Thursday, September 29, 2011

Calico Box Crab, Sea Whip, Baby Sand Dollar, conch remnant

We went to the beach a couple weeks ago. There wasn't time to sit and draw while I was there, so I brought these goodies home and sat at my kitchen counter to draw. I decided to post it before mailing it away this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Tangle

Every now and then a day comes along when things seem to go against my natural inclination to wander slowly around in nature, and then to settle down to draw. This was one of those days. It started with the dead cell phone (no way to tell time), and moved on to the dead camera battery (the plan was to get photos of the snake skeleton and several mushrooms I'd found yesterday). Then there was the addition of our neighbors' two hounds to the already crazy mix of Daisy and Stewie (four dogs underfoot does not make for a peaceful hike). They came bounding through the woods just as we headed out.

Midway through our outing, the bigger of our neighbors' dogs found something dead to roll in, and despite my frantic calling and attention-getting antics, Stewie ran right for the stink and threw himself onto the ground to rub his shoulders in the stink. Oh yeah, one shoulder isn't enough - he stood, turned and threw himself down on the other shoulder. Daisy put her nose in the air and pranced on, too lady-like for such behavior.

And so I moseyed on, holding my nose, and with my odiferous companions bouncing happily in front of me. The day shone brightly, with early autumn sunrays striking the beginnings of many fall blooms: Yellow Stargrass, Goldenrod, Blue Curls, Gerardia, Lobelia, as well as Goldenaster, New York Asters, three different Thoroughworts, and Heath Asters, which are just beginning to open their pale stars. Large Puffballs had popped up all over a portion of the pipeline, and some had been nibbled on by deer the night before. We came upon a Box Turtle, but one of the hounds pounced on it and startled it, and made it disappear into his shell. A Pileated Woodpecker called occasionally as he flew from tree to tree to let his mate know where he was.

Somewhere along the way I noticed this Tulip Poplar leaf sitting atop a tangle of asters and grass leaves. I stopped to look, and discovered that beneath the poplar leaf was a red oak leaf, and on the oak leaf sat a Carolina Grasshopper. Aster branches poked through holes in both the oak and poplar leaves.

As I considered what might happen if I tried to sit and draw, the dogs noticed that I'd stopped. They turned to gaze my way. I did my best "walk-two-steps-forward" to fake them out (See, I'm still walking!) and sure enough, they ran on. Then, rather than sitting, I took my journal out of my backpack and drew standing up... which is neither meditative nor peaceful, but still fun! The intricacies of the tangle fascinated me. It seemed like a puzzle - grass goes over this aster branch, under that one, disappears beneath leaf only to come out down there...

So, I'm not sure which came first. Did the leaves fall onto the aster just so, so that the tips of the stems poked through the hole? or did the aster grow up through the holes. No one will ever know.

But then, who but me will ever care?

The stinky dogs did end up coming back to sit for a while. They were close enough to me to that I got some delightful whiffs of their perfume. Two mosquitoes also visited. I took care of them, then scratched my bites occasionally. Still, it was a great morning.

(Went back to get photos of mushrooms. From the top: Parasol, White Amanita, Gem-studded Puffball, two puffballs nibbled by deer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Whorled Coreopsis, Aster, Goldenrod, 9/11

The dogs and I headed out in the cool of the morning, with dew still heavy on the grass and deep shade of pines, maples, sourwoods and oaks stretching all the way across the pipeline field. While I knelt to inspect a 4" puffball, Daisy and Stewie dashed ahead of me. This is a good thing. I should always keep an eye on them because sometimes, when he is deep into play, Stewie is clueless to his surroundings. Recently Stewie knocked my legs out from under me while I was busy watching two Tiger Swallowtails on a Joe Pye. Out of the blue Stewie slid into me like a baseball runner slamming a first baseman while sliding into first. Down I went, into the dust. The impact seemed to surprise Stewie as much as it surprised me!

Now, when I hear them running behind me I look QUICK to see if he is paying attention to where he's going. It is much more peaceful (and makes more sense) to let the dogs run ahead of me so I can keep an eye on them.

Back to this was noisy! Crickets in the field and cicadas in the trees... Red-bellied woodpeckers chirring as they ate grubs from dead branches. A Carolina Wren's insistent warning trill echoed from the woods nearby. I think the dogs threatened the bird's calm morning as much as I did back on that spring day when I learned to identify the wren's warning/distress call - the day when I walked out and sat on the top step of my studio and didn't realize a mama wren was teaching her babies to fly right there. She landed on the trunk within six feet of me and fussed and fussed and fussed. "What's with her," I wondered. I'm a little dense, and it took a few minutes for me to finally see two baby Wrens taking short test-flights from limb to limb, and to realize, "Oh, it's me!" This morning's call was exactly the same.

I settled on the far hill beyond Meetinghouse Creek to draw the Whorled Coreopsis which seemed to have fallen over from the weight of it's blooms. The dogs settled beside me and the peace of nature's birdsongs, cicada trills and whispering breeze helped me become calm and meditative as I studied the leaf pattern. I discovered the tiniest crab spider hiding out in the center of one of the flowers, and was wondering what bug had eaten the small holes in the leaves when I heard a discordant sound in the sky. The sound got louder and louder and almost hurt my ears. I looked up to see a low-flying jet with a loud, high-pitched whine that accompanied the regular jet-engine sounds. I have heard other jets pass over with the same noise and have always gotten a sick feeling that there was something awfully wrong with the engine,
and I usually have to turn off my vivid imagination that insists on feeding me scenes of plane crashes, horror and mayhem.

Today the sound brought to mind instead the horrible events of ten years ago, the anniversary of which I didn't really want to be part of my journaling today. The peace of nature can soothe, and usually it's enough... drawing in nature is meditation... The real world can be harsh.

I went back to drawing and tried to forget the noisy jet. Others passed overhead but were high enough (or in good enough condition) that I didn't hear anything disturbing, and soon my inner peace returned. At the same time I couldn't help but think about all the people who, on September 11, 2001, lost not only their lives, but the chance to put their faces into the cool morning breezes, the chance to listen to bird songs, and to walk with their dogs, families or friends without fear.

With that in mind, with this post I send out peace and nature's beauty to all Middlewood Journal readers, as well as hope for the future of our great country.

Other things from Middlewood...

Folded Wing Skipper on Thistle

Winged Sumac Berries