Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Interrrrr-rupt This Message

March 21, 2012
Queensbury, NY
Along the Warren County Bike Path

...with an important bulletin: Spring is Here!
New Year's Greetings to all my friends both near and far.

I'll let the wood frogs tell you all about it:

Each new year is a surprise to us.
We find that we had virtually forgotten
the note of each bird,
and when we hear it again
it is remembered like a dream,
reminding us of a previous state of existence.
How happens it that the associations it awakens
are always pleasing,
never saddening;
reminiscences of our sanest hours?
The voice of nature is always encouraging.

     HDT Journal, March 18, 1858

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Crystalline Botany

[from “The Second November” : December 2011]

December 25, 2011
Moreau Lake State Park

In the winter,
the botanist needs not confine himself
to his books and herbarium,
and give over his outdoor pursuits,
but may study a new department
of vegetable physiology,
what may be called crystalline botany, then.

    HDT, The Natural History of Massachusetts, 1842

It was Christmas Day, and I had a day off, after a long long week at work.
As is our usual custom, Rick came over from Vermont for the holiday.
We both wanted to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air.
So we went for a walk at Moreau Lake, even though there was STILL no snow, the lake had not yet frozen, and the sky was dreary and damp.

We parked the car and walked in past the gate. The road to the beach is closed in winter. But you can walk in, and we ambled down the hill,
not having any plans exactly.
Just past the Warming Hut, we took a sharp left turn to visit what I call Zen Brook.

Red Oak Ridge trail crosses the brook, at the foot of a steep hill.
The brook tumbles down the slope in the form of mini-waterfalls and
little meditation pools.

Many folks pause here to look up the hill, admire the brook, and then keep following the trail as it continues away through the woods.
At the little bridge, we left the trail, and climbed slowly up one side of the brook.

It’s one of several places I know of in the park to see liverwort in all its scaly beauty. Or as we call it, “lizard-wort.”

But at this time of year, that’s about it for plants.
So it’s time for ... Crystalline Botany!

It’s interesting to observe how water moves down the hill in little steps.

I love the way moving water somehow turns to ice.

And the various forms it takes.

Lacy ice,

Spikey ice,

And my favorite, bubbly ice!

We hung out at the brook for a while, taking photos and just enjoying the simple beauty. Its gurgling sound was soothing to the soul.

I had come here a few days earlier, to see if the Big Lake was frozen over yet. When I arrived that day, it was plenty cold, but a stiff breeze was blowing.
No ice.
It had been too warm for any of the local lakes to freeze yet, in this unusual winter.

I walked a while along the roadway, then circled back to return to the lakeshore.
The wind had stopped, and there was an eerie cold calm.

I stood on the shoreline, where an hour earlier, there had been choppy waves and very wet water.
To my surprise, the water was changing, as I stood there watching.
The surface was full of weird designs --

as the water became something between a liquid and a solid.

The water was gelling, right before my eyes.
It was like watching Jack Frost at work.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rocks Which I Have Known

[from "The First November": November 2011]

November 11, 2011
Somewhere above Spier Falls, Moreau Lake State Park

When my thoughts are sensible of change,
I love to see and sit on rocks which I have known,
and pry into their moss,
and see unchangeableness so established.
I not yet gray
on rocks forever gray,
I no longer green
under the evergreens.
There is something even in the lapse of time
by which time recovers itself.
   HDT, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers 

Went a-walking with Laurie W. today, to a place she suggested.
She is a geologist by trade, and searches the ground not for blossoms, but for rocks.

She lives close by, and knows this side of the mountain
like the back of her hand. Her affection for this place is something she is passing on to her children, who just about grew up on these woods. They volunteer for trail work now, on the same trails where Laurie pushed them in a stroller when they were little.

Hunting-season had begun, and hunting is permitted in the area where we planned to walk. Laurie shook her head sadly as I stepped out of the car in my usual white cap -- and loaned me a nice blaze-orange one.

We walked upwards until we were above the river, looking down upon it on this grey day. When we weren't looking down at rocks.
I know next to nothing of the science of geology, and Laurie was patient enough to point out some interesting things to my unpracticed eye,
Like precipitates - not just a dirty rock, these are stuck on permanently
And garnets in feldspar - or is it gneiss?
well, they are garnets, anyway

I like how this shale-like rock just decided to break down

And share its space with another life-form

The line between plant and stone Is not always clear

This  apple-sized “stone” turned out to be a mushroom: Earth-Ball
A drop of morning dew on this moss looked so refreshing
And even dead leaves looked leathery-rich.

Our walk ended when some dark clouds scudded in from the west, and it seemed that perhaps we'd get the snow we have all been waiting for.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Four Novembers

It is but a short time these afternoons
before the night cometh in which no man can walk.
If you delay to start till three o’clock,
there will be hardly time left for a long and rich adventure,
to get fairly out of town.
November Eat-heart, is that the name of it?
Not only the fingers cease to do their office,
but there is often a benumbing of the faculties generally.
HDT's Journal, November 25, 1857

It becomes apparent when you read Thoreau’s Journals
which he kept from 1837 until shortly before his death in 1862 –
that he had a hard time with November.
He would work himself into a very deep funk at that time of year.
I guess any of us who follow the flowers are at a loss as to what to do between the time of the killing frosts and the first gladdening snowfall.

Mercifully that interval is usually a short one, and in no time at all,
we are having fun in the snow.

Well it’s a good thing Henry T. was not around for THIS winter,
because around here, we have basically had four Novembers in a row!  No white Christmas, and precious little snowfall
(most of it an inch at a time, and then quickly melted
by the unusually warm temperatures.)

The most we’ve had was several inches’ worth on the very morning of our Winter Tracking Workshop (thank goodness!)  But since then, the ground has been mostly open.

 Foreboding skies constantly threatened -- but if anything, we got rain. Ugh.

It's enough to stop and make you think.

I’d say the raw-damp-grey days outnumbered the sunny ones,
but you won’t see many photos of those.
I'm in a foul mood, myself!
And have fallen very far behind in my blogging, for one reason or another.
In an attempt to catch up, let me somehow pick out just four days - one day for each of our Four Novembers this winter -
days that, in retrospect, stand out as days well spent.