Have you ever experienced a recurring dream?
I have one, that comes to me during ragweed season.
I find myself walking and walking in the country.
Trees and plants, woods and fields, hills and dales.
There are people with me, walking and talking, talking and talking, talking of stalking, pointing and gesticulating.
In the dream, I don’t know the time, but I know it’s very early. Too early for all this gesticulating – I can’t even say that word, at this early hour. Hand-waving, then, and sounds like they’re speaking in Latin. Are we monks?? I don’t understand any of it.
Then I hear a voice say clearly “…The F Stop…” and I look around for a bus. But there isn’t any, so we keep walking. I don’t know what time it is, but I know somehow, that it’s early, and we’re rambling in the grayness of Pre-Noon – that horrible, fuzzy zone that exists before lunchtime.
Without looking, I can tell my socks don’t match. One feels like it’s wool, knee-high, and itchy. I don’t own any socks like that.
It’s at that point, the slow dawning horror comes over me, as I become aware, that I’m not dreaming.
I’m actually awake, out and about at this ungodly hour, hiking apparently, and have fallen among some roving cult of naturalists, botanists, forest-bathers, and photographers. Why does this keep happening. Apparently sometime last night, once again, I agreed to an Early Morning Nature Walk. Don’t remember. Don’t remember if anyone thought to give me breakfast first, or brunch, like decent, civilized people. Don’t remember signing on to wander around in the shrubbery and thickets of binomial nomenclature.
But that explains the people in my dream, talking in Latin. And the “F Stops” – the photographer has us straying through sodden “Depths of Field” or suchlike, and my socks are soggy.
Ragweed Season. I don’t sleep well, and I don’t do awake so well, either. I’m stumbling along, coked to the gills on antihistamines, Echinacea, Sudafed, Mucinex. Just let the mosquitoes drink as much of my blood as they want. They try to fly off, but then the Benadryl hits, and they drop from the sky like stones.
Walking at breakfast time. Dogwoods, but no doughnuts, fritillaries, but no frittatas. Someone offers me a handful of Dragon’s Tongues. They’re surprisingly tiny and green. It seems like the dream-state is resuming. But “dragon’s tongues” turns out to be a mixture of grape vine tendrils and the leaves of a flowering mustard plant, they call “wild arugula.” Not bad! The grape tendrils are delicious, kind of lemony. Someone pulls out a thermos and gives me some coffee.
I open my eyes, and it’s a pretty nice day! Nature’s not so bad, really, as long as the plant life includes coffee beans and tea leaves.
I know, these pictures look like a nature walk with the Addams Family. I’m enjoying the fresh new foliage and spring flowers as much as anyone, really, but on a recent hike, it was the tree fungi that caught my eye.
Doesn’t the 2nd shot looks like Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge cake)?
I also wondered about the minimalist spider web in the 3rd shot. I once saw photos of spiderwebs, after the spiders had been given various drugs (OK, I guess it’s occurred to all of us to do that). The caffeine web was jazzy, random, frenetic-looking. The LSD web, as I remember, was unnaturally perfect.
Apparently nibbling on this fungus leads to a lack of ambition and inability to complete tasks?
Or just a desire to simplify and try something new, even if you don’t catch any juicy bugs that way.
St Paddy’s Day has come & gone, and still not much is wearing green in Upstate.
But this clump of moss was like a vibrant little island in the woods.
I took a picture of it with my cellphone, to look at daily, because it’s the greenest thing I’ve seen for months.
You may spot a few white pellets — the snow was pelting down in angular, misshapen granules.
I was once in a kind of sketchy pub, and the bartender told us, “No ice, it’s gone off.”
We stuck with bottled beer that night, and didn’t use the glasses.
I’d never heard of ice going bad before. But then, moving into a new apartment, we found the ice cubes in the freezer were shrunken in their little tray compartments, no longer cubes in fact, and seemed to have picked up a metallic odor. I guess there was that incident with the Titanic, too, now I think about it, under the heading “Bad Ice.”
Even the weather is tired of ice and snow by now. The precipitation has become unimaginative. Old Man Winter is spring cleaning, too tired to dream up new crystalline shapes, just shoveling out whatever icy trash is left in the clouds, sleet and grayish-white grit, can’t be bothered with delicate snowflakes.
And so in the cold dun and gray, a homely clump of moss receives its due, and becomes our hero for the day, a real luminary in the woods.
I also included this shot, of a strange non-fungus, “monotropa uniflora,” called by various names like “Ghost Plant,” “Indian Pipe,” or “Ghost Pipe.”
I would not care to hear whatever dark and sinister tune might whisper out of these pale ghost pipes.
From a distance, it has a pale, porcelain prettiness, and the stems are a rather nice pink, but on closer inspection, the overall effect is of an unhealthy, repellent fleshiness. But perhaps I’m just projecting, because of its vampirish lifestyle.
A lot of fascinating info on Tom Volk’s Fungus Web Page.
My first surprise, was to find out that it’s a herbaceous perennial plant, and somehow related to much more cheerful plants:
cranberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries!
Seems like it would be a strained relationship.
That pale, creepy Uncle Fester we never discuss when the young blueberries are around.
Not only did we find it growing amidst the various fungi, but like them, it lacks chlorophyll.
A parasitic existence, living on fungi.
It’s host fungi, in turn, have a symbiotic relationship to trees, often beeches.
Professor Volk mentions a “one-way flow of carbohydrates,” which immediately brought an image of me in a pasta restaurant.
Given its somewhat creepy appearance, and parasitic nature, its not surprising to find another, creepy, nickname,
I’ve only seen it a couple of times in my life, and was surprised to find it again, embedded in greenish glass, in the Corning Glass Museum!
This is an amazing glass creation by Paul Stankard, “Cloistered Tri-Level Botanical with Indian Pipe Flower and Spirits”
I’m sorry it’s not a better picture, I photographed it inside a glass case, which could have used a wash. We know which visitors are making things smeary, we can identify their fingerprints.
But if you look closely, you can make out the spirits on the underside of this strange plant.
Here’s a link to a better image, on the museum website
Apparently Native Americans discovered a number of medicinal uses, including a root tea, used as a sedative and soporific.
I don’t experiment with such things, and in this case, doesn’t it look like, as a sleeping aid, it might just work a bit too well?