Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fungus Fun-Facts and a Feast for our Feathered Friends

This warm, wet winter we are having is producing more fotogenic fungus in the woods than I’ve ever seen. I hope you aren’t tired of my fungus finds!  

We came upon these new-to-me Stinkhorn Fungi on a hike, and they were just everywhere over a half acre of recently cleared forest.

Stinkhorn fungus seems to come in many shapes, sizes and colors, including the bright red and brown ones we saw. The ones below were each about 5 inches long.  

They grow fast —  four to six inches an HOUR, and with such force they have been known to break through asphalt!  That’s really amazing because the one I touched (you know I had to touch it!) was so soft and fragile it felt like pudding.  Wet, slimy pudding that melted in the spot where I had put my finger.  

Once they mature they give off an odor that smells like manure or rotting flesh. Not nice for human noses, but attractive to flies that eat the slime that forms on the end and then carry off the spores to new locations. Fortunate for us with so many around, these were too young to “stink”.

Two more fungus blooms from our hike, names unknown.  

With the mild winter we have had so far, the birds have been abundant. This holly tree was loaded with berries on Saturday.  On Monday afternoon a large flock of robins discovered it and nearly stripped it of berries!  

We keep a feast available in our wooded backyard for our visitors. This is our set-up, with tasty treats for all.

The blue hanging bowl holds grape jelly for the orioles, and on the ground is a pile of sunflower seeds for the mourning doves and squirrels. 

In this feeder are black oiler sunflower seeds, a finch seed mix, meal worms, and suet peanut nuggets.  

  It’s a busy place most of the day!

  Yesterday’s visitors: 
cardinals, mourning doves, pine warblers, Baltimore orioles, eastern bluebirds, tufted titmouses, white-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, house finches, chipping sparrows, purple finches, brown thrasher, downy woodpecker, ruby-crowned kinglets, Carolina wren, redwing blackbirds and cowbirds. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

JANUARY - New Year in the Winter Woods

  This long-awaited new year - 2021 - dawns, infused with our most timid hopes and wildest  dreams.

Three hundred sixty five days, 
8,760 possibility-infused hours.

           Christmas Wreath Lichen

Turkey Tail Fungus

A hugging tree

  We all offer up our heartfelt hope that we can travel, embrace loved ones, see strangers’ faces, expect health and security, kindness and civility.

Ice forms on a pond

In January

Let your fields lie fallow, for seeds must rest before life returns.  

Pause your busyness to 
                     Dream. Imagine. Plan.

Rest and refill your cup.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

DECEMBER 25 - Love Came Down at Christmas

 Two thousand years ago in a world as beleaguered as ours is today, a little brown-skinned baby was born in the Middle East to poor, working class parents.  He came to Earth with a job: to teach human beings how to love each other. His message, the one he lived and died for, was so simple: Love everybody, especially the ones you find hardest to love.

  Love them like you love yourself. Like you love your grandchildren, your mother, your puppy.  

 Love them with your hands and feet, with forgiveness, service, sacrifice, a kind word, with your casserole dishes and your snow shovels, with itchy masks and Walmart gift cards.  

 His name was Jesus, and it’s the day we celebrate his birthday.  

  Paul and Cynthia

Friday, December 18, 2020

DECEMBER 18 - Christ-fall-mas

  While a huge snowstorm dumped tons of snow on the New England coast north of us yesterday, we were out hiking in a forest that is at the peak of autumn color.
  Coastal South Carolina might be the only part of the U.S. there is that gets to experience the beauty of fall and Christmas at the same time.
What a treat!



  We picked some berries and boughs and brought armloads of the fall color and pine scent home to deck the halls ...


        and the porch ...



     and the fireplace.

    There are so many of the beloved annual Christmas traditions that are out of our reach this year because of Covid. We can’t dwell on those, though.  Better to find delight in the ones we still can!  

Thursday, December 10, 2020

DECEMBER 10 - Good Books, Good Friends

  The ability to read has probably brought me more hours of delight than any other single thing in my life.  I remember opening my first “reading book” on my little desk in first grade and galloping through every word like a runaway horse.  The system of combining letters into words and then ideas made complete sense to me and reading came as natural as breathing.  I have no idea how it happened; I just “got it”.

  The series I learned to read from were the Alice and Jerry Books, written by Mabel O’Donnell. 
The books were yellowed and well-worn by the time they reached my class of first graders.  It didn’t matter.  Brother and sister Alice and Jerry and their small dog Jip had adventures that lured me far from the grubby dog-eared pages, the classroom smells of paste and wet mittens, the droning voice of Mrs Bastian, into worlds I could now access without asking someone to read to me.  I was in control and I was unstoppable.  I was chastised often for that  great sin ... Reading Ahead! 
  We were divided into reading groups, six of us at a time who came to the front of the classroom and sat at a round table to read aloud together like a Greek chorus.  I would control myself for a while, my voice in synch with all the others, but then my eyes couldn’t resist flying ahead to find out What Happened.  And there I would be, no longer with the choir but forging ahead on my own.  Only to be scolded once again for Reading Ahead.  

 My reading group was called the Bluebirds. I don’t remember the other group names but they all involved a color.  And everyone knew the Bluebirds were the best readers.  The other three groups were on a scale that sank down to the sad little bunch of readers having serious difficulty, the Brownsomethings.

  I loved the simple stories that grew more complex as we became more adept.  I loved the characters, the funny little dog Jip, the things they did just like I did, like jump in the leaves and roller skate.  I loved the illustrations, soft watercolors of children and situations completely familiar to me. 

  Looking back, I realize there were children in my class whose home life was nothing like Alice and Jerry’s, whose parents didn’t take care of them like mine did, whose clothing was inadequate, who smelled bad, who had little in common with Alice and Jerry and the kind adults in the books.  I wonder if those children were the ones who made up the Brownsomething reading group.

 Alice Fairchild was my first school friend. We shared a double desk that had two cubbies between the seats. I thought Alice was the luckiest girl in the world because she had the same name as the girl in our Alice and Jerry Readers.  Alice’s cubby was on top, mine on the bottom. On special occasions (I think this might have been the day before Thanksgiving) we were each given a treat, a Dixie Cup — a little paper cup of vanilla ice cream with a tiny wooden spoon that, when you licked the ice cream off of it, made the ice cream taste like a Christmas tree.    

 Sweet Alice, unbeknownst to anyone but herself for several hours, decided to save her Dixie Cup and bring it home to a sibling.  Unfortunately she squirreled it away in her cubby above mine and when I reached into my cubby for something later, all the ice cream had dribbled down and made a sticky mess of my crayons and Big Chief tablet, my pencils and my reading book.  The teacher was very upset but Alice and I remained fast friends until third grade when she moved away.  

  Reading has allowed me to satisfy my curiosity and learn new things, to travel to other places and other times I could never go.  Reading has made me laugh, cry, empathize, think, rage, commiserate. I almost lost my sight twice, two detached retinas repaired with emergency surgeries. I’m grateful every day I still have the opportunity to read.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

DECEMBER 9 - ‘New Knee Day’ First Anniversary

   A year ago today I got a new knee. I was promised “pain relief, increased mobility, and better quality of life,” and I can say, I think I got all that.
  I was also told that maintenance is a lifelong commitment. You know — use it or lose it!

  I’ve taken that advice pretty seriously.  We walk twice a day. I do yoga most every day and 
several times a week we hike or bike a good distance. My knee does just fine.  
  The mechanical part still clicks annoyingly at times.  Sometimes a burning pain keeps me awake at night.  But all in all, I’m very happy with the outcome and hope it lasts the rest of my life!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

DECEMBER 8 - What Could Be More Delightful?

  I had something else planned for my blog today, but then this appeared on National Public Radio as we were eating lunch:

“U.K. Begins Nationwide Coronavirus Immunization, Largest In Nation's History

Margaret Keenan, a grandmother of four, made history Tuesday after getting a potentially lifesaving birthday present. 

With one shot — or "jab" as Britons might say — Keenan, who turns 91 next week, officially launched the United Kingdom's nationwide coronavirus immunization campaign — the largest such effort in its history.

"I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19," said Keenan, who received the shot at 6:30 a.m. U.K. time. ‘It's the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.’ “

  Even though the overnight news here was that the vaccine may be delayed and in short supply in this country until June or July,  I am overjoyed and filled with hope to see a mother and grandmother somewhere who is on her way to seeing her family, friends, and living a normal life again.  

  Nothing could delight me more today than this!