Moss Worlds

July 14, 2018

Mosses, which love water, have structural features in their leaves that allow them to channel moisture downward and inward and hold it for awhile in the densest part of their growth.  Even in the fairly dry weather we’ve been having, most of the mossy places in the yard and woods still look surprisingly green and fresh.

I wonder if humans in the long course of our coming into being as a species, did not have a few forebearers—mites, spiders, or tardigrades—that were inhabitants of the mossy biome.  There is something familiar and beckoning about the green spaces moss creates.

World we somehow know—
hidden homes in cool moss glens,
welcome shade of fern.

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Canadian High

 

July 8, 2018

On the eastern side of the Canadian Rockies there is a semi-permanent high-pressure system called the Canadian High.  It’s cooled by proximity to the Arctic, and protected from Pacific moisture by the high mountains to the west. Now and again, this pressure system sees fit to travel southeast, crossing into New England on its way to the Atlantic, and bringing with it plenty of sunshine and cool, dry air.

We’d been having uncommonly hot, muggy weather lately with temperatures and humidity levels both in the nineties.  To say it was uncomfortably hot doesn’t come close to capturing it.  It was so bad that public health officials advised visits to cooling shelters for those without air conditioning.  That’s most of the human and pet population of Maine.  Things seemed even harder for the woodland animals.

When the Canadian high rolled in yesterday it was cause for general celebration.

Canadian high!
Crisp air, clear light, oxygen–
all things smile, revive.

Version 3

Summer Solstice

June 20, 2018

 

 

The summer solstice is tomorrow.  Today there are fifteen and a half hours between sunrise and sunset.  When I factor in the softer light of early dawn and post-sunset that’s over sixteen hours of daylight, a lot of radiant energy.

It seems as though every living thing is taking advantage of this time of abundant light to feed, grow, and make the next generation.

Much of this upwelling of life delights me.  I have a special fondness for the recently-appeared tiger swallowtail butterflies cutting jagged flight lines around the last of the lilacs, and also for the peonies with their absurdly lavish blooms.  Last week, when the snapping turtle made her annual climb up from the lake and saw fit to lay her clutch of eggs in the bare soil near our clothes line my heart raced with excitement.

But at this time of year, there is some life that presents discomforts and threats to us humans.  Poison ivy is poking up here, there, and everywhere.  The browntail moth caterpillar with its toxic hairs that can float through the air invisibly and cause a nasty rash in many folks, has started to show up in our area.  There are ticks, including deer ticks, which are rightly feared for carrying disease.  The incredible snapping turtle too, if provoked, has a powerful finger-devouring bite.

In the very animate world of solstice time I struggle to be alert, appreciative…and careful.

Phoebes snap mayflies
near where Turtle laid her eggs—
Summer solstice time.

Bloom Time Stars

May 18, 2018

It’s bloom time now in Maine: forsythia, crab apple, bleeding heart, quince, bluets, dandelions, lilac (just starting), azaleas, Canada mayflowers, hyacinths…. and more, lots more.  It is hard to keep track, to keep up, to take it all in.

Amid all this bounty, the flowers that draw my particular attention this spring are the lavender-colored blooms of the common sage.  I hadn’t been very successful with sage in the past, but this year, in April, shoots sprang up from the wintered-over plant I had kept in a pot in the shelter of our sunny back porch.  By early May, flower buds had formed, and a few days later, all at once, they opened.  I cut the blooms to encourage further growth from this hardy, healthful–I want to say magical–herb.

Overnight they came,
paper thin and violet—
dragons born of sage

 

Between Water and Ice

April 24, 2018

The current string of three calm, beautiful days with full sun and temperatures in the sixties has changed the status of the ice on the lake from thick, unvarying white, to the fragile blue-black of “almost ice out.” Already, the air smells of water, cormorants dive in the narrow ice-free corridors, and other powerful fish-eating birds—osprey and bald eagles— that we haven’t seen since the fall circle overhead.

Through frail ice, half water,
an eagle spots, scoops its prey–
life exposed to sky.

 A bald eagle perches in an oak tree after eating a fish caught through the soft ice.

American Pussy Willow, Salix discolor

April 12, 2018

I remember loving pussy willows when I was a child.  (By pussy willows I mean not the tree, but the buds—technically catkins—when they first appear on twigs in early spring.)  I only encountered them in vases, since in North America the native tree for pussy willows Salix discolor, is one that favors a northern climate, and we lived in the south (Virginia, Kentucky, New Mexico).  I remember wanting to see pussy willows in abundance, whole trees filled with silvery silky buds.

Living in Maine, I have my wish.  Salix discolor is at home here.  I first notice the buds in middle March.  They are hardy to cold and snow, and if the temperatures stay on the low side, as they have so far this season, the buds keep their shape and their charming furriness as they slowly swell.  They are not everywhere—the tree likes wet areas with lots of sun—and I have never encountered them in the density I dreamed of as a child, but if you keep your eyes open in early April you are sure to see them.

Little bits of cloud
beaded tight along thin stems-
pussy willow buds