May 14, 2018

Cloudy, 47 Degrees, No Wind.

It’s a dark morning, with thunder rumbling in the distance as I prepare to take Jamie for his walk. Unfortunately, I’m in agony, as I usually am in the morning. My left leg hurts so badly that I can badly stand it, but I’m hoping that a walk might help the pain. I grab my camera, my portable cane/stool, and I can’t seem to find Jamie’s leash anywhere. I had it with me last night when I took him to the schoolyard, but now I can’t find it in the house or the car.

I like the regularity of these leaves. You can see the blossoms getting ready to open. 

As the thunder intensifies, and my frustration and confusion intensifies because of the pain and not finding the leash, I realize that I’m not going to be able to take him out now. The pain killers I took when I woke up are starting to kick in and I am feeling sleepy and miserable. I go to bed and invite Jamie up onto the bed to join me.

Next thing I know, it’s an hour or two later. I’m not even sure. So I drag myself up and take Jamie to the schoolyard. He’s happy, because he gets to play with his friend Hank, and the walk is shorter, so I can tolerate the pain and hope the walk loosens up my back and relieves the pain eventually.

These are just leaves, but they look like flowers as they go from red to green as they mature. 

So welcome to my life of late. It’s a mix of severe pain, home remodeling, and dog walking when I can. The woods have been out of the question lately. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try again. I don’t want to miss more than a couple of days, no matter how much it hurts.

This weekend I bought this combination can/folding stool thing as a way to allow myself to sit down when the pain gets unbearable. It works pretty well. I can walk maybe 100 yards before the pain stops me and I need to sit down. Sitting for a few minutes eases the pain, and I start the cycle again. It’s not fun, but usually after a walk, my back feels a little better.

Lilacs are quite common in this area. This one had made its way into a bunch of overgrown brush. 

I missed yesterday’s entry because of the pain, and my effort to continue with the living room remodeling, I didn’t do any photography until evening. I just went out to photograph in the yard, and I ended up going over to the schoolyard, because there are some really cool things leafing out over there.

This morning, I took my camera, along with Jamie and re-photographed the same things in the cloudy flat light, thinking it might be different or perhaps better than last night. It was almost dark by the time I got up there and I am afraid that the light might have been too low.

The things I’ve been observing up there are a plants with their leaves bursting out. There’s one that almost look like a flower, but it’s just a big complex group of leaves bursting out of a single bud. There are also these cute little leaves coming out on these vines that I shot. They form a perfectly spaced little row of leaflets that I thought was cool.

I’m not sure if these will be flowers, or pine cones.

I also shot some other plants leafing out and some little flower clusters on a bush whose name I don’t know. Shooting the bush again this morning, I can see the tiny bits of pollen on the little stamens (I think this is correct). The flowers are only 1/4″ in size and yet they have all the same parts as the huge blooms on our Magnolia.

All of these phenomena continue to absolutely fascinate me. I talk about it endlessly with Pat, Hank’s owner. She seems to enjoy my exclaiming about all of these details. She’s begun collecting specimens of all of the plants I’m photographing and taking them back home to put in a vase. It’s really sweet of her. She’s interested too, and has enjoyed my sharing my excitement about all of these new observations.

Another of these incredible leaf clusters. Notice the big green, different looking leaves at the base. 

She and I have walked past all of these fascinating phenomena without noticing a one of them for years now, as we’ve walked our dogs. I find it amazing that I could have missed all of this fascinating life—and I consider myself a somewhat more than average observer. It’s one of the great joys of this project. And I mean great. My life feels so much richer for being doing this, even if I am in agony some of the time.

I was wondering why I am so excited at what are really simple things, even if I’ve never really noticed them before. Why does the opening of a complex cluster of leaves make me so excited? Why does seeing the tiny stamens on a quarter inch flower seem so marvelous to me?

I love the little stamens with their load of pollen. 

It occurred to me that when I was a child, living in Florida on a Gulf Coast island, I was exposed to a lot of nature in a very intimate way. My family lived on the water, in fact we lived withing fifty feet of the Gulf, and had a substantial little lagoon in our back yard that was surrounded by a rock seawall.

I lived in the water there, looking at all of the fascinating wildlife and getting really engrossed in them. I routinely saw fish and crabs, horseshoe crabs, clams, oysters, scallops (and I don’t mean on a plate), dolphins, sharks, Manatees, and a thousand other creatures. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t say ‘fireman’ or ‘astronaut’. I said ‘marine biologist’. This is at eight or nine years old, mind you. Most kids wouldn’t know the term marine biologist.

Yet another of these spectacular leaf clusters. 

I know that my parents encouraged and supported my fascination, and that makes an immense difference to a young kid. We routinely used a seine net to catch and look at all the little creatures that lived in sheltered places along the coast. We had a salt water fish tank that we stocked with the most interesting creatures we captured with the net. It was a wonderful experience that I think was formative for me.

Fast forward a year, and we are living in a glass and steel high rise in downtown Detroit. And it’s winter. So much for wildlife. I barely saw a wild creature for five years. But then my family moved to an undeveloped fifteen acre plot of land in the country, and my fascination with nature was re-born. We started studying the trees and plants and animals on our land. I loved it, and I think that is the immediate precursor of my current project.

I don’t think of these are being a part of wild nature, but I suppose they are. These are in perfect form. 

Mind you, it’s almost fifty years later, so “immediate” is a relative term. But the seed was planted early in life, and it remains with me today. The cool thing is that all of this fascinating biology is going on right under our noses and we barely see it. I barely saw it, and I bet most of you don’t see it either. If this blog does anything, inspiring others to look more closely at their surroundings would be a good one.

I haven’t posted any pictures in a couple of days. I have got a few, but haven’t had the time to edit them. I hope to do that tonight, and get some of them up with this post and the previous posts. I won’t post this until I have the pictures, because I know they are at the heart of this blog.


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