by Jeff Gundy
for Nelson Strong
Blue Hen to Buttermilk Falls is an easy 20 minutes, even with the roots
and creek to slow you down. But it always took an hour with Nelson
who never saw a tree he couldn’t explain, a patch of woods that didn’t signify.
The Horne-bound tree is a tough kind of Wood, that requires so much paines in riving as is almost incredible, being the best to make bolles and dishes, not subject to cracke or leake.
—William Wood, New England’s Prospect, 1634
My farm boy half, always bent on arriving, sighed when Nelson stopped
at a gnarly little tree, its trunk no bigger than my calf, and said, Oh,
this is musclewood. The settlers tried to use it, he said, but found the wood
so tough they mostly gave up, learned to just let it be.
American Hornbeam. Leaves emerge reddish-purple, change to dark green, go yellow to orange-red in fall. Blue-gray bar, fluted with long, sinewy ridges. Difficult to transplant due to deep spreading lateral roots. Slow growing. The hard wood is used to make golf clubs, tool handles, and mallets.
—The Morton Arboretum
Touch it, he said, and I wrapped a hand around the trunk,
a comfortable fit. My flesh still remembers the grooved bark,
how it spiraled upward like a long loose-threaded screw.
My hand told me the wood I clutched was dense, pale, stiff
beyond even the oaks and maples, ready to last a long time
between the trail and the creek, easy with a flood now and then.
The Ojibwe people used musclewood as ridgepoles in wigwams. Decoctions of its bark were used in Cherokee, Iroquois, and Delaware medicine to treat painful urination, “diseases peculiar to women,” and diarrhea, respectively.
—The Heartwood Tree Company
Nelson moved west. I’m stuck at home. This absurd,
apocalyptic year creeps slowly toward God knows what.
But the little musclewood is still there, leaning into darkness
and day between the creek and trail, whirling and steady,
pressing out and shedding its new leaves and seeds and flowers,
tough as any tree or trail or creek, any walker stopped
by a curious friend and asked to look, to touch something
native but not common, unassuming, discreet,
of slight human use but entirely at home in its place.
American BeaverKatie Daley
Painted TurtleRebekah Ainsworth
Green DarnerMarion Boyer
Eastern Screech-OwlDr. R. Ray Gehani
Spring PeeperBarbara Sabol
Eastern Carpenter BeeSylvia Clark
Jacob's LadderRisha Nicole
Candleflame LichenClara Britton
Eastern NewtElizabeth Ryan
American BullfrogLaura Grace Weldon
American ChestnutCarrie George
American GoldfinchMarybeth Cieplinski
American Giant MillipedeMary Quade
American HornbeamJeff Gundy
American White WaterlilyGeoffry Polk
Artist’s BracketSusann Moeller
Banded Fishing SpiderCharlie Malone
Common Star-of-BethlehemBrita Alaburda
Common StonefliesKaren Schubert
Eastern ChipmunkNathan Kemp
Eastern Tent Caterpillar MothZachary Thomas
Eastern Red-backed SalamanderTovli Simiryan
Firefly BeetleJacquie Peoples Dukes
Gray CatbirdTheresa Brightman
Great MulleinLaurie Kincer
Green HeronPaula J. Lambert
Interrupted FernKathleen Cerveny
Meadow VoleRoberta Jupin
Monarch ButterflyDeborah Fleming
Pearl CrescentMonica Kaiser
Poison HemlockJon Conley
Red-Headed Ground BeetleBob King
Star JelliesCameron Gorman
Sugar MapleSteve Brightman
Turkey VultureLaura Grace Weldon
White-footed MouseMichelle Bissell
White-tailed DeerBenjamin Rhodes
Wild CarrotJessica Jones
Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.