Monday, August 23, 2010

Wooded and Worded Wonderland

I'm back up at Pippin's place as of last night, and this morning took Baby C. for a walk in his jogger. It was an hour's walk, but that doesn't translate to much exercise when you figure in all the stops for gawking and picture-taking. On my drive up I listened to most of My Antonia and was struck by the evocative descriptions of the prairie; here the meadows are in their late summer glory of gold tones, with runnels of pale green. My photos don't serve nearly as well as Willa Cather's prose in conveying a scene. In this case there were jays scraping the air with their calls, and smells of drying grass and a dozen trees coming at me in the breeze. C. hummed as we bumped along. The air was crisp at first, but the little currents of warm spread out to fill the morning so that it soon felt like an August day.

I couldn't precisely identify any of those aromas; it made me envy the animals with their good noses --but when I do get to know a plant, I can also have the word for it, and that makes me happy. Fact is, I don't know the word for very many of the thousands of lovely things around me. Like this tiny flower that I spied on the roadside, and a while later in Pippin's tomato garden, volunteering along with mullein and ferns.

In the meadow I saw a place where the grass was all mashed down. Maybe the deer had rested there, maybe even the one I saw munching on tree branches by the side of the road. She gave me one look, and then refused to pay any more attention to me, even though I kept asking her to look at the camera.

I slept through the woodland noise last night, of Mama Bear tearing down bird feeders to spread the seed on the patio for her two cubs. It's the second time this week, which pretty much means the end of watching birds close by the kitchen window. That's about the only way I can seem to notice them, as I did last May when I took this picture. Birds are more fun to watch than bears, for many reasons, one being that you don't have to be wakened at midnight in order to see them.

Certainly one of the warm smells on our walk was of oak trees. Oak was likely one of my first nature words, as I lived most of my childhood under a giant oak in the Central Valley. I think it was a Valley Oak. There are only nineteen Quercus native to California, I just this minute read in a tree guide, so perhaps it wouldn't be impossible, as I have previously thought, for me to learn which are which. This one I photographed today is certainly not a Scrub, Live, Leather, Muller or Blue Oak...perhaps it is a California Black Oak. Hello, Mr. Oak; I hope to get to know you better.

7 comments:

Gumbo Lily said...

I so enjoyed your prose along with the pictures. I felt like I had been on the walk too.

My son and I are about to begin reading Willa Cather's O! Pioneers.

Jody

Jeannette said...

Lovely, lazy late summer feel...thank you.

amy said...

What a wonderful way to begin my day... thank you, GretchenJoanna, for a delightful glimpse into your world.

God bless!

wayside wanderer said...

Thank you for taking us along on your lovely walk. I especially enjoy the way you soak up all the details of your surroundings. My book club is going to read a Willa Cather book in Oct...Death Comes for the Archbishop...and I am looking forward to that.

magsmcc said...

I would love to know trees and birds and flowers! I grew up in a very urban setting, and now ensconce in suburbia. But autumn is evidently upon us- the temperature here tonight sadly confirms reports from Blogland. So much stamping around in forests will be coming up soon for us- maybe now is the time to invest in a tree book! We don't generally worry about bears though- how exciting! It must give a whole different atmosphere to reading of "We're going on a Bear Hunt"...

The dB family said...

Such a lovely walk! I would much prefer the birds than the bears too. You make me wonder how many Quercus are native to Ontario.

Blessings!
Deborah

M.K. said...

End-of-August lethargy is in full swing here :) I love 'My Antonia.' I need to read it again.