Sunday, October 11, 2020

Finding Freedom

Sometimes things happen and change the way you move about your day and suddenly your life is that much richer, that much more connected and that much more worth living. 

In this moment, I'm not talking about a big health scare or the current polarization of our society or the edginess and fragility that comes with discord. Instead, I am talking about two chairs. Yes, two scavenged chairs Steve picked out of the trash and that we put behind our house. I've showed them in a video here. There is absolutely nothing special about these chairs in their appearance, but in their promotion of lounging, they are novel to us. We come from a clan of workers and that's what we do. Day in. Day out. It's productive. It's often wonderfully mind numbing. It's societally acceptable and lauded. Something about this existence for ourselves though has nagged us for years, hence, the About Us on our website and all our moves and starts and finishes and zigs and zags. 

These chairs, in the late afternoon sun, call to us. We feel the daylight and sunlight waning. We know these days are to be savored, so we sit, we lay back, we watch the sky, we feel the warmth and the breeze, we witness the vultures soaring south for weeks, we see the warblers eating food in the black walnut south of us. Sometimes, we notice a vulture that looks different and we see it's not the common turkey vulture, but rather the black vulture. We pull out our binoculars and we ooh and ahh. Then through those magnified lenses, we see monarchs soaring hundreds of feet above the earth, green darners and chimney swifts too. 

This morning we woke to wet and cloudy skies and saw that overnight blue-headed vireos and house wrens flew down to this little patch of earth to spend the day eating before heading south once more. Those chairs slowed us down this summer and fall. We now wake to trees full of birds and we SEE them. We also hiked. We swam in cold rivers. We hugged big trees. We cried over salamanders and clean water. We saw more caterpillars than we have in our whole lives. We met black bears and copperheads and seed ticks and loved flocks of warblers everywhere we went. We met horseflies on the sweetest little beach at Pickett State Park where we swam after our big hikes. We ran the beach getting away from those horseflies (impossible) and laughed harder than we had in years. 

We felt freedom find us again. Freedom from want. Freedom from longing. Freedom from overthinking. All because of those chairs and a deep desire to live differently. To not let life pass us by. To not get so busy we can't witness the one life that is ours. This desire settled in so long ago, but one distraction after another attracted us and we took a long time to figure out we needed to weigh the trade offs. To say no. To sell campers and choose freedom over comfort. 

Persimmons are calling our name right now and the moment is ripe. It's time to get outdoors and look for these magnificent life giving trees. It's time to eat these creamy, rich, sweet fruits and bask in the autumnal light and feel great gratitude for everything good. 

Our feet are sore from longer hikes than we used to take and we love that our bodies can do this. We can cover big miles in a day and that's part of the slowing: allowing ourselves the time to hike all day long and recognizing, we are strong and powerful and this is our life. This is the life we dreamed. To be outdoors. To feel the movement in our bodies. To have no words to express the love and appreciation we have for forest and old trees and fast moving streams and mountains and marmots and grylloblattids and kind-hearted people. This is the life friends. Anything extraneous, let it go. Find ways to let more of it go. The only thing that really matters is connection - to one another, to the Earth, to good, to love, to humbleness. 

Amongst all the craziness that is happening in this world, we found peace this summer through honing in on our desires for the outdoors, for freedom, for giving back, for LOVE. May you find peace in your own way and may you find it quickly and share it with everyone you meet. Maybe it all just starts with permission to slow down and recognizing that nobleness, worthiness and value do not come from conventional norms accomplished, but rather from realizing that our life is a gift and that the opportunity to see and acknowledge nonhuman life as worthy and essential is the missing piece of human happiness. 

Autumn Sound Tracks:

Nothing to Find - The War on Drugs

Colors - Black Pumas

I Didn't Know a Damn Thing - Amy Ray

By and By - Caamp

Take it With You When you Go - Kathleen Edwards

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Summer Abundance in Diversity

The richness of summer is wrapping us up tight in her warmth, humidity, and fireflies and we are soaking up every single last minute of it.  It's hard to believe that just a few months ago, we repurposed our high tunnel into a shade house and the Earth was not yet greened...

and at the same time, the song sparrows laid their first eggs amidst the snow flattened goldenrod stalks. What looks like not much to us in early spring is clearly very important habitat.

Here's the nest all tucked in:

Now, that we are in full summer greenery, we found our first male Long-horned Bees nestled to bed under the head of this Gray-headed Coneflower just a few weeks ago. The marvelous lives of other species continues to drop us to our knees, puddle our jaws in our laps and make us giggle out loud. We've always loved so much about life, but when we really opened our eyes with less analysis and instead, pure wonder, we realized the magic and the joy of living is all around us. It's not in what we acquire or desire, but in the richness of other nations that we share this planet with.

The Common Milkweed plant hosts so many different insects and the shared resource of one type of plant for so many types of insects offers many lessons for us humans.

Milkweed Beetles...

AND Monarch Caterpillars. 

Diversity of life in all her shapes, colors, forms is everything, really; the meaning of life is most certainly woven into that tapestry. Here's some of what we've witnessed so far this summer.

Red-winged Blackbirds delight us daily with their songs and flash of vermilion red:

Raccoon Families so much smarter than us make us laugh and marvel:

The shy Groundhog always evokes an "awwwww":

Cyrtophorus verrucosus (Beetle ant mimic) nectars on Bladdernut we planted. We've never seen this insect before and we totally were fooled into thinking ant...until a closer look revealed the hidden identity.

Northern Ring-necked Snake at Mohican State Forest:

Miami Mist, (Phacelia purshii):

Round-leaved Orchid (Platanthera orbiculata) at Mohican State Forest:

Golden-backed Snipe Fly on our home recovering woodland trail:

Eristalis dimiata, one of the flower flies, won me over with those crisp white lines on a black background. Truly, I cannot (Jennifer) get enough of the invertebrates. Their lives are so important to the rest of all life and their shapes and still my heart.


Owlfly eggs with trophic eggs laid on the bottom left of the photo. This is another new one for us.

A marvelous shelter, of who? We don't know, but that stitching...look at that stitching!

Long horned beetles are fascinating to us because they are often so colorful and varied in their life cycle. Here's a Rustic Borer at home on our downspout:

Tycocerus sp. beetle on Purple Coneflower with a native bee. The beetle larvae live in decaying oak, hickory and other hardwoods. Look how they are sharing...

My pal, the Painted Hickory Borer:

I'm not for sure on this one...any thoughts?

Of course there are checks and balances for wood boring beetles and one of them is this beautiful wasp in the genus Xorides. That tail is for laying eggs on their hosts (aka food). And what might that be? Yep, you guessed it: wood boring beetle larvae, pupa or pre-emergent adults.

Thousands and thousands and thousands of red aphids on the Cup Plants made us further our knowledge of "bird food" and appreciate the complex web of life and checks and balances. The connections are deeper and richer than we humans will ever likely fully comprehend so it sure is fun and enlightening to observe.

We aren't great mothers because we can't stay up late very well, but thankfully some show themselves during the day so we can oooo and ahhh over them.

Giant Leopard Moth on our house; hosts: deciduous trees and low plants, including cabbage, cherry, maple, sunflower and willow.

Clymene Haploa at Mohican; hosts: Eupatorium sp., oak, peach, willow.

Early Button Slug Moth at our nature preserve; hosts: beech, birch, black cherry, chestnut, oak and witch hazel. All these tree and shrub species also grow here.

Yellow-collared Slug Moth also on our house; hosts: beech, hickory, ironwood and oak. All these trees grow here now.

Eight-spotted Forester Moth caterpillar; hosts: grape, Ampelopsis, virginia creeper.

On a recent hike, multiple showers rained down from the sky and we got wet and cold and then wet and hot and the best part was being outdoors in the weather. So often we seek shelter from inclement weather and not having an alternative puts us into the real world and just look at the real world: Lush and beautiful and mighty.

Steve the hawkeye man spotted this ancient species, the Gray Petaltail Dragonfly, flying around the campground at Mohican State Park. Uncommon and oh so special to see!  The dragonfly larvae are interesting, living in moist leaves on the edges of wet areas, not fully emerged in the water. Diversity friends! It's the magic of the world.

If you live in Ohio or travel through Ohio, make sure you visit the Arc of Appalachia preserves. They are a special non-profit doing some exceedingly important conservation work in southern Ohio.  Here's a few pics from Rock Run Wilderness and Chalet Nivale. Enchanting, both places.

Eastern-eyed Click Beetle:

Eastern Box Turtles. One whole and one with an old injury, but both keep on, keepin' on. A good lesson for me and Steve.

Black Cohosh is definitely one of my spirit plants. I don't know why. There's just a connection there, like with American Persimmon. ;)

Chalet Nivale clean, clean water. What a gift to see.

Mushrooms tell us fall is coming...

but for now we are reveling in the fireflies...

and learning there are oodles more than we ever knew.

The rains found us these past two days and the land feels the renewal as do our spirits.