The Creatures in my Neighbourhood

Everything you ever wanted to know about puffballs but were afraid to ask! No, not really. Just a quick hello with a purple-spored puffball in my yard. Also known as Calvatia cyathiformis, this beauty prefers arid and grassy places, appearing where I live late in dry summers. This season, that meant maturing and sporulating just in time for some autumn rain to fill its cup….you can see some fine drops covered with finer spores in one image above, and what is basically a puddle coated with spores in the picture on the right. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen this video of me playing this puffball like a drum (no puffballs were harmed in the making of this video). Yes, I could have eaten this puffball when they first appeared, but I’m usually more interested in observing and interacting with (rather than consuming) the creatures in my neighbourhood. Some species are known as wolf-farts in French, others as bird’s eye makeup in Arabic; ‘puffball’, while descriptive, sort of pales in comparison. Have a look around, you might find some of these unobstrusive beings tucked into a grassy verge near you.

Falling

Metallic blue-black wasp perched on cluster of tiny white wild carrot blossoms against blurry brown background.

British poet Alice Oswald has a collection called Falling Awake. It’s an excellent title, and a compelling read. I’m considering what falls in fall. I feel myself tumbling. I fell off the blog-wagon and bumped my tailbone and then my elbow. Ouch! No one noticed. The gathering of nectar continues, the formation of melon flesh, the shaping of tunnels through thick dead grass. Air falls away as a giant puffball swells. A ripe chokecherry drops from its stem. What falls? Everything, everywhere on the surface of earth,or, as Nigel Calder wrote in Einstein’s Universe, “falling is the most natural way for objects to behave and our main mode of travel through the universe, aboard our planet.”

Intelligence

When wasps have a housing crisis, they promptly gather materials and build safe, appropriate dwellings that are elegantly and efficiently designed. They’re also free! Actually, wasps don’t have housing crises (unless they have habitat crises, which is another story). Meanwhile, humans have made housing into an industry: it’s complicated, expensive, and of course, exploitable. The results have been mixed: very good for some humans, not good for others, and ultimately not great for the rest of the living world. Gaston Bachelard wrote that “a dreamer might say that the world is the nest of mankind”. My nest, your nest, our nest; it’s in a sad state. Do we patch and repair like the mud dauber? Start over each season like the yellow jackets?

The Day Fills Drop by Drop

A lacy, circular wild carrot blossom reaching from the right side of the frame is silhouetted against a cloudy blue sky.

The day fills drop by drop, a pool, accumulating moments, no two alike. An excavator rumbling next door, a little yellow plastic flag crackling in a blast of wind. A monarch butterfly coasts like a kite, pausing to sip nectar from a purple pouch of vetch. I draw limp, clammy laundry from the washing machine, slinging the pieces over my shoulder, hang them outside to dry. The sun’s heat grasps my forearms through the light fabric of my shirt. I mouth a warm, crisp bite of toast. Shadows scamper across my wooden desk. A squeaky tractor bumps down the pot-holed road. A tiny red-belly snake tenses, coiled around itself under an empty tray in the shade of the house. The chair ticks and groans as I shift my weight. The little pot rings like a bell as the water boils; an egg lowered on a spoon dampens the sound.

Moment Made Flesh

The day’s fractal surfaces are books, bodies, matrices of snow and leaf, water in its shape-shift from ground, breath, river, tide, and leaf-exhalations to sky; its drift and drizzle from cloud to earth. The day’s fractal surface unfolds, reveals itself: shattering, dappling, mirror-ball mosaic of light racing towards us, a wave of radiance. The day’s … Read more

Between a Leaf and a Slug Place

I’m feeling like I imagine this slug to be feeling: a little bit, do I have to climb over another leaf? A leaf bigger than me? And a little bit, what’s over there? I’m thinking earthy thoughts, and searching for something to eat and somewhere moist and dark to hang out. Today my friend and … Read more

In between

Here are two views of a recent quilted, embroidered project. It feels like too long since I finished this piece and I’m not really working on anything new. I’m busy with some writing, and with getting the garden planted before too much more time passes. I feel unmoored when I don’t have a project to … Read more

An Inordinate Fondness for…Ferns

Bracken, Hayscented fern, Christmas fern, Sword fern, New York Fern, Maidenhair fern, Wood ferns, Oak fern, Interrupted fern, Royal fern, Ostrich fern, Cinnamon fern, Sensitive fern, Virginia Chain fern, Lady fern, Polypody, Rattlesnake fern, Moonwort…I love them all, and there are more yet to learn. I tend to combine brushing up on ferns each season … Read more