Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Picture I Can't Take

is of the pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks who have settled in at my feeder three days in a row.

When I first saw him, the male was turned sideways. When he turned his head every now and then, a gleaming orange splotch lit up like an LED light.

After a day and a half of watching and searching, I finally caught sight of him full frontally: lo and behold, there was his crimson bib. A lovely bird -- with his sable dotted and striped waistcoat, white underbody streaked with brown, defined white stripes around the eyes, and pale peach beak.

If only I had a telephoto lens, but I don't. So the memory of him and her and the photos found online will have to do.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Busy Day at the Garbage Can

Still not walking in the woods, I was delighted by the visit of a rose-breasted grosbeak at my feeder and the sight of an undulating silvery skunk crossing the street last night.

Mostly, I am thankful for the crowd on the garbage can: a yellow jacket, a snail, and this lovely spider, the size of a hangnail. So frazzled was s/he by my lens that s/he jumped on the camera twice.What grit! What courage!

Monday, September 27, 2010


Antibiotics: fog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Light Shimmers

unfocused and brief, cast by the den window onto the hall wall.

It darkens, like my energy, disappears. When can I go walking again with camera in hand?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mockingbird Music

Because of an infection, I haven't been able to walk the lake, the alley, the Goat Track, or the Community Gardens, my usual haunts. Thus, I haven't blogged.

I have missed the fleeting end of summer and falling of fall.

On leaving The Lemon Fair today, I encountered activity in the garden: a Monarch passing through, a bluish grasshopper balancing like a high-wire circus performer on a stem to eat some cosmos, and a full-throated mockingbird drowning out the traffic. Oh how lovely to stand on earth again among living things!

Monday, September 20, 2010

In a de Chirico Painting

a long shadow floods the picture plane.

In my yard, a single spicebush swallowtail senses its approach, flaps rapidly, speeds on. A black finger strokes a fallen limb.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fleur de gombo

Sewanee Okra Blossom in Late Summer, 2010, Robley Hood.

Giverny in Springtime, 1900, Claude Monet.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Courbet's Palette

Yesterday, my New York brother emailed to say he'd seen thirteen Courbets in a private house. Thirteen.Today, I found Courbet's palette in Abbo's Alley.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oxymoronic Name

Oxymoron: a pair of contradictory or incongruous words.

Example: Jewelweed.

Weed: noxious interloper.

Jewel: precious stone

Jewelweed, spotted or otherwise: plentiful impatiens of uncommon beauty and plenitude.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big and Small

At the end of my drive, I looked up from my bike. There, at the front edge of my across-the-street neighbor's yard, a turkey vulture stood in the shade. Now that is one big bird. I tried to photograph it, but neither it nor my camera cooperated. I managed, however, to shoot the dead squirrel on which it had been dining. (When I return two and a half hours later, nothing of that squirrel remained.) Now that's big.In Abbo's Alley, I always look down, to avoid tripping on the roots snaking across the pebble walks and to see what's there, waiting. By a small bridge, a red-spotted purple sat, opened, closed, spun slowly around, stretched, a power nap of a kind. It's easy to see why the small butterfly likes this particular forest. With wings closed, it looks like the pebbles, and open its wings disappear in the shadows. Battered but not beaten, the small butterfly performed its magic, then flew off toward the stream.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Quick and the Soon-Dead

Two swallowtails nectar, one quick and newly winged and one soon-dead, tattered like nor'easter-struck sails.Emblems of the short season before fall and end of long summer, symbols of mortality, their cruel beauty translucent in late sun.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Pleasing Composition

Sometimes, what pleases me pleases others.

This composition garnered immediate comments, almost as pleasing as the vision in the water itself.

Favorite Butterfly Name

For an instant, a bright orange-red butterfly landed above me, and I snapped -- two somewhat unfocused photographs -- before it flew up and off into the woods.The Question Mark butterfly, a brush-foot and an anglewing, with curiously shaped wings meant to fool predators. At rest, their wings' undersides look like old moldy leaves.But their topsides? Spectacular! And their name? Poetic!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hang Six!

This Eastern Carpenter Bee sure has style!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Black and Blue and Beautiful

For several days, late in the day, a black and blue butterfly has visited the waning thistles. Today I was lucky enough to snap a few photos.
Thanks to Butterflies and Moths of North America and, I know it's a female Diana Fritillary. I spotted it first, and then two other bug enthusiasts confirmed my guess. One wrote, "Very Nice Find! These are increasingly rare insects (habitat loss & climate change are thought to be the culprits)."It's hard to know which please me more: the butterfly or a stranger's comments.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Or Might It Be Yellow?

Once I envied the bee sleeping in the purple embrace of a passion flower. Now, in dog days before fall, I would choose the glorious last burst of orange-yellow for my pillow, clutch it drunk with nectar, dusted with pollen, loose of limb, buzzless.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All Adolescents Are Alike

Bird or human: they're awkward, loud, selfish, argumentative, hairy, clumsy. Witness: the Cardinal adolescents who feed daily with their parents watching from trees nearby. Even a week ago, their daddy fed the kids now and again. Now they are learning to navigate the feeder themselves. Soon they will be booted out of the nest, and I mean booted. I learned years ago that cardinals will stay with their parents as long as possible. In fact, they'd live with their parents forever if they could. Not unlike adolescents.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Empty Space

In her moving essay "The Death of a Moth," Virginia Woolf meditates on the life in the creature flying and then dying within her arm's reach. It has a short life, "vigorously" lived with "zest," she claims, admiring the moth for the "fibre, very thin but pure, of the enormous energy of the world [that] had been thrust into his frail and diminutive body." For Woolf, the moth "was little or nothing but life."

My moth, the Salt Marsh Moth atop the dam at Lake Cheston, clasped the blade, pinned her pearlish eggs, knitted together her legs and wings and blades in protection of them, and then disappeared. She, too, has been like "a tiny bead of pure life" for me, "dancing and zigzagging to show [me] the true nature of life." Energy and then nothingness. Beauty, and impermanence.

Monday, she laid eggs, Tuesday, she protected them. Wednesday, she has gone, and I mourn her.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Mother's Protection

Today, the Salt Marsh Moth had pulled together three blades of grass, around which she clasped her legs. Her wings folded in, she seemed to protect the eggs, the little pearls I watched her string yesterday. I read today that a Salt Marsh female lives only four or five days, but produces between 400 and 1000 eggs in one or more clusters.

What a lot of work, what a burden, for such a short time.

I am in admiration and wonder.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Oh! The Eggs! They're Pearls!

Atop the Lake Cheston dam, this Salt Marsh Moth (my first-ever sighted) clasped a long blade of grass and methodically, stilly placed her eggs, piled like a treasure of pearls winking in bits of late sun.
Oh, grass! Oh, moth! Oh, eggs! Oh, the looking -- and seeing!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Score! Ambush Bug!

On the zinnia, one teeny tiny little bug the size and color and shape of bird dropping defied my camera's lens. No mater what I did, no matter where I positioned myself, no matter how well anchored to the table top my elbows -- the little critter would not slide clearly into focus.
I noticed it rear up like a little horse. I noticed the crisscross on its back. I noticed the front legs reminding me of a hopper's. Its size and color made me suspect "nymph," but what kind?
Jill would know, I thought, and after some thought she did!

An assassin bug nymph! A jagged assassin bug (Phymata)!

Hip hip hooray for the assassin bug!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Better Than Cirque du Soleil

Previously, this Mabel Orchard Spider figured in my musings about Charlotte's Web and about the spider's dancing on the head of a pin. Well, she certainly can't do that now! The hydrangea, where she spins and weaves and waits and sails along her silk, have proved fruitful hunting grounds. She grows. And she grows more beautiful.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Attraction of One Zinnia

Over the summer, one zinnia has attracted large butterflies of different kinds.

The tallest in a clump, along a fence line of one small garden, the orange flower seduces Great Spangled Fritillary, Gulf Fritillary, Giant Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and various black swallowtails (Spicebush, Pipevine, and Black).
What is it about this flower? Its height? Its neon orange color?

I don't know, but the butterflies have been posing there -- spectacularly -- for two months now. May it continue to climb.