There’s nothing like the feeling of cool air spilling through the bedroom window late at night after a warm spell rolls off the coast. It’s been quite the summer here in Maine. A hot summer. A humid summer. At times, I told myself this summer has been downright miserable. I’m not a big fan of the heat like I used to be. When I was a kid, the warmth of the summer months meant swimming at Lake Tonetta in Brewster and a seemingly never ending companionship with my very best friends. It also meant I didn’t have to go to school, which was most likely the impetus behind much of my enjoyment. These days, I sweat while I walk. Sweat while I mow the lawn. Sweat while I work inside. While sweating isn’t the worst thing in the world, I’d rather not do it while writing stories and working on websites. I’d rather not have my back stick to my chair. We don’t use air conditioners up here in Maine. Maine is supposed to be cool. It’s where people go to get away from the heat. Snowbirds live in Maine, so why in the world would we need to cool it? So we don’t stick to our chairs. I know.
For the past two years, every single morning, Laura and I have walked our property. I’m not sure we’ve missed one day. We’ve walked during the Chirstmas storm of 2020 when our brook rose at least five feet over it’s normal level. The flooding wasn’t as extreme as I supposed it could have been, but it did block at least 100 feet of footpath. The wind also knocked down a good number of trees that forced me to pull my chainsaw from its slumber to work off season. We’ve walked during blizzards and we’ve walked after blizzards. I’ve stood in snow up to my hips while calling for help, laughing all the while. It’s not easy getting around in freshly fallen snow that’s over three feet deep. On top of another foot and a half that fell just a few nights before. We’ve walked with bug nets over our heads as to avoid being eaten alive by the infamous black fly. Trying to sip coffee through those nets is a sight to be seen. I still haven’t figured out if it’s better to lift the net and sip or just press the net to my mouth with the lip of the coffee cup and drink. Either way, it doesn’t take long for me to become frustrated with the entire situation and briskly make my way around the trails and back to my sticky chair inside the house. Those days – I’ll tell ya. I smile when I think of the snow. I frown when I think of the bug nets. Nobody likes bugs.
Hands down, the best time of year to walk in the woods is during the fall. Just at the cusp of the leaf change and about a week after the heat of summer disappears. The night time temperatures fall into the mid fifties and thoughts of warming up next to a fire in the wood stove return. It’s odd to think that in a short three weeks all the maple leaves on the property will be bright yellow. I look up to the tips of their branches every year and make a mental note. I walk out onto the road to get the mail. September 27. Yellow maple leaves. Again. I can set my watch to them. Their beauty is fleeting, but it’s there. And it happens every year.
This morning was the third morning that Laura and I have had to wear sweatshirts during our morning stroll. It’s here. Autumn is here. True, we may experience an Indian summer, but that doesn’t bother me. At least the bulk of what’s been getting in my way is gone. About a week ago, the very top leaves of a few red maples have either turned red and have fallen off or have just fallen straight off without changing color at all. I’m not sure what goes on with those red maples, but they’re the first to go. They’re followed by the ash and rock maples. Oak leaves don’t seem to fall until May – the following spring. I don’t pay too much attention to oaks because they’re not exactly “autumn” leaves. They’re not pretty. They turn brown and hang around as long as they like. Nobody tells an oak what to do. But I have to tell you, walking in 50 degree weather feels simply sublime. My coffee feels hotter, the birds sing louder, my mood is brighter, and our conversation is better. Nostalgia infiltrates our chats and I begin thinking about what matters most and what doesn’t matter so much. I begin thinking about life again. What I want to do with myself and what I need to stop doing. They say autumn is a time for reflection. I’d have to agree. After all, for so many people around this world, autumn translates into the end of one thing and the beginning of another. For just about 25 years of my own life, I spent of end of August preparing for some sort of class that was just around the corner. We find ourselves in new places in the autumn. Either physically or mentally. It’s a good thing. At least I think it is.
This past summer started out very dry. So dry, in fact, I was getting nervous that our well was going to run out of water. At the peak of my concern, it rained. And then it rained again and again and again. And it’s been raining on and off all season long, which was just fine with me because that meant I didn’t have to worry about the well anymore. An unexpected result of all that rain was the emergence of a variety of mushrooms back in our woods. I began noticing them a few weeks ago during our most recent heat wave. I think mushrooms like very hot and sticky air and a somewhat saturated ground in which to grow. We found white mushrooms and orange ones. Big and small ones. They really were all over the place and in their own way, each one was marvelous. Take a look at this perfect specimen I found this morning. It’s about eight inches tall. Gigantic.
In the above photo there seems to be either a Sweetbread mushroom, Meadow mushroom, Springtime Amanita, or perhaps a Blewit. I’m actually not sure. What I’m fairly certain of is the mushrooms shown in the next photo are Stump Puffballs.
This one’s a Hoof fungus for sure.
It grows on the sides of live standing trees and those that have fallen over and died.
I wonder if this next one is a Scarlet Waxy Cap. If it is, it’s degrading. I did a little poking around to learn its type and came up short. I couldn’t find anything that matched it closely.
This seems to be the real thing (Scarlet Waxy Cap).
I’m almost certain this last photo is of the Upright Coral fungus. There are a few types of these funguses (fungi); Crested Coral, Crown-Tipped Coral, Golden Coral, and Upright Coral. Because of the tips of each piece in this particular example, I’ve settled on the last option.
I actually think we’ve got a few different types of the above. They seem to be scattered around and are quite prolific.
Laura is going to be writing an in-depth post on all the mushrooms we’ve been seeing on our land. I’ll link to it here when she finishes it.
Another bit of wonder that’s presented itself as of late has been a simply spectacular carpeting of many different types of moss. While moss has been growing in these parts since long before we arrived, it’s just now beginning to fill the floor of the trails I’ve been cutting to haul my firewood. The moss covers rocks and fallen trees. The ground and stumps. It covers anything it can make its way over and it seems to have been in overdrive lately. I’m sure it’s got something to do with the heat and rainfall as well. I love the moss. It makes the ground soft and it looks just so inviting. It’s lush and green and I’m sure it’s teeming with healthy microorganisms that do splendid things for something. I don’t know what those things are or what that thing is, but I’m confident a lot’s going on.
This next photo is an example of some Haircap moss.
And this is some Brocade moss.
Much of what we see on the floor of the trails, sides of tree stumps, and crawling over limbs that have fallen is a mixture of a few different types. Just about an hour ago I stumbled across all five varieties of Maine’s most popular mosses right beneath my very feet. They were interwoven with one another. I felt as though I was stepping on a pillow.
As we walked this morning, I asked Laura if she felt as though her personality has changed through the years. I’ve certainly seen it change and I was curious if she felt it. She replied that she wasn’t sure. She wanted to know what I meant.
“I don’t know if I can put my finger on it. It’s almost as if you’ve mellowed out somewhat. Not to say that you haven’t always been sweet, but you’re sweeter now more than ever. Patient. Understanding.”
“I guess that’s what happens when people get older,” she said. “Their edges wear away.”
I don’t know what to make of it. Between you and me, what’s a man to do when his partner comes to understand and accept his every move – his every step? What’s a man to do when his partner cooks for him out of the goodness of her heart? Just because she wants to see him happy? What’s a man, am I, to do when my partner walks through the woods with me every morning and talks with me about life and everything that goes into it? We sometimes stand back there for hours in quiet conversation trying to understand so much of what’s going on. We talk about what we have and what we’ve accomplished and then we discuss the so many things we have our hearts set on. It’s nice to have this time together. We understand that not everyone out there has what we have, but we also understand the work that went into achieving what we’ve achieved. Peace and quiet. That priceless, ever so priceless, piece and quiet.
Laura tells me we should appreciate every single day. I guess I’ll go along with that. It’s a fine way to look at things.
Benefits of Peace & Quiet
They say that quiet times alone, or with other quiet people, are not only good for the soul, but are good for the mind as well. It’s suggested that silence enhances creativity, helps people make better decisions, improves clarity, and awakens awareness. I say it gives a guy some time to think. The miracle of not being interrupted has helped me make so many beneficial decisions through the years – I’m not sure how to even quantify or qualify them. What I can tell you is that my time alone has aided me in what I wrestle with mentally on a daily basis. I’m sure you wrestle with many of the same things. I won’t go into them here, but we can likely agree that having some peace that affords us the time to think clearly about these things helps – and helps immensely.
Ah Mr. Simon:
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
In the wells of silence
Benefits of Walking Through a Forest
Did you know there are claimed benefits of walking through a forest? I believe I’ve felt them, but I’m not sure I actually ever looked into the subject. Apparently, it’s true. The state of New York shared some research and this is what they found. They say that walking through a forest:
boosts the immune system.
lowers blood pressure.
increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.
accelerates recovery from surgery or illness.
increases energy level.
If you’d like to read more about this research, please do so here. It’s interesting stuff. While I can’t confirm if any of it’s actually true, I can attest to the fact that I’m in very good spirits when I emerge from our morning strolls. So the improved mood claim seems to be spot on. As for everything else, I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Every morning, Laura carries birdseed outside with her in her pocket. She seems to have trained the local chickadees and nuthatches to eat from her hand. We’ve taken far too many pictures and videos of this through the years, but it never really gets old. The birds even land on my own hands when I fill my palms with seed and raise them to the sky. The looks those tiny little faces give me, the nods of the heads, and the soft touches of their claws is almost too endearing to bear. I tell Laura that we should open our property up to other bird lovers, but think better of it after discussion. I’m not sure how I’d feel if anyone actually showed up.
The two above photos were taken about two hours ago. The birds are very active through the winter, slow down and almost disappear over the summer, and then reappear in the autumn. They seem to be coming back now. They flutter above us and follow us through the trails. That may explain the fact that it sometimes takes us over two hours to walk less than a half mile.
We have a little stream that we cross every day. I’d describe it as a three-season stream because it only flows during three seasons. Since this summer has seen so much rain though, it’s only stopped flowing for about one month of the entire summer. As for the remaining time, we’ve been graced with at least a small trickle.
I built some stones up on either side of the stream and I placed a long piece of lumber that I had hanging around over it. This is what we refer to as “the bridge.” I know. And since I’m considering getting into cinematography in the near future, I’ve been looking to delve into angles that aren’t seen often. Let me know what you think of this one. It’s me walking across our bridge.
Two seconds after I snapped that photo, I snapped this one. It’s of some aquatic plants directly below the bridge.
My goal is to take notice of lighting, angles, and depth of field. I guess I should also pay more attention to panning and movement, but those will come with time. I first need to begin recording much more than I currently record.
To wrap this post up, I’ll share with you that a friend stopped by to visit this afternoon. He brought his girlfriend’s dog with him and we played some soccer with the dog (and each other) in the backyard. It was a lot of fun, as hanging out with friends and dogs always is. There’s something to be said for acting like a fool, even if it is for a short while. I’ll tell you, I haven’t kicked a ball like I did today since elementary school. We used to play kickball during recess and it was the most fun a boy could have. While I need to work on the accuracy of my kick, I think I might just be a superstar. Perhaps we’ll get some action on video next time we play. I’m sure you’d love to see what goes down. For now though, I can offer you two photos of the Corgi. He’s about ten years old and is very sweet. His name is Cooper.
What a great dog. And so much fun to play soccer with.
Well, I’ve said enough for today. I wish you all a splendid weekend and be sure to leave a comment if you’ve made it all the way through to the end of this post. It’s nice to know that someone has. It’s also nice to know if you’ve enjoyed what you read.
Update 9/19/2021 – Continuing On
The mushrooms aren’t done with us yet. When I last wrote, I think it was just the beginning, however, I’ll try to stop with the photos. Or at least slow down. It’s just that we’ve never seen mushrooms like we’ve seen this season. They’re so varied and beautiful. It’s the rainfall we’ve had this summer. It has to be. Nothing else can explain it. When we walk on the needles that have fallen from the white pines, we can feel the cushion underfoot. The fertile soil and all that decay is making it happen. Not a dry spot to be found. I suppose the lighting isn’t making things any easier either. All day now feels like later afternoon with that low hanging sun. The long shadows only add to the drama.
I hadn’t planned on bringing my camera with me this morning, but something told me to do just that. I came in with 96 photos. Boy, what a walk. Hours in the forest is nice.
Here’s a pretty Yellow Patches mushroom I captured in just the right sunlight.
Here’s another. This time though, I think the flatness indicates maturity. This one is older than the previous.
Now here’s something you don’t see everyday. It’s a mushroom that’s got spikes all over it. This one’s called Decorated Pholiota, or Leucopholiota Decorosa.
By the way, if you ever wondered what I look like while reviewing my photos, here you go.
I haven’t been able to identify this next one. It looked much more vibrant yesterday, so I think it’s in decline. If anyone knows what this reddish mushroom with a textured cap is called, please let me know.
I’m currently at a loss as to what this unidentified New England moss is as well. I’m assuming it’s not only native to Maine, but to the area at large. Again, if you can help, please do.
This next photo should make you smile. There I was, trying to take a clever picture of a mushroom in my fingers when a Black-capped Chickadee landed right on top. At first, I was stunned, but after remembering that I was holding a camera in my other hand, I did what was most obvious – I took the picture.
And after that, I was persuaded to hand feed another White-breasted Nuthatch. He squeaks and squeaks until we pay attention to him.
These final two images just tell it as it is. The leaves are falling and the light is changing.
Update 9/25/2021 – A Few More Musrooms
Laura and I discovered some stellar mushrooms this morning. It seems as though they grow overnight. We’ve had some rain recently, so I’m certain that had something to do with all of this new growth.
I will tell you that it’s not easy identifying mushrooms. Part of the reason for this is the fact that one never knows what stage of growth they’re in. Certain varieties appear one way when young and completely different when they’re mature. And when they’re on the decline – well, that’s another story entirely. So really, I have very little confidence that my identifications are accurate and I welcome any and all help in this department. Please leave comments below.
I found this first cluster on dry ground around a small stump resulting from a tree I cut last year. The wood isn’t dead, per se, but it’s not alive either. I’m guessing this is the Honey mushroom, based on the distinctive ring around the stem. Again, these mushrooms weren’t growing in any type of wetlands. They’re actually right in the middle of a packed dirt trail.
Next, we may just have the Swamp Death Angel. I’m basing this guess off of the description I read in the USDA guide book titled, Field Guide to Common Macrofungi in Eastern Forests and Their Ecosystem Functions. They say this mushroom is responsible for the most deaths every year in the United States. Laura and I found this cluster growing on a very dead and decaying stump next to a running stream. It’s a wet and muddy area.
Finally, we’ve got the Turkey Tail, or what I suspect is the Turkey Tail. I hear there are some imposters out there. Take a look and let me know if I’m correct. These were growing on some large logs that have been lying on the ground next to a stream for years. They’re dead and decaying and completely covered with this type of mushroom.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. Hopefully I won’t stumble across many more of these things. This post is getting rather long.