MudSong Thirteen: A change of mood

 

Dust of Snow
— Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

 

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), as illustrated in Trees of Indiana, by Charles Clemon Deam.

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), as illustrated in Trees of Indiana, by Charles Clemon Deam.

 

For more of March’s MudSongs, featuring poems by Cummings, Dickinson, Neruda, and others, click here.

 

True Facts About the Land Snail

After reading my recent post about snail sex my friend Kat sent this hilarious little spoof. In it we learn that “The land snail is just like a tiny human…who happens to look like a disembodied tongue. And is covered in mucus. And has a shell.” If you love nature documentaries and are in the mood for a chuckle then press play and enjoy! (There are also some pretty awesome photos of love darts and footage of molluskian hanky panky.)

 

The birds of summer, and the aliens.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher Perched, by Kalen Malueg

I turned 29 two days ago and allowed myself to spend most of my time celebrating and zero time blogging. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about two good friends who are working on bringing a little baby into the world, a tiny bundle with limbs, toes, fingers and eyes, currently tucked inside of one of them but in position to be popping out anytime in the next few days. LIFE. LIFE IS CRAZY. And yes, I did just drink up a bit of a carafe of the house red at Santarpio’s over a brilliantly multi-cheesed pizza but, wow, you don’t need to be tipsy to consider the wild possibilities within every single wilderness. Like a baby in a uterus waiting to blossom out into the air, away from a life lived within fluid heat, a body lived within a woman, to quake and crack and squeeze out into a world of wind and breeze and bad jokes and optimism and everything grim. Life.

Briefly:

20th A belted kingfisher! It was perched along the little dog house that my boss made into a duck house. We no longer have ducks but their home continues to float along the pond. This is the first creature that I’ve seen using it, and I crept up lose to the bird when I realized its beak was way too wonderful to be anything but a kingfisher’s. It flew off shortly after I began stepping toward it, landing in a pondside tree and twittering a rattle at me and whatever else nearby.

21 The barn swallow that keeps clutching the wire above the bike rack, greeting me in silence as I pedal into work.

22 The anniversary of my birth. I spent a lot if time sweeping and breathing in heaven knows what. Dust mites! The remains of dust mites! Pieces of parking lot that blow in the screens and open doors! A lot of dirt. Dark lungs.

23 The drive-by-botanizing has lately been taken over by goldenrod. Everywhere. That margarine-colored golden assemblage of roadside blossoms strikes up in the most unexpected places. This includes random parking lots and sidewalk pockets.

24 I drank my morning genmaicha whilst watching a show in which Stephen Hawking discussed a fraction of the possibilities regarding life–and, terrifyingly, intelligent life–elsewhere in the universe. I also saw a beautiful mallow on a street corner. As I photographed it a man with a heavily scraped face suggested that he, Matt, and I go into crime together. Shoplifting, he suggested, adding that our movie star looks would help get the job done right. “We’ll think about it!”, we said. mallow

Random mallow by yours, truly.

Looks and Gazes

purslane

Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Source: Wikipedia

I gazed at starlings pecking across the grass beside motorous Washinton Street, next door to Forest Hills Station. It’s always my favorite place to watch the little, iridescent things. They skitter around, bright-eyed and yellow-beaked, grazing in the grass like rabbits.

At work a tiny toad scampered between our feet as we weeded purslane from pea gravel. I watched a red-tailed hawk glide down the sky.

Then there were the humans. A beggar on Mass Ave who could imitate a duck to perfection. The sweet teller who complimented Kira and I on our braids, hers French, mine Swedish. Roofers in life-saving suspenders kicking debris from concrete-colored shingles. Lastly, the operator within the bulldozer knocking out a building of dust along the Neoponset. I’d never know of the deconstruction if not for the lone spectators draped over the Fairmount bridge every morning, staring wistfully at the shovel as it hit the walls and ceilings, the metal and brick and plastic, while someone from below would hose down the dusty din with the arching water of a fireman’s truck.

The eighteenth day

black swallowtail butterfly

statesymbolsusa.org

The second black swallowtail of the year.

A wonderful radio show on WERS about the urbanologist.

Weeds by the dozen: galansoga, a fireworkish burst of gone-to-seed grass, and more grasses–tall, Easter green, each with a little fist of white roots.

The List

Catbird
Rabbits half the size of my fist
An invisible redtail
Jousting mockingbirds in the elderberry
A tiger swallowtail flying some stories up into pine trees
An unbelievably big bumblebee; a queen?

Also, on the domesticated side of things:
Buds on passionflower vine
Lemon cucumber sprawling
Hops cones massive
Swamp milkweed planted

Toad ghosts, literary butterflies, and coyotes

Dearest Readers,

I hope you hadn’t lost any faith if you visited Spokes and Petals yesterday to find a lapse in my Thoreauvian record. I was thinking of him, and you, and this, but had to go straight from work to a delightful burrito place by North Station to wish a friend safe Irish travels, and by the time I got home it was to bed with me. I listened and looked, though, and here’s what I found:

August 5th:

tiger swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtails. Source.

Almost enough yellow butterflies (grown from a lovage cradle) to make up a Marquez novel.

Wispy ghosts that ran like tiny soot sprites in the ancient root cellar, “the peach pit,” at work. As I walked through to get one thing or another the sprites would flutter fast and strangely, swinging under pallets piled with seeding trays, gasoline, and clutter. Despite my disbelief in such things I froze, wondering what spirits I’d seen. Because obviously they were spirits, and apparently ones that were a part of the Boston ecology. They kept moving, scattering below old wood, as I proceeded, cautiously, through the cellar. Finally I considered that if I looked ahead of my step I would see whatever supernatural being was there before it snuck out of sight. So I squatted and looked and found a “penny frog,” which is not a frog at all but actually a toadlet. (Toadlet: one of the most unexpected darlings of the English language.)  Not spirits after all. Oh well.

toadlet

A type of toadlet, on loan from Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Rabbits; eastern cottontails. More rabbits than you could shake a stick at. Rabbits devouring the sacred basil I grew from seed, the dahlias that sprang there from their jellyfish tubers, and, shockingly, the bark that wraps the life within the Roxbury Russet sapling that I planted in May. The Victory Gardens have been taken over this year by the velveteen things, colored in shades of brush and ambling around without a fear, perfectly exemplifying the need for more carnivores in the urban landscape..!

August 6th:

dragonfly - eastern amberiwing (Perithemis tenera)

Eastern Amberwing, on loan from Glenn Corbiere

Dragonflies, spun and encrusted in amber, turquoise, emerald and ebony. Lace and wire, spots and eyes and darning needles. They glide over the potted perennials out back, perch on bags of garden soil, and hover, hunting, on thin woody branches.

Galansoga, one of the most impressive of the weeds, is blooming and setting off its seed throughout the farm, blending in trickily with the shape and structure of the sacred basil leaves in the herb patch.

I found evidence of mice in the kitchen and heard them scratching around after midnight. Between them and the tree-chewing rabbits you’d think it was November.

Lastly, I wasn’t lucky enough to see this, but my friend and coworker Itzi saw a coyote cross the road on the edge of the city. Its head was down, she said, as if it was trying to be as clandestine as possible.

coyotebus

Unfortunately I didn’t see this guy, either. Source

Summersweet.

ruby-spice-summersweet-86946

Today was Summersweet:

Clethra alnifolia, ‘Ruby Spice’,

Sweet Pepperbush,

Abloom like a bottle brush. Pink and white sorbet. The scent, a customer said, like lilacs;

a fragrance so oiled and heavy in its syrup and nectar

that it recalled May, but thicker

than those heady scents that devour the senses in spring

leaving only the shades of twilight that strike the eye sweetly.

Summersweet, Pepperbush: drinking hole of bees and butterflies,

hunting terrain for eastern amberwings.

Summersweet in the weight of August, its fragrance arresting walkers in their paths,

stopped and turning, searching for the scent that brought them honey and brought them

pink.

Late Blight: cue Mass freak out

Today late blight, the bane of tomatoes, potatoes, and the Irish, was confirmed by UMass Amherst out in Franklin County. This disease, caused by the pathogen Phytopthora infestans, was the microscopic culprit behind the famines that decimated Ireland in the mid-1800’s. While it has the potential of being every bit as devastating now as it was then, we are lucky to have a much more diversified diet than our forebears (though not nearly diverse enough), as well as various lethal weapons like copper sprays and other vicious stuff that stops, or at least slows, the disease in its tracks. However, despite the odds that are in our favor, we’re not quite able to control the weather, and any cool and rainy summer days can ignite a few late blight spores hitchhiking in the wind and rain. After a few get going it doesn’t take much for the blight to cause a major and often heartbreaking infestation.

To illustrate the nature of late blight, let me offer a brief lesson in contrasts. Tomatoes are beautiful–

Heirloom maters

and late blight is not.

More late blight lesions

Late blight lesions on tomato stem, leaf, and petiole

Roma tomatoes affected by late blight

Mugshot of affected Roma tomatoes. Credit: maine.gov. Previous blight photos from umass.edu. Luscious heirlooms from marycrimmins.com.

Like lots of deadly things, late blight is pretty fascinating. Continue reading

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