Thursday, May 03, 2012

What We Can See

"It is overcast this afternoon  and there is a fine, misty drizzle that feels fresh on my face. The still air amplifies the sound of water dripping on maple leaves. The leaves are still bright green, but will transform into a kaleidoscope of yellow, orange, red, salmon and purple in another week or two. The goldenrods along the dirt road are just starting to fade, and several species of wild aster are beginning to flower instead. I note the splashes of their lavender, purple, and blue flowers. There are usually bumble bees in these flowers, but today these cold-hardy bees remain torpid in their underground nests deep in the woods.
Watching a large orange and black monarch butterfly feeding at an aster, I wonder how much sugar it is getting from the nectar to fuel on this stop on its migration from Canada to Mexico. The butterflies like human ultramarathoners need regular refuelling stations. While it is warm and sunny, during the last couple of weeks, I've seen the monarchs floating by on lazy, soaring wing beats. These individuals are at least the third generation of those that left Central Mexico last spring to come north to breed. All of hem are now journeying to their communal wintering area in the cool mountains near Mexico City from where their ancestors had come. There they conserve their energy reserves through winter by literally putting themselves in refrigeration that slows their metabolic fires."
The extract is from the opening of a book called 'Why We Run' by Bernd Heinrich and describes the start of a run after a sedentary day. I quote it out of envy.
I wish I was a naturalist who could get all the juice from what I see: know the exact stages of the wildflowers and what they were, see passing animals and know their life cycle. But I am not. My eye for identification is pathetic and I have to rely on my wife to tell me which flower is which. She is not there on most of my runs. 
I do however have certain birds and animals that give me pleasure when I see them. Foremost amongst these are herons. They always lifts my spirits. I don't know why: probably something to do with the ungainly, boney shape that almost looks two dimensional. I doesn't matter. I know I like them and luckily they are a fairly common sight by the canal.
I saw this one yesterday. I was not running - but never mind; that is a mere detail.

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