Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting near that time of year

The angle of the sun lower, dawn later, sunset sooner, the nights cold, the geese practicing their maneuvers, the colors changing, the school buses on the roads, the children wearing book bags, me in the garden picking the last tomatoes.

The medicinal herbal plants in the photo include goldenrod - Solidago canadensis, boneset - Eupatorium perfoliatum, great blue lobelia - Lobelia siphilitica, and that yellow sunflower which is one of the tallest perennials that grows here, the cup plant - Silphium perfoliatum.
Trees in the meadow-turned-woods are tinting yellow-y now. There used to be a cow pasture there, then a corn field there, and now a scrub woods is beginning. I used to look across that field all the way to the far hedgerow, and in the winter I could see rabbits popping their heads up out of their barrows. Last year three deer leaped out of the thicket of trees while I was putting the garden to bed. Nothing stays the same.

Spring and Fall, to a Young Child
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Friday, September 05, 2008

a walk in the woods

That same weekend I enjoyed a solitary walk in a nearby nature preserve.

I'm a sucker for wildflowers. This is one I didn't know right away, but its common name is so descriptive I won't forget it again: Starflower, of the Primrose Family, Tridentalis borealis. Isn't that Latin name lovely? Go ahead, say it out loud. With an Italian accent is better yet.
... Tridentalis borealis... Ahhh, bene.

(Remember, you can click on the photos to see a better version.)

These pink flowers carpeted the forest floor in some areas. I wasn't familiar with them either.

You wouldn't think anyone could get lost on such a well marked path, now would you?
Note how the paint marker color coordinates with the pink wildflowers. Do you think the trailkeepers did that on purpose? Everything on the Mission Peninsula IS so perfect ...

When I returned to the B&B, we found their wildflower guide wasn't where they'd left it (the house is full of bookshelves, my kind of place) but I showed Bob the photos on my camera (ain't digital grand?) and he recognised it as Fringed Polygala, of the Milkwort Family, Polygala paucifolia.
A rather common Michigan wildflower, I just haven't noticed it before. Another common name in the field guide was Flowering-Wintergreen obviously on account of the leaves, but the flowers are all wrong for that name to stick. Wintergreens flower with little waxy whitish bells.

In his classic wildflower handbook, "Michigan Flora", Dr. Voss wrote: "... the first few flowers and leaves at the summit [provide] a striking touch of color, often abundant in northern damp woods in spring. An old beach ridge carpeted with polygala, calypso, and dwarf lake iris is a feast of beauty not soon forgotten." I was "there".

Well, almost. I didn't see any of the endangered species, Dwarf Lake Iris' but I did find plenty of these, unnoticed at first glance in the leaf duff on the forest floor:

No, not Calypso. I'm still not sure which of the native Ladyslipper Orchids these are, another week along and the blossoms might have bloomed. I was so happy just to discover them. (Sorry for the blurry photo, it was beiginning to sprinkle.)

A peaceful pond. Not another thing to disturb the the sounds of bugs and birds and frogs.

And for a small lagniappe on the way out, a few Jacks waved goodbye.

If you go there, remember ... take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Meadow Labyrinth

Mission Peninsula, Michigan
Memorial Day, 2008
Completely charming. Yes, I had an insight, or made a connection, so to speak, mine having to do with dandelions.
I'd like to thank the owners, the creators of this good place. They weren't home either of the times I stopped there.

The Labyrinth is mowed into the meadow. Obvously no herbicides are used on the weeds. It's a calm and private seeming spot, even though I think you could see the walker if you were in a neighboring house or on the road. The way starts over by the seat and the center is by that round canopied tree. You really don't see it until you walk it.

As I was walking out I was kicking through the dandelions to see their seeds dispersing, it being that time of year when the first bloomed dandelions have matured to white puffs.
Only the week before, back at home, my tiny granddaughter who was sleeping in the car with her waiting parents while I did my little exploration, only the week before this quiet little girl had revealed her fine sense of humor, which I think is the most miraculous thing about witnessing the wonder of a baby meeting the world.
Aubrey was in my arms in the garden while I puffed on a dandelion for her wonder and my memory. "Poofff!" She giggled and we "poofed" on, and laughed together to see the puffy parachuted seeds floating out in the soft early summer air..
As the sign suggested, "Laugh"...