Friday, October 15, 2021

Creature of Habit

The bliss of kayaking! I get to creep up on herons taking in the morning sun amidst a blaze of foliage ...

Sometimes we have an encounter at the same spot two or three days in a row ... 

I wonder then, who is really the creature of habit?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Notoriously Accomplished?

Oh, woe is me! I can't figure out if I feel proudly accomplished as an amateur botanist, or notorious for being the discoverer of bad news! Perhaps the right description is notoriously accomplished?

At the end of last week, I encountered a curious-looking plant, very similar to one I already knew, but this one was, well, grotesque and very robust, by comparison - the 'floats' holding the flower up out of the water were fat and bloated.

Alarm bells started tinkling, and then clanging, in my head. I took a series of photos without handling or disturbing the plant, then went home to peruse my aquatic plant books to help me sort through my suspicions ...

Everything I read filled me with dread, for it seemed I had found a plant not previously documented in Maine, and possibly invasive. On the other hand, I was thrilled that I had found something potentially exciting, a new discovery!

My mixed emotions about my find had me jostling about in bed for hours that night, as I pondered the implications - this plant's range is for the southeastern coastal areas of the United States, and now here it was in my Maine lake. I had stumbled upon it whilst searching for the notorious and insidiously invasive Najas minor, which I had newly discovered in our lake last year.

The Invasive Species Program Director for the Lake Stewards of Maine advised me to go back and retrieve the plant for sampling and positive identification. It seemed to be the swollen bladderwort, Utricularia inflata. The panel of "official" scientific verifiers have an established process to follow in order to reach an ID by consensus about a species heretofore not documented in Maine. Characteristics such as the length of the spokes, the shape of the floats (wedge shaped or parallel), the number of flowers on a raceme, the nature of the flower stalks (curved or upright), as well as the size, and coloration, of the flower needed to be assessed.

The air spaces in the spokes make a popping sound when they're pressed

The sample I brought home the following day was already past its prime since it was so late in the season, but I managed to keep all the parts together in a basin of water as I paddled back. I jiggled all the algae, sediment and other debris off it, and washed it through many times before laying it out for drying and pressing. The more I looked at it, the more sure I became, even though I had never seen it before! I felt confident. It somehow seemed unnecessary to measure and deliberate over it - the more I looked at it, the more unmistakable it became.

I'm astonished at how much excitement and exuberance other botanists have shown about my find. There were phone calls, emails and texts back and forth from experts, and each wanted to be the first one to call Professor X, or Dr. Y, and let him, or her, know the news. Some shrieked with joy and excitement like a kid in a candy store! The enthusiasm generated was like being among bird watchers who wanted to "GRIP" a new species, a 'lifer,' the kind best described by Bill Oddie as 'a cosmic mindf@cker!' The authors of the "Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Northeastern North America" are hoping to include this new distribution information in their upcoming revised edition.

Grinning like a Cheshire cat taking others to see my discovery

It feels strange to have the Invasive Species Director jokingly tell me I'm not allowed to go out on our lake any more, for fear of what I might find next!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Fabric Pattern

Wouldn't the patterns on this mushroom make a great fabric design? So beautiful!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Lake Surveying

I've learned a lot of new plants, all aquatic, since signing up for a Zoom course with the Lake Stewards of Maine in 2020. I've also learned how to do comprehensive kayak surveys and to bring a handful of new 'tools' with me. I've increased my arm strength and paddling stamina enormously without even realizing it - I don't blink an eye at the imagined destination and distance I have to cover - I just get up and get on the water every day, without giving it a second thought (at least there're no ticks out there). There have only been a few occasions when arthritis in my shoulder has been tweaked. The hand surgery has freed me enormously.

When I set off on an aquatic expedition, I have lots of things stowed in my kayak, not least of which are my phone in a watertight bag, and my flotation device. In addition I bring weighted markers, a net, sometimes a shrub rake, a bucket, a pair of scissors (with which I cut and free up branches of fishing line and hooks), and a viewing scope (an adapted pistol-case) to enable me to see down into the water. I tether it to my kayak and let it float along next to me while I peer down through its transparent bottom:

It works pretty well, though it can sometimes get in the way of one's paddle, and offers only a very limited viewing area, but it does cut out the distortion from surface ripples, and the top gives one enough shade to cut out glare. I can see down to about 6 feet below me in good light conditions. I have become so adept at spotting naiads though, that I very seldom need the viewing scope to detect them now. They seem to jump out at me, as if they have a very special and particular spectral signature I'm inadvertently picking up on.

THIS is what I'm out there looking for - that very distinctive rusty colored canopy blooming just below the surface. It is very tiring on the eyes to survey so intently for hours on end, I must say, but it's actually exciting and worthwhile, in my mind, and I can't stop myself from doing it!

When I harvest a haul like this, I feel really good about hindering its efforts to disperse its seeds for the next year's growing cycle.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Baking Site Pressure


What kind of message are we trying to convey when a recipe site is accompanied by advertisements for getting rid of belly fat?

I avoid trans-fats, eat loads of protein, limit alcohol intake, eat plenty of soluble fiber and I NEVER eat convenience products. I think my lifestyle is mostly stress-free (I mean, how could it not be? I'm retired, I live on the lakefront surrounded by beauty and tranquility - well, mostly, apart from the dawn shooting during duck hunting season). But I also LOVE to bake and create edible treats, so I was a little put off by the presentation of this recipe page. It feels like Catholic guilt haranguing me again, and reminding me that pleasures and indulgences come with a price; that with everything pleasurable comes a consequence.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Aliens are Still Here!

This weird, alien looking plant is a common liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha). It caught my attention whilst weeding my lawn - it's small and prostrate, so is easily overlooked. Not only does it have a beautiful, variegated color pattern, but it has a raised texture and some round structures, called gemmae cups, on its surface. These cups apparently allow the plant to reproduce asexually. (This is all new to me).

It's a good plant for rehabilitating disturbed areas and likes moist soils. It has a global distribution and also happens to be one of the oldest terrestrial plants we know.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Beginning to Fall ...

Much as I love the spectacular serenity and beauty that fall delivers, there's always a sense of foreboding, a sort of imminent threat, that comes with it. It preempts the long, shut-in feeling that a Northeast winter brings. 

Yes, I make the most of the time I can still spend outside, but it almost feels like a last hurrah, a desperate scrambling for the last vestiges of warm sun and light. It's the freedom of just stepping outside to BE, on a whim, that I miss. The snatched moments of going in and out-side without consequence, or forethought.

My mood begins to fall with Fall. I need to halt the tumble downwards with warm, cozy thoughts of books, crochet, baking, writing.


Friday, October 8, 2021

On Water Nymphs

I patrol the watery lake by day,

Paddling through slime and algae,

Protecting the native plants,

And exposing the invasives!

This is currently how the invasive Najas minor (brittle water nymph, European naiad) looks from a kayak. It looks so flimsy - yes, flimsy equals friable, brittle, fragile. It's actually a monster in disguise! By the time it's this obvious from above, it's at its most frail state, laden with potency for shattering at the slightest disturbance. It smashes apart like a a piece of china on a tile floor, or like an exploding burst of fireworks as soon as it's touched. The seeds contained within each curved, leafy fragment float off in the current. It's a great adaptation, but difficult to manage as a non-native introduction.

Those little 'ears of corn' between the arched leaves are the seeds 

Brittle water nymph

Dispersing into fragments

Friable, fragile.

Thursday, October 7, 2021


By being out on the lake so often, to try and locate all growing invasive naiads from my kayak, I get to experience moments of beauty like this:

Such incredible stillness!

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Whose Job Is It?

Oh man! Doctors' and dentists' bills! There's always a subtle or unexpected twist, it seems. I had a dental cleaning last month, and was told by the hygienist, as she looked through my records, that it was time for me to have a full mouth x-ray done, not just the bite-wings. I hesitated, aware of being upsold at every turn and asked, 

"Surely that was already done with the preparations and measurements done for my orthodontic Invisalign work this year?"

"No. That's a whole different set of imaging. Those aren't x-rays."

"Are you absolutely sure?" I asked, still reticent to commit.

"Yes, I'm checking through what you had done, and it shows you haven't had full x-rays done since you started coming here in 2018. It's covered by your insurance, anyway."

"Really? I have very basic coverage. I don't want to have it done if I'm going to be out of pocket. It can wait."

"Okay, I'm checking with your insurance. Oh, yes .. it's okay, it'll be fine - they cover full mouth x-rays every 3 years, and you've been coming to us longer than that, so you're due."

"Ok. I suppose. I'm only going ahead with it because it's covered."

Was I born yesterday? What makes me trust people behind a computer instead of my gut? Granted, I hadn't refreshed my knowledge of my coverage before I went in that day, but I was being told it was okay.

I got a bill last week for $106 stating that I had "exceeded the plan limit for this service" (complete set of radiographic images). I was incensed, and angry, and determined not to pay - yes, I'd received those services, but under false information and under duress!

I spoke to the billing person, asking if it had possibly been coded wrong. She assured me they only had one code for that service, and that I should call my insurance. I felt as if I was being fobbed off and stood my ground, waiting, looking directly at her, immovable. 

"Okay, let me check something quickly then. Maybe you had it done at another dentist's office? That's why we ask that you have your previous records sent to us."

"I haven't been anywhere else! But why does that matter? I've been coming here exclusively for more than 3 years, never having had those x-rays done here, so it HAS to be covered." I was more than a little exasperated, but somehow, I managed to be cool and ... believe it or not, polite (for once).

"Well, some insurances cover it every 3 years, and some every 5, so maybe yours is every 5"

"It's not. The hygienist told me that my insurance would pay for 3 yearly x-rays before we got started."

"Okay, let me check ... hmm, it says here that you can have full x-rays done every 60 months - that's every ... 5 years."

"Huh! I would NEVER have agreed to go ahead with it had I known. I was given false information and distinctly told, through all my hesitation and second-guessing, that my insurance covered x-rays every 3 years. I'm not responsible for this fee. I'm not paying for someone else's mistake."

"Hmm, ok. Let me check with the hygienist and we'll call you back later."

The call came through while I was driving home. They cleared the bill. I'm not liable for any payment. 

I really like their practice - they're knowledgeable, professional, have state of the art technology, and are 'nearby' (by Maine standards). If I hadn't dug my heels in, I could have succumbed to their pushy disinformation, and paid for their error. Upselling sucks. When did health care become a market for upselling services ?????

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Hole of Substance

What is this? A hole encrusted with sand, found in the lake ... I wondered whether it could be a crayfish burrow/chimney? Or part of a wasp nest that fell into the lake - but then, why didn't it disintegrate?

It's gritty to the touch, but holds its shape, days after it was collected.


Monday, October 4, 2021

A Rescue

My constant surveys of the lake to find growing locations of the invasive naiad (Najas minor) means that I've been leaving my kayak at the shoreline instead of tucking it away on our handy rack each day. This has been fortunate on two occasions this summer, when people on the lake unexpectedly needed assistance. It meant I was ready and available for a rapid response.

Our kayak rack

I looked outside one Sunday (9/27/2021) and saw an empty kayak drifting quite quickly past our cove, and a little way behind it another, this one capsized. I called out to Dale that we needed to investigate, and we took off down to the water's edge. 

I could hear cries of "We're okay! We're okay!" We saw one woman in the water holding onto her capsized kayak and trying to follow after, and grab, the renegade, free-floating one. Her mother was standing soaking wet in the shallows, calling her grown daughter back to shore. A power boat approached them to check if they needed help, but the woman in the water insisted they were okay. I headed for the runaway kayak, and Dale tried coaxing the immersed person to shore, but she couldn't give up on the quest for the renegade kayak, and kept heading back in that direction. Dale took hold of her kayak and began 'herding' it to shore, but he was being consistently opposed by the woman's quest to reach the other kayak (which I was now towing back to them) and her refusal to let go of her own kayak. It was a little like a goat rodeo, even though there were just 2 people involved (they had been drinking, as evidenced by the contents of their spilt cooler, and behavior). After many unadhered-to directions, both woman were on solid ground and reunited with their kayaks.

We have been isolating, and wearing masks in public, especially if in the company of people we don't know, but this emergency reaction precluded reaching for masks before leaving the house. We were eager to disengage as quickly as possible once they were safe and comfortable. The older woman explained why they were out there, that she'd lost her husband a few months ago (which was obviously alarming, though we didn't dare ask what he'd died of), and she was now having to deal with her adult handicapped daughter on her own. She was so very thankful and highly emotional, even recalling that we'd waved to her last week as she went by. 

Now she wanted to give us a token, she said, which she'd been doing since her husband's death, and pulled a gemstone from her bag, explaining the special meaning and powers of the amethyst. We commiserated with her over her loss, and I said I'd love to receive one of her tokens, so she gave it to me and wrapped her hand tightly over mine, gripping it with steely, yet shaking, emotion as she tried not to cry. It was SO hard not to reach out and put my arm around her! In order to get her to let go of my hand, I said I'd like to take a look at the beautiful stone, so she let go to let me admire it.

I used this opportunity to put some space between her and I, (Dale had managed to stay out of reach) and we watched them settle themselves back into their craft. The wind was gusting quite strongly (they'd said that was what had caused their initial capsize) and they must have been quite cold as they set off home, dripping wet from the 65°F water and being blown by the strong wind. Brrrrrr. I was glad I was dry.

They cheerily waved to me on the lake again a week later, saying they'd learned their lesson (though I didn't ask what it was).

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Beech Dilemma

Yellowing beeches
Beautiful yet portentous,
A double-edged sword.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Changing Times


I'm always aghast when reminded of some of my father-in-law's memories of his upbringing.

He recalled that his mother burnt his stamp collection in the oven one day. It wasn't clear why - whether it was a punishment for a misdeed, or his parent's disdain for something as impractical and esoteric as philately, we don't know (and never will). It seemed so vindictive. I can tell you though, it was something he never forgot, and he was an avid stamp collector once he left home, throughout his adult life, making it his goal to replace his German collection. 

As a young man/teen, he was given an old jalopy of a car to work and tinker on. He lovingly worked on it and eventually got it refurbished and the engine running. Then his parents made him sell it for scrap (he was 19)! The reason given was that he wouldn't be able to afford the license. There was no financial arrangement made or offered to help him. 

How times have changed - many children in the U.S. expect to get given a car from their parents when they can drive, never mind the $$ for the license or insurance!

Different times, different expectations, different outcomes. It's interesting to me how this also reflects the level of control my Mom's parents had on her life. Until she was married and off their hands, the decisions about her and her life were solely her parents responsibility, no matter her age. She always acquiesced and did their bidding, no matter how rebellious or hurt she felt. She feared their disapproval very strongly. At 26, she was still answering to them, and wasn't an autonomous adult. How crippling that must have been!

Tough times!

Friday, October 1, 2021


What lovely, banana shaped stripes I found on this Canada mayflower whilst gardening. I don't recall seeing the coloration change in this unique way before.

Thursday, September 30, 2021



The orangey goodness of spotted jewelweed

Orange glow of a royal fern at days' end

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Algal Blooms


Seething, bubbly mass

Freshwater metaphyton -

Like boiling toffee

Not blisters of pus -

A chemical factory:

Fixing oxygen.

Filling in the gaps

Between the spatterdock leaves

Blocking out sunlight

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Caged Birds, Camels & Needles

I've just finished listening to Maya Angelou read "I know why the Caged Bird Sings." It was my first time reading it - I'm so glad I did.

Maya's language is rich and powerful, almost exotic. Her prose and imagery so evocative - I relate and feel it in my gut when I read what she has to say.

Here I am contemplating her impact on the world.

I was particularly struck by her comments on how the teachings of the bible, especially certain lessons (see quote below), could be used to encourage the oppressed to accept their poverty and see themselves as deserving of rewards in the afterlife only (a sort of delayed reward). This belief has enabled, and ensured the continuance of, an unfair system that was advantageous to the rich and powerful. What a manipulative tool!

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Maya was so insightful, an individual thinker, definitely not a sheep.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Dinner Rolls, Anyone?

These little beauties look like fresh baked bread rolls just from the oven. In a way, they are ... freshly erupted mushrooms from earth's 'oven.'


What a lot I got!

Edge on

Friday, September 24, 2021

Leafy Mysteries

Does anything in particular come to mind when you look at the detail on this spatterdock (cowlily) leaf?

Dale suggested calling it the sphincter lily! It's almost as bad as the name spatterdock!

And this watershield leaf looks as if it might have a big yellow spider on it, or is it a starburst?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Curdling Carpet


A green floating mass 

Duckweed, like guacamole

Curdling as I pass

It might make a beautiful mosaicked floor tile pattern:

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Shelob Guards Mordor

A tolerant fishing spider on one of our watery stump gardens allowed me to get close enough to get this shot of her with her intricate mesh web.

Isn't she spectacular!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Red Bogmoss

Sphagnum moss or peat moss, is an ancient and primitive life form, native to Canada and the northeastern U.S.

I found a huge area covered with it at the Wellhead Protection Area of lake Arrowhead. It's incredibly soft and cushiony, almost spongey. Red peat moss is often found as a green mass when it grows in the shade.

Monday, September 20, 2021


So, Feedburner continues to deliver my blogger emails! I'm definitely NOT complaining, and will keep monitoring how long it continues to do so.

I love Roxanne Gay's writing and social commentary - she's fresh, knowledgeable, and uses sophisticated words, not your common old run-of-the-mill ones. Her use of language is exquisite. This month I read her piece that used a new word for me, which in context was fully understandable, even though I'd never come across it before - the word is

- precarity -

I think I'd find it pretty hard to use in real life, but its meaning is pretty clear - the state of being uncertain, or of feeling precarious. It has apparently been around since the early 1900s, and is based on the French word precarit√©. She used it to describe the feeling of being able to take pleasure in other (vaccinated) people's company without fear of contracting COVID, as in:

"We sat around enjoying the food. Conversation was effortless, and there was little small talk; we had no need for small things. Throughout the evening, I was intimately aware of the gift of proximity without precarity."

Thanks, Roxanne, this is awesome! We enjoyed a neighbor's-only, outdoor, double-vaccinated BBQ and campfire over the weekend that felt just like that!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Green Gradations

 The magnificence of greenery and its gradations, soon to be a memory