 | 11:45

Fallen branches, sticks, trimmings offer unique opportunities to the backyard naturalist. They can help deepen our experience with the natural world. We learn early (and often too well) to sort life into the useful, practical, valuable... or not. It’s sometimes described as the human tendency to exploit or use nature, rather than just explore. These late spring months offer chances to tweak our blind loyalty to the tidy, and casually explore new possibilities for ordinary “brush.”

Why not build some kind of structure from this year’s yard clippings? If you only have a few, make something small, modest. If it’s been a bumper year, consider something more monumental. Either way, it’ll be temporary. Rain, bugs, clumsy deer and the other energies of life will reclaim all this soon enough. This all can be as simple or intricate as you like: just a few twigs laid up at the base of a tree or on a stump, or a more architectural approach with poles, supports, coverings. Then you wait. In time it gets visited and it changes.

Once you dabble with land markings, you begin to see them all around as reminders of the Other World. Some are roadside memorials to accidents and lost lives. The county is dotted with them. More deliberate are places like Jamie Manza’s pleasing structures on Route 94 just outside the Warwick Cemetery.

The picture here is in a park, Plänterwald, in Berlin, Germany, where people can find and add branches to the structures. Our area nature playgrounds offer a similar opportunity. Try Grasshopper Grove at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall, or 3 Pines at the Community Center in Warwick, where this time of year there are also living huts of forsythia to explore. Consider volunteering at these places to practice nurture and keep yourself in closer touch with the unexpected, sacred play of nature. Just the names of such things – swamp huts, tree shrines, nature altars, teepees, lean-tos, fairy and gnome houses – invite us back to that foggy prehistory we share with all other living creatures. So visit, make some or just look at pictures to help you find your best way into this Other World.