On our way back to our hotel in the charming little town of Black Mountain we retraced our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This overlook was especially beautiful. We saw some fall colors but they hadn’t come to a peak yet.
The waterfall (below) was dry on this day but apparently after a good rain a narrow stream of water falls 200 feet over the cliff. That dark hole at the base is an old mica mine. Mica is sometimes called isinglass and miners called it glass for short, which is why it was called a glassmine.
The clouds were always on the move, casting dramatic shadows over the peaks and valleys and changing the lighting moment to moment. It was a nice way to end a most wonderful day.
The turtle reminds me that I owe my small human life to the generosity of the more-than-human beings with whom we share this precious homeland. The Earth was made not by one alone but from the alchemy of two essential elements: gratitude for her gifts and the covenant of reciprocity. Together they formed what we know today as Turtle Island, or North America. In return for their gifts, it’s time that we gave ours in return. ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer (The New York Times, September 24, 2023, “What Do We Owe Turtles?”)
We found a great place to walk with uneven terrain and only two people encountered along the way! We followed a trail around a large meadow full of wildflowers and humming with insects…
And then we made our way into the woods and felt grateful for all the gifts it was offering on such a lovely day.
Tim spotted this box turtle ever so slowly swallowing its breakfast. I cannot tell if he was satisfied or not when he finally got that thing down. When we came back by to check on the turtle ten minutes later he was looking more alert and I was able to get the picture at the beginning of this post.
What would a woodland be without squirrels scampering up and down the tree trunks?
The woods here have many similarities to the ones in New England, but they do have a different feel to them. The heavy presence of loblolly pines, not found up north, is one strikingly obvious difference. Likely I will start seeing more subtle distinctions as time goes on.
A year ago we were enjoying a different outdoor sculpture exhibition by the sea in Connecticut: Open Air 2022. This September we visited the 35th annual Sculpture in the Garden at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. It also features the work of local artists but it has many more installations! We didn’t even see all 86 of them but I am sharing a few of my favorites here. It was a lovely walk.
Because I’m so drawn to them I bought a little guide to dry plants in winter called Winter Weed Finder by Dorcas S. Miller, illustrated by Ellen Amendolara. It will be fun to learn about pods, capsules, siliques, calyxes, bracts and burrs.
I noticed how similar the shape of a cicada wing was to the shape of a maple seed. In this sculpture I decided to merge the two. The result is a subtly whimsical form that appears more delicate and fluid than the industrial rebar would seem to allow. I love the unexpected and even paradoxical result. ~ Sam Spiczka
My favorite sculpture is “Cicada Maple Seed.” Something about it captivated me; finding the figure hanging from a tree was an unanticipated pleasure. I’m also fond of maple seeds. You may remember how many pictures I post of them every spring!
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)!
Late yesterday afternoon we snuck away and visited the Piedmont Habitat in the North Carolina Botanical Garden, a little side trip while we were out doing errands. I’ve been itching for a chance to use my camera. It was the first garden near the entrance so Tim didn’t have to do any strenuous walking. What a wonderful place! I’m looking forward to exploring all 15 gardens and the 4 nature trails in the coming months.
It was a lovely and refreshing little break from house hunting!
Only about 20 miles east of us the sea changes from the gentler waters of Long Island Sound to the open Atlantic Ocean with its bigger waves.
One last walk on the dunes and beach at Napatree Point…
It was a very hazy day, the smoke particles in the air came all the way from the wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Sometimes the camera captured some blue in the sky and others times the sky came out very gray.
We heard this male yellow warbler sweetly singing before we finally spotted him flitting around the thickets on the dune, in the same area we saw a female back in September. It’s amazing to think that this little songbird spent the winter in Central America and has arrived here to breed.
As we were walking along a robin came wandering down the dune path towards us. He would take a few steps, pause, look around, and then take a few more. We stood still and he kept coming closer, and closer and closer. After he checked us out, he turned around and started retracing his steps in the same manner. Curious little fellow.
When we got back to the parking lot these two herring gulls were having a spirited encounter. The one on the right kept making a long call and the one on the left kept jumping down into the water and bringing up globs of seaweed. The first one ignored the seaweed and kept repeating his long call.
One last walk with Janet in Connecticut… (There may be walks together in North Carolina in our future…) It was a lovely, sunny, spring day. So many blossoms!!!
After enjoying the wildflower garden we crossed the college campus and visited another garden, this one of ornamental trees and shrubs from around the world.
You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can’t walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come. ~ Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter: A Novel)
I will miss my adventures with Janet, sharing with each other all the little details we notice along the way.
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)