Thursday, July 27, 2017

Last Vigil at the Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed, Halibut Point 
It's a vivid spot, attractive to creatures on the wing that are sometimes attracted to other creatures on the wing. This slice of the story starts with pollen and nectar, the bargaining treasure of flowers.
A pollen gatherer and a nectar eater
(Flowers, the utility chest of plant propagation in nature, have earned a post-evolutionary premium in the vases and gardens of beauty.)

When the flowers were fresh
The pickerelweed grows in the basin of a quarry excavation, across the pond from the platform where the power plant used to be. It blooms uncommonly blue in the landscape. I have the sense today that the hue is diminishing from violet into grayish purple after a riotous week hosting pollinators. Spent flowers carry a bony look. Spindly structures protrude among petals like the ribs of tired umbrellas.
Spicebush Swallowtail
Quite likely the spotlight is dimming on this particular arena, its parade of novelties moving on. To get my telephoto lens as close as possible to the little mysteries still buzzing in the flowers across the way I extend the forward leg of the tripod down into the tangle of vines at the water's edge. I keep the camera strap secure around my neck as a caution and lean into the distant microcosm.

Blue Dasher
Dragonflies govern the intermediate air. Occasionally they patrol the pickerelweed itself without alighting. I envision them ornamenting a Chinese scroll but there's no hope of uniting those elements in the camera. Leave it to art.
Twelve-spotted skimmer
The elusive dragonflies do occasionally rest on a twig where they can be admired in detail. The light plays on their cellophane surfaces. Kate Wolf's voice reverberates from her song She Rises Like the Dolphin: "Where she was she isn't now/That's all you really know."

Sunshine fills the dell. A single bead of sweat rolling down my spine is absorbed at the waist. Great shadows startle the glade when gulls fly over the rim from Babson Farm Quarry to the sea. A towhee pweets.

Hummingbird Clearwing moth
The camera records details for eventual perusal. Last night in my photo review I distinguished two species of clearwings.

Snowberry Clearwing moth at upper left
Now the promise of daily novelties has begun to fade with the flowers. With ankles fixed and eyes steady at the lens I gyrate stiff knees and hips. This may be the last vigil at the pickerelweed.

A sudden blur passes the viewfinder. It hovers resonantly, dwarfing the moths. I swing the camera, shutter speed auspiciously set fast for flying bugs. Down the row of flowers flits a hummingbird. In the snap of a finger I preserve the souvenir.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
A bit of nectar deep within the tubular flowers awaits a partner able to sip without touching, its bulk delicate in the air. The enigma vanishes while Kate Wolf's song plays through.
"If you think you'll hold her in a shallow pool,
catch her in a waterfall, you're thinking like a fool.
She'll strike up the horizon, like a ship out to sea.
Leaving just illusions that look like memories."

Evanescent experiences can in the age of digital photography become memories to share.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Domestic Life of Birds

Yellowthroat warbler
Jubilation from the treetops: My place and purpose are here.

Kingbird gathering nesting material
Kingbird on nest
Briefly putting aside their gypsy lives birds materialize engineering skills from inherited codes.

Tree swallows
Brown thrasher
Young ones have to grow quickly into self-sufficiency so that both parents and chicks survive the vulnerability of the nest. The parents try to disguise their steady trips for food.

House wren delivering a morsel
Blue jay marauding at the wren house
The little ones will have to be quick and elusive when they emerge.
Cardinal with captured dragonfly
The early development of some vegetarian species requires protein from omnivorous sources. This mother cardinal is proving herself an adept hunter outside her own diet.

Barn swallow juveniles and parent
After the youngsters have fledged the parents of many species keep up their tutorials and meal supplements.

Male towhee proclaims the territory and triumph of procreation.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Grout Pile

The moors of Halibut Point presented granite seekers with accessible quarry stone. When operations reached an industrial scale, detritus was dumped in a grout pile at the end of a railroad spur extending toward the Ipswich Bay.

Northeasterly storms have swept rubble from the seaward end of this grout pile into a windrow along the shoreline, glazed by mists on a frigid morning.

The promontory offers vistas to three states and the ceaseless fascination of the coastal interface.

The Brookline Bird Club sponsors outings to Halibut Point that juts out into the Atlantic flyway, with the possibility of seeing pelagic species blown toward shore in stormy weather.

Harlequin ducks dive for crustaceans with colorful bravado in the roughest surf.

The cascade of quarry debris ignites the creative spirit in visiting sculptural engineers.

Racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama) pioneers a botanic colony among the rocks.

The ineffable processes of soil building support increasingly diverse vegetation in harsh exposures.

Ships 'hauling about' (tacking past) this windy coastal projection gave Halibut Point its name. Fair breezes still keep sails aloft.

The overlook gives witness to each day's first and last light, to the progressions of the moon, and to the starlit constellations at night.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quarry Reflections

The granite industry bequeathed Cape Ann ethnic enrichment, architectural distinction, and monumental openings to our geologic core.

The pits fill with water that mirrors stories from the quarry walls. Changes in the sky orchestrate shimmering images devolved from an industrial wasteland.

At Halibut Point the Babson Farm Quarry is the centerpiece of a State Park.

On the bare stone water invents alchemical novelties-- depositing minerals, sustaining organic life, bouncing light into shadows and creating kaleidoscopic symmetries.

Scars of tectonic and industrial violence harmonize in evening light like whimsies on a titanic sketch pad.

Nature reclaims the naked absurdities by colonizing inert surfaces with miraculous life.

History and beauty form momentary partnerships in the stillness.