Thursday, June 5, 2014

June's Solitude

June is settling into to the familiar lonely month it's come to represent in recent years.  The furvor of May migration has passed and with some recurrence my relationships with people seem exhausted. It is somewhat unsettling to look back at what I blogged about last June, recollect the circumstances and realize I am virtually in the same place one year later. Life can be stagnant sometimes.

Marl Plant Ruins, Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail (Waukesha Co.)

However if June is to continue to offer me solitude and isolation, I shall have to accept and simply hope I can grow from the lessons it's trying to teach me.

When I enter a natural area, I find at times it takes my mind some time to disengage from the din of thoughts involving people and regrets...This is especially the case when my surroundings strike me as redundant which they have as of late. I realize this is a matter of my impaired perception simply clouded by a garbage of thoughts...

...Because virtually anywhere in nature, when you fully engage, suddenly worlds of minute insects and hidden blooms or interesting bird song reveal themselves. Like this radical looking Glow Worm Beetle and friends I stumbled upon in a prairie to top all prairies I visited in Jefferson County this week...

Glow Worm Beetle, Young Prairie State Natural Area
It is discoveries such as the Glow Worm and the reward of seeing any orchid or other interesting native plant in the wild which elevate my spirit and carry me forward despite life's trials.

Nature is an escape for me, a lonely one at times, but mostly elevating and exhilarating.

So to that end this past week I set forth in hopes of finding lingering blooms of the Small White Lady Slipper Orchid in some of the wet prairies in Jefferson, Walworth, Waukesha counties. I also visited the desert prairie at Spring Green Nature Preserve.

Path through chest high Stinging Nettle to destination frustration
Young Prairie SNA
I endured one hot afternoon slogging around in rubber boots from Young Prairie State Natural Area to Scuppernong Prairie State Natural Area to Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail area which yielded little reward. Of course it's all a matter of attitude. And perhaps goal-minded nature excursions simply expose oneself to inevitable disappointment.

Columbine, Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail (Waukesha Co.)

I did find a few Columbine in the woods; Yellow Star Grass, Blue-eyed Grass, Spiderwort and Iris specimens in the prairies along with one Small White Lady Slipper that was brown and well past its glory. However the density of anything  blooming struck me as lackluster. Fortunately a few species of butterflies kept me entertained.

Hobomok Skipper, Young Prairie SNA
(Walworth Co)
Pearl Crescent, Young Prairie SNA
(Jefferson Co)

Same was my experience at the east parcel of Spring Green Preserve. Compared to one year ago, the prairie was mostly a desert of of green and yellow grasses and foliage versus a lively scene bursting with florets of various colors. Few Hoary Puccoon, Penstemon Grandiflorus, Harebell and lingering Birdsfoot Violets were blooming. I visited on a temperate evening and was grateful for the pleasant temperature, but the mosquitoes and biting gnats were utterly horrid.

Penstemon grandiflorus
Spring Green Preserve
Harebell, Spring Green Preserve
However, good things come to those with persistence and perhaps some sense of adventure (or access to the appropriate intel). I heard of this mystical "paintbrush prairie" in Jefferson County which held an array of alluring flowering plants including the Small White Lady Slipper Orchid. I only mention this location by name since I know an internet search should not yield much of anything in terms of figuring out where I saw this state threatened species of orchid.

"Paintbrush Prairie" (Jefferson Co)
Access to the paintbrush prairie required a 1.7 mile hike through some overgrown oak savanna and other marginal prairie habitats to reach destination AMAZING. I arrived upon a field of yellows, whites, pinks, red wisps of densely growing Prairie Smoke, Prairie Phlox, Yellow Star-grass, Blue-eye Grass, Two-flowered Cynthia, Shooting Star,Yellow Indian Paintbrush and more!

Blue-eyed Grass
Prairie Smoke

Two-eyed Cynthia! ;)

Shooting Star (before inversion)

Dwarf Prairie Rose

Lobelia kalmii

And yes with patience I discovered some blooming Small White Lady Slipper. Initially it was just a single specimen I eye-balled among the grass when I just happened to glance back from where I had walked. Then further along I found cluster after cluster of spent brown blooms with a few lingering fresh flowers to indulge my eyes.

Small White Lady Slipper Orchid (Jefferson Co)
I could have lingered in this wonderland rich with life, diversity and color, but the day was wearing on and the mosquitoes were increasing.

Pelegrina proterra Jumping Spider, Young Prairie SNA (Jefferson Co)

... and just like that, with the full coup on my senses, I knew I would survive another June.  I suddenly felt in the company of all I really needed: orchids, prairie flowers, birds and a little coffee by my side.

So for now I'll keep running, looking and discovering. Some may surmise I'm hiding, but I know differently. You can't be hiding when no one is looking for you.

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