Dreams are powerful tools that can help guide anyone to success and happiness. They represent some cherished aspiration, an ultimate ideal of achievement.

The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.

A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Waiting for the Solstice

The snow hardens the tough rubber of my boots as I hike through the snow, and unless I am hiking rather vigorously with my thickest socks on, the chill seeps into my feet, residing for hours. As the sun slowly washes the snow away over days, shovels work on by piling heaps of snow at the base of sleeping trees on the Pearl St. Mall. On overcast days, cold blue light saturates, and photos carry the indelible signature of the season. Grainy and blue, I become frustrated with the results of freezing fingers and stinging winds.

This is the season I find myself sitting on a hassock in the corner of my apartment for an extra thirty minutes after lunch, soaking in the midday sun as I inspect my plants doing the same. Hugging my guitar to my chest, I rest my cheek on the curved body, closing my eyes toward the sun, tapping soft rhythms of snow melting from the roof, and rhythms of my restlessness.

Songs that come from lunch return some content to my chest, and I open the window halfway to let some sound out to my neighbors, in hopes there is one walking about who may find one of these songs resonate with a similar sentiment in which it was created.

Between songs I rest my cheek back on the side of my guitar, waiting for a new rhythm to move my fingers into song. I sing and shout for awhile, and finally when I rest my cheek on my guitar and hear nothing, just black silence, I return my guitar to its black velvet case, and ride my bike back to work.

While the fall broke me down, the coming of Winter has built me back up. As I finally feel rare instances of consistence in my work, my emotions, etc, I feel restless all the same. Every night I awake looking into the darkness, hoping to find faint hints of light whispering the coming day into my eyes. I laid in bed last night thinking how nice it would be to return home on the shortest day of the year - a homecoming in the quiet night of the year. A week later, I will return to Boulder, prepared to celebrate the coming of a new calendar year, awakening every day to new light, greeting the waxing sun, each day bringing us closer to the awakening of Spring.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I was reading a college friend's blog this morning while watching others pass around me in Book End Cafe on Pearl St. Mall, and he used a quote that has landed me found several times in my life:

Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.
— Henry Thoreau

Pat moved on to talk about his realization of need for his prose and writing to be a celebration of his connections to others, not himself as an island . This thought immediately crumbled and washed away many thoughts of mine behind my blog as well. While I seek to find the truth, beauty, and clarity in this world, I often draw on self-realization, which normally have to do with the natural world surrounding me, and while I hope that my reflections and observations will encourage others seek out similar observations, I am somehow failing to truly encourage others to seek out such beauty, truth and clarity for themselves.

No one's writing is an island, for we all are a product of our environment. We are continually being reinvented, replenished, redefined by everyone that surrounds us, and it is wrong for me to treat my writing with such ownership. It has indeed remained my Ego Island for the past months.

And while I read Pat's journal and distractedly looked around to observe the masses swirling around me, the aroma of lavender invaded. I am obsessed with this smell. I have not yet figured out if this obsession has a deep seed in my childhood, for this scent never wafted the forests of Pennsylvania, yet out here in Boulder it is common for someone to pass by leaving an organically fragrant plume of lavender in their wake.

My ties to this scent may have developed recently from a massage oil Sara and I have, but I do not yet know. All I know is that when I smell this scent, I am completely distracted as though this scent is a song from the sirens to my sinuses. There is a carnal depth within this scent that hints at a certain closeness to all my surroundings, as if I was at once lying in bed with all of my surroundings. My eyes dart around as my nose tests the air like some bird dog seeking out the source, and I am drawn to that person, plant, or listless room decoration as though under a psychedelic haze, I believe there is some distant connection I must come to understand between us. Yet, just as the scent dissipates I return to awareness of my surroundings, no longer feeling the unity within the previous moment.

Perhaps this helps me realize why Sara and I recently bought a lavender oil to put on ourselves each day. I want to constantly smell this oil, if only to continually flirt within these feelings of deeper connection to my surroundings, and hopefully some way which I have yet to realize, this will help what I write to become more inclusive.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Building Bikes

My new fixed gear bike that I made at Community Cycles:

This was built from an old Nishiki frame I picked up in the planning process. Everything else for this project, excepting the bar end brake, was obtained from and assembled at Community Cycles.

I ground down the red frame using a hand grinder, first with a wire brush, then with a polishing disk, and the way it finally shined made me sing through my dust mask.

I used a dremel tool to draw in a mountain range across the top tube. After all, they are at the heart of the reason I am living here in the first place.

After that, I taped off the tubes, so I could paint the lugwork. After the lugwork was painted green, I clear coated the whole frame several times before assembling the whole bike.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Like Dominoes

Here are the notes from a hike this past weekend up in Allenspark, on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park, less than a mile through the woods from where Sara and I used to live last year. Hopefully, I will be able to upload some images to it in the coming week or so.

Standing on the edge of a dry streambed only two feet wide, my eyes followed dusty elk and moose prints along a heavily used trail from dry yellow aspen and grass fields across the streambed, into the darker conifer forest. Fir trees had long ago taken over the lower land adjoining the perennial spring, leaving the drier Ponderosa stands to take over the slopes uphill from the stream.
As I followed each print along the trail into the forest, the brighter straw color of a freshly snapped aspen trunk caught my eye. Some storm had snapped the twenty, maybe thirty year old off at chest level, just above a large woodpecker hole. After learning how to find flying squirrels in the woods of Pennsylvania during wandering sessions with friends in college, I have since been unable to resist the urge to tap on every tree I see that has a cavity hole along its trunk. Approaching the tree, I noticed brown lumps in the large cavity that looked like oversized elk droppings. Fishing one out of the hole, I was clueless as to what this wrinkly walnut sized brown sponge was until I thought of all the squirrels I noticed carrying mushrooms around this fall. As truffle flashed through my mind, I held the little brown knuckle up to my stuffy nose and took a whiff. It smelled like almond syrup. I looked for bite marks, and bit a spot where there were none. It was dry and spongy, but had a barely noticeable pleasant taste. Thinking of all of the squirrels I saw carrying poisonous Amanitas this fall, I spit it out.
Giggling over my find, I reached back into the cavity; sounding for the depth of this squirrels cache. I couldn’t feel the bottom, but based on the volume of most larger woodpecker’s nests, I guess there was about three quarters of a gallon of truffles in this single dead aspen. I looked around for a minute, as if something else amazing might pop out of the woods, and walked on resuming my search for a well-used elk crossing close to water where I might be able to hunt this winter.
I followed several elk and moose trails into the woods, trying to stick to prints that were only a day old. However, I kept returning to the streambed, unhappy with the amount of travel any of the crossings were getting. I finally arrived downstream to where the spring consistently flowed year round, and pausing at the bottom of one steep embankment to admire a larger fir whose large roots were dipping into the spring, I noticed a basketball size grass nest perched atop the end of one branch some fifteen feet above the ground. Having been spoiled by the aesthetic oak and maple trees of the east, I rarely climb conifer trees, but decided it was time. And I needed a break from searching for a reliable creek crossing. I reached up into the tree, and stepping upon branches an inch or two thick, I began to wriggle my way through the branches.
Taking a break to wipe some bark from my eyes, I noticed a large, white mushroom, with a whitish yellow cap nestled amidst a tuft of needle next to me. A foot away I noticed a smaller, black and yellow mushroom in the next tuft of needles. I followed the branch to its terminal bud, and looked around me to see almost every tuft of needles had at least one mushroom laying within it, bobbing in the cold, dry wind from the divide, which was maybe four miles away. I climbed further, finding that I was surrounded by hundreds of mushrooms. Taking a quick survey, I could count at least five different species of mushrooms, most of which I later found to be Russula,, many of which are edible to humans as well.
By the time I had arrived at the nest it seemed moot to inspect it, since it was apparent this was one of the nests of the squirrel, or family of squirrels, who inhabited this tree, and covered it with their winter stash of dried mushrooms. I gave the branch a shake, hoping a disgruntled squirrel may take a look from inside. After a second uneventful shake, I climbed further up the tree to a few very large masses of mistletoe coming from the trunk of this fir, perhaps almost 20 feet above the ground. There seemed to be many more mushrooms on the branches closer to the mistletoe, and as I climbed closer I noticed this dense tangle of branches were lined with grass. It was full of mushrooms. From the largest cavity, I could have filled a five-gallon bucket. I grabbed a representative of the two most common mushrooms, and dropped them down to the ground by my pack to id them later at home. I inspected a few more nests within the mistletoe, and clung to the swaying tree for a minute, listening to the wind rippling down through the valley, and smirked as it all came together; from the arrangement of the needles on the branch, to the parasitic mistletoe that sprouted like a preeminent tombstone from its host’s trunk, everything in the near silence of the wind whispered perfection through the trees.
The needles themselves, arranged in a spiral along three-inch twigs that reach up like a supplicant’s hand, perfectly cradle the delicate mushrooms. Arranged about every foot or so, these tufts provide a diligent pine squirrel with the pre-organized matrix along which they can meticulously fill the branches with mushrooms. Larger fungi seemed to be placed closer to the trunk of the tree, while smaller, less valuable pieces of fungi were placed closer to the ends of the branches, closer to the wind.
Mistletoe is a parasite. Once it has infiltrated the bark of a tree, death for the tree begins. While many forest managers seek to remove this pest from valuable stands of wood, this organism naturally selects weaker individuals who are more susceptible to its sticky seeds. Thus, the oldest trees in the forest exemplify those with the greatest tolerance to such parasites. This old fir I was perched within, was one of these such trees. The oldest water loving fir along the whole stretch of stream I had found, and here above me were the largest bunches of mistletoe I had ever seen. The fir showed no signs of distress to me, and I would assume many of its progeny stood solidly below prepared to take its place when the mistletoe exacted its toll.
While we classify mistletoe as a pest, and our human emotions and logic lead us to believe it as a bad thing, without the mistletoe’s presence, one harsh winter could, years down the road, mean a sooner death for this fir tree than the mistletoe promises. Let me explain.
Squirrels depend on the mistletoe to hold their winter’s cache of mushrooms. Just as the fir needles provide the perfect drying rack for a portion of the pine squirrel’s booty, these large tangles of mistletoe are essentially large drying baskets, which allow all of the mushrooms cached here to dry quickly before molding of decomposing. Having such a huge supply of mushrooms at the structural center of the tree ensures that even amidst the roughest winter storms, which may strip all of the mushrooms from the fir branches, these squirrels will still have a hardy supply of fungi just a few branches away. Ok, so what part do the mushrooms play?
Scientists are continually learning that the symbiosis existing between fungus and trees is not just a helping hand to each of these organisms’ well being. It is vital to their existence. The thread-like hyphae of fungus, which are similar to plant roots, spread through the soil, and attach to tree roots when they encounter them. At these sites, a partnership is formed in which the trees provide carbon to the fungus, while the fungus provides water, minerals, and protection against disease pathogens. This symbiosis in effect extends their own resource network exponentially, while helping out their neighbor by sharing excess goods. So, back to the mistletoe.
In the late summer and fall months when squirrels hurriedly collect and dry their winter food stores of fungus, the open gills of the mushrooms dangling from the squirrel’s mouth spread millions of spores across the forest floor, some of which will slowly found new colonies of fungus throughout the forest, which will go on to help ensure the health of the trees creating the forest. Remove one piece of the puzzle and a trophic cascade begins.
Without the mistletoe to maintain the most important mass of the squirrel’s winter diet, the squirrels would not make it through the winter. Where squirrels disappear from patches of the forest, the mushrooms no longer have their “bees” to sew their seeds. A few seasons later, the soils slowly become depleted of hyphae, and suddenly the trees have a tougher time receiving their most important nutrients and water from the soil. So, during the most important time of the summer when they usually focus on creating sugars to bide them through the winter, these trees must allot their energies to growing more extensive root systems to seek out these nutrients. Come wintertime, these trees are often more at risk of succumbing to a rough or longer winter. Finally, a dead conifer tree cannot continue to feed its parasitic mistletoe. In this way, nature exhibits a perfect give and take method of existence in which one organism depends on others to fulfill their weaknesses, while they fulfill another’s.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prickly Pear


Despite all of the second hand stories and writings of Abbey-esque desert rats, I needed to discover for myself the annoyance of prickly pear. I was tired of hiking around the dry grass foothill fields, dodging prickly pear with every step, avoiding its sting based just on other’s stories. The purplish pink “pears” looked like some drug-induced cartoon of a cactus creature’s foot; some cheap pun for the phrase, “don’t tread on me.” I had heard of their sweet taste, and of the spiny tines left in the mouths of the unwary, but I was a little thirsty, and figured I needed to know now that if I was out here and lost, could I eat this thing to live or not?
I crouched down over one looking closely at the white spines whirling around below the pears, and then noticed the tufts of minute spines spiraling the pear itself like a staircase. They looked soft and fuzzy, with red points sticking out. I brushed my finger over one, and looked closely at my calloused fingerprint to see more than fifteen spines stuck in my skin. I tried to imagine the fiberglass feel of them sticking into my gums.
Thinking that there was some chance of my fingers avoiding these spines, I twisted one of the cartoon toes off the flattened foot, and held it close. It would be completely stupid to pop it in my mouth, so I squeezed it, hoping some sweet juice would come out. A greenish brown mix between guts and snot oozed copiously from the opening at the base of the pear, and I sucked it into my mouth after inspecting it for spines. I rolled it around in my mouth, separating the hard pebble-seeds from the slimy pulp. They were pleasing. I kept squeezing the pear until more than thirty seeds oozed from it, and until my efforts became less valuable than the slimy ooze coating my mouth. I bit off a piece of the flesh and spit it out. Rolling my tongue around in my mouth, I was amazed to find no pain. I bit another piece of the flesh off and chewed it. It reminded me of a sun-warmed strawberry, but I still spit it out, worrying about minute spines. I squeezed the pear one last time for one more taste of its guts, and the telling sting of cactus spines rang through my index finger. I guess that extra squeeze was all those little spines needed to weasel their way through my calloused fingers into softer flesh below. I tried to pull them out, but it was too late, the spines were sunken and hooked, stationary and painful.
I threw the pear away, and continued walking down the hill, wondering how to get the spines out of my finger. As I was thinking that I would always go hiking in cactus country with tweezers from now on, I felt them, in my mouth. The soft skin around these intruders of my lips and gums began to harden in rejection, and that is how I found the tiny points sticking in my mouth. The few I found sticking out of my lips, I was lucky enough to maneuver with my tongue and teeth to pull them out. The rest in my tongue and gums next to my teeth had to wait. Hiking down the trail, I was considering chewing on a stick to try and take my mind off the pain, as though that perhaps it would break up the evil spines scattered all over my mouth, but the grasshoppers popping back and forth across the trail distracted me. When I got home I pulled my tongue out and inspected the lumps on it. Only one still had the spine attached, but as soon as I grabbed it, the top snapped off. Well, what now?
If I was hungry and lost in the desert, I would probably be stupid enough to try it again. Someone would probably find my stinking and bloated body lying under a tree with a gnawed piece of dead, sun-bleached juniper stick lying next to me, and a mouthful of soggy wood splinters. The best part of the experience was spitting the seeds like a gun at objects off the trail as I walked home. I felt pleasantly content in spreading hopes for the future of such a well-evolved plant. Even as I write this, I am trying to pull another spine I just found from the inside wall of my mouth.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Beneath a Veil

It looks too steep. Experimentally I push a slab onto the snow and let it go. It drops away rapidly, picking up speed, and throwing a spray of snow into the air, turns on edge and rolls and bounds like a clumsy wheel all the way to the bottom, shattering on the rocks below.

What I need is a breaking device. An ice axe now would be the thing; I could squat on my heels and glissade sown the snowfield in good form, controlling direction and velocity by dragging the blade in the snow.

I launch a second big stone, and watch it go down with similar results. I see it now, the point is to stay flat. The pitch of the snowfield is less steep at the bottom; it should be possible to slow down or stop before smashing into the rocks at the lower edge.

I choose a third flat rock and drag it into the margin of the snowfield. Facing downhill with my heels braced in the snow, I straddle the rock, grasp and elevate its forward edge with both hands, and sit down firmly (my stick braced under my arm) and sit down firmly, taking a deep breath.

Nothing happens. My feet are still dug in and seem unwilling to obey my command to rise-instinct more powerful than reason. I urge them again; grudgingly they come up.

Too late for arguments now and as usual not enough time for panic. We're sledding down the mountain at a sensational clip, accelerating according to formula. I brake my speed with my boot heels as best I can but I can't see a thing because of the gush of snow flying in my face. Halfway down I lose the slab I'm riding and go on for a piece without it. The rock follows hard upon me, almost at my neck. I manage to recapture it and climb partway back on but before I can get comfortable again I see an outcrop of immovable granite, which I hadn't noticed before, rising in our path. I abandon the slab, roll to the side, and go skidding past the obstacle by an adequate margin. Things are out of control at this point but fortunately the snowfield begins to level off. I get my boots in front of my body, dig in, and coast to a stop a few feet short of the broken rocks at the bottom of the couloir. As I sit there resting another loose object thunders by on my left, perhaps the same rock or part of it that I had started down with. A moment later comes my walking stick.

This is a passage from Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. He wrote this during his several summers spent working for the forest service in Moab. If you like this, read the book, enough said.

This passage reminds me of a mixture of many of my experiences in the woods the past several years.
It reminds me of when Silas and I were working on trail crew in the Adirondacks together. Building staircases out of boulders we would quarry out of the ground with 20lb rock bars, we would roll and hump these rocks across the ground, up slopes, and haphazardly down the other side, until sweating and encrusted with the marrow of things, we would be ready to dig a hole to cradle this behemoth, or if we were lucky a co-worker friend would have it semi-ready for us to finish.

I remember one perfect quarry site where many of our chuckling guffaws echoed through the forest and across the lake at the bottom of the hill. Peaked Pond. Amidst a cracking outcrop of boulders were rocks the size of small Hondas. Some of these rocks found their way over to the trail to a new resting place, while others which we deemed too large to work with were sent careening over the ten or twelve foot cliff, a few hundred feet through the forest where they smacked into the trunks of towering birches, maples, oaks, some two feet wide, leaving gaping wounds on some while others were simply sheered off by the largest boulders.

Our crew leader spent hours placing the rocks we quarried while she left us to our own devices a hundred yards away through the forest. I suppose she would pause between grunting movements with the rock, and at hearing our shouts of laughter as another boulder crashed through the woods she would smile with satisfaction. As destructive as it was, we felt as innocent as kids again. As wrong as it was, those trees grow back, and those memories continually draw me back into the canopy of a mountain forest.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sunrises, Reflections from Camp

Mornings not began with the sunrise seem hollow and lost to me. It feels as if the world has moved on without me, leaving me looking on, left in the empty dreams of my sleep. In the quiet beauty of each sunrise, I join a congregation with all existence that is warmed by the sun, and in this light I know all that I belong to.

Lying on my back in a circle of campers, I stare up into the early morning sky, examining some cirrus feathers many miles above, floating imperceptivity across the sky. Keeping a rather constant form, they float like ice crystals through the heavens.
As I observe the depth of this smooth cerulean sky, I notice the subtlest lattice of cirrus, lacing almost invisibly across the sky. In periods measuring tens of minutes they dissolve and reappear - ghosts haunting some ethereal reaches of this world. Whispering of pale blues, the sky fades to a pale white just over the Divide to the west.
As a scarlet sunrise builds on the Divide a family of coyotes let up a chorus of archaic chattering howls. While no one in the circle appears to awake, almost everyone stirs, rolling over, unaware of the subconscious stirring of their mind in response to such a sound. Some simply shake their feet back and forth several times before sleep returns them to stillness. These howls resonate across the land signaling meanings I can only imagine. Perhaps they have killed one of the elk calves that reside in the lower marshy meadows, or perhaps they simple sing the coming of a new day, full of whatever promise and vigor a new day brings to a coyote.
I wonder how such sounds strike the rest of the wildlife around the lake as the familiar uneasy emotions well up inside me at hearing such macabre calls. The veracity I hear in those howls haunt me. Those howls seem to sing out a warning song, celebrating the penetrating sting of their teeth.
As the song falls to one last singularly bold apex, Buteo, an amazing young camper, stirs and notices I am no longer next to him. He rolls around and eventually finds where I am sitting at the picnic table listening. We exchange a knowing smile, and he quickly rolls back over to sleep, not wasting time to revel in any sense of sentimentality of the moment. In one glance he was able to communicate to me that he too felt coyotes song resonate within him.
A scarlet hue sweeps across the highpoints of the land as the sun peeks over the flat horizon to the east. Audubon, several miles away, blushes in the warm embrace of the rising sun. The scarlet curtain sweeps down from atop the hills, across the meadow, highlighting the aspen groves. The hill above the lake fades from a pale gray twilight to a hazy wildfire glow. Every morning I sit attentively, telling myself that if I observe acutely, I will notice this curtain sweep across the marshy alder thickets, over to the slope where I sit in earnest, and I will be draped in the sunrise. Nonetheless, just as I feel the warmth of the direct sunlight upon my feet, the scarlet curtain sunrise dissolves into a lemon-yellow haze and thus, the day has now begun.
Bright sunshine dapples the top of the trees throughout camp, and soon soft morning exhalations whisper through the trees, softly jostling them awake. The top of a Ponderosa shutters with a calm shiver and dampens back to rest like a sleeping dog shifting restlessly in the corner of a room.
Red-Naped Sapsuckers signal back and forth in the calm after sunrise, tapping out a stuttering irregular pattern on a hardened aspen or perhaps a coffee tin left nailed upon a tree on the edge of the meadow for who knows what reason. I hear their young fledglings yelp a whiney call several times back to the parents and then move on to check their crop of bug traps in the ponderosa and lodgepole stands adjoining the meadow. The sticky sap that exudes from the lateral line of holes they excavate effervesces a sweet vanilla-butterscotch smell, not only sweet to humans apparently. Sapsuckers obtain almost the entirety of their nutrition from the attractiveness of this sap to all of the insects that are lured unknowingly to its stickiness. With the sunrise complete, the campers began to stir awake. I put a pot of water on the spider stove, and prepare to cook breakfast.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We All Have Interesting Histories

Aconitum columbianum, commonly known as Monkshood, is a rather intriguing plant to me.

Monkshood is a member of the Buttercup family, Ranunculacea in Latin. This is interesting because rana means frog. This plant is essentially in the frog-foot family because it likes to live in wet soils close to constant water. Most buttercup species are named so in English due to their bright yellow buttery flowers. However, Monkshood, along with its close relative, Larkspur has somehow developed purple flowers with completely different flower morphology. Rather than the common open-faced flower form, this flower has developed a much more challenging gambit for their pollinators to navigate. Two thin sepals hang like legs from below the hood, allowing a landing strip of sorts for the small bumblebee to land. The small bee then quickly crawls up into the narrow chamber of the flower brushing its undersides over a bed of anthers full of pollen. Once the bee reaches the narrowing top of the flower it stretches its tube-like proboscis about half the length of its body to the top of the flower where it receives a drop of nectar from each flower. I remember the first time I sat long enough to observe a bee visit one patch of flowers, meticulously flying from plant to plant for over twenty minutes.

What amazes me about pollination is not only how important the form of the flower to the bee is, but the intricate yet chaotic timing of maturity that occurs when the flowers can give off pollen, and when they can receive pollen. If the female part of the flower, the stigma, were receptive at the same time the plant was giving off pollen, it would simply reproduce with itself. Not good. To inhibit this, the stigma will usually become receptive before the pollen is being released, or after all of the pollen has been dispersed. So, the natural chaotic pattern that the bee creates, flying from flower to flower, patch to patch, day after day collecting its food, along with the timing of the flower's reproductive organs creates the perfect pattern through which to carry out all of the reproduction of the flowers it visits while ensuring maximum dispersal of each flower's genes.
This ingenuous symbiosis is what allows plants to spread their genes all over the earth, all the while using the motor skills and desire of other animals, especially humans. Michael Pollan has written a whole book, The Botany of Desire, about this phenomenon regarding how humans have selectively spread the genes of the most sought after plants all over the world via nothing more than our desire for sweets, drugs, and nutrition.

The Latin name, Aconitum, comes from the word for monk, or aconite. I find not only this name, but the shape of this flower intriguing since monks were often the individuals most in contact with this flower, since they held the majority of medical knowledge in ancient European culture. The potent alkaloid, aconitine, is found throughout the whole plant and affects the ability of the muscles in the heart to pump correctly, effectively stopping the heart in even small doses. Despite this, Monkshood was commonly used to treat people with heart problems, for it was thought to ameliorate symptoms of arrhythmia. This plant was also stuffed into sheep meat, and then set around the fences of sheep pastures to kill off harmful wolves. Criminals were also executed with distillates of Monkshood. Some Harry Potter enthusiasts may recall a Wolfsbane potion used to repel werewolves or something in the earlier books, which called for monkshood flowers.

In the late summer months monkshood and goldenrod blooms form thick glowing patches of deep purple and yellow along verdant sections of the trail in the western United States. During a backpacking trip this summer in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in the Rocky Mountains, I came upon a very tall patch of albino monkshood under the shade of Aspen and Coltsfoot while wandering around off of trail looking for a good place to dig a cathole. The whole plant was completely identical to regular Monkshood, yet the whorl of flowers atop each plant was completely white with vaguely green veins. This albinism is a rather rare occurrence, but is known to occur from time to time where the flower is abundant.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


In accord with this new lifestyle in Boulder, this blog will be an attempt to refine my thoughts, conversations, and photos in my mind as well as with others; a new continuation of My Sylvan Dream.

The post-college lifestyle has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride, and hopefully this forum will push me to focus on the clarity I know exists out there that is waiting to be expressed.