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Spring Woods

Thursday, April 6, 2006

I had to find the hepatica. All my life I've wanted to see hepatica in bloom, and all my life I've missed it. Shila and I found patches of the plant, identifiable by its liver-colored trilobed leaves, over the winter, and I have visited them now three times, hoping to see the flowers. They're famously early and ephemeral. So today I lit out with Chet, reluctantly leaving Bill at home. He said he needed to get some work done. This isn't hepatica, it's purple cress. You have to wait for the hepatica. Dramatic tension and all that.
Purple cress is in full bloom. It's a modest little plant, that has evergreen winter leaves, which doubtless help it make enough food for a jump-start come spring.
I was delighted to find Dutchman's breeches!Dutchman's breeches, so named because they look like little balloon pants hanging on a line.
When I finally got to the slope with hepatica, Chet chose that moment to disappear over the steep hill, headed toward the cow pasture. He completely ignored my acorn whistle. There were no cattle in the pasture, so perhaps he was on the trail of a deer. He came back when he was good and ready, panting hard. Grr. Durn dog. He has become an accomplished liar, assuring me that he'll stay close, then choosing a moment when I'm absorbed to skedaddle.
While whistling and calling, I found the hepatica. I was interested to note that the purplish leaves that had fed the plant all winter had withered, and many of the blossoms arose from leafless plants. Other plants that weren't blooming had new green leaves coming up. There seemed to be a lot of energy conservation going on. If you're blooming, don't make leaves. If you're not blooming, make leaves. Reproduce or eat, that's the choice.The much-sought after hepatica. It's hard to see here, but the stem is super-furry, a good thing to be if you're going to bloom the first week of April. It's such an elegant little thing, with its maroon stem and sepals.
I heard Bill whistling on his hands, Indian-style. He'd heard me yelling and whistling for Baker. Finally, Baker came over the hill, looking very winded. I don't know what he was investigating but it was clearly a long way away. Running off is probably the hardest thing to handle with dogs. You can't punish them while they're running, and you certainly can't punish them when they finally come back, because they DID come back, just not when you wanted them to. It's the kind of thing that pushes people to use shock collars, I think. Ugh, awful thought.
Baker tried to look appropriately sorry. He's a good actor. He's not sorry, not one bit, and I can tell.
Excuse me. I was off on pressing dog business.Your lecture is unnecessary, and dull. I am a grown man-dog. I don't need to hang onto your apron strings.
Bill took a picture of me, reunited with my worst third. He (Bill) was bursting with the news that he'd seen FIVE butterfly species on his way to find me! If Chet saw any butterflies, he wasn't talking about it.
We walked back home together, spotting Spring Azure, Falcate Orangetip (favorite spring butterfly!), Juvenal's Duskywing, Comma, and Mourning Cloak. The errant and too-early Tiger Swallowtail Bill had seen in our yard had moved on. SIX! Going from zero butterflies to six in one day is quite the thing. Walking with your love in the spring woods is quite a thing, too.
As we came up to the house, we found a newly dried-up mud puddle with a neat collection of tracks. There were raccoon and deer tracks:
and a lovely opossum print (note his big fat thumb sticking off to the right)
and, a real rarity: white-footed mouse prints. (You can see them in the possum track shot, in the lower right corner, and compare their size...but here's a closeup, too). About the only time I get to see mouse tracks is when they step in their own pee and then step in dirt or cinnamon or coffee and leave prints on a countertop. Real mouse tracks in mud: Big deal for Zick. The simplest things amuse me. Mouse Tracks. Not to be confused with Moose Tracks. Ack, it occurs to me that they could be vole tracks. Hmm. I'll have to examine the feet of the next mouse or vole I come across.


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