Sunday, October 31, 2021

Witches: Brooms and Hazels

I found this delightful little American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in bloom on the tiny island I used as a lunch stop a little while ago. The petals look like thin strips of yellow paper. I don't know of many other trees that put their flowers out this late in the year - perfect for being fertilized by winter moths!

They look shriveled and pathetic, in a way, but that's how they are.

And then there are all these witches' brooms everywhere I look!


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Island Getaway

I spent time at an island getaway last week, rejuvenating. I used my own transport, and brought my own victuals. There was ample seating, views and things to wonder at everywhere I looked. And no one wearing a mask, since there weren't any other people!

The noisiest part of my day was the sound of my windcheater scraping dryly against my sides as I paddled, and of my hard shelled kayak negotiating the screech of dried out pickerelweed leaves.

I could see out from my little island with a 360° view of the water, lily pads, and banks of glowing trees. I found iridescent red berries ready for winter wildlife, a beaver lodge, gorgeous soft mosses and baby scrub oaks.

Bliss! I had it all to myself, and I loved it. Heaven's right here in my backyard!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Vegan leather?

Wait! Whaaaat? Vegan leather? No! What does that mean? My first facetious response of course, is "don't tell me you're going to eat it!" (okay, I'm obviously referring to a dietary vegan)

But secondly, I can't get my mind to grasp the concept - I understand organic leather, indicating it was raised in an ethical way, but vegan? It's a tautology, right? Really, who are we trying to kid? Leather comes from animals. According to my dictionary, it's "a material made from the skin of an animal by tanning or a similar process." 

So what is vegan leather? It's made from artificial or plant material - it is NOT leather, by definition. It mimics leather, but is not leather. I can only guess that the term 'faux leather' or 'artificial leather' is not as appealing to the market as vegan leather. Why must we pretend it's leather? Clearly it's because the characteristics of leather are unique and prized - it's a special material.

The underside of this floating leaf may LOOK leathery, but it wouldn't hold up as a handbag!

Come on! Be real - be honest, and use words appropriately instead of blowing smoke in our faces in order to line your pockets!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Beautiful Book

I'm re-reading The Overstory by Richard Powers, having just finished it. I found it compelling, relatable and enlightening. I can see that it's not for everyone, that it may expose me as a crackpot (as some of its kooky characters are, but that's common in many stories, not just those about trees), and that many readers may find it boring.

To me, it's an amazing piece of work about our disconnect from nature. It's about human characters and old growth forests, of their community and connectedness, but told as a piece of fiction! Powers is incredibly skilled at weaving forests and trees into people's everyday lives and relationships. It's so moving. I LOVE it. The factual information expressed through the characters' dialogue and experiences often hit me in the gut and strike a sensitive chord in my soul.

One of his characters exclaims, "Improve forest health! As if forests were waiting all these 400 million years for us newcomers to come cure them."

"Dead logs are far more alive than living ones" - while this is not new to me, it's potent, nevertheless. It resonates. We need to remember that what looks untidy to us is actually a paradise for other life forms:

One tree-hugging character lets us know that planting new trees to replace what we can allowably cut each year, is like "putting in babies so they can kill grandfathers" - a way to gain 'good citizen points' and ease our consciences. In the case of redwoods, some of these grandfathers can be between 500 and 700 years old. Where's the morality in that?

Up until relatively recently, we didn't understand just how much of a collaborative community the forest components are, of how interconnected and intertwined a forest ecosystem is. Redwoods, for instance, have relatively shallow roots for such a huge tree, but they merge and fuse with other roots to hold them in place securely, creating an underground grove. Phenomenal!

There's a whole functioning interlocking community under our feet that we don't see - understanding what's under the ground is like finding out about and exploring space, or underwater ecosystems. It's just not visible to us, but doesn't mean it's not there or isn't critically important.

Another character refers to the fact that we seem to have zeroed in on harvesting the 'cheapest priceless stuff that ever has been.' Think about that! A most exacting oxymoron. I'm slammed by sympathetic grief. It's sad, and damning, ...

There are so many take-aways from reading this book - but realizing that we are a PART of the whole of nature, not owner of the whole, not separate from the whole, is what I feel mostly. We are selfish and greedy, as if there are no repercussions for our actions. But, I preach ... The author expresses it better in an interview, “Every form of mental despair and terror and incapacity in modern life seems to be related in some way to this complete alienation from everything else alive. We’re deeply, existentially lonely."

I'm savoring feeling mesmerized, and enthralled, and captivated, after reading this beautiful book. It was Nietzsche who addressed our intellectuality as "we have to learn to see," and this book helps us do that.

I really enjoyed reading this review on LITPUB by Somdutta Sarkar:

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Bake Off


I love to bake! And to experiment, too. After watching the "The Great British Bake Off" on Netflix, I've realized how much knowledge I already have in my mind's arsenal. And it's given me the confidence to be a little more adventurous. I must admit though, that the producer's attempts at inserting corny comedians into the mix riles me.

Yes, the results of my creative efforts do 'show' in my physique, but I mean, how else would I know if my food explorations were any good if I didn't try them? Since my GP didn't chastise me about my weight gain at my annual physical this month, I think that eating the products of my labor are ... deserved! (As an aside, he DID compliment me on my cholesterol index - saying I had values that most people would love to have! Of course I told him it's because I eat healthy food and no processed, convenience stuff, but I declined to mention my baking craze ... okay, so I admit, this was just a ruse to boast about my triglycerides and good cholesterol values. How silly and vain am I to be so flattered by his comment!).

So here is one of my healthy experiments. I used mashed bananas instead of the cup of sugar this recipe called for, and it's made solely with wholegrain flour. No sugar at all. They make a delicious breakfast muffin, warmed in the microwave for a few seconds and then moistened with a dab of butter:

Nutty Wheat Muffins

1 cup boiling water
1 cup raisins
1 cup mashed bananas
1 Tbsp soft margarine
2 cups wholewheat meal
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 -1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Pour boiling water over raisins and allow to cool slightly. Mix the mashed bananas and margarine together.
Add the wholewheat flour, and sifted baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the raisin mixture. Mix well.
Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 F oven.
Serve hot, sliced and buttered.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


I have a short story called The Interminable Search in this publication - so excited! It's my first submission that has been though a selection process and survived to be seen in print (hmm, not that I've been diligent in submitting very many).

Goose River Press is in Waldoboro, Maine, close to the Goose River. The editor and her spouse came from the area, and they raised their family there as well, hence the name of her press.

Monday, October 25, 2021

A Miscalculation!

I paid for my laziness today! I was setting out to survey some secluded coves in my kayak, and thought I could cut out a huge chunk of kayaking by 'putting in' at the opposite side of the 'groomed' launch area (I was on a narrow peninsula). This brainwave would save me having to paddle all the way up one side of an island I'd already surveyed to get into the enclosed collection of still water coves. I wanted to cover as many inlets as I could in one afternoon. As you can see from my photo below, there was a very slight breeze disturbing the water's surface.

Since my intended launch spot had an abrupt drop-off at the water's edge into the lake, I checked first to see if I'd be able to get a solid footing on the lake bottom in order to step into my kayak. I held on to one of the trees in the foreground and tested it. I was wearing my trusty wellingtons so I didn't have to get my feet wet in the cold water. The substrate was firm, and held my weight. I could see that the shallow part was narrow and the slope dropped off quickly into deep, black water, but I only needed 2 feet's worth of space. I was pretty pleased with myself for having thought ahead to check this out, and of course, for thinking of a more efficient way of reaching my goal location.

My Mom always said pride comes before a fall, and I guess this was true that day. I had stowed all my gear into my kayak - my paddle, my phone, my wallet and my car keys - before putting in. But I didn't factor in the wind or current, and the momentum that a free-floating kayak would have once launched. As I set it down, it went floating backwards and away from me way, way faster than I could let go of the tree, find my footing and grab it. 

This literally left me up the creek without a paddle (but worse, with no way to drive home, or call for help)! I would literally be stranded. I HAD to reach it, right away, no matter what - all my valuable things were separating from me! Not knowing how deep the channel was, I let go of the tree I'd been using as an anchor, and plunged forward into the water. After 3 struggling strides, I managed to grab my kayak and coax it back to shore, having got wet all the way up to my panties. I don't even recall noticing the water temperature, I was so intent on reaching my valuables as quickly as possible. 

But being soaking wet from the panties down wasn't going to get in the way of my planned expedition. On no! I don't quit that easily. I climbed into the kayak whilst holding it steady against the bank, pulled off my full-of-water-wellingtons and socks, pouring out as much water as I could. I then sat with my feet up, warming them in the sun, with my wet trousers pulled up, and my socks drying up front as I paddled through cove after cove.

I'm glad it was such a warm day and I didn't feel too chilled when I returned home 4 hours later to change my underwear.

Next time, I shall loop a short piece of rope to a tree or shrub in advance of putting in from an unimproved launch! How silly of my! Hindsight ... I don't mind learning new things and having eventful little 'adventures' like this, so long as I don't keep repeating them. 😀

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Arrowheads in Fall

The paper thin flowers have wilted, and now the leaves have a turn to shine!


Friday, October 22, 2021

What Lies Beneath

Looking intently through the water allows the hidden treasures and obstacles to be revealed. It's a little like looking out into space - an apparent barrier that isn't really there if we look closely enough.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Floating Rushes

Colorful seed husks

Variegated, held aloft

By floating rush strands.

The shapes and colors

Remind me of fennel seeds

A breath freshener!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Wrinkly Skin

 Hmm, could this be a close up of elephant skin?

Or is it tree bark striations, perhaps?

Maybe a close up of lizard skin? Or intestines?

Swirling, boiling lava?

Decomposing algae and spatterdock leaves?

Yes, I'm afraid so. Some still, enclosed coves don't get flushed out much, and are in this state at the end of the season in Lake Arrowhead. It's what is covering the water surface in the foreground of this pic.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Overcoming Insanity

I took these photos of what looks like I drove into a kayak (or that a kayak came through my window) after my aborted attempt to open the back hatch of our compact little car at the end of my invasive plant survey.

For some reason, at random times, the back hatch won't open, and we haven't quite discovered why, or how to overcome it in a secure, foolproof and consistent manner - it usually just requires a lot of key-in-lock jiggling, latch clasping and unclasping, fiddling with the latch mechanism from the inside, banging on the chassis, or spraying lubricant into the lock.

I was tired and dying to get home for lunch, and none of the tried and tested 'tricks' had worked. I felt as if I was going insane - we're all familiar with the quote, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." So after about 20 minutes of insanity, I decided to try a new approach that would not require asking for help, knowing that it would probably take Dale's touch just 10 seconds to open it!

I opened the side doors, pushed the driver's seat forward and downwards, and wound down the passenger side window, then ever so carefully and gently, needing many reevaluations and repositioning, I pushed my kayak through the driver's-side rear door and out through the passenger window! There wasn't a way to rotate the back end of the kayak past the back door towards the extreme back of the car so, JUST able to close the side door, I decided this would do. I was actually pretty chuffed with myself! I then had to reposition the driver's seat and hope there was enough room for me between the backrest and steering wheel. 

It wasn't easy driving home, especially turning left across traffic at intersections when it was hard to see what was coming on my right. I maneuvered over to the right, skew, so I could see the oncoming lanes out the front window and then have to do some extra correcting to get across and on my way - turns out I didn't encounter any other cars en route home, so I didn't even get honked at! 😀

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Selection of Turtles

I often see turtles sunning themselves, but they're usually very quick to disappear as soon as I'm within 'shooting' range. 

This one's already on its way under

Looks as if this one's balancing on its shell with its feet splayed

Saturday, October 16, 2021


Asters are the stars of fall, the name coming from the Greek word for “star" - it's obvious why!

I think this is a white heath aster, or Symphyotrichum ericoides, a nondescript native adored by bees, flies, wasps, skippers, moths and butterflies. It puts on a brilliant show in its abundance.

I also love these obscure little beauties, the calico asters (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum). They always put on a grand show, and the bumblebees seem to appreciate them too

The New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) is yet another set of blooms, showy in their multitudes. The coils of the unfurled one are simply exquisite!