Every morning I feed the horses and chickens. Once it gets close to spring, I also begin my ‘get-in-shape’ program. Come along with me to feed the horses before I head out for a jog and walk early on a March morning. I’ve fed the chickens already. The time is right after sunrise, so light enough to see, but the sun hasn’t gotten over the top of the mountain in the east yet. I think it’s probably around 7 a.m.
The creek is running nicely right now. I can hear it from up at the house, but once I reach the bottom of the driveway’s first hill, I can hear her difference voices. At each little spill, there is a different tune. It’s a lot cooler down here where the water runs alongside the driveway. All of this water is from springs, and it’s icy cold. Some of the springs dry up later in the year, so the creek flow is a lot lower then – unless it rains. When there’s enough rain, her song is angry and dangerous.
After this point there is a waterfall to the right, and then a scrubby, brushy area where a landslide happened in 2015. Right about there is where I smelled a wet dog-like odor. Maybe a bear had passed this way shortly before sunrise and the odor still lingered. Or maybe it was splashing around in the creek just now and ran to hide in the thickets when it heard me coming… it’s springtime and warm enough for bears to be out and about. Usually a black bear is shy of humans and will run the other way. But it’s springtime, and that means there might be baby bears, too… so I quickened my pace and passed through that stretch a little faster than I normally do.
Gratitude for Solitude
I forget sometimes that my life out here isn’t a typical lifestyle, in general. It’s easy to forget that the things I see, the the sounds and smells (and lack of urban sounds and smells), are not the the sensory experiences of people who live in more urban settings. But perhaps it’s just that the way I experience it that marks the difference. The things that catch my attention as I wander around in an immersive interaction with nature bring out my inner child and stimulate my artist sensibilities. Walking alone and exploring the creeks and woods is deeply satisfying to me. I know a lot of people might find it intimidating, but I’ve never had a scary interaction out here in the woods.
I saw this little patch of dried grasses this morning on my March morning walk. Do you stop to ogle the little curly-haired grasses?
I love the fragile dried tendrils weaving over and under the little pebbles. This imagery has in the past found a place in my artwork, and surely will again.
Mosses on a March morning
I went on this March morning walk after sunrise, but before the sun had made it over the hills to the east. I start out with a slow jog to whatever point I choose to be the endpoint, and then I meander my way back to the house. It is a slow, exploratory walk. By the time I found this patch of fruiting moss, the sun had risen enough to send illuminating rays of light into our valley. The lighting was perfect for this photo, but I had to get down on the ground, close enough to smell the scent of damp, decomposing leaves.
There’s a lot to explore here! We live on 160 acres of mostly wooded Ozark mountains, but I rarely see most of it. To explore the far corners takes a bit of bushwhacking, but I do like to do that from time to time. There are certain plants I can only see on those type of hikes. Once I get through the overgrown brambles and thickets, and into the deep woods, the going is a lot easier.
The Shade Lovers
And that’s where the orchids, ginseng, cohoshes, dragons, pulpits and maidenhair ferns like to live. And in one certain place right on the side of a shaded old logging road there lives an American spikenard. I gather seeds, cuttings, and divisions of these plants and move them to the habitat area I’ve been restoring over the past several years.
Though I haven’t found any out here, Lady Slipper orchids are the only ones blooming so early in the year. But in April the unfurling should begin, starting with the ephemerals like trout lilies, bloodroot, and trillium. I look forward to that every year. It’s like greeting old friends each time I see them for the first time in spring.
Heading back to the House
The creek that runs alongside the driveway crosses it twice on one route out (we have two options), and the waterfall once no matter which option we take. Hills, rocks, and crossing creeks offer a great workout as I travel my route. It is sometimes a challenge to cross the creek without getting my feet wet.
Soon enough, I could see the sun as I made my way back to the house. All of these sights and experiences influence my art. As much as I love the wildlife, I rarely get good photos of things that move so quickly. But I’d like to paint more from my own photos and en plein air. So there might be more plants and landscapes, or still-life scenes in my future artwork.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this nature walk and come back again to visit later!