Suquamish is a village on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula. It is the home of the Suquamish people, Native Americans who are a part of the regional Salish nation. Water, salmon and boating are central to their way of life. This tribe also runs the Clearwater Casino Resort.
It’s the time of year for Pow Wows, and recently, the Suquamish hosted their Chief Seattle Days at the Port Madison Indian Reservation, on Agate Passage, the ancestral home on Puget Sound.
The dances kicked off with the grand entry, then introductions of veterans and seniors.
A highlight was dances by visitors from Vancouver Island and Mexico.
I felt honored to witness all these ancient movements. I am happy that these cultures are being preserved and carried forward through the centuries.
The Pacific Northwest is blessed with rich indigenous cultures that have refused to die out and are continuing with renewed spirit and energy. It’s wonderful that they so generously share their traditions with the rest of us.
I was able to visit the grave of Chief Seattle, or Sealth in the native language, which is just up the road from the House of Awakened Culture, the site of the Pow Wow. The city was named for him.
The monument is accompanied by two painted wood panels depicting facets of the chief’s life. He lived from 1786-1866. The site has a circular concrete border, on which is engraved words in the Lushootseed language and also English. Many tributes are left at the base.
Against the grayest of gray days and the most muted tones of fallen logs and decaying leaves, moss paints the landscape with exuberant signs of life.
All green was vanished save of pine and yew, That still displayed their melancholy hue; Save the green holly with its berries red, And the green moss that o’er the gravel spread.
I like moss. Moss in my yard, moss on trees, moss on concrete, moss on brick. It drapes the concrete under my fencing. I invite it to spread across my yard, replacing the useless grass at every inch. I’ve gotten rid of most of my front lawn, instead having vegetable plots, a pollinator garden and drought-tolerant shrubs and natives. My yard is a wildlife sanctuary.
There is some moss on the ground, but I’d like more. It would save me from mowing or using mulch around my plantings.
Often overlooked or undervalued by the casual observer, mosses do serve important functions in nature. Classified as bryophytes, mosses help stabilize the soil, reduce evaporation of water and even provide food for some herbivores.
They take nutrients from the atmosphere and therefore can be indicators of air pollution.
One gram of moss from the forest floor, a piece about the size of a muffin, would harbour 150,000 protozoa, 132,000 tardigrades, 3,000 springtails, 800 rotifers, 500 nematodes, 400 mites, and 200 fly larvae. These numbers tell us something about the astounding quantity of life in a handful of moss.
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, author, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
But most of all, moss is nature’s way of reminding us that nature wins in the end. It conquers manmade surfaces. I like the way it decorates steps and benches and bridge supports. It makes them look like remnants of ancient civilizations and transforms my walks into brief visits to the past.
It is said that faeries sleep on beds of moss. I’ve never seen one, but I keep looking.
Hardware store shelves bulge with “Moss be Gone” and “Moss Out.” I say, keep your money and let the moss run wild!
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When I went for a long walk recently, I didn’t expect to discover hidden treasures. I walked down to the High Point pond, just a few blocks from my house. My usual route takes me around the pond, where I check out who’s there.
This day there were mallards, American wigeon, a cormorant, and gulls.
But I wanted to extend my walk and explore some new areas. High Point is a huge redeveloped area, with a variety of homes and landscapes. It’s a planned community, with mixed housing for single families, low-income families, and seniors.
There are rain gardens, permeable sidewalks, community gardens and green spaces. The planners did a good job of saving many monstrous mature trees, and a few are labeled. Today I noted a Lawson cypress, which I first thought was a Western cedar, along with a grand specimen of big-leaf maple, called “Papa.”
Along the way, I found these delightful pillars celebrating the Longfellow Creek watershed.
I love that nature is appreciated here. There are many immigrant families and children living in this community. I think it’s important to instill knowledge and appreciation of our local natural history. Nearby is also a bee garden, complete with a small building enclosing the hive and a flower and vegetable garden to nourish them.
As I turned down a street that I’d never walked or driven before, I discovered an intriguing sight: something out of a Greek ruin, or perhaps a group of standing stones from the British Isles.
And, even more fabulous, the concrete walk between the structure and the hillside is incised with a large winged creature reminiscent of the mysterious Nazca “geoglyphs” of Peru!
These things inspire ideas for my own yard!
But I just visited another gem of a city park, much larger than Camp Long and having an unmatched range of habitats, elevations and vegetation. I’m talking about Discovery Park, located across Elliott Bay from West Seattle. Within the park’s more than 500 acres, there are trails through open meadows, trails through woods, ponds, beach access, views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and a lighthouse. It’s good bird habitat.
I went specifically to see if I could find a snow bunting that had been seen there for several days. I did not find it, but in the course of hiking all over the park, on trails I had never before taken, I encountered numerous startling large trees. Not only did they have multiple trunks, but they had more than I could count!
In Camp Long, I kind of made a game of counting the number of trunks on big leaf maples. I had decided that the average number was between six and eight. But in Discovery Park, the trees were more complicated.
In many instances, they had so many thin trunks reaching out that it was impossible to count them all. Why were they so different from trees growing in Camp Long? For one thing, trees in Discovery seem to have much more room to spread out and grow. They’re not as crowded. Maybe they spend more time growing out rather than up.
Even what starts out as the most mundane neighborhood walk can turn into something more interesting. I am always checking out the trees, shrubs and flowers that I pass, and always watching for birds. Lately I’ve been taking a new route just a few blocks from my house, down the big hill to a redeveloped community known as High Point. Incidentally, it is located near the official highest point in Seattle.
On the way, I pass such flowers as hollyhocks, sunflowers and lupines that ring the vegetable garden. Lining the street are notable trees that are dropping large seed pods.
I recognized the somewhat floppy-looking leaf as being in the filbert family. I have never seen the seeds before, which I assume become nuts like the familiar little round filberts that I recall from mixed nut tins we sometimes had in the house in my childhood. Those nuts that seemed like cheap fillers; they were not my first choice.
Invasion of the Tribbles?
I think perhaps these trees are not the same as the commercially raised American hazelnut trees, but very similar. The large rather frilly bright green seed pods contain several chambers for nuts, and when you touch them they leave a sticky substance on your fingers! Several seed pods were strewn on the sidewalk, looking like the tribbles from Star Trek. Most were empty of their nuts. I assume the squirrels are enjoying them.
The number of mallards varies from day to day. I think some are this year’s young. The ducks are unknowingly artistic, making lovely patterns on the water as they paddle around. I observed them creating perfect horizontal lines, circles and Vs.
A couple times I’ve a seen a kingfisher, which is pretty cool. I’ve even heard a kingfisher rattling by from my bedroom window a couple times. Now I know I wasn’t imagining things, and I now know where it was going or coming from.
I have discovered fish in the pond! No wonder the kingfisher was fishing around there. They appear to be goldfish. There are little orange ones and a blackish one. I wondered if they had been officially stocked in the pond, or whether some neighbor had dumped them there. I decided it didn’t really matter. They probably weren’t hurting any particular ecology.
In fact, the pond seems to be getting choked by whatever the green plant is that grows in ponds and chokes them. The same thing is happening in the pond at the park next door, and door, and I wonder if the right thing to do is dredge some of it out.
One day I was surprised by two white-crowned sparrows in some shrubs by the pond. They’re around Seattle, but uncommon. I almost never see them in my yard.
There is a nice variety of habitat circling the pond. There are trees, shrubs for covers, grassy areas, and a rushing brook and waterfall that empties into the pond. Queen Anne’s lace, clovers and thistles grow in small clumps.
I’ve watched dragonflies patrol the air over the pond and I’ve seen goldfinches gliding overhead.
When the sun shines, a walk around the pond is warming and happy. When there are clouds, there are magical reflections across the surface of the pond.