I was glad of the unusual weather conditions on this gray day. Mist rising from Hills pond never seemed to last very long. It had begun to disperse by the time I made my way around the small body of water.
The enveloping hush seemed just right for this pause between holiday celebrations and the start of a new year, a year that will no doubt bring its own share of challenges.
This year the rains have started again after a prolonged draught. I came across yellow and orange Chicken of the woods brackets where I found them last year. And there were a few other interesting fungi, mostly in shades of white, tan and brown. As the season is not yet over, I may share additional examples below.
With so little rain this past summer, I did not expect to find the amazing mushrooms that had sprung up in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But my timing was good to capture a number of images of these colorful chicken of the woods fruiting bodies before they were taken by eager foragers.
The series below follows the central protrusion as it evolved before someone cut parts of it and what remained deteriorated.
Arlington Heights, Massachusetts, USA where I live, like Boulder Colorado, and a number of other places, has rocks in all sizes. In fact, a major reason I bought the house where I live is because the turtle-shaped top of a large glacier-scraped granite outcrop was visible through the kitchen window.
Once I found the courage to climb to the top of an outcrop in Menotomy Rocks Park, looking down I could see Hills pond through the trees. The contours of this secluded high up spot, with blueberry bushes and natural rock arrangements scattered here and there made it feel quite magical.
Any number of these rock arrangements could be the highlight of a Japanese garden, or for that matter, arranged in a bowl of sand for indoor viewing.
The ducks and turtles did not seem to mind the algae, but I missed what the light could do playing on the pond’s once clear waters (lower photos). When I wrote about trouble at Menotomy Rocks Park a year ago, I felt sure my town would invest in maintaining the health of Hills pond. But the green scum kept spreading, and I began to worry.
This morning as I walked around the pond, I noticed a sign stating the pond had been treated. When I looked to see if the waters were indeed clearing, a bullfrog croaked as if in confirmation.
Once I came across a child beating icy Hills pond with a stick. It made a most appealing bonging sound. Later I heard haunting chirps and zinging at the same pond. Since I was the only one there, I had to assume the ice was making those sounds all by itself. Searching online, I came across Jonna Jinton’s videos with the other worldly, yet peaceful sounds and the beauty of the crack patterns that ice can make as it freezes. Fascinated, I decided to review Jonna’s numbered vlogs in the order they were posted.
Vivid aliveness and a deep appreciation for the changing seasons in unspoiled northern Sweden where Jonna lives informed all that she shared. Living in her very tiny community also required a great deal of hard work just to stay alive and keep warm, along with a willingness to accept dark times – quite literally unavoidable in winter that far north. As she had hoped, Jonna’s online business selling lovely silver jewelry, prints of her photos and large paintings provided a means to support several family members and friends in a place where jobs can be hard to find.
Besides her various creative endeavors, the videos show Jonna interacting with beloved pets, renovating buildings, making paints from local materials, and singing to cows. She shares her world in breath-taking drone footage as well as from more intimate camera angles. While she makes clear that she hopes her videos can bring the inspiration of nature to those who lack access, she does not invite envy. Rather she invites each of us to consider what we would like to have in our own precious lives.
As for me, I am grateful to have a pond nearby where children make bonging sounds on the ice. Hills pond was singing by itself again when I went looking for ice photos this morning inspired by Jonna’s passion for what ice can do. The unique delights I found in Menotomy Rocks Park over a number of winter seasons are shared below.
It is natural to notice a muskrat chasing quacking ducks, but the woods can have a quieter energy – There is a lot going on, but it is easier to miss.
Trees with their roots wrapped around granite outcrops or buried beneath fallen leaves and mounding needles are the backbone here. Warm beams of sunlight suddenly illuminate the all-embracing living wonder while the woods in winter has its own kind of resting beauty.
As we walked along the trail, a friend told me that her grandchild loved pine needles. He also liked looking for hollow logs that would make good houses. My friend seemed to share her grandson’s delight in the magical quality that can be sensed just below the surface in many forest settings.
Perhaps because children can be particularly sensitive to the intelligence of other species, or because of their vivid imaginations, looking for or constructing “fairy houses” seems a perfectly natural thing to do. I thought of the troll that my Aunt brought back from Norway at my request. I promised my friend that I would take photos of him in the park.
Indeed, this eager little fellow seemed to be quite at home in these woods far from his native land.
A boulder perched at the edge of Hills Pond when I started the photo series. It became an island as the waters rose. Then ice linked it to land again. In spring, geese and ducks perched on its strong back. There were signs of trouble as algal bloom sullied the water and all the birds left.
Waiting unperturbed, the boulder bore silent witness to ducks returning as brilliant colors in shades of yellow, orange and red mixed with the greens. Though all of this, the boulder sat with perfect equanimity. It had me wondering whether I could be more like that. Probably not, but that I could appreciate (and hopefully remember) its still presence seemed to count for something.
When I was out taking mushroom photos, I came across two people from Europe with a basket full of hen of the woods as well as a bag of honey mushrooms, both gathered from the bases of oaks. I learned the number of edible mushrooms each person can collect is limited where they come from, but here, where there are no such limits, they had gathered so many they would need to give some away.
They explained that the best way to learn which mushrooms are safe to eat is to go out with an expert local guide. But books and online resources (like this one) can be helpful.
In addition to being eaten as food and medicine, mushrooms can have profound cultural significance. Those with psychotropic properties are used in healing rituals. The Maya carved wonderful anthropomorphic mushroom stones, and a jade pendant bears witness to the significance the Chinese place on mushrooms use in traditional medicine.
Fungi support the health of forests and can survive fire. They have been used to control insect pests and to clean up plastic and organic waste. No doubt our appreciation for fungi will increase as we learn more about what they can do.