My mother passed away peacefully at home this morning around 5:30 am, Eastern Time. She'd been in home hospice for the past week. She'd been living at home with my sister since 2009, where she moved after our father passed away. She was 89 years old.
I said my last goodbye to my mother today. I don’t think she heard me. I whispered, because I didn’t want to disturb her, and she’s hard of hearing as it is.
I don’t expect her to rally again. I don’t expect any more lucid minutes, or moments. I believe our mother is gone, but her body doesn’t know it yet.
We’re nearing the end. Mom hasn’t eaten anything, not even a popsicle, in two days. The “comfort” drugs are powerful, blunt instruments that can only do so much to relieve her pain and discomfort. She is sleeping more and more. Her breath is shallow, but – thankfully – untroubled right now.
While the world burns down around us, I am sitting in a darkened room, with just the sounds of a small table fan and an oxygen concentrator, watching over my mother. My only company is Raja, one of the house cats in my sister’s house, keeping watch over my left shoulder.
As we all more closely inspect our immediate surroundings as of April 2020, it seemed like a good time to pull together some projects that capture biodiversity in homes around the world.
- Carrie Seltzer on iNaturalist
Growth of a GardenI've been gardening in New York City for four decades, over four different gardens. I've incorporated native plants in each garden, though my knowledge, understanding, and focus, has shifted and grown over time.
I've been seeing a lot of misidentifications - or perhaps wishful ones - of the invasive Chelidonium majus, greater celandine as the Eastern U.S. native Stylophorum diphyllum, celandine poppy. Here is a visual guide for distinguishing them.
Normally, this time of year would be busy with garden tours, workshops, talks and lectures, plant swaps and sales. In past years, my garden has been on tour for NYC Wildflower Week. Two years ago I spoke at the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference in Millersville, Pennsylvania. Last June I hosted the most recent of my Pollinator Safaris in my garden.
I had multiple engagements planned for this Spring, and into the Summer. I was going to speak on a panel about pollinators in NYC. This past weekend would have been the 10th Anniversary of the Great Flatbush Plant Swap, of which I was one of the founders. I would ahve been doing hands-on workshops on gardening with native plants in community gardens.
This year there is none of that. The reason, of course, is the global pandemic, COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV2.
As I write this, I have been working from home for 8 weeks. The same week I started working from home, the first death from COVID-19 was recorded in New York City. Now, less than 2 months later, nearly 20,000 are dead.
We still have 200 dying every day. This is not anywhere near "over".
The language and lessons of trauma - and recovery - are what we need to embrace right now.
We are doing well, as well as can be expected. My husband and I have both been (lucky enough to be) working from home. It's 5 weeks for me this week.
As I write this:
- There are nearly 5,000 dead in New York.
- Nearly 3,500 have died in New York City alone. If NYC was a country, it would be 6th in the world in deaths.
2020-03-30: I adapted some of this blog post, and several of my tweets on this subject, for a short post on McSweeney's:
Do Not Deny What You Feel
As a child, even as I watched rockets launch from my bedroom window, the news kept us apprised of the ever-rising (American) casualties from the Vietnam War. As an adolesecent, I was fascinated and appalled by old issues of LIFE magazine published during World War II. Every article, every ad, devoted to the war. That terrified me the most: that there was no escape from it.
That's where we are: at war.
"The Return of Persephone", Frederic Leighton, 1896 (four years before his death)
The March Equinox - Spring or Vernal, in the Northern Hemisphere - occurs at 11:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time this evening. It's the earliest it's occurred in over a century. It seems fitting, given the warm, nearly snowless winter, and the quickened pace of everything else.
King Arthur Flour provides weight equivalents for the volume measures in many of their recipes. I use a kitchen scale and weigh bulk ingredients like sugar and flour whenever possible. It's much faster, more accurate, and leads to more consistent results. It also reduces cleanup, since fewer measuring cups are involved! This is especially convenient for liquid or sticky ingredients like the molasses in this recipe.
I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, sifting it and leaving out the coarsest remaining bran to give it a finer texture. Since I had "robust" molasses, and I was using whole wheat flour, I increased the total amount of spices. I also added vanilla, allspice, and of course cardamom, none of which were in the original recipe. This created a complex taste, where none of the flavors overwhelm, but I think I would miss any I left out.
My alarm wakes me Saturday morning. I go downstairs to the kitchen, nuke myself a cup of coffee, and get a fresh batch going. I didn’t sleep well. Today is the Remembrance Day for Lost Species.
And in that moment, crossing Broadway, walking in to work, I was taken back 18 years.
The gutters were thick with shreds of paper, and ash, for weeks and months after 9/11. There was so much of it, it took that long for all of it to finally be washed away.
The gray ash was the last to go. In sheltered spots, it lingered for years. Even if you didn't want to know, certainly not think about it, you knew what it was.
Living and working in downtown after 9/11 was being in a crematorium. Every couple of years, you might hear about finding "remains". This is what they're talking about: some shards or shreds left behind, sheltered until uncovered by demolition or restoration of the ever-changing skin of the city.
And so did yesterday's remains, of a celebration, remind me of those weeks and months a lifetime ago. I wondered how few of those celebrating would understand the connection. How few around me had the same association.
Did they, too, feel alone in this?
Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After, "Ths Transetorey Life"
I'm pleased to announce that I'll be hosting a pollinator-focused garden tour and citizen science workshop in my garden for Pollinator Week, in association with NYC Wildflower Week.
Event DetailsDate: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Location: Brooklyn, NY, corner of Stratford Road and Matthews Place
1-2pm: I'll be focusing in using iNaturalist to observe and identify insects in the garden. Create a free account on iNaturalist, and install the app on your smart phone. I'll show you how to make observations in the garden with your phone!
2-4pm: We'll explore the garden, see examples of how to garden for insects and pollinators, look at insect-plant associations happening in the garden, and, optionally, make observations with iNaturalist.
These times are a rough guide. You can drop by any time.
It started with a blog post by entomologist Eric Eaton, who goes by @BugEric on his blog, Twitter and other social media. Benjamin Vogt, a native plants evangelist (my word, bestowed with respect) tweeted a link, which is how it came to my attention.
The Monarch is the Giant Panda of invertebrates. It has a lobby built of organizations that stand to lose money unless they can manufacture repeated crises. Well-intentioned as they are, they are siphoning funding away from efforts to conserve other invertebrate species that are at far greater risk. The Monarch is not going extinct.
- Bug Eric: Stop Saying the Monarch is a "Gateway Species" for an Appreciation of Other Insects
It's also my dad's mortiversary, the 10th anniversary of his death.
As I did ten years ago, I turned to baking. In anticipation of our upcoming tree-trimming party, and a hoped-for cookie-decorating side activity, I chose a rolling cookie recipe from King Arthur Flour. Since I'm unfamiliar with this type of cookie, I stayed as close as I could to the original recipe.
I consider these a qualified success. There are some improvements I can make, mostly about technique. I'm happy with the basic recipe.
- Restricting this list geographically is in keeping with my specialization in plants native to northeastern North America.
- There are many more tropical plants, and plant extinctions, than I can manage; for example, Cuba alone has lost more plant species than I've listed on this blog post.
- Astilbe crenatiloba, Roan Mountain false goat's beard, Roan Mountain, Tennessee, 1885
- Narthecium montanum, Appalachian Yellow Asphodel, East Flat Rock Bog, Henderson County, North Carolina, before 2004?
- Neomacounia nitida, Macoun's shining moss, Belleville, Ontario, 1864
- Orbexilum macrophyllum, bigleaf scurfpea, Polk County, North Carolina, 1899
- Orbexilum stipulatum, large-stipule leather-root, Falls-of-the-Ohio scurfpea, Rock Island, Falls of the Ohio, KY, 1881
- Thismia americana, banded trinity, Lake Calumet, IL, 1916
Extinct in the wild (IUCN Red List code EW)
Extinct versus ExtirpatedI often come across misuse of the word "extinct," as in: native plant extinct in New York City.
- "Extinct" means globally extinct. No living specimens exist anywhere in the world, not even in cultivation.
- "Extirpated" means locally extinct, while the species persists in other populations outside of the study area. To correct the above example: extirpated in New York City. Any regional Flora lists many extirpated species.
Another category is "extinct in the wild," when the species still exists under cultivation, like an animal in a zoo. A famous example of this is Franklinia alatamaha.
Related ContentExtinct Plants of northern North America 2015, 2015-11-29
Extinct Plants of northern North America, 2014-11-30
LinksWikipedia: List of extinct plants: Americas
IUCN Red List: List of species extinct in the wild
The Sixth Extinction: Recent Plant Extinctions
Extinct and Extirpated Plants from Oregon (PDF, 5 pp)