The Wonders of Kezar River Reserve

How many people can  travel a familiar route for the first time every time? I know I can.

j-kiosk

And so it was this morning when I ventured to the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Kezar River Reserve off Route 5 in Lovell. I went with a few expectations, but nature got in the way, slowed me down and gave me reason to pause and ponder–repeatedly.

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As I walked along the trail above the Kezar River, I spied numerous oak apple galls on the ground. And many didn’t have any holes. Was the wasp larvae still inside?

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While the dots on the gall were reddish brown, the partridgeberry’s oval drupes shone in Christmas-red fashion. I’m always awed by this simple fruit that results from a complex marriage–the fusion of pollinated ovaries of paired flowers. Do you see the two dimples? That’s where the flowers were attached. Two became one. How did they do this?

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After walking along the first leg of the trail, I headed down the “road” toward the canoe launch. And what to my wondering eyes should appear–fairy homes. Okay–true confession: As a conclusion to GLLT’s nature program for the Lovell Recreation Program this summer, the kids, their day camp counselors and our interns and docents created these homes.

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I was impressed that the disco ball still hangs in the entrance of this one. Do you see it? It just happens to be an oak apple gall. Creative kids. I do hope they’ve dropped by with their parents to check on the shelters they built.

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And then I reached the launch site and bench. It’s the perfect spot to sit, watch and listen. So I did. The bluejays kekonked, nuthatches yanked and kingfishers rattled.

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A gentle breeze danced through the leaves and offered a ripply reflection.

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And I . . . I awaited great revelations that did not come. Or did they? Was my mind open enough to receive? To contemplate the mysteries of life? The connections? The interactions?

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At last, I moved on and entered a section that is said to be uncommon in our area: headwall erosion. This is one of five ravines that feature deep v-shaped structures. Underground streams passing through have eroded the banks. It’s a special place that invites further contemplation. And exploration.

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One of my favorite wonders on the bit of stream that trickled through–water striders. While they appeared to skate on the surface, they actually took advantage of water tension making it look like they walked on top as they feasted on insects and larvae that I could not see.

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Lots of turtle signs also decorated the trail. Literally.

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In fact, I found bear sign,

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cardinal sign,

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and lady’s slipper sign . . . among others. Local students painted the signs and it’s a fun  and artistic addition to the reserve.

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Of course, there was natural sign to notice as well, including a blue jay feather.

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Asters and goldenrods offered occasional floral decorations.

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And hobblebush berries begged to be noticed.

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And then a meadowhawk dragonfly captured my attention. I stood and watched for moments on end.

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And noted that the red maples offered similar colors.

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When I reached the canoe launch “road,” I was scolded for my action.

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Despite that, I returned to the bench overlooking the mill pond on the river. Rather than sit on the bench this time,  I slipped down an otter slide to the water’s edge.

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My efforts were rewarded. Frogs jumped. And a few paused–probably hoping that in their stillness I would not see them. But I did . . . including this green frog.

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My favorite wonder of the day . . .

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moments spent up close and personal with another meadowhawk.

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No matter how often I wander a trail, there’s always something, or better yet, many somethings, to notice. Blessed be for so many opportunities to wonder beside the Kezar River.

 

 

Inching Along With Jinny Mae

Jinny Mae is a slow poke. Me too. And so today, we moved at slow-poke speed and covered maybe a mile in total.

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We traveled a trail I frequent at Holt Pond Preserve, but I had the opportunity to view it through her eyes. That meant, of course, that we shared identical photos because we always pause to focus on the same thing. I trust, however, that our perspective was a wee bit different–as it should be. For isn’t that what makes us individuals?

Speaking of individuals, we saw only one of these yellow-necked caterpillars. I didn’t know its name until I looked it up later. Apparently, the adult is a reddish-brown moth. And this is a defense position–indeed.

h-Royal fern

And then the royal fern forced us to pay attention. The fertile blade of a royal fern typically looks similar to a sterile blade, but has a very distinctive cluster of sporangia-bearing pinnules at the blade tips that appear rather crown-like. What to our wondering eyes did we spy–sporangia on lower pinnules. Did this fern not read the books? We checked the rest of the royal ferns along the path and never saw another like this one.

h-entering pitchter

One of our next reasons to pause–those wonderful pitcher plants that always invite a closer look. We weren’t the only ones checking them out.

h-entering the pitcher

A yellow jacket was also lured by the smell of sweet nectar. A walk down the leaves was probably the last walk those insects took. Inevitably, they’d slip to the bottom of the pitcher where a pool of water awaited. There, they either drowned or died from exhaustion while trying to escape since the downward pointing hairs prevent such from happening. Eventually, after the insect bodies break down, the plant will access the nitrogen and phosphorus contained within each bug. I can’t visit this preserve without spending time in awe of the pitcher plants.

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Damselflies and dragonflies also made us stop. We had walked on the boardwalk across the quaking bog. A spread-winged damsel posed beside Holt Pond. When at rest, it spreads its wings, unlike typical damselfly behavior.

h- darner dragonfly

We watched as the darner dragonflies zoomed about, just above the water and vegetation at the pond’s edge. Occasionally, one hovered close by–just long enough for a quick photo opp.

h-jack in the pulpit

As we continued back along the main trail, Jinny Mae spied a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. The fertilized flower cluster had produced green berries. Soon, they should ripen to a bright red before dispersing their seeds. If the thrushes and rodents are savvy, they’ll enjoy some fine dining. These are not, however, people food. Oxalic acid in the root and stems may cause severe gastric problems.

h-purple aster

In the same spot near Sawyer Brook, we admired the purple flowerhead of swamp asters. Within the flower disk, the five-lobed florets have started their transition from yellow to dull red.

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With Jinny Mae’s guidance, I was able to take a decent photo of a jewelweed. I love the spurred sac that extends backward. And noted that a small seed capsule had formed. JM is from the Midwest and refers to this as Touch-Me-Not because that capsule will burst open and fling seeds if touched. You say potAto, I say potAHto. We’re both right. As we always are 100% of the time–insert smiley face.

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It was another three-hour tour filled with many ohs and ahs, lots of wonder, a few questions, several considerations and even some answers.

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Inching along with Jinny Mae. Always worth the time and pace.

Wondering About Nature’s Complexity

As I sat on the porch of our camp this morning, three wafts of smoke blew up from the ground along a pathway to the water. And my heart swelled. Earlier, I’d been out between raindrops taking some photos and my eye was drawn to that very spot. My photos didn’t come out so well, but I believe what I was looking at were bird’s nest fungi. They were cup-like in shape and some were filled with minute eggs, while others were covered in an orangey blanket.

I suspect it was the latter that caught my attention from the porch. It had started to rain and this fungus depends on rain for dispersal of its egg-like capsules that contain the spores. The hydraulic pressure of a raindrop falling into the nest causes the capsule to spring forth, emitting spores in a puff. I could have sat there all day waiting for it to happen again, but . . .

1 hawkweed

there were other things to look at and wonder about. The bird’s nests weren’t the only ones ready to send forth new life. While the hawkweed seeds embraced the raindrops, they waited for a breeze to send their young into the greater world.

2Oleander aphids on milkweed

And then I returned home, where I found some other cool things. It all depends upon your point of view, I suppose, but check out these Oleander mites on the underside of a milkweed leaf. They are so named because they also like Oleander.

4ant milking aphids

Those weren’t the only aphids wandering about. The little gray dots on this leaf are actually another form. So here’s the scoop on ants and aphids. While aphids suck the sugar-rich fluids from their host plants, the ant strokes (milks) the aphids with its antenna to get them to secrete waste (honeydew), which has a high sugar content. And we all know that ants love sugar. Honey-dew just took on a whole new image.

3cranefly

Tucked under the lady ferns, I found a cranefly. I’m always searching for orange in support of our young neighbor who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. When I started posting a photo a day in his honor, I didn’t realize how important it would become to me–making me think about all that he and his family are enduring on a daily basis. He is in remission, but still undergoing treatment and will need a bone marrow transplant. This cranefly almost became today’s post, but a daylily dragon won out for Team Kyan.

5mystery

So dear reader, I enjoy teaching you, but now need you to teach me. I found this under another leaf on a shrub. And I often see the same thing stuck to our house. It reminds me of a caddisfly case. What is it?

 

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No mystery here. But still, the complexity . . .

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enhanced by raindrops.

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Nature is complex, but oh so worth a wander. And certainly worth a wonder.

Thanks for stopping by today.

The Big, The Little and Everything In Between

I stepped out of the shower after a walk around town with friend Marita and heard someone chatting away on the answering machine. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have my glasses on, though what that has to do with it I don’t know, but I couldn’t ID the voice. The male yammered away about something in the snow and it had come last night and I had to get there quickly. For some reason I thought it was our eldest and I  wondered what it was that needed my immediate attention. So, I cautiously picked up the phone and said hello. The voice on the other end continued talking desperately about me going somewhere. “Who is this?” I asked. It was friend Dick and I should have recognized his voice, but maybe not having glasses on is like not being able to taste if your nose is stuffed. Or maybe I’m overthinking as usual. Dick, however, was not overthinking or overreacting. He was excited and knew I would be as well. He was standing in a friend’s yard about a half mile from here and looking at bear tracks in the snow.

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As he knew he would, he had me on the word “bear.” His voice was urgent as he insisted I stop everything and get to his friend’s house. “I just need to dry my hair and then I’ll be right there,” I said. Deadlines loomed before me but bear tracks won my internal war. Dick suggested I just wrap a towel around my head. Really, that’s what I should have done because my hair has no sense of style whether wet or dry, so after a few minutes I said the heck with it and popped into my truck, camera and trackards in hand.

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Yup–bear tracks. Classic, beautiful bear tracks. Even nail marks above the toes.

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And the pigeon-toed gait.

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My heart be still. The bear certainly wasn’t.

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It trampled a garden fence.

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And yanked down a suet feeder that dangled from a wonderful rigging at second story height designed to keep the raccoons from stealing it. We couldn’t find the actual feeder.

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It toppled another feeder and consumed all the sunflower seeds. Oh, the squirrels may have helped, but apparently the feeder was stock full. Not any more. We looked for hair but found none.

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One of the mysteries to us was why did the bear suddenly trot. I’m now wondering if it was startled at some point and ran away.

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Before leaving, I enjoyed one more look. How sweet it is. And how thrilled I was to have seen it–especially knowing that it wouldn’t last long. The. Big.

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When I arrived home, I knew I needed to work, but figured a quick walk to check on the vernal pool was a great way to celebrate the bear tracks. And on my way–feathers. Long black feathers.

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Most were about a foot long.

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They appeared to be torn out rather than cut.

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I know the neighborhood cats hang around our bird feeders all day–ever hopeful. But I don’t think they got this crow. I’ve a feeling a hawk was the culprit. The. In. Between.

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It’s my neighborhood, so I always cast an eye toward the Mount. The. Big. Again.

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The water level seems about the same as last week and a wee bit of Tuesday’s snow still decorated the  western shore.

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Though the lighting wasn’t great at that hour, it was obvious that the tadpole population had increased.

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And the salamanders continued to grow within their protective covering. The. Little.

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I did finally settle down to work. And then it was lunch time. My guy and I weren’t the only ones dining.

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After I finished two assignments and before I walked to a meeting, I decided to visit the pool again and capture the action in the late afternoon light. But first, an examination of the woodchuck’s feeding site. Yup, those leaves were nibbled.

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And so were these. The. In. Between.

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And then it was back to the pool, where the snow had melted. But, I have to share a finding along the way. Or rather, a non-finding. I intended to grab the crow head because I wanted the skull. Not. It wasn’t in the path where I’d seen it in the morning. I poked around and couldn’t find it anywhere. Who stole it? Maybe one of those darn cats.

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In the warmth of the sun at the eastern side of the pool where most of the egg masses were laid, the population continued to increase.

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I felt the same glee about all of these little critters as I felt about the bear tracks earlier in the day.

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Tadpoles and salamanders. I may not see bears tracks every day, but for a brief moment in time, I’m honored to watch the transformation that takes place in the vernal pool. The. Little. Times. Two.

Giving thanks for the ability to wonder. The Big. The Little. And Everything In Between. Especially Everything.

Following In The Footpath Of Others

Rain marked this morning’s dawn, but that didn’t daunt our group of six. We donned overcoats, gloves, hats and waterproof boots knowing that we’d encounter mud along our intended route.

And so we met near the former site of the Methodist church in the northeast corner of Sweden–Sweden, Maine, that is. Our intention was to follow the snowmobile trail for a couple of miles and visit foundations and a few other historic sites along the way.

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Maps dated 1858 and 1880 show a network of roads that served the scattered neighborhoods of this town. The trails we were about to walk on follow the footpaths and wagon tracks of earlier people. These were once town roads. We happened to be in the presence of the president of the Sweden Historical Society and she gave us copies of the maps to help us gain a better understanding of our destination. She also printed out a topographical map so we’d have no excuse for getting lost.

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With the sun suddenly shining upon us, we laughed at ourselves as we moved along because we traveled at breakneck speed. Well, for us anyway–1.8 mph when we were moving. Note the phrase: “when we were moving.”

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Along the way, we paused to admire the streams that flow toward Patterson Brook and

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checked on life in a potential vernal pool.

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While we find water so mesmerizing, I couldn’t help but wonder about its potential here for the early settlers.

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Several times we found stone walls on either side of the streams and didn’t know how to interpret their meaning. That was OK–we appreciated not having all of the answers.

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The opportunity to partake of the beauty among friends old and new was enough.

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Even four-footed friends.

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The stonewalls, both double and single in structure, indicated that the land had been cultivated. We tried to make sense out of the sudden switch from single to double and back to single in a short distance, but really, they didn’t necessarily build walls according to our expectations of what life must have been like–a single wall meaning keep the farm animals in or out and the double being a garden wall–lots of times it was probably just plain common sense and a need to get rid of the stones that rose with the frost.

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Eventually, we climbed over the wall and headed up toward this monument. Dave, who lives in this neighborhood and knows these woods well, encouraged us to ponder.

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Why was the top of the rock split off intentionally and then left there?  Was it intended for a foundation stone? Was the neighborhood abandoned before this piece was used?

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We wandered further through the woods and came to the Sweden/Waterford town line. Two stone walls less than ten feet apart mark the boundary. Waterford to the left and Sweden to the right. (Did I get that right, Linda?–my left and right?)

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Orange paint also marked the boundary line.

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We’d crossed into Waterford and stopped for a break at the Kneeland (1858)/Kimball (1880) residence, a rather large foundation with a center chimney.

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Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who paused here for a snack.

s-hidden brook

And then we crossed the snowmobile trail once more and began bushwhacking again. Though you see only tree shadows, leaves and moss here, it wasn’t what we saw, but what we had the honor to hear that made us stop–an underground brook. It felt like we’d stumbled upon a secret spot.

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Dave led us uphill to another special spot a friend of his discovered years ago–the stone chair. You have to wonder about this. We’re in the middle of nowhere that was once somewhere. Below this is a large hole in the earth, possibly a foundation of sorts. And beside, a skidder trail. So, who built the chair?

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Atop the foundation of sorts was this cut stump–we surmised it was cut about fifty years ago and that it was about 100 years old at that time.

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It really doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing the discovery.

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Another four-footed friend also thought it was rather special.

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Not too far from here we found something else that spoke of logging.

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We continued our bushwhack to another site of importance–and came upon it from the backside.

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The Goshen Cemetery, circa 1815. Notice the raindrops and blue sky. A few drops fell in the middle of our walk and then it cleared again.

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The cemetery contains stones that had been buried under the duff, but when discovered, were uprighted in spot.

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s-goshen tomb stone

The tombstones are unmarked and as far as I know, two theories exist–an epidemic struck the neighborhood and those who died needed to be buried as fast as possible, or these were the tombs of the residents from the town’s poorhouse.

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One thing we do know for certain. The bears like the sign and it has been remade several times and posted higher and higher in hopes that they’ll leave it alone.

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Those were our historical finds, but we also made time to enjoy our surroundings, beginning with artwork created naturally.

s-beech elephant

I always say that beech bark doesn’t remind me of elephant skin, but today–elephant legs and feet, for sure.

s-downy rattlesnake plantain

Peaking out from the leaf litter, downy rattlesnake plantain showed off its white-veined leaves. Stained glass windows come to mind whenever I spy this. And though its the commonest of the rattlesnake plantains, I’m always in awe.

s-checkered rattlesnake

We also nearly stepped on its cousin, checkered rattlesnake plantain. I do have to say that if I were in charge of the world, I’d switch their names.

s-artist conks

We found artists conks and

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old hemlock varnish shelves.

s-porcupine den

We know where the porcupines denned,

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moose browsed,

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woodpeckers dined,

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deer rubbed their antlers,

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and pawed the ground. Do you see it at the bottom of this photo? It’s a scrape meant to communicate information to other deer.

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But one of my favorite sights of the day–the flying squirrels that scampered up an old snag. Notice the flat tail–a rudder.

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And the flap on its side, that furry membrane that stretches from the wrist to ankle–a parachute of sorts for gliding from tree to tree.

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And those bulging eyes–the better to see in the dark.

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Four hours and almost six miles later, we followed the trail out, thankful for the opportunity to spend time wondering together and follow in the footpath of others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Borrowing

My friend, Dick, sent me the following message yesterday: “from a novel, Northwest Angle by Krueger … who has a series which relates to the Objidwa (sp) of the upper parts of Michigan …

‘What’s a Mide?” — ‘A member of the Grand Medicine Society,’ Stephen explained. ‘A healer. Somebody who understands the harmony of life and how to use nature to restore harmony when it’s been lost.” p246

“Belongs.” Meloux (a very senior shaman type of the Native American ‘Mide’ of the Objidwe) seemed to consider the word. “I believe no one belongs to anyone else. You, me Waaboozoons, we are all dust borrowed for a little while from Grandmother Earth. And even that dust does not belong to her. She has borrowed it from all creation, which is the Great Mystery, which is Kitchimanidoo. And if you ask this old man, I would say that another way to think about Kitchiimanidoo is as a great gift. Kitchimanidoo is not about keeping. Nothing belongs to anyone. All of creation is meant as a giving.” p 269

While I haven’t read the book or any of Krueger’s works, these words resonated with me as I moved about this morning.

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My first stop was a visit to the vernal pool, where the ice is beginning to melt.

m-vp, birch seeds

I looked for insects and found instead birch seeds and scales–meant as a giving.

m-berries

Wintergreen berries remained prolific below the power lines. While this fruit is traditionally browsed by a variety of mammals, I had to wonder if its location is the reason it was left untouched–poisoned by the herbicides Central Maine Power uses to keep the land clear. What was meant as a giving revoked.

m-leaves thru ice

Not all was bad as I followed the trail for a distance and enjoyed the beauty that has begun to emerge.

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The pompom heads of sphagnum moss contrasted brilliantly beside the running clubmoss.

m-trail light

Looking back, I noticed that today’s sunlight was captured in yesterday’s raindrops–certainly a reason for thanks-giving.

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And before me–man and nature in the eternal struggle for harmony. An example of borrowing.

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Before I turned onto a logging road, a puddle caught my attention.

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My first thought was pollen, but as I approached, I realized the little dots were moving about much like spring tails because .  . . they were spring tails. So my learning increased as I noted their color and the fact that there are aquatic members of this family. Another giving received.

m-pin cherry warts 2

On recent treks, my bark eyes have been confused about two trees–black birch (aka sweet or cherry birch) and pin cherry. As youngsters, both feature reddish-brown bark. What has thrown me off is the association with other birch trees, including the yellow birch that grows behind this specimen. Today, I made a point of noticing–the warty orange lenticels, lack of catkins and no wintergreen scent. These are three features that helped point me toward pin cherry. Black birch bark features long, thin lenticels, catkins common to birch trees and when scraped, that delightful wintergreen smell.

m-pin cherry:birch1

Despite the fact that they are not of the same family, certainly they’ve found a way to give to each other and live in harmony. A lesson.

m-porky

Just beyond the birches, in one of many stump dumps along this logging road, something caught my eye.

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A porcupine worked over the bark of a fallen hemlock tree. I stood for several minutes and watched. Either it wasn’t aware of me or I didn’t pose enough of a threat.

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The leaf caught on its backside made me chuckle and wonder why we don’t see more of that.

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I’m amazed that I saw it at all in this land that has been chopped up over the course of the last three years. Notice how leaves are similarly stuck to this shredded tree stump.

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m-porky tree 2

m-porky tree

Behind were the trees that have received the porcupine’s recent attention. While the logging is destructive, it helps heat homes, provides income to at least several people including the logger and landowner, and creates new habitat and food opportunities for wildlife. Change is difficult and I’d grown to love these woods the way they were, but they were that way because of prior cuttings. A borrowing.

m-bubbles

Most of the logging road was a combination of puddles and mud. At times, air bubbles rippled as I moved through and I was reminded of my youth years spent feeling for clams in the mudflats of Clinton Harbor on Long Island Sound. The memory itself was a giving.

m-deer 2

Like the deer that frequent this land, my boots got stuck in the muck. Sometimes, it seemed like I was being sucked in and told to stand still. But my mind wandered on and I followed it.

m-trail conditions

Going forward in time, I’ll be curious to watch the reflections in the puddles change as the pioneer species move back in and regenerate this land. The harmony.

m-spirit

In the end, as always seems the case, I was on the receiving end of the giving and grateful for the borrowing as the spirit of Grandmother Earth shared a few tidbits of the Great Mystery.

 

 

 

Gallivanting Around Great Brook

It’s been a couple of months since Jinny Mae and I last checked in on the doings in the Great Brook neighborhood off Hut Road in Stoneham, Maine.

H-Forest Road 4

Forest Road 4 isn’t plowed in the winter. That’s OK. We welcomed the opportunity to admire our surroundings as we hiked above the brook. So much to see that is so often missed as one drives.

h-paper birch blue

Though the temperature was on the rise, the blueness of a few paper birch trees reminded us that it’s still winter.

h-sphagnum

We found sphagnum moss looking a bit frosty but cheering us on with its pompoms.

h-chaga

On more than one yellow birch, chaga offered its medicinal qualities in quantity.

h-yellow and white partners

We came upon a special relationship–a yellow birch and a white pine. Rooted in this place, they embrace and share nutrients.

h-yellow birch:white pine

Forever conjoined, they dance through life together.

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Finally beside the brook,  we couldn’t see the rocks below very well, but watching the water race over them gave us a better understanding of the forces that have smoothed their surfaces.

h-GB south

In a few more months, we’ll stand here and wonder where all the water went.

h-ice drips& bubbles

But today, it was the ice formations that we couldn’t stop admiring. Bubbling water below and dripping ice above, each adding to the other and both constantly changing.

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So much variation on the same theme as coursing water freezes into ice while at the same time carving into the rocks below.

h-ice pedastle support

Looking beneath, we noticed pedestals shaped like elephant legs providing support to shelves above.

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Occasionally, we saw crystalline turrets, translucent arches and frozen chandeliers of castles captured in ice.

h-sets of ice feet

Sometimes, it seemed like ballerinas danced on their tippy toes. That’s what water really is, isn’t it–a dance through time with changing tempos along the way?

H-GB

We crossed Great Brook and then paused for a moment as we decided which trail to follow.  We took the road less traveled by. I laughed when Jinny Mae referenced Robert Frost’s poem. My former students don’t read this, but that was one of the poems they had to learn and recite. And my guy–poor soul–knows it through association. Actually, he’s a better soul for that reason.

h-tree owl 2

So you may not see it, but Jinny Mae and I did–an owl hidden in the ash bark. Not a live owl, mind you. Well, that depends on your perspective, I suppose.

h-heal all

Within minutes, we knelt to admire Selfheal or Heal All (Prunella vulgarism) and its hairy calyces.

h-survey sign

We stood by the survey marker sign and realized it had been attached for many years.

h-survey marker

Perhaps 51 years!

h-frullania 1 on red oak

h-frullania 2

On a red oak, we pause to look at the reddish-brown liverwort–Frullania. There’s history in this species–dating to the earliest land plants. No matter how often we see it, and we see it often, we feel privileged.

h-leaves and ice

The trail switches from snow to ice to water and back again. Ice covered leaves draw our appreciation.

h-fnd 1a

In the neighborhood, we pause to check on the local families.

h-fdn 1 chamber

I climb down to the root cellar and discover that the porcupines haven’t visited all winter. Old scat still present in there, but nothing new.

H-Fdn 2

Moving up the colonial road, we come to the second residence.

h-fdn 2 yellow birch on mantel

Atop the mantel grows an old yellow birch. Like any TV screen above the fireplace, it offers an ever-changing display.

h-brook upland

We moved toward Shirley Brook, where we were once again in awe of ice.

h-water and ice1

Water and ice: a relationship in constant flux–at the moment.

h-brook structure

Beside the brook is a stream that’s currently dry. We look edat the snow-covered stonework that crosses over it and realized we need to return and try to figure out what the structure might have been and why it was built here. Stuff like this adds to the intrigue. Man-made. When? Why?

h-spider 3

Poor Jinny Mae. She had to wait for me constantly as I shifted from one lens to the next. But check out this spider.

h-stone piles 1

We are the queens of bushwhacking and love discovering the stories hidden in the woods. In this neighborhood, lots of stone walls tell part of the story. Rock piles enhance the chapters.

h-moose scat 1

And then we found more. Fairly fresh moose scat insisted upon our attention. We’d noted that there were some old snowshoe hare runs and we found some moose browse on a nearby striped maple, but we were surprised that there weren’t many fresh tracks. Where have all the mammals gone?

h-moose scat 2

This scat is some of the biggest moose scat we can recall seeing. A few gems followed me home.

h-lady's slipper

And then we happened upon something neither of us have seen before–at least that we are aware of. We had our ideas about what winter weed this is, but since we haven’t encountered it before our sense of wonder kicked in.

h-lady's slip pod 2

Back home, I looked it up in Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter by Lauren Brown. The capsule is woody and about two inches long. As you can see, it’s closed at both ends, but opens along slit lines–six in all, actually.

h-lady's bract at base of pod

At the back end, a long, curved bract.

 

And at the front, the slipper gone by. Yup–Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule). And the reason we didn’t recognize it–because it’s a rare find in the winter woods. Wow.

h-bear 1

We’re on our way out when we spotted these marks on beech bark. We’d looked and looked because we know this is bear territory.

h-bear NW

Compared to other bear trees, these claw marks are newer than most I’ve seen. Jinny Mae was as excited about the find as I was. I’d told her earlier as we scanned the trees that my guy has come to an unconfirmed scientific conclusion that bear claw marks appear on the northern side of trees. This one didn’t let us down. Based on the location of the sun that’s grew lower in the sky, these are on the northwestern side of the tree.

At last it was time to drive home.

Gallivant: go from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment. Over five miles and almost five hours later, we were thankful for the opportunity we shared today to gallivant around Great Brook.