tree deity

'Tree Herder' sculpture from recycled materials by Paul Rodriguez, found trailside @ Lake Roland, Balt County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

‘Tree Herder’ sculpture from recycled materials by Paul Rodriguez, found trailside @ Lake Roland, Balt County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

I came upon this woodland spirit during a sweltering late morning hike/bird walk. I’m thankful that it’s there watching over the trees. I was surprised at how many fellow humans were also out sweating in the woods. Trail people are always so friendly, even when it’s in the upper 90s and the humidity feels like we’re all floating in warm bathwater. One runner stopped to talk birds for a few minutes. Others just smiled or said ‘Good morning!’ One of my admittedly unscientific axioms, solely based in anecdotal evidence, is that people are much likelier to make eye contact and greet each other in the woods than they are on the street. Why is this? It is the power of the trees, I suspect. We are all happier in the woods, whether we know it or not. Nature has a calming effect and these days that effect is needed more than ever. As always at this time of year I have been struggling with the heat and not going to the woods has made it worse. But today I took up arms in the face of summer’s brutality and I’m glad that I did. For me there is no substitute for a couple of hours amidst the greens and browns of the forest. I feel it is my true home.

this is the title

This is the process of describing a thrice-daily perambulation along a specific grid-like configuration of streets and alleyways. It’s the beginning and the end all at once with the middle excised for brevity’s sake. Words are fit together to form a compelling narrative designed to exaggerate the significance of this chain of events. Through the use of a complex algorithm, details from thousands of similar perambulations have been extracted and connected to form a generic description suitable to represent the ongoing series.

Turning a corner there appears a panoramic view of downtown. One day there will be two more buildings on this block instead of a field, obscuring the view and evicting the red-winged blackbirds whose raucous calls now punctuate this observation. No more will the barn swallows arc with precision above the grass, soaring overhead and below knees. The city is a gaping mouth fitted with concrete teeth and asphalt tongue. All open space is in flux, available for negotiation by any wealthy interested parties.

Navigate another leftward right angle turn to complete the rectangular route. Arrive at the correct set of concrete steps leading up. Note the foul mess at the nest box opening left by the fledged house wren brood. Ants move in to investigate. In the garden coneflower blooms open. On the arched trellis coral honeysuckle buds battle to stay ahead of the aphids. Manual removal of the latter seems to be aiding the fight. Along the second level railing the gold dust plant exhibits the lush results of another vigorous growth spurt. Looking around, all appears to be in the usual foliar disarray. Now climb the steps, open the door, shut and lock it.

This is the conclusion of what was begun in the first paragraph. It serves to tie up any loose ends and bring the narrative to a satisfactory close. No new information is introduced so as to avoid confusing the reader, thus preventing any lingering uncertainty as to the nature of what has been heretofore presented. Thus, to be accurate, the true ending occurred with the period following the phrase ‘lock it,’ meaning one could actually stop reading there and not suffer any ill effects.

new arrivals and a mysterious departure

At some point last night under the cloak of darkness the neighborhood’s catbirds arrived to spend the summer muttering to themselves in the dense foliage. I came downstairs this morning to the welcome sound of their strange twittering cacophony. I looked out the window of the sunporch and saw at least three or four of them skulking in the yard, chasing each other through the ground cover. On the front walk, another of their tribe held in its narrow bill a fruit of the nearby Japanese laurel, aka Gold Dust Plant, or to be more formal about it: Aucuba japonica. Decidedly unimpressed with its breakfast bounty, the bird quickly discarded the bright red drupe (looks can be deceiving!) and flew off.

Oddly enough, our other local representative of the Mimid family, the stalwart mockingbird, has been conspicuously absent from the immediate environs of the house since last fall. A usual year-round resident, this bird (if it has indeed been the same individual) was always nearby in its obvious way, singing and scolding, even visiting the feeder out of desperation during particularly hard winters, and providing an amusing foil to the more retiring catbirds throughout the summer months. Sadly, no mockingbird has yet shown up to take this one’s place. I had often wondered if ‘our bird’ had been a grizzled old bachelor, for on many a spring night I would hear him singing late into the evening hours, yet I witnessed neither courting nor nesting activity. Perhaps his mellifluous songs never attracted a mate and he met with some unknown fate having never propagated his species. I am still hoping, though, that someday soon one of his brethren will appear and take up residence nearby.

chimney swifts entering their evening roost

[click in the lower right corner to enlarge]

Hundreds of migrant chimney swifts enter the chimney at Free State Bookbinders in Baltimore City last night for their evening roost. Recent rough estimates come in around 2000 birds roosting in this single chimney, though on peak migration nights that number can double or even triple. If you do some investigation in your area you may find there’s an annual event like this near you, too. If there is, I highly recommend checking it out–it’s quite a spectacle! More info here.

juvenile mourning doves

Juvenile Mourning Doves, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Juvenile Mourning Doves

These two have been hanging out on the deck railing for the past few days. Their parents drop by from time to time and regurgitate food into their mouths. It’s quite entertaining.

last season’s nest

© 2015 S. D. Stewart

ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

field report lucky 7

There is full sun and little wind. No cloud cover.

The pedestrian suspension bridge is open. Yesterday it was closed. Criteria for closure unknown, but suspected to be related to wind speed.

Tourists abound on this day in early February, a month not known for its tourist activity.

The habitat islands offer less mystery in the winter, having lost much of their greenery.

A child wearing a leash crosses the street. The leash, dragging on the ground, protrudes from an animal-shaped backpack.

An oversized police officer fiddles with his phone while purporting to guard the building.

Birds observed: several Ring-billed Gulls, a small flock of House Sparrows, and one European Starling. An unimpressive count, but not unusual for this time and place.

field report 3

Today the clouds demand close observation. Why is everyone not looking at the clouds. Absurd. All colors today are vivid: the dark and choppy white-flecked waters of the harbor, the green sloping lawn of the former Civil War lookout, the red of the restaurant roof below it. Now is the time when the first psithuristic hints of the autumnal approach appear. Observance and acknowledgment of this occurrence is essential.

A passing child of about 7 says, apropos of nothing: ‘I hope I get a lawnmower soon…a real one…vrrrrrm [presumed lawnmower noises].’ His family chooses not to acknowledge this proclamation. Theory: this is not the first time it has been uttered.

A large black dog (LBD) enjoys the grassy, treed oasis behind the seafood restaurant, complacently chewing a tennis ball as its person paces in circles while jabbering on her mobile phone.

Shirtless males run on the promenade.

Tourists relentlessly take photos of a boat, the so-called ‘Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor,’ by far the most photographed object in the vicinity.

My doppelgänger walks by, as he is wont to do.

Midway through the reading period, sudden drama rushes in when cigar-smoking man (CSM) arrives on his bicycle, only to find LBD lying in the exact spot where he traditionally sets up his legless portable chair. For a few moments the air crackles with anticipation. However, this soon dissipates as, undaunted, CSM approaches the occupied territory and sets up his chair immediately adjacent to LBD. Soon, the fragrant scent of cigar smoke floats upon the strong breeze as CSM cracks open his book, occasionally casting a shrewd eye upon LBD, who pants in patient oblivion as its owner continues chattering.

On the return trip, while walking, a man pauses to execute a precise ballet move: a half-knee bend followed by a jump in place, arms outstretched. The grace of this move is surprising given the man’s overall GISS. He then taps a light pole with the thick book in his left hand. Further on, he thumps the book in his hand like a revival preacher, resulting in a few turned heads. A strong temptation rises to follow him for research purposes, but alas, recess is over.

these glowing chains

This morning downtown smelled like a lit fuse.

After lunch I went back to find more monarchs. They were keeping company with one raggedy-looking Common Buckeye. A monarch almost flew into my face. I watched it shove its proboscis into every single bloom. I considered staying there all day.

Wikipedia disambiguates firefox from foxfire. This irritates me more than it should.

I may change my name to Dirge Foxfire and start wearing all black. Soon after, me and my drum machine Phalanx will start a band to broadcast the coming of the end. Only the people who matter will hear our message, of course. Later I will begin to glow as my corporeal presence slowly fades.

Lit fuse smell caused by three-alarm fire.

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