Foggy morning ramble

grape tendrilThe fog didn’t burn off this morning until after 11:00, prolonging the dim, early morning light for hours. At times, the sun would break through for a few minutes, only to disappear again when more fog billowed up from the valley. I went for a slow ramble on an empty stomach, which probably sounds like a lot less fun than it was. Walking through the woods, I kept to the moss as much as possible, thrice surprising deer at close range where they had bedded down among the laurel and huckleberries. They leapt to their feet and went crashing off into the fog.

Nyssa leaf webAt first light, I’d listened to the wicka-wicka-wicka calls of migrant wood thrushes, interwoven with the back-and-forth hooting of great-horned owls a half-mile away. The resident thrushes stopped singing at the end of the first week of August, and presumably headed south shortly thereafter. Since then, our mountain has provided temporary shelter for who knows how many hundreds or thousands more wood thrushes from points farther north. They fly all night, touch down around dawn and forage all morning, fueling up for the next stage of their epic journey. Now, around nine o’clock, I spot one flitting about in a black gum sapling beside the trail, presumably searching for the high-calorie berries signaled by the already-turned, bright orange leaves.

peeling globeOut in the field, the cloying odor of goldenrod mingles with the pungent stench of cow manure wafting up from some freshly sprayed field in Sinking Valley. The resulting mixture actually isn’t bad. I once heard a radio interview with an inventor of perfumes, who explained that a successful scent had to have something really putrid in the mix in order to achieve a proper balance. “A bit of skunk can give just the right note of excitement,” she said.

A monarch butterfly appears out of the fog, already flying at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It flaps and glides low over the goldenrod, landing every fifty feet or so. I set off in pursuit of it, which isn’t too big a challenge: its slow, meandering course is a good fit with my own pace. But it’s going to take us a while to get to Mexico.

foggy monarch

13 Comments


  1. Nice post, Dave. Love the grapevine – and great shot of the monarch!

    The goldenrod here is profuse. I hiked along a path through huge swaths of it today that were buzzing loud with bees – I ran, a bit freaked out, but I think the bees were just busy gobbling up the last bits of nectar. They can be pesty this time of year when they can’t find any food.

    Reply

  2. Thanks, Leslee.

    Yeah, the goldenrod flowers are always covered with honeybees and native bees here, too, but I don’t think I’ve ever been stung by one. I brush through or past goldenrod several times a day, on my way up to my parents’ house or to pick mint for tea, and the bees just bounce off me harmlessly. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, are bad news. The difference of course is that a wasp or hornet can sting repeatedly without harming itslef, whereas for a bee, using its stinger is a death sentence.

    Reply

  3. (Of course, if you’re allergic to bee stings, disregard everything I just wrote.)

    Reply

  4. Wow. What an amazing picture of that butterfly. Giving such an impression of slow movement that it could almost be a ray underwater.

    Reply

  5. Well, monarchs are not rapid flutterers — don’t do that randomized dodging-about thing that so many other butterflies do. That’s because they taste really bad to birds, apparently, so don’t have to take any special measures to elude them.

    Reply

  6. I like the way the clouds fade into the page

    Reply

  7. The nysaa/web shot is so nicely composed… it could stand to be blown up much larger. The monarch-on-mist photo is very atmospheric. A very calm morning feel to that one.

    Reply

  8. I’m pretty danged jealous of your amblin’s. The chiggars have me pretty well pinned-down until October. Can you imagine not being able to go for a walk without being penalized by 10 to 20 longlasting, irritating itchy welts, mostly in pointedly intimate places? Even a walk in a mown field will leave its mark. I used to say “damn the chiggars”, powder myself with sulfur and head out to my itchy reward, but nowadays I mostly just hole up; I suppose my vigor has diminished. In my prime I cultivated a relish for the rich urge to scratch and tried to count it as one of the lusty appetites which flared with the season.

    Through the torpid heat of summer I don’t mind being roadbound but these cooler days I really want to stretch my legs in the woods. I wonder, has Missouri always been like this?

    Reply

  9. Bill – That’s too bad. I really sympathize with your stir-craziness as well as your decision to stay indoors most of the time. I really hope chiggers don’t get that bad here, but with global warming, I fear they will. And I probably wouldn’t move farther north in response, because I don’t care much for black flies or mosquitoes, either – the bane of the north woods. So yeah, I’m a wimp, too!

    Reply

  10. I felt as if I were in the same stretch of woods, with your eyes sharpening and making more aware (awareing?) my own.
    Or maybe it was the camera. That first photo came alive and glistened and curved around, revolving the light and dark. My first thought was SNAKE moving! Later the words “snake tendril” appeared for an instant, then vanished and refused to return despite my poking at the keys. Weird, snaky. . . .
    So thanks for the quiet stroll; let’s do it again!

    Reply

  11. Jo – You bet! Glad you liked it. Interesting that you saw a snake in that wild grape tendril. I don’t know what I saw, but I don’t mind admitting that it isn’t the picture I wanted to take, which was shot from the other direction but turned out fuzzy. But luck was with me there, as too with the monarch photo, which was also quite different from what I was trying to do. Photography can be a great education in letting go.

    Reply

Leave a Reply