PHOTO ESSAY: A walk in Nature, at winter’s end, with Shadow

This morning, during the waning of winter, puppy Shadow and I ventured forth to one of our favorite nearby trails above Griffy Lake. Of course Shadow LOVED the adventure and tended to race ahead. See him? In his orange jacket on the trail.

Shadow walk


I was busy “processing,” trying to make good clear sense of all the contradictions that my poor left brain had tried to absorb and integrate during the 2016 International UFO Congress, and from which I had returned, at 4 A.M., early Monday morning.

Meanwhile, walking in nature, I came face to face, once again with the one fact central to my life, and that is this: the only book worth memorizing is the one Nature writes. And she keeps writing, and us poor humans have such trouble keeping up! In fact, it’s not really possible to keep up with what She knows and does and how she changes. Meanwhile, we ask questions, try to see patterns, pin them down, describe, classify — understand! Comprehend! Get it totally! So that the image in our minds IS the reality “out there” (or deeper, in here).

For instance me, this morning, asking the question: Okay, which plants stay green through the winter?

Well, for example, moss. At least I think it’s moss:


I googled “moss,” and came up with this interesting info:

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.41.31 PM.pngNow of course I, my civilized self, did not know all this, until “I looked it up.” However, if I’m ever in a survival situation, I might think to rediscover the idea of moss as bedding, or cushioning for sore feet in boots, and who knows what else? Moss is ubiquitous in shaded wooded areas of InDiana, so much part of the scenery that we don’t notice, until winter, when its green color sticks out of the greyish brown.

Okay, here’s another one:

more green

What’s this? Without knowing the “name” humans have assigned it, I don’t “look it up.”

And this:

wild onion.JPG

Oh wow, is that some kind of wild onion? Well, taste it. . . Yep! Don’t know what “we” call it, but it tastes exactly like a mild domesticated onion. Did it overwinter? I think so. The plant doesn’t seem like it’s freshly springing from the soil.

Oh wow, a low-lying sprig of holly!

holly sprig

Oh wow wow again! An entire bushy area of holly . . .

holly bush

A bit on legends, uses, and odd facts re: holly —

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.44.50 PM.png

Now of course, I don’t “know” all this stuff about these various apparently over-wintering plants. I just know how to “look things up.” I learn about what Nature is and does by asking questions of Her. And the “answers” I get, in this case, come from other humans having put stuff into the world wide web. (Thanks!). In other cases, like in my dream this morning, my own unconscious mind, which I assume is co-terminous with all of Nature, gives me the answer in the form of a dream. See my Rosemary story.

As I was walking along the uphill/downhill path, which led to the stream, I was struck by how little I “know,” and how it doesn’t matter, because I can always “look stuff up” and besides, I’d rather leave my mind open, open, open! — to both Above and Below, swimming in the currents of the unknown. What, for example, is more mysterious than the very nature of water?

waterOr of moving water’s interaction with sunlight to create shimmer?

sun dappled.JPGOr of how a fallen log can not just interrupt stream flow, but change the very course of a river as debris piles up behind it?

log in stream.jpg

I read somewhere recently that in the early days of trying to bring salmon back to the northwestern rivers, they ripped out all the logs and debris, thinking that would help the salmon go upstream. The result? The water speeded up too much and there were no more pools for salmon to spawn in: salmon declined even further. The author mentioned that this was a great lesson in humility for humans.

As usual, we need to, first, observe what Nature does, before interacting with Her. How many of us do this? Do I? That’s the very first principle of permaculture.

One woman at the International UFO Congress told me that animals have “a very low IQ” compared to humans. I couldn’t believe she was saying that. What? And yes, she was equating “IQ” (which, supposedly measures left brain function) with intelligence. I didn’t bother to try to correct her. I bet she doesn’t think that the bark of a tree is comparable to human skin either. In fact, that bark IS skin, for the tree. For example, this downed sycamore. Notice the folds of skin where the tiny branch used to be?

sycamore skin.JPG

I wonder if humans got their concept of “camouflage” from the sycamore skin. Or was it the rabbit in winter vs. summer? Or all those other animals who change color with the seasons, so in tune are they with Nature’s ways.

By the way, puppy Shadow’s pewter/gray hair is so much the color of tree bark that I’m glad to put his orange vest on him. Otherwise, he might just disappear into the forest!

I often pause to marvel at how trees support each other. In this case, two trees, one large and old, one slender and young, enclose another one that’s dead or dying . . .


And how Nature taught us how to mulch our gardens, laying down sticks and leaves to overwinter, preparing for sprigs of new life in spring . . .

sticks'n leaves

And I love to view the apparent “chaos” of Nature’s patterns, ones I don’t (yet?) understand . . .


Actually, to ever think that I could ever fully or even partially “understand” anything that Nature is doing “on the ground” — or in the cosmos! — is foolish. All I can do is observe, interact, and above all, wonder, knowing that there is so much more there there . . . That indeed, it’s always true:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

Which makes me realize, once again, that the only “correct” approach to this beautiful world is awe and reverence. We bow down. We ask for help. We gratefully accept Her guidance.


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0 Responses to PHOTO ESSAY: A walk in Nature, at winter’s end, with Shadow

  1. Mel Condit says:

    Those green leaves cradled by the foot of the tree look to be the first leaves of the plant known as garlic mustard. One of the first tender green leaves to appear at winters end. have seen them sprout forth even with snow on the ground. Edible, delicious, makes for a great salad. Use common sense and google that. look at the images to compare.

  2. laurabruno says:

    Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    So nice to have Ann K. back! What a wonderful, grounded, humble and deeply observant post. Indeed, “the only ‘correct’ approach to this beautiful world is awe and reverence.”

    On a personal, related note, I’ve been on a mini-mission to introduce more evergreens to this sorry spot of Northern InDiana. I’m happy to report we have all of these green things and more growing in our yard now, and I’ve begun conversations with our city arborist to plant more evergreens around town to help mitigate extreme winter air pollution and provide some much needed color and beauty in this grey time of year. Every time I go on a walk, I make a special point to thank the blue spruce and other green beings for cleaning our air and brightening our landscapes. Tree friends are among the very best kinds of friends!

  3. Melissa says:

    Aww!! I didn’t know you had a dog. It’s been pretty nice the past week where I live. I almost was just assuming that winter was over and it was time to just jump into spring. Soon though. I got to take one of my dogs out for a walk a few days ago. It was nice. I believe that animals are highly intelegent. I think that people who don’t know much about life and reality and don’t have much of a interest in learning and only believe what they hear on the t.v. believe that animals are not intelligent. I feel like I have even been able to communicate with my dogs telepathically. (not to often but it has happened.) It seemed like they were communicating to me and it got translated through picture. I’ve always wondered if their the different sounds of their barks were different languages or if they communicated through sound and hormones and tones of the bark. There was one time that it came through english language though. Im glad to have my dog children. They make life worth living. Looks like you went on a nice little hike. I may have to get out and do that soon.

  4. Jean Hopkins says:

    Beautiful signs of Spring on her way. We’re even having some signs here in Vermont! However, March might ‘come in like a lion’ so I’d better be quiet.

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