The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

A walk in the woods

A funnel-weaving spiderRain, glorious rain … almost the words and tune of a song I cannot quite name or sing, but last night! The music all was outside. Giant kettle drums, flashing strobes – I loved it. This morning, the rain gauge registered an inch and-a-half. We needed it, and more.

A few evenings ago, I slowly poked along the road next to the near-dry stream bed, collecting the webs of funnel spiders with my camera – intriguing creations designed to direct an unsuspecting dinner guest down the inviting hole to the waiting host. I found a lone yellow puff of a caterpillar, likely preparing to weave a home for the winter.

And when I straightened up, a spike horn Whitetail deer, not more than about 20 feet away, grazed his way toward the stream. He didn’t look at me, just kept his head down as he disappeared into the roadside brush toward the water. In the past few days, I’ve seen several spike horns, and quite a few spotted fawns. It seems a little late in the season for the fawns. I wonder what that means.

Stepping along another stream, I put my foot down by a barely remaining pool and a shiny green frog jumped into the water and made for the distant side. If he hadn’t moved, I wonder whether I would have seen him. We each held our position, waiting to see what the other would do next before I moved on down the stream toward my favorite pond-side wetland.

The near-shore grass was alive with dragonflies and damselflies in many colors: black ones, and orange, and some bright reds and shiny blues. I suppose I will try to identify some of them, but sometimes it is enough to just sit and watch the variety of life passing across the stage. If one is lucky, a pair of Wood ducks might just splash into the water, barely visible through the shore shrubs.

I’ve never been bored in the woods; there is just too much going on. Spiders, for instance, come in many shapes and hues, as do birds, and even trees. I don’t know what they all are properly named; I’ve always been satisfied just looking at the beauty of their creation and moving on. But lately, I’ve become more curious about the details. Stay tuned.

Over by some moss and decomposing trees was a good supply of puff balls, edible if you find them early enough in their life. I did not. They were too old for eating, too young for childish fun of spraying spores like smoke through the yet unformed holes in their tops.

At another place, some bright orange fungi grew from a rotting tree trunk lying near the stream. I think they were edible, but I sure wish I was with someone who knew for sure. I met a couple wandering in search of edible mushrooms, but they did not seem to want company. I couldn’t blame them.

An orb-builder had strung supporting lines between two trees about six feet apart. That would be like a human building a wire bridge across a 144-foot chasm, without benefit of rocket rifles, helicopters or other such engineered aids. Then, in about the center of the cabling, she built a circular web – the orb – about 10 inches across and six feet off the ground, where critters and people could walk under it, but across a natural pathway that might guide an unwary fly to dinner.

“When this old world starts getting me down” – I go for a walk in the woods.


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