Thursday, December 14, 2023

Couple of Breakdowns, and I'm Taking a Break


I guess I won't be driving for a while -- not this car or any.  On December 8, I got slammed hard while turning left right into the path of an oncoming car going full speed, and it was my fault.  I just did not see it coming, and that error will haunt me for a very long time.  Luckily, it appeared that no one in the other car was injured (at least not visibly).  But I was, although not in any life-threatening way, thank God.  I don't know how both legs got bashed, but now I can barely walk, and five days after the accident, I still can't bend my left leg more than a few degrees without severe pain, and the leg certainly can't lift my weight, although, thankfully, it can bear it. So I can hobble. That knee was already damaged from a previous injury, so maybe it's time to do what my orthopedist had been recommending and have a knee replacement.  Maybe after Christmas.

At any rate, the woods and waters and winter wonderlands will not have me wandering them for quite a while, so I won't have anything new to report here on this blog for some time.  And then my old iMac crashed as well, with my harddrive still accessible but with no connection to the internet. I'm composing this post on a new computer, but I cannot access 15 years' worth of photos still on my old drive until I have a friend's help to load them onto this one. But before that, I'm going through thousands of old photos to eliminate duds and duplicates in the meantime, in case my new computer doesn't have room to store them accessibly.

What I'm saying is that I'm taking a break from blogging for a while, although with every intention of returning when I am more able-bodied.  But after nearly 15 years of keeping this blog (first post was on January 2, 2009), there's lots of material here to be perused, and if I say so myself, some of it's still pretty interesting and informative.  There's an archive in the right-side sidebar that will carry a reader back to all posts from all times of year, and a search bar at the top left that can lead a reader to all mentions I've posted on hundreds of plants and dozens of places. I hope some of my dear followers will find something to interest them among past posts, and also check back here from time to time to see if I'm posting anew. This project has been the focus of my life for so long, I cannot imagine I will abandon it for long.

Meanwhile, I want to express my gratitude for the blessings that I experienced in the middle of my distress. With all the evidence of human wickedness in the news these days, I cling to any and all evidence of human kindness I encounter.  And oh my, did I encounter human kindness after my car crash. I had not realized how battered I was when I crawled out of my smashed vehicle and limped, stunned, to a nearby bench. But a kind young man from the Malta Emergency Services quickly appeared and invited me to come out of the damp cold and enter the emergency vehicle standing by. At first I declined, just hoping my husband would soon arrive to take me home, but the young man's gentle prodding convinced me I should let the EMTs take my vital signs and check me for injuries and so I accepted the invitation to climb onto the gurney.  As it happened, I was experiencing cardiac and blood pressure abnormalities that indicated I should go to the hospital for further examination. Which I did, and there underwent scans from my head to my toes, which revealed no life-threatening conditions or injuries, thank God. I don't know how my legs got so battered and bruised, but at least I won't die from not being able to walk for a while.  And I have no-fault insurance that will cover many of my material losses as well as my medical bills. All will be well, eventually, so now my fear has given way to enormous gratitude to all those kind people who looked after me in my distress. I especially want to thank Justin and Scott, the two EMTs who cared for me so solicitously and helped me to feel I'd be OK.  How wonderful that such good people feel called to this caring and life-saving work. And that goes for all the good people who cared for me at the Saratoga Hospital Emergency Room, who treated me with such competence, respect and gentleness.  Of course, I must thank my husband Denis, who now must  drive me around to all errands and appointments that I once drove myself to. And many friends who have reached out in love and/or with foodstuffs and other offers.  I thank God for all such caring people around the world, wherever there is disaster and distress. I have been so disheartened by news of wars and natural disasters, but I am grateful to be reminded that still there are those good people who rush to give hope and healing to people in need.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Rare Plant Remnants Along the Shore

Due to a recent painful bout of ocular rosacea, I've neglected both cold-weather outdoor walks and extended computer use for a while. And my blogging has been on hold.  But one rather dark and not-too-cold day last week, I did venture up to Moreau Lake State Park. I had not been able to explore the shore of the lake all summer, because of high water levels, but now the sandy and pebbly sections of shore have emerged and are beckoning my return. I particularly wanted to walk the shore of a cove that is home to some of our state's rarest plants.  How had these plants fared from being flooded all summer?

At first glance, the vegetation appeared to be shriveled beyond recognition, but I knew very well that certain plant remnants do persist in a recognizable state all year.  And I also knew that many of them clustered about the base of a certain shoreline Cottonwood tree.

Sure enough, these puffy gray balls that once held the seeds of Whorled Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. verticillatum) were easily seen, still standing on stems that held them above the surrounding brown vegetation.  And because the summer's high water had not reached this far up the shore, a healthy population of a dozen or so plants remained intact.  This plant is one of New York's rarest species, rated as Endangered, so I always feel reassured to find it still surviving here on the shore of Moreau Lake.

 Sadly, though, the population of Whorled Mountain Mint has declined substantially since I first discovered it here 10 years ago, and a state rare-plant monitor later assessed its numbers along this cove's shoreline to be more than 270 healthy specimens.  Because Moreau Lake is a kettle lake, dependent for its water mainly on rainfall and snowmelt, its water levels rise and fall substantially from year to year.  Recent years of high water have eliminated much of this rare plant's growing space, but at least enough plants remain intact to provide a seedbank for continued survival along this particular cove's shoreline. We have not found other populations of Whorled Mountain Mint anywhere else around the lake, or anywhere else in Saratoga County. 

A second rare plant that shares this same shoreline is the Mustard-family plant called Green Rockcress (Borodinia missouriensis).  Because this plant possesses distinctive arching seedpods that persist through the winter, it is easy to spot this time of year, and indeed, I saw dozens of persisting plants along this cove, both out on the sand and also higher up on the forested banks. Although Green Rockcress is rated as a Threatened species in New York,  several hundred specimens have been recorded at Moreau Lake State Park, at several locations around the park as well as out here on the cove. We have no reason to think that this species is threatened within this park.

As I continued my walk around the cove, it became evident to me that the last few years of high water had diminished the shoreline habitat for the Whorled Mountain Mint significantly for other reasons than simply water covering the sand on the shore.  During the first couple of years I had personally monitored this habitat, there existed a walkable clear area between the shoreline Buttonbush shrubs and a steep forested bank, and this is the area where I first found the most abundant population of this Endangered species, with specimens numbering into the hundreds.  High lake levels over the past few years have apparently pushed the Buttonbush shrubs closer to the steep forested banks, and the shrubs now occupy the space where the Whorled Mountain Mint once thrived abundantly.  On this visit,  I found fewer than a dozen.  I guess this kind of naturally occurring habitat loss may be one of the reasons this species is Endangered.

When I reached the point where I met the main lake, I decided to continue along the lakeshore.  A couple of years ago,  a state rare-plant monitor and I found another truly rare plant, the Endangered species called Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush (Cyperus subsquarrosus), on the shore of Moreau Lake.  And we found this tiny plant growing by the thousands all around the lake, on both sandy and pebbly habitat. Including this very stretch of shore.  Unfortunately, its recognizable remnants tend to disappear after hard frost.  Would I find any trace of them now?

I searched and searched among the pebbles and found no recognizable remnants of Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush. I suppose these wispy brown threads could have been what I was looking for, but I definitely was not certain.

Here's what Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush looked like in September, before a hard frost, with its curving gray-green leaves and stubby little cone-like spikelets. Nothing I found today looked enough like this to convince me I had found the plant I was looking for.  But I knew it was there, and it would be back again.

Despite not finding any recognizable remnants of Cyperus subsquarrosus today, I saw lots of other tiny green plants snuggled in among the stones.  And I loved looking at the colorful mix of pebbles that cover this shore.  

And as lovely as those pebbles looked when dry,  just see how gorgeous some others were when covered by an inch or so of clear water, with golden ribbons of sunlight rippling across them. I was grateful that a break in the clouds brought not only some shoulder-warming rays on this otherwise cold day, but also this transforming brilliance to the shore of Moreau Lake.