Saturday, April 28, 2012

in which I finally remember to let go

Ohhhh…what a rough week. Life is all about balance, yes? This week, after several weeks of “soon” and “almost”, circumstances finally resolved themselves such that I am now able to work from home. This led to an absolute quantum leap in productivity, but at some personal cost. Combined with the recent intense gym workouts, I found myself getting sucked toward the event horizon of the productivity wormhole. That’s when I get attached to my own accomplishments, and start letting my sense of personal self-worth get mixed up in there.

Let’s review: what gives a person their worth and meaning? Answer (trick question!): nothing. Worth is inherent. It’s a function of just being alive. I suppose some people just… know this, but for me, well…I tend to forget it, particularly in the midst of Great Bursts of Accomplishment. Paradoxically, I have had to work quite hard to not…work so hard. To let go of trying. To just allow. This is why I stopped working for two years. It’s why I do Reiki. And it’s why I do so much photography.

But this week, as I observed myself getting closer and closer to the whirlpool of doom, I kept making excuses for not going out with the camera. “Oh, the light’s crappy.” “Oh, I don’t have time.” Blah blah blah. Letting myself just be still, letting myself feel that I am part of the gorgeous, divine universe – in the hard moments, those words become meaningless syllables. Finally, this morning, I did a Very Brave Thing. I walked away from a sink full of dirty dishes, grabbed the camera, and dragged myself outside.

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And….exhale. Here’s some miterwort (Mitella diphylla).


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This is self-heal (Prunella vulgaris). It’s your basic lawn weed around here. This is fine with me, as it results in a purple lawn, which is what I aspire to.

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Here’s a syrphid fly getting acquainted with the naughty bits of a particularly ambitious type of grass – it’s already flowering. The rest of the lawn grass is still bitching about how we never rake the leaves out of it. “Get over it,” I want to tell the grass. Or, as my wonderful optometrist told me two days ago, when I freaked at hearing that I need progressive lenses (apparently my arms won’t be getting any longer), “use your vast resources of personal flexibility”.

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Flowers don’t freak out about life. They just get on with the business of living. This here is Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum sp.)

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Here’s one of only a couple of flowering Canada Mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense) I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen veritable boatloads of just the one jaunty leaf – those won’t have any flowers. Hopefully I’ll remember where this guy was so I can go back and visit it as the flowers develop.

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Speaking of plants who need more than one year to get it together enough to flower, here’s a jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens). You can see at its base, a wee little one as well that’s probably another couple of years away from producing the flowering structure. Want a close-up? Sure you do.

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Jacks are very happifying flowers, don’t you think? Although this one almost looks scorched. Perhaps jack was preaching a little too much hellfire and brimstone.

Onwards to trillium (Trillium erectum): many of them are past their prime, which only means that the cool seed formation part is starting now.

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A very cool symmetrically balanced seed is being formed even as we speak. The google borg informs me that ants are involved in dispersing trillium seeds, but don’t quote me.

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Love it.

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As with the Canada Mayflower, I’ve seen a bunch of starflowers  (Trientalis borealis) this year, but this is the only one with a flower forming. It was while I was lying on the ground getting this shot that I idly wondered how many ticks were crawling into my clothing.

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Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) flowers never cease to amaze me.

The leaves have gone green by now, no more space-alien purple leaves:DSC_0868 (2)

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The ferns – probably cinnamon ferns – are coming along nicely, but are still at the stage where they look like they’re composed of tiny bubbles welded together.

Oh! Oh! Oh! For some reason, I’m irrationally fond of white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)

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Maybe because the berries are very distinctive, and I’ve only ever seen two to three examples of it on our property, so I have tended to really bond with individual plants. Above and below are this year’s babies. Yay!

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Just one of the truckloads of sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) we’ve got cooking this spring.

We have maidenhair fern in various stages. I’ll show you the newest one. My 9 year old niece and I agree:DSC_0898 (2)

Kinda wormy.

Remember willow? Their crazy flowers have been pollinated, and now they’re cooking up seeds.

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Will they all go red? Or that a function of subspecies? Dunno. One more thing to pay attention to.

We noticed that the frogs start singing a few hours later than they used to. Maybe that’s because many of ‘em have gotten lucky:

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Actually, I can’t quite tell what kind of eggs these are, but thanks to other nature geeks and the miracle of the internet, I’m starting to wrap my mind around this.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I do not whine – kids whine

As the days get longer, my inner engine is ramping up its horsepower. Over the weekend, I had a short run on Saturday – 5.5 miles. I remembered something a gym teacher taught us about running when I was in first grade: that you get a lot of power from pumping your arms. So I gave it a try, and the next thing I knew, my pace picked up by 15 seconds per mile…and another 30 seconds per mile…and another 15 seconds per mile. Holy crap. I ended my run about there, afraid I would accidentally hit warp speed and either land on Jupiter, or develop instantaneous plantar fasciitis all over again.

On Sunday, I went to my third Tough Mudder class. Three rounds of 16 exercises, a minute apiece, thirty seconds rest between each one. On the bright side, I didn’t almost puke this time. On the other hand, how to choose my favorite moment from the morning? Would it be when I didn’t quite catch the 12-pound medicine ball I was attempting to throw fifteen feet in the air (hah! as if!) and nearly knocked my glasses off? Or was it when I let the 20 pound maul swing around and knock me in the shin? And who wears glasses to the gym? I.Am.A.Dork.

But I’m a dork who has officially registered for the Tough Mudder.


On Monday (yesterday), I scored a Little Black Dress to wear to our next chorus concert. (I am experiencing Wardrobe Issues.) That was the highlight of the day. It’s the ideal dress: you could squash it into a tiny ball in the bottom of your bag, take it out, give it a shake, put it on, and look great. Machine washable, indestructible, and shows off My Shoulders, which ought to be looking fairly decent any day now, given the aforementioned gym-based bludgeoning. The lowlight of Monday, on the other hand, was an overwhelming case of the blahs, which I am coming to associate with recovery from intense workouts.

On the Nature Report, today’s species of note is sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis). Last year I couldn’t identify this correctly – I thought it was mutant wild ginseng. It’s in the same family, actually. This is the stuff you make root beer out of. “Just another weed, growing along the driveway…” would be an easy way to not even see this little bugger.


But look how sweet the leaves are, on their second day up from the ground! This is a few days ago.


They’ll go green soon enough.


Last year this all happened a good three or four weeks later on in the spring.


Here’s a Solomon’s Seal. Probably. Stay tuned.

On the turtle front, I’m a little confused. I found a dead baby turtle in the neighbor’s driveway the other day – just over an inch across. Not a snapper (no teeth on the edge of the shell), perhaps a wood turtle (as I’ve seen them in the area, though not so far this year.) Where’d he come from? How fast do turtles grow? Last year, a nest hatched out around the middle of June. Surely a turtle grows a bit in its first year – this one must have just hatched. Just a wee thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

midweek splendor; beech explosion; ferns are weird

Here’s what’s going on in the mystery woodland next to the house. Ferns are coming up!

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Let’s take a closer look.

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They are apparently made of tiny blobs welded together.

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Plus a bunch of fuzz.

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Let the records show that we have a flowering trout lily on our own property. It hasn’t turned inside out in ecstasy, the way we saw the other day:


Back to our woods: we have a bunch of these things:

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I’m guessing sessile-leaved bellwort. Seeing a flower would be helpful, but so far, none seem to be even on the horizon.

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You’re not tired of blue cohosh yet, are you? 

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This is pachysandra, which has been sneaking into the vinca’s territory from its homebase around the magnolia tree.

BOATLOADS of miterwort this year.

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And this is why I have the macro lens. These flowers are maybe 1/8” across at best.

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Starflower! Let’s hope it makes a flower this year. Only found one last year.

Later on, I took a walk on my lunch break at work and headed up into the woods. P1190685

Birch catkins. Nutty stuff.


Violet innards.

Beech bud explosion, in slow motion.


First, they just lengthen. You can see how the end of each scale is paler than its base – the darker base color is where it’s newly exposed from the bud lengthening.


At some point the leaves just want out. 



Yippee! Freedom! I did this same series last year. On May 9th. Yep, it’s an early spring.


Two points if you know what this is! I don’t! I thought at first it was a violet, but do they get spurs this long? Do I have photos of the leaves? I do not. Whoops. And no, it’s not a ladyslipper. I think.


There’s nothing ordinary about a dandelion.




I spotted this cutie in a stormwater retention pond. Happiness!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

words fail me

I went for a three hour walk with a friend in some nearby woods that are famed for their wildflowers.
The stream in this bed was sometimes above ground, and sometimes below ground. A mystery for another day.
That green haze on the forest floor is a veritable carpet of flowers. Without further ado:
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Dutchman’s breeches.
Squirrel corn.
In the above shot alone, there is dutchman’s breeches (lacy leaves at far left, and all over), squirrel corn (flowers at lower right), blue cohosh (tall stem on the left), trillium (self-evident, right?), wild ramp (fat narrow leaves), spring beauty (one eensy flower, right).
There was so much blue cohosh, I didn’t even bother to try to do it justice. The ones here were much further along than those at home, and I’ve found trying to capture cohosh is hard – the lightest, slightest breeze sets them to dancing.
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But here’s a nice shot at a cool stage – the structure of the plant is opened up, but the leaves have yet to fully unfold.

The trillium were simply epic. A ton of them. And huge. Oh, and there’s trout lily in the background, and blue cohosh. Sick.
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Jack-in-the-pulpit – these are the only ones we saw, perched on a rock ledge.
Weep-inducing Columbine.
Heart-stopping wild bleeding heart.
Crowfoot, a miniature early variety. As you can see, this is going to seed at a decent clip.
Trout lily up the wazoo. And a token spring beauty.
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False ginseng.
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Early saxifrage.
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Wild ginger’s freaky flower – I’ve always pegged this for a carnivore.
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Red baneberry.
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Multiple flavors of violet. You know you’re on system overload when you can’t even manage to take down enough detail to key out your violet species.
I was wearing chaco sandals, and after having done my 13 mile run yesterday, I’m not sure who got tired first: the soles of my feet, or my wonder-intake-capacity valve. I may need to eat an entire garlic pizza and soak up five episodes of “Eureka” just to recalibrate back to something approaching normal.