Revelation and Rambling


This week has been a revelation. The melting snow has pushed the Monocacy just a little over its usual borders. It flowed from streams, trickled from sunny banks, and washed in from streets and drains. As the swelling river turned a muddy brown, the land returned to a green slightly brighter than when we’d last seen it, before the snow fell.


For most of the week, I was exiled from “the island” by the river’s rising waters, left to gaze longingly at the carpet of green, where I knew early spring flowers were blooming. It’s the most wondrous time of year for the place, when it seems most clean and bright and promising (I’ve been known to call it “Fairyland”). But my side of the river isn’t without its own curiosities.

Again and again this winter, I’ve meant to write about the Canada Geese that travel over us in noisy flocks at dusk. It’s a particularly wintry phenomenon that I associate with clear skies and bracing cold. It seemed only fitting, then, that on winter’s last day, I watched about a hundred of them take off from the soccer field at Riverside Park.


As they flew over the Monocacy Boulevard bridge, I noticed a Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a taller tree in the forest retention area (which got some much-needed attention only last December).


It’s just a smudge in the distance in the picture that I took of it, and the geese merely specks, but with my naked eye it cut a regal silhouette, and I got a glimpse of its burnished chest when it glided from its perch, crossed low over the path in front of me, and headed into a stand of trees on “the island,” well out of my reach. Despite knowing that it was unlikely that I’d spot the hawk again, I hurried to the edge of the river and searched in the direction I thought it had gone. As expected, I didn’t find the bird, but I did see a tall, white American sycamore, which reminded me that I was supposed to take a picture of my favorite sycamore (because, yes, I have one) for the Maryland Biodiversity Project’s American Sycamore Facebook Blitz (because, yes, they had one). I was too late for the blitz, but I set off down the path the next day to photograph “my” tree anyway.


Isn’t it beautiful? It’s branches like gnarled, work-weary hands, reaching for the sky?


It even makes trash look good:


(Needless to say, among the things revealed by the melting snow was quite a bit of trash, and I couldn’t help but think that the juxtaposition of these two things meant that someone had a pretty wild night followed by a pretty rough morning:

Or maybe it was just a few ill-conceived hours.)

Fun with Fungus


I’ve been reluctant to address fungus in this blog, not because I don’t appreciate it but rather because I know so little about it. Classifying it is well beyond my ken. (Although I suppose I could ask my uncle, who just retired from the USDA and for years drove a van with a bumper sticker that read, “Mycology is Mushrooming.” When I say that I think of my uncle when I see fungus, I mean it in only the best way.) Sometimes, though, I just can’t resist making a foray into another field. Because, let’s face it, fungus can be fun.

This week I encountered some puffballs growing on a felled log. They are the funny little fungi that squirt out greenish spores when you touch them. My boys love to squish them and watch the “smoke” disperse into the air, and, honestly, so do I.

After some research, I discovered that these fungi are called Pear-shaped Puffballs, or Lycoperdon pyriforme. I used various resources to confirm my identification, but perhaps the most helpful was the Maryland Biodiversity Project website (see, which is concerned with cataloging all the living things in Maryland. I wouldn’t say that my puffballs were pear-shaped, but I’m not going to get into any body-shaming here. They puffed as well as any other puffball I’ve encountered.

Go have some fun with fungus!