Doug Bruns

In praise of wild chicory.

In Adventure, Nature, Writing on August 21, 2012 at 6:00 am


If, at day’s end, I can point to something I learned then I deem it a good day. This is likely my mid-western upbringing at work, an ethic that strives and strives until one is exhausted or mad. They are not mutually exclusive, exhaustion and madness, but keeping both at a healthy distance is good for the spirit. A bit of knowledge gleaned does the trick.

For instance, I identified wild chicory yesterday. I’ve developed a habit of snaging a plant on my morning walk and, upon returning home, identifying it. I lay it out on the kitchen bar like a thing to be dissected, leaves splayed, blossom fading. With the guidebook, New England Wildflowers, as my mentor, I go to work. It’s not hard work and it gives me traction in the physical world. Carole and I went for a stroll this afternoon. She pointed out a pretty little blossom and commented on its delicacy. That’s jewell weed I told her. I was full of myself.

I also learned how to figure declination using my compass and a topographical map. Are you aware that magnetic north is about 800 miles from the geographic north pole and moving? The north magnetic pole has been drifting slowly northward across the Canadian Arctic Islands and is now clocking in at about 15 kilometers a year to the north northwest. I find this fascinating and equally unsettling. One expects some things should sit still.

I was reviewing a topographical map for a portion of the Colorado Trail I will be hiking next month and had to change my compass from 20 degrees west declination to 10 degrees east, such are the offsets for Maine and Colorado. The Colorado Trail stretches five-hundred miles from Denver to Durango. I plan to bite off three days of it with Tim.

A physical thing learned feels different than an intangible thing learned. For the better. One wrestles with an idea. There is no wrestling with jewell weed.

  1. It does seem quite satisfying when something you toil at privately pays off at an unexpected moment. The current task before you; a successful, formal dance with your daughter at her wedding, seems similar even if it is anticipated. The level of satisfaction, when that challenge is not met but exceeded, I imagine will be unrivaled and it is just there in two months waiting for you, and you just have to take it.

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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