Posted by: Memorizing Nature | May 5, 2013

Fuzzy Strategies

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

This is a Woolly Bear caterpillar, recently awakened from its frozen state by a warm, spring breeze. The thick bristles are called setae. Someday this crawler will grow wings and fly as an Isabella Tiger Moth.

Pussy willows look a lot like caterpillars. Also called catkins, the buds appear early and need to stay warm, so they clothe themselves in fur. Soon they will open as leaves.

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

Subscribers and other readers – this summer, Memorizing Nature will focus on photography and nature education, and not so much on poetry and prose. That’s because the author is currently working on a novel and all her writing energies are being spent on that project. The good news: although the posts will be brief, there will be more of them every month, so enjoy.

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Posted by: Memorizing Nature | December 9, 2012

Tree Rings

In winter, there is only bark to see. Between soil and sky are tree trunks. Tree trunks after tree trunks. Dull from afar, more interesting close up. Victor, out for a walk, thinks the trees seem spent. He traces the outline of a heart-and-arrow carving, then, closing his eyes, he finds  notches, lacerations, algae and moss. What’s lacking in beauty is made up for by texture, both rough and smooth. Oaks, beeches and poplars. These are the skeletons of the plant world, a gathering of curved spines, a reminder of past abundance fallen to the ground, leaf by leaf. Compost now, decay feeding renewal.     

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

Today, the air smells of snow, the first snow, big flakes. No wind, so there is no movement unless you count the creek that slips past its boulders. Except for the evergreens, nature is in its annual period of suspension. The trees are too cold even to shiver, feeling nostalgic for the songs of the birds that used to nest in their elbows. The sun rises, a red shining dot at first, then it’s smoldering, but the forest has no need for light and heat right now. In contrast, and probably for the first time, Victor cares about sunrises, because he’s heading toward his own hibernation, and opportunities are running out.    

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

 A couple of people slide along the path in sneakers past him, pretending to cross-country ski. Others walk by with their overactive dogs on leash. A kid trips on an exposed tree root and doesn’t cry. Above everything is a layer of protective branches, inanimate for now, but back in action come April. At least it’s snowing, not raining. Rain in December is way too sad. He leans against a tree trunk, a bent birch, to catch his breath. He too misses the birds, but the insects more, especially the grasshoppers.    

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

Photo by Elaine Medline

 

Posted by: Memorizing Nature | October 14, 2012

Seed Seeking

Strange how so many living things just choose to stay put and apathetically accept the terrible events of their time. Like plants, for example. Their plan of inaction consists of languid sun-bathing and sipping what water their roots can attain. It’s an immobile life. They have no quick escape mechanism, preferring strategies such as thorns and toxins that can be mustered while slanting still. How lazy to freeze oneself on the landscape, with no desire for flight after fright. Willing prey for vegetarians, the plants have decided to remain where they first germinated, on a small box of land claimed in the spring. When a flower is plucked by some unfeeling biped, it has no option except to wither, because it cannot slink away, or expose its claws, or spit in the direction of the offender.    

Photo by Elaine Medline

But then I am forgetting one important element – seeds. Seeds that wing along with wind gusts, the potential of a species attached to a downy filament. Seeds of the milkweed, of the thistle, of the goldenrod. These are embryonic airships relying on luck alone. They might land on a driveway, next to a pool of spilled oil, just one more genetic packet not given a chance. Or drop on a lake and float, expecting an island to drift by. Alternatively, they could soar high, becoming caught in the feathers of a Canada goose, dodging bullets and engines, finally falling on inhospitable ground.    

Photo by Elaine Medline

Wrote William Faulkner, “I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.” Seeds are the easiest metaphor, used repeatedly because we have trouble explaining ourselves. Seeds help us understand risk, immortality, and hope. Or lack of hope. “Every time I plant a seed, he say kill it before it grow,” sang Bob Marley. It is autumn, and the flowers have gone to seed, some no longer recognizable because the blooms are gone. The roadside ditches crackle in decay, but seem more alive than ever. Examined closely, the seeds themselves are prettier than petals, on account of their neat economy, curious designs, and softness to the fingers. I cannot believe the level of detail that lies behind my macro lens, and do not pretend to understand the messages that fan across the earth, arriving in silence to avoid broadcasting a lurking omnipresence, a domination unheard.   

If anyone can help identify the plant in the second photo above, please let me know in the comments section. Much appreciated!

Memorizing Nature’s autumn-focused post last year was called “Impassioned Interval.” If you missed it the first time, here’s the link.

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