Field Notes: Fall 2023
I watch two small dark-gray birds hop around the yard and think, Yay! They’re back!
It’s possible these Dark-eyed Juncos are year-round residents who spent the breeding season in the woods.
Or maybe they are among the “snowbirds” who summered farther north and are passing through, en route to points south.
With so many birds departing as the days grow colder and shorter, I gladly welcome these juncos from wherever they’ve been and for however long they stay.
Walking on asphalt
Despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise, Asha makes it clear that this morning we are going to walk in town, not in the woods. I sigh heavily, then respect her decision.
After all, I am still walking with Asha under a clear blue October sky.
Red, orange and yellow leaves still flutter down.
Asha is still exploring, her nose down, then up; her ears forward, then upright.
I can still follow my own curiosity as it pulls me forward, yielding delight:
A copy of Charlotte’s Web from someone’s Little Free Library, a book I’ve been wanting give to my friend Cora.
A Black Walnut fruit, large and round with a rough lime-green shell.
A tubular pod filled with tiny brown seeds.
Sounds of the river and Red-shouldered Hawks.
Questions about trees heavy with red fruits who remind me of lychees.
Even though it is asphalt rather than a wooded trail under my feet, I return home with gifts.
Postcard to the woods #2
I’m once again visiting family. Walking on city sidewalks, I’m slowly getting to know the trees and plants of this very different ecosystem.
The other morning I picked up tiny cylindrical woody cones beneath a tree. On my way back, I stopped to spend time with the tree. The long, segmented needles reminded me of horsetail plants. I flipped through Mum’s tree book, looking first among the conifers, then more randomly, and learned this is a type of horsetail tree. (I also learned that what I thought were needles are really branchlets with teeny whorled leaves, and that the tree flowers!)
So even though I’m far away, you are very much with me, a piece of home showing up here, teaching me about the connections between ecosystems that are a continent apart.
Still, I look forward to returning to cooler temperatures and your fiery autumnal glory.
River of prayers
I stand at the edge of the river
leaf after leaf after leaf after leaf
maple, oak, knotweed, beech
a prayer, a song, a cry
How to get to know a red berry in 8 simple steps
1. Press a red holly berry between my fingers and find six yellow oval seeds
2. Notice my curiosity is piqued
3. Type Winterberry Holly into the GoBotany website and read this fleshy fruit is listed as a drupe even though it contains multiple seeds
4. Wonder about other red berries I’ve seen this week (Burning Bush and Asiatic Bittersweet) and learn they are both capsules, not drupes
5. Consult A Botanist’s Vocabulary: 1300 Terms Explained and Illustrated by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell
6. Get lost in new terms: dehiscent and indehiscent; pericarp, endocarp, exocarp and mesocarp
7. Go for a walk with Asha
8. Return home with
a. a mental image of seeds wrapped in protective layers
b. an admiration for the intricacy and diversity of fruits and seeds
c. memories of wrapping new ideas in protective layers
You may also like:
Summer 2023 – First walk after time away; After the flooding; Balsam; Hearing quiet; Misshapen assumptions
Spring 2023 – Eleven reasons to stop; A compliment; A cup-of-tea discovery; Seeing, hearing, listening; Shall we go this way?; A walk without Asha; Blue dot
Late Winter 2022/2023 – Postcard to the Woods; Not in miles or minutes; Birdsongs and heartsongs; Desktop spring
Winter 2022/2023 – Threshold; Reclaiming Prayer; After eight inches of heavy, wet snow; Winter maple
Fall 2022 – A just-right angle; Not so Common Milkweed; Will they come true?; En route to the forest floor; I can’t just call them all brown; I wonder if their encounter was a poem