Sunday, March 28, 2010

I’m in the Mood for Dove

March 10, 2010
Right outside my window at lunchtime


(Five seconds later: )



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Birthday Bouquet

March 9, 2010
Moreau Lake State Park

What better place to spend my birthday than Moreau Lake ? At least I can get an hour or two of solitary rambling in, before going to work later this afternoon.
Other people have pool parties on their birthdays.
I am born too early in the year to even have a vernal-pool party !
At the very least, it should be something involving water, to be true to my Piscean nature.

With that in mind, the next best thing today is a walk along the Back Bay, which is actually another section of the main lake, a quieter one, beyond the Fishing Bridge.

Here I walk along Odonata Shore, which in a different season, will be thrumming with dragonflies and damselflies. This morning, it is seemingly quiet along the shore.
But just pause at the water’s edge – there’s a lot going on !
There’s barely a foot or two of open water, peeking out beyond the graying ice-sheet that still covers the bay.

The thin edges of the ice are crystal clear. Henry Thoreau writes of playing around with ice on a day very like today, and of trying to make “a burning-glass” from a piece like this.

It doesn’t quite work for me (nor did it for him), so I continue my stroll, peering down into that narrow window into the water-world before me.

Instead of hothouse flowers for my birthday,
I have bouquets of lacy leaves,

Each one more beautiful as I walk along

Lovingly crafted by time and decay during the winter months.

There’s the briefest glimpse of minnows, my fishy cousins, darting away as my shadow looms over them. (Can’t blame them.)
I stop and still-hunt the shallow depths.

I am surprised to see spiders, dashing around on the surface of the water. The water supports them with the slightest of dimples, like a transparent tempur-pedic mattress.

Then I spy something larger than a minnow, a slow wavy movement in the forest of dead leaves along the sandy floor.
It’s a newt !

He of course, spies me,

and glides under an oak leaf, not bothering to tuck in his tail.

But he’s very still, and the tail is camouflaged.
Had I passed this spot a minute later, I would have never noticed him.

Birthdays are a time to reflect.
On Time, on Getting Older, on the Past and the Future.
Today, I also saw ghostly reminders of mortality –
and of all the little-deaths we endure from time to time

And reminders of the possibilities of rebirth, as well.

I am so happy to be alive in this world full of wonders. In what ways can I give thanks for these gifts ?

For every day there are presents without number, waiting to be unwrapped.

They Have Come

from Thoreau's Journal, March 9, 1855:

You are always surprised
by the sight of the first spring bird or insect ;

they seem premature,
and there is no such evidence of spring as themselves,
so that they literally fetch the year about.

It is thus when I hear the first robin or bluebird,

or, looking along the brooks, see the first water-bugs out circling.

But you think,

They have come, and Nature cannot recede.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Striped Squirrel Spring

March 7, 2010
Warren County Bike Path, near Glen Lake, NY

I am on the alert for the first signs of spring,

to hear the chance note of some arriving bird,
or the striped squirrel's chirp,
for his stores must be now nearly exhausted.
-- HDT, Walden

Another fantastic sunny, blue-sky late winter day! With the temperature getting to almost 50 degrees, the snow is melting apace. There’s still plenty of it around, but now one can walk on the trail and, in places, feel once again the earth and leaves beneath one’s boots.

The snow’s seemingly unending grasp on the land is broken, and it shrinks daily.

Years ago, my dear departed friend Nancy and I -- who were born in the same week of March – started a little tradition on our birthdays. She and I would drag out beach chairs, and sit in the snow, sunning ourselves in shirtsleeves. We called it The March Thaw.
It’s something to take advantage of, being a temporary phenomenon. Sometimes March comes in like a lion – and out like one too.

This weekend, the March Thaw appeared right on time.

There’s really nothing quite as nice as pausing to feel the warm and genial March sunlight on your face. (You wonder how on earth you can stand to do the same thing in July.)
We all crawl out from under our respective rocks for a few moments, and bask, sniffing a change in the air.

In this we follow the example of the chipmunks, who have not been seen since the snows fell. Suddenly they are everywhere in the still-snowy woods, chipping and peeping away like Easter-chicks.
The first one you see is year is like a mirage.

“Did I just see a – chipmunk?” you wonder, as what you think you saw zips over to the corner of your eye.
Zip ! zip! Their striped sides only serve as camouflage while they are being absolutely still, at which time it works admirably.

Like an independent russet leaf, with a will of its own, rustling whither it could;
now under the fence, now over it …
-- HDT, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

And yet, as if to toss away an advantage which took eons to evolve, they completely blow their cover -- by peeping.

Today I walked a wooded section of the Bike Trail, which follows an old railroad bed. As I stopped to admire the Unveiling of the Hepatica Leaves –

–- I heard that familiar chirp, and saw a quizzical face looking out from the rocks.
I stood as still as I could, keeping my camera up by my chin.

Then another face popped out to the left – and another to the right!

Then, furry little bodies zipped in out of out various crevices, like a shell game, till I couldn’t tell who was who.

Here they are, all popped up at the same time:

Hopefully, they are able to sort things out.

May not this season of springlike weather
between the first decidedly springlike day
and the first blue-bird, already fourteen days long,
be called the striped squirrel spring?

--HDT’s Journal, March 4, 1855

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Above It All

[still catching up – watch the snow disappear, across the next few blog entries !]
March 6, 2010
Spring Overlook, Moreau Lake State Park

For the first time in a long while, I was able to attend one of the group hikes at Moreau Park. Our destination: Spring Overlook, a rocky shelf on the edge of the mountain that has fine views to the north. The trail is a wide path that climbs gradually. In the summer, it takes me about 45 minutes, including rest stops – er, I mean, photo sessions, heh heh.

With the promise of a clear and warm (38 degrees) day, quite a few people signed up. It was listed as a 3-hr excursion, but Jackie and I agreed to stay up there a while longer and come back down on our own recognizance.

The trail was snow-covered, but no snowshoes were needed. Along the way, made a stop at the Moss Garden, almost completely covered with snow. I found some mosses just beginning to peek out and look around.

Also peeking out are the chipmunks, who have been socializing above-ground now for about a week. They were moving pretty fast.

On rocky ledges, water droplets moving down under sheets of ice looked like so many tadpoles. The mountain awakes.

Up at the overlook, the view was grand. Everyone pretty much just stood there -- admiring the scenery -- for quite some time.

How could you not?

Below us was a sharp bend in the Hudson River, which in this section is almost completely ice-free. (Last year at this time, it was still locked-in.) This is where the eagles hang out in winter.

We didn’t see any eagles today, but the local ravens came to check us out.

The sky is especially blue up here, and the reflected light from the snow below gave everything a crisp look. Even the modest pines looked glamorous.

After a while, the main group headed back down. Jackie and I stayed on the ridge for a while, looking at things like deer-beds, fisher tracks, snow-fleas, and logy but alive spiders.

We took our sweet time. We focused our attention on these small but wonderful things. I am glad to have a walking companion who enjoys doing this.

There was a wind-shift predicted for today, and while we were could not feel any air movement at ground level, things were evidently a-happenin’ far above us !
It was a floating field-guide of cloud shapes. Feather-edges -- hippie fringes -- curly Cape-Cod maps. All lasting but a few minutes each, before morphing into something else, as the clouds drifted swiftly south-west.

You must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds …
HDT letter to Mrs. Lucy Brown, 1842

Bonus sighting: before going home that day, I stopped at the Sherman Island Boat Launch, to take in the view downriver in the late afternoon sun. It's a scene I never tire of.
For the first time in months, I am wishing I had my kayak at my feet.

On one of the large rocks at the river’s edge, I spied some movement – stoneflies !

About a quarter-inch long, they were small-scale versions of the giant tiffany-winged monsters we saw last summer along Rocky Brook.

They are another welcome sign that warmer days are coming.