If you had told me a year ago when I was writing my lastWalktober post in Connecticut that a year later I would be writing my next one from a new home far away in North Carolina….. I would not have thought it even remotely possible. But here I am!
This is my contribution to Walktober, this year being hosted by Dawn over at her Change Is Hard blog. See Dawn’s warm invitation to participate here: Walktober 2023.
It turns out that 750 acres of woodlands, with numerous trails, belonging to the University of North Carolina, is only about a mile away from our home, as the crow flies. For this, our first visit, we wound up on the deeply shaded Occoneechee Loop. It had plenty of uneven terrain for Tim so it wound up being our longest walk so far this fall.
My camera kept telling me that I needed a flash so I decided to focus on finding pockets of sunlight for my pictures. It wasn’t long before I was feeling more relaxed and mindful, noticing the individual trees and the little things. This forest bath was having a delightfully positive effect on me.
On such October days as this, we look about us as though in some new and magic land. The mystical draws close behind the luminous veil. We see the things about us and sense larger meanings just beyond our grasp. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
We’re looking forward to our next walk in this wonderful forest. It will be nice to see how it changes with at least three of the seasons, as I know hot and humid summertime walks here will be few and far between.
Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot (Letter to Maria Lewis, October 1, 1841)
Saturday, seventeen days after the last one, we woke up to a low humidity day and got ourselves outside for another walk. Because the UNC students are moving into their dorms for the fall semester there are signs everywhere warning about extra traffic in Chapel Hill. So we headed in the opposite direction, to a 24-acre park in Hillsborough. It was very busy there, too, with kids practicing soccer on a field and countless people walking dogs and parents pushing strollers and bicyclists zipping by. I learned later there is a fenced dog park somewhere on the property.
But we stumbled across a little gem, a pollinator garden with a bee hotel. In the garden we met a master gardener who was on her knees, photographing bees on the flowers. While we were talking with her a goldfinch landed nearby and a hummingbird quickly chased it away! After she shared a lot of her knowledge with us she told us about the Orange Master Gardeners website. (We live in Orange County.)
In 2016, Hillsborough became the 35th city to be named a Bee City USA. Dedicated in November 2017, the bee hotel provides a home for the 90 species of bees native to the area, many of which live solitary lives and seek a safe, tunnel-like dwelling to lay eggs and care for their young. ~ Orange Master Gardeners website
The website mentions that we are located in Ecoregion 45C, the Carolina Slate Belt, which sent me off on a web-search, wondering what on earth an ecoregion is…
An ecoregion (ecological region) is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than a biogeographic realm. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural communities and species. The biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems that characterize an ecoregion tends to be distinct from that of other ecoregions. ~ Wikipedia
Anyhow, after we were done chatting she kindly pointed us in the direction of Riverwalk, an urban greenway along the Eno River. We enjoyed the boardwalk and scenery. The rest of it was paved so it wasn’t really a walk in the woods. But it was nice to get out in the fresh air and sunshine and to move our bodies. (I’ve been doing a lot of yoga but I’ve missed the pleasures of walking!) I’m not used to seeing so many people.
A something in a summer’s Day As slow her flambeaux burn away Which solemnizes me.
A something in a summer’s noon — A depth — an Azure — a perfume — Transcending extasy.
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #104)
On our way back we passed by the pollinator garden again we spotted a flash of iridescent blue, the wings of this very large wasp. (above) I couldn’t capture the blue on camera. But I’m pretty sure it must be a great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). It prefers solitude and is not aggressive. Nice to know it’s a helpful pollinator and goes after garden pests.
Curiosity about ecoregions led me to discover that most of my life I lived in Ecoregion 59, the Northeastern Coastal Zone which is in the Eastern Temperate Forest. And now I live in Ecoregion 45, the Piedmont which is in the Temperate Coniferous Forest. Wikipedia has a map of ecoregions in the contiguous United States here. In which ecoregion do you live? (If you care to share.)
We are slowly getting our bearings here, still working on our to-do list, getting acquainted with new doctors, spending time with the little ones, etc. One nice thing that has become routine is visiting the fantastic Carrboro Farmers’ Market every Wednesday afternoon. It’s been a treat having fresh picked locally grown flowers (some familiar, some new to me) in my vase every week. Makes me feel at home.
When I woke up yesterday morning the dew point was only 61°F and the temperature was only 65°F (18°C)! Surprise! I couldn’t believe my eyes!! Perfect walking weather. Where on earth did it come from? Canada, the TV meteorologist informed, and it wasn’t going to stick around. So off we went, determined to make the most of a seemingly rare opportunity.
In the rush to get out the door I was so focused on not forgetting my hat that I forgot my camera! (How was that even possible???) So I made do with my cell phone’s camera, which I found very awkward to manipulate, especially since I couldn’t hang it around my neck with a strap and have my hands free whenever I wanted them. But it didn’t matter — I was OUTSIDE and enjoying every precious minute.
The flowers that sleep by night, opened their gentle eyes and turned them to the day. The light, creation’s mind, was everywhere, and all things owned its power. ~ Charles Dickens (The Old Curiosity Shop)
I couldn’t find identification tags for many of the flowers and plants we saw, but some of the ones I matched up had very curious names.
I found this specimen of eastern hemlock, my childhood spirit tree, in the Mountain Habitat section of the gardens. Looking at a range map I see they do grow in the mountains of North Carolina, but not naturally here in the Piedmont region. It seemed scraggly but trying its best to grow in this locale. Notice the tiny new green cones growing above the brown ones.
It was such a refreshing morning saunter. And the low humidity stuck around for our afternoon visit to the farmers market, adding another pleasant outing to our day. Last week, when we went to the market for the first time on Wednesday, it was in the 90s and very humid. Two days later, when we picked Katie up on Friday, her last day of camp, it was 95°F (35°C) with a heat index of 105°F (41°C)!
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after. ~ Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting)
But here there was not a sound, and the air was scented with the white flowers of the night. It was a night so beautiful that your soul seemed hardly able to bear the prison of the body. ~ W. Somerset Maugham (The Moon & Sixpence)
Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Flight to Arras)
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~ Henry Van Dyke (Fisherman’s Luck & Some Other Uncertain Things)
Not from successful love alone, Nor wealth, nor honor’d middle age, nor victories of politics or war; But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm, As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky, As softness, fullness, rest, suffuse the frame, like fresher, balmier air, As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs really finish’d and indolent-ripe on the tree, Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all! The brooding and blissful halcyon days! ~ Walt Whitman (Sands at Seventy)