Thursday, December 12, 2013

Getting Back Into The Mood

I wondered why so many mushrooms were tipped over.  I pick one up and found the stem packed with little white worms.

Note:  this is one of my tea stained pages -- look at the right edge.

After days of staying close to home because of icy roads I think this is a good essay to post.  I meant to post it in several weeks ago, but then the weather was nice and I wasn’t finding much ‘at home’ time.  

But first a short note to say my little hummer, mentioned in my last post, is still doing just fine.  She actually meets me at the door when I bring her feeder out at first light.  I have only to pause and she buzzes away, sipping from the feeder while I’m still holding it.  She survived a couple of nights at twelve degrees and more recently it has been in the twenties.  Soon nights will be above freezing again.

Do I write or do I draw?  DRAT!  I’m just pondering this when I dump my tea on my closed sketchbook:  At least it wasn’t coffee.  The ‘used’ pages, the ones with my watercolor sketches, have a little wobble in the paper.  The tea runs off the cover and tracks back into the wobbles.  The stain mostly soaked the outer inch, but ran a good three inches on my most recent page.  DRAT and RATS!  I quickly blot as much as I can.  

When I knocked over my mug I was just pondering whether to sketch a fluffy cattail head in ink (I watercolored one yesterday), or write notes.  

Notes will put me back into the mood.  One of the joys of my journal is later it takes me back to time and place, not that I want to remember spilled tea.  I want to remember this late fall sunshine, one raven croaking up a storm, and tiny mayflies hanging in mid air.  
Dale and I are at Lake in the Woods for a second day in a row, savoring the last of summer.  By mid afternoon the sun leaves all but the western edge of the pond.  This warm edge is host to a long string of cattails.  Yesterday I found only one head fluffing out, but today I walked farther along the string and found a patch of several.  Just a whiff of breeze and fluffs drift up, up and away.  The woods behind are dark.  Sunlight catches the ethereal fluff.

Douglas firs shed needles just like the alder and maple do at this time of year.  Warm brown slivers drift down, every so often bouncing off me or my page.  Mostly it is very quiet.  Two chipmunks come over to inspect.  Their little paws make scratchy noises when they run up a nearby Douglas fir.  Two hooded mergansers and one pied-billed grebe are on the pond.  For a while I could hear a soft plop each time the mergansers dove, but they moved off.  

Autumn Meadowhawk

It is almost loud when an autumn meadowhawk (small dragonfly) lands on me.  His stiff wings are crinkly like over crisped cellophane. I’ve found three species of dragonflies and two of damsels still flying.  I half expected two, the darner and the autumn meadowhawk, but not the boreal bluet, California spreadwings and striped meadowhawk.  It is barely warm enough for them to fly, maybe 70 degrees in protected sun.  More like 50 degrees in the shade.  

Most of the cattail heads are unopened, a warm rich brown velour.  Once a few seeds break free there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.  Each seed is tiny and carries its own parachute.  I rub half a dozen between my fingers and can’t even feel them, but the cattail head has thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.  Once a portion of the cattail head opens, a tumble of loose fluff bursts out.  The air stirs and seeds are off on their journey.
When we were in the Klamath Basin last week I noticed the cattails along the eastern edge of Tulelake were all golden brown and in full fluff.  The stubble field down wind was drenched in bits of fluff.  With the sun coming directly towards me the field looked as if covered by heavy frost.  
.... Ah yes.  My spilled tea is no longer important.  I’m back in the mood. 

According to the internet one cattail head can contain 220,000 seeds!  Fluff has been used for Indian baby diapers, life jackets in World War II, mattress stuffing by Swedish immigrants, dressing for wounds, for fire starting, etc.  


  1. Hmmmm....I see I'm going to have to look closer at the mushrooms and fungi I was photo-ing this fall...must be something trying to eat all that organic matter.

    We're colder back here in your native Wisc. +7 for low, +17 for high. No bad winter weather really.

    Last Friday it was colder yet...and it brought me the unusual sight of a Circumzenithal Arc. Nature's big grin.
    When you see strong Sun Dogs, always look for the arc. It will be twice as far from the sun, but directly above...crane your neck.

  2. It IS getting tiresome this snow and freezing weather. We put a heater in the girls coop while it was so so cold to help them get and me get thru unstressed. :) Thank goodness its warming up now. but snow be gone please. :) Although its nice to see your work here since you have to be home. Love the mushroom...interesting about the worms. Always learn something when I come to your blog.

  3. Funny, we weren't with you then at Lake in the Woods, but your writing makes us feel like we are there with you now. Good stuff!