Mariton: Happy Mother’s Day

May 9, 2021

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.

Photo by Tim Burris

My Mom on top of Mariton’s hill in 2009. She was 81 at the time.

I haven’t written many Mother’s Day Field Notes over the years.  May is pretty hectic for Preserve Managers, and there are so many wildflowers and birds to write about at this time of year, that I haven’t made the time to write about someone who really shaped me.

I think I was pre-destined to this work.  I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors.  I didn’t expect to actually make a living by observing nature and trying to keep it healthy, but everything I did while growing up prepared me this lifestyle that pays.  Lots of people steered me along the way, but my Mom nurtured it.  She allowed me to bring frog eggs home, but let me know when it was time to return the tadpoles to the swamp.  I’m sure she was always glad when I was outside and not underfoot.  I don’t know that she encouraged me to choose this career, but she never discouraged me either.  I have a few deep seated memories that involved Mom and nature.

I remember spring afternoons when the Canada Geese would first wing back from the south.  This was long before Canada Geese lived in the area year-round.  We only saw geese during their migrations north or south.  Mom would be cooking in the kitchen and hear those first calls.  She would yell for us, and we would all run outside.  I can picture her dress (women always wore dresses in those days) and her apron fluttering in the breeze while she shielded her eyes and looked up at the first skeins that flocked north.  As little kids, we would flop down on our backs on the cold Earth to watch those ‘V’s above us and listen to the honking.  I didn’t know then how far their journey would take the geese, but I understood that I was witnessing some extraordinary feat.  And that it was worth stopping everything (including making dinner) to go outside and watch.

Photo by Tim Burris.

Trilliums are rooted deeply in my memory.

I can vividly recall a May afternoon when I was six.  That afternoon, Mom took me and my little sister to my grandparents’ sugar woods to look for ‘May flowers’.  I remember the woods were filled with White Trilliums.  Of course, I didn’t know they were trilliums, but I can still recall their whiteness filling the understory.  We weren’t allowed to pick them, and that lesson was serious enough on that joyful afternoon that it never entered my mind to pick something of such beauty.  We could pick violets, but I don’t remember the other flowers in that forest.  I remember coming across an old livestock spring that day, and getting to drink the icy clear water.  I never wanted to leave those woods.

Mom made me be a good student:  the rule was I had to finish all of my homework before I could go outside.  That was more than enough motivation  (Amazingly that routine stuck with me into college.)  As soon as I finished, my dog and I were out the door.  We stopped two houses down to get my best friend, and then the two of us and our dogs were off to play and explore the woods, fields and swamp that stretched behind our back yards.

Photo by Tim Burris.

My Parents in 2019 (their 72nd wedding anniversary).

Mom and Dad visited us soon after we moved to Mariton.  She was in the yard one day when I drove the tractor back from working on the trails.  She beamed and declared that Grandpa would have been so proud to see me ‘making a living’ with a tractor.  It was obvious that she was the one that was proud about the career I’d found for myself.

So, here is to Mothers everywhere.  My mother influences me to this day.  At 93 she still feeds the birds everyday, and does an amazing amount of yardwork.