Monday, June 30, 2008

Another world

This is a summer unlike most.
And certainly unlike any I can remember.

With each day, I think they must be gone—but, again the rhythmical chanting begins.
From high in the trees, or the grasses at my feet—they are everywhere.
Invaders from another world.

Fallen bodies litter the paths I walk.
They stumble, as in a drunken flight, bumping from one spot to the next. Orange wings clattering noisily along.
To leave a generation behind.

I wonder how this place will have changed in the 13 or 17 years before their young emerge from feeding below the earth.
And how large these small branches will have become.

And what the sky must feel like to something that has only known darkness.

Female depositing eggs into branch
(ovipositor behind last pair of legs)

Scarring left on branches

“Mated females excavate a series of Y-shaped egg nests in living twigs and lay up to twenty eggs in each nest . A female may lay as many as 600 eggs. Six to ten weeks or so after oviposition, in midsummer, the eggs hatch and the new first-instar nymphs drop from the trees, burrow underground, locate a suitable rootlet for feeding, and begin their long 13- or 17-year development.”

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Family portrait

I have a love-hate relationship with my garden.
I love the idea of having herbs just outside my back door, a pretty plot with stone shelves and brick walkways separating my carefully placed occupants--but the constant care required to keep it looking tidy, I dread.
As a result, my herbs hide beneath tangles of uninvited guests until I miss seeing them and undertake the massive chore of restoring order.
Yesterday, I dove in—and spent the afternoon deep in green.
Party-crashers thrown in a heap on the grass.

There’s lavender, oregano, sage, thyme, and chives—with each, a magnificent aroma.
Bee balm in the shady corner, its glowing red fountains for sipping.
Sweet white succulents to tumble over the rocks.

And a very irritated wolf spider, taking her children somewhere even more tangled.
Where a creeping, crawling large creature will not disturb them.

Family portrait
Wolf spider carrying young on back

(Click to enlarge photos)

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kitten talk

What young animals lack in their ability to care for themselves, nature has made up for in their essence—a need for warmth and contact, a curiosity that overcomes fear.
A loving and accepting spirit that extends beyond their kind—to draw others to them.

In their frailty, is their strength.

The barn kittens are thriving.
Five emerging personalities—all dear.
Playful and sure-footed, prancing with tails held high or tentatively reaching with one paw, exploring new worlds.
Tumbling, one over another in a rolling pile of fur.
Then, nodding into a lazy slumber.

Their gentle whispers in my ear, I understand.

The kittens will be with me for 3 more weeks--by then, I hope to have caring homes chosen for them.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Meet the parents

Dinner is served at 6 -- and 6:10, 6:20, 6:30, 6:40 and so on, if you're one of the hummingbirds that dines at the porch feeder.
It hangs from the eaves, a cup of sweetened water, lovingly prepared, in its reservoir. A supplement to the bright, flowering plants below—trumpet creeper, columbine and lilies.

We sit, with our plates, watching from a few feet away, our conversation interrupted every few minutes by the loud buzz of her approach. From the very slender branch of a nearby tree, she zooms in, hovers and takes a few hurried sips. Just over a tenth of an ounce—an emerald jewel.

Then—off, as suddenly as she appeared.
Back to the nest to sit.

Her mate visits less often.
Perhaps he wanders farther within his territory or needs less nourishment now, than she.

Then, in a flash, he is there, even smaller than the female—tiny toes curled around the red perch while he drinks. His brilliant red gorget, black in the fading light of evening.

His role within this new family is finished. Nest-building and feeding responsibilities are hers now and hers alone.
The two bicker often. Their harsh chatter follows as they chase and dive—speeding past our heads within the porch.
Racing off into the blue until they are seen no more.

The nest I'm watching

Progress of this family will be regularly posted to
"A Bird's Life."

Thanks to Wigger's World for hosting Skywatch Friday each week at his site!

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I went out hunting—to my favorite spot.
Where strong, broad leaves allow the wispy grasses to grow tall without falling. And bold sunshine warms the openness. There is always life here—for, in all seasons, it provides much for many.

Soon, the flowers will be covered with bees and butterflies—their heavy heads full of nectar, within flowers too beautiful to be called weeds.
Juicy leaves, the food of caterpillars and baby bugs—spilling milk into hungry mouths.

She has found the perfect spot and hidden herself well. Waiting for another life to be drawn to this place.
A small crab spider, waiting for breakfast.
Wary of me as I pry the leaves apart, she turns to face me fearlessly.
Widely-placed front legs ready, she is this milkweed’s hunter.
I must find my own.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Going for the gold

Admittedly, I shy away from international issues.
Perhaps because I feel there's little I can do to effect change, where change is needed.
Or, perhaps, because my comfortable home, out of harm's way and buffered by woods, allows me to feel insulated from the troubles of the world.
As if somehow the world's crises will respect my land's boundaries.
And resolve themselves without any impact on me.

Frustration calmed by distraction.
I immerse myself in what is beautiful.

But, even here, removed from it all, I sense a difference.
The farmer's fields usually planted in the green of corn or soybeans, this year are covered in wheat.
Acre upon acre of golden grain, as far as the eye can see.
Standing tall, swaying as the breezes pass over them.
A more beautiful scene, there is not.

Distraction leads to wondering--for this is more than a coordinated rotation of crops.

What I see in my small rural community and unfolding across the landscape is a response to the international food/fuel price crisis.
For in the last year, the price of corn is up 31%, rice 74%,
and wheat...130%.

The crisis on the far side of the world has reached my home.
This year the fields' harvest will be gold.


View more ABC Wednesdays here!

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

More hummingbirds (or When Lightning Strikes Twice)

A flash of harmless lightning,
A mist of rainbow dyes,

The burnished sunbeams brightening
From flower to flower he flies.
~John Banister Tabb

From the porch as I sit, sheltered from the rain, watching lightning strikes carve dazzling designs beyond the horizon, I can barely see her.

The leafy canopy she so carefully chose to build her nest beneath is heavy with rain. The long graceful maple branch bearing her delicate cup hangs low.
Steadfastly she waits out the storm.
The sky flashes brightly.

Her children will be tough as nails.
Forged of a steely nature whose strength defies all others'.
But, for now, two pea-sized eggs.
Under the protection of a hummingbird mother.

Yes! Another nest!

Hummingbird nest
2 eggs

I'm hoping to be able to document this nest and the lives within--
similar to this spring's vernal pool series, "With My Boots On."

"A Bird's Life," coming soon!

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lily paddling

The canoe has waited patiently for an outing like this.
Propped against the side of our old shed and peeking out from between raspberries and newly sprouted walnut trees, she lies marooned on land. Heavy spring rains and a busy calendar have kept us close to home, walking our own trails and watching the waters safely from shore, in anticipation of a day when we could take her for a ride—the bright red canoe borne on the shoulders of the little black car.

Yesterday, we drove east, until cornfields disappeared and every second truck we passed was laden with logs. Then, quietly we slipped her into the cool waters of Lake Hope and let her run free.

Even from across the widest part of this 120-acre lake in Zaleski State Forest, the pink water lilies can be seen on the other side—bright dots against dark water.

We paddle slowly, close to the shore. The day is warm and the cool air tumbling down from within the woods smells of pine.

Beaver live here.
And although they stay hidden, fresh gnawing on the large trees shows their activity. We pass a lodge of their clean sun-bleached sticks, but see none.

A Great Blue Heron stands motionless within the grassy edge, blending with ease, his slender silver form like that of weathered wood—and flies out to hunt further down as we approach.

We have reached the shallows, where lilies spread from shore to shore and the canoe glides easily through, just skimming the bottom.

An Eastern Kingbird is feeding back here, snatching dinner from just above the surface before resting again in dead brush.

And a family of tree swallows seems to be nesting in a box intended for ducks. They dive into the water with a splash and fly off with a juicy morsel--dinnertime entertainment as we picnic, resting in the shady woods.

On the drive home, red canoe back on top of little black car, we turned and made a second pass back to see an unusual large, brown, lifeless lump on the shoulder of the road.
While logging trucks flew past in both directions, we stood and looked at her.
She had the most luxurious coat I’ve ever seen, and a broad, flat tail.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Time to fly

It hardly seems normal—this wave of comfortably cool air that has settled across our area. June’s mugginess, which I’ve come to dread, has been replaced by, “pleasantness,” in the weatherman’s words, that is not to be expected in an Ohio River summer. And, though these dense woods are now lush with leaves, there is a freshness with each breeze that is more like the North Woods of my younger years, than the Midwest.
I wonder if time will ever soften the sharpness of that change—if steamy summers will ever become what I cherish.
Or if we learn to love what we first know--best.

It’s almost time to fly.
The walnut-sized nest is filled to the brim.

Changing position has become like a sword fight in a phone booth.

But, for now, a safe place for a nap.
For now, it’s still home.

Thanks to Wigger's World for hosting Skywatch Friday each week at his site!

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