Every two weeks, the Hitchcock Center publishes a column, "Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley," in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Writers include Hitchcock staff and board members, former board members, presenters in our Community Programs series, and friends of the Center. Look for the column at the end of Section C of the weekend Gazette or on their website. We will keep a complete list on this site, so if you miss seeing a column in the newspaper, or want to see it again, come here at any time.
By Kari Blood
The song “America the Beautiful” is often considered an unofficial national anthem. This tribute to the land, its people and its aspirations was originally published as a poem on July 4, 1895 by Massachusetts-born feminist and poet Katherine Lee Bates. She spoke reverently of the beauty of our landscapes, “for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties” and called on us to seek “brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
By David Spector
Many of the 349 glistening species of hummingbirds have gemological labels, with amethyst, emerald, garnet, jewel, gem, ruby, sapphire and topaz mounted in their English names. These gems are alive, the names reflecting their iridescent colors, and they provide illustration of biological principles.
By Lawrence J. Winship
In many ways, planting a tree is an act of faith and hope. As we firm the soil around the tree’s roots, we may imagine a future in which generations to come will picnic in its shade. They may gather its fruit or colorful leaves, and think kindly of us. So, of course, we want to choose the right kind of tree.
By Michael Dover
I’ve been living in Leverett for nine years. There’s lots to like here: a beautiful pond, an excellent elementary school, a fine old Town Hall, and miles of country road with light traffic — great for biking. I love to tell people about the T-shirt that the Friends of Leverett Library used to sell with all the road names of Leverett beautifully written on the front. That’s how small Leverett is.
By Tom Litwin
It sits on the edge of the woods in what was once a hedgerow along the road. The woods have taken back the once-adjacent field, joining it with the hedgerow. Succession and time have run their course — pioneering poplar, birch and cherry giving way to the maples, oaks and beech of a mature forest. It’s not much to look at, this big, old dead maple. As unflattering as the technical term for dead trees is — snag — they play a central role in the nutrient cycling of a forest ecosystem.
By Judith Lorei and Kari Blood
Imagine your favorite walking path through a quiet forest or a scenic meadow, the songbirds flitting among tall grasses, at rest in the morning dew. Your natural pathway winds past native wildflowers buzzing with pollinators, and rocky ridges reminding you of the passage of geologic time. This landscape is familiar to you because you visit this site to honor someone who has died and is buried on this land.
By Katie Koerten
Even if you love winter like me, you’re probably also heartened by the signs of spring that will be popping up soon. Skunk cabbage flowers are already poking up through the mud; red maples are swelling and will bloom soon. Red-winged blackbirds can be heard and turkey vultures are once again soaring through our skies. One early bloom I’ll be looking for in the next few weeks is one I overlooked for many years: northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Recently it’s become a friend I eagerly look for in mid-April.
By Joshua Rose
Birdhouses seem simple. Because people cut down dead and dying trees, cavity-dwelling birds can’t find enough nest sites. If we put up birdhouses, those birds can nest there instead, and we all live happily ever after. Right?
By Michael Dover
The germ of this column came from reading Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire,” which shows the reciprocal relationship between people and domesticated plants: The plants meet human desires and humans propagate the plants widely. My immediate reaction was, “Of course! Dogs and cats!” The idea was helped along when a wonderful dog joined our family.
By Christine Hatch
When I fly, I get a window seat whenever I can. I press my face against the glass, camera ready, and spend the flight marveling at the shapes in the landscape, how the surfaces turn to art, how places I know from maps are transformed by the light and are so, so small.