Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Foretastes of Heaven

Spring Overlook,
Moreau Lake State Park
June 21, 2010

When the yellow lily flowers in the meadows,
and the red in dry lands and by wood-paths,
then, methinks, the flowering season has reached its height.
They surprise me as perhaps no more can.
Now I am prepared for anything.
HDT's Journal, July 7, 1852

Solstice Greetings to One and All!

A year ago, I celebrated this day by taking the trail up to Spring Overlook.
I walked alone and saw many wonderful things.

It was time to go up there again.
This time, there were four of us making the journey:
Jackie, Rebecca, Cliff and myself.
Among other things, it was a quest to see the Wood-Lilies, which are blooming now on the sunny slopes off the trail.

The last time I came up here, on a gently warm spring day of this year, the path was lined with violets.
Today, there were only a few lonely bluets here and there to echo the sky's color.

You have to look harder at this time of year to see the life in the shady woods.

But as Thoreau notes in his Journal, the flowers have progressed from pale and gentle colors, through yellows and orange, to culminate in the ultimate summer flower - what he called the Red Lily.

It "makes freckles beautiful," he said.

Somehow it hides in the ferns, and one can walk past it unknowing.

But once it catches your eye, you are drawn to it, helpless as a butterfly to resist.

Lily-Hunters: Mission Accomplished !

Ah, that's a bit misleading -- despite the fact that we are doing a survey of these native flowers, we are also taking it easy on this walk, letting summer into all of our senses.

Once at the Overlook, we all just stand there awhile.
I confess that I was talking too much. It seems a holy place.
Eventually we all settled down --
being still -- absorbing the sun's rays -- botanizing -- as befit each of our natures.

Your attention is torn between the beautiful view in front of you--

and the fact that on the rocks behind you -- blueberries are ripening in nursery colors.

It's great to have friends in high places.

No, this is not a photo of an altitude-sickness attack :

I had suggested we start a tradition of eating a blueberry without using one's hands.
We all partook.
Jackie thought I had said that this was ALREADY a time-honored tradition, and with her usual gusto, gave it a try.

Bobbing for vaccinium !

(Later, no one took me up on doing the same with the red raspberries we found. Doing the limbo under those prickly canes did not appeal to anyone.)

We all agreed, however, that it was a wonderful way to spend a Midsummer's Day.

Are our serene moments
mere foretastes of heaven
Joys gratuitously vouchsafed to us

as a consolation –
Or simply
a transient realization of what might be
The whole tenor of our lives?
Journal, June 22 1851

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tender Organizations

May 23, 2010
Dunham's Bay Marsh, Lake George, NY

I see a great many young and tender dragon-flies,
both large and small, hanging to the grass-tops and weeds and twigs which rise above the water still going down.
They are weak and sluggish and tender-looking,
and appear to have lately crawled up these stems
from the bottom where they were hatched,
and to be waiting till they are hardened up in the sun and air.

 Where the grass and rushes are thick over the shallow water,
I see their large gauze-like wings vibrating in the breeze
and shining in the sun.
It is remarkable that such tender organizations
survive so many accidents.

Thoreau's Journal, May 22, 1854

While out paddling in any quiet water this time of year, it’s impossible not to notice the dragon-flies. They seem to be everywhere, perched on reeds or resting on lilypads.

Their reputation is one of great hunters (and devourers of many mosquitoes!). Alas the hunter often becomes the hunted, being himself preyed upon by many marshland birds, intent on feeding their hidden young.

Today while paddling in the marsh, I noticed something curled up on a lily pad.
Wasn't sure what it was, until I got much closer:

I pulled the boat in among the reeds to steady it, and watched a dragon-fly trade his aquatic existence for a more aerial life.

 The birds appear especially alert to take advantage of them, when in this tender condition.

 Blackbirds and kingbirds swooped out over the water, flycatching, and at times dipping down to pick up insects from the water’s surface.

So while in one respect, I was intruding upon a very private scene,
perhaps in a way my presence helped to keep the birds away, at least for now.

It took forty minutes for him to undergo the change from creeping nymph to winged beauty. In a sudden gust of wind, the wings snapped into an open position.

A minute later, came a second gust of wind --and he lifted up up up
and flew out of sight.
Nothing left here on earth except the husk of his former self.

Once the process started, I could not look away. Is it birth? Re-birth? Metamorphosis?

I could only think of the term used back in Thoreau’s day –

“He did not die, but was instead translated
into a higher existence …”