Early May Late Day in the Woods


What is it about a situation like this that seems to
put something like vacuum pressure on the soul?

The situation, the experience, the moment, not the picture.  The picture is a good reminder of what it was like, but as pictures go, it’s just an interesting snapshot of an arboreal skyscraper (I’ll keep the copyright just the same, thanks).  The picture is also a reminder to keep looking up for scenery too often missed.

Backed by a twilight sky and the moon, the beech tree showed up at roadside at the end of a late afternoon’s short hike in a massive new parcel of state land enveloping Ellenburg Mountain in Ellenburg, NY.

Below are a few other things entertaining me that day in the woods, where boredom is impossible, mood problems go into remission, and from which bio-psycho-social health benefits continue into the future.  Yes, there are social health benefits even if you’re out there alone.  Think about it.

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Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

So, as I was saying about Spring 2013 …

Plants can be psychoactive without ingesting them.  For instance, some have uplifting odors.  Lilac.  Balsam fir.  Tea berry.  Mint.  Freshly mowed lawn.  Sometimes just looking at them can do the trick, especially when they show up in greater quantity than in several earlier years at a given place.  It’s like discovering that you had more money in the bank than you knew.  (I’ll leave it to you to think of depressing plants.)

Among the usual spring blooming things, this year Balsamea first showed us maple tree flowers, pussy willow fuzzies, and violets, in that order.

Next came the yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum), and they came more than ever.  Continue reading

Fern Lifts Leaf, Mind and Body

Another sample of Spring 2013 advancing.

One of our early ferns (May 6) did a little lifting on its way up.  Balsamea never stops entertaining us.

The leaf was gone the next day, so my camera-play had been lucky, leaving me with a souvenir of mindful woods-walking.

That’s what most of my photos from Balsamea are about: just taking time to notice what is really there.  It is a fun hobby to collect souvenirs to remember things, and to remind me to keep being mindful of them.  It is good medicine to mind and body.

However, sometimes I make a point of leaving the camera home, to “bathe” in the essence of the forest just for the sake of doing it, taking a lesson from my canine partner, being there just to be there, belonging there.

But Buddy has learned to pause the walk on his own when he sees the camera come out of its case.

Nibbles of Balsamea

These little Balsameans (and Adirondack natives) have gathered here for no reason but to please The Balsamean.  Maybe you’ll enjoy it, too.  This is one case where clicking a picture will NOT get you a bigger view.  They are just sample 100-pixel views of SOME of the kinds of spring and summer living entertainment here.  (However, you can magnify with your browser or Windows features.)  These pix were clipped out of bigger ones that are even more beautiful, shot over the past several years, mostly within the past few years.  This show must go on, and it will.  These little Balsameans will perform for as long as we let them and protect them.  The display sequence is random, and will change every time you refresh the page or come back for another visit.  There are about 130 of them.  (All photos by yours truly at Balsamea.)

End of show

Spring 2013 – Early April

Sing along: “It’s beginning to look a lot like April!”

If you don’t know the tune, write me and ask for it.  Just kidding.  Here it is, as written and sung by the great Johnny Mathis (biography):

If your brain is racked anything like mine, that song will be stuck in your head the rest of the day.  So, in a sense, we will be singing along together.  Just remember to use the word April.

Anyone living south of our Clinton County, New York (in the far northeast corner of the state, bordering Vermont and Canada) may enjoy seeing the still somewhat wintry nature of early-to-mid April here.  Folks north of here, go ahead and laugh, especially Alaskans, Siberians, Antarcticans (just north of the south pole), etc.

For reference, in case there is someone reading this not acquainted with Clinton County, NY:

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Ice Revisited

The trouble with being active in the blogosphere is that there are so many people sharing so many terrific things, and they come sailing to me automatically (where I have subscribed, filtering the world to my taste).  It’s like having a global museum, athenaeum, and entertainment center at my fingertips.  I have added this “related article” to my recent post on Ice because it … well, see for yourself:

bubbles-in-ice-thumbLetting Go (blog post at myeverydayphotos.wordpress.com) is the work of a great eye for the magical display of spring nudging its way past winter at the extreme edge of the edge of a lake.  These are not merely “everyday photos” (as indicated in the blog’s title).  They are the eye of someone deeply attentive to nature every day.

Clap if you agree.  But only if you also do the same at MyEveryDayPhotos‘ corner of the web.  Okay?

Wildflowers extend lawn mower life and inspire love

It TAKES TIME to smell the roses!

Red clover

I suspect it will be a recurring theme in my scribblements, as it is increasingly recurring in my head: half the joy of a blessing is sharing it.  That leaves me with a puzzlement: I also find joy in quiet privacy and seclusion.  It’s not easy to share things in isolation.

Maybe my self-exile has developed to the point of being ready to capture the other half of the joys of quiet privacy and seclusion: sharing them.

This probably has something to do with the creation of TheBalsamean.com.

I have lots of clover in my yard. Last year there was more red clover than white; this year more white than red.  They, along with many other flower-producing plants, moved into my lawn and life naturally, after the house builder’s “lawn” died (good riddance) in 2010, the year he “planted” it.

My yard is a place for nature to show what she can do with an open space, a chance for her to decorate my home.  I’m grateful to her for showing me lovely things every time I step out the door.

In 2011, I counted at least 20 kinds of wildflowers through spring and summer.  I lost count somewhere over 20.  This included so-called weeds, such as dandelions, which I only wish flowered longer.

White clover

Lately every day I see butterflies and bumblebees browsing the clover flowers. Besides their beauty, these critters are important pollinators.  More pollinators, more fruit.

I grew up conditioned to enjoy a blanket of nice, dense green grass.  A golf course looks nice.  It has its own kind of attractiveness … at a price.  However, the birds I watch from this window near this keyboard like my lawn the way it is.

I could create a monochrome green lawn at considerable expense in lawn products and water to create something that would not naturally grow here, or I can keep what nature provides freely, without running the water pump to sustain them, in a kaleidoscopic range of colors and shapes.  For me, the choice is obvious.


As with Hallmark and card-giving occasions, I suspect that solid green, “weed-free” lawns are an invention of lawn-product makers.  How did the Scottish inventors of golf maintain their greens before Scotts lawn products came along?

In some areas where I have tossed a little grass seed here and there over the years, the grasses have taken over almost completely, without the help of weed-killers, fertilizers, or lime.  They are hardy grasses, the ones that naturally want to grow in this acidic soil and hard winter conditions.  They are the right grasses for my yard, where my yard lives.  For as long as the wildflowers want to grow before grass takes over, I will let them.

This year a new Balsamean moved into the front yard.  Daisies.  Scads of daisies.  Loads of them, spreading rapidly.  Now THESE, we have in such great abundance, and they take to a vase so well, I don’t mind cutting some.  They bloom for a long time, in a succession of new blooms timed over several weeks.

Please don’t mow the daisies

With this natural cornucopia, I don’t have the heart to mow the “lawn” until the wildflowers have matured, so they can reproduce.  But new ones occur each season.  So I’d have to avoid mowing altogether to let them all grow.  Beginning this year, my strategy is to reduce the size of the areas that I mow, to let the wild things flourish at least around the perimeter.  And, throughout the lawn I mow around some patches of wildflowers.  “Lawn mower gardening.”

I have a small clearing out back, a few hundred feet from the house.  It was a logging header about a dozen years ago.  Everything grown on it got completely wiped out during the house construction, because that’s where I let them bury tree leftovers from clearing space to build the house.   We did not replace the topsoil.  I did not seed it.  (Actually, I’ve been tossing pine, spruce and balsam cones into it.)

Blackberry flower

Blackberry flower

Over the period from 2005 to 2010 (the year it was excavated), I kept that area mowed.  Since then, I let three-quarters of it regrow naturally.  The other quarter I mowed.  In the spring of 2011 and 2012, as snow melted in the mowed area, it turned to deep mud.  Being the cover over buried tree stumps, I wondered if it would cave-in under me.  (Among small depressions, there was one serious cave-in back in a corner, big enough for the dog to get in there.  What a job it was to fill that cavern.)

In the un-mowed area, we have FAR MORE beautiful, natural grass per square yard (among a plethora of wildflowers and loads of new berries).  This year (2102) I’m not mowing all of that formerly mowed portion of the back lot.

It is very hard to get a clear shot of a pollinator when it is busy

Instead, I’m mowing only a walking path through it.  Each year I’ll alternate the mowed path from side to side, to let the non-mowed parts go to seed.  That seed will fill the area with grasses.  They are coming along great … tall grasses of four kinds, among other plants.

It’s not just a tactic to avoid mowing.  I enjoy mowing and snow clearing.  They are forms of moving meditation.  But I do like to reduce wear-and-tear on the machines, and reduce consumption of fuel and production of pollution.  Still, these are side-effect benefits.

The objective is to let the yard fill with things that naturally want to be there, and they are all good things.    This year blackberries flourished.  If I don’t do SOME mowing, they will take over, and they are no fun to walk around in, especially barefoot.  Thorny.

Many people would be aghast at what a “terrible” lawn I have.  This is just one of the many reasons it is such a good thing that I’m the only one who has to live here.

I like the yard more every year.  I look forward to what it will produce next year.

Bless all its natural inhabitants for extending the life of my lawnmower!

When I sit and think seriously about such things – the beauty I live in, and the freedom to enjoy it in seclusion – I mean really think about it, contemplate it, meditate upon it, as is what happens while striving for the perfect photo, then studying the thing in the photo as I cannot do with my naked eye in the field, then writing about it and choosing how and where to incorporate the photos into the writing – then go out again and see them, these friends of mine, happy and free, inspiring me to love – well, seriously, when I give it this much attention, it brings me to tears to be so blessed.  Seriously.

“Inspire me to love?”  Yes.  As the love of beauty grows, so grows the beauty of love.

Yeah, so I’m a tree-hugging flower-brained pinko pussy.  So sue me.

What are your thoughts on any of this, large or small?  How does your garden grow?  Use the comment box here or contact me privately.