I actually did spend most of my time near the entrance to the forest today. It was a clear warm and sunny day, and the blue of the sky provided relief from the greens, brown, and whites of the forest. So many plants are in bloom, and so many are transitioning to seed and berry forming too. The bulk of my notes are in the photos today, as plants reveal their identities overtly and spectacularly - this is the time of year to learn their names, and then remember where you saw them so that you can learn to recognize them at other times of the year too. The orange and black butterflies have become familiar companions now. I heard chickadees, the flute and rattle of red-winged blackbirds, the bouncing song of song sparrows, cawing crows, and robins, and an unfamiliar bird sound, twee-twee-twee-twee-buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz.
Mosquitos pricks made a constant somatic music on the flesh of my legs, and at the end of my walk, a touch of stinging nettle layered on a differently timbered note as I continue to take in this forest, in her many voices.
I was greeted by a brilliant orange, black and brown butterfly, and by a chipmunk as I approached the entrance to the forest today. There are a lot of plants and insects right near the entrance, and I realized that if I brought a guidebook with me, I could probably spend all my time within a few metres of the entrance, sleuthing IDs for plants I don’t already recognize.
Today, however, mosquitos were thick, much thicker than they were last week, and I opted to keep covered and on the move. Instead of going to the horsetail clearing, I decided to try to find my way to the river. Taking the path I have walked down before, through the middle of the forest in the general direction of the river, I eventually landed up at a wider less overgrown trail going perpendicular to the one I was on, with the choice to go either right or left, but not forward. I chose to go left, and presently found myself walking alongside an old chain link fence for some distance, before the path finally curved round to meet the river. In the end, I only spent about 20 minutes there, but along the way I met quite a few interesting insects, and was delighted to come across what I took to be an owl feather. It was relatively short and wide, with brown and white patterning. I wasn’t able to catch photos of all the insects I saw, but they included a white and black triangular moth, orange and yellow butterflies with black checkers, smaller orange butterflies with tiny black dots arranged with varying density into detailed patterns, and a large fly sporting a bulbous red abdomen with black hairs, and wings splayed stiffly out to the side, rather than folded over the thorax. I can’t find any of these on the Insect of Alberta web site, so I think I will have to submit my photos to iNaturalist!
At the river, I noticed quite a bit of wild vetch, goldenrod, and red osier dogwood. Red osier dogwood berries are actually edible, even though they are white. Some are already ripe this year (they are early) and I tasted a few, spitting out the seeds afterward. They are somewhat bitter, and not to everyone’s taste, but I like them.
The Introduction to David Abram’s “Becoming Animal” inSpires me today -
“Between the Body and the Breathing Earth”
ShoeS and SockS come off, Leave-ing soleSkin on soilsKin
But before that I greet a venerable spruce, hands on short low branches, they come away with sap on them - the specific stickiness of spruce a blessing to accompany me into -
I feel the shape of the arch of my foot in the pressure gradient that emerges from contact with earth
Vibrant palette presses on specialized receptors, where moments ago a foot shaped screen made the entire world opaque
Dry: thin shifting layers of leaves, thick rolls of poplar catkins
Wet: Sudden slipperiness of mud - now soles are smeared like palms were earlier, with -
Another lesson in boundaries …
I now feel fully enclosed, contained, yes - bounded, like I never have before, as though I had always had one side missing, absent from perception, leaving my sense of identity egregiously incomplete With this keystone in place, I am suddenly aware of the entire organ of my skin, where previously I had only felt sensations against specific skin regions without a sense of the whole upon which these sensations situate themselves Reminders of crucial domains of orientation rise up to me from the forest floor through my bare feet priming me for -
Now Mosquitos coMe to add their Medicine to the Mix. Their nuMbers have Multiplied Magnificently
Through punctures on newly self aware membrane, I allow my body to feed the forest, I remove the windbreaker, to surrender as fully as I can without going out of my way … intensification of sensation contained by new endowments, to introduce me to -
The spirit of this forest
is ever so still, like the spaciousness of this summer day without wind - an atmosphere both limitless and close, like the half-sleep of a lazy afternoon nap where for some indeterminate interval, a human doesn’t know whether they were dreaming or waking Now I am ready to listen, to harmonize my being with those around me, to ask how I may contribute my own voice to the silent symphony, a human voice …
Later at my house, I will spend 30 minutes scrubbing the stickies off the soles of my feet before entering through the back door.
It was another idyllic summer day when I arrived: sunny, not too hot, and little wind. Darners (the large blue dragonflies) were the first to make an impression on me as I made my way towards the forest’s edge. There were plenty of damselfies hovering around near the entry to the forest too, and ants were carrying white sacs up one of the wide poplar trunks. I heard red-breasted nuthatches, as well as the usual yellow warblers, red-eyed vireos, and least flycatchers. I didn’t register any sparrow songs, but I also didn’t get as close to the river as I did on my last visit.
I found myself in less of a mood for wandering around, and more for sitting in one spot this time. I’m still learning the forest trails though, and it took a while before I found the clearing with the horsetails. I took a wrong trail for a while, through a quiet and flat region of the forest with lots of ground cover. I didn’t quite feel welcome to linger there, so I wandered back the way I came, and eventually did find the trailhead of the right trail. There I decided to take a rest before continuing on to my destination. I sat on a log at the trailhead for a while, and a few mosquitos hovered around me. One landed on my left arm and extracted some blood from it - sweet reciprocity for the gifts I am receiving from the forest. So far mosquito populations have been very low this summer. I wonder if/when they will increase, and make their presence known.
Once I arrived at the horsetail clearing, I did feel welcome to sit there for a while. I noticed a few kinds of beetles - one black and round, one black, thin, and long. I noticed an ant carrying what looked like a small millipede, somewhat longer and thicker than the ant. A few orange & black coloured butterflies landed on the low foliage near me. Their ID is still a mystery to me - they are neither painted ladies nor pearl crescents, which would be my go tos. I read a bit in my garden bugs guide about pearl crescents, and how they only appear in Alberta once every 10 years or so, when their populations grow to the point where they need to migrate to find food.
Next time I will have to remember to take a notebook and pen with me, as well as my camera.
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Hi! My name is Nathan Binnema. My grandparents are from the Netherlands, and I have lived my whole life in the city of Edmonton, as a settler on this land that I have learned to call Amiskwaciy Waskahikan. Growing up my family attended Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, which is how I am connected with Doug Visser. Around 2012/2013 I joined the public activism to fight the rezoning of the northeast agricultural land, and was introduced to the farm and the forest. I stayed in touch, and a few years later Kelly asked me to do bookkeeping for Lady Flower Gardens. Though I haven’t pursued studies in ecology or biology professionally, I have always been a biophile, and for nearly seven years now have been with a practice called phenological engagement, which involves visiting a small area consistently throughout the year, and trying to get to know all of the living creatures who also visit there, and how they are related.