nature


ANOTHER TWO

Last summer at a routine medical checkup, the doctor asked if I was sleeping well in the mornings.

“Well, we sleep with some windows open.  The birds often wake me up.”

“Oh yes,” replied the doctor.  “They can be noisy, can’t they?”

And my reply:  “Oh, it’s not really that.  I’ll be sleeping sound, don’t you know, and suddenly I’ll be sitting upright in bed with a sharp intake of breath:  ‘OHHH!!!  It’s a yellow-billed cuckoo, we have a yellow-billed cuckoo at our house!!  I didn’t even know we had one of those!'”

The penalties (and rewards) of learning bird song.

On Tuesday we went on another naturalist-guided walk.  We identified 37 different wildflowers in bloom at the Wildflower Reserve at Raccoon Creek State Park.  And again I added two birds to my Life List:  the Blue-winged Warbler and the Yellow-throated Warbler.

Blue-winged Warbler

The Virginia Bluebells are now fading away from blue to white.



But Jack-in-the-Pulpit is looking fantastic.  See him in there?  We learned that if you gently squeeze the flower, you can hear Jack squeak.



We also saw 4 or 5 kinds of Trillium (if you count the hybrid).



Here’s a Snowberry Clearwing moth.  He looks like a bumblebee, but isn’t.



If you ever get a chance to visit a Great Blue Heron rookery, please do–before the leaves come out on the trees.  We saw 40-50 nests here, with parents coming and going.  Truly an amazing thing to see (and hear).

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ADDING TO THE LIST

This week I added to my Life List by two.  No, I haven’t replaced sugar with eating broccoli in order to add years to my life–but I did see two birds I had never seen before!  A Louisiana Waterthrush and a Swainson’s Thrush can now be added to my list of Birds I Have Seen During My Lifetime.

We spent a day with a kind and very knowledgeable naturalist who teaches us the names and “goings-on” of the plants, animals, butterflies, and birds of our area.  I very much appreciate knowing the names of things in my world.

Looking for salamanders, newts, crayfish, and whatever else might live under a rock.

Blue-Eyed Mary has distinctive petals; the presence of this plant indicates high quality woodlands.  Another name for it is Innocence.


These Spotted Salamander eggs look like a throbbing, glowing alien presence.

The fields of Virginia Bluebells showed astonishing color.


Bluebells are also called “Lungwort” because it was believed to have medicinal properties for the treatment of respiratory difficulties.


The Large-flowered Trillium is blooming right now.  We can’t pick these flowers, as it can damage the plant, which takes a very long time to mature.  Trillium doesn’t smell nice; its pollinators are flies, beetles, and ants.

DRILLING FOR BLACK GOLD

Today my son taught me how to use a drill.  It gave me the thrill of riding on a roller coaster and I laughed aloud with maniacal glee!  The power of it, punching holes with a roar!

We “made” two compost bins out of plastic trash cans by drilling holes into them.  For years I’ve tried to make compost by having two bins created by skids, but all I’ve been doing is feeding the trees.  The trees send roots over and up through the compost, making it a tightly woven pile of tiny roots, much like an overgrown potted plant.

Lately I’ve been noticing posts of other folks, who use the easy plastic trash can approach, so we’re on our way to a new (and hopefully more aesthetic) method.

BEFORE

AFTER

It was terrible fun.

We have a “vernal pool” back behind our house in the woods.  It’s actually a big mud puddle caused by ATVs that roar through our property on what used to be a gas pipeline, spoiling the path for anyone who would like to walk through.

The frogs and toads don’t know it’s a motorized disaster-in-the-making, and they enliven our lives by using it as a place to lay eggs and grow their babies.

The last few years, we’ve had the privilege of having rather different critters in the pool:  wood frogs.  Instead of the usual “peep-peep” of the spring peepers, we hear a loud “clack-clack”-even in the daytime.  The first year we heard these, we were completely mystified over what sounded like a large gathering of turkeys in the woods.  They are supposed to be common, but I don’t hear them elsewhere.

They’re extremely shy and it’s almost impossible to catch a glimpse of them.  Before we can even sneak close to the pool, they become silent and invisible.

Today it is cool, so I crept out there, hoping they wouldn’t all be sleeping at the bottom of the pool, waiting for the sun.  But they are.  It’s simply a puddle of mud and leaves, quiet and undisturbed.  Lifeless.

But I know.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

A few posts back, I-Was-There-And-Back-Again commented on this photo, saying the chair looked like it had droopy rabbit ears.

One week later, the chair looks like this:

On the deck, there is also this for me to look at, every time I glance out the back door.

The umbrella will need to be replaced next spring, so I guess no one has bothered to put it away for the winter. It hasn’t outlived its usefulness YET, however, as the chickadees were picking at it last spring to get tufts of fabric for their nests, and most likely will do so again this coming spring.

It’s a little unsightly, so it tends to give me a pang of guilt and embarrassment every time I see it, but it does stand as a reminder that the seasons come and go and come again; what is snowy now will be hot with sunshine in a few months, that’s for certain.

“In the past, He let all nations go their own way. Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” ~ Acts 14:16-17

IT’S IN THE COLOR

I suspect that nowadays, my “special places” are mostly special trees, and these mostly in the fall.  There was once a perfect orange maple on the way to town that grew on the edge of a woods, at an open field.  Because it grew unfettered from the others, its shape was magnificent, and it had autumn leaves of brilliant orange that made it stand out from everything else, like a bright exclamation point.

One day they cut out the biggest trees in that woods, for money.  And my tree was gone, just like that!  I was/am so affronted that they would take my tree, never even knowing its TRUE value.  I still look at its empty spot and think of it as I drive by.

I am blessed with another tree that gives me joy this time of year.  It’s just outside my window, and I can turn my head at any time to see it.  Every tree has its own annual habits, and this one is one of the first to turn color, so it glows with a green background behind it.

MAKING IT YOURS

In her second book, Happy the Land, Louise Dickinson Rich talks about special places:

“Have you ever seen a place–a house, a meadow lying lazy in the sun, a walled garden, a reedy bend of river–and felt, finally and beyond argument, “That’s mine”?  It might have been only a glimpse from a train window of a place you knew you’d never again lay eyes on, but something quick and compelling sprang up in the heart at the sight, and when you were past you’d left a part of yourself there, forever….It was yours.”

I’ve been pondering this for a couple of weeks, wondering if I have such a place.  Two places immediately come to mind, but they are both from long ago, when I was in grad school.  One was a garden that was for some unknown purpose, supposedly used by the science school. Up on a hill, all by itself.  It was closed to us, by a strong chain-link fence. But every evening, my friend and I would stroll up there to chat and to breathe some fresh humid air.  We could walk the perimeter of the garden and smell the flowering bushes.  There was always a bunny or two on the way.

It was our place; no one else seemed to even know it existed.

Sometimes she and I drove to the former home of artist T.C. Steele and sat down to talk or read there.  It is a state historic site of Indiana, a beautiful and quiet place of trees and the House of the Singing Winds.  Oddly enough, we never paid money to see inside the buildings; we just sat and enjoyed.  We were the only ones there.

His wife left an inscription for visitors, and I always felt like it was written just for me:

“Would that you could walk these trails often-and many times alone.  Where T.C. Steele sought and found inspiration for his work, I am hoping that you can find some for yours, no matter what it may be.”

I always kind of wished I could tell her how true that became!

Brown County, Indiana

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