although winter is still with us

image credit: Katerina Vulcova at pixabay

Although winter is still with us, we sense the subtle renewing of life at the edge of our senses, visible in the growing light and the first greening shoots. Like a seed germinating in the dark soil, we, too, feel the bright spark of life that burns within us. Its call will soon drive us from the warmth and safety of the dark to the ever-quickening call of the light. For now, we must sit at Brigid’s hearth, dreaming and drawing nourishment and comfort from it until the lighter, warmer days. At Imbolc we honour those dreams and the inner fire that will create the world anew — we, too, shall soon become the spring.
~ Maria Ede-Weaving
(The Essential Book of Druidry: Connect with the Spirit of Nature)

serene and honey sweet

“May Morn” by John Henry Twachtman

Another dawn — serene and honey sweet. At such times, it seems to me that dawn is nine-tenths of the day. Staying up late at night has a sameness about it; but every dawn is different. And this is the dawn of May — May, the month that is never long enough. This is May the first as the first of May should be. … On such a day as this, it is enough to spend the hours soaking in the sunshine, breathing slowly, sensing to the full all the perfumes of spring. It is enough to delight in the varied shades of green, in the forms of trees and the colors of flowers. On such a day, all our moments out-of-doors are lived in quiet pleasure.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

midwinter

“Herding Sheep in a Winter Landscape at Sunset”
by Joseph Farquharson

Nothing there is that does not love the sun. It gives us warmth and life; it melts the bitter snow and ice of winter; it makes plants grow and flowers bloom. It gives us the long summer evenings, when darkness never comes. It saves us from the bitter days of midwinter, when the darkness is broken only for a handful of hours and the sun is cold and distant, like the pale eye of a corpse.
~ Neil Gaiman
(Norse Mythology)

wood wide web

“Landscape with Stump” by Ivan Shishkin

But the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. Only some stumps are thus nourished. Perhaps they are the parents of the trees that make up the forest of today. A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods. Scientific research aimed at understanding the astonishing abilities of this partnership between fungi and plant has only just begun.
~ Peter Wohlleben
(The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate ~ Discoveries from a Secret World)

wind, sun, water ~ gifts

georgiaokeeffe-a-sunflower-from-maggie
“A Sunflower from Maggie” by Georgia O’Keeffe

The earth gives away for free the power of wind and sun and water, but instead we break open the earth to take fossil fuels. Had we taken only that which is given to us, had we reciprocated the gift, we would not have to fear our own atmosphere today.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

plant birthdays

Jean-FrançoisMillet.Dandelions
“Dandelions” by Jean-François Millet

During every week from April to September there are, on the average, ten wild plants coming into first bloom. In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. He who steps unseeing on May dandelions may be hauled up short by August ragweed pollen; he who ignores the ruddy haze of April elms may skid his car on the fallen corollas of June catalpas. Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.
~ Aldo Leopold
(A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here & There)

roots

5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

Plants are the young of the world, vessels of health and vigor; but they grope ever upward towards consciousness; the trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in the ground.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Meditations of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Into the Green Future)

5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!
~ John Muir
(The Wilderness World of John Muir)

1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

Who do you agree with, Emerson or Muir? I wonder, are trees frustrated by their lot in life, glued to one spot, or are they content to be firmly anchored into the ground? Or perhaps, like people, each tree has a different way of embracing the world…

5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
5.10.09 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

forces of life consciousness

windsofthewillow
image source: Winds of the Willow

Not too long ago thousands spent their lives as recluses to find spiritual vision in the solitude of nature. Modern man need not become a hermit to achieve this goal, for it is neither ecstasy nor world-estranged mysticism his era demands, but a balance between quantitative and qualitative reality. Modern man, with his reduced capacity for intuitive perception, is unlikely to benefit from the contemplative life of a hermit in the wilderness. But what he can do is to give undivided attention, at times, to a natural phenomenon, observing it in detail, and recalling all the scientific facts about it he may remember. Gradually, however, he must silence his thoughts and, for moments at least, forget all his personal cares and desires, until nothing remains in his soul but awe for the miracle before him. Such efforts are like journeys beyond the boundaries of narrow self-love and, although the process of intuitive awakening is laborious and slow, its rewards are noticeable from the very first. If pursued through the course of years, something will begin to stir in the human soul, a sense of kinship with the forces of life consciousness which rule the world of plants and animals, and with the powers which determine the laws of matter. While analytical intellect may well be called the most precious fruit of the Modern Age, it must not be allowed to rule supreme in matters of cognition. If science is to bring happiness and real progress to the world, it needs the warmth of man’s heart just as much as the cold inquisitiveness of his brain.
~ Franz Winkler
(Man: The Bridge Between Two Worlds)