Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Knapsack 5-24/31

Notes From My Knapsack 5-24/31-12

Jeff Gill


Angles of perspective




Now that the canopy has filled in across the forest, with only the sycamores waiting for the end of June to fully leaf out, there's a green canvas over most of our local hills and valleys.


Add in that the season, not quite summer by the calendar but as official as needs be when school lets out, now gives us cumulus clouds more than stratus layers, and you see something unique to this time of year.


When the sunlight is general, punctuated by puffs and clumps of cloud, instead of winter's slate roof dimming the whole of creation, you see in May and June and July the play of rushing shadow running down the slopes and filling up the hollows.


In truth, it's the dark edge that's moving, but depending on your vantage point, it usually appears that the brightness is what's rippling over the green shimmer, on the move to illumine and examine and, if you're lucky, to rush towards you and splash your spot with warmth and brightness.


Walking down the new, ADA-compliant path at the Great Circle to the parking area (the old path had too steep a grade for wheeled chairs, and now a simple re-drawn arc shifts the slope to where it's navigable; hat tip, OHS and the Convention & Visitor's Bureau!), I saw as I walked through a cluster of tulip poplars that their blossoms had burst their cases, with tan outer layers scattered on the pavement.


A hundred feet above, the broad yellow and orange and pink blossoms face up, away from ground-level concerns, the pinnacle of these "redwoods of Ohio," with their own seasonal ecosystems of insects and butterflies and birds enjoying and using them to the full, while invisible to we earthbound creatures below.


Over the next few weeks, having done their work in the lifecycle of these multi-century behemoths, they will slowly shed their petals and create a carpet of pastels that appears as if by magic. Occasionally, a scampering squirrel will knock loose a full blossom, and give us down below a faint hint of what it must look like in the penthouse of the forest's towering apartment blocks.


Here atop the soil, we've seen a similar piece of natural alchemy at work, with the explosion of hairy bittercress across our lawns in early spring. It's mostly run its course, and has faded to a last few sprouts in the dimmer corners of our lawns.


The warm winter and damp conditions were a springboard for this species; that much we all get, but the amazement is from wondering "where has it been all these years?" Some botanists have suggested that it is always around in empty lots and un-treated corners of the landscape, and that the 2012 explosion is because of a multi-year arc of warmth and soil temperature, edging the seeds into a profusion only noticeable at the peak. Others have suspected that the hairy bittercress has lain largely dormant, part of the rich brew that is topsoil, erupting all at once when the time is right.


Nature is more than just clouds, trees, and grass. When you start to look more closely, the fractal detail gives you more wonders the deeper into the picture you go. Pixels, it ain't!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor; tell him your story of nature's beauty at knapsack77@gmail.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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