After only three days working in the field I found my favorite fuchsia shrub. Our 22 study plants were spread out over about 6 square kilometers of thick, Valdivian Rainforest. They ranged in habitat from lakeside beach to inland marsh, to shaded riparian forest. I grew to know this forest by heart. Sometimes I would even shut my eyes to see how far my senses could take me. To reach Plant #17 I would turn left on the large path from the research station. I followed the pathway over two small hills and down along the beachside until reaching the giant Coihue tree on my left. There, I turned towards the tree to head up the arroyo (little stream) where plants #14-20 were located. I would continue up the small path past all of my memorized turn offs, through a small gate, and up another hill until I reached a final uphill slope. Four fuchsias would meet me on the right and I would continue along the narrowing pathway. Finally, I would walk through a cut out fallen log and step down a staircase of 7 roots to reach the streamside. From there, I hopped on top of a large moss covered fallen Coihue, where I would perch before jumping down to streamside stones to greet my beloved Plant #17. During my 5 months in the field, I spent countless hours sitting on a moss-covered rock, admiring its spindly branches, and listening to the rush of the stream alongside us. So here is my ode, written one day on the moss covered rock, to Plant #17.
Ode to Plant #17
You learn towards gurgling creek,
wanting to listen closer to its stories.
You are crooked, but so strong.
Your trunk emerges from rocks
wearing hodgepodge green moss sweaters.
Your base is split, with small arm
reaching towards fallen tree below.
Your trunk rises 3 feet before fracturing
body into 5, reaching out to
gather in sunlight and knowledge
of your surroundings.
You reach out to me and suck away
my worries into saturated green,
aged motely brown, and fuchsia fire.
You make me feel comfortable
with my sadness, for you are strong
but damaged as well.
Your leaves remain green
but are munched by the hunger
of cryptic caterpillars.
Your bark is gnarled, but contains
patterns of beauty-
messages passed from earth
fueled by creek and sun
only to reach my privileged presence.
You, Plant #17, are the perfect partner.