Category Archives: Flora

Spring 2021

spring near the Arts and Industries Building, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

I started writing a post in early April–it is still in my drafts file–but I got annoyed by WordPress’ new publishing format and let my words and photos dangle in the airless vault of the Internet. Even though “technology” was featured in two of my most recent job titles, I am somewhat of a Luddite. However, I do think that as programs, platforms, applications, and what-all become more streamlined and standardized, it is possible that creative work can become overly lockstep. Enough of my carping excuses for my procrastination: I want to write about spring before Memorial Day!

I might have shaded the truth a bit (above) about the reason/s for my procrastination. What is slowing me down is that I keep thinking about the almost 600,000 people who have died of Covid-19 in the United States and the millions more around the world, and about those who loved and cared for them. Also, I live 4.5 miles away (by foot) from the U.S. Capitol and I was under curfew on January 6, 2021. That spooked me and saddened me. Before the Inauguration, Tom saw an armed gunboat patrolling the Potomac River near Georgetown. When the celebratory fireworks began on Inauguration night, I worried that our country and its institutions were under attack again. I continue to be gobsmacked by lies, disrespect, viciousness, and what-all. Also, I feel somewhat discomfited about how lucky I have been through all this mess and about the–mostly–good spring I have had.

cherry tree, Arlington, Virginia
tulips in Rosslyn
golden ragwort

Some Paragraphs

  • I have been wanting to tell you this for awhile: For months, I got through each day by getting the next day’s coffee ready ridiculously early, like at 1 p.m. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to get the coffee machine ready before bed, let alone the next morning. Not a solution to any problem, but, and this is the truth now, having the coffee ready to go helped me feel ready for whatever might be coming the next day.
  • I don’t usually pray, but I do try to send good thoughts and love to our children and their families every night. Some nights, I fall asleep before I finish my good thoughts.
  • It has been almost nine weeks since our second vaccinations. Tom and I have been lucky to see and hug many family members and friends. We have been to Shenandoah National Park, Williamsburg, Pittsburgh, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. We have more jaunts in the works. Now, we are staying fairly close to home. Later, we don’t know where we will go. We are still waiting to find out which way the wind is blowing.
Shenandoah National Park
  • We have had a beautiful spring here. I think we always have beautiful springs wherever we are, but this season has been another one. On April 26 on Theodore Roosevelt Island I noted these flora and fauna: Carolina wren with oak catkin in mouth, another C wren?, another wren or warbler???, mallards, heard red-winged blackbird, several birds I couldn’t identify, turkey vultures, robins, sparrows, lots of minnows from bridge by the marsh, cabbage butterflies, other butterflies–slight possibility of a zebra swallowtail?, pawpaws-no flowers, tall meadow rue, lots of garlic mustard, Virginia waterleaf, Hartford fern?, horsetails. As usual, I had a few questions about what I observed. I can report that I have now seen some blooming pawpaws and that the tall meadow rue is going into flower. Note: All these nature words aren’t just small items on a useless list; they keep me close to the ground where–even in difficult times–I feel safe.
Virginia waterleaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island
trees and sun, Theodore Roosevelt Island

Spring did come after that difficult winter and now summer is about to follow. The 17-year cicadas are tuning up around here and the roses are coming out. I hope to see some of you soon. So long (as my Dad would say) and best wishes.

Winter 2021

I started this article a week ago during Arlington’s small bout of snow and ice.  I couldn’t seem to figure out how to effectively reconcile my homebound (from weather and pandemic) current self with younger versions of me who always loved to be out in the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to find the words for all those winter feelings I didn’t feel this year. (See Winter: January 1, 2019 for some of my words about winter). Today, I realize that I don’t need to dig for those words and feelings anymore. I have received my first Covid-19 vaccination, I have walked five miles today, buds are plumping up on the witch hazel in Hillside Park, and spring is coming soon.  Before spring arrives in earnest, I want to share some words and photos about my favorite refuge during this winter of our pandemic and social disunion.

witch hazel, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

This winter, I have been walking often on Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is 0.8 miles from our condo.  It’s not the ponderosas on the North Rim or the slickrock in Canyonlands, but I do love this tiny little bit of the national park system, just as I love the other parks.

While TR Island is only 88.5 acres, heavily visited (over 160,000 people visit yearly), and cheek by jowl with our hyper-urban Rosslyn, Arlington neighborhood, when I am on the island I find respite from this distressing time. I would have thought that walking here on this island–a little over a stone’s throw across the water from the Kennedy Center–would be much different from walking on the North Rim or in Canyonlands, but, somehow, it feels much the same. I glimpse a red-bellied woodpecker, I see the mallards paddle around the marsh, and I marvel at the fungus on the stump. I want to hug the beech trees. The underbrush all mixed together with water, snow, and leaves reminds me of the lakes of my childhood. I find solitude on the island’s Upland Trail. Seeing the Paul Manship statue of Theodore Roosevelt lifts my spirits.  None of the U.S. presidents have been without flaws, but, still, on every trip to the island, seeing the statue, of Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, eased some of my pain related to the presidency of Donald Trump. Time after time in these last months, while my mind and heart were filled with worry and sadness, my feet headed toward the island where my body, mind, and heart revived.

I keep meaning to go to the island early in the day with my binoculars. I want to sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen to and watch the birds. I think I will go next week. Soon enough, I will be hearing the frogs.

 

sycamore along the river

mallards, theodore Roosevelt Island

forest floor, Theodore Roosevelt Island

stump and fungus, Theodore Roosevelt Island

beech leaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island

leaves and log with snow, Theodore Roosevelt Island

marsh, Theodore Roosevelt Island`

Theodore Roosevelt statue, Theodore Roosevelt Island


I hope you are vaccinated or will be soon. I hope you will be able to visit loved ones soon. I hope spring will come soon for us all.

 

 

 

November 21, 2020

Thursday morning, I thought of a title for my latest (this is it) post: Hope in the Time of Pandemic. At 9:30 A.M. while Arlington County staff and volunteers were restoring native habitat in a corner of a little park [Benjamin Banneker Park) formerly covered with invasive bamboo, this self-assured title sounded about right.

Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

getting ready to plant, November 19, 2020

planting, Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

A few hours later, I decided that my nod to Garcia Marquez was too flippant when more than 250,000 people have died in our country. So, I thought I would call this article Hope and I wished that word would be appropriate and accurate.

Then, Thursday afternoon the news came about the mess in certifying the Wayne County, Michigan presidential votes. I took this issue to heart; I was born in Wayne County.  I did not feel hopeful at all.  Now, I didn’t have a name for this piece I was trying to write.

And so it has gone these last months: I am hopeful; I despair. My mind, heart, and gut seesaw.

Friday and today, Saturday, November 21, I feel more balanced. I am seeing the hopeful signs again: in my family and friends, in nature, even (sometimes) in the news.

I realized, again, that I do better when I am close to the ground.  When I tuck in the native plants, cold soil invigorates my senses and my hope revives. The fall palette–heavy on yellows and browns–calms my soul.  In the evening, the early darkness comforts me. The concurrent bonus for this early darkness is that Tom and I watch beautiful dawns from our living room almost every morning.

Amsonia (bluestar), Freedom Park, Rossyln, Arlington

strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), November 20, 2020

stonecrop I planted in Hillside Park in late summer

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

My condolences to the families and friends of those who have fallen ill and died. My thanks to all those helpers out there.  Like Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to do, I do look for the helpers and I see them out there all around.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Autumn 2020

Note: I dithered so long that the title of this article originally was “September 2020.”

I think of my mom and dad every day and–almost without exception–that makes me feel happy and as contented as I am able to feel these days. Autumn is a little bit different, though. Sometimes, in the fall, I really miss them and I feel sad. This feeling doesn’t usually last long, but this year it is worse.  No surprise there, I think.  I miss my brothers and their families. Tom and I see all of our children in Zoom meetings and–every couple weeks–most of them outside at a park. I pet the little dog, Randi, but I also want to hug the children. Tom and I–socially distanced/masked–see some of our friends, but I miss our dear ones far away.

I am fine enough, and I think I am lucky. I mostly try to be grateful.

I don’t want to leave you with the memory of my carping, so below are several photos I’ve collected in the clouds, mist, and sunshine of September and October. Love, Lynda


clouds, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

U.S. Capitol from Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.

Mathews Arm Campground, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

bee and flower after the rain

pearl crescent on white snakeroot

strawberry bush, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

milkweed and milkweed bugs, Bluemont Park, Arlington, Virginia

eastern hemlocks, Cathedral State Park, West Virginia

Comforts

Note: I began this post the last week of May 2020.  I had an idea to write about things that comfort me in, as they say in those T.V. ads, “these uncertain times.”  I have been thinking about these uncertain times.   I thought about the plagues of Europe I had read about. I thought about the Navajo Nation. I miss being with my children, but I know I am lucky; I just can’t hug them right now.

Then, things fell apart (even further than they ever have since January 2017). How can a pandemic with over 100,000 dead not be first on my list of sorrows this morning?  I feel like I am back in the uncertain times of my youth, circa 1967-1968, but worse.

I need comfort even more today and I hope I can offer some respite for a few minutes.


About seven or eight years ago I asked my sister-in-law Judy if she would teach me to knit and she said sure.  I have always admired my relatives and friends who could knit, crochet, and do other crafts.  I thought I would enjoy knitting while I talked or watched T.V.  Lord knows I could use the comfort and calm that such activities are supposed to provide.  I bought enough soft brown (mostly) alpaca yarn to knit Tom a scarf.  You will see below how far I got on the scarf.  I wanted to concentrate on my knit/ purl tasks, but sitting with my family on reunion weekend, I just couldn’t. The words were more important to me than the task, I guess.  Back home, I asked my friend Robin to help me back on track a couple of times, but I did not understand. I did not persevere.

my knitting

A couple of years later when my friend Donna heard this story, she offered to teach me to crochet instead. I tried. Donna was very patient. She told me there were YouTube videos I could watch to help me when I forgot–again–what I was supposed to do. You can see how far I got on whatever I was making below.

my crocheting

While I have not yet learned to do calming and lovely crafts–no March sister here knitting socks for the Union Army while waiting for Marmee to come home–I can do some things that comfort me some in these times.

 

 

For example:

I love nature and I love writing lists. Related to that, I have–sort of–wanted to be a naturalist for about 50 years. So, I love writing lists that include plants, animals, and specific tidbits about nature.  I recently started a list describing the flora and fauna of Hillside Park, a nearby little public park where Tom and I volunteer.  Just setting up the table and starting to list the trees helped me feel more relaxed than I had in days.  Here is a sample from the list:

Name Scientific Name Native? Notes
Trees/Shrubs  
arrowwood viburnum Viburnum dentatum yes
beech Fagus grandifolia yes
black cherry Prunus serotina yes
fragrant sumac Rhus aromatica yes
black locust Robinia pseudoacacia) yes
catalpa Catalpa speciosa yes blooming now; end of May
hackberry Celtis occidentalis yes
kousa dogwood Cornus kousa no
mulberry, prob white Morus alba no if this turns out to be red mulberry, it is a welcome native, but not likely, I think

oaks, Hillside Park, Arlington Virginia

Books about trees comfort me. Last week, Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests by Joan Maloof reminded me of old forests I have walked in. Just writing this now, this morning, calms my anxious heart a little.

Like so many others, I have been doing quite a bit of baking these last months.  Actually, I have needed to curtail this urge somewhat because a) while we do exercise and take walks, there has been a great deal of sitting while reading, watching T.V. and, for me, compulsive solitaire playing b) we don’t have the metabolisms we had back in the day when I would bake a treat every day.

butter tarts with Michigan cherries and walnuts

Even more than my baking, watching Tom cook old favorites–remembering happy times with family and friends–comforts me.  Both my appetite and my heart have been satisfied with Tom’s meals: Lasagna, albondigas soup, chile verde, meatballs and tomato sauce!

I don’t think listening to music calms me down; more like it excites me, makes me cry, and, sometimes gives me the shivers–but those reactions provide their own comfort. Mostly, we listen to classical music, but lately we have also been listening to folk and rock, too.  Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, the Beatles, even the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), have caused that sharp intake of breath.

I have been thinking about Leonard Cohen these last several days. The song I am particularly  thinking about is Democracy. I hope Leonard is right and that someday (soon) , “Democracy is coming to the USA.”  This idea comforts me and I still (mostly) believe it. Please be well. Please be safe. Peace.

Love,  Lynda

 

This May and Others

At least by my personal reckoning, we didn’t have real winter this year here in Arlington, Virginia. There were a handful of cold days and some smatterings of snow, but that was it.* Missing winter, spring began earlier than usual.  Maybe that was a foreshadowing of catastrophe that I shouldn’t have missed.

I last went to a museum on March 11. We had two of our children over for dinner on March 13. We went camping March 14. Things were changing and then they were changing more.

March ended and April came–sometimes with its showers–always with sadness and worry.   It is May now and we do have flowers.  I still have few words worth sharing, but I thought I would post some May flowers from now and from other times.  I wish you well; I hope you will be safe.

May 2, 2020, Arlington, Virginia

May 22, 2019, Arlington, Virginia

May 22, 2019, Arlington, Virginia

May 4, 2018, Washington, D.C.

May 4, 2018, Washington, D.C.

May 10, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia

May 19, 2016, Washington, D.C.

May 16, 2015, Charlottesville

May 16, 2015, Charlottesville, Virginia

May 19, 2014, Denver, Colorado

May 14, 2013, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia


* I admit to wearing my long underwear quite a bit on my walks even without the winter, but  that’s just because I am such a bona fide sweater-wearing old person now. This from one who used to pride herself on running out to the mailbox barefoot through the snow!

Trees, Part 2: Photos

I’ve had plenty of time on my hands and I haven’t been reading as much as usual, (except for the coronavirus news). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been going to the condo gym and exercising in the living room hasn’t been too interesting or invigorating.  Anyhow, to soothe myself, and maybe you, I thought I would put up some more tree photos with little narratives to go with them.

Well, I found the photos I wanted, but the little snippets sounded like I was back in high school journalism class (if not junior high journalism class).  The writing needs work, but I don’t have the words right now.  However, Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, just gave us the stay-at-home order. I want to send the trees out now with the promise of some words soon.

Please stay safe; please stay well.

Trees

Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) in the neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

Garden of the Gods

Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) Garden of the Gods,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

smoothbark Arizona cypress

smoothbark Arizona cypress (Cypressus arizonica), Sedona, Arizona

Congaree National Park

old growth bottomland hardwood forest, Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) at sunset, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Transept Canyon from Widforss Point

ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa), Transept Canyon from Widforss Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Shenandoah National Park

mixed forest, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

 

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) near Canyonlands National Park, Utah

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

old growth white pine (Pinus strobus), Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania

Trees

treehugger, Inyo National Forest, California

I love–and I don’t believe that is hyperbole–many kinds of trees. When I was a small child,  I loved the Colorado blue spruce on a nearby street in my Detroit neighborhood.  Even as a little kid, I think I knew what an excellent blue spruce it was and at Christmastime there were holiday lights on it.

In my mind, I see the trees of our home on the lake almost as vividly as I see my dad raking the leaves or my mom taking care of the petunias in the window box by the door (later, as the trees grew ever larger, I think she had to put in impatiens). Mostly we had oaks–my Dad said they were black oaks– and hickories.  We had a sassafras down by the lake and, for a while, a cherry up by the mailbox.

Once I traveled west in 1970, I loved the ponderosas, pinyons, junipers. aspens,  bristlecone pines, and many others. When I moved to Virginia, I fell in love with the tulip poplars.

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

 

aspens, La Sal Mountains

bristlecone pine, Great Basin National Park

tulip poplar, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

What I can’t understand is how I failed to focus on sycamores for so many decades. I started noticing them about six years ago in Arizona.  Then, back here in Virginia, I finally noticed that sycamores stand sentinel along the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers (among others). Wild, ragged, and ghostly:  Sycamores make me think about the tangled beauty of this world.

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Arizona

sycamore on the banks of the Shenanandoah River

American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) on the banks of the Shenandoah River, Virginia

The News I Need

I started  compulsively reading The Washington Post online the morning of September 11, 2001 in my office in Northwest Washington, D.C. After the attacks there were the anthrax letters and the snipers. My office was only a few miles from my home, but it was across the Potomac River. I used to fantasize about how –if Chain Bridge were blown up–I could swim across.  I didn’t need to resort to that and things returned to an uncomfortable new normal.

The last few days, I have been reading the  paper compulsively again. Sure enough, almost every time I log on, there is a new red (or sometimes black) breaking news banner. I am resolving to control myself. Tom and I plan on going camping tomorrow.

The News I Need Today

Although people will not be able to see it for awhile (the Smithsonian Institution is closing for now), there is a lovely exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Chiura Obata: American Modern. Obata’s art and his words are the news I need today. Please be well.

Sequoia feet

Sequoia feet

 

 

Today (EST)

About thirty minutes ago I gave myself the choice of spending the afternoon finishing Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, watching an afternoon NFL football game, or–now that summer appears over–putting up some final summer flower photos.  I think the novel is wonderful, but it is too emotionally challenging for me today.  I love football, but I was in the stands when Michigan beat Maryland yesterday; that is enough.  So, I am posting some photos. With them, I send my (still) hopeful wishes for us all.

tulip poplar flower, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

pitcher plant, Bartholdi Park, Washington, DC

Dutchman’s pipe vine, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Washington, DC

bee on phlox, Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware

monarda

unidentified, June 14, 2019

at the National Arboretum, Washington, DC

pickerel weed, Punderson State Park, Ohio

pinkweed, Punderson State Park, Ohio

pussy ears, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Washington, DC

toad lilies, Bartholdi Park, Washington, DC

swamp titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), USBG Regional Garden, Washington, DC