Plants and Animals

I’m reading Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” essays and observations of nature in the mountains of Virginia. It’s a beautiful read, and I highly recommend it. Just know that her observations and meditations can be mind-boggling and overwhelming. For example, this bit that I read today:

“If you analyze a molecule of chlorophyll itself, what you get is one hundred thirty-six atoms of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen arranged in an exact and complex relationship around a central ring. At the ring’s center is a single atom of magnesium. Now: If you remove the atom of magnesium and in its exact place put an atom of iron, you get a molecule of hemoglobin. The iron atom combines with all the other atoms to make red blood…” The red blood that runs through us, like the green chlorophyll runs through plants’ leaves. An atom of iron separates us from the plants.

I’ve really been interested in identifying plants and animals here. Many of them are different from what I’m used to seeing back East. This is also a good time of year to observe, because everything is actively growing and changing every week.

Skunk Cabbage- the yellow flowers slowly disappear, and leave behind huge lettuce-like leaves.
Trillium- grows in the woods. I've seen dozens of them growing on the hillsides along the trails here. As they age, the flowers turn pink.
Red Elderberry- common understory in these woods.
Alders- just starting to leaf. Alder tend to grow where there has been a recent disturbance; they grow quickly. They are very common here.
Blackberries- an invasive species here. Also tend to take over in disturbed areas, like where a road has been built through an area. These were on the side of Three Rocks Road.
Candy flower or Siberian Miner's Lettuce- a wild edible. Miner's Lettuce was eaten by miners and other pioneer folk to keep away the scurvy: high in Vitamin C.
Giant Horsetail- I believe the brownish one on the left is the male plant, the spiny green one, the female.
Beach Pea- also edible
Weird brown mushrooms growing on the beach among the European Beach Grass (invasive).
Geese. Always in pairs this time of year.
Ferns everywhere! Sword fern in the back, Lady fern unfurling in the front
Salmonberry- pink flowers turn into yellow/orange berries in the summer. They have the same structure at raspberries.
Stinging Nettle- edible, medicinal, all around good for unless you grab it with a bare hand. Hurts like hell for a day. I boiled some and made pesto. Next project- dry the leaves and make tea.
Violets- important food for the Silver Spotted Butterfly, an endangered species native to Cascade Head
Heron by the river.
You can barely see it, but there's a Stellar Jay on that branch. They have beautiful iridescent blue feathers.
Sea lion on the sand spit. A nice, unexpected sighting.

When I left Virginia, trees and flowers were blooming early and the birds were beginning to get loud in the mornings. I’m looking forward to going back and seeing how things have changed in six weeks.

Traveling always makes me more aware and appreciative of my home place.

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