Thursday, April 29, 2010


The photo above is not of a sunset. I want to make that clear.
Yes, technically speaking, that is the sun slinking down an hour or so ago on its way to hide in shame below the western horizon. But I ask you…do you look at the photo and straightaway think: Wow—look at that breathtaking sunset?
No, of course you don't. And neither did I. I sat on the porch freezing my, uh…well just freezing, camera in hand, waiting for something snazzy—and this is what I got.
Hey, Ol' Sun, I'm perfectly willing to give credit when credit's due. I'll gape and point and ooh and ahh with the best of 'em; I'm always ready to be wowed. But this isn't gettin' it, and I don't see why it's my responsibility to encourage such mediocrity. Dazzle me and I'll take your photo and sing your praises; serve me up stuff like this and I'm going to whine publicly and tell everybody you're slacking.
And while we're at it…what happened to that heat you were supposed to favor us with today? Oh, sure, you finally squeezed out the promised 71 degrees…for about fifteen minutes. But couldn't you manage it between, say, noon and 6:00 p.m.? You were up there shining brightly—just not very warmly. Moreover, did you ever think that 71 measly degrees with a 40-MPH wind produces a chill factor just this side of hypothermic? You expect me to sit out in shorts and a sweatshirt, camera in hand, waiting on you to deliver what turns out to be a lackadaisical performance, with my marrow congealed?
Okay, I've had my say, informed the public and showed them photographic proof. We all have our off days. I'm willing to let bygones be bygones…so long as you amp it up on the sunset colors. And let's cease and desist with the glacial overtones—after all, this is Ohio, not Siberia.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"…a tree older than our nation…"
I saw my first warbler of spring earlier today—a male black-and-white that flitted about for a minute or so in one of the hackberry trees along the river. As a birder, I'm really pretty lousy when it comes to identifying migrating warblers…though I'm certainly more competent on spring birds than autumn's passel of subdued look-alikes. Black-and-white warblers, however, are pretty easy, and I was glad, because I'd hate starting out the season on a species I couldn't name.
"…a flower…"
Speaking of personal deficiencies, I've been seriously negligent in my posting these past few days. I think the weekend wore me out.
"…or bird…"
At least that's my excuse. I'm sure the weather had a lot to do with it—rainy and cold on Monday; even colder, though sunny, yesterday; and lovely sun but still on the too-cool side today.
"…a bug that looks like a jewel…"
Whatever the root of my latest malaise, I've accomplished shamefully little when it comes to writing, inside or outside chores, not to mention fishing and photography. Egads!
"…the stained-glass look of backlit leaves…"
Late this afternoon I took my Nikon and made a slow circumnavigation of the yard. For me, finding and making pictures is a way to step outside my current emotional state, to put the press of life aside momentarily and focus both eye and mind on the wonders of the world before me.
"…sunlight sparkling off the water…"
Large or small, such wonders are always there; there's always something worth recording—a flower or bird, sunlight sparkling off the water, the stained-glass look of backlit leaves, a bug that looks like a jewel…a tree older than our nation reaching into a cloud-dappled April sky.
If I'm lucky, I also find that temporarily missing part of myself somewhere in the images.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Our area's National Weather Service prophets—possibly operating on the theory that if you keep predicting something long enough, it will eventually come true—claimed it was going to rain all day yesterday. Actually, they made this announcement the day before. Come yesterday morning, they'd revised their call, saying rain would move into the region sometime after noon. When noon came, with skies still bright and sunny, I expect they revised their revision—perhaps declaring this thoughtlessly dawdling rain would now arrive in the night, or even…gasp!…not until this morning, though I don't know that to be the case. By then I'd given up listening to their prognostications in favor of simply looking outside. The way I figured, if I observed millions of little water droplets falling out of a cloudy sky, I could safely assume it was raining.
I'm not making fun of our weather experts. Honest. They have a difficult job—impossible, really, since nature remains oblivious to their latest and greatest technology, steadfastly unimpressed by all their charts and data. They're sort of like sports announcers trying to give blow-by-blow details of a boxing match before the fight takes place. Weather forecasting is still guesswork, no matter how fancy a plate it's served up on—as much supposition as science.
(I just checked the current prediction for my area. The rain, they say, will be here after noon, three hours from now. Looking out my window, I see it is raining. Hmmm…)
Why these weather musings? Well, because it's Saturday morning, and I'd rather be out: a) taking photos and walking in the woods; b) planting seeds and preparing seed/plant beds; c) adding more rock slabs to my pseudo-flagstone walk; d) fishing. Instead, it looks as though I'll be relegated to: e) working inside; and f) grumbling about the weather.
Yes, we need rain. The annual seeds I stuck in the ground more than a week ago need rain. The flowers and bushes I planted need rain. The iron-hard ground where I'm laying my pseudo-flagstone walkway needs rain, which will subsequently benefit my back if I can dig with a shovel rather than a pick-axe. The river and fish therein need their fresh drink, too. And God knows, the lawn always welcomes rain, which keeps the lawnmower happy.
I'm just not in the mood for rain today. Not in the mood for these light showers and gloomy skies. And neither, apparently, is the great blue heron I photographed in the nether-light of what passed for a late dawn this morning. The big bird and fellow fisherman has been flapping from one riffle to another for hours, unsettled, unable to find a place he likes—restless and moody as me in his own way.
I'd fly off, too, if I could…

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The hackberry on the hill below the road is a
glorious green against a gorgeous April sky.
It's been an interesting week here along the riverbank…
The weather has been glorious, but cool—and in the mornings plain cold. Yesterday I could see my breath for more than an hour after sunrise. There were frost warnings several nights, though I never actually noticed frost anywhere. But then, I wasn't paying all that much attention when I took Moon the dog out for her hurried constitutional. Most days, the highs never made it past the upper-50s or very-low-60s. Which doesn't sound too bad except that it's already been in the 80s a few times, and upper-70s quite often before it turned cold…uhh, cool.
Not that weather has put much of a damper on spring. Or the seasonal work needing doing around the cottage and yard.
I'm still trying to put my planting beds in shape for another year—turning the soil, adding compost and other organic material, topping with mulch. Some seeds have been sown; others are still in their packets, awaiting my limited time, energy, and dereliction of fishing duties. I also have seedlings and larger plants to buy and get in, which given the rock-rich makeup of the ground, is more like mining than planting. A task worth procrastinating over, if ever there was one. And this afternoon—seeing as how it's supposed to rain for the next two or three days—I'm hoping to give the grass it first mowing…providing I don't get too distracted.
A lot of this would actually have been accomplished already (probably) if I hadn't been engaged in trying to build a pseudo-flagstone patio/walkway. The rocks aren't real flagstones, just various sized and shaped slabs of Indiana limestone, 2-4-inches thick, which—if you use a stonemason's hammer and chip out irregular chunks all along the top edge of the slab—can be fashioned to look more like a weathered stone than a smooth-sawn rock. Of course, you have to tuck the 60-pound or so slab under one arm and spin it around as you deliver the necessary whacks. (Safety glasses are a must!) And then you have to seat, level, re-level, adjust, fit, mutter suitable imprecations, and fuss with an imperturbable rock that would as soon smash your fingers as comply with your artistic maneuverings. Four-stones-per-hour is about my maximum rate…and when you add in sorting and hauling, you begin to see why the old Pharaohs started their tomb construction straight away after taking their throne.
Still, as I said, the days have been glorious and spring has continued to don her enchanting cloak of vernal green. There are times when I swear I can see the leaves growing! Every day looks greener, the view less open, my little home on the river more cloistered. Which is fine by me, as I like getting lost amid the surrounding greenery, sheltered by leaf and sky. Sounds grow ever more muffled—especially traffic and other manmade noise. The background music of my days are becoming that of birdsong and purling water, of wind stirring through velvet-soft leaves and bees humming happily over dandelion blooms.
In a few minutes I'm heading up the road to a nearby woods to check on the Jack-in-the-pulpit. A few were showing the last visit I made—which was last week. The strange little spathes are usually thick in this one area, and I want to spend time making photos. I'll probably get sidetracked for an hour or two by whatever else I find thereabouts. I'm easily distracted in the spring woods. And I may toss a fishing rod and my tackle bag in the truck…just in case.
[FYI, overshadowing the last half-dozen days has also been concerns and issues re. Myladylove's health. She became ill last Friday at work. I insisted she call her doctor, who happened to have an appointment opening within the hour. At the doctor's, she was having heart palpitations, a BP reading of 175/120, and a heartrate of 110 BPM. The doctor suspected a potassium deficiency, which was confirmed an hour later after a visit to the hospital for bloodwork. There were also some problems with her liver count. She was put on potassium and magnesium supplements and ordered to spend the weekend resting. Not easy news for a workaholic to hear or mind. Guess who got to police THAT order. We made a followup doctor's visit Tuesday, and she also had additional bloodwork—which showed a now normal liver count and much-improved potassium level. Yesterday, Myladylove had an ultrasound. It's suspected her problems were caused by the statin drug she was put on a few months back. She's still not feeling great—though much better than last week. And, of course, has been working since Monday. As you'll recall, I kicked off April with my own health issues; Myladylove was apparently not to be outdone. Like I said, it's been an interesting week (or month!) here along the riverbank…]

Monday, April 19, 2010


"When redbuds are a'bloom," the old man said to me, "that's nature's signal for a feller to go fishin'!"
A good example of angling phenology, as it turned out…for fish do seem to bite extraordinarily well when the redbuds brighten the greening woods with their showy blooms. All these years later, I still never see a redbud in bloom without remembering the connection—and subsequently wishing I could drop whatever it is I'm doing and go fishing.
Most of the year, the redbud goes unnoticed in the woods. Its heart-shaped leaves just another daub of green in a vast green sea. But not so in spring! Long before most trees have even partially leafed out, the redbud takes over the landscape with color. A party in pink! No other tree in the woods can compare—and more than a few folks consider the diminutive redbud to be the prettiest blooming tree around. That's doubtless why it's also so popular with landscapers and gardeners.
Redbuds are indeed as lovely as any tree I know—at least when they're in full and glorious bloom. The bright magenta-pink blossoms set off the green of the few new leaves—a hue that simply glows like a beacon within the darkest shadows. A single redbud a'bloom in a wild meadow is like a warm, rosy light; a hillside thick with redbuds dazzles as if the slope were being consumed by flames.
The redbuds hereabouts have been blooming for nearly three weeks. Right now, they seem to be at their showiest, blushing vigorously, the impact of their color transfixing the eye. It's hard to see anything else when the redbuds are putting on their spring show.
The Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, is quite common throughout the eastern U.S. and lower Canada. Size-wise, I suppose you could consider it either a small tree or a very large shrub—depending on age and growing conditions. A big redbud tree would be 30-feet high and 10-inches in diameter. Often part of the forest's understory, redbuds also favor roadbanks and borderlands between woods and fields.
Though I grew up in a foraging family—we gathered and ate everything from various wild greens, to mushrooms, berries, nuts, and such fruit as pawpaws and persimmons—it wasn't until I reached my mid-twenties that I learned redbud blooms are quite tasty in salads, or when made into jelly. I've even sample redbud wine. Nowadays, I never pass a blooming redbud without pulling off a handful of the pinkish blossoms and having a taste to check on sweetness. And I often bring in a bag of blooms to add to salads.
The redbuds in these photos are located just up the road from the cottage—on the far side of the old field where I took most of the spring beauty shots from a couple of posts back. In another week or two, most of them will be fading…and soon they'll lose their magenta blossoms, put on their own green leaves, and simply blend into the crowd for the rest of the spring and summer. I hate to see them disappear.
I also hate that I can't go fishing today. I know they'd be biting…because the redbuds are in bloom!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Spring! Spring!
The bluebells ring,
In joyous royal hues.
Along streamside glades,
Their bright parade,
Proclaims the vernal news!
I've never encountered a swath of bluebells I didn't adore. In fact, I'm almost incapable of passing even a single plant without taking a moment to pause and admire the exquisite combination of blue and pink that blend so perfectly into the quintessential announcement of spring's arrival.
There's a little creek not far from here, a pastoral tributary of the stream which flows past my snug stone cottage, which my late friend Frank and I used to regularly wade to fish for smallmouth bass. One stretch in particular, where the footing was tricky but the fish large and plentiful, we called Bluebell Run. Practically the entire north bank along this deep, rocky portion of stream—a low, rich-soiled glade shaded by ancient sycamores—was carpeted in bluebells every April. As often as not, before fishing the water, my old pal and I both got out of the stream to spend time among the bluebells, oohing and aahing, taking photos…for Frank was as much a pushover for beauty as he was for bass.
Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, were named by Carolus Linnaeus for the German botanist Franz Mertens. They are a tall plant, as spring's wildflowers go, often growing more than two feet high. They like rich, loamy, damp soils, and so I most often find them along streamside floodplains and upland woods—places where there's a good mix of cool shade and fertile earth.
It's easy to see where bluebells get their name, since the clusters of flowers, each bloom an inch or two long, look remarkably like little bells. Blossoms begin as pink buds that turn sky blue as they bloom and mature. Sometimes, though rarely, the blooms remain pink, or come out as white; and the blues can be anything from a pale wash to a deep purple. Bluebells are true spring ephemerals—coming and going during the first week's of the new season.
Some sources cite butterflies as the flowers chief pollinators. Others say bumblebees—though the butterfly contingent claims bumblebees are rarely successful because they're forced to hover to get the job done. Earlier this week, when I walked through the acres of bluebells located in a woods just up the road from here, I don't recall a single butterfly among the thousands upon thousands of blooms…but I did see lots of big, dark bumblebees, and they didn't seem to be having any trouble sticking half their bodies into the hanging blue flowers.
Bluebells say it all! Their quiet beauty is somehow louder than a shout. And whenever I hear them pealing their vernal news, I stop to listen…because the I love the visual sound of a brand new spring.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Spring beauty…

I think the name says it all. This little wildflower is beautiful. Not in some gaudy sort of way—but rather in quiet grace, like the sweet words of an old love poems whispered softly amid the April woods.

Beauty, indeed…but beauty perhaps seldom appreciated by casual amblers. For to truly see and thus realize the subtle colors and fine design of this miniature jewel, you must get close—bending low, or better still, getting down on your knees, in intimate contact with damp leaves and tender new grass and where, as you lean and focus, you catch a whiff of the rich earth and vernal energy that produced this comely treasure.

The spring beauty's five white petals are etched with lines that radiate from their base. "Bee guides" they're sometimes called, as some think their purpose is to point pollinating insects to the nectar found in the corolla cup at the bloom's center. These lines may be pink or violet or a shade that's somewhere between purple and magenta—pale in tone, pastel, or deeply colored. Sometimes the petals are simple a pure white with lines lacking in color, but visible only in a light gray; alternately, the color can be so intense that the background hue of the petal itself is pink or violet. Mostly, though—unless you make that close examination—a handful of spring beauties tucked among the leaves and greening stems beside a trail, will simply appear a washed-out pink. You have to really look to understand what you're seeing.

Spring beauties are not only lovely to look at—they're also good to eat. Delicious, in fact. The tasty part is the corm, the bulb-like underground portion of the root system which looks like a tiny spud. For this reason, spring beauties have been called "fairy potatoes," though it takes quite a few to make a meal. They do taste much like a potato, however, except sweeter and more nutty. And while this information might be handy to know the next time you're stranded and starving in the woods, I prefer to buy my potatoes at the grocery and leave these diminutive versions to produce their exquisite little flowers for my visual dessert.

Here in Ohio, as throughout most of the Great Lakes, East, Southern Appalachians and Midwest, we have two species of spring beauty—Claytonia virginica and Claytonia caroliniana…which differ chiefly in the shape of their leaves. The leaves of the Carolina spring beauty are wider and more rounded, while those of the Virginia (generally simply called "spring beauty") are longer and quite slender, almost like a blade of grass.

Spring beauties are common. So common, in fact, they're quickly overlooked by all but the most avid wildflowers enthusiasts. Yet no matter how often I see these little wildflowers shining brightly among emerald grass, carpeting the ground beneath a stately beech, or glowing like tiny beacons in an upland woods, I have to stop and look, admire…delight. Pink, petite, pretty—and the personification of the season.

Spring beauty…the name says it all; the rest is up to you.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Yesterday evening, as my Ladylove and I sat on the deck, watching the sun disappear and the sky go through its wondrous cycle of gold to orange to vermilion to amethyst to indigo, I thought over the weekend and tried to decide what I might write about for this post. Nothing obvious sprang to mind.
On Saturday, I spent most of the day moving cut slabs of Indiana limestone from their storage pile close to the drive to the yard near the front of the cottage, where I'm fiddling with an ongoing project. The idea is to use the materials I have on hand, rather than buying stuff, to construct a sort of wide walkway in front of the side deck and around the riverside corner of the cottage to the front deck.
These chunks of smooth rock—squares, rectangles, triangles, and every other shape you can think of, including lots with broken-off portions—are anywhere from the size of a very large dinner plate to half a desktop, and 2 to 6 inches thick. The ones I can lift I bring down in the wheelbarrow; the ones I can't I coax along with rollers and a crowbar. Fitting them is like working a giant patchwork puzzle. It helps if you have a high tolerance for back pain and an eye for spatial relationships, as hundred-pound blocks aren't the easiest thing to jocky around.
I did take one walk in the afternoon—about a thirty minute break to a low floodplain portion of riverside woods a half mile below the cottage. Lesser celandine have been in bloom locally for a couple of weeks. This stretch is always a riot of bright yellow flowers, and as they're already starting to fade, I wanted to make a quick visit before the show ended.
So that was Saturday.
Sunday after church, my Ladylove and I did nothing other than a few light chores and a lot of lazing around outside in the lovely warm sun. I tended some slow-cooked pork barbecue, read, snoozed, and watched clouds, birds, and the river as it purled along—green, cheerful, as if excited to be dancing southward on a springtime adventure. Moon the dog wallowed in the grass. My Laydylove, who loves the sun—and the brighter-'n-hotter the better—stretched out on the chaise lounge and promptly went to sleep.
Late in the day we had our supper of smoky pulled pork—laced liberally with my tangy-sweet sauce—a big salad, and an after-dinner cappuccino. And that was pretty much the whole of Sunday. So…what to write about?
It was now all but night. The vultures had been settled on their roost for an hour. A couple of robins were trading riffs in the gathering darkness. High in the western sky a jetliner cruised—a wink of silver dragging a vapor tail the color of blood.
"What am I going to write about," I said. "Nothing interesting happened."
"Don't be silly," said Myladylove, "that's interesting…write how nothing happened."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


One evening last week I was sitting on the bench which overlooks the river beside the cottage, watching the last of the day's light fade into shades of gold and vermillion and amethyst. The vultures were long on their roost in the sycamores on the island.
A dark, bulky shape caught my eye along the far side of the channel and a bit downstream. At first I thought it was a short chunk of drifting log being carried along on the still-high water. Then the "log" began to angle towards my side of the stream, keeping its place against the flow.
The conscious portion of my mind was apparently having a hard time accepting what the sub-conscious had already figured out—logs don't move laterally across current. The mystery thing had power, natural power. Ergo, I was watching a living creature.
But what? Well, too big for a muskrat. Too Ohio for an alligator or nutria. And unless it was a hirsute catfish, that left only one choice…beaver!
As I said, it was almost dark and I never could see the thing well enough to tell for sure during its crossing. But when the dark bulk reached my side of the river it began to move upstream, just out from the bank. I sat quietly and readied my camera. In a moment the swimmer reached the portion of stream directly out from the bench—beaver, indeed! I took its portrait.
A couple of years ago I found a beaver lodge in an old gravel pit pond about a mile up from here, yet this is only the second time I've seen a beaver in the river. And not many years ago, even these limited sighting would have been impossible.
The story of Ohio beaver is a tale of comeback, a chronicle of how what was once lost is now slowly managing to reestablish itself. Beaver were historically abundant throughout the rich, forested land which later became Ohio—as they were all over the Great Lakes and the Midwest regions. Estimates of the pre-European population is at least 400 million beaver in North America. Prehistoric Indians killed beaver for food and their thick, warm pelts. Here in Ohio, archaeologists excavating Hopewell mounds have unearthed pipes depicting the image of beaver.
Ohio beaver trapping reached its peak between 1750 and 1800. Even then, things were already going downhill. David Zeisberger, a Moravian Missionary, writing in the 1770s about the Ohio country, noted: “The beaver was formerly found in great numbers in this region, but since the Indians have learned from the whites to catch them in steel traps, they are more rarely found.…”
By 1830, the state’s once teeming beaver population had been been totally extirpated. Their absence lasted for more than a hundred years. It wasn’t until 1936 that beavers were again seen in Ohio, when they reappeared in Belmont and Ashtabula counties. A survey made a decade later still found only 100 beaver scattered over eleven Ohio counties.
Beavers are the largest rodents in North America and the second-largest in the world. Only the South American capybara is bigger. Strictly vegetarians, they’ll eat a wide variety of plants, including cattail shoots, lily tubers, sedges, clover, water weeds, even field corn. A favorite food is the cambium layer (the soft tissue of wood, just below the outer bark) of such Ohio hardwood trees as maple, willow, and cottonwood.
An adult beaver averages between 30 and 60 pounds, though they infrequently exceed 100 pounds. A typical beaver colony is really a multi-generational family unit consisting of parental adults, yearling offspring, and offspring of the current year. The beaver which swam by the cottage might have been a two-year-old, off to find a mate and start its own family—though it appeared rather large to my untrained eye.
First it was bald eagles, now a beaver. I'm getting really excited at the prospects of a bear!


Okay you real wildflower experts—I need your help identifying the plant pictured here.
I made these photos a couple of days ago, and since then have been flipping through field guides and botany handbooks, trying to key it down…then dithering between various possibilities, and becoming seriously frustrated because I'm not quite satisfied with any of the choices I've come upon.
As my Uncle Raymond used to say, it's time to call in the big dogs!
Here's what you see in the photos…and what the rest of the plant looks like, described to the best of my limited botanical abilities.
First off, the blooms in the photos are tiny, not more than a quarter-inch across. (Yup, macro shot.) The plant itself is about six inches tall, the delicate stems green and smooth—not in the least hairy. On the upper part of the stem—but below the flowers and the long pods—are what seems to be a series of leaflets, 4-6 pairs. At the base of the grouping of stems (4-6 per plant) is a rosette of basal leaves which are rounded, not lobed or toothed. The plants are growing in the edge of my side yard, in fairly dry ground. They receive most of the day's worth of sun.
I'm pretty sure this is some sort of cress. But what? The basal leaves are completely wrong for lyre-leaved rock cress; and when I pull up other photos of small-flowered bitter cress, they don't look much like my blooms. The stem "leaflets" appears to rule out spring cress, as well.
I'm becoming cressfallen…uh, make that crestfallen.
I hate to run shots of a wildflower I can't name, but I'm getting tired of not knowing what is obviously a fairly common plant of my yard. I'd rather admit my ignorance than continue my puzzlement.
Besides, they're lovely little blooms, nameless or not.
Leaves on the upper stem…
Basal leaves…
I've looked again and finally decided this must be small-flowered bitter cress. At least that's my final guess. It still doesn't quite fit the description to me—but given the references on my shelf, I'm not sure anything else comes as close. I still could be entirely wrong.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


A countless multitude they stood,
A Milky Way within the wood.
White are my dreams, but whiter still,
The bloodroot on the lonely hill…
—Danske Dandridge
I've always counted the comely bloodroot among my very favorite wildflowers—even though I'm not particularly fond of most white blooms. But bloodroot is simply too beautiful to ignore. Moreover, I adore the way the single leaf—on a separate stalk—opens and wraps around the bud stalk, like hands clasped in prayer, seeming intent on protecting the delicate blossom. How could anyone not love such a caring and pretty plant?
Bloodroot has long been considered one of the earliest-blooming woodland wildflowers. "It is singular how little warmth is necessary to encourage these…flowers to put forth," wrote New England naturalist John Burroughs, in 1871. "I have found the bloodroot when it was still freezing two or three nights a week…"
When I was a kid, following my father around various Ohio woods on early-spring wildflowering junkets, I also remember bloodroot being among the few larger-sized blooms we were apt to find—along with hepaticas, coltsfoot, and in a few locales, snow trillium. Spring beauties, trout lilies, bluets, and a dozen others always appeared a bit later. Yet for whatever reason, this early blooming characteristic seems to have undergone a bit of change. During the last decade or so I've tended to find bloodroot long after the hepaticas and snow trilliums…in fact, they only began showing up around here last week—and this year (so far) our weather has been unseasonably warm.
So why have the bloodroot changed their ways? Beats me. But I've been out taking my annual look, because bloodroot are one of those spring ephemerals that seem to come and go in a hurry. Individual blooms seldom last more than a couple of days. If you're lucky, a given area might produce blooming bloodroot for a week. Therefore, it's either see them now, or wait until next spring.
Bloodroot is a snow-white wildflower of exceptional beauty. So whence its oddly graphic name? Once or twice, I recall Dad used his thumbnail to prick the flower's reddish stem. Almost immediately a drop of red-orange juice would appear—the plant's namesake "blood." [FYI, I thought about doing the same and taking a photo for this post…but in the end, couldn't bring myself to wound something so lovely for the mere sake of a photograph.]
The red juice of the bloodroot is a powerful dye. It was once used to color handwoven baskets and cloth, and I know of at least one artist who uses it like a natural watercolor. Both plant and juice have a long history in herbal remedies; in more modern times, the juice has been employed in toothpaste as a plaque fighter.
I noticed today the hillside spangled with blooming bloodroot I enjoyed last Friday now has not one white flower. The few bloodroot I have on my own side-yard hill, which were blooming yesterday, have also disappeared, leaving only the distinctive clasped leaf.
So even as a new spring arrives, the bloodroot season draws to a close.
[JUST A NOTE…I'd meant to post this bloodroot piece yesterday, but was foiled by technical difficulties. For whatever reason, my cable connection was kaput a big portion of yesterday and most of today—and of course, along with it my Internet access. We did have a line of severe thunderstorms move through the area last evening right at dusk; but my cable went out long before that. It came back into service for a few minutes early this morning, failed again, and returned sometime while I was out puttering around in the woods with my camera. So for those of you wondering why this usually loquacious riverbank scribe has been silent the past 48 hours (including comment replies), I'm still here, just temporarily muzzled.]

Sunday, April 4, 2010


April gets me every time!
Sodden with birdsong,
Spattered in wildflowers,
Drenched by holy sun.
Thumbnail frogs gather,
Trilling their shrill herald,
A tinkling of distant fairy bells
On violet-scented breeze.
Merry streams sparkle, beckon in
Effervescent promise to feel anew
Cold pulse against my legs and
Probe sweet mystery in their pools.
In streamside glades pure white
bloodroot glows, leaves clasped
In quiet prayer as royal bluebells
Ring bright their song of vernal truth.
When April comes, earth entire
Sings of eternal life. Resurrection!
A joyous jonquil-gold message,
Clear in the robin's outpouring.
In covenant and assurance
We plant our seeds, water,
Watch them sprout and grow.
Belief is easy come April.
April's renewed faith finds
Glory in greening grass,
Hope in budding maple.
Certainty of an empty tomb.
If I could hold back time I might
Compel all Aprils to slow and linger,
Though only for a while,
Because I know what lies beyond…

Friday, April 2, 2010


Several regular readers have written me via e-mail (plus one to the blog) inquiring as to my well-being, given that I've not posted anything in a week. I'm tempted to say don't look a gift horse in the mouth…except the truth of the matter is that I'm not feeling all that cheeky at the moment.
I've actually written several posts, but for one reason or another decided to not put them up. I do that more often than you might think—write something that never goes beyond a draft, usually because I didn't like the photo, or maybe because I felt I could write it another way, from a different angle, and make it better. Occasionally I just realize some things are better left unsaid.
We've actually had a pretty good week here along the river. Temperatures climbing steadily day after day to the point that yesterday made it into the 80s! And to think, only a week ago we had snow! I puttered around the yard a bit and enjoyed the nice weather all I could—though it wasn't as much as I'd have liked. But then, it never is…
However, not everything has gone as well as the weather, and to be quite honest, I'm rather dispirited. Less the jocular riverbank scribbler than a contemplative—possibly brooding—old incorrigible. I'm working my way through things…facing what I have to face, and trying to accept what I can't change.
I hope you'll forgive this too-long silence. I will post again soon.