- Dispatches From The Vanishing World - http://www.dispatchesfromthevanishingworld.com -

encouraging little encounters

I finally turned in last Saturday the huge piece I’d been working on for weeks, having hardly any contact with anything except my computer, and virtually no contact at all with the natural world. Spring was arriving without me. I played golf at the San Rafael Golf Club on the Isle Bizard, which is off the northwestern shore of Montreal Island, and on the first tee saw a black swallowtail. Haven’t seen one of them in a long time. They were quite rare in Bedford, down in Westchester County, New York, when I grew up there in the fifties and caught butterflies. Dark swallowtails were more apt to be spicebush or dark-phase male tiger swallowtails. The black swallowtail is smaller, with thin bright-yellow stripes on its black  wings. Maybe they are more common up here, 300 miles north. I was exhilarated. So there’s still some biodiveristy left. And the butterfly perhaps inspired me to shoot a fairly good round, considering it was the first of the year, that included a birdie and four pars (don’t ask about the other holes). My partners didn’t notice it until I pointed it out to them. Not many golfing lepidopterists. they’re a rare breed in their own right.

Last weekend and the weekend before we went down to Ravenrock, our camp that sits at 2000- and change feet on a wild forested mountainside in the Adirondacks. In the evening of Saturday May 15, Zachary, my 15-year-old boy, heard a strange pent sound in the small grassy clearing at the top of our driveway in front of our house and saw a brown bird with a large eye and a long beak– a woodcock, preparing to do its courtship flight, in which it rises straight up from the ground for up to I think 60 feet like  a helicopter. Next morning a  yellow-bellied sapsucker, just back from the south or the Carribean or Mexico,  was  making a huge racket tapping on the metal sheet roof of our shed, to draw the attention of females to itself, just as I wrote about in the nineties (see Past Dispatches, the Adirondacks). When we returned last weekend, the woodcock was still there, making its pent sound in the clearing well after midnight on the 22nd. The next day we bushwacked to the ledges below Big Crow Mountain. Zachary showed me a porcupine den full of needles among some large boulders, and I found trillium and yellow violets in bloom. And the false morel, gomphala something or other, was out in force.

So there is still some nature, enough to be magical and glorious. The last time I had a little blast of nature, was in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto, in March. I took a walk in in a park on the wooded bluffs of the majestic shore of Lake Ontario, and came within a few feet of a winter wren and a three-toed woodpecker to busy going about the business of scaring up something to eat to pay me any mind. These little contacts are really precious, to me, to Zachary, to all of us, so let’s make sure our insects and birds stay around.