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Friday, March 19, 2010

Gully Surprises

Rock outcroppings draw my draw my imagination for the possibilities they hold.  At a basic childish level, I like to imagine the gnomes that might have set up housekeeping far behind an opening barely visible from a hillside.
More often I picture the grouping in my own garden and, for a moment, fantasize how I might relocate a particular boulder without scratching the rock, removing any moss and situating it exactly as it is in nature.  Then reality returns and I realize that the rock needs to stay where it is.
The problem is that such groupings are usually in hard to reach places.  That is also the beauty of it. An outcropping such as this one seems out-of-place in its sharp roughness set into the typical woodland hillside formed with smooth corners softened by years of accumulated leaf litter and decaying wood.  The rocks appear to have been arbitrarily placed then left, waiting for me to come around a bend and admire their beauty.
There is plenty of other beauty to be found besides the large solid rocks. At the other end of the spectrum is the tiny purslane (portulaca oleracea). This day, its fleshy leaves poke out from chartreuse moss on the floor of the gully. 
Leaves of purslane were once eaten as a salad.  If you look closely you will notice the red tint of the fleshy  leaves, a hint of the high iron content, very important to know if you are subsisting on what you can grow or gather nearby. I've never tried them, myself so I cannot tell you how they taste.
There are other foodstuff down in these damp woods.  This chocolate puff-pastry looks very tempting until my imagination stops working overtime and I realize that this is proof that decay isn't always isn't disgusting.  The layers are what is left of the rings of wood from a long-dead tree. Something about this sunny side of the hill causes lots of these wood pieces to exist.  I don't know if it is because they are decaying slower, or because the area is so little disturbed.  It may be because the steep hill washes lighter debris away from the wood so that its texture stands out against the forest floor.

Wildflowers are starting to make their appearance though most are still just beginning to show.  This cut-leaved toothwort (Denturia laciniata) has its leaves spread out to soak up the sun while its flower gathers the strengh to bloom.  Soon the woods will be littered with their white blooms delicately drooping over the slender, finely deliniated leaves. 
I walk around the corner of the hill into the shade to see if there is any sign of the trillium that will soon make its appearance.  This is the same trillium patch from which Jeff once plucked a perfect white bloom as a gift to melt the heart of his future mother-in-law.
It is time to leave my gully, to claw my way back up the steep bank onto the road.  But God hasn't quit bestowing her gifts yet this morning.   I gaze up to soak in the blue sky and am greeted with  sycamore balls dotting my viewscape with as they hang on white luminescent stems.

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