Carry and Cache

 

There’s little question that these slightly shriveled berries were produced by the plant known as yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), a member of the holly family that’s native throughout the southeast, from Texas to coastal North Carolina.

How they came to be clustered in this hollow — part of a large, decaying tree stump — is hard to say, since there wasn’t an over-hanging yaupon branch to drop its berries into the stump. Even if there were, it seems unlikely that so many would have collected there.

It is food-gathering time, with squirrels burying pecans or collecting and drying fungi, while woodpeckers and bluejays energetically seek out and store acorns. Still, this seems a poor spot for caching food. Perhaps a younger and less experienced critter gave it a try, but decided to find a drier, more secure spot.

On the other hand, Christmas is drawing nigh. Perhaps this is only an optimistic squirrel’s version of cookies and milk. With such tempting berries in the stump, surely Santa Squirrel will pay a visit!

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Last Rose of Autumn

Macartney Rose (Rosa bracteata) ~ Galveston Island

Lovely though it may be, Macartney rose rivals the Chinese tallow tree as a scourge upon the land. Another native of China, introduced into the United States as a landscape plant or means of natural fencing, it arrived in southeast Texas in the past century. Thanks to the wide dispersal of seeds by birds and cattle, it’s now spread to pastures and rangeland, and can be found in every nature center or wildlife refuge I visit.

Although not considered a noxious plant, it’s considered invasive for good reason. According to the TexasInvasives database:

Macartney rose forms dense thickets, displacing native grasses such as the endangered white bladderpod, and altering native wildlife habitat. [Its presence] greatly decreases forage productivity of cattle pasture and adds to the economic burden of land managers.

Still, its flower is undeniably lovely, blooming late into the year — even into December — near the coast. It requires nothing more than a change from ‘summer’ to ‘autumn’ (or even ‘winter’) for the words of Thomas Moore’s 1805 poem to capture the poignancy of its increasingly sparse flowers as true winter approaches.

‘Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone.

 

Comments always are welcome.

As If

 

Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade pulled
not quite down.  Otherwise,
clouds. Sea rippled here and
there. Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch the sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music: a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.
But the mind always
wants more than it has —
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses — as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.
                                           “Mind Wanting More” ~ Holly Hughes

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

Blow, Thou Winter Wind

A favorite grove ~ 16 December 2018
The same grove ~ 6 January 2019

Committing to read the complete works of Shakespeare through the course of 2018 was an iffy proposition from the beginning. As I began to fall behind during the second month of suggested readings, I realized the goal, however lofty, wouldn’t be achieved.

On the other hand, I did continue reading throughout the year, and at its end had discovered unsuspected treasures in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. Especially pleasing were innumerable nature references I’d never noticed, and a delightful collection of songs tucked into the plays. Many of those songs, set to music by various composers and arrangers, continue to be performed today.

In Act 2, Scene 7 of the pastoral comedy As You Like It, a musician named Lord Amiens sings before a group of exiles in the forest. Seeing what the winter wind recently wrought in one of my favorite groves, I couldn’t help remembering, and appreciating, his song.

“Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind”  ~ Folger Consort
Folger Consort is the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.
Blow, blow, thou winter’s wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friends remembered not.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

Autumn Song

In the woods along Bonaldo Creek

 

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day.
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
                                                               ~ Emily Brontë

 

Comments always are welcome.