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Posts Tagged ‘Driftwood’

I was driving along an old road looking for fall color when I saw a barred owl in a tree. I stopped the car and got out and much to my surprise the owl stayed put.

A few years ago I came upon a barred owl sitting right in the middle of a trail and like this one it let me take as many photos as I wanted. This one was much bigger than that one but like that owl, this one sat perfectly still and watched me almost the entire time. In this shot you can see that it did look away, and I’d like to think that was because it sensed that I meant it no harm. After taking A few shots I got back in the car and got ready to leave, watching as the owl flew deeper into the woods. Being able to look a wild creature directly in the eyes for a while is a rare thing, and something you never really forget. I’ve stared into the eyes of everything from black bears to porcupines to chipmunks and each time it feels as if they’re giving you something of themselves, willingly. And you want to do the same.

Wilde Brook in Chesterfield was a little wild on the day I was there and it was good to see.

Many streams like this one have dried up completely and though we’ve had some rain this part of the state is still in moderate drought. Other parts of the state are seeing extreme drought so we’re fortunate.

I find tree roots like this one on well-traveled trails. How beautiful it is; like a work of art worn smooth by who knows how many years of foot traffic? It looks as if it had been made; sanded, polished and crafted with love. But how easily missed it would be for someone who was more anxious to see the end of the trail than what could be seen along it. I’m guessing that many thousands of people have rushed by it without a glance, and this is why when you ask them what they saw they will often say “nothing much.”

A piece of driftwood on a pond shore reminded me of the bleached bones of an ancient creature. It is, or was a tree stump and I liked the flow of its roots and its weathered silvery finish. It grabbed me and held my attention for a while.

Witch hazels are having a glorious year. I’ve never seen them bloom as they are now. Apparently drought doesn’t really bother them.

New England asters didn’t have a very good time of it this year but what I did see were beautiful. This is probably the last one I’ll see until next year.

Golden pholiota mushrooms (Pholiota limonella) usually grow in large clusters on dead or dying logs and trees, but this tiny thing grew alone. It’s cap was no bigger in a diameter than a penny. These mushrooms are toxic and are said to smell like lemon, garlic, radish, onion or skunk. They are said to taste like radishes by those unfortunate few who have tasted them. Note how it seems to be growing out of a tiny hole in the log.

Though jelly fungi grow at all times of year I think of them as winter fungi because that’s usually when I find them. I often see them on fallen branches, often oak or alder, and I always wonder how they got way up in the tree tops. Yellow jellies (Tremella mesenterica) like this one are called witch’s butter and are fairly common. We also have black, white, red, orange and amber jelly fungi and I’d have to say that white and red are the rarest. I think I’ve seen each color only two or three times. Jelly fungi can be parasitic on other fungi.

Puffballs grew on a log. The biggest, about as big as a grape, had been partially eaten and I would guess that a chipmunk had been at it. I never knew chipmunks ate mushrooms until I saw one doing so this past summer. I often see gray squirrels eating them as well.

A tree “marriage” happens when two trees of the same species rub together in the wind. When the outer bark is rubbed off the inner cambium layer of the trees can become naturally grafted together and they will be married from then on. The process is called inosculation and isn’t as rare as we might think. This maple tree shows that even limbs on the same tree can do it, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen this way.

Native little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) catches the light and glows in luminous ribbons along the roadsides. This is a common grass that grows in every U.S. state except Nevada and Washington, but is so uncommonly beautiful that it is grown in gardens. After a frost it takes on a reddish purple hue, making it even more beautiful.

It is the way its silvery seed heads reflect the light that makes little bluestem grass glow like it does.

I had quite a time trying to find out what was wrong with this blueberry leaf with big black, tar like spots and I’m still not sure I have but it might be blueberry rust (Thekopsora minima,) which is a fungal disease which infects the leaves and fruit of blueberries and other plants in the Ericaceae plant family. The disease can eventually kill the plant if left alone so it’s important to treat it if you have a lot of bushes. I don’t see many problems on wild blueberry bushes so I was surprised to see this. I wish I had thought to look at the underside of the leaf. That’s where the spores are released and wind and rain can carry them quickly to other plants.

This mullein plant was as big as a car tire and will most likely have an impressive stalk of flowers next year. Mullein is a biennial that flowers and dies in its second year. Native Americans used tea made from its large, gray green furry leaves to treat asthma and other respiratory ailments. They also used the roots to treat coughs, and it is also said to be useful as a relaxant and sleep aid. The Cherokee tribe are said to have rubbed mullein leaves in their armpits to treat prickly rash and the Navaho tribe made an infusion of the leaves and rubbed it on the bodies of their hunters to give them strength. Clearly this plant has been used for many thousands of years. It is considered one of the “oldest herbs’ and recent research has shown that mullein does indeed have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

The spiny, 2 inch long fruits of the wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) have a watermelon shape and boys have been throwing them at each other for as long as I’ve been around. The fruit is not edible and the menacing looking spines are soft and pliable at this stage.

Inside a wild cucumber seed pod you find two chambers which hold a single seed each. These seeds look like giant cucumber seeds. A kind of netting is also found inside wild cucumber seed pods and once they dry the netting is even more interesting. A man wrote to me once and told me that he decorated pens that he makes with that same netting. For me these plants are like a time machine that always takes me back to my boyhood.

A friend’s tomatillos have ripened and are ready for salsa Verde. Tomatillo usage dates back to at least 800 B.C. when they were first cultivated by the Aztecs. Today they are also called husk tomatoes and they can be eaten raw or cooked. Scientists have found fossil tomatillos in Argentina dating back 52 million years, so they’ve been around a long time.

Here was another hemlock root, polished by thousands of feet. Do you see its beauty? Part of the beauty I see comes from knowing how much work would go into trying to create something like this in a wood shop, and part of it comes from the artistic bent I was born with. Much of what I choose to show you here I choose so you might see the beauty that shines out of those every day bits of life that we ignore so readily. Instead of stepping on a root without a thought maybe you could just stop and be still for a moment and really see what is there in front of you. It doesn’t have to be a root; it could be a blade of grass or a mountain or an insect. But just see the beauty in it. The more you let yourself see beauty, the more beauty you will see. Finally you will see beauty everywhere, in every thing, and you will become filled with a deep gratitude for being allowed to see the true wonder and beauty of this earth. This is not hard; all it takes is your attention, your contemplation, and a bit of time.

These are some of the things I have learned simply by spending time in nature. I make no secret of the fact that this blog’s sole purpose is to see you spending time in nature as well. It’s kind of like dangling a carrot before a horse, but why do I care what you do? Would you like an occasional glimpse of bliss? Would you like peace to wash over you like a gentle rain and comfort to cover you like a warm blanket? If you experienced these things would you want to harm this earth? Of course you wouldn’t, and that’s what this is all about.

Can we go from fall to winter just like that, with a snap of the fingers? Yes we can because this is New England and the weather can change that quickly here. Snow on Halloween is unusual but it isn’t unheard of; in 2011 we had a nor’easter come through that dropped close to two feet in my yard and cancelled trick or treating for that year. On the other side of the coin sometimes we don’t see any snow until well after Christmas. Nature seeks balance and we’ve had a several months long drought, so we might get a few surprises this winter.

This was a wet, heavy snow that stuck to everything and reminded me of the quote by William Sharp, who said: There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.

This blueberry bush with its red fall leaves did look radiant with its frosting of white snow.

The oaks were beautiful as well, but too much heavy snow when the leaves are still on the trees can cause major damage and power outages which can last for weeks. Luckily this storm was minor, with only 3-4 inches falling.

Still, leaves fell and autumn leaves in the snow are always beautiful. How beautiful this scene was with its simplicity and that amazing color. I couldn’t just walk away without a photo of it, and then I couldn’t stop taking them.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
~Albert Einstein

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Pondside

As any parent of a male child will tell you, boys have an innate attraction to the muddy shores of rivers and ponds and though you might use every trick in your parental bag of tricks, you’ll never keep them from exploring it. There really isn’t anything to worry about though because most boys grow out of their mud exploration phase. Since I never did I recently decided to visit the shore of Wilson Pond in Swanzey. They draw down the water level there each fall so people can maintain their shorefront docks, rafts, etc. and this exposes yards and yards of the wonderful muddy pond bottom.

2. Deer Print

Did you see the deer tracks in that first photo? Since it rained the day before I came here I knew that these tracks were very fresh. A deer was most likely getting a drink earlier that morning.

3. Raccoon Prints

A raccoon had also paid the pond a visit, most likely looking for snails and mussels.

4. Snail Shell

Empty walnut size snail shells were everywhere. I never knew there were so many in this pond. I’ve read that there are invasive Chinese snails (Bellamya chinensis) in our lakes and ponds but they’re the size of a hen’s egg, so I doubt this was one of those. Another invasive snail found here is the Japanese trapdoor snail (Viviparus malleattus) which gets its name from the trapdoor it can close when danger appears. The snail pictured is smaller than that one too, I think, so I’m not sure what their name is.

5. Frozen Footprint

Ice had formed in a footprint. Once the sun’s rays fell on it, it didn’t last long.

6. Alder

Alder (Alnus incana) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni) rather than an insect like many galls. The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near swamps, ponds and streams.  These galls have a bright red phase in spring but I never remember to look for them at that time of year. They blacken over time so the ones pictured are older.

7. Birch Catkins

Birches have their catkins all ready for spring. Surely it must be right around the corner.

8. Goose Feather

This pond is a popular spot for Canada geese and their feathers hung from the branches of the bushes.

9. Mussel Shell on Nickel

I put a tiny mussel shell on a nickel to see how small it really was. Since the diameter of a nickel is 3/4 of an inch, the mussel was the smallest I’ve seen. It looked like a tiny shiny butterfly.

10. Turkey Tails

Colorful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) brightened up a stump at the water’s edge. I’m seeing more blue / purple ones this year than I ever have, and I have no idea why after nearly two years of seeing just a very few brown ones.

11. Spot on Driftwood

There was more color on this piece of driftwood; a nickel size orange spot. You can find colors like this at any time of year if you’re willing to slow down and look just a little closer. I don’t know if this one was algae, rust, or something else. It had virtually no thickness.

12. Stone on Beach

The pond has been drained so low that the water’s edge where it is now would normally be at chest level or higher on an adult, so the rock in this photo wouldn’t be so easily seen. But this is a beach where people swim, and the rock is in a perfect position for swimmers to stub their toes on it. I wonder why someone doesn’t move it now that it’s so easy to get to. No doubt boys vie for a chance to stand on top of it when they swim.

13. Ganesh Statue

I was dumbfounded when I saw this statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh lying on the shore because this is the second statue of him I’ve found this year. The first was in September on the banks of the Ashuelot River and this statue looks exactly like that one except that it has a lot more wear. The Ashuelot River doesn’t flow into Wilson Pond so unless someone brought the statue that I saw on the river bank here, this is a different statue. Why would two different people throw statues into a river and a pond? I wonder what significance water has in the worship of Ganesh? He is said to be the lord of success and the remover of obstacles on one’s spiritual path. He is also thought to bring education, knowledge, wisdom and prosperity. And he seems to be trying to tell me something. I wish I knew what it was.

14. Pond Mud

Maybe Ganesh is trying to tell me that I’m already prosperous. After all I have the riches of this New Hampshire landscape laid out before me like a never ending feast for the eyes and soul, and occasionally I’m transported back in time to enjoy being a boy of 10 again. I don’t see how anyone could possibly be wealthier.

Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun. ~Miguel Angel Ruiz

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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