At home with ferns

Margaret Owen Ruckert

Our unspoken desires are not unknown to nature.
     It’s the first year of stink bugs on my lemon tree.
In a game of hide and seek, they win by a spray.
     I start elimination from the tree’s base. And there
in the bare soil at my feet are the unmistakable leaves …

How I love ferns. My first house overlooked bush, covered 
     in ubiquitous Bracken Fern. Pteridium. That open-fronded, 
forest ground cover. Surely it could jump the road to my place.
     Never happened. But Fishbone Fern (Nephrolepsis) enjoyed
my rock ledges. It’s a native plant. How could it ever be a weed?
A later house looked out at tree-ferns. Those majestic umbrellas.
     A community of four, then five Cyatheas thrived near a fence.
On days of 40+, they’d wilt like humans. I’d race out with buckets.
     Drench the roots. When we sold the house, Cyatheas had to stay.
Too advanced to move. I miss them still. They probably miss me.
Back to the lemon tree. Or rather underneath — the beginnings
     of a fern growing on scattered stones and fallen bark. Fragile.
I transplant it to a pot. Keep it under care in my green ‘nursery’.
     Look for signs of life. Does it need water? What about ‘food’?
Now visitors admire my ‘no longer baby’. A stunning Cyathea.

Come walk with me in my garden. Here’s a clump of Blechnum,
     fronds flat as beaten tin. There, a neighbour has burrowed
under the fence. Open-fronded Pteridium. Always wanted but
     never bought. That friendly understorey, waving hello.
Adapted and free. Pops up like inspiration. My kind of wild.  

Margaret Owen Ruckert is a prize-winning poet and widely published. She explores food and society in You Deserve Dessert and Musefood, an IP Poetry Book of the Year. Her latest book, Sky on Sea, matches tanka with photographs of Sydney. Margaret presents workshops as Facilitator of Hurstville’s Discovery Writers and convenes a Café Poetry group.

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