34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States
6/25/17 – 7/4/17
The Fourche Creek Watershed
I’ve lived my life in the midst of a natural wonder and never knew it ’til now.
Here is a bird’s-eye view of my new discovery, The Fourche Creek Watershed. (Fourche is pronounced fush, rhyming with bush.) Thanks to Audubon Arkansas for this map and the factual information about it. The annotations are mine. Click on it to enlarge it.
This map shows Fourche Creek and its tributaries, starting in Saline County, flowing east through Little Rock, and emptying into the Arkansas River.
This watershed covers 108,800 acres! About 73% of the surface area of Little Rock drains into it! During a typical storm it can store up to one billion gallons of water!
The city of Little Rock cites the economic value and savings from natural purification in the Fourche bottomlands to be in the millions of dollars. Wikipedia
The creek, watershed, and wetland areas provide water purification, efficient storage of floodwaters, urban noise reduction, air and water pollution control, and wildlife habitat within the city.
Fourche Creek itself is home to over 50 species of fish (one fourth of all Arkansas fish species). Also living there are three hundred year old bald cypress trees, other riparian trees, and a diverse population of permanent and migratory birds.
The tributaries include six third-order streams and nine primary tributaries. If you don’t already know about stream classifications and are interested you can look here. I’ve been personally acquainted with some of these tributaries off and on all my life, and was surprised to learn about them: that they are tributaries, and how far they travel, and that they have been officially observed and classified.
I’ve heard the name Fourche Creek since I can remember, but it was a vague reference to a creek somewhere around here that nobody I knew was concerned with. If ever as a child I saw a sign designating Fourche Creek, I don’t know it. The term watershed I first heard at age maybe twenty, thirty. My elders had no call to use that word when I was a child, and the subject wasn’t in the curriculum in my early schooldays, nor did it appear in my higher education.
It was Audubon Arkansas that led me to the meaning–and the wonderment–of this watershed (and thus all watersheds). And here in my old age I became curious about exactly where within my native land Fourche Creek is, and what it is.
Within Little Rock’s city limits you can take a wildlife hike or float down Fourche Creek anytime you feel like getting away for half a day. How ’bout that for an Enchanted afternoon?
Unfortunately, not all of Fourche Creek is this pristine-looking. Thoughtless and/or ignorant citizens of Enchanted Habitat have dumped and littered Fourche Creek without mercy throughout the history of the city. Audubon Arkansas publicizes this pollution, and has lead a volunteer cleanup campaign for the last ten years. The volunteers have removed tons of dumped tires, bottles, and general trash, and will keep going. Unsung heroes.
If you want to know about the different kinds of volunteer opportunities sponsored by Audubon Arkansas, you can start here.
Also Audubon Arkansas wants us all to know that anything that flows down a storm drain goes untreated into the nearest waterway. Their efforts toward discouraging dumping in storm drains includes a drain sticker program and an artists’ competitive drain-painting campaign to attract attention to the problem: Drain Smart.
I came back from my fact-finding forays about the Fourche Creek Watershed with a sense of thankfulness and a beginner’s appreciation for this great resource hidden in plain sight.
I hope our national elected officers will reverse the present trend of devaluing the environment and will instead increase funding to help our local people rescue and preserve it. What example of worth could be plainer than the Fourche Creek Watershed?
Chapter Two begins with my friend’s realization that new babies are in that flowered nest, and that she herself must give up her own lovely mini-vacations on the porch, on the chaise, in the shade, drinking tea. I interviewed her about this experience.
She said, “The parents fuss and scold, but I could tolerate that. It’s that they stop feeding the babies while I’m there. I can’t enjoy my time out there because I keep knowing the babies are hungry. They peep regularly.”
She went on to say, though, that she finds giving up her comforts to be a fair trade-off. I asked what she is getting in return for her temporary loss. She said, “Every time I go in and out my back door I get a little gift. The babies (there are either two or three) don’t know to shut up when I’m out there. I hear their little voices get stronger and louder every day. I can go on down to the yard and sit (in the hot sun) and watch the crafty parents feed the babies.
“They approach one at a time. They rarely fly directly to the nest. They light under the porch. Then hop to the railing on the steps. Then the top rail. They take a good look around and then hop up to the nest in the hanging pot. The pot swings, the luckiest baby gets a bug, things are quiet for a few seconds, then the parent perches at the edge of the pot and takes another look around before hopping off and swooping away. During this process, the second parent has usually taken up a waiting position, then takes its turn when the other is finished.
“Why is this so magical? It’s a process that is going on everywhere and is not unusual. But these little birds—I’m getting to know them so well. They are so keen and clever.
“We are living in the same space. I know I probably irritate them, but they get a tradeoff, too. Their comparative tolerance of humans and our ways means that they can get some protection in the little bubble around my house where other wild things are reluctant to come.”
Applause to Patricia Ryan Madson, my friend from the Etegami Fun Club, for this beautiful melon card and message. Posted with her permission.
34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States
5/27/17 – 6/3/17
Come Saturday Morning
It is the second Saturday after the schools let out for summer. The streets in my neighborhood are extra friendly to pedestrians and riders of non-motorized wheeled things. Pre-teen boys especially appreciate the locale, and I’m hoping some will ride by and grace the view out there. Last year a small group met up at the intersection near my house most of the Saturday mornings of the season. Boys of any age don’t much hold still, but I did manage to get this sketch of them.
Later I took a photo and did this painting of two of them who lasted as a pair longer than the others. They put me in mind of a song of 1970.
Come Saturday morning I’m goin’ away with my friend We’ll Saturday-spend til the end of the day Just I and my friend We’ll travel for miles in our Saturday smiles And then we’ll move on But we will remember long after Saturday’s gone
(Music by Fred Karlin, lyrics by Dory Previn)
Two Rivers Park
We of the county and the city where I live were blessed in recent years to have had governmental officials who cared about nature and beauty and about our citizens’ ability to access those. These good leaders took actions to turn visions into reality. One result is our county’s remarkable Two Rivers Park.
I live in midtown and I can get to the park in 15 minutes, thanks in part to a new pedestrian bridge at its eastern tip. You can see the bridge in the lower right hand corner of the photo if you enlarge this photo.
This huge (1,000 acres) park is a peninsula bordered by the Arkansas River on its north side and the Little Maumelle River on its south. The two rivers converge at the tip of the park; thus its name.
There are 450 acres of mostly wooded wetlands and 550 acres of open fields.
This incredible getaway place offers both paved and dirt trails for walking, cycling, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Also there are canoe launching, fishing and picnic areas.
If you want to have a big vegetable garden you can rent a tract there, and be in company with other community gardeners.
Deer live there year-around, protected. The haiga/haiku below was inspired by one of several encounters with the deer.
The deer will watch you calmly unless you come too close; then they magically melt away and become invisible in the high growth of the fields.
Hundreds of Eastern bluebirds are there sometimes. Can you imagine looking across a field and realizing you are seeing hundreds of bluebirds? And other wildlife of course. It is a paradise for birdwatchers, photographers, artists, and nature enthusiasts.
There is also an area that showcases native trees by transforming some of the fields into a walkable Garden of Trees.
The park is a connected part of the Arkansas River Trail, which is a fantastic story unto itself, a topic in a later blog post.
Speaking of Bluebirds
One thing does lead to another. Serendipitously my friend dosankodebbie in Japan posted this photo of her latest etegami today. If you don’t already know about etegami, it is Japanese postcard art done according to certain guidelines. One of my favorite kinds of art to do, and to look at. There is a great Facebook Group, Etegami Fun Club, administered by Debbie. If you are interested in learning (free!) how to do etegami, go to dosankodebbie’s online summary.
In the Green Cathedral
The butter lilies in the back yard have been coming and going for a week.
Once again, great gratitude to the previous owner of this house. The lilies line the back fence. I’ve lived here about 20 years and they’ve never failed to rise up out of the ground and add their glory to creation.
34.7º N 92.2 W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States
3/20/17 – 4/9/17
Spring Equinox, and Storm Fronts
It’s spring, and I intended to begin this blog last night with images of new-blooming flowers that are everywhere and determined to be admired. But one of our dangerous spring storm fronts was approaching then, snaking a mean red line across the TV. A characteristic line, but I will never get used to it. Not only our flowers demand attention in spring.
The bad news was, the storm front was coming fast. The good news is, it was then gone fast. Until next time. But if you live in a magical place is it not fitting there would be occasional terrors?
Now the weather has left us intact and and we have a new day.
Here is the backyard dogwood tree this morning. Cornus florida.
It budded and bloomed in the blink of an eye—or less than a week, however you count time. It’s probably 70 years old and it has character. Every three or four years a limb falls off for no reason I know. Dogwoods have to compete with the big trees for space and nutrition. The ones that have to be the scrappiest are the ones I like best.
World-over, many species of dogwood are native to temperate climates, and we are especially blessed with them here in the southeastern United States. I like remembering they are sustenance for other creatures. The larvae of butterflies and moths feed on dogwoods, although I’ve never caught them at it. (Some feed only on dogwoods.) Birds eat the red fruits. The bark contains tannin, and back in the generations folk made a tea from it for pain and fever, and used the leaves as poultices. Some of the old one-of-a-kind musical instrument makers used dogwood. They are lyrical trees, sometimes so poignant they are near heartbreaking. Here is a haiga-illustrated poem about those.
The Oak Trees—Quercus
Propagation is busting out all over. Last night’s rain scrubbed the coating of oak pollen off everything and floated it like a mustard topping on the streams going down and away. But no relief for allergy sufferers. Thirty-one kinds of oak trees live here, and they will get busier and extrude more yellow powder than was lost. Oaks have both male and female flowers. Their pollen producing behavior is in-your-face lusty.
The Maple Trees—Acer
The maples say to the oaks, “You do it your way, I’ll do it mine.” Theirs is more elegant. This time of year the ten kinds of maples we have here clothe themselves not in leaves but in the glory of their countless seeds. This means spring maples decked out in literally indescribable colors: no words for those colors. Much more subtle than their fall colors. Then they release the millions of seeds into the storm winds. Whirlybirds we call them as kids, and what kid hasn’t played with them? When I hold one of these exquisite and purposefully designed seeds in my hand and look at it, I am contemplating Mind.
The robins go besotted this time every spring. My theory is, on the tick of the Spring Equinox a switch flips in their brain and they are instantly hormonal and wacko. As I write they are fighting in the streets, causing near car wrecks. Every morning now at 4:30 one of them perches somewhere just outside my bedroom window and yells. Not sings, yells. Loud enough to wake me and keep me awake.They can sing, as we all know.
Today when I happened to step outside the back door I was hit by a disgusted stare from maybe that same bird. She had lit on the fence with a long string of golden dried grass hanging from her beak. She said with her look, “WHY NOW? WHY ME? GET OUT OF THE WAY!” I saw I was between her and her intended nest site, which was on the patio ceiling fan. Another strand of grass was hanging from there.
I said to her, “This won’t work. For several reasons. One of them gruesome. I remember that from last year, and I wish you did.” I pulled the grass off the fan, and as ostentatiously as possible I took it out in the yard and dropped it there. My thought was, maybe we could salvage that much at least, and she could use it somewhere else.
But no, The Dog had watched me too, and she went to the piece of grass and delicately picked it up and said, “This is mine,” and trotted away with it, around the side of the house.
Ms. Robin was still there, glaring. I said, “I kept the perfect nest y’all built last year. I put it in a basket to keep it safe. I sacrificed my hot rolls basket. Here . . .” and I got it out of the patio’s utility room and showed her. I said, “I may be the only person you know who has a spare robin’s nest. It would thrill me if you’d use it. I wonder if there’s any way.” By that time The Dog was back and said about the nest, “That’s mine too.” I just looked at her and she could tell that was all there would be to that.
I said to Ms. Robin, “It’s a great nest. Those three precious ugly babies loved it last year, until . . . well, never mind about that part. Y’all should not make these nest site decisions so soon after you go besotted. Wait until Second Nesting Season. It doesn’t matter how great a nest is, if its in the wrong place. Location, location, location. Anyway, no more heartbreak for me. You Shall Not Build Again Under This Patio Roof.”
I stood there with my saved nest, turning over in my mind what a shame to waste it. But I am older and wiser now (am I not?) and I let go of that notion. You can lead a horse to water, and you can lead a robin to a pre-owned nest, and you know how the rest of that goes.