Heaven and Nature Dancing Together

It's name being Trail Plant, this lovely plant has dusky gray undersides to its leaves and grows...along trails!

It’s name being Trail Plant, this lovely plant has dusky gray undersides to its leaves and grows…along trails!

If you live in the Northwest, you know today was not a day to be inside, so this is short!  For me it was a day for taking my iTouch, my smallest camera, and heading into the woods where I found favorite plants along the trail.  It was a day for my senses to experience some of the heavenly delights Nature has to offer.

The first ethereal (dictionary definition: extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world) gift from Nature was in song. The Swainson’s Thrush, an elusive member of the thrush family, is related to the American Robin, though, unlike the Robin, it is not likely to be in your front yard looking for worms or nesting in your eaves.  Though I’ve occasionally seen Swainson’s Thrushs near the house, (sadly, I found a dead one that had hit a window several years ago) they generally nest and forage in conifer forests, where in the evening and morning, they sing a song that is both eery and heavenly.  You can listen to a recording of it here: Swainson’s Thrush, but a recording does not have the ethereal sound when Big Leaf Maples and giant Firs provide the acoustics for the high notes as they resonate throughout the forest.  On gray days the birds often sing all day.  Though a sunny day, this morning several Swainson’s Thrushes sang well into early afternoon before they abruptly stopped. Being territorial, each song was coming from a different direction…a surround sound stereo performance!  As I sat on the back porch I felt transported to another place, a celestial place.

IMG_0277While on my walk in the woods my next sense delight from Nature was the heavenly scent of Bald Hip Roses. These diminutive little roses, growing on spiny, spindly bushes, are the most scented of the wild roses, possibly of all roses.  Bald Hip Roses do not have the aggressive growth habits of our other native rose, the Nootka Rose.  Single bushes are found here and there in semi-dense forested areas.  They are at the peak of their bloom this time of year.  Short lived blossoms fill the surrounding air with a rose scent that can send one swooning. Roses have represented the Divine for centuries, their scent being described as the scent of God. And of course poets have written of roses as the quintessential symbol of romantic love. The petite Bald Hip Rose is truly Nature’s gift of love to our olfactory senses!

IMG_0284The final representation of this dance of  Heaven and Nature was the arrival of the first Clodius Parnessium butterfly in our yard.  Parnassiam Butterflies are the most ethereal of butterflies with their semi-transparent wings. One can imagine that they are the butterflies of Angels!  In their caterpillar stage they are completely depend on bleeding-hearts, making them very habitat specific. Fortunately we have a forest full of wild bleeding-hearts so each June we see the arrival of newly metamorphosed Parnessiums floating around to necter on blooming Dame’s Rocket.

Another trail favorite, a plant that loves moist soil, is Fendler's Waterleaf

Another trail favorite, and another plant that loves moist soil, is Fendler’s Waterleaf

The title to this post was inspired by a chant by Paramahansa Yogananda entitled Spirit and Nature Dancing Together.

Heaven and Nature seemed to be dancing all day today! Hope you had time to enjoy the performance!

Bird antics

Cleaning up under a feeder, a small band of a much larger mob!

I love these guys, and gals!  Evening Grosbeaks.  They remind me of clowns!  They hang out in large flocks in the winter and eat A LOT of seed!  Not shy, if there is seed on the porch, close to the house, they will come and get it.  They are not intimated by other large birds. Generally amiable, they seem to share well with smaller birds.  I watched several times today as one Varied Thrush or another tried to take an aggressive stance with them……..one Thrush vs 8-12 Grosbeaks  (talk about thinking much of oneself!). The Grosbeaks, who always stand with sentinels looking in different directions, barely looked up.  “You want us to leave? You’re kidding right?”

Snowy Magic

Not much blogging on this blog lately. Difficult to share my musings about the joys and mysteries of Nature when for the past month Nature and I have not hung out much. Gimping around in a leg brace due to a fractured knee cap has made thiswinter an inside event.  And I have certainly grumbled on the rare days of blue sky and sunshine, missing my winterwoods walks. Sitting in a lawn chair bundled up with my leg on a stool does notsatisfy the desire to be walking a beach to shake out the winter gray.
But today Nature came knocking.  After a tease of snow over the weekend, today is the promised “winter weather warning” weather pundits have been excited about for the past few days. In urban areas snow in western Washington can bringdisruption and havoc, but here it is absolutely transformational.  The noisy county road, slick with black ice under newly fallen snow, is almost abandoned. Only the brave, foolish, and critically needed venture north from south county.

I sit mesmerized as the world around me becomes bright. Snow is falling and every little branch and ‘branchette’ heavy with mini snow piles.  Birds of all shapes and sizes decorate every bush and tree in our yard as they take turns at the feeders.  I toss out extra seed close to the house where there is still exposed dirt and grass, and the adventuresome wander unto the porch to see if I am providing extra feeding stations, which I do, as I cannot resist Curious Juncos, bold Stellar Jays, and flitty Towhees who find the competition at the feeders a hassle.  Both Chickadee varieties and dozens of Pine Siskens compete for, and empty, the hanging feeders.  Against the white, birds that usually blend in become colorful tree ornaments – StellarBlue, Thrush Orange, Towhee Brick Red & Black, the earth tones of Junco& Chickadee, Finch Red, and a plethora of Sisken Stripes!  A Grosbeak just arrived, a young male with just a slight show of bright yellow.

And there are all the antics that go along with the color show. Small Siskens are the bullies, and hang out in very large gangs. They open their tiny wings in a show of aggression and chase anyone else from af eeder.  Towhees are theflitterers, hopping and bopping about on the ground.  Chickadee darts in, procures one seed to take to a branch, opens and eats it – seems like more energy is expended than gained, but not being a Chickadee I don’t know. Jays, big and bold, spend a lot of time in the trees picking at moss andbugs and who knows what else.  I just looked up as one ducked to avoid a mini snow avalanche falling from the branch above.  Thrushes hunker down, making their elegant long bodies into large round fluff balls to stay warm.
And there is the constant twitter and cooing, special sounds that are either only sung on snow days, oragainst the snow muffled silence take on a sometimes eerie, always charming,tone.
Yup, Nature came calling today,drawing me out and captivating me with snowy enchantment.  Stay cozy, and if you are living in a warm sunny earth place…ah you are missing the magic!

Flutter Tree

A Red-breasted Nuthatch darts in for a single seed.
Red Osiers are the oaks of western woods, turning
shades of red in stages, resulting in
multi-colored fall foliage

While writing the post below there has been a flutter of activity outside the window just above my desk.  There is more to write, another time, of this remarkable tree, a giant Osier Dogwood I call the Grand Central Station of our yard, but today I call it the Flutter Tree.  A bird feeder between the window and the tree attracts (obviously!) birds and depending upon the time of day, those who show for the feeding frenzy changes.  Earlier, there were the Stellar Jays hanging off the feeder, dumping much seed on the ground, and discouraging smaller birds to venture near.  Now there is constant movement as Red Breasted Nuthatches, Juncos, and Black-capped and Chestnut-sided Chickadees dart in and out, grabbing a single seed and sitting in the Osier Dogwood to crack and eat their claim.  The feeding frenzy has slowed as the sky darkens, but deep in the web of the trees branches I still see a few tiny birds sit.  They do not spend the night there, but it is the avian community center of day time life!  Last winter we did not keep a feeder so close to the house due to the horrible rat problem we had the previous year, yet life in The Tree was still busy.