September 16 – summer’s end

Just a moment ago, I was talking with my partner Mala, discussing how difficult it is to regain momentum on a project once it’s been lost.  It’s been over a week since I’ve sat down to update this journal; some days I feel like I could just call it quits, that maybe I’ve written as much as I have to write.  But I don’t think I’m quite there yet, life is still going on all around, and I think I have to re-commit to seeing this through until the end of the year.

This past week has definitely had an end of summer feel to it.  As recently as last Thursday the weather was as hot and muggy as anything we experienced in mid-summer.  It’s been over a month since we’ve had a good drenching rain, and it’s finally starting to show up in the vegetation, or maybe all the plants are just looking kind of beat because it’s the end of the season.  Here’s a shot that I took just a couple of days ago, you can see that the overall aspect of the trees is still quite green, although it’s more of the muted darker greens of late summer.Image

For the most part, I haven’t been in the woods much.  Partly I can blame it on work; yet another index, blah blah blah.  But I could make time if I really had to.  Mostly, it’s been the heat and dryness that’s dampened some of my enthusiasm for exploring.  I’ve been a bit disappointed that this drought has overlapped with what should be one of the best times of year for finding mushrooms.  For the most part, as I’ve walked around the community, I haven’t seen much new growth, although there certainly has been some here and there.  Like these Grisettes…Image

..or this impressive flush of oysters I found on one of my most reliable logs, in the woods just behind our dining hall.  So there have been a few ok finds, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting a proper soaking and seeing what comes up.Image

This past Thursday, September 12th, was the day the season broke.  It was the last of the really hot dry days, with thunderstorms threatening all afternoon.  Finally, right around dinnertime, we got about 5 minutes of wind and heavy rain, then another 15 minutes of drizzle.  Just enough to dampen the dry ground, but in a matter of minutes the temperature dropped about 20 degrees.  That day felt very much like summer.  Every day since has felt very much like autumn.  Since Thursday night, I’ve been sleeping every night with the window closed, I brought a comforter to the bed, and have been using it!

All summer, some of us had been planning a return visit to the quarry south of C’ville, for some swimming and zip-line adventures.  After a couple of false starts, we finally made it happen last Saturday, just a couple of days after the end of swimming season.  It was a clear sunny day, windy and cool, and wasn’t about to spend the day at that quarry without swimming, although I must admit we had to force things a bit.  The quarry was every bit as lovely as it was earlier in the summer:Image

When I was there earlier, there were dozens of people in and out of the water, and most of the quarry fish were well out of sight.  On this peaceful afternoon, with just a few of us there, the fish were numerous and curious.  Image

I tossed some bits of hamburger bun to the fish, and they went crazy for it!Image

There were several enormous koi carp deep in the pool.  They came close to the surface when I was feeding the fish, but never came all the way up.  It made me think that maybe there might be some even larger ones that just stay way down at the bottom!Image

took a short walk through the woods to the lower quarry, which is even more visually striking, but it was too cool a day to jump in.Image

I was hoping to find some mushrooms, but they were all dried up and shrivelled.  I did come across this very impressive purple wildflower growing right on the edge of the trail.Image

Here’s a closeup of the same flower.  Pretty!Image

And on the way back, I came across several of these mottled red leaves, a sure sign that autumn is right around the corner. Image

Despite the chilly air temperatures, we all took advantage of the zip line–wicked fun!  The water actually wasn’t all that cold, but it was pretty nippy when you stepped out, especially if the wind was blowing.Image

The owner of the quarry is an architect, who is designing a building for a nearby community (which is how we know him).  The wood and glass building at the top of the cliff is his office, or his “un-cubicle” as he calls it.  It’s really the most lovely office you could possibly imagine, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a view out over the quarry.  And if even that is too much indoors, he can take a few steps out of his door to this little sitting area.  Not bad…Image

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One response to “September 16 – summer’s end

  1. Please don’t stop writing! You are such a good naturalist and a very talented writer. It is always a joy to see a new post. Your purple beauty looks like Great Lobelia, the purple version of the Cardinal Flower that is also blooming now. Soon we will have rain again, and the fungi will fruit. In the meantime, listen as the cricket chirps get slower, watch the fledgling birds get smart, and look for bear sign in the woods.

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