I’ve been hoping to catch a sunrise through fog for a long time, usually just barely missing it, or seeing it on the road without a good place to stop. It finally came together this morning. A grove of young oaks I’ve wanted to photograph also stands near my apartment. The two were perfect together, if only for a few minutes before the sun overpowered the fog.
Happy Tuesday, and thanks for looking.
Mt. Kessler is the grand name of a big hill covered by a patch of Ozarks forest that’s tucked inside Fayetteville’s southwestern city limits. Being within a city doesn’t mean it’s small: A three-hour hike Sunday wasn’t enough to get to its best rock formations and overlooks. I’ll have to head back to find what else it has tucked away, but this time I focused on some of the place’s smallest details, such as this passion flower:
The “passion” in the name of this complex and vivid bloom refers to the Passion, as in Jesus’ last days of life in Christian tradition — missionaries centuries ago saw reminders and symbols of those events in the numbers and shapes of the flower’s different parts, such as the three “nails” prominently displayed at the top. I think this was the first time I’d seen one in person.
I also almost walked face-first into this little thing:
For years I’ve wondered what these little green danglers are doing hanging down from branches like a fish lure. It turns out they’re inchworms, usually smaller than their name suggests, and this bungee-jumping behavior is a way to flee from predatory bugs in the trees above. After the threat’s gone, they reel themselves back up on their silk threads, as this one was doing.
Speaking of caterpillars, I also came across this devilish-looking mass of them:
Not sure what they are — Googling “fuzzy caterpillars with red heads” isn’t helpful — but they are remarkably social, and they might be a kind of tent caterpillar, the leaf-eaters responsible for those clumps of silk that smother tree limbs all summer long.
To round out this bunch of images, here’s a strange growth on a tree that looks like a mushroom and an actual mushroom for your viewing pleasure.
Thanks for looking.
We have a complicated relationship with fungus. We eat some kinds of it and bake or ferment with others, while other types are lethally poisonous. Even the name “fungus” sends my mind straight to gross and slimy. Fungi are an essential group of life forms — perhaps millions of species that keep nutrients flowing through entire ecosystems — and because of their work, they’ll always be connected to disease and death. Besides all of that, they can be too inconspicuous to notice. But they’re always there.
I drove down today to the old standby hiking area, Devil’s Den State Park, hoping to see if the rivers and waterfalls would be high and fast from the deluge that has soaked Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas in recent weeks. The streams here were fairly strong, but a day or so without the constant rain had calmed them down. What caught my eye instead were dozens of mushrooms — sparks of color in the otherwise constant green, if you can find them.
Fungi are neither plant nor animal, though they’re closer to the latter. Some disturbing varieties get their energy from living things, but most absorb nutrition from leaf litter and whatever else settles to the forest floor. What you can see in these photos is the proverbial tip of the iceberg; a much bigger network of threads and tendrils lies in the log or dirt beneath, occasionally sending up the visible segments to release spores. This lattice can carry on for thousands of years in some cases, just doing its thing unbothered by the surface world.
Outside of the world of fungi, it was a good day for a hike, and I wasn’t the only one out there.
Thanks for looking!
I talk about how I want winter to end, and wouldn’t you know it, the next day we get a perfect, beautiful snowfall with temperatures just below freezing and no wind: beautiful conditions for sledding and snowball-making. We’ve got about 3 or 4 inches on the ground now, including this fractal-looking slush that settled on a pond in southeast Fayetteville.
I walked around Huntsville Road for a while before heading to Wilson Park, which has popped up on this blog once or twice. I figured a few people might try the park’s hills for sledding. I underestimated that one.
People are very patient with my floating around with a camera. Laughs sounded out from every direction, and the energy was infectious. One guy even let me try a toboggan for the first time in years. (I’m 24 and sound so old.) It’s obviously below freezing, but the air felt oddly warm, comfortable enough to be outside for hours. If we’re stuck with winter, this is how it should be.
I hope winter’s bringing you some fun.
Thanks for looking,