Archives for posts with tag: winter

In cold dark times the seeds and spores are hiding in wait… the deep darkness is fertile. Moisture, warmth and light arrive as the sun nears. The trees’ seeds begin to germinate and the mosses capsules get ready to release the spores of spring. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Last Sunday I hiked through a hemlock forest to a sunny hilltop. I looked at one oak tree and saw many inhabitants. There was a hole with mysterious scat, many lichens, some fungi, and inside a crevice there was a group of beetles sheltered from the cold. They appeared to be dark fireflies. Similar to light producing fireflies but with no light producing organs, these beetles live through the Winter. A tree is more than a tree. We are all more than ourselves.


Photo by Rebecca Arnoldi

Thanks to the Boston Mycology Club and our fearless leader, Lawrence Millman, sixteen of us braved cold air and strong winds to see all kinds of fungi that are able to survive the drying cold winds. Most, like this Olive-toothed Polypore, inhabit wood. Wood holds more moisture than the ground does, and the real challenge of freezing temperatures and cold winds is the lack of moisture *( *Lawrence Millman)

In frigid temperatures, sixteen Boston Mushroom Club members went out in search of winter fungi. Larry Millman, our leader, seemed impervious to the cold: his hands bare, while my mittened hands felt frost-bitten. We looked at all sorts of amazing organisms and learned about their lives. The Japanese Fan, pictured below lives all over the world. It grows on wood and after drying up in the freezing temperatures (it’s the dryness that is the real problem) it is able to rehydrate.

Japanese Fan detached from host log (not by me!)

The night before last I dreamt of a red bird. The next morning I took out the compost. Our bin was frozen solid so I threw the food scraps on the ground. I sat in the snow and watched some sparrows and juncos checking out the bounty. The birds all dispersed when a young cardinal came over. He sat eating pomegranate seeds. With mittened hands I sketched and recorded him on film.


That night I was told that a red bird lay dead in the front yard. I feared it was the cardinal. Did I kill the cardinal with pomegranate seeds from our compost? This morning I went out to see the dead bird. I was ready to see my young cardinal friend and muse… but he wasn’t there. It was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.DSCN4777DSCN4785 I was both happy and sad.  Happy that the cardinal hadn’t died. And that my pomegranate seeds hadn’t killed him. Sad to see this beautiful bird dead.   No longer feeling any guilt, I pondered, How did he die? Far from any windows striking a window was impossible. No marks from cats were visible. Perhaps this bird… was, like many , tricked by our this year’s warm Fall into staying in a place where insects and sap are hard to come by on our coldest Winter days.  I, living in my house warmed by fossil fuels, buying amazon products flown in from afar, using petroleum based products in packaging of my groceries and more, was not completely innocent in this death. They are a migratory bird and we are at the Southern part of their breeding range.  Some travel as far South as Panama, females tend to go farther South. Some males stick around here for the Winter. But our cold snap may have been just too much.

For the birds…may 2018 to be a year of making decisions wisely… When in doubt, leave the carbon out! Happy 2018!

cardinal in the snow

mitten drawing sitting in the snow


ice in Boston harbor


Naturalist/Sky lover’s quiz: Can you tell in what month I took this photo?

This has been a difficult Winter in New England. More for wildlife than for us. Snow storms kept coming, taking away heat, food sources, shelter, water. I ran into some of those that didn’t make it along the muddy river… a Black Duck and a Mallard.IMG_1538IMG_1152  One day after passing those past, I entered the museum and saw Kathe Kollwitz’s sculpture of a young girl in death’s grip.  Later I walked outside, by the river, and saw a female Mallard, looking very weak, with a male staying close and seeming to support her along.IMG_1308IMG_1309. Winter is a time of loss. Those that don’t die may hibernate or remain dormant. After loss, sometimes there is a pause before new life emerges. This pause, between Winter and Spring, is for some the most challenging time. It is when we feel the loss, but the new life seems still abstract and elusive. I think this is the time that we need to let our dreams burn bright… let ourselves be completely immersed in what is clear, deep and ready to flower inside us. Barbara Kingsolver writes,” The sky was too bright and the ground so unreliable, she couldn’t look up for very long. Instead her eyes held steady on the fire bursts of wings reflected across water….” Here’s to the hopes and dreams…  we can let them grow strong inside us.  Spring and its fertile ground will soon be ready to welcome animals, plants and our truest dreams to live and flourish.


I lay under the Maple tree in a  yoga stretch my breath keeping rhythm. Suddenly a titmouse landed on the privet bush beside me. It began squawking loudly. I lay still, but watched and listened as the bird continued to squawk agitatedly. Another titmouse came over to check out the scene. Then three chickadees came in. Then a  White Breasted Nuthatch,flew to the Maple, walked down it toward me, came in close…they all called, seeming to support the riled up squawker. S/he came over to the Maple, just above my head. We looked at each other; I looked into eyes big, dark, beady. Are you telling me something? Or telling your companions about me? It seemed like  the birds were actually going to perch on me. I moved and they flew off … I wondered, what this bird’s message could be. Did it think I was dead? ;a potential source of insects to eat? Did it think I was in trouble and altruistically trying to notify others to help me? The message I took was this- this old Norway Maple, a tree we have considered cutting down , is old, considered a “weed tree” and could fall on our house. Yet it is full of life and possibility, especially for insect-eating birds like the chickadee, Nuthatch and Titmouse. I took the visit as a plea to leave the tree standing- let it die slowly- let life continue on inside and around it as long as possible… perhaps even after its death, (as dead trees actually have more biomass than live trees and provide great habitat for cavity nesters). And look at yards as habitat. They are home for urban and suburban dwelling wildlife. May we preserve green space in the city. Maybe this was not what the titmouse was saying, but it’s the message I took. Tufter TitmouseNatural history note: Titmice and Nuthatches live mostly off Acorns in Fall and Winter ( there is an oak in the yard) Titmice form long-term pair bonds ( so it could have been a couple). Titmice, nuthatches and chickadees  form mixed species flocks outside of breeding season for enhanced feeding purposes…