Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "As Taught in Woods and Meadows"

This poem is spillover from the April 2, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] pantha, [personal profile] mama_kestrel, [personal profile] librarygeek, and [personal profile] readera. It also fills the "creek-hiking" square in my 4-1-19 card for the School Days Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] technoshaman. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"As Taught in Woods and Meadows"


Victor and Igor strolled around
the castle gardens with the children
scampering all around them.

Bertolf, Simza, and Alida
tumbled all over each other.
Toma trailed behind, generally
less willing to touch or be touched.

They all took care not to bump into
Adam, who moved more stiffly
than the rest of them did.

As they rambled, Igor
pointed out the herbs in
the raised beds and pots
and espaliered trees
along the walls.

"Why do the trees
grow that way?"
Simza asked.

"We prune them
like that," Igor said.
"There isn't room for
a whole orchard inside
the castle, and hugging
the wall helps the trees
stay warm in winter."

Her little fingers
explored the trunk.

"Look closer, and you
can see where wrong twigs
have been pruned away,"
Igor said, pointing to them.

Bertolf and Alida crowded
close, running their hands
over the branches too.

Toma hung back as usual,
but he listened with care.

"What's this?" Adam said,
touching one of the herbs.

"What do you think it is?"
Victor said with a smile.
"Use your wits, Adam,
and figure it out."

Adam rubbed a leaf,
then sniffed his fingers.

"It smells like mint, but
musty, not sharp and clean,"
Adam said. "It doesn't
look like mint, though."

"Doesn't it?" Victor said.
"What are some other things
you know about mint, and
about other herbs?"

"The leaves criss-cross
like mint, but lots of plants
do that," Adam said.

"Square," Alida said.
"Mint has square stems,
and not many plants do."

"That's right," Victor said.
"So check the stems."

Alida bent the plant
toward herself, rolling
the stem in her fingers.
"Yes, they're square."

"So it has alternate leaves
and square stems, which
means it's probably a type
of mint," Victor said.

"It's new," Toma said.
"I haven't seen it here
before, or I'd know it."

Igor chuckled. "Yes,
I've just gotten this one,"
he said. "It's Golden Melissa,
also called Indian nettle, and
it is indeed a kind of mint.
You can make tea with it,
and bees love the flowers."

"What kind of flowers?"
Simza asked him.

"I don't know yet,"
Igor said. "They can
be different colors --
most often pink or red."

"We should come back
when this blooms and
study it again," Alida said.

"Of course," Igor said.

The children moved on,
drifting toward the end
of the castle gardens.

Fridrik appeared at
the edge of the forest.

The werewolf cubs ran
to him, the human children
following close behind.

Fridrik laughed and
then ruffled their hair.
"Are you ready for
your next lesson?"

"Yes, we're ready!"
Alida said, grinning.

"Then let's go,"
Fridrik said as he
led them into the trees.

The forest was shady,
whispering leaves above
and moist earth underfoot.

They made their way downhill
toward the nearest stream,
which fed into the river.

"Watch where you put
your feet," Fridrik said
when the ground turned
muddy. "Don't step on
any tracks or other signs."

"Deer!" Alida said, pointing.
Her whole body quivered
with excitement now.

"Yes, those are deer tracks,"
Fridrik said. "What can you
tell me about that deer?"

"It's big!" Alida said,
throwing her arms wide.

"It's calm," Toma said.
"The toes aren't spread."

He rarely spoke, but he
could, and he did if he had
something important to say.

"Well done," Fridrik praised.
"So we have a big deer who
doesn't feel threatened --
that's easy hunting."

Victor smiled. They had
a management plan for
the whole valley that was
greatly improving the size
and quality of game.

"Little feet," Bertolf said,
miming footsteps by hand.

"Weasel?" Adam guessed.

Fridrik looked closer.
"No, not weasel," he said.
"These are stoat tracks --
larger and more webbed."

Adam leaned over so far
that he almost fell into the mud,
and Victor had to pull him back.

"Be careful," Victor said gently.
"Mind your center of gravity
when you lean over things."

They went farther down,
and Fridrik let the children
hike through the stream,
flipping rocks and chasing
whatever they found.

Now and then, they
actually caught something
and brought it to Igor.

He hummed happily,
stowing specimens
in little glass vials.

"Ew, dead fish,"
Adam said, and
wrinkled his nose.

The werewolf cubs
promptly shifted shape
to roll in the smelly remains
of several dead fish on the bank.

Even Fridrik looked tempted,
although he did not indulge.

"Can anyone tell what kind
of fish they were?" he said.

"Sea trout," Toma said.
"Look at the jaw, the fins."

"I think so too," Fridrik said.
"Now, can you figure out
what happened to them?"

None of the children had
any ideas, and there were
not any obvious tracks in
this stretch of gravel.

"Probably a bear,"
Igor said. "They like
fish, and they're also
the mostly likely to catch
several but eat only parts."

"They still smell," Adam said.

Simza returned to human form.
"I think they're pretty," she said.

Victor couldn't help shuddering
at the cub's innocent remark.

"Let children walk with Nature,
let them see the beautiful blendings
and communions of death and life,
their joyous inseparable unity,
as taught in woods and meadows,
plains and mountains and streams
of our blessed star," said Igor. "Then
they will learn that death is stingless
indeed, and as beautiful as life.”

"Yes," said Fridrik. "Cubs need
to run wild in order to learn."

Even Victor couldn't argue with that.

* * *

Notes:

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”
John Muir

Identifying herbs involves looking at the leaves, stems, and other features. A field kit can help. The mint family includes wild bergamot and golden Melissa.

Espalier trees grow flat, often against a wall or fence. They can be fruit trees or ornamentals. Learn how to make espaliers.

Read about the mammals of Romania. See how to identify deer tracks, weasel tracks, and stoat tracks.

Romanian fish include sea trout. This entry includes a picture.

Children need nature for its many positive effects. Without it, nature deficit disorder can cause serious problems. Help children connect with nature in warm and cold weather.

Outdoor education counteracts some problems of modern life and has many benefits. When planning an outdoor classroom, consider what stations and seating you might want. Here is a handbook on how to do it. Of course, you can also just wander around outside and do walking lessons as shown here, but a prepared classroom offers different opportunities.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, family skills, fishbowl, nature, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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