Adirondack Fall Foilage 2018

October 19, 2018

Autumn colors passed their peak about a week ago. The best fall foliage happens at an early cold autumn. This year it stayed warm very late (something I’m not complaining about, after last winter!). Even in an off year, it’s still pretty. I went out several times but had trouble getting pictures because it kept raining and I didn’t want to get my camera wet. Anyway, here it is.

Autumn Equinox (photo essay)

September 21, 2018

This has been a strange summer leading up to a stranger fall. Normally foliage is near peak this time of year, but it has barely started. Anyway, here is your early autumn photo essay. Perhaps I’ll get another one posted later in the season.

First Harvest Blessings

August 3, 2018
Goshawk nest in birch tree. Photo: Jensens

Well, the goshawks, reportedly, have flown the nest. The trail is open and people report traveling unmolested. Not sure when I’ll walk that path alone again.

I heard reports last month of two other trails in the county where Northern Goshawks were threatening mountain bikers. The prevalence of goshawks in the Adirondacks has been a matter of speculation for years, with one theory being that they are too shy to give an accurate count. But now it seems that for one month out of the year they are more than willing to make their presence known. I wonder if numbers are recovering or if we’re having an irruption. Time will tell.

Here are some fun facts I learned about the Northern Goshawk.

1) They have such strong talons and are so aggressive that they’ve been known to pierce bicycle helmets in attack.

2) They hunt starlings, which is a major point in their favor. While starlings are famous for their accomplished singing skills, in North America they are an invasive species. Starlings are loud and obnoxious in large groups.

3) Goshawks kill a lot of Blue Jays and keep that native species in check.

4) They like to consume their prey on the ground and don’t have a lot of enemies (unsurprisingly).

5) People are more likely to be attacked when hiking solitary, although this year groups, including groups with dogs, have been attacked.

Things are returning to normal in the village. People are reporting nuisance bears who have learned to open garage doors, but that’s an ongoing problem, and at least the bears run away when they’re confronted.

Flowering June

June 23, 2017

orange hawkweed
Orange Hawkweed
white flower
Witherod viburnum (Wild Raisin)
frog with bluets
Green Frog with Bluets
blackberries
Blackberry
cinnamon fern
Cinnamon Fern
queen anne's lace
Red Soldier Beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace
Tiger Swallowtail on Lilac
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lilac

The Holy Beech

May 5, 2017

In the mature hardwoods of the Adirondacks, the American Beech reigns supreme. It is a majestic tree, stretching 80 feet or more and providing the dense summer canopy of the forest. The wood of this tree is also dense, and the trunk grows straight, with smooth gray bark. In the fall the golden leaves of the Beech offset the bright red of the many varieties of maple that grow here. While the forests at mid-elevation are described as Beech/Hemlock/Yellow Birch/Sugar Maple forests, it is the Beech that predominates the longer an area of forest is undisturbed.

Forest animals from Red Squirrels to Black Bears depend on the fruit of the Beech for survival. The tree produces two small triangular nuts encased in burry shells. The Beech fulfills a core sustenance role for wildlife played by the White Oak in warmer climates. Like the Oak, the Beech hangs on to its dry leaves throughout the winter, letting go only when spring arrives and its long spear-like buds emerge. The leaves are large, oval, and pointed, with toothed edges. This is a long-lived tree which bides its time in the shade for many years, shooting up quickly when a patch of sunlight emerges as another tree falls.

Though nature enthusiasts prize this beautiful tree, the lumber industry is equivocal about its merits. The wood makes beautiful furniture and durable blond flooring, but the trees themselves are susceptible to various diseases which are hard to recognize uncut. Beech is less desirable as cordwood because the wood takes a long time to season. Mostly the trees are left alone, which is just as well since they fill such an important ecological niche.

American Beech can be thought of as the North American equivalent of European oaks such as the English Oak. Both belong to the Fagaceae family, and according to Robert Graves much religious symbolism associated with the oak was transferred from the Beech, partly because the Beech is not found in Mediterranean climates. The European Beech is equivalent to the American in many ways: it is long lived, tall, shade tolerant, and produces the seeds that animals love. The American Beech is a bit fussier about its growing environment, though, and the European grows faster, so if you live in a North American city the beech tree in your neighborhood may not be a native one.

In German folklore the souls of children waiting to incarnate hung around beech trees, so women would wander around beeches to conceive. Beech wood could not be allowed near a woman in labor, however, or she would have a more difficult time with the birth.

Beech has a strong association with writing. Beech wood tablets were once used as a writing surface, particularly for runic script. The smooth bark of living beech trees continues to be used for carving.

Beech is considered conducive to divination, and it is a recommended wood for wands. I suppose it’s used for wands, rather than staffs, because it is so dense. I recently acquired a prime piece of American Beech, and I’m surprised every time I pick it up by how heavy it is. I am intending to use it as a staff, but I doubt I’ll be able to carry it too far into the woods.

Further Reading:

Dana, “Sacred Tree Profile: American Beech (Fagus Gradiflora) – Magic, Medicine, And Qualities, The Druid’s Garden, July 6, 2015. https://druidgarden.wordpress.com/tag/beech-tree-mythology/

Chris Dunford, “Beech: The Most Beautiful Tree in the Wood,” Nature Explored Photography http://www.nature-explored.com/beech-info.htm

Stan Tekiela, Trees of New York (Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2006).

Great Gray Owl

March 10, 2017
My photo of the owl. I was close, but I don’t have a very good camera.

The big excitement this week has been the appearance of a Great Gray Owl, a boreal owl rarely seen in the United States. As the name implies, this is a very large owl, bigger even than the Great Horned. The wingspan is huge, but a blur in my camera even flying slowly.

No one knows if this is a female or male, though one birder thought this owl is female based on the size (female owls tend to be slightly larger, but the difference is not great enough for identification). The owl was unconcerned about the group of people nearby and concentrated on hunting rodents. As word has spread, people have been flocking here from out-of-state.

What does it all mean? On one level, that food for this bird in the far north has been scarce this winter. Possibly we have had a greater mouse or vole irruption, though I haven’t noticed it. Gray Owls have also been spotted in the past few weeks in Maine and New Hampshire.

This relief, often identified as Lillith or Ereshkigal, is probably Ishtar. Photo: BabelStone.

This was not a personal sign since I was told where the bird was feeding in the late afternoon and went looking for it, but it is a sign for the nearby community as whole, which has talked of little else this week. I ordinarily don’t place credence on superstitions about seeing owls in daylight and don’t know anyone who does, partly because we see so many owls during the day around here.

The owl is the sacred bird of Ishtar, probably because the owl protects the grain by hunting rodents. The owl was also a women’s symbol in Mesopotamia. Women wore owl amulets during childbirth and the prostitutes’ union used the owl as their totem. I interpret this owl as an intervention from outside to rid the community of the vermin of noxious ideas.

In the next day or two as weather becomes warmer, the owl is expected to move north.

Great Gray Owl photographed in Ontario by Jok2000. Wikimedia Commons.

Contemplating the Framework

February 17, 2017

 

 

Reconstruction is 85% or more complete on the house I’m living in. It has not been as inconvenient as I feared, although it has undeniably been disruptive — necessitating changes in how I work, tolerance of noise and debris, and acceptance of lower productivity. The workers have been considerate of my space and schedule, but construction is messy and accommodation can only go so far without jeopardizing the time frame of the project.

As the project draws to a close, I am coming to value not just the improvements to the building but the process itself: the collaborative problem solving of minor issues, the slow transformative progress, the expectant activity of each weekday. And I have never valued silence so much as I have on these winter evenings.

Most importantly, I have learned a great deal about how energy in a building works. I have long been acutely aware of how a building’s energy affects the occupants, but I have now become more attuned to how human energy affects a building. The initiation of the changes to this house required a shift in energies of many personalities. This is probably why renovation usually occurs when ownership of a building changes or when the occupants are preparing to move, but sometimes energies are so entrenched that even this does not shake things up enough. The activity of the past seven months on this house is as much a reflection of change as a change itself. Conflict and confusion emanating from place had to be met with clarity and resolution from the human spirit.