as we mark the longest day

“Summer Landscape” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Counting one’s blessings has a particular poignancy at this festival because, as we mark the longest day, we are reminded that from this point the year will begin to wane and the days will gradually shorten. Transience is a reality for all of us and so we learn that our capacity for joy and happiness — like an inner sun — must radiate from within. It’s worth taking a moment to ponder the mystery that at the height of summer winter plants its own seed.
~ Maria Ede-Weaving
(The Essential Book of Druidry: Connect with the Spirit of Nature)

wild, free, spontaneous

6.8.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden
eastern tiger swallowtail

These pictures are from another walk we took when we were still sick, the weather being so nice we pushed ourselves out the door. It was good to see even more things blooming.

wild bergamot
Canada lily (endangered)

We stopped for quite a while to listen to a Carolina wren loudly singing from a high branch just off the path.

Carolina wren

And I’m also glad we went because, finally, the lemon drop swamp azalea was blooming! It was back in January I first spotted the little buds and kept thinking it would bloom soon. I checked on it each and every visit, wondering what color the blooms would be. A lovely shade of lemon chiffon, perhaps.

‘lemon drop’ swamp azalea

I do miss my wild beach roses but down here I’ve happily discovered wild Carolina roses, also known as pasture roses. They look about the same to me!

Carolina rose with bee

For myself I hold no preference among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous.
~ Edward Abbey
(Desert Solitaire)

spider flower
tall thimbleweed

The very tall (up to 8 feet!) giant coneflowers towered over me!

giant coneflower
beebalm
woodland tickseed
white-breasted nuthatch
house finch

The height of a patch of native woodland sunflowers also caught my eye. Since I’m only 5 feet tall I guess I’m easily impressed.

woodland sunflower

And now, the weather is hot and humid, with no break in sight. But lots of flowers out there in the garden are surely thriving in it.

hideaway woods

8.31.23 ~ Museum of Life & Science, Durham, North Carolina

While his grandparents were distracted by a katydid posing on a nearby post, Finn was eagerly inviting them to climb up into the treehouses with him at Hideaway Woods. Grandpa politely declined but Grammy decided to take a different way up, using a wooden ramp.

There was no way around it, I was eventually going to have to use those rope bridges if I was going to get anywhere. The first one had a wooden bottom so I navigated that wobbly experience fairly well.

part way up, looking back

But the next bridge, no pictures. The four year-old was very encouraging and I was determined not to disappoint him… “Just” a rope bridge way high up in the trees! After I was half way across it I suddenly realized that the last part of it was more like a ladder. I’m not sure how I did it but I reached for the grab bar near the top and hauled myself up, scared out of my wits. Finn said nonchalantly that he knew it could be done and moved on to the top treehouse.

Finn looking down 20 feet to let Grandpa know we made it!

Somehow, I made it back down that perilous rope ladder/bridge. If I had noticed the above sign on my way up I probably would not have followed Finn up there! Still feeling unsteady on my feet, I declined the invitation to follow him down a slide. Grandpa was waiting for him at the bottom.

Connected by rope bridges, each of our eight handcrafted treehouses offers a unique vantage point that changes with the seasons. Find your favorite way up using ladders, cargo nets, staircases, and an accessible gangway. Two slides offer a unique way back down!
~ Museum of Life & Science website

By the time I found my way out of the Treehouse Village Finn was taking off his shoes, getting ready to play in the Woodland Stream.

Wade in an accessible, recirculating freshwater stream for a cooling exploration of how water interacts and behaves with other elements in nature.
~ Museum of Life & Science website

After he was done wading Finn led us to the Dinosaur Trail, where we spent a great deal of time watching him climb up on the parasaurolophus and then slide down his tail. Over and over again. When he mastered the process, he asked Grandpa to take some videos of this accomplishment. After each take he would run over to Grandpa, climb up onto the stone wall behind him, and watch the video. And repeat.

While these two enjoyed this activity immensely I soon got bored and started looking around for nature things to photograph. I was still excited by the earlier katydid discovery.

autumn preview

And then I spotted a very tiny frog sitting quietly on a leaf! After taking lots of pictures I interrupted the guys to share my discovery with them. I haven’t been able to identify it.

immature eastern gray tree frog
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)
Finn looking at the miniscule frog
alamosaurus peek-a-boo

And so we were off again, Finn introducing us to all the dinosaurs on the trail. Spending some time in the Fossil Dig. Stopping for a mango popsicle… We finally made our way into the indoor part of the museum and explored amazing hands-on science exhibits for children of all ages. We came home happy and thoroughly exhausted!

ecoregions

8.19.23 ~ Gold Park
Hillsborough, North Carolina

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.)

Bee Hotel

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.

black-eyed Susan
under a railroad bridge crossing over Eno River
a huge hunk of quartz (?)
railroad bridge
access to underground sewer pipes

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)


part of Riverwalk

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.

lots of eastern tiger swallowtails down here

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.

seven weeks later…

..we take another walk
8.2.23 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

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.

American bladdernut
yellow pitcher plant (carnivorous)

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.

♡ eastern hemlock ♡
plumleaf azalea
eastern tiger swallowtail
stokes’ aster
this large patch of oregano smelled yummy

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)!

harvest season begins

“Potato Harvest” by Camille Pissarro

Except in magnificent floral displays, August is not a favorite month with the naturalist. The characteristic features of summer are well-nigh over, and when we linger in the shade of the old oaks, our thoughts are more apt to revert to what has been, than to become centered upon what is. And yet how prone we are to forget the character of the seasons, once they are passed!
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)