Oooh, it was cold today! Well, not so much temperature-wise, but the wind chill made it pretty hard to stay on the beach for long.
This journal drawing honors my best fossils from this week. Each one was found on a different day, each one a thrill. For the record, I'm serious about my fossils and have five fossil books that help me identify what I find.... so when I say that one is a camel tooth, it's true. There is a particular way a camel tooth is different from horse's tooth - I won't go into details. ;-)
These fossils are all Pleistocene material, which means they are between 10 thousand to 1.8 million years old. That long ago South Carolina had many different animals wandering around - Mastadon, Mammoth, Giant Ground Sloths, Camels, Saber Tooth Cats, Dire Wolves, Capybara, Glyptodonts, and more. We know this from finding their fossilized bones, bones which have turned to stone. This is how you can tell it's not new material. In fact, I did find a huge femur-looking bone at low tide, and my heart skipped a beat! Wow! But when I picked it up it was very light weight, and when I tapped it with an oyster shell, the sound was not the high, ringing (rock) evidence of a fossil... it was a soft, unimpressive thud. I was sad, but it is what it is. This is to say, the fossils above are good, though, and passed all the tests.
We have one more day, and windy or not, I'll be out fossil hunting. Maybe I'll have something exciting to share tomorrow.
Strolling along the cold, windy beach today I found this yellow Sea Whip washed ashore. I've drawn sea whip before in my journal, but this time it's a little different because this one supports two Atlantic Winged Oysters that had attached themselves to the branch with thin brown wire-like things, apparently made by the animal.
Around here, sea whip can be found growing in the deep water creeks that run through the marsh behind the island. I've seen them many times at low tide, swaying in the currents below my kayak. All the colors grow together, and from above it looks like a magical world. I know there are crabs that live on the sea whip, but didn't know that these little winged oyster shells (full size is 2.5") use the branches, as well.
As mentioned on the page above, sea whip comes in many colors, including purple, orange, white, red, and yellow. A fun tidbit: the tiny crabs that live on the sea whip eat the little coral animals in the tiny holes of the whip, so each crab turns the color of the whip it's living on.
When I was younger the beach was all about sun, heat, baby oil, suntan, bikinis. Summer couldn't come soon enough. Now, though, it's a winter beach that calls to me. Cold and wild, empty except for birds, I love a winter beach, and this week I am thrilled to be staying on my favorite island,
Edisto. The goodies in my post above were things I picked up as I strolled along.
The operculum is basically a trap-door used by all univalves when they pull themselves into their shell for protection. It feels almost like thin wood, and a fresh one looks like it could have been stained and varnished. The one above is large, 4 1/2" long, so it came from a really big shell. I mentioned Horse Conchs, but it could also be from Lightning Whelk, Knobbed Whelk, or Channeled Whelk, all of which are abundant on this island.
The sand collar is the egg case of a Shark Eye. They are made of sand and mucus and encircle the mother shell. As she creates it she embeds her eggs in the sand. As soon as they dry, the collars return to being sand, so if you find one, don't plan on saving it.
Winter in the upstate of South Carolina is a time of contrasts. In our woods lie great expanses of gray and naked deciduous forests which show off the rolling, leaf-littered terrain. As a native Floridian I truly love the naked trees. They are an amazing sight, even after living at Middlewood for 26 years.
There are also thick evergreen pines that sway and groan in the cold winter blasts. These are mostly loblolly, Virginia, and shortleaf pines. They line our sunny pipelines. Tucked under the pines you will find the lovely Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), small evergreen vines sporting vivid red berries in the winter. I drew the one above on a cold, sunny day in January.
I am a freelance writer/illustrator and regular contributor to the Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. I also do portraits of children, and teach weekly nature journaling classes in and around my studio in the woods. I teach seasonal workshops on Nature Journaling at our public garden, Hatcher Garden & Woodland Preserve. In the past I have led workshops for all ages, from elementary to college classes, from young adults to retirement groups.
I live with my husband, two dogs Daisy and Duke, and two cats in a house called Middlewood. The house is surrounded by my perennial garden, a little grass, and acres of forest. I love wandering in the woods, or hiking on the pipeline that runs near the house (see pic below). I work in a small studio nestled in the trees behind the house.
"Open your arms to life! Let it strut into your heart in all its messy glory!" Deborah Wiles
"Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." Thoreau
"Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there." Gary Snyder
"What grace a few moments of seeing bring. Such a fine gift: this wind, these eyes, this Earth." John Caddy (see: www.morningearth.org)
"You cannot use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." Maya Angelou
"I slept on the beach last night and saw the new moon over the dunes at sunrise, a crescent coasting above a casual slurry of pink and blue, like God got up late and slung color over his shoulder before stumbling off to make coffee." Roger Pinckney
"Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with the eyes of love."
Thich Nhat Hanh
"Life cannot give you any more than you are willing to put into it." Yogi at yogisays.com
"Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind." Henry James
"The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." Morrie Schwartz