Friday, May 11, 2012

Springtime Turns Our Fancy

My first drawing with
MyBrushes iPhone app
 When spring comes
to the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania, we find ourselves recalling springs past and dreaming of lying in the sun (with hat and sunscreen of course) in a month or two. The first sign of spring I saw this year were the leaves of the Star Flower plants in the woods, and then two weeks ago I saw a pristine white flower amid the leaves. Last week there were more. Before spring began to emerge up here at just under 2,000 feet, I contented myself with drawing from memory and from life around me with my new iPhone app, MyBrushes. This is such fun to use!

A recent walk through the woods to get to the lake revealed the violets are out once again. Their rich, purple hue reaches deep within me to evoke a kind of joy. A metaphysical healer I knew as a child maintained that purple is the color of healing. It has been a favorite of mine throughout my life. In fact, my Sweet 16 birthday cake was a chocolate hemisphere with icing violets and their leaves from the Farmer's Market in LA.
<>                        Los Angeles Farmers Market

Common Blue Violet
Viola sororia

I also saw lovely clusters of delicate Bluets in the
lawn in a road median. They are short plants with
flowers in varying shades of blue, some nearly white.
Houstonia caerulea

Trientalis borealis

And then at last we turn towards baseball at this time of year, having endured the first month of the season with all its injuries to emerge now five games above .500, which for the New York Mets is pretty good!
New York Mets batting helmet
Let's Go Mets!
(MyBrushes creation by me)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Comes to the Plateau

Crow by Sonnische

Crows were here before we were, long before the house was built, before the road was paved, before General John Sullivan drove the Iroquois from the Delaware Valley and this plateau and up into Canada.

Meditating today it came to me to draw a crow with my new iPhone app MyBrushes and use it to illustrate a new blog post.

Crows are so smart, canny and curious. They stride like men with hands clasped behind their backs when I cast stale bread out back, a lookout peering at me from perch up high in pine or elm, then calling to the crew of crows who all descend.

Our friends, corvis brachyrhinos, can live for 20 years or more. Crow expert J. Crow relates an account of Tata, a crow who as a fledgling was injured and could not fly, and was taken in by a family in New York and eventually being given to another when that family could no longer care for him. It is reported that he lived to be 59 years of age.

I find a sadness within when I think how man treats our animal brethren. The Buddha said,

Not one or two but all the beings - men, women, animals, birds, trees, rocks. All the beings in the world. One should create such a determination that 'I will lead them all into nirvana.'
And the Buddha also said,
Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.

Friday, June 3, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

It’s dark, and the retro, red bedside radio             hisses with the effort to draw in a signal we can hear. The orange light of its dial seems so bright, yet disappears when something blocks its beam, like a small balsam pillow, a fragrant Maine souvenir from decades long ago.

Rumbling thunder and scratchy radio bursts of lightning warn of the coming storm. The patter of sudden rain against glass and muffled beats on roof tell us it's arrived. The text message sent a while ago of severe thunderstorm warning sort of helps take the edge off our fears. But tornadoes near and far have spooked us, proof of climate change to most, except the ones caught up in firm denial it could be so, too sure that thinking man might harm the earth to that extent betrays some weaker values of kindness, responsibility or peace.

A hot city week ensues with air heavy and humid, and indoor air too chilled to really feel that good, but better than the sticky sweat of overheat in rush-hour subway car or walking up the street as if wading through a swamp. To hurry to the country to escape the heat is a savored blessing, and even though I worked from home, out my window was a woodchuck and its young, munching tender leaves that we'd call weeds but they adore, black triangle noses twitching toward the wind and bending low to eat more of the greens.

Then last night a fresh night free of storm and heat, a chilly mountain night to sleep with windows open, letting in the fresh, clean air.
“Good sleeping weather,” we say,
and yawning morning greetings next day, agree it was just that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Savoring the Wildflowers and Nature's Beauty

Week 2, baby 4x4 garden plot, on 5/14/11

Apple Blossoms, taken on 5/15/11
Last week I checked on my very young garden and savored some gorgeous blossoms on an apple tree nearby. Apple trees are major members of the rose family, or Rosaceae of which there are about 2000 variations of apples.

It's too soon to do much of anything with the garden but anxiously watch for weeds and pluck them as they emerge. Yesterday I took another look and staked one of the big tomato plants. We have 2 Early Girl plants, 2 Beefsteak plants (still pretty little), Italian basil, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard.

Wild Strawberries, members of the rose family
  We also spotted quite a bit of hardy yellow-flowered Black Mustard, a relative of cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, as all are in the Brassica family. Black mustard usually begins to bloom in June, so it seems we're getting an early start up here on the Plateau. This is surprising given we are at about 1900 feet in elevation. I haven't seen any yet but the white-flowered Garlic Mustard grows up here, too.

Wild Strawberries with their white blossoms are scattered among loose stones by the road. These tiny members of the rose, or Rosaceae family share genetic inheritance with apples, pears, blackberries and raspberries, and the stone fruits.
Blue-Eyed Grass, tiny iris relatives
Right by the roadside we saw quite a few bunches of the small Blue-Eyed Grass, a member of the iris family called Sisyrinchium. I had not been aware this was an iris relative.

My main source of information today, against which I checked my photos, is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers, Eastern Region, a comprehensive guide to wildflower identification in this part of North America.

Black Mustard, blooming early

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Male Goldfinches

Mother's Day, a lovely day. We set out with a flat of seedlings and basket with garden tools and planted our 4' X 4' raised bed plot in the community garden. Our garden plot is now planted with Early Girl and Beefsteak tomato plants, Brussels sprouts, pole beans and Swiss chard seedlings. Nature Maven cannot wait for the harvest to begin, but of course I will. what choice do we have? But I am dreaming of BLTs made with homemade vegan eggplant bacon or coconut bacon (I have recipes for both), and stir-fries or green smoothies made with yummy Swiss chard.

Today our Nyjer thistle feeder was taken over by these three plump, bright, male goldfinches. There was even a little flapping as they jockeyed for position on the perches before I refilled it.

Mother Hawk Teaching Young to Fly
(photo courtesy of

Late this afternoon we returned home from errands to hear the high pitched scree of a young hawk. It was alternately soaring and wildly flapping its wings while keeping up a non-stop cry. Soon I saw the parent, whom I assumed was the daddy but who knows? This larger bird flew nearby confidently and silently, lending its strength and confidence to the young one, its exact copy, only downsized. We've seen these tutorial pairs many times before up here on the Pocono Plateau. Our hearts went out to that frantic juvenile until the parent came into view. All was well with the world again.

Happy Mother's Day, to all creatures great and small.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Twilight Walk Discoveries

Common Blue Violet
After a nice dinner at home, we decided to walk to the lake and back before dark. We took a shortcut through the woods where we saw our first mountain violets of the year. Referring to my Audubon Field Guide to Wildflowers, Eastern Region, I found that this is a Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia.

I also saw starflower leaves in these woods, some with tiny white buds. By next week there will be lots of starflowers to post here.

Cinnamon Fern

Next we saw clusters of emerging ferns, their curled fiddleheads just poking up. I believe they are Cinnamon Ferns.

Osmunda cinnamomea is the Cinnamon Fern's Latin name, and you can read more about it in Ferns and Fern Allies of Pennsylvania by Lord and Travis.

Pinecrest Lake

The evening light was lovely when we reached the lake. It's so peaceful and quiet. We hoped to see bats but it may be too early in the year, because it can still get into the 30's at night even in May.

Beaver, Castor Canadensis
We saw something swimming away from the shore and then back again. I thought it must be a dog fetching a stick because a man was standing nearby. A closer look revealed that it was a large beaver. We got fairly close and took some photos but the fading light made details hard to distinguish. I hope you can get the idea.

Castor Canadensis nibbling water plants
Beavers were once hunted nearly to extinction but have returned to healthy populations. They are found primarily in the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Did you know that beavers mate for life? And that females have four or five kits in the spring? And that they get to 30 to 70 pounds as mature adults? The one we saw was quite large, about 3 feet long with a big flat tail. A car approached along the road by the side of the lake, and with a slap of that tail he dove under the water and swam for minutes before surfacing towards the middle of the lake.

What a blessing it is to live in a such a gorgeous place, to be able to enjoy the natural world, an essential balance to my intense and often hectic professional life and a very mixed up world (floods, radioactive disasters, birth certificates, tornadoes and terrorists featuring large in the news right now).

All photos in today's blog were taken by me, Nature Maven.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Flowers

This beautiful daffodil emerged a week ago in the woods behind the house and amazed me. About three years ago my aunt and uncle came up from Tennessee bearing a bag of bulbs dug up from their garden. "We have way too many," my aunt told me as she handed me the bulbs. I intended to plant them that fall, but I didn't, and so the next spring, I dug holes for them and in they went. Several bore green shoots, but no flowers later that spring. The next spring a few green shoots returned, but again no flowers. I was pretty sure the squirrels had gotten to them, or the intense Pennsylvania mountain cold, very different from the Tennessee weather they'd come from. But this spring, this one bloomed! It is a lovely white and yellow flower.

I searched for its name, and this was the closest I found at the Pacific Bulb Society website in "Narcissus Division 11: Split Corona Daffodils. Narcissus in this division have a corona (cup) that is split for at least one-third of its length. Within this division are collar types, division 11-A, and papillon types, division 11-B."

This one seems to be "Narcissus 'Papillon Blanc' "a mid to late season bloomer with white petals and a yellow and white cup."

I wish all mothers, from every species whereever you may be, a very Happy Mother's Day!