About Me

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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ladies and Lepidoptera

Yesterday I had the good fortune to be in Montgomery County with my stepson's family as part of the extended celebration of a 95-year-old aunt's birthday. A remarkably cool July afternoon allowed us to spend some time at Cox Arboretum Metropark, where one of the highlights is an extensive butterfly garden with a butterfly house as a centerpiece. While some of our group relaxed near the pond, the three teenage granddaughters took me on a tour of the lepidoptera showcase.

It turns out the the butterfly garden attracts more than just butterflies, as these box elder bugs were not at all shy about engaging in the exchange of genetic material right along a public path.

The (possibly) most adventurous of the three granddaughters discovered this cute little spider lurking on the echinacea.

There were not a lot of adult butterflies out at the time of our visit, but they had obviously been in the area. A pipevine arbor was inhabited by a number of these fierce-looking (and toxic) pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. According to the volunteer staffing the butterfly house, sometimes the pipevine hosts so many cats that it is possible to hear them chewing. (Are these little guys the reason why black and orange are the Halloween colors?)

 Possibly my favorite butterfly house juveniles, though, were the enormous caterpillars of the cecropia moth. I have never seen one of the adults, not being prone to wandering around outdoors at night, but the cecropia is our largest native moth, with a wingspan roughly the size of a dollar bill. The cats were a good four inches long and as big around as my index finger.

Given the enthusiasm with which these adolescent invertebrates were demolishing maple leaves, I kept my fingers well away from their chewing parts, so you get no size comparison from me.

But aren't they cute? The human teenagers thought so.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A new favorite place

Where did July go? I last posted on the 4th, and here it is almost three weeks later. I'm not even sure what exactly kept me so busy--but there were house projects, and yard projects, and an absolutely magical week at Oberlin College for the Unitarian Universalist Ohio Meadville District Summer Institute: lots of learning, laughing, good music, and good people.

Oberlin the town and Oberlin the college are both pretty amazing places. The town was founded by a couple of idealistic Presbyterians who took their not getting eaten by a bear as a sign that they had found the right place for their new intentional community, and the college was multiracial at its founding in 1830-something and was the first college to admit women a decade or so later. The place manages to be quaint and historic and progressive and funky all at the same time, with some utterly gorgeous architecture (for those of us who like Collegiate Gothic)

and fascinating plantings. The ultramodern Oberlin Conservatory is hedged with carefully pruned staghorn sumac, a feature that would never have occurred to me.

This traditional-looking colonnade, part of an Italianate building

actually is home to a surprise: each column, and each face of each column, is different. Some of the carvings are totally medieval in feel

while others probably represent someone important in the history of the college. I particularly like this guy.

Oberlin is also home to a 90-acre arboretum that includes two lakes surrounded by raised gravel paths. My walking partner and I got there at what must have been the right time of day.

As if the sheer physical beauty of the place weren't enough to cap off a perfect afternoon, a cedar waxwing decided to hang out in a tree next to the trail for several minutes.

This first visit will not be my last.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A little piece of paradise

We all need a place where perfect relaxation is possible. My  place is in the chair on the right in this photo, tucked behind ridiculously red "Jacob Cline" monarda and "White Swan" echinacea.
 To my right, not visible in the picture above, is a streetside hedge of mixed physocarpus (and assorted other things), giving privacy without isolation in the unlikely event that I should ever need to summon help from the neighbors. (I read too many mysteries in the summer.)

Sometimes, hummingbirds decide to visit,

but even when they don't, one of my favorite things to do in the
yard these days is nothing.

With all the daisies and grasses in bloom right now, there is never
 a dull moment.

For instance, sitting with a cup of coffee this morning, I got to enjoy a pair of goldfinches nibbling the rudbeckia. The presence of darting golden birds is worth the sacrifice of a few petals. Before dinner, a pair of mourning doves was courting on the ground under the birdfeeder, while adolescent finches (still at the adorable fuzzy-eyebrows stage) sat on various perches and poles demanding food from their parents (despite the presence of food all around them).

This has not been a good butterfly year so far, but we do have our share of whites and sulfurs, not to mention LOTS of fireflies.

 But the honest truth is, my favorite summer non-activity 
is watching the feather grass wave in the breeze.
Who needs to visit the Low Country salt marshes when there's paradise in Parkersburg?