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Appalachian Ecotone

—for Edward Bellis

From where Ed sits with a crossword puzzle
he can see an Appalachian ecotone,
a word that could mean
the sound of an ecology ringing, but the word
describes the overlap between two ecologies, as one environment 
transitions into another, weaving a habitat of mixed traits.

The ecotone Ed can view over the order of his crosswords
is a rouge bit of Appalachian range
forgetting its height in a slow slope into valley grasslands,
now even more grassy with a golf course gripped to earth.
Ed would be the one to explain what the mountain hawk 
leaning through the sky is looking over or—
in a completely different ecotone—
how the environment erodes stilted Venice,
where, as a soldier in post-World War II regrowth,
Ed took war classes in the morning before
science in the afternoon. And he studied more
when he returned home, learning in the ridges of these mountains—
then gone to prairies and Ozarks of Oklahoma, 
the pine forests of Minnesota, and back to ultimately walk and fish 
the Appalachians again, to teach for 35 years. 

The first class at Penn State with ecology in its title
was General Animal Ecology,
which is probably what he was looking out at
from the lectern as he taught it—300 plus students
in the middle of their own animal ecotones,
moving in and out of habits of young professionalism 
and malt-loosened hormones. In all this teaching,
he will want to tell you about the students 
who went on to teach or to work,
and in those students, friends walking
ecotones all over, protecting streams,
conserving the environment little stretches at a time,
and in this branchwork of friends, they add each year
to the care Ed dedicated to the land.

©2020 by Joe Bueter