Thursday, October 8, 2009

Unexpected Delights

The wind came tearing through Saratoga yesterday, ripping the leaves off trees and even toppling some -- including one that fell across my back fence. Well, that's it for the leaves, I grumbled, and just when their color was reaching its peak. So when today dawned bright and clear and I headed off to the Hudson carrying my boat, I wasn't expecting gorgeous autumn color. Boy, was I surprised!

Here's the sight that met my eyes as I entered the river near Bear's Bathtub, a sheltered area well out of the wind that was ruffling the open river.

Everywhere I looked, there was something lovely to behold. Looking up through blazing Black Tupelos, the sky was a deep, deep blue.

Looking down at the watery reflections, I felt I was moving through a painting by Monet.

The forested banks were carpeted with ruby-fruited Partridge Berry, here with one tupelo leaf adding its own splash of red.

The Wintergreen berries were as fat and glossy red as they'll ever be.

The Red Maple saplings looked like they were afire.

Landing my boat and walking into the woods, I looked back and observed the sun glowing through the leaves. It reminded me of stained glass windows from inside a darkened church.

Very few flowers are blooming now, but some have been transformed by turning new colors. The plump greenish-yellow Ditch Stonecrop blooms are now a deep rosy pink.

And the shin-snagging Arrow-leaved Tearthumb has traded its nondescript flowers for these shocking-pink knockout blooms.

Of course, fall is the very best season for finding fungi. I really don't know what this toothed fungus is, something between a Bear's Head and a Comb Tooth. For now, I'll call it Polar-Bear Rug.

This splendid clump decorated with a tiny aster could well be Honey Mushroom, the kind I picked quarts of yesterday and cooked for last night's supper (See! I'm still alive!). I'm more likely to recognize them after their caps have flattened out so I can see if their gills are attached to their stems. I never, ever eat a mushroom I'm not absolutely sure of. I left these right where they were.

This next clump is similar in some ways to that last bunch, but also quite different, too. See, the tops are flecked with little scales, and those distinctive white collars are very soft and sharp-edged, not raggedy like those others'. The color's a bit different, too. I can't find anything exactly like them in my mushroom guides. As always, readers are asked to weigh in if they know.

(Sigh!) There I go again. I just can't seem to stop wanting to know the names of things. When I first slipped into the water today and glided across that glowing expanse, I felt a kind of relief that I wasn't looking to find new flowers. My wildflower journal for the year is full, so today I was just going to breathe in the essence of this beautiful place, to experience it as an inhabitant, rather than as an observer. Fat chance! I should have known there'd be new stuff to learn.

I had set myself a goal some years back, of attempting to learn the names of all the flowers and trees that grow here, just here in this particular stretch of river that flows between the Spier Falls and Sherman Island dams. And I thought I'd reached that goal. But wouldn't you know it, new stuff keeps showing up! I made a friend this summer who knows all the mosses and lichens and underwater plants. So now a whole other realm opens up. And of course, there are all these fungi. And grasses and sedges and ferns. Because of bad eyesight, I won't attempt to identify birds (except by their songs), but when winter comes, I need to know who made all the tracks in the snow. What I really need to learn, I think, is how to give it a rest. Not give it up, just let it recede sometimes. I'm working on it. Autumn helps. Especially after first frost.


Dalfred said...

The first clump that are more brown look like gyms. The second clump to me look like honeys. I spy a white spore print on one of the understory mushrooms. Hard to say though. I would need to get my hands on them. Great Finds.

Eat mushrooms, but be careful.

Carolyn H said...

What lovely colors you are having up there right now. The intense shades aren't really making themselves known down here just yet. I hope I get some of that before the wind pulls them all down.

Carolyn H.

squirrel said...

Your descriptions were so beautiful. Like you, sometimes I set out just to enjoy and then something new pops into focus and I'm off on the naming game again. Other times I say I'm just going to look for as specific order and the it happens again and something new and unxpected crosses my path. Selfishly I think fall was designed for us to slow down and winter is a time to just sit and contemplate and think profound thoughts. But do we do that...sometimes. It's hard because when I am outside I feel like a kid in a candy store. My mother taught me to share and I am so glad you learned the same because I do love to see your photos and read your adventures.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Dave, Hi Carolyn, Hi Squirrel. Thanks for your most welcome comments. I love sharing my woods with you, and visiting your woods with you. Our world is so beautiful, there is always something new to see and be amazed by.