As above, so below. The day that ended with less than one degree of apparent distance between the two brightest objects in the night sky began for me with the finding of several luminous things. It was a cool and cloudless morning, and in the woods, the spent flowers of the oaks rained down every time the wind blew, making an almost imperceptible patter.
Newly opened leaves already supplied food and shelter to a variety of insects. The first rays of sun caught one small caterpillar, the larva of a dull brown duskywing, still out gobbling on a bright green oak leaf. Perhaps it was concerned that its own green was still too dark to offer an effective camouflage. Its bedroll waited a couple of leaves away.
A rose-breasted grosbeak let loose with its usual string of brilliant notes from a black birch tree at the edge of the woods. “Rose” doesn’t begin to describe the patch of color on its breast: an almost unnatural hue, like a punk chick’s hairdo. I tried and failed to get a good photo, but after it flew, I discovered a new lady’s-slipper orchid almost directly underneath its perch.
Most of the trees are fully leafed out now, but a few canopy gaps always remain. Small patches of sun moved slowly across the forest floor, growing or shrinking as they moved. And since it was a cool morning, the flies moved with them. For half a minute, the roof of Jack’s pulpit sported a bug-eyed gargoyle.
I watched a small blowfly apparently pollinating a Solomon’s-seal, crawling up into one of the bell-shaped blossoms, then backing out and flying away before I could take its picture. Again, though, I was quickly compensated, this time with a perfectly motionless deerfly on a wild yam leaf.
A clump of cinnamon fern fiddleheads huddled in the middle of a crowd of mayapples. They were facing inward not out of antipathy toward their toxic neighbors, but in anticipation of the imminent rise of their leader, the brown, fertile frond whose resemblance to a cinnamon stick gives this fern its common name.
Hidden under their parasols, the mayapple blossoms remained thoroughly mysterious. They depend on insect pollination to produce fertile seeds, yet they offer no nectar in compensation. How do they do it? The eventual fruits, ripening in mid-June, are the only part of the plant that isn’t poisonous. In fact, they’re said to be very good. I’ve never had one, because the animals always get them first, but maybe this year I’ll be lucky. Would I deprive a chipmunk of its treat? I would.