Got back out in the woods today, for the first time since returning from California. Initially, it was something of a letdown being back in Virginia, after the vernal extravagance of the Bay Area– I guess I’m still feeling a bit underwhelmed with early spring in Virginia. While I was away for a week basking in Pacific sunshine, the weather here remained persistently cool and gloomy, with a heavy weekend snowfall that still remained in isolated pockets when I got home. Despite the fact that it was still technically winter when I left, and now it’s “officially” springtime, things ’round here don’t look a whole lot different than they did a week ago.
Spent an hour this afternoon walking in the woods, exploring more or less at random. Noticed a few things– the leaves of the forest trees and shrubs remain steadfastly closed, with very little greenery in the form of opening leaf buds. This small, relatively abundant plant was the one exception.
I came across several places where dead trees had been ripped apart, by some sort of mammal or bird. I hear woodpeckers all the time in the forest; it’s less common to come across spots where they’ve been hard at work.
This tree bore some heavy-duty slash marks. It doesn’t look like it was made by people, and it was in a part of the woods where the forestry crew doesn’t operate. I’ve never seen bears around here, but others have, and this looks like the kind of marks they leave on trees.
In another part of the woods, I came across this scene, where an oak tree, in the process of being blown over in a storm, made a direct hit on the top of a beech tree, and snapped it in two. It’s pretty awesome imagining the violence of that exact moment, the sound it must have made.
Further along, I came across another one of these bizzare spongy black fungi, all dried out. My curiosity got the better of me, and I did some internet research. It’s a sooty mold (Scorias spongiosa) which grows on aphid droppings– fascinating stuff! Check out http://uconnladybug.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/black-masses-on-beech-trees/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorias_spongiosa
In another part of the woods, I came across this long, low, moss-covered mound, in an area relatively clear of trees– not quite a clearing, but a spot where the forest gets thin. It looked like a weird grave or something, maybe like something had been done deliberately and intentionally by someone in the past. An odd spot in the woods, and I was surprised that I had never come across it previously.
Before heading home, I walked over to check out a stump that was covered with interesting green-tinged turkey tail mushrooms. At its base, I found a number of dried up old Reishis, one large one and a number of smaller individuals, one of which was home to an impressively large larva.
I harvested the largest of the Reishi, and examined it closely as I carried it home. In so many places in nature, one can spot patterns that look like writing or drawing, some type of incomprehensible language or perfect abstract art. The more one looks for this sort of thing, the more one sees it, sometimes in the broken-off stem of a Reishi, sometimes in the pattern of decay on its underside.