Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Giving Chiggers Their Due

Three nights running I’ve wakened at 2, feet burning, me turning and tossing, knowing what not to do: scratch the itch.  I’ve tried to figure when and how I got the chiggers since I wear my insect shield pants inside long socks pulled up to the knees, squeezing the zippers into my shins.  Must have been the tall grass at Lake O’Donnell through which I plowed to shoot summer’s first Monarch.

Just the other day, I responded to a friend’s blog comment that I try hard not to demonize one creature while praising another.  Time to heed my own lesson.  Tonight when fire stirs me I’ll remember that the larvae that set me afire might grow to feed on mosquito eggs.

Small comfort in the dead of night, perhaps, but to everything there is a season.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Old Friend and a New One

Until yesterday, I had not seen Michael for 23 years (we think), and I had never met his partner (now spouse) Dale.  Why, one wonders?  They live in L.A., a long way away, and life happened to both of us in between.

On a trip east to visit family, they fit me in for a happy 24 hours between North Carolina and Alabama.  Conversation, good food, a lovely walk, a little shopping and lots of laughter make up for those lost years and promise no more will be lost.

My favorite moment?  Posing at Cedar Hollow Lake, they look at me until Dale says, "Isn't he cute?" and I think You both are.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jays Get a Bad Rap

My mother taught me to hate bluejays.  "They chase all the other birds away!" she said.  "They eat everything in the feeder," she said.  "They're loud," she said.

Yes, yes, and yes.

But oh, their color, their fantastical feathers.  How could one hate a bird who sprouts such blue?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fire on the Forest Floor

Tulip poplars drop their leaves;
once grassy banks crack;
yards crackle:
all sere baldness.

The forest floor
too wears dirt,
except for the fiery leaf
and Red-banded Hairstreak
who lit
my way home from Brushy Lake.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Flowers

Each Saturday since the Gardeners' Market started in May, I have posted a photo-bouquet on my niece's Facebook wall.  Today's bouquet features a zinnia in full bloom, but already spotted with age. 

I didn't think about why I found it so photogenic this morning; I just followed my instincts and my eye.  But having just talked with my friend Charley, I see it now and think of him.  

There is beauty in coming and going.

May we all remember that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Morning Stroll to Cedar Hollow Lake

Fragile Forktails flit from leaf to leaf, sometimes pausing to groom themselves.  (And I think of Sue Hubbell's  Broadsides from the Other Orders.)

Robber flies buzz: one loses a sortie with a female Eastern Pondhawk; another wins the prize of a smaller fly.  (And I think of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.)

An owl swoops down and up right in front of me.  (And I think of Jane Yolen's Owl Moon.)

No-seeums whine round the earrings Kelsey gave me.  (And I think of Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer.)

In the forest, literature dazzles.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Celebration of Brown

Once, my mother made me a brown Easter dress and hat.  I used to have a photograph of me with my basket, sitting atop a stone step, next to a metal garden gnome my father had turned into a light.  As I remember it, I tapped my left hand atop his brown barrel and smiled at the Brownie camera.

I loved that brown dress.  I loved that color.

But no matter how many times I begged for more of the same (my mother made all my clothes until she died when I was 16), she refused to dress me in brown again.  She had decided a blue-eyed blond should not wear brown.  Brown was drab.

Now I can wear brown any time I wish, and I do.  And I can celebrate brown -- in the color of my tea or in the butterflies I find in the forest.  Who would not think them beautiful?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

Students blast music, classes start tomorrow, pumpkins sit aside watermelons at the roadside market, old dragonflies warm up worn wings, and my first Monarch of 2011 fights a strong wind.

Summer's end, fall's beginning: to every thing there is a season.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meditative Morning

Yesterday, a friend told me this:

I ask for the most benevolent outcome for ____________, and that the results be greater than I ever hoped or expected.  Thank you.

I thought of this plea at Audubon Lake this morning.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mutual Struggle

When I have a meal, I don't have to fight with it to eat it.  This female Fragile Forktail wasn't so lucky.  

While I was photographing her, she disappeared from my view and then reappeared with a bit of lime green lunch, which struggled so against being eaten that it flipped her on her side before she wrested control.

My Facebook friend Bill told me the strong green wonder is "a yummy inch worm (aka spanworm, looper, and measuring worm because of the way they move).  They are the larval stage of some kind of moths."

For my part, I enjoy moths too -- just not for lunch.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Old Blue Eyes

No, not Sinatra.  

This fellow.
A damselfly alighted a moment along a shaded path.

Funny, but I see him and I think of my father the last Christmas, a month before he died.  He wasn't there: that's what the doctors said.  He scored zero on the cognition test.

But his eyes.  

His blue blue eyes.  

They were there.

Like this fellow's.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Introducing . . . Two More!

Number 27: Double-striped Bluet

This fellow is an immature male, who happily perched on a blade of grass while I studied, admired and snapped him.  I can't wait to see one of his kind grown-up, when they brilliantly earn the name "bluet."

Number 28: Blue-fronted Dancer

Perched on the stony walk into the woods from the Lake Cheston dam, this little fellow grew wary of the woman in insect pants, flitting ahead of me and my camera, and then altogether out of my sight.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hanging On

Anchored to grass blades with hook-like legs, two female Calico Pennants swing in the morning breeze.

I wish I could learn to do the same: hold on lightly when tossed about by forces beyond my control.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So Many Bodies of Water, So Little Time

I have lived in Sewanee for nine and half years, but only in the last four months have I begun to appreciate its many advantages, foremost among them bodies of water.

I'm not sure who decided what is a pond and what is a lake here (I suspect it has to do with size and water depth), but there are a gracious plenty of them, where dragonflies and damselflies breed, emerge, and feed.  They've been doing so since at least early April, and I expect this to continue well into the fall.  I plan to visit every single pond or lake.  (Next year: seeps, creeks, and the like.)

So far, I have visited these bodies of water, where I have shot countless photographs and seen many more wonders that I captured only with my eyes:
Abbo's Alley Creek

Cedar Hollow Lake

Chestnut Pond
Farm Pond

The Forestry Cabin Pond

Lake Bratton

Lake Cheston

Lake Dimmick

Lake Finney

Lake Gregg

Lake O'Donnell

The Res

Running Knob Lake

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Day of Firsts

First confirmed photograph of a Black Saddlebags!

First sighting and photographs of a Fixed Setwing!

First day of second grade (E on the left)!
First day of first grade (V on the right)!

A banner day all round!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Too Cool

The cool front that blew in about 36 hours ago has been good for the body but bad for Odonata viewing.

At Lake Cheston, even toward the noon hour, only a few dragonflies and damselflies perched, warming up.  No one was flying.

Sitting in the grass, watching the Fragile Forktails, I thought about fall on the way with it symphony of colors and of winter's snow and fog and of next summer when I shall use a notebook to record the first and last appearances of each family; and then I thought about Charley who looks forward to the visit this week of adult children of friends and next week's visit of a retired Alley actor, and who cannot look forward to next year.

 The female is blue; the male, green.

It has been that kind of day: coolly melancholic.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hanging Out with the Girls and One Guy

Hermitage: Cedar Hollow Lake.  

There, dragonflies and damselflies present themselves without my asking.  Walk on the dam; see something remarkable.

Female Eastern Pondhawk?  How about this one, or this one, or this one?
Female Blue Dasher?  Here she sits for five minutes, without moving, as if posing.
 Fragile Forktail?  Why sure!
Were I to build my cabin in the woods, it would be here, and I would be happy here to end my days.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sewanee Magic

The first time I drove into the Equestrian Center, I searched the barn for someone who could tell me how to find Farm Pond.  A friendly fellow named Ronnie said "Hop in" and drove me down the fire lane to the pond's dam.  On the way he told me about the land, the old dairy farm, the horses, and student riders with evident pride.

Today, I hitched a ride with him again, along with two dogs -- an unidentified dachshund and DanBobBo, a Mountain Feist. 

"DanBobBo?" I asked.

"Yes, ma'am," he said.  "The barn manager's son said his name was Dan.  The next week he changed his mind and said the name was Bob.  Then the next week it was Bo.  The name stuck: DanBobBo."

When I told Ronnie about my misadventure with the rattlesnake, he said, "Ma'am, Chestnut Lake has a whole lotta snakes, ma'am.  You might want to get a walking stick, ma'am.  A walking stick might be a real good idea, ma'am."

With that, I jumped out and waved while he called, "You get you a walking stick, ma'am!  Come on back any time, ma'am!"  Dogs trailing, he puttered down the side of the barn and out of sight.
Sewanee magic: people -- and dogs.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reinvention Off the Grid

Dave told me his story this morning at Lake Cheston: the machine shop where he worked went out of business, so while he was on unemployment, he sold his Harley and built a cabin on his 7 acres of land.  He used some of his own trees for the timber and worked for other folks to earn money for the flooring and other materials he couldn't make.  Now he works when he wants to as a handyman (he helped my friend Jill rebuild her rock gardens), and he caves when he wants to.

As he talked about foraging for mushrooms (those big softball-sized ones I saw at the Forestry Cabin are called puffballs, I learned) and I talked about dragonflies, I realized we have this in common: reinvention.  That is, we have come into something again as if anew, and that something is ourselves.  He takes work when he wishes, having been forced out of work he once had.  I once taught in a classroom all day, but now work online at home, scheduling most of it when I want to.  He has learned mushrooms (and much more); I have learned photography (and much more).

He truly lives off one grid, and I off another -- both of us free of the ropes that once tied us down.  Like this female Calico Pennant, we rest when it pleases -- then fly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two for One

Having forsaken Lake Cheston for distant ponds, I returned today and immediately saw another damselfly: the Swamp Spreadwing (Number 23).

After taking many frustrating photographs of the tiny creature in the shadows, I headed to the dam, thinking I would merely walk around the lake for exercise.  A single Halloween Pennant caught my eye, however -- the first I've seen outside of those at Farm Pond.  On my scramble down to the stones at the shore, I lost my balance, tossed my camera into the grass to protect it, and fell hard against my left shin.  I got a decent picture, though I am still wondering why I saw only one pennant.

On the way round the far side, I spied a golden-colored dragonfly on the edge of a leaf, and just as I was about to snap its picture, a boisterous family of three rounded the pathway curve.  I got a couple of fuzzy photos before the threesome chased off my target.  A quick post to Bugguide identified her as an Autumn Meadowhawk (Number 24).  Snap!  I had taken photos several weeks ago of tenereals scattered all around the lake, and although I had been unable to identify them then, I now know they were the immature Meadowhawks!

Back tomorrow for more of the same, I hope.

(All but the fall, that is.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good Things Come in Threes

On the way to the forestry cabin, I saw not one, but two remarkable orb weavers' webs -- the kinds I've only read about before.
Although the pond's bank was too steep and too high in grass for me to feel safe, I discovered mating robber flies and softball-size mushrooms dotted with dew.

Halfway across the teeter-totter stones to the dam of Chestnut Lake, I heard this fellow, crouched under the shelf of rock below, rattle -- just once.  I admired him from a safe distance, channeling my inner Green Cove girl, watching him unravel and travel uphill into cooler grass.
I pondered crossing anyway to the dam with its waist-high grass, but thought better of it.

Lake O'Donnell teemed with grasshoppers, butterflies, dragonflies, and forested vistas, but the true views were these: a shimmering green bee and one mid-day katydid.