Week 3 Journal

Field Journal 9/14

Monday 9/13, 11AM

Sorry, still can’t get my scanner working… typed up (loose) response to Pollan, “Weeds Are Us”

Crum Meadow Beach is easily my favorite place in the Crum.

Immediately after returning to campus last January from my fall semester abroad, my friends and I spent a day hiking around the Crum. I had been in urban Rome for three months, and wanted nothing more than to leisurely enjoy the serenity of the forest for a day before classes and practice resumed. However, the muted hues of the winter atmosphere contrasted the vibrant collage of color that I remembered from my previous springs. Bare trees stood in front of a grey sky. It had been unusually warm the day before, which caused much of the light blanket of snow that covered the ground in the weeks before to melt away. A muddy layer of decomposing leaves replaced the colorful shrubs, wildflowers, and weeds that carpeted the forest floor during the spring.
As we walked along the river, we noticed that it was higher and more powerful than usual; it overflowed past its usual banks onto the wet, muddy paths that bordered it. As the day progressed, the temperature steadily dropped. Everywhere around us, the ground began to freeze – especially in areas where the raging river had left puddles during the apex of its intensity. This process produced a beautiful visual effect: the sun was just setting, and its reflection in these frozen puddles created patches of sparkling light everywhere. However, nothing could have prepared us for what we found in the south side of the Crum Meadow. An area that we remembered as a grassy field was now covered with a layer of ice several inches thick – strong enough to skate on. We had so much fun sliding around on this impromptu ice skating rink that night that we had to return to the same spot weeks later after the snow had melted. We walked along the river bordering the meadow in an attempt to determine the origins of the overflow that produced the ice rink. We were blown away when we found instead a sunny strip of white sand hidden behind low shrubs – clearly this spot had magical properties; it must have been some sort of ever-changing oasis. From that day forward I came back to the beach with a towel and some reading whenever I really needed to unwind, it became a therapeutic destination for escaping the stress of Swarthmore.
Unfortunately, it appears this area has transformed once again since last spring. A dense layer of weeds and other invasive plants creeping closer to the water now obscures the once brilliant sandy ground. Though I’m heartbroken by how the beach has changed, it serves as a perfect setting for digesting Pollan’s “Weeds Are Us”; this piece is helping me appreciate the beach’s new form. Pollan writes:
“Weeds are not superplants: they don’t grow everywhere, which explains why, for all their vigor, they haven’t covered the globe entirely. Weeds, as the field guides indicate, are plants particularly well-adapted to man-made places. They don’t grow in forests or prairies—in “the wild.” Weeds thrive in gardens, meadows, lawns, vacant lots, railroad sidings, hard by dumpsters and in the cracks of sidewalks. They grow where we live, in other words, and hardly anywhere else.”
After reexamining Crum Meadow Beach and comparing it with the surrounding area, it seems like my favorite spot may indeed by an artificial, man-made creation. Taken in this light, its new blanket of weeds can be interpreted as an attempt by nature to take back what is rightfully her’s, though this view differs from Pollan’s “responsible” conclusion that culminated with his rigid, geometric, and homogenizing reorganization of his garden. Is he implying that all weeds are foreign European imports? Surely we have domestic weeds that cannot be classified in this way. I have trouble dismissing the “romantic conceits about nature” and cannot agree with Le Corbusier’s assertion that “geometry is man’s language.” Maybe I will have a change of heart in the future, but for now I will refrain from weeding the beach .

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