More than three months of overflowing rivers around the Twin Cities finally ended this month, leaving debris, tree trunks stained by muddy water up to above my height, and a sprout and seedling explosion around the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. I took a walk there yesterday to see if the mushrooms and slime molds were more active yet. The answer was yes. This system of wetlands goes hand in hand with flooding, even months of it, so life carries on.
I’m not kidding about the seedlings. Maples a few inches tall and other young plants were as thick as turf grass on much of the Minnesota River floodplain after millions or billions of seeds carried by the flooding settled down and germinated. They’re a record of the flood as much as the lines on the trees: Thicker bands and patches of sprouts echoed the water’s direction and speed. Down in the marshier area, creeping plants regrew to their former size.
To cap off the hike, one last peek in a little ravine near the trail revealed the biggest crown-tipped coral fungus I’ve yet seen. Almost always, somehow, there’s some kind of prize at the end.
Now that we’re getting above freezing during the day and dropping below freezing most nights, it’s starting to feel like a normal Arkansas winter up here. You all might recall my being dazzled by the delicate and varied forms ice took down south; something I didn’t appreciate fully there is that many of those forms depended on this cycle. When weeks go by below freezing, ice becomes monolithic — sheets of ice and blankets of snow. But when the process can start fresh each night, its results are more fleeting and more interesting.
For whatever reason, I’ve had the easiest time finding beauties like these this season in the humblest of places, sidewalk puddles. So I like to call them sidewalk art, crafted not with chalk or spray paint but with bubbles and H₂O.
Soon very different shapes will dominate the outdoors; some are already emerging.
Some real warmth is finally here, and warmth plus rain means hidden networks of tiny fungus filaments in the forest floor are popping out mushrooms. I’ve already paid tribute to the variety and strange, sometimes slimy beauty of these little toadstools here and here, but still the Ozarks have new kinds to show me, including the above beauties at the entrance of a Devil’s Den State Park cave.
I hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend — thanks for stopping by.
Out of the Internet’s entire encyclopedic array of acronyms, TIL strikes me as one of the most pleasant: Today I Learned. For example, today I learned construction companies keep blueprints and other documents inside a PVC tube that’s capped at both ends, an object that looks a lot like a pipe bomb when it inadvertently falls off of a truck near a public building. I also learned Bentonville has a bomb squad, one of six in the state. It deploys a fun robot that reminds me of a Mars rover. This minor bomb scare took place today across the street from my office.
Today I learned my office has a pull-down ladder that leads to the roof, which is a challenge to climb with a camera, a notebook and an umbrella. Watch out for the big old cellar spider on the way up.
I walked around the square for a bit after the lunch-time excitement. The all-day rain was crappy, but temperatures in the 50s, 60s and maybe even 70s this week will be worth it. Plants are already reacting to the warmth.
Finally, today I learned the texture of water under rainfall is beautiful and elegant when frozen in a photograph. I learned those little water droplets that plop up from the center of a splash move really fast — they were blurry with a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second.