Monday, June 23, 2014

Name that Thing

June 21st's summer solstice came and went. It would seem, as a naturalist of sorts, I should feel some sense of reverence or spirituality toward this event. However, I don't. To me it's just another day, the longest day of the year, but just another day none the less.

The manner in which some treat the summer solstice compels me to feel as though I have a duty to be outside to commune with nature during this time. However life unfolded in such a fashion that I was instead left to feel guilty because most of the day I was indoors working. For me the solstice passed by unremarkably since I had little energy left at the end of the day to seize the extended daylight.

But I did find some time the following day to stop at Scuppernong Prairie State Natural Area and bask in a little Vitamin D sunshine. I was looking for White Prairie-fringed Orchids, but found none. It could be early or I could be looking in the wrong area.

Calligrapha philadelphica Leaf Beetle
I went against a directive I had for myself and snapped a few photos of insects and plants. At every turn I seem to find insects I've not seen before. I pondered the names of these critters and remembered conversations I had with a fellow naturalist years ago about the silliness of needing to compartmentalize everything in nature into neat little categories via nomenclature. I came back to the questions, "what's in a name?" and "what is the purpose?" I suppose in terms of communicating about experiences and observations, it's useful to have some agreed upon names of things so we can all understand each other. However sometimes I don't really want to know. I photograph these living things for their beauty which exists outside of any given name. What's in a name? Does knowing affect perception? If so does it expand or confine it?

These are the ridiculous musings which enter my head when I become overwhelmed thinking about trying to identify everything I encounter...

I suppose the benefit in knowing a name can lead to a more expeditious acquisition of greater knowledge about the habits and natural history of living things...

...or perhaps implosion from information overload.

St. John's Wort
Take for instance, St. John's Wort. It is now blooming in southern Wisconsin. I found a few specimens at Scuppernong. Knowing this flower's name provides me the knowledge that it is used in herbal medicine to treat depression. So nearly every time I encounter St. John's Wort, this little fact comes to mind. Occasionally this leads to my brain tangentially ruminating about depression...I find this distracting to my appreciation of the exquisite beauty of this plant. The manner in which its anthers leap from its petals and casts shadows back on itself is quite fanciful. And although yellow is my least favorite color, I find St. John's Wort to render itself beautifully in photographs, something it does without a name.

Now that I have exhausted my brain of any profound intellectual musings to portray some narrative of my time in the prairie, I simply present these photos. They are a small sampling of some of my favorite observations from my brief outing in the sun. I think I may have names for most of them!

Downy Woodmint
Nursery Web Spider

Hydaticus aruspex, diving beetle

Hydaticus aruspex, diving beetle
Jumping Spider species

Land snail species found on the underside of a dandelion leaf

And here's a few more peculiar insects I found in my garden that same evening. I was able to categorize these to various levels of specificity. Cool to behold regardless of their names.

Xysticus auctificus Crab Spider (I think)
Xysticus auctificus Crab Spider (I think)
Lauxaniidae family fly species
Strauzia longipennis fruit fly (Sunflower Maggot)

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