A couple of weeks ago, I went on a wonderful walk through the Holmes State Educational Forst with my friends Pat and Tony. Is not often that I find people whom I can walk with in such compatibility, who enjoy seeing nature and taking in all the small miracles. It was an added bonus that they were extra patient when i started crawling around on the ground. Lately, I have been studying what is under my feet, the lifeforms I might accidentally step on which also sustain life on this planet. One of the first mushrooms we came across was this one. Perhaps it is a Hen of the Woods, but I am not entirely sure. Though I have the book Mushrooms Demystified, they are all still pretty mysterious to me. This is going to take a lot of studying. In the meantime, I can appreciate the mushrooms for their beautiful forms, their colors, and their idiosyncratic manifestations. I have come to realize that sometimes it is difficult to recognize that two specimens are the same species. All mushrooms do not look alike when you study them closely, just as people are all individuals.
I think these are Russula mushrooms, but again don't hold me to any strict identification and corrections are always welcomed. What I really loved about these mushrooms was finding them nestled together so protectively, at least that is the way it felt looking at them.
Besides the mushrooms, the roots of the trees, like this Hemlock, were interesting to examine. Everywhere life as teeming, each nook and cranny providing another space for some ecosystem to take hold.
These were conjoined together in a way that reminded me of butterfly wings.
When I saw this decomposing tree stump, it stopped me in my tracks. There was so much life everywhere and the whole gestalt was like an alien landscape. In fact in times where there were more virgin forests, this sort of scene was likely way more prevalent but nowadays you have to go far from people or in protected old growth areas to see something like this.
Tony told me these Maidenhair Ferns were very rare when we spotted them. I loved how they grew out radially and made a beautiful pattern that seemed to contain so much energy.
How this still life came to be, I don't know. Whether the wind blew the leaves, and a human placed the mushroom or an animal left it there I didn't know. It seemed so random and organized at the same time. Everywhere I looked on the ground there were sign of life and decay, and I knew that anything that was decomposing was also fodder for more life. There was an unbroken cycle and all was included. It was all energy and matter. The educational forest had plaques identifying trees with audio recordings you could press, but the education went far beyond classification. Walking in the woods changes you by osmosis.
Everywhere there were novel textures and species, something new to discover on the ground. Lately that is where my gaze his been a lot, reminding myself how rich the surface of this planet is and how much life it sustains. During the two and a half hours we spent walking here, we only saw one other person and two dogs. Many were out hiking on grander trails with views of the mountains and such, leaving this area with such rich ecosystems for us to discover and take in undisturbed, much as the forest floor was that day.
There were beautiful asters growing amid the ferns as well and several plants I have never seen before shown below.
When we walked out of the forest across a meadow we came to a patch of jewelweed and then some beautiful grasses that sparkled as the light hit them against the trees.
I took several more images of fungi and flowers, but this post would be too long if I included all of them. This just serves to give a sampling of the incredible diversity that exists in these very special woods. After spending the afternoon here, I felt so much more alive.