There is an oven door open somewhere, maybe more than one oven left open it seems. I am baking like a greasy cookie and feel my joints melting, melting! I cannot seem to find air light enough to fill my lungs. My bare feet dance dangerously across the pavement of the the driveway and rush to the shadows of the green at the edge of my woods.
I fall to my knees and wipe salty and acidic moisture away that is clouding my eyes. Now that I have been brought to my knees I do see the world from a new angle. I crawl gasping into the shade and find the most magical moss. Have you ever looked closely at moss? Do you know how absolutely cool and soft and forgiving moss is? Like that perfect mother we never had. Do you realize it is actually the valuable bedroom rug of the earth mother and she will let you lie on it for almost ever?
My bare knees are resting on a lime green cushion of this most gentle moss as I capture beauties from a closer, lower angle, and later as I rise, my bare feet are also finding the experience orgasmic.
Look what is here leaning back into the shade.
I think its skin is pealing/peeling from the heat. Ever see a mushroom with sunburn?
And here in the photo below someone has left their home behind. Maybe the neighborhood got too hot?
I move closer to the St. John's Wort blossoms and find it is sending off fireworks. Maybe that is the reason for the high temperatures?
I look across the way and decide I may not struggle home until after the sun has set. Ah, here is a soft pink pillow to rest my sweaty and heavy head.
It is the season of wandering for turtles. In our woods they appear across our yard in all sizes and hues as the weather warms and especially as the heavier rains appear. (And a rare treat if you read all the way to the end.)
We get little baby turtles that look like toys or realistic knick-knacks that belong on grandma's shelf waiting to be dusted. If you pick them up you risk them pulling in their tiny head for a long while and at the same time peeing in your hand.
Much of the mud from hibernation has washed off the back of this little guy. You can see that he has already recognized my presence and is beginning to pull in his head. If he totally collapses you can sometime hear a small hiss as he expresses the air from his lungs.
Our turtles come in juvenile sizes as well and some years we can feed them strawberries, melons, and small cherry tomatoes and they will return for several days to the same area for more! They usually live in an area of only 200m. I am guessing the one above is a year or two old since he/she was about 2.5 inches.
This is also a dangerous time for these slow moving prehistoric reptiles. When the rains come they begin exploration and cross our many ribbons of black asphalt. There are nutjobs that actually enjoy flattening them under the tires of their cars as they head to work. Nutjobs for whom this is a challenge. I mean this is not the challenge of hitting a running squirrel or low flying bird. This is like running over a rock! Then there are the distracted drivers that run over the smaller ones by not really paying attention to that small mound paused in the middle of their lane. These two below are 5 or six years old and perhaps ready for reproduction.
Our trip out to shop the other day we pulled (carefully) to the side of the road and being even more careful about traffic moved two turtles across to the side where they were headed for safety BUT we also saw two more a few miles ahead that had met the traffic rush and not survived the wheels of the 3 ton monster.
Diamond-Back turtles that live in Jamaica Bay in New York head for the beach to lay eggsevery spring and some of them have to cross JFK airport runways. Since the pilots can prevent turtle kills, I am not sure why the idiot in the car on the way to his job cannot avoid the turtle crossing the road.
While I do not recommend that you pull to the side of the road and risk your life by moving a turtle, I request that you go slower, pump your brake lights to let the person behind you know to be cautious and make every effort to avoid crushing the little guy/gal who cannot get out of the way.
This snapping turtle in the photo below was seen as we left a lodge in the mountains of West Virginia a while back. We actually backed out and went out the entry side of the road since it was early in the morning and there was very low traffic. It is rare to see one this size so close because they rarely leave the water. We had had torrential rains the night before so he might have been washed from his little pond or lake down a ditch and onto the roadway. Since this is a snapping turtle and has a neck that can snake around all the way to his back feet, he would be dangerous to try to move by hand.
As you can see above even those claws on his toes look ominous. (Click on photos to get closer if you dare!)
A few minutes later down the road on our way to bird watch at a nearby refuge we spotted this snapper laying eggs at the gravel at the very edge of the road way! We guessed the rains had indicated this was the driest area for her. This was a very rare treat to see such a secretive turtle lay in the wild. I am concerned about how safe it will be for the little ones when they hatch at the edge of a semi-busy country road.
The world is full of highways and byways, but getting off onto a narrow slightly worn foot trail is something that restores the soul in more ways than one can absorb with each silent footfall. The trails in the mountains of West Virginia are like small quick-witted children opening their arms to welcome hikers, and then giggling and quickly hiding behind turns and ridges to keep you guessing as to where they will finally end. They lead you through byways, fern glens, muddy paths and even into wet marshland that looks like lime green moss where you will sink a half foot into mountain cool rain water to keep you alert! You move from deep green tents of trees into open meadows where the sun blinds your eyes and the bird song is orchestral to your ears. (Click on photos for larger views.)
The deer that pause at the edge of the woods look up with curiosity at your struggle but pause only shortly before moving on their way. Sometimes if you are on the hillside you can spot a burnished red fox trotting across a glen far below in pursuit of some rodent that was flushed by the recent rain. Other times you may see a small garter snake exploring his newly discovered world.
If you arrive in early June and you are willing to climb to the smooth top of a small mountain you can see the wild azaleas blooming like pink gowned fairy princesses mingling in sweet conversation across the open mountain top. These are not the azaleas of front yards in the southern US. These are the azaleas that hold their own against harsh winter winds and bitter icy storms to burst forth with the spring weather claiming their place for just a short time without the care of man. Their color is magnificently matched by their fragrance. And some of them even have odd bits of fruit attractive galls at the base of flowers. The party does not last long, so you must time your trip carefully.
The slide into summer is neither slippery nor exciting. It happens quietly like a gentle warm breeze coming across the river or the move of a slow snake from under the wood pile. It is still early and the birds continue to sing their love songs, the bugs remain to buzz along their trails, but the air is just a little heavier and we now are moving into the season of the hot colored flowers. The oranges, the reds, the deep pinks unfold as if waking and removing a heavy green quilt which had hidden their beauty.
I am cautious and always checking the morning air for that familiar wet blanket feel that means by afternoon I will be hiding inside. But at this day's end there is still time for me to take the photos of the first blooms from annuals and perennials and I spend time looking and snapping to capture photos and then transfer them to digital paintings.
This afternoon I looked up from the camera to see a medium brown rabbit making a wild and mad dash to the edge of the lawn racing like a sprinter toward an unseen hole at the base of my plastic deer fence to disappear into the deep green wild raspberry bushes and rapidly growing invasive vines from poison ivy to trumpet vine to that tough green briar vine. He was making small barely audible grunting sounds and totally disappeared into the green tangle. This was not his usual behavior. Usually he sat very still until he saw me coming toward him to discourage any eating of the infant zinnias, the stalked sunflowers and the new buds of my roses. I would be almost on top of him before he broke his statuesque stance and ran to hide.
Within one second of his disappearance into the dark green shadows I saw another movement above me out of the corner of my eye. A red shouldered hawk gliding toward me and arriving just a few feet above my head from across my yard. He passed over so elegantly belying that he had missed his furry dinner. His wings were totally silent, not even a whisper of air as he cruised so close and he also was making a small squeaking sound that I only heard when he was just above me before he veered off into the opening at the edge of the woods. Was it "Damn, damn, damn!"
Had I been inside listening to the evening news or cooking dinner, I would have missed this little drama. No photos, but now I have the images forever in my mind.