stumbled upon

Combine a beautiful spring day with a walk in the woods and there’s no telling what you might come across. Today I set out into the woods, following South Buffalo Creek downstream, and noticed this large brown feather lying in the leaves. It measures 16 inches from one end to the other. I think it might be from a hawk or an eagle, or maybe a vulture.

I saw several wildflowers, some of which I couldn’t identify. We just moved to Virginia a few months ago, so there are many new plants and flowers to learn about.  As I walked, I came across the stumps of American chestnut trees, a species wiped out decades ago by a blight, and how important they once were to the ecology of the Appalachian forests.

On my way back, I saw an autumn olive bush loaded with honey bees and tiger and zebra swallowtail butterflies. This accommodating zebra swallowtail stayed still long enough for me to admire its bold colors and snap a picture. I made a mental note to look for pawpaw trees, the host tree for the larvae of this species.

But no doubt one of nature’s most beautiful offerings was this native dogwood tree. The dogwood is the State Tree of Virginia, and they burst into bloom just about the time the flowers of the redbud tree are declining. This one at the edge of the woods is reaching out to capture the sun’s rays.

These walks never fail to remind me of a quote by John Muir: “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” Nature is ever-changing and I am thankful to be on the receiving end of all that she has to offer.

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the color of spring

It’s just barely spring in the Blue Ridge, but nature can wait no longer, bursting forth in glorious color. Driving the back roads, all along the woods’ edge the pink blossoms of redbud and wild cherry trees are visible. The yellow and gold hues of buttercups, daffodils, and goldenrod dot the fields and meadows. Bees feast on the purple henbit that grows in the poorer soils along field edges and hillsides.

Redbud trees peeking out from the woods. Photo by Jo Ann Abell

After this morning’s rain, though, the landscape is dominated by green. The grass is growing so fast you can almost hear it grow and the trees are hurrying to send out their new leaves to catch the rain and the sun’s rays. The yellowy-green willow tree next to our neighbor’s pond sits in contrast to the darker green of the surrounding grassy meadow and the pines at the base of the mountain in the background. On this particularly verdant morning, green is the color of spring.

Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire. ~Virgil