So, I am still talking about the day trip to the Shenandoah Skyline Drive (if you missed yesterday's post about ice, check it out!). It might be winter, the trees may be bare, the temperature below freezing, but some green things are thriving! Under, in, and around the icy rocks were so many mosses taking advantage of the lack of competition and canopy.
Any spot that gets sunlight and melting ice was covered with the most Kelly of greens.
These little habitats are so hidden and overpowered during the warmer months, but are the stars of the show now. The shapes are amazing, and so very sculptural. These photos show the mosses, but the lichens were equally prolific, if not as showy and photogenic.
Also enjoying their time in the spotlight are the pines. They are especially bright set against the grays of the bare trees and brush surrounding them. The last time I photo'ed these mountains, they were sporting the hot colors of fall, now they have let those leaves drop and the green pines bask in the sun.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the sky in all its glory! (here is a taste of things to come!)
Yesterday was one of those wonderful days in life where it is just plain good to be alive. The weather was perfect; I was spent it with a new friend, who is also both a photographer and a fiber artist (and, as an added benefit, seems to approach life with the same pace and gusto as I do); And we spent it on and around the Blue Ridge Parkway - one of the most spectacular drives in the U.S.A. It is dotted and crossed with numerous paths for the casual geezer or the intrepid Appalachian trail through hiker. While I was sure today I would wake up stiff from the climbing, bending, walking, etc, it is my neck that is sore! I think it is from the constant looking around. There was no end to the details and vistas to soak in, and of course, photo!
We even had to come to a screeching halt when a hawk swooped down to get a snake, but saw us and flew off. Note: if you ever see a snake, and decide to check it out, be sure to look at it with your longest lens first, to see if it is a rattle snake. Then, if it is, get back in the car!!!
The wildflowers were stupendous! I have never seen so many trillium in my life (see the top picture on this post), jack-in-the-pulpits, rhododendron (which I assume were only found in floral stores!), May apples (not quite in bloom yet, but covering the forest floor) and untold numbers of flowers whose names I do not know.
Then, there were my favorites; the mosses, lichens, and ferns. The understated textural plants that grab for the sun at this time of year, before the tree leaves cover it up for the summer. Covering the rocks, the logs, the trees, and hanging on for dear life!
Here is some of the plant life we encountered; to see the pictures larger and in their full crop, click on them.
Then there are the views. You may remember an earlier post I did (last fall) about photos from this same drive. It was amazing to see it in the next season! Here are a slide show of some of the vistas for you.
I purchased a beautiful spring bouquet at the Farmers' Market. Soon the inevitable happened, the stems weakened and the petals became frail. As I went to throw them out, I realized they hadn't stopped being beautiful, it was just a new type of beauty. A more subtle beauty, and a more unique beauty individually forged through their experience. Sounds kind of like a number of us, huh!?
This getting older stuff is, as they say, "not for sissies". But it does have its upsides, and once it happens to you you actually can see some of those.
I was sitting around a table with about a dozen other women last week. There was colorful clothing, funky haircuts, and vibrant talk of adventures, creations, personal history, families and hopes. Most (with the exception of a couple of young whipper-snappers) were women "of a certain age". That age where we have ceased to worry so much about thighs and more about thoughts. We have histories; we have survived traumas - emotional and physical; we have traveled -geographically and educationally; we have cried - with joy and sadness; we have loved and been loved; we have lived.
And now we know life is finite, so we embrace it more fully and a little tighter than when we thought it had no end. We have learned that beauty is not just for the perfect and youthful, that there can be even deeper beauty in the imperfect and aged. We express and create out of internal need, not just external applause. We are almost comfortable... much of the time. We are beautiful, even past our prime.
This is our first spring here in Virginia, and all I can say is "wowsers!!! When one is used to the momentary spring that appears between winter and road construction in Wisconsin, Virginia redefines the word spring! The warm hits and the snow is gone - without leaving grey mounds of debris in its wake! The blooms have time to sway and glisten in the breeze and mist of spring rains and sunshine! I could get used to this! Good thing I got a new camera just in time! Click any of these to see them larger and as a slide show.
I went out today to explore the Skyline Drive of Shenandohah National Park today. Hoped to hike one of the many trails, but evidently the freeze and thaw of this past week made the road treacherous, so the Drive was closed. I spent a long time talking to a very nice person at the visitors center about alternative jaunts for my day. Part of the Blue Ridge Parkway (a bit to the south) was open so I headed off towards that area. Past a winery or three, a couple of cider works, a distillery and around about a million more curves, I found the entrance to the Blue Ridge. The roads are very slim and very curvy. It dawned on me that they don't need wide shoulders to hold the mounds of snow like we do in Wisconsin, but it sure makes it hard to pull over when you see a shot you want to take - and may explain the prevalence of 'God-fearing' people around here!
There were a few overviews to take advantage of though, and here are a couple of the many photos I took.
click on a photo to enlarge it.
I had the most magical encounter this AM, just had to tell you all about it. I was walking to the library to return a book (Goldfinch! loved it, and read every one of the 700+ pages!). As I went up one of the side streets, there was a Gingko tree in all its autumnal glory. Not only were its branches filled with gold, but the sidewalk below it was carpeted with gold leaves and diamond raindrops.
I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures, when a gentleman (actually a gentle man) walked up and inquired about my love of Gingko trees. He said that he too was a fan and asked if I would do him a favor. He pulled out a camera from his pocket and said he had tried something the day before, but there was no one to help him, so would I mind taking a photo of him under the tree. I said of course I would. He got under the tree and counted to three, at which time he shook the trunk of the tree and it showered down yellow leaves, and I snapped away. He was so excited!
Turns out his father was responsible for the planting of many of Charlottesville's many Gingko trees. This included the giant one on the lawn of the UVA campus. (See picture below) He told me about a long line of Gingkos that had been planted on the UVA lawns, that later had to be taken down because they were all female trees and had stinky fruits! He told me of some streets to wander down where the Gingkos are especially bountiful and beautiful. Such a nice man, and a wonderful encounter. Here is a pic of the UVA Gingko - planted in 1924 - that I took earlier this year, and some more pics from this AM (click on any of them to see a larger slide show:
I just ordered this book so that the many animals and plants from our WI home can be remembered and enjoyed here in Charlottesville. I do miss them all, but finding many more new ones here!
I have taken so many pictures of our birds, and with a wren house in the tree right outside my window, you would think getting one of him would be easy-peasy... but no. This little guy and I have been dancing around each other for weeks now. I do not think that a wren stands still for more than a millisecond at a time, and they are the same size as the leaves they perch in. That combined with my general lack of patience (some would say severe ADD) has made for a real dance - one that I am positive the wren knows he is a part of! Anyhow, today I finally got an acceptable shot, but thought you might enjoy the lead up to it...
DISCLAIMER: Please note the following shots are numbered for your convenience... I have not included the many that were taken just after he left, or when I knocked the tripod in my excitement to shoot. Accuracy would have them numbered "shot 108, shot 437, etc", but I have simplified it for you.
Above: I decide to focus on the house... Day one (top left) he never appeared. Day two (top right), this was as good as it got. Day three (bottom left) he mocked me by photo bombing my shot as I waited thinking he was in the house! Day four (bottom right) (coincidentally right after finding a four-leaf clover) I got a great pic of the house, but he was twitching a bit fast.
ABOVE: After another week or two of trying to follow him from branch to branch - resulting in many blurry photos of our apple tree - I decided to tripod-up and wait for him to land in one place. This required almost more patience than I could endure, but because it was possible to wait with both coffee and sitting down, I made it. The first shot (upper left), he was almost out of the frame, the second (upper right) he was posed beautifully with his head directly hidden behind the branch. In the third shot (lower left) he shows us how he can hide - yes he really is in the shot. The fourth shot (bottom right); we are almost there.
Finally an acceptable shot. We have now called a truce. I have learned that I will never have the patience (and probably not the equipment) for really amazing nature photos, but it sure is fun trying. It is amazing how much you learn about the habits and reactions of something you are trying to photograph. I have also learned why you see many pictures of finches, cardinals, oriels, and robins, but rarely the little wren.
You can relax now Wren, The paparazzi have left.
I like the resulting photos (above) They show the story of the spring flowers - not just a record of their botany, but recognition of their place in the cycle of spring and in the world around them.
Perhaps that is just true of life in general... neither we or our actions exists in a vacuum, and the context is what often gives us our meaning. Our position and perspective changes within the place and surroundings, what is mundane in one place, is glorious in another. That which hurts us today could be the basis for our happiness tomorrow. Context. hmmm. just another thing to think about when being creative.
I guess it is the same with the horses I photo'ed yesterday. While the horses were fantastic; They are fantastic anywhere anytime! The specific story of these photos is the horse in the specific context of the Midwest horse fair. (see Daily pictures for 4/13/2014 for other horse fair pics or go to THIS Facebook post)
It was also time to say good bye to some of the things that have made winter tolerable. The corn cobs and stalks will be tilled under; the dry weeds that are our 'flowers' during the winter will get used in nests, or fall as their replacements grow; and the sumac that provided some subtle color all winter, will start over. Thanks to them for sticking around through the winter!
I went out looking for the earliest signs of spring today. They are there; perhaps few and far between, but there!
The first of the crocuses are sticking out between the fallen oak leaves. The next couple of days should be warm, so maybe they will pop up soon. But until the yellows and purple they bring, we can enjoy the ever yellowing finches. This little guy was just glowing in the sun this morning. He and his buddies were flitting in the tress and chirping away!
But two of my favorite events of spring are also evident; moss and the Pasque flowers. The mosses are so green with the moistness they get from the melting snow and the sun they get before they get overpowered by everything else. This emerald green stretches along the fallen trees, the rocks and anywhere it can. I wish I could lie in a bed of it sometime, I am sure it would be soft and have the best musty earth smell ever... probably a bit on the damp side though.
The Pasque flowers don't look like much yet, but they are starting to make their furry presence known. Soon the delicate lavender blooms will emerge and spot the hillside before even the grasses grow around them... They are the "dessert first" flower, holding off working on leaves until the flowers are done blooming. They are an event I wait for every year, so I will be checking the hillside frequently in the coming days.
I hope spring is sprouting around you also. It has been a longer than usual wait for too many of us this year.
P.S. No post about a walk through our woods would be complete without a few pics of my tree buddies so here they are:
It was fun to tramp around in the soggy (but only for an inch or so) ground, see so many out enjoying the "warmth" and finally see a few slices of evidence that even during the winter life continues under the snow. Enjoy a few more pictures of the area below:
So when we :
- Have a few less feet of ice on the pond
- See a foot of snow soak back into the ground
- Experience a little more consistency in the temperature
- Complete the removal of 6 months of trash from the street gutters
- Record the first robin sighting
- Feel safe about removing the ice scraper from the car
- Starting to wear boots for fashion not just function again
- Use ice more on food than onsidewalks
- And start complaining about how warm it is....
Then we will know spring is in Wisconsin.
The weather is very cold these last few days, and the birds have been eating us out of house and home! they swarm the feeder, and come to the window to say "more please" if the feeders empty!
The Mourning Doves come in packs of 20 or so and take over the feeders, the ground, the tress,and the wires!
This photo shows a Blue jay (upper right) and a Flicker (right of feeder) trying to get at the food too!
I love the little Junkos with their yellow beaks and fluffed up feathers.
I truly believe the Chickadees use up more energy flying back and forth with one seed, than they gain in eating!
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !