Snowshoeing In The Woods

Zinnia crossing the Gulley bridge

The small trees were bent so low with the snow they covered the path to the Gulley bridge.  I shook them knocking the snow to the ground, and the skinny branches stood tall again.

The last time we were in the woods, it was just beginning to snow. Now the grasses and bushes were laid low enough for me to walk over, my snow shoes crushing them further into the ground.

Snow outlined every branch and stuck to the north side of the trees.  My first stop was the pine cave.  It was not the igloo I imagined, yet it held up well with little snow inside.  But it was awkward to crawl into with my snowshoes on.   When I go back to spend more time there, I will take my snowshoes off, as I would going into anyone’s home.

Fate and Zinnia and I wandered the woods, not the least bit cold.  We only turned back when one of the bindings on my snowshoe broke.  I flopped around for a while, trying to say on level ground.  Then finally thought to use the shoelace from my boot to tie my boot to the webbing of my snowshoe.  It worked so well I was tempted to stay out longer.

But I still had scarves to sew and wanted to get them done before it got too dark and cold.

My snowshoes are old, so I imagine all the straps will begin to break.  I’ll figure out the best way to fix them and carry some extra string with me the next time I wear them  into the woods.

Winter Mushrooms

The snow has been wet and heavy all day, with little accumulation.  I was glad to be walking in it, even though I came home drenched as if it had been raining.

I didn’t expect to find these juicy mushrooms growing on a dead elm tree. And then I  found more mushrooms growing in the hole of another dead tree.

I always look into the holes in trees.  Mostly there are broken nut shells but once I found a moth and then there was the wolf spider who I’d visit often.

The mushrooms were a nice surprise today.

The mushrooms growing in the hole in the tree.

 

 

A Walk In The Cold Woods

The cold bites at my bare face as I step over the fallen rock wall into the woods.

Ice pushes up from the frozen mud in groups of long thin crystals.  It pops up like a mushroom, pushing through the stiff leaves. The ice lifts up the shell of a hickory nut and cradles it on the tall shards as if it’s an offering.

Ahead of me, Fate and Zinnia inspect a rotting tree trunk.

They’re spending so much time sniffing all around and up and down it, I become curious.  But when I get to the tree stump, there’s nothing for me to see.  If I had their noses, I’d understand, but since I don’t and we because we speak a different language, the story is lost to me.

I walk away disappointed but determined to find my own tree stump.

Soon I squat to take a picture of the ice growing like stiff lace along the edge of the small stream.  I look up when I hear the frosty pellets of snow hitting the leaves around me.  It’s so loud, but even when I hold out my hand to watch them land on my black glove, the snow is too small to see.

I lift my bare face to the tree tops, but I can’t feel it either.

I move on and spot a flat rock about the size of a small pizza box,  jutting diagonally out of the earth so it forms a shallow cave. It’s dry under the rock and littered with empty hazelnut shells, a small circle chewed from each one.

I imagine a chipmunk safe under the ledge of the rock, eating its cache of nuts.  So I make my way to the pine cave.

It’s too cold to sit for long, but once inside, I plant my butt on the bed of pine boughs and breath in the healing scent that surrounds me.  I clear my mind and see an hourglass, complete with falling sand, inside the torso of my body.

I think about how I always feel that I don’t have enough time.  That I won’t be able to do everything I need and want to do.   And how that feeling, both, causes anxiety and pushes me to get a lot done.

Even though I’m in the woods, I’m close enough to the farm for Fanny and Lulu to hear me.  One of them lets out a long bray, calling me back to feed them.

I leave the pine cave, pulling my fingers out of my gloves and curling them into my palms to keep warm.   I watch Zinnia run over the Gulley Bridge back to the farm.  Stream water flows over half of it, the other half is covered in ice and I follow slowly behind her.

Fate is already in the pasture waiting for us.

Ice that formed on a stick that spans the small stream in the woods. I saw a dog in it.

 

The Cold Bright Woods

 

This horizontal piece of Shagbark hickory bark caught my eye. It’s still attached to the tree by a small piece that is twisted in just the right way to make it look intentional.

What a pleasure it is to be able to walk through the gate in the back pasture and into the woods.  Now that hunting season is over and the snow and cold are keeping the ticks away, getting to the Orphaned Woods is easy again.

Easy if I have my muck boots on because the stream is so high the water is flowing over the Gulley Bridge and freezing.  But that doesn’t bother the dogs or me, we wade through the water and then the icy mud to get to the other side.

The woods have opened up again, the bare trees invite the winter blue skies and bright sun to line the snow with periwinkle shadows. I breathe in the cold air and it calms the fizz and hum under my skin.

I want to keep walking, but I still have work to do.  And the winter brings with it extra chores. Bringing in wood for the fires and tending them, graining the sheep, keeping the bird feeder full, sanding the icy steps.

It takes me longer to get to my studio in the morning and l leave earlier in the evening.  But I still seem to get my work done. This is the last batch of potholders I keep telling myself, but then they sell and I make more.  Make hay while the sunshine, I think as I muck out the barn which also takes longer to clean up.  Soon it really will be too late for people to get them for Christmas, then I’ll stop for a while, for sure.

As I step over the crumbled stone wall, out of the woods, and into the snow-covered marsh, a raven flies over the farm, a shiny silhouette against the clear blue sky. It calls as it flies, and I pay attention.

I’ve come to see Ravens as a symbol of creating our own reality.  Not magic as much as changing the way I think to get to a better place.  Maybe to slow the anxiety that comes to me this time of year.

I think about that as I get closer to the stream and the mud sucks at my boot, then the water washes them clean.

Healed By The Trees

A lone leaf lit up by the sun in a corner of the woods.

I will not walk in the woods today.  On Wednesday I stop work early to go to Bellydancing Class, so there is no time for a walk.

Anyway, there are gunshot echoing around the farm.  I’m not sure where they’re coming from. It’s target practice for hunting season which will be here soon.

Today I washed the clothes I took of yesterday after walking in the woods. They’re drying on the line.

For the first time since the summer, I followed the deer trail through the gate in the back pasture, walked over the Gulley Bridge, and pushed aside the tall dying grasses on my way to the fallen rocks in the stone wall.

Before entering the woods, Fate sniffed some drying scat left on top of the wall to claim territory.  I looked down at my leggings and wasn’t surprised to find six ticks stuck to them. But I was already through the worst of it, so I moved on.

In the woods, I visited the familiar spots.

The fallen hickory, its upturned roots creating an arched wall of drying soil and rocks.  The small pond in its footprint deep enough for Zinnia to run through.

I caught the sunlight peeking through the broken branch of the giant maple.

I was hoping there might still be a nut on the hazelnut tree, but they were all gone.  I did find several bouquets of green flowers, almost too small to see, blooming on the Witchhazel tree.

Light shining through the broken branch of the maple tree.  It reminded me of the quilt I’m working on.

I sat for a while on a fallen tree, its bark long gone, where I’ve sat before.  My boots crunched into the thick bed of leaves that covered the forest floor.

I didn’t realize how anxious I’d been until I felt my heart slowing, my mind settling, my eyes softening. I thought of how often my anxiety has taken me to the woods.  And here I was once again being healed by the trees and the world they inhabit.

How grateful I was to have my little patch of Orphaned Woods.

An empty hickory shell inside a dead tree.

On our way back to the farm  Fate and Zinnia ran ahead.  When I got to the stone wall I saw that the scat was gone.  One of the dogs had eaten it, leaving their own mark by omission.

Back To The Orphaned Woods

Since nothing, absolutely nothing was happening in my studio, I decided to go for a walk in the woods.

But I didn’t want to go on my neighbor’s path that I’ve been walking lately.   I needed to get off the path and into the woods. I was craving wandering without knowing exactly where I was going.

I wanted to go to The Orphaned Woods.

I hadn’t been to the woods behind the farm since the grasses and bushes grew so tall I couldn’t get through them early in the summer.  This year I didn’t mow a path as I had the past couple of years.  To get from the farm to the woods, I’d have to hack my way through the tall grasses and bushes while getting covered in ticks at the same time.

So I loaded Fate and Zinnia into my car and drove to the path that would take me to the woods that connects to The Orphaned Woods.

As if in affirmation, as soon as I stepped off the path into the woods, I saw the Barred Owl flying from one tree to another. Then I saw the bird, which I think was a bluejay, chasing it. I watched for a while, as the blue jay squawked and the owl silently moved out of its way, without giving up ground.

When the owl vanished from my view, we headed up the hill towards the Orphaned Woods.

“I missed you”, I said out loud as I stepped over the stone wall into the woods, my heart softening.

I visited the Big Old Hickory and the Maple with the broken branch. I squatted down to get a close look at the many mushrooms with taking a picture of them. Zinnia splashed through the small pond created when a Shagbark Hickory uprooted last summer.

Fate led the way back to the farm, but I called the dogs back as the bushes started to get thick. We had to go home the way we came.

The woods get by fine without my visits.  I had the feeling they had to adjust to my coming back.  Or maybe it’s that I felt as if I were a bit of a stranger.  Because I didn’t get to see the gradual changes that the summer brings, a part of me expected the woods to look as I last saw them in the late spring.

Now that I’ve been, I know I’ll want to go back again before the path from the farm is clear enough for me to walk it.

Wandering those woods was just what I needed to bring myself back.  To empty my mind of the voices and ideas that have been lodged there.  I think mostly that what I let go of was my own expectations of myself and what I should be doing.

Jon calls it recharging the creative self.

That’s a good way of thinking about it.  A letting go, so I can start again.

Fate drinking from the little pond made by the uprooted hickory tree.

Mushrooms In The Rain

It’s been a while since I walked in the woods.  Late July and all of August were full of hot, buggy days.  I chose to swim in the Battenkill over walking.  But today it’s cool and rainy.  The bugs were still out, but nothing a hat on my head couldn’t handle.

Even though we’ve gotten a good amount of rain this summer, it wasn’t as much as last year.  So I wondered if I’d see any mushrooms.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Some of them looked as if they’d been growing for a while.

While others were just emerging.

The salamanders were out too.  So many of them were near or under mushrooms. I couldn’t help thinking they were staying dry under the natural umbrellas.  But of course, it’s the rain that makes the salamanders come out. Their skin is porous and they need the moisture so they don’t dry out.

Some of the mushrooms were the size of a dinner plate growing on the stump of a toppled tree.

And some were tiny and growing out of bark surrounded by moss,  making the tree trunk look like a fairyland.

Not all stood up straight and perfect.  Some had been toppled and eaten by animals and insects.  I’m not sure if I interrupted the cricket eating this mushroom or if they were just passing by.

This mushroom pushed through the pine needles shiny with rain, its orange center a juicy beacon or bullseye.

It was impossible not to notice the brightly colored mushrooms.  I imagine also, the most poisonous.

But the softer colors caught my attention too.  Sometimes because of their subtle markings, their shape, how they looked in their surroundings….

…or their texture.

These were only some of the mushrooms I saw on our walk in the woods today.  Once again, I was inspired by them, thinking I’d like to recreate them in my studio somehow.  I though the same last year, but it never happened.

Maybe it will this year.

A Short Walk In The Orphaned Woods

 

A fern growing out of an old blue enamel pot in the dump in the woods

It was just a short walk in the Orphaned Woods, but enough to clear my head and get an idea for my quilt.

It’s as if there’s a speckled green wash over the woods.  It doesn’t cover everything, but here and there, as if there’s a resist in some places and acceptance in others.

On the way out of the woods, when the hill across the road came into view, I saw that it had turned red since I was last there.  Unlike last year, today I knew the trees with the red buds were maples.

And even at a distance, I felt like I knew that hill a little better.

The red buds of the maple trees on the hill.

Skunk Cabbage In The Swamp

Skunk Cabbage Flower in bloom. The thick leaf surrounding the flower is called a spathe.

I went to the swamp to see if the Skunk Cabbage was up.  I was looking for those big green leaves that remind me of Hostas and at first didn’t see any.  I didn’t know when I started my walk in the woods that the flowers come up before the leaves.

 

A flower before the little yellow/green flowers emerge. The flower, which is about  the size of an elongated golf ball is called a spadix.

The first leaves I saw were pulled tight around the rest of the plant, like a buttoned-up overcoat on a cold winter day.

Then I noticed the flowers, lower to the ground, blending into the soggy leaves that mulched them.  The flowers warm the earth around them.  They can  heat up to 70degrees and even melt snow and frozen ground.

A Skunk Cabbage leaf before it opened

 

Skunk Cabbage smells bad when the leaves are broken. Which is why they are called Skunk Cabbage.  The smell, which mimics rotten meat, attracts flies, butterflies, bees and beetles who pollinate them.

A Skunk Cabbage pod and flower with the green leaves beginning to grow.

I didn’t think that animals ate Skunk Cabbage because of the smell.  But it’s actually because it causes a burning sensation when eaten.  So I was surprised to see that one of the flowers had been chewed on.  But I learned on the National Wildlife Federation website that bears will eat the young plants.

I’ve seen bear scat in the woods and once a bear.  But now I have another clue to look for to see if a bear has been in the woods where I walk.

The Dying Mother Tree, Enabling Life

The dying Mother Tree in the Orphaned Woods

It can take years for a tree to die.

A big limb broke off this old maple in The Orphaned Woods a couple of years ago.  And now another limb, almost as big, is hanging off the other side only being held up by one of the other branches. The tree is obviously dying.

Surrounding it is a circle of smaller maples.  From what I read in Suzanne Simard’s book, Finding The Mother Tree, I’d guess that this maple is a mother tree.

Which means that even when it’s dying, it’s still sending nutrients to the smaller trees that are growing around it.

When Simard did experiments with injured trees she found that “Facing an uncertain future, she[the mother tree] was passing her life force straight to her offspring, helping them prepare for the changes ahead.  Dying enabled the living; the aged fueled their young.”

She wrote...”I imagined the flow of energy from the Mother Trees as powerful as the ocean tide, as strong as the sun’s rays, as irrepressible as the wind in the mountains, as unstoppable as a mother protecting her child.”

I love the idea of giving while dying. Of passing my life force on.

This might just be a romantic idea of mine.  A way of softening the certainty of death.  But it does make me think about how my life force could possibly manifest. I’m not even sure what that means. But the words creativity, love, and hope come to mind.

Full Moon Fiber Art