Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sun Bleached Deer Bones

Today was the day I've been waiting for! Temps in the mid-60's, completely sunny, and not one puffy cloud to block the sun. On the way home from the grocery store, earlier, I heard Spring Peepers down in the swamp behind the Glendale Dam.

The dogs and I headed out at about 4:00 for a nice warm hike. We headed down to where Meetinghouse Creek crosses the lower pipeline. That was the last I saw of Radu, who has a habit of running off on his own personal (no Daisy) adventure. Daisy, as usual, stuck with me, and came to stand beside me as I squatted beside the rippling creek to inspect the rocks. Picked up many, but only kept a nice chunk of yellow feldspar. In the woods beside the creek I found an old, white turtle shell (without the outer "tortoiseshell" layer), and a cool "Old Bottle Greenhouse," that was full of the bright green growth of some tender plant that really liked the protected situation it found itself in. Also, in the creek was a beautiful leaf skeleton that I thought would make a nice journal drawing.

Then, as I crossed the middle pipeline, I noticed a pile of white bones on the upper side of the creek. I crossed over and climbed the hill to investigate, and saw that it was the skeletal remains of a young white tailed dear.It had probably been there a year or so. They were sun bleached and not complete. I saw various leg bones scattered nearby, and some obvious bones were missing (skull, other half of mandible, etc). I picked up various bones and found a place in the sun to draw.

Daisy settled next to me and went to sleep as I got to work drawing some of the bones. The only sounds I heard were some raucous crows, squawking about something important in Crow World, a distant four-wheeler, and finally, a Chickadee and Blue Jay calling out their names. Chick -a-dee-dee-dee! Chick-a-dee-dee-dee! JAY! JAY! JAY!

I headed back home as the sun dipped behind the pines along the pipeline. It was still warm and breezy. My sweet Daisy was right there with me.

Radu was on the side porch waiting for us when we trekked up the hill from the backyard.

It has been a beautiful day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mantis Case, Blue Curls, Thistle, Dodder

The afternoon was cold and breezy; white puffy clouds scooted across the blue sky. I was not surprised to see patches of snow down by Meetinghouse Creek, on a north-facing bluff, because our road also still has fat, dirty chunks of the stuff left from last Friday's event. It proves how cold it's been this week. I'm still waiting for that unseasonably warm day when you can smell the very earth warming, and hear spring peepers trilling. That would be delicious.... either that or a doozie of a snowstorm that drops twelve inches instead of four!

Anyway, cold or not, I grabbed my backpack and headed out to hike with Radu and Daisy. They did their thing - running, turning to look at me - running - turning - running... You get the picture. We headed east, with the sun to my back. My goal was to build up body heat first, then sit to draw with the sun in my face, for warmth.

The plan worked so well I got hot, and soon, I'd shed my scarf and coat and was luxuriating in the warmth of the afternoon sun. This is it, I thought. It feels like April!

I was sitting on the worn path, close to Meetinghouse Creek, and next to the thick tangle of briers, sumac, and goldenrod that grow thick in the damp soil. Also in there I noticed a small thistle seed head. I went in to retrieve it. What I found was that the main stem of the thistle was easily 10 feet tall but had fallen over, otherwise I would have seen it towering over the other growth. I snapped one seed head to take back to my seat. While I was in the jungle, I decided to snap the top of one of the many sumacs that had black dodder seed head vines spiraling up the main stem. This is the only place I've ever seen the dodder seed heads, and all of them are down very close to the water.

I found many praying mantis egg cases while hiking down the pipeline, so it was not surprise to spy this one in the thicket. The leftover bracts of the Blue Curls were so dainty and pale, I am surprised I noticed them at all.

Daisy and Radu sat close by my while I drew for about an hour, until with no warning, one of those nice, white fluffy clouds had the gall to scoot itself right over the sun. The temperature dropped dramatically, and the wind picked up. (I wonder if this is a normal weather phenomena, wind rising when a warm area is suddenly shaded like that) Brrr. It was definitely February again! I packed my stuff up, put my coat back on, and was on the way home within two minutes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cranefly Orchid, Euonymus, Spotted Wintergreen

This afternoon was chilly, but the sun shone; there was no mist, fog, or threatening rain; no slick red mud to slide in, and only a few puddles left from Friday's torrential downpours. I had no plans or responsibilities - no articles due, no book to read for class; a pot roast bubbled in the crock pot. Everything pointed to GO! so, I high-tailed it into the woods.

Daisy and Radu went into a frenzy! They whined and jumped, ran forward, then back again. Daisy jumped on Radu and chewed his ears, Radu twisted away, momentarily aggravated, but returned to me in time to have Daisy grab at his leg as if it were a chicken leg. She's done this before and actually hurt him, so I picked up my pace. If I get them moving fast they tend to forget about each other.

My goal was to find a nice quiet spot in the woods where there was something colorful to paint, but had in mind that this is early February - there are very few colorful things out in nature this time of year. By chance I found one. Some animal (probably a deer) had stepped on a leaf of a Cranefly Orchid and broken the stem. As I snuck through the tangled woods on the steep bluff over Meetinghouse Creek, I saw the leaf glowing purple amid the brown oak, beech, and maple leaves from fall. The back side of the single Cranefly Orchid leaf is always this stunning color, the front is beautiful in its way, always strongly ridged and rippled, but it comes in the expected color.... green.

I sat to draw and found other subtle wildflowers that grow in the same cool, north slope environment: Spotted wintergreen (with a seedpod), Euonymus (with its typical deer-chewed stems), and Partridgeberry vines (with no berries) crawling over a tuft of moss. Just as I started drawing the sun went behind clouds. It was very quiet. The only bird I heard was a talkative crow perched in the woods behind me. He made many of his weird, garbled conversational calls as well as his usual, loud CAW! CAW! The creek below rippled along its course.

Without the sun things got chillier. The wind picked up too. Brr.... but since this post is overdue I persevered and finished drawing the small plants growing on the hillside. Once I finished we continued the hike to the fence. But before we got to the end Radu showed up beside me carrying a rather large, icky leg bone of a deer. Eww...

That's when I turned and hightailed it back towards home.