A Grass Meditation

Grass: A Meditation


Recently, it has occurred to me that you can tell the history of a place through its grasses. In her stunning debut, Whereas, the Oglala Sioux poet Layli Long Soldier writes,


a grass chorus moves shhhhh

through half-propped

windows I swallow

grass scents the solstice

makes a mind

wide make it

oceanic blue a field in crests


With the “grassesgrassesgrasses,” Long Soldier paints a landscape of intimate knowledge and memory. In her poems, she most often refers to native grasses from the prairies of South Dakota, where her tribe’s reservation is located. I was struck by this collection, not only because of its fine craft and timeliness, but because of its exultation of grasses. The truth is I’ve never felt renewed by a chorus of grasses. When I eat oatmeal, corn chips or wheat bread, I never consider how these grains are truly cultivated grasses. Growing up in Los Angeles, I never had a lawn or thought much about them. Since the draughts, lawns have become almost impossible to keep. For a while, public service announcements with images of dead grass boasted “Brown is the new green.”

When I moved to Indiana for grad school, I admit I was amazed by the generous space between houses, the sprawling green, and the fact that everyone had a lawn but no one liked to mow. But it is here on the Island that I’ve can say for the first time I’ve become intimate with grass. When I close my eyes, I have visions of grass. Specifically, the long white rhizomes of quackgrass that haunt our garden beds. I’ve spent quite a few hours in the last three weeks digging out quackgrass, tracing the roots through the dirt with a claw-like hand tool, not a hoe, to avoid severing the roots as best I can. During these hours of weeding, I’ve had a lot of time to think. I come to have a new appreciation for the term ‘grassroots organization.’ If an organization is built like quackgrass, it can meet a lot of opposition, get its leaves (or leaders) pulled out, and still rebound again and again.

Native to Europe and Western Asia, quackgrass followed grain-planting settlers and now is a weed in 65 countries known by many names, including twitch grass, couch grass, scutch grass, and devil’s grass. By many farmers it is considered one of the worst weeds and has been for a long time. In 1931, the USDA put out special bulletin to warn about quack. Agronomist L. W. Kephart reported “whole farms have virtually been abandoned because the weed could not be controlled economically.” The bulletin also notes that as early as 1578 in the “Old Country” scutch grass was know to be “a naughty and hurtful weed to corne.” 

One of the reasons twitch grass is so terrible is because it is nearly indestructible: it reproduces both by seed and by rhizome. The seeds are viable for up to six years and will remain so even if they pass through the digestive tract of most farm animals other than pigs. Further, if the rhizome breaks, say through tilling or weeding, the orphaned rhizome just forms a new plant.

Though there is nothing quite as satisfying as pulling out an entire rhizome, it is not plausible to rid the entire garden of quackgrass by hand. The longest quackgrass rhizome on record was found in Canada measuring in at 154 meters, with 206 shoots of growing from it. For this reason, we are covering the areas of the garden most quack-infested with black landscape fabric. The dark covering will cut off the photosynthesis of the grass and cause it to wither. A withered devil’s grass is much easier to pull out. Another option for overcoming quackgrass is gardening using the “lasagna-style,” which means layering cardboard and compost in the place where you want to grow your garden. Russell Rolffs will demonstrate this technique at the ANC’s first Garden Chat meeting of the summer, June 29 at 10:00 am.

For now as I return to the garden wishing and pulling the grassesgrassesgrasses out of the ground, I will try to encourage myself with notion that I am not just weeding, but I am participating in the history of this place.

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Everyday Nature: The oak took no heed

In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold muses,“An oak is no respecter of persons.” Each year, the oak tree grows a new ring of wood no matter who owns the land where it roots. No matter the human drama being acted out in faraway government offices or in nearby houses, the oak tree continues its sunlight alchemy so long as it can.


A year ago, I had not heard of Washington Island. But through a chain of happy events, I found myself living on the island, working as a naturalist as The Art and Nature Center and growing veggies for Hotel Washington. With two roles that kept me outdoors, I had the honor of surveying a piece of the Niagara Escarpment, dwarf lake iris, ringneck snakes. I witnessed the annual parade of blooms along Jackson Harbor Ridges as we approached the Summer Equinox, and then recede back into greens and browns as Fall took hold. I saw bald eagles, hawks, vultures soar over the garden as I dug up a millennia of rocks. And in the midst of all the creatures, geological formations, plants, I felt small and content to be so.


I am thankful for the beauty of Washington Island, its diverse biology and geology, and how it reminds me of my place. A creature alongside creatures, delighting in a cool evening at Schoolhouse Beach. The cedar soaks in the last rays of evening sun as do I.

Yellow, yellow, yellow; How leaves turn color in the fall

Yellow, yellow, yellow I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love

is upon the world!

Yellow, yellow, yellow

it eats into the leaves,

smears with saffron

the horned branches...

William Carlos William published this poem, “Love Song,” in 1916 and it has been re-written every year on the trees in autumn. Ten years ago, when I moved to the midwest from the ever-present sunshine of southern California, I was stunned by this slow firework show in the trees. “How do they all get the memo at the same time?” I asked my midwestern friends. “How do the leaves know to change color and fall of the tree?”

It turns out it is not one thing that causes the leaves to change color and fall; there are a myriad of factors that contribute to bold autumn coloring of the tree line. As winter approaches, our nights grow longer and our days grow shorter. In response to the decreasing sunlight, trees produce a decreasing amount of chlorophyll—the green pigment and chemical in the leaves that is necessary to turn sun into sugar for the tree. As the chlorophyll decreases the carotenoids--the pigment in corn, carrots and buttercups--are able to show through. Carotenoids are always present in a leaf, but they must wait until chlorophyll production decreases to show their colors.

In addition to the decreasing amount of chlorophyll, the leaf will shut down its circulation by building up a cell barrier at the base of each leaf. The sugars that get trapped in the leaf stimulate the production of anthocyanins—the red pigment that appears in cranberries, strawberries, and plums. When the circulation between leaf and tree is completely shut down, the leaf is ready to fall. Fall temperatures and moisture in the soil can affect how showy or muted the autumn colors appear from year to year.

In the way that golden red mix in the maple trees along Indian Point Road is a signal for us to unpack autumnal sweaters and winter coats, it is a signal that the trees are preparing for the coming winter.

Linking Art Forms, Painting, Glass and Jewelry with Jeanne Cauldwell

Linking Art Forms, Painting, Glass and Jewelry with Jeanne CauldwellIMG_0590


Growing up Jeanne Cauldwell was always interested in creating. She learned to sew, crochet, English smock, cross stitch, and to needlepoint and decoupage. Much of this she learned from her Grandmother. While working as a flight attendant, she often had several projects she was working on. After retiring from Delta Air Lines 10 years ago, she wanted to explore new ways to express herself.


Her art forms now include Painting, Jewelry making and fused glass.

Her paintings are mostly in oil. But, she has also has work in watercolor. She first started painting here on the Island by taking classes with Lorna Cornell and then with Rodger Bechtold.

Most of her paintings are set here on the island. Spending part of the day outside painting is a real joy.


In relation to jewelry, Jeanne has had jewelry at the Art and nature Center for several years. But has recently concentrated on working with leather for bracelets and necklaces. The organic nature of the leather makes it fun to work with as wellbeing beautiful and comfortable to wear.

In addition, she is glass artist. Jeanne began working with glass about 4 years ago after taking a class in making fused glass pendants for jewelry. She was immediately hooked. The properties of glass make it very interesting work. Glass is a fairly sensitive medium that can be manipulated depending how the kiln is programed. She makes fused glass night lights and glass bowls and platters in addition to making glass pendant necklaces.

New and different art pieces will be introduced at the reception.


Jeanne is a seasonal resident. She and her husband, Malcolm, live in Knoxville, TN when not living on the Island.  Her show, “ Linking Art Forms, Painting, Glass and Jewelry with Jeanne Cauldwell,” will be on display July 10-August 6. A reception for her show will be held Thursday, July 14, at 4:30 at the Art and Nature Center

Snow Falling On Washington Island Cedars


The “evergreens” among our white winter landscape are appreciated for their color and the protection they provide as natural buffers from blowing snow and icy winds. We draw attention to the White Cedar, the oldest tree in the forest. It is said when the winds howl in the center of a dense strand of cedars there is a stillness. It has two Latin names, Thuja Occidentalis, and Arborvitae, which means “Tree of Life". Long ago the Ojibwe culture honored it in song and ritual calling it, Nookomis Giizhik, the Grandmother Cedar for its gifts of wood, nutrients and spiritual qualities.

Nookomis drawing by Patti Cauldwell
Nookomis drawing by Patti Cauldwell

The White Cedars are a medium size tree growing from about 33 to 66 feet high with fan like branches and scaly leaves.  The small cones grow in clumps and the unusual bark sheds in long vertical strips. The wood from the cedar is used for logs, fence posts and shingles. Its durability is seen in our Little Lake Musuem which we enjoy today, built by Jens Jacobsen in 1931 of vertical, straight cedar logs. However, the shape of the cedar adapts to its conditions as seen in the stunted configurations that exist on our limestone cliffs.

Cedars on Washington Island
Cedars on Washington Island

It is amazing to think that the forests' oldest trees would be those growing on a minimum of nutrients facing the elements. These bonsai like wonders of nature are found along the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment and in some areas, as in Ontario are found to be 1,000 years old. A research team exploring Door County in 1997 found  specimens in various locations in Peninsula Park and one at Ellison Bluff to be 600 years old.  Sitings were made on Rock Island as well, but not measured. For more information on the ancient White Cedars, check out “Vertically inclined” by Karen A. Kahler in Wisconsin Natural Resources, December 2005.

We appreciate the beauty of the White Cedar as they line our shore, inhabit our parks, frame our fields and driveways. It is awesome to think we have growing among us on our limestone bluffs, these time honored, bonsai shaped cedars that have existed many, many generations before us. We are grateful to the Parks, Land Trust and private owners who continue to preserve the slow growing wonders, the White Cedars. Their unusual winding shapes contrasted with the abstract flat limestone is excitement to the eye of the artist in all of us and hopefully can be preserved for another generation to view and enjoy.

By Patti Cauldwell


Steve Waldron, our ANC Naturalist is sharing with us these photos that he took on a cross country ski trip to search out the cedars on Boyer’s Bluff. He will be available this summer at the Nature Center with more photos and information.


Credits: Drawing/Patti Cauldwell, Cedar tree photos/Courtney Cauldwell, Museum Photo/Cathy Meader, Boyer's Bluff photos/Steve Waldron

Reference Article/ Deer Predation article by Herbert Wagner, Reference Article/Vertically inclined article by Kathryn A. Kahler.


Artist Profile: Curt Frankenstein



Curt Frankenstein, the well known midwestern artist, and his wife Renata bought a cottage in Detroit Harbor in 1969. The cottage had a beautiful view, a boathouse for his studio and a dock for their fishing boat. Here they spent summers for about twenty years until Curt’s illness in the late 90’s. Neighbors knew they had arrived when the sign of an artist’s palette was hung out by the side of the road. Curt spent much of his time in his studio but balanced it with things he enjoyed, one of which was socializing with Island folk. Each summer we looked forward to his visits and to see his new work, etchings and paintings in the summer exhibit at the Art & Nature Center.


Christmas Cards

In the fall Curt and Renata headed back to their winter home and studio in Wilmette, IL, but we, his island friends, looked forward each December to receiving his Christmas card. The envelope stood out from all the rest because of its size and Curt’s distinguished signature. His cards, prints of his etchings, brought a smile with their unusual characters, cats, dogs, birds and owls who took on the humor of the human condition, or it could be a landscape which presented an enigmatic visual puzzle.


Early Challenges

Curt was born in Germany of a Lutheran mother and a Jewish father. At seventeen Kurt escaped from the threatening environment of Germany in 1939 by way of China. With a talent for drawing caricatures, portraits and scenery he was able to entertain, communicate and even sell some of his drawings along the way. Sailors from the American ships in the Shanghai harbor were some of his customers. One of the captains was so impressed with his work he offered to sponsor his move to the United States and assisted in securing a scholarship for him to the American Academy of Art in Chicago.


Imagination Reigns

Curt continued to study and worked hard displaying his work in galleries, one man shows, commissions and midwest art fairs. His personality and art touched the people he came in contact with. Curt’s source for his art was his imagination, using familiar objects in an unfamiliar way. “The challenge is to show something that does not exist but make it look as if it does.” He was successful as he won many awards and honors. His art continues to be enjoyed in many collections.

For more information and to see a display of his work go to the web site, www.curtfrankenstein.com. We treasure the memories of this man who was apart of our community, a contributor to the Art & Nature Center and who was generous in the sharing of Holiday Greetings through his beautiful cards.

Thanks to John Moore, a friend of Curt’s who lent the pamphlet, “Curt Frankenstein, Dream World and Real World.”

Patti Cauldwell

2013 Columbus Day Media Sale

It is time to stock up this Fall on all your books, DVDs and CDs from the ANC's Columbus Day Media Sale. This is a chance to get rid of all of those books and media that you've already seen and heard and get some new ones at the same time!

Donate your used books, dvds and cds on Friday and stop by on Saturday and pick up some new ones!

Need a gift for yourself or someone you know? We'll also have discounted items from the Bookshop.

See you there!

New Book Of Island Poems Benefits Art & Nature Center

A new poetry book, “Hot Sling and Other Island Poems,” featuring the poetry of Karen Yancey and the drawings of Patricia Cauldwell will be introduced at a special reception at the Art and Nature Center on Friday, August 9, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Karen Yancey, author and Patti Cauldwell, illustrator
Karen Yancey, author and Patti Cauldwell, illustrator

The book brings together Yancey’s previously published poems about the island that have been published in a broad range of regional poetry journals and art magazines, including the Peninsula Pulse, Door County Voice, Seeding the Snow and A Slender Thread.

“I have admired Patti’s paintings and drawings of the island for many years and was so pleased when she agreed to bring her unique insight and artistry to illustrate many of the scenes and experiences I have described,” said Yancey.

Hotsling Poetry Book Illustration by Patti Cauldwell
Hotsling Poetry Book Illustration by Patti Cauldwell

The book is dedicated to the artists, musicians, writers and poets who are inspired by the beauty of Washington Island and to the staff and board members of the Door County Land Trust who seek to protect it. Yancey, a summer resident, also helped organize the Washington Island Project Committee of the Door County Land Trust and served as its chairperson for a decade.

Cauldwell and her family has been a major supporter of the Art and Nature Center since its beginning in 1965.  She has previously published the book “Harbor Tales" and her paintings and drawings are frequently displayed at the Center.

Hotsling Poetry Book Painting by Patti Cauldwell
Hotsling Poetry Book Painting by Patti Cauldwell

“It was fun to connect with Karen's poems via pen and ink. They are rich with images, insights, and island scenarios," said Cauldwell.In addition to her illustrations for the book, Cauldwell has painted three scenes from the poem “Ghosts of the Dutch Village” that tell a fictional story about the ruins of an early settlement on the north shore of Washington Island. “There is so much wildness and natural beauty on the island and I hope my poems have captured how fortunate we  are to experience it at a deeply human and spiritual level,” said Yancey.   “If you are an artist, musician or writer you can’t help but be affected by the island’s unique history, community and landscape.”

The book is priced at $10 and all proceeds benefit the Art and Nature Center.

Schoolhouse Beach Sculpture by Alex Mandli

We are so grateful to sculptor, Alex Mandli for donating his beautiful sculpture of Schoolhouse beach to the Washington Island Art and Nature Center. This is finally your opportunity to get a piece of Schoolhouse beach and Washington Island. The ANC will be selling raffle tickets at one dollar per ticket. Someone is going to be very lucky and we are so grateful for Alex's generousity.


A note from the artist:

I am a ceramic artist represented by the Edgewood Orchard Gallery in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. In 2012, I was invited by the Edgewood Orchard Gallery to participate in an exhibit entitled “ Door County Treasures “. Each artist was to submit a piece in the medium they were known for. When I began this piece, in January of 2012, my first thought about creating a piece for this show was the beauty of Schoolhouse Beach in Washington Harbor on Washington Island. I am always impressed that visitors to the beach are more than willing to use the rocks to create sculptures or totems. I was also stuck by the fact that many “human beings” were taking rocks from the beach prompting the good citizens of Washington Island to put up signs, warning of fines for doing so. Let me assure you that, “no Schoolhouse Beach rocks were damaged or stolen in the process of making this sculpture”.

About the piece:

The sculpture was made using white earthenware clay. The larger rocks were thrown on a potter’s wheel, then paddled and altered to look like a rock. The smaller rocks were made by hand. The finished ceramic rocks were then decorated with colored clay slip and fired in an electric kiln to make them permanent. The color of the base of the sculpture was selected to emulate the color of the sky and water on a warm summer day. The birch frame containing the rocks was taken from a construction site, where they were to be destroyed.

I originally wanted the sculpture to be played with. Viewers could construct and de-construct the sculpture just as visitors to Schoolhouse beach would do. These ceramic rocks are not as durable as the real rocks. The clay slip on the surface of these ceramic stones can chip. I suggest while the piece is on display that you discourage viewers from touching it.

The Science Of Music At The ANC

Can music calm the savage beast?  We are not sure, but it can conquer the summer doldrums for your youngsters!  Join fellow young scientists ages 6 to through 11 to explore music from a scientific perspective.  The program will run Tuesday July 9  through Thursday July11 at the Art and Nature Center  Snapshot Science, LLC.  Participants will discover how sound is made by a variety of instruments and everyday objects, how sound travels, how hearing works, and music of the natural world.

Tuesday, July 9th – Sound Wednesday, July 10th – Hearing & Instruments Thursday, July 11th – Breathing, Brass, and Bats

How is sound made? How do scientists measure sound? How does sound move through air?  Experiment – High or Low?Ear Anatomy; Experiment – Can you hear a pin drop?  Construct a simple instrument, Construct a model of the lung from simple materials. Experiment - How do wind instruments change pitch?  Construct a simple wind instrument.  Nature sounds games Waltz in to the Washington Island Art & Nature Center to sign up.  Space limited to first 15.  Participants are asked to participate all 3 days. Snapshot Science, LLC…Find us on Facebook!  www.snapshotscience.org

ANC 2013 Opening Reception: Featured Artist Pat Wright


Pat Wright has been painting since 1989. She has studied at the Alain Gavin Studio in Evanston, Illinois, with Lorna Cornell on the island and has taken Continuing Studies classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Pat lives on Washington Island and in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It is her intention to capture the beauty of everyday life in both locations.

2013 Memorial Day Weekend Media Sale


2013 Memorial Day Sale It’s time to spring clean and sort out your collections of books, DVD’s, VHS tapes and music CD’s. Take all your used media to The Art and Nature Center on Friday afternoon, May 24, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM. Then stay and shop, or come back on Saturday morning, May 25, from 9:00 until noon and shop our total collection of donated items for your entertainment enjoyment in the months ahead!

If you need help to get your items to the ANC, call Barb O’Connell, 847-2436 or Laura Waldron, 847-2657 for pick up.

All items that aren’t sold this weekend, will be sold from a table during the summer. Last year we were able to sell almost all our donated items during the season. This is a great fund-raiser for the ANC and provides a very nice recycling opportunity to the community as well. Thank you for your generosity and hope to see you again this year.

Spring Wildflowers: Wood Violet

Wood Violet, Viola Papilionacea

The task of choosing a state flower for Wisconsin was determined by a vote of school children in 1909. Contenders were, wild rose, water lily, trailing arbutus and

wood violet

. The wood violet won possibly due not to its grandeur but it’s bright blue violet color and friendly face.

Photo: courtney cauldwell

Photo: courtney cauldwell


The plant is about 2 to 5 inches tall and is found growing in clumps in shady spots, meadows, along roadsides and sometimes creeping into lawns.

The flowers may be blue, violet or white.  Each flower has five petals. The two lateral petals are bearded and hairy near the base and one petal points downward forming a symmetrical shape.

The leaves are heart-shaped with scalloped edges and the flower emerges on its own stalk without leaves.

After blooming the fruit capsule forms, dries and pops allowing the seeds to spread. The plant has a rhizome and fibrous root system.

illustration: patti cauldwell

illustration: patti cauldwell


Interesting Things About Wood Violet:

- The wood violet is from the Violaceae family which has 400 to 500 species around the world.

- It’s Latin name, papilionacea, means butterfly. The blooms often look like a butterfly with wings from a side view.

- The flower and leaves are edible. Recipes include the flowers in salads, soups, jellies and is popular candied for wedding cakes.

- Violets are a symbol for “constant love” and mentioned in various romantic literature. One such tale is the Iroquois story: “Legend of the Violet”  ....  A young brave falls in love with a beautiful maiden from a warring tribe. Disregarding the laws of their people they run away to be together. Their people are angered at the disgrace and the couple is sought after and killed. On the place where their bodies fell, a mound of blue violets grew and the little blue flower remains a symbol of their “constant love”

Credits: General info, State Flower, Legend

Sprint Wildflowers: Trillium

Trillium, Trillium Grandiflorum

Trillium Drawing by Patti Cauldwell
Trillium Drawing by Patti Cauldwell

We are beginning to see a collage of blooms in the Spring woods. The yellow Trout Lily is bending her head, the Bellwort is dancing and the white showy blossoms of the Trillium take command. The flower, three white petals and three stamens atop a single stalk with a whorl of three leaves was given it's name from the Latin, trilix, referring to the sets of three. The plant stands about 12” tall and is found in shade and sunlit areas.

It takes a long time for the


plant to reach maturity, approximately six years from seed to flower. Picking the flower seriously injures the plant and unfortunately it is a favorite food of the white-tailed deer. In three states, Minnesota, Michigan and New York it is illegal to pick or transplant as it is becoming rare in some areas.

The plant grows from a rhizome root and grows singly and in colonies. It likes a slightly acidic soil and has a preference for the Maple and Beech forest.


Interesting facts about the Trillium:

- Trillium is a member of the Liliaceae family.

- The seeds are mostly spread by ants, who take the fruit to their underground homes, eat the fruit and leave the seed behind.

- The flowers turn pink as they mature.

- Although it takes many years for the plant to mature, the plant can live for seventy years.


A beautiful drive on Washington Island to see Trilliums is on the east side of Washington Harbor, the northern end of Airport Road that turns into Washington Harbor Road.

Credits: drawing: Patti Cauldwell, photos: Courtney Cauldwell Sources:



UW-Stevens Point




Spring Wildflowers: Blood Root

Blood root, Sanguinaria canadensis

One of the early wildflowers to emerge in the woodlands on Washington Island is the star-like blooms of the Blood root. This single flower is surrounded with a single lobed leaf which is wrapped around the bud and unfolds as the flower blooms. The white waxy flower consists of eight to twelve petals and opens to the sun and closes at night and is about six to seven inches tall.

Sanguinaria canadensis, Blood root

(image credit: American Medical Botany by James Bigelow)

The unique name comes from it's red sap in the stem and rhizome root which was used for medicinal purposes and dye by Native Americans. Be aware, it's toxic properties are harmful to the skin.

After the flower dies, the interesting scalloped leaf continues to grow and changes from a silver green to a blue green and blends into the summer woodland carpet.


(photo credit: Courtney Cauldwell)

Interesting Facts about the Blood root:

- The Blood root is a member of the Poppy family.

- Ants are attracted to the plant's seeds which assists in propagation, while flies and bees are busy with pollination.

- The simplicity and beauty of this flower has likened it to be called the Little Northern Lotus.

Join us next for the Trillium.

Note: The botanical drawing is from the rare book, American Medical Botany by James Bigelow from the collection of the late Chester Thordarson of Rock Island which is now in the library of the University of Wisconsin.