Nature Notes, February 2024

Bearsville Center Nature Notes, February, 2024

The Incredible American Sycamore

(Platanus occidentalis) is one of our dominant trees at the Bearsville Center, lining both sides of the Sawkill and along the now dry old stream-bed. Sycamores are the largest deciduous trees in North America and have always been important to Indigenous people. Its fruit and leaves were eaten and its sap could be boiled for syrup (it is related to Maple). The bark is fibrous and was twisted to make fishing-line and cords. The hard outer bark was used to build wigwams and the soft inner bark to wrap babies. Water-carriers could be carved from its large knots. The boles are excellent for making dugout canoes and are sometimes hollow, making a great temporary refuge from bad weather. The wood is strong and sturdy, easily worked and was used to make spoons and other implements and later as furniture.

Contributing to this beautiful trees great usefulness was the extensive medicines that could be made from its bark and leaves to treat colds and coughs, for dietary, dermatological, gastrointestinal and respiratory purposes. Also called the Buttonwood, the Sycamore is found all along our rivers and streams, as its seeds are readily carried downstream, and its original light colored camouflage-like pattern stands out in the winter. In the summer it seems that this tree disappears from our sight. Thank you, Sycamore, for some light color in a sometimes dark time.

It's The Journey, Not The Destination

I love my journey with you all, us spiraling around the Sun, Homeward-bound on our beautiful, blue orb. I’m not sure exactly what our destination is but I believe the journey itself - and how we conduct ourselves on that journey - is what is important. And winter is the time that is the greatest challenge to all of us, the time when our conduct in how we treat each other - and ourselves - is the most important.

It is a challenging time for us all, some more than others. The challenge for the strong is to help those that are weak and the challenge for the weak is to let those that are stronger at the moment help them. Next time someone is angry or upset seemingly over nothing, or the other driver is rude or inattentive, they might be depressed from family problems (common in this season) or from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) - also not uncommon right now. We all need to be a little extra patient with each other.

Just because someone else goes off on us, doesn’t mean we have to respond in kind. Again, I believe it’s not the destination that’s important but how we get there - the Journey.

The Start of a New Year, The Edge of a New Time, The Light Returns

It's true. Not only is the last year past, after another spin around the sun, but also a new solar year has begun as the days get noticeably lighter. Alright, I admit that I'm probably making it a little better than it is, but that's how I see things. Someone once asked me if I looked at "the glass" as "half-full" or "half-empty". I said, "what glass?". No, really. I'm an eternal optimist. I see the glass (if any) as full, believing that life is brimming around us, even in winter, lying dormant, just waiting for a chance to grow.

Yes, it's another Catskills Winter Roller-Coaster here at the Bearsville Center, offering us a starkly-beautiful landscape, sculpted sometimes in gleaming ice and curving snow. So let's all enjoy it as best as we can, getting into the woods and onto the trails and observe our yearly frigid desert and its landscape of alternating drabness then sparkling whiteness and light.

Thank you all, “Ranger” Dave Holden.