Wildflowerin’ gone bad

He who limps is still walking. ~Stanislaw J. Lec

I love wandering in the woods to find the first sleeping plants that awaken from the forest floor. It’s something of a rite of spring for me, despite the fact that I no longer have to suffer through a cold northern winter. Many of these spring ephemerals, as well as being beautiful, are important food sources for the first foraging butterflies and bees that emerge. Many are even downward-facing to better serve the insects that cruise the forest floor.

A couple weeks back we took an impromptu Friday evening walk to the nature trail at Stone Mountain Park; a friend had mentioned that it’s one of the best local places to see a few of my favorites. It’s an easy 3/4 mile trail that meanders beside a stream. It was lovely; the azaleas were blooming and as a bonus we saw our first Louisiana waterthrush of the season! Timage2here were many blooming mayapples – so hard to photograph nicely – and some pink lady slippers that I want to go back to check on. I found foamflower, I think, though it’s much taller than what I’m used to seeing in NJ. The common name comes from the delicate white flowers that look like foam. I love the extra long pistils on the flowers that rise above the white petals like little golden crowns. Books say that these flowers were often presented by Greeks as tokens of their love.

We also found green-and-gold which is another favorite. It blooms in shady woodland places. So pretty! I believe it’s in the aster family, so you know pollinators love it. We finished off our easy evening hike by deciding to head off the nature trail and into the forest proper. We didn’t gimage1et very far before we had to cross a wet area where the stream ran across a bunch of flat rocks. Despite being extra-super careful when crossing those slippery, moss-covered rocks, I managed to fall and twist up my leg. Bummer! Two weeks later and I finally worked up the courage to see a doctor today… the pain wasn’t going away and walking/sleeping/sitting haven’t gotten any easier. I have to go back for an MRI, but the chance is that I’ve torn a meniscus.

:-(

I’m studying up IMG_6814on knee anatomy (in between wildflower guides!) and hoping that rest and time and the brace the doctor gave me will fix it up. I welcome any suggestions for how to include/disguise this hideous-looking brace in my professional attire. I hope next time I’ll be more careful; wildflowers are a risky habit to have!

Ahem

IMG_6684-1I feel so rusty at this, so awkward. It’s not so much because actually doing it feels funny, but more because of the contrast between how unfamiliar it feels to be here, and how entirely natural it used to feel.

:(

It’s like returning to anything, I suppose. The yoga mat, or healthy eating… we don’t slip right back in where we we left off – or at least I don’t. It’s more like returning from a trip, maybe a long one. Abroad. I bring back treasures and memories, something tucked in my pocket, photographs, experiences that I hadn’t had before. I’d like to think I’m richer for this time away from regular blogging, but I doubt it.

At any rate, Atlanta really knows how to do Spring! Everything just comes into bloom at once. I wish I could bottle the crazy combination of daffodils-azaleas-dogwoods-cherry trees-forsythia-viburnums that is Spring here and send it to my friends who are still threatened with snow in the north. I wonder if we don’t appreciate the change in seasons more when it comes slowly? I used to think March was the worst… but here there were even a couple days when it was in the mid 80’s and I was left looking for shade beneath trees that hadn’t leafed out yet!

What’s blooming in your part of the world?

Spring rituals

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

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On the first day of March, a coworker from Bulgaria gave me this Martenitsa made from red and white yarn to wear as a bracelet until I saw my first sign of the coming spring: a swallow, a stork, or a flowering tree. Wearing the Martenitsa in the meantime would assure me of good luck and health in the coming year. I’m happy to report that just yesterday, I found a suitably beautiful blooming tree on which to hang my lucky charm, as the Bulgarian ritual dictates. Winter is officially over!

Have any spring rituals of your own to share? Ever heard of this one?

The camera’s virtue

“The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking.”
-Brooks Atkinson
Elf’s Orpine, a granite outcrop specialist
Rock moss and lichen
Fern unfurling into Spring
Rock moss and lichen, in a battle for dominance
Trailing Arbutus, a new find this year

Was has your camera helped you find lately?

: )

More signs of Spring!

Out with the cold, in with the woo. 
~E. Marshall, “Spring Thought”

A hike this afternoon at Arabia Mountain (my favorite local place!) led to a couple good finds. A very brave Jay scooped up this gelatinous mass of salamander eggs(?) from a vernal pool for me to poke and squirm at. There were lots of these (that I’m guessing might be Spotted Salamanders) and a couple of others that maybe are Blue Spotted Salamander eggs.

Very cool, kinda gross and entirely too squishy for my taste.

: )

The opposite end of the same vernal pool held lots of teeny-weeny frog tadpoles… could these be chorus frogs in my reflection?
I’m hoping Spring is making progress towards wherever you are…

Snow birds

A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder. 
 –Susan Orlean

We had snow today in Atlanta… real snow that caused my school to shut down early. I just saw on the TV that school’s closed tomorrow too… a snow day!

I spent the afternoon watching the birds in their snow-induced feeding frenzy. I sat on the warm couch and photographed them through the window as they scavenged bits of dropped seeds and suet or quenched their thirst at the flowerpot saucer I kept unfrozen with warm water.

I’m happiest to see the bluebirds so close; we have four or five at time at the suet feeder when the weather is especially cold. They bring other nice birds with them. A couple of yellow-rumped warblers are often around and occasionally a ruby-crowned kinglet even visits!

Pine warblers… we have what seems like a lot of pine warblers. It’s hard to know for sure how many there are because the males chase everyone else away from the feeder.

And they chase everyone else off their perch on the fence.

And they don’t like to share the flowerpot saucer, either. Such pretty birds, like a ray of bright sunshine. It’s still odd to me to see them in wintertime, but what a treat!

Surprise yourself

May your coming year be 
filled with magic and
dreams and good
madness. I hope you read
some fine books and kiss
someone who thinks
you’re wonderful, and
don’t forget to make some
art – write or draw or build
or sing or live as only you
can. And I hope,
somewhere in the next
year, you surprise
yourself. 
-Neil Gaiman
Happy New Year!

Swapping the sun

October used to mean the last sunny Saturdays on the beach, the last warm days to throw open the windows, the last long rays of light. Life moved indoors to soup, flannel sheets and listening to the wind howl outside for a couple months.

It’s not that way here; summer is the time to hide indoors with the windows shut against the blasting heat. I look forward to being able to enjoy time outdoors again without being drenched in sweat!

The earth still goes through her beautiful old cycle of change this month, however. Gone will be the sexy green heat and the cabaret act of summer. The sun’s glaring footlights are swapped for a mellow gold moon. October’s perfume is fallen leaves and wood smoke with a hint of apples. There will be chili again (and split-pea soup… hurrah!) and baseball for the hometown team (go Braves!)

What are you most looking forward to?