Writing From Wild Areas – 25 Days Until Halloween

Wild areas teem with life and death.  The urgency and decay are deeply beautiful to me and source of much of my writing.

In the wet areas, life bursts forth throughout the year. Mosquitos emerge from the water desperate for a blood meal and mating.  New shoots grow from the ground at alarming speeds. And all this life pushes up through the plant corpses and rotting muck left from the season before.  The sour swamp smells and sweet tang of green growth hang in the air. The fug is nearly tangible. You can see it rise and spread above the water at night, and sometimes you’d swear it glows.

These areas are the setting for Gothic tales with women in nightgowns fleeing barefoot across the moors.  They are where the killer lurks to watch camp counselors, before emerging to slash them one by one.  The cabin in the woods was built to lure the unsuspecting into a trap.  Why?

In wild areas, a person can’t fully know all the moves around them or hides in the undergrowth.  Life and death surround them, out of their control.

The cooler air and shorter days of Autumn are settling things down.  The wet areas can rest and simmer, slowly breaking down the bodies of this year’s dead.  When you go out to those remote areas, remember that you are walking amongst them.  They’ll cling to you when you leave.

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Halloween In Florida – 29 Days Until Halloween

I saw a surf shop mannequin in a wet suit and witch hat this weekend.  Someone had drawn eyes on paper and taped them in place.  They weren’t particularly witchy eyes, but they transformed her blank visage to a face.  She was a winsome, sporty witch.

It was a short-sleeved, short-legged wetsuit.  Because it’s still bathing suit weather here.  That’s Halloween time in Florida.

I’m a native Floridian, and I’ve missed the heavy, humid summers when I’ve lived other places.  I get antsy this time of year, though.  Sometime in October, we’ll get nights in the 60’s F, and then nights in the 50’s F.  The air will start to dry out, and the sky will become blue again.

My backyard jungle is growing so fast that vines are crawling across the yard and porch.  It feels like you can see them grow as you watch them.  Then, it feels like they may wrap around your ankles if you stop watching them.

IMG_9515We’ll be hanging Halloween decorations from green-leafed trees.  If you go into the woods, though, you’ll see the subtle signs of fall.  The red and yellow leaves look especially bright against the black forest floor.

Horse – A Poem Poised To Run

Horse
by Victoria Nations

Smooth planes of muscle and bone
grown over with layers of
detritus, lichen and grime
caught
in the corners
spreading
until they touch one another
crusting the surface
beneath
which lies
smooth planes of muscle and bone
and skin
shiny with sweat
wetting the living things who
drink
and cover the
smooth planes of muscle and bone
rolling beneath
hard but for
a rolling eye
wild in its socket
caught
tangled in the
detritus, lichen and grime
smothering the
smooth planes of muscle and bone

My Hunger Will Consume All That Is Here And Will Free You – A Poem of Celebration

My Hunger Will Consume All That Is Here And Will Free You
by Victoria Nations

I will climb and tear
and rip it all apart with my teeth,
until the way is cleared before me.
I will lay waste to the kingdom I’ve invaded.
I will eat until I am gorged,
until I am satisfied.
The fabric that binds this world will hang in tatters.
And the sun will reach the ground once more
after I have passed through.

air potato vineAir potato (Dioscorea bulbifera L.) is an invasive vine that was introduced to Florida from Asia over 100 years ago.  It can grow to 20 meters or more, climbing over and smothering native plants.  After years of research, a leaf feeding beetle, Lilioceris cheni, was recently introduced into Florida from China for biological control of air potato.  This is the second year we’ve had this feisty red beetle in our yard and their ability to destroy the leaves and vines of air potato is truly impressive.  Way to go, little guys!

For more information, check out the UF/IFAS Extension fact sheet.

Spring

SPRING
by Victoria Nations

She stood on her hands and spun
so her dress
swirled
in a wide circle.

The sky above her filled with
green skirts and
grey crinolines,
the lace sweeping her legs as
they spread
and bent
to keep steady.

Her hands
gripped the ground for balance.

Her feet
wiggled with joy.

Cypress Vine and Muck

Catbriar lies there, seemingly innocuous, but suddenly wraps itself around your ankles and digs its thorns in as you lift your foot. I grew up calling it cypress vine, for how it  snakes across the forest floor and climbs up the tree trunks.  Bright green tendrils with tiny thorns become woody ropes as it park-2-smilaxgets older.  I smile when I see it, even when it sneaks up and scratches, because it  means I’m moving from the higher ground down towards the swamp.  And such wondrous things live (and die, and grow again) in the  swamp.

MUCK
Victoria Nations

I grew from sandy mud
the muck of families sticking to me
rich with stories
sweet rotten smells of intrigue and violence
thoughtlessly composted and
seeping into the bodies of each new generation

I played elbow deep in that dirt
rolling it into balls to feel its grit
pushing it deep under my nails
and smearing it onto my face as camouflage
blending in with the mud and
hidden amidst the growth, I grew

I learned to eat the wild plants
to fashion them into vine huts and tree houses
the mud wet under my feet
drawing the poisons out
staining my skin dark red and
tanning it like leather

I grow things in that fertile ground
great leafy visions I cut and press onto pages
rearranging them until they tell stories
colors still bright even with the life dried out of them
sometimes the images bleed when I cut them down
careful not to cut myself on the blade I swing

Leaves and cobwebs in my hair…come crawl through the garden with me

One of the things I love is to stumble upon a creepy setting unexpectedly. A cleaned bone poking out through a drift of soggy leaves…a leaning house, its stately facade transformed into drooping eyes and a haggard mouth. And this lovely little cherub I saw while visiting St. Augustine, Florida.

Spooky stuff always gets the story gremlins excited:

The stone cherub’s head had been placed in the garden as an afterthought, a half-hearted attempt to salvage its beauty after something unfortunate had happened to its body. But its time in the ground had changed it.

Its open mouth was full of leaves and rainwater, so it gasped, choking. A piece of its cheek had broken, and the fresh stone was striated and pink, as if flesh had been stripped away instead, exposing bone and teeth. The dirt collected in its eyes highlighted them, made one lid deformed and the eye underneath rolled up. Its chin tilted up, as if it were straining to escape.

What had befallen the cherub to make it earthbound, truly bound to the earth? And what had it done?cherub2-crop