It takes us forever and we like it that way. In fact, today a woman who saw us in our typical slo-mo movement commented, “It’s like you’re on a meditative walk. I always move quickly and miss so much.” Indeed we were and when I travel beside Jinny Mae there isn’t much we don’t see. But always, we’re sure that we’ve moved too quickly and missed something. Then again, we realize that whatever it was that we accidentally passed by this time may offer us a second chance the next time.
Today’s wonder began with the realization that winterberry holly or Ilex verticillata, grew abundantly where we chose to travel. This native shrub will eventually lose its leaves, but the plentiful berries will last for a while–until they’ve softened considerably that is and then the birds will come a’calling.
Everywhere we turned, or so it seemed, we found them ranging in color from spring green to shades of red. As summer turns to autumn, the leaves will yellow and eventually fall.
And then the brightly colored berries that cling to every stem will add color where it’s otherwise lacking in the landscape.
Even while the leaves still held fast, we found some brightly colored berries that offered a breathtaking view.
We passed through numerous natural communities, tiptoeing at times, such as on the boardwalks, for we didn’t want to disturb the wildlife around us–no matter what form it took.
And we rejoiced in spying a cherry-faced meadowhawk couple in their pre-canoodling mode. Can you see how he has used his cerci to clasp the back of her head? His hope is that he can get her to connect in the wheel position and they’ll take off into the safety of the nearby shrubbery to mate.
At the river, we began to notice other signs that we’ve once again entered a transition between seasons, for subtle were the colors before us.
Across the river and just north of where we stood, we spotted an old lodge, but weren’t sure anyone was in residence for it didn’t seem like work was being done to prepare for winter. Then again, we haven’t done anything to prepare either, for though the temperature has suddenly shifted from stifling to comfortable (and possibly near freezing tonight), it’s still summer in Maine. And we’re not quite ready to let go.
That being said, we found a most confusing sight. Sheep laurel grew prolifically in this place and we could see the fruits had formed from this past spring’s flowers and dangled below the new leaves like bells stringed together.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t all that odd that it still bloomed for when I got home I read that it blooms late spring to late summer. I guess we’ve just always noticed it in late spring and assumed that was the end of its flowering season. But then again, it appeared that this particular plant had already bloomed earlier in the season and produced fruit, so why a second bloom? Is that normal?
As we continued on, we started to look for another old favorite that we like to honor each time we visit. No matter how often we see them, we stand and squat in awe of the carnivorous pitcher plants.
But today, we were a bit disturbed for one that we’ve admired for years on end looked like it was drying up and dying. In fact, the location is typically wet, but not this year given the moderate drought we’ve been experiencing in western Maine. What would that mean for the pitcher plant?
Even the flower pod of that particular one didn’t look like it had any life-giving advice to share in the future.
Fortunately, further on we found others that seemed healthy, though even the sphagnum moss that surrounded them had dried out.
Their pitcher-like leaves were full of water and we hoped that they had found nourishment via many an insect. Not only do I love the scaly hairs that draw the insects in much like a runway and then deter them from exiting, but also the red venation against the green for the veins remind me of trees, their branches spreading rather like the tree of life. Or maybe a stained glass window. Or . . . or . . . we all have our own interpretations and that’s what makes life interesting.
Speaking of interesting, the structure of the pitcher plant flower is one we revere whenever we see it because it’s so otherworldly in form. And this one . . . no the photo isn’t sideways, but the flower certainly was. If you scroll up two photos, you’ll see it as it grew among the leaves. The curious thing is that it was sideways. Typically in this locale, Jinny Mae and I spy many pitcher plant flowers standing tall. Today, we had to squint to find any.
She found the sideways presentation and this one. But that was it. Because of the drought? Or were we just not cueing in to them?
We did cue in to plenty of other striking sights like the light on a cinnamon fern that featured a contrast of green blades and brown.
Again, whether the brown spoke of drought or the transition to autumn, we didn’t know. But we loved its arching form dramatically reflected in each pinna.
But here’s another curious thing we noted. We were in a red maple swamp that is often the first place where the foliage shows off its fall colors and while some in other locales have started to turn red, only the occasional one in this place had done so. Our brains were totally confused. Sheep laurel blooming for a second time; pitcher plants drying up and dying; and few red maples yet displaying red leaves?
We needed something normal to focus on. And so we looked at the candy corn we found along the trail. Some know them as witch’s caps. They are actually witch hazel cone galls caused by an aphid that doesn’t appear to harm the plant. It is a rather cool malformation.
On a boardwalk again, we stepped slowly because the white-faced meadowhawk kept us company and we didn’t want to startle it into flight.
One flew in with dinner in its mouth and though I couldn’t get a photo face on before it flew to another spot to dine in peace, if you look closely, you might see the green bug dangling from its mouth.
All round us grew asters including New York, water-horehound, cranberries, bog rosemary and so many others.
There was Virginia marsh St. John’s Wort,
fragrant water lilies,
and even pilewort to admire. The latter is so much prettier in its seed stage than flowering. Why is that we wondered.
Ahhhh, an afternoon of wondering . . . with Jinny Mae. At LEA’s Holt Pond Preserve. In Bridgton. An afternoon well spent. Thanks JM.