Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Red and Green

Japanese maple

Japanese plum yew and variegated ivy

Oakleaf hydrangea

Southern magnolia

Eastern prickly pear

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pine Tree Praise

Father Brian Pierce spent years working with the Lenca Indians in the mountains of Western Honduras. One year he participated in a ritual in which the Indians, carrying pine boughs, processed through the mountains singing. They arrived at a church decked with pine boughs.

Father Brian, filled with curiosity, asked the shaman about the significance of the pine boughs. The shaman's eyes became wide and he said, "You mean you don't know?"

"If you listen long enough at the foot of a pine tree, you'll hear the pine tree singing to God."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In the Garden: The Last Things

The last woody plant to hold its leaves as the garden goes to sleep in December is the oakleaf hydrangea. I saw it in the late afternoon sunlight and wanted to write an ode to a leaf. 

The last shrubs to bloom in the garden are the camellias. In my yard they're the size of small trees. I believe the one below is the variety (appropriately named) "Yuletide." The flowers are fragrant, unlike those of most camellias.

The flowers have never clustered so thickly.

I don't know the name of the camellia below, but it blooms on and off throughout the winter. If it's cold, its blossoms freeze and turn brown, but new buds emerge and bloom. 

It has lovely rose-like blooms. 

I thank the unknown gardener who planted it.

A white camellia in the sasanqua family also blooms prolifically.

Last but not least, here is some low-growing mistletoe I saw on a tree on the golf course last week. It's rare to see mistletoe growing at eye level, though I did get lucky one year in finding sprigs with berries growing low. 

Did anyone notice the difference between the first photos on this post and the last two? :) 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sunset Among the Trees

Nature often preempts my plans for posts. At sunset she did it again. 

We live on a hill among tall oaks, hickories and loblolly pines that for most of the year block the sky. The sunlight arrives later in the morning and departs earlier from the woods.

Tonight the clouds reflected the pink light and the trees were magic silhouettes for a few brief minutes.

No day is the same in a garden. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Spiritual Lessons

Wind, rain and cold arrived, and the leaves decided it was time to let go. Here are two photos of the garden near the bench, taken one week apart. The geranium still blooms merrily, oblivious of the coming frost. 

"Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls. When the fruit is despatched, the leaf falls. The circuit of the waters is mere falling. The walking of man and all animals is a falling forward.” 
                                                                                        -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Autumn Glow

Autumn is long in North Carolina. I especially appreciate that this year. I was glued to my laptop for more than two weeks finishing my thesis while the fall colors infused the leaves on warm blue days.

And now I'm done, and I find fall still here and glorious. The golden-yellow of the hickories dominates our wooded neighborhood. 

You probably won't find a hickory tree for sale in a nursery because they quickly develop long taproots and don't do well in containers. All the more reason to appreciate them if they happen to grace your property.

Dogwoods are as stunning in fall as in spring. Some turn a coral, peachy-pink color, while others become purplish-red. They hold their leaves for a long time.

Camellias are in bloom. I have mixed feelings about camellias. It somehow seems inappropriate for them to bloom when all other plants are preparing for winter. They seem alien - and they are, originating in China. Yet they are lovely in bloom. And deer don't eat them! And they don't mind clay soil! In fact, they grow so well here that sometimes they appear to be fake, with their tough, shiny leaves and scentless flowers.  Here one grows under a hickory in the front yard. It's so pretty that I want to apologize to the camellia for my disparagement.

Since finishing the thesis, I have spent time sitting in the cathedral of the woods.

Dogwoods and a serviceberry light up the garden.

Serviceberry is a lovely small tree that is native to the Southeast. The variety below is called "Autumn Brilliance."

It's too early to start raking the yard. I prefer to wait until most of the leaves have fallen.

Back in the woods, I sat for awhile under a white oak surrounded by hickories. The remaining photos were taken with the smart phone. I keep telling myself I'm going on walks to appreciate nature, not mess around with the camera. But when the light is so beautiful, and autumn is drawing to an end, I can't resist trying to preserve the moment.

The lovely horizontal branches of a dogwood glow red in the afternoon sun.

It's good to have time to spend outdoors again!

Monday, October 24, 2011


I walked past this camellia bush while on my way to comprehensive exams. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nature Reflections

There is an irony in being a nature blogger. It is easy to spend more time using technology to blog about nature than actually enjoying nature. So today I deliberately left the good digital camera at home during my hike along New Hope Creek. 

I hadn't walked far when the leap in my heart whispered, "take a picture." So I pulled out the smart phone. The creek was low and still, the sky was achingly blue, the trees just starting to turn color, the low angle of the sun perfect for reflection. 

What is this urge to capture the moment? To hold it, to share it? I sat by the creek and meditated, trying to empty myself of words that describe, images to hold. It's hard. 

On the way back, I encountered another still life in a pool among the rocks. 
It's my new screensaver.

Or do I like it better upside down? A peek out of a cave at trees blurred by a breeze, leaves floating in the air. 

We love nature, yet we can't stop manipulating it. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Turtle Rescue

Today I walked in the woods by a favorite creek. The water was low and the creek muddy. I startled a red-tailed hawk and saw a flock of robins among the trees, but otherwise I saw no interesting wildlife.

Then, on the drive home, I spotted a small turtle walking across the road. The turtle was heading for the centerline and a car was approaching in the opposite direction. I stopped, got out and picked up the turtle and carried it to the other side of the road. 

Another car that had just passed also stopped on the side of the road and the driver called to me: "Got him?" I was happy to have rescued this small turtle and pleased that another driver had cared to stop as well. 

I think it may be an Eastern box turtle. Box turtles have highly individualized shells, from what I gathered online, so it's hard to say for sure. Do you know?

I wondered what the turtle thought about being carried to the side of the road by a large creature who appeared out of nowhere. Divine intervention? Busybody? 

Sometimes I think it would be easier to be a creature with no thoughts. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coexistence and Photos from Florida

Walking along the seawall at my parents' condo complex in St. Petersburg, Fla., is always entertaining. Large wading birds like the great egret perch along the wall, on the docks and even on boats. Below, an egret begins to fly away after my husband startles it.

Dolphins fish and frolic in the water.

This little blue heron let me get quite close. 

The great egret looks intently for fish. 

Below: The big picture. Despite all the development along Boca Ciega Bay, it is comforting to see waterbirds coexisting with us.