~nectar thief~

July 12th, 2020

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A Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) purloining from a single Drumstick Allium (Allium sphaerocephalon). It kept flying away to sample others in this cluster, and even my hand at one point, then returning to its steady focus.

Today I learned these critters are nectar thieves—they don’t pollinate in return for their delicious dinner. Even worse than not tipping!

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~good evening, ma’am~

July 8th, 2020

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A Broad Necked Root Borer, aka Prionus laticollis, went a-courtin’…
Nah, the males are just attracted to light… insistently attracted.

~insect in flagrante~

July 7th, 2020

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Teeny tiny acrobats braved the summer breezes in my Karl Foerster grass this afternoon. Japanese Beetles are known to ravage gardens (as though the damn deer and woodchuck were not sufficient), but are also of the Scarabaeidae family, and so, feel lucky–especially when (determinedly) getting lucky.

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~blue dasher~

July 6th, 2020

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~eastern cicada killer wasp~

July 5th, 2020

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Eastern cicada killer wasp and the echinacea she thinks she owns.
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~ghost flower~

July 4th, 2020

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This weekend, dear friends came up to stay in our guest digs and meet us on the porch for some experimental socially distanced revelry.  On the fourth, we spatchcocked a chicken (along with grilled peaches and grilled Caesar salad) and christened our new-to-us bbq, but first hiked a nearby conservancy we’d yet to visit.

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The beginning of the trail was curiously close to a drag strip in full patriotic swing, and as we made our ascent, muffler-less funny cars echoed across the milkweed meadows and moss covered woodlands.  At the top of the crest, I came upon what I later learned was a single Ghost Flower/Ghost Pipe/Indian Pipe/Corpse Flower, aka Monotopra uniflora.

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While most plants survive by photosynthesis, these live in dappled light or deep shade via Myco-heterotrophy, a three-way relationship also seen in fern and orchid populations.

In this case, Russula mushrooms pull sugary carbon from tree roots (Beech or Oak, most often), and give back nutrients in a beneficial symbiosis. The ghost flower then pulls carbon from the mushroom, and, while not damaging the host plant, appears to give back nothing—except its haunting beauty.

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Turns out this plant was the favorite of Emily Dickinson, who mentions it in (at least) two poems. She also wrote, in a letter to painter Mabel Loomis Todd (regarding the gifted image that would eventually grace her posthumously published volumes): That without suspecting it you should send me the preferred flower of life, seems almost supernatural, and the sweet glee that I felt at meeting it, I could confide to none.

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Todd’s original painting is at Amherst College, along with many documents archiving the complex circumstances surrounding these women (in brief: Todd was Dickinson’s brother’s adulterous lover, and later was a controversial editor, publisher, and executor of Emily’s estate, most notably tidying up the poet’s singular stylistic choices.)

She also published a book of her own, describing the phenomenon of eclipses–one of which was due at midnight, roughly twelve hours after our hike, the last in a Capricorn/Cancer eclipse cycle that has been ongoing since July 2018.  For the collective, this cycle has highlighted friction and opportunity to reinvent authority/structure/establishment (Capricorn) to better serve nurturing/intuition/creativity (Cancer).

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My artist friend and I spoke of the collective call to reinvent of late, and of the complicated hopefulness it had wrought.  Then talk shifted to our own creative paths in light of this, and I mentioned a chapbook I was reading and how I envied its wildness of form and content, relative to the conservative publication demands I’ve been entertaining recently.

Just as we came upon a mysterious plant I now think of as Emily’s flower, said I, only half in jest, maybe I should become a poet. Almost supernatural!

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(If mythical mycoheterotroph light your fairy lantern too, check out recently rediscovered Thismia neptunis, first sighted in Borneo by Odoardo Beccari in 1866, and thought lost for a century and a half.)

~re-birthday~

June 26th, 2020

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A few days ago, at the peak of the monsoon that shrouded my birthday, I went to my garden to refill the birdbath and found a tiny, silvery moth floating on its surface. Thinking it hindered by wet wings, I slipped a leaf beneath to offer a bit of traction, but the moth seemed beyond rescue and so I let be, first making these photos in the late afternoon sun.

That night, fierce rain toppled the tall cornflowers and prevented, for once, the elder woodchuck and teenaged deer from eating the rest. In the morning I checked on the moth, which I’d determined was a Lesser Maple Spanworm Moth, or Macaria pustularia.

The larvae feed on the leaves of maple, but also birch, a single specimen of which we planted nearby last year. This moth had overwintered in a pale pink egg, perhaps on our tree, then hatched a few weeks ago and spent a spell metamorphosing, seemingly for naught: it was dead.

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I gingerly carried it, floating in that leaf, to my studio, along with an armful of salvaged cornflowers. Slipping the moth onto a piece of paper to dry, I pondered the totemic shades of this creature of the night (yes, I just wrote that, I’m 51, what of it?!), of things hidden, dreams and intuition.

It was not an easeful birthday, and every day since, I’ve felt evermore essential, returned to myself. I considered the nature of the solstice new moon floating through the same spot in the sky as it had when I was born—this time sliding between the earth and sun, momentarily eclipsing the light.

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As a single wing dried, it came away from the paper, all crushed velvet and pumpkin-colored rings, a Victorian piano shawl complete with silken tassels. I left to fetch my camera, and when I returned, my heart leapt in my chest as the moth sprung from the dead, bravely flipping one-eighty to land on its feet, leaving its old self behind in a shadow of fairy dust.

~swifts of siracusa~

October 24th, 2019

O Cuntadino Sutta lu Zappuni by Sicilian Soprano of the South Rosa Balistreri.

~ciao, italia~

October 24th, 2019

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The view from our best dust, mid-trip, with gorgeous light and a murmuration of swifts.

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~also ravello~

October 24th, 2019

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…and then you drive out of Ravello by way of the Amalfi coast, cleverly avoiding the inland mountain road you travelled the previous day, which made the hairpin turns of the coastline seem child’s play, and your wife eerily silent, but for tiny gasps.

And then, perhaps 45 minutes into your journey, the road you’re on is abruptly closed for construction, requiring a hair-raising three point turn and travel back to that other so-called road, your wife cursing all the way.

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