A big part of the joy of keeping this journal in the past was immersing myself in the woods all by myself at least once at month to poke around and check out the state of the woods. It’s not a deep dive off-trail, more of a safe meander along the fire lines and taking a few pictures. Looking back over the years, I realize it means too much to me not to do it, . . . so the Longleaf Walkabout is back.
This July has felt more like August, with extreme heat, thunderstorms nearly every afternoon, steamed-up windows and the kind of lush overgrowth I associate with the end days of summer. Kind of makes me wonder what August will bring. Whatever it is, I’ll show it here. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have an early fall. But I want to savor every single minute of this extraordinary thing we call life and not rush through a day, much less a season. It’s astonishing that we’re here at all, yeah?
From wherever you are, I hope you’ll walk with me and savor the midsummer longleaf woods.
This sweet path near the house leads to a fire line road. Notice how the young longleaf pine is bent over and curving in an effort to get out from under the hardwoods and find a way to grow skyward.
I was only away from the house a few minutes when rain threatened to end my small adventure. An old shooting house, long unused, provided shelter. I stood under it and enjoyed the shower. While there, I noticed something bright yellow on the ground nearby. You can see the yellow splotches in the bottom left corner of the picture. They are mushrooms! Typical serendipitous discovery of a woods walk.
Brilliant, ruffled fungi, perhaps chanterelles. Does anyone know?
Typical of our Gulf coast summer showers, the sun was back out soon, the sky beautiful, and so I continued my tramp.
Fungi love this hot, wet weather. The one on the left is growing from the bottom of a fallen tree that’s been on the forest floor a long time.
I was thrilled to get my first dragonfly photo. There are lots of them around, but it never occurred to me (duh) to stand still as a rock and let my camera do the work. My brother, Wally, identified this fellow for me. He was pretty sure it’s a Blue Dasher, although with the “full frontal” and no side view, he couldn’t be certain. Wally has lots of fantastic dragonfly photos at his site, Our Florida Journal. The main claim to fame there is “birds and words” (check it out and you’ll see what I mean), but there are also dragonflies and other cool critters. It’s a well-crafted celebration of the natural world.
We’ve had so much rain this poor bedraggled man-of-the-earth vine flower can’t hold its head up another day.
The sturdy green-eyes seem to stand up cheerful and straight no matter the weather.
Pretty little meadow beauties peek out everywhere.
This was strange enough to catch my eye. These two pod-like constructions appear to be built onto the slender stalk of this small tree, rather than having sprouted from it. Could it be a home for some type of flying insect? Any ideas?
Only a simple home built in a tree, but how lovely.
Tantalizing hint through a fern fan of the bubbling spring below.
This is how a lightning-hit longleaf pine deconstructs itself. It takes years.
Some ferns are wise. They seem to sense summer’s end long before anything else.
Well, almost anything else.
The forest is maturing now, with soft brown pine needle paths everywhere.
Dainty pale flowers on thin stalks lend an air of enchantment.
The shaded, canopied walkways are at least ten degrees cooler than the sun-bright clearing. Each time I leave the woods to be in but not of the world, when I return to this narrow lane my breathing slows. “To the woods,” I whisper. “To the woods.”