Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Walking with a Fun Guy

At dusk the rain fell
as did the darknes
like a painter's wash
blown across the page
with gusts and torrents.

Through the night they came in tandem.
wind and water.
Elemental elements.

But OH! The morning!
Warmth, out of season
forced me out amid the guns
amid the growing light.

Armored in blaze orange I tread among the trees
to listen and watch.
Rustling "weeds" misnamed because they are common,
played gently against my ear
while smooth gray juncos emerged
from stems waving to the dawn. 

Together, the sun and I greeted the moon which, while higher in stature, was no longer in charge of the sky.  I dropped my peanuts on the ground in my continuing, though seemingly futile, effort to befriend the crows. I then headed for the woods. 

The path through the woods passes by an area where Jeff and I planted 200 trees a few years ago in an effort to reforest an area which had been timbered and then sold to us.  The seedlings were soon lost within a tangle of briars and paw paws saplings. Among those seedlings, in a low, damp area, we planted some hemlocks to remind us of Cathedral State Park in Aurora, West Virginia.  Cathedral is a virgin stand of old growth hemlocks that escaped the timber fever which swept across Appalachia in the early 20th century.
Sounds are muted at Cathedral, and walking beneath the giant trees on a deep bed of hemlock needles and moss, a mere human cannot help but be in awe of the wonder of nature and perhaps catch a glimpse of the One in charge of it all.  Our hemlock grove is still only an idea acted upon, but still in the realm of dreams.

Awhile back I noted that once the trees have lost their green leaves there are still discoveries to made in the woods if you choose to look.  When I first moved from the city to my woodland log home I fell in love with lichen and fungi. Not the kind that might grow in my bathroom if I became derelict in house cleaning, but the kind that grows on rocks and trees.
Fungi come in shapes and colors as varied as people.  If you look around a vital woodland plot you may see fungus ranging from the white blobs that appear to ooze out of rotting tree stumps, to the tree ears popping off the bark of a tree to the  shelves common on the locust trees.
The white misshapen blobs often appear on the stump of a tree within the first year after it is cut down. They may be on the edges, or ooze out of the softer center of the stump.  While many people try to remove a stump from their yard as unsightly, I have fought to keep the aging stump of a sugar maple. It is a great place to scatter bird seed or to place a potted plant, but I love it most for the fungus sprouting from its flat top edge.
If tree stumps don't thrill you, then perhaps you will enjoy more the small shelves that form on many tree trunks, especially our native locust.  The locust is unique in that it fights death even more than most trees.  A locust tree may break off in a storm, but the trunk continues to sprout new growth.  The trunks are so impervious to water that the broken trunks make great homes for birds, snakes or mice.  It is on these broken, twisted trunks that the best shelf fungi may be found.  The colors and lines on this fungus might be more expected to be found on the canyon walls of the American West.  Their form shows layers of strata delineated by dramatic color changes more often seen in rock formations.
The dark flat shelf underneath is marked by the first white layer then followed by layers of greens, blues and blacks which are usually topped off by a slippery layer of bright green moss.  The older shelves are the largest and the flattest, with younger ones being more rounded. There are craftsmen who specialize in carving shapes out of these shelves which have a wood-like appearance when dried. 
One year for my birthday I asked my son to scour the woods to find me a nice fungus for a gift.    He did and I ended up with a great specimen.  When turned on its cut end the fungi are fan shaped. Once dry they become hard and the colors mute.  Mine has a wonderful gnarled gray look that pleases me.
So one day a mushroom walks into a bar and yells, "Drinks for everyone!" All the patrons cheer and drink up.  The mushroom then orders, "Another round of drinks for all!"  Another cheer goes up around the room as people thank the mushroom. Once more the mushroom speaks up, "I'm buying everyone some snacks and another round of driniks!"  The bartender leans over toward the mushroom and asks, "This is nice and all, but why do you keep buying food and drinks for all these people?"  Well, of course the mushroom answers, "Because I'm such a 'fun guy'. " (Feel free to leave your complaints in the "comment" section.

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