Monday, January 4, 2010

Sweet Shrub, Beautyberry, Appalachian Oak-Leach, and Oak Leaf Hydrangea

It is so cold this week! I'm not complaining, just stating a cold fact that makes it difficult to muster up the courage to go out and hike. Even if I do hike, it is impossible to sit still long enough to draw things and not get numb fingertips... brrr...

I headed out into the cold around three this afternoon with the dogs, wearing a scarf, hat, gloves, silk long-underwear, and carrying tissues in my coat pocket to deal with the So-cold-it-makes-your-nose-run Syndrome. As we emerged from the woods a stiff breeze from the NNW swooped over the pines and fluffed Daisy's long beautiful hair, and then blew down my neck. Again, brrr... I zipped my coat, wrapped the scarf one more time around so as to block the breeze from sneaking through, and headed down hill. Radu loped stoically along while Daisy leapt about in happiness and excitement. She really likes to jump on Radu when she's hyper, and to grab his poor old back leg as if it were a CHICKEN leg, or something similar. I try to put a stop to that immediately, to save Radu from leg damage (not to mention to save our bank account from vet bills!).

Just down the hill I came to a big patch of red clay with tiny towers of ice crystals rising from it in graceful arcs. They were a uniform 2-3 inches long, and topped with a cap of clay particles that resembled hats - berets, perhaps. This is a common site out here on frigid mornings following rainy days. It happens more on the top of the hills than downhill near the creek, where the water helps regulate the temperature. By this time (3:00) on a normal winter afternoon, the crystals are all melted. The current arctic blast, however, has allowed them to persist all day. We passed by many patches of ice as we headed to Meetinghouse Creek.

It was a quiet hike. No muffled traffic, no dogs, no planes going over... Occasionally I would accidentally step on a patch of ice and be surprised by the crunch of it. A crash in the woods never did give itself up - deer? fox? coyote? Who knows! By the creek I found a "crime scene" containing some golden down and wing feathers the exact shade of Radu's coat. I studied those feathers. What in the world kind of bird is this??? Think think. I wrapped the feathers in a kleenex and put them in my pocket.

Back at the top of our hill, we sat on the sunny bench long enough to start hearing birds. Chickadees, Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the Ank! Ank! of the White Breasted Nuthatch. Soft zeet!s from the pines could have been Kinglets. It wasn't long before the cold started creeping into my body. Brrr again.

I hopped up. It had been a good, brisk walk. I was energized and excited about trying to identify my found feathers. As we headed into the house, though, my inner voice spoke low and insistent about my exciting find... I'd never seen a big (judged by feather size) golden bird the color of Radu.... had I? Bells were ringing. In my bird book perhaps? Hmm....oh, the book my sister gave me for Christmas... a book about...


We have plenty of foxes and coyotes out here. One of them could easily have killed a neighbor's chicken and carried it along to the pipeline. Unlike Daisy, foxes and coyotes can have chicken legs whenever they want them.

Well? I asked myself. Do I draw the chicken feathers? Nah. Instead, as I walked back I collected seed pods and berries to take inside to draw.


Barb Rinderer said...

I agree it is too cold to stay outside for any length of time. We are down to 9 degrees tonight with an expected 5 tomorrow at 5:00. Enjoyed the drawing very much. I have a beauty berry bush that is always so beautiful in the fall.

Kaye_SS said...

I saw a lot of those long ice crystals on my Blue Wall hike. They look like selenite!

Sherrie Y said...

What is it about winter plant life that's so engaging (other than the obvious fact that one can bring it indoors to draw, out of the cold)? Summer plants are so riotous, clamoring for attention. Elegant winter seeds and stems just ARE. Lovely work, thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

It is so cold this week! I'm not complaining, just stating a cold fact that makes it difficult to muster up the courage...flowering shrubs