Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More Splendid Moonlight Than Usual

May 6, 2012
Moreau Lake State Park, NY

If there is a more splendid moonlight than usual
only the belated traveler observes it …
   HDT’s Journal, May 18, 1851  [continues below]

Every month of the year, Moreau Lake State Park hosts a Full Moon Walk.
In winter months, sometimes that walk leads us
right down the middle of the frozen lake.
In summer, it’s a way to see a familiar trail in a new light.

For this month’s moon, we went on a Full Moon Paddle.
Headlines were all blatting about the upcoming “SuperMoon,” which was supposed to be “at least 14 percent brighter.”  While  I do appreciate the unique heavenly positioning of this month’s moon, the hype about it was a bit irritating.  Then again, such hype might get more folks to step away from the TV, go outside and look up !

For many full moons last year, I was not able to attend the walks, unless they were on a weekend evening. So it was with great pleasure that I pulled my little kayak out of the storage bin, slid her into the car, and joined the other folks at the boat launch on the Lake.

There were, all told, twelve boats in our flotilla.

The clouds of late afternoon were swept away as the weather changed for the better.

While Moreau Lake is not exactly wilderness -- it is visited daily by swimmers, campers and boaters -- by the time the sun began to set,
we had the water mostly to ourselves.  
The night-songs of unseen amphibians filled the air, and we drifted past the scent of a distant campfire.

The lake takes on a wilder aspect as the mountain grows dark
and looms above the water. Now it’s a mountain of owls, instead of a mountain of songbirds.  American Toads begin to purr from reedy coves.

The Muskrats grow bolder as the light dims – here’s one heading straight for John !

Alas, as you can see by the above, over the winter I had forgotten about the dreaded Moving Boat Effect on photos.

Combine that with ever-fading light, and you get a more, um ... Impressionist style than usual.

(That smaller light on the left is Jackie's camera-screen. She's trying to capture moonlight from a moving boat, too.)
But you get the idea.
The scenery was beautiful, whether captured by a camera or not.

We were near the end of our evening paddle. At last the Moon rose slowly and steadily, up and over the trees at Head Cove. We all rafted-up and sat quietly, floating in the moonlight.

It was a grand night to be out, and equally grand to spend these hours with others who appreciate such things.  Fellow-saunterers on the water.
On that moonlit night so long ago, Henry Thoreau walked alone.

… I am wont to think that all men are aware
of this miracle –
that they too are silently worshipping
this manifestation of divinity elsewhere –
but when I go into the house
I am undeceived,
they are absorbed in checquers or chess or novel,
though they may have been advertised of the brightness
through the shutters.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grazin’ in the Grass

April 24 2012
Moreau Lake State Park

Within a few days I pricked my fingers smartly
against the sharp, stiff points of some sedge coming up.
At Heywood's meadow, by the railroad,
this sedge, rising green and dense
with yellow tips above the withered clumps,
is very striking,
suggesting heat,
even a blaze, there.
   HDT's Journal, April 21, 1859

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the first thing about the Grasses --despite the helpfulness of Jackie’s repeated singing of
Sedges have edges…” at the slightest provocation.
 I am definitely a Lazy Botanist.

So I was happy to meet and walk today with a new friend - Jeremy, who is something of a Grass Scholar.
He is involved with Grassland restoration in the Midwest, and has approval to do some research in the Park.
He asked the folks at the Park: was there anyone who might be interested in showing him around ?
You bet !

Jackie and I were glad to take him around to certain places where we had seen plants that might be of interest to Jeremy.

First stop, the powerline easement. Despite disturbances and other manmade meddling, easements can be amazing collections of plants not found elsewhere.

Jackie and Jeremy soon started chattering in Latin plant-names,
while I followed along and said things like,
“Oh look, here’s something purple!”
which they would hunker down to examine it.

More Latin incantations then ensued.

Sorry the wood betony photo didn’t turn out,
the gods chose that moment to send a dark blustery cloud our way,
and pelt us with sleet.

“What a beautiful day!” someone said, and we all busted out laughing.

There were tiny polygalas,

and ovate violets tucked away in the profusion of mosses.

It’s certainly an odd year, with early spring flowers blooming next to things we usually don’t see until May, like these blueberries.

We then headed to Mud Pond, and showed Jeremy more of our local botanic delights.
His main interest is grasses, but he seemed to equally enjoy the beaver lodge, the tamaracks returning to life,
and the yellow violets (which we found in both downy and smooth forms.)

Jeremy found an old elm tree, and showed me some clues to identifying them.
And we wandered happily at the edge of the Senecio Plain,
where very soon, the masses of Golden Ragwort will light up even a cloudy day with glowing yellow flowers.

Alas, I had to leave for work at that point in our walk,
but there will be other times hopefully, and other places to go a-botanizing with our new acquaintance this summer.