Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life in a Diabase Boulder Field

Crack in diabase boulder near the headwaters of Rock Brook. The crack follows a harder band of rock--less eroded than the rock surrounding--running through the boulder.  

"Make no mistake," my kung fu teacher says, waving his hand, "soft is powerful. Hard is not always more powerful. Soft is more powerful than hard." Sifu demonstrates the first form of Ngo Cho Kun, sam chien, with incredible power and tension. "The young ones do like this."

Again he demonstrates sam chien, this time alternating powerful strikes and relaxed parries and counters. "When you become older, more experienced, you do like this."

He demonstrates sam chien one final time with no force. He begins to add other strikes and blocks. "Like the white crane. When you become senior tis is how you maintain your power. This is very powerful."

Woodpecker holes follow the edge of the tree's scar tissue. I wonder if the scar itself is too hard, too dense for ants to drill into. Did they find the place where soft meets hard?

"Look for the weak point. Do not punch your opponent in the chest. If he is very strong, he will not feel anything."

"Use this," he makes a phoenix fist, "to the temple. Very painful. He will get dizzy and fall down. Or, to here," he points to where his jaw meets his face. "You cannot body-build this."

Trees can be difficult to identify by bark alone. Individuals may appear very different based upon age, habitat, and even the side of the tree one is facing. 

Tupelo tree, opposites sides of the same tree. Bark tends to slough off the southern or sky-facing (if leaning) side. Exposed to the sun and thus more drastic fluctuations in daytime and nighttime winter temperatures, ice thaws and refreezes, causing the bark to fall off. 

"Do not let him know what you are doing. You must be quick. He will want to hug [grab] you," he puts his hands around a student's neck. "Like this. What do you do?" The student blocks out with both hands, presses down, and pushes. "That's correct!" he exclaims. 

Black birch tree tip up. Black birch seeds germinate on bare ground. This tree's roots were flattened on the bottom from the diabase boulder it grew upon. I began to think boulder fields are similar to plants grown in pots -- sometimes there is not a lot of room for roots.

"if you are not rooted, he will knock you down. It is very easy."

 Turkey vulture cruises overhead, far above the widow-makers that we walk beneath.

A diabase boulder cracked by the pressure of tree roots--that boulder-field/potted plant situation again. This must have taken awhile. Native Americans used diabase--hard but could be fashioned to a sharp edge. 

A classmate and I practice attack, defense, and counter moves. We're polite to each other. I'm the only woman in the class. "Move! You have to move when you attack. No, like this." Sifu, a slight man, takes monstrous steps across the floor. He gently but firmly places his outer blades of his hands on my shoulder joints. He suddenly snaps his hands forward and strides. I step back quickly, following his movement, lest I trip over my feet.

"Add power at the last moment. Very powerful." He says, "You push. Then you throw away. Like a rubber band."

Cranefly orchis. A nice surprise.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter Walk

 Wood-nettle (Laportea canadensis) in a depression along Rock Brook. 

Though the daytime temperatures have been reminders of early autumn, peak color was blown away overnight by heavy rains. We have a late-November landscape and September thermometer reading.

Pileated woodpecker holes on an ash. 

 Apical dominance of an American beech.

 Witch hazel.

The work of winter resident birds - woodpeckers or nuthatches?

all images Sourlands, November 27, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My muddy windflower

Muddy windflower, always head for that puddle.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sassafras hedgerow

I never crop my images, or so I say.

What is excluded from the frame? What is included in the frame? Why was the photographer made these choices? Who is the photographer?

These are the questions we asked again and again during critiques and slide shows of well-known photographers at the university.

Sometimes in the photo there was an indigenous person (a person closer to ancestral culture or very much Other than ourselves, the university students) carrying an object (Coke can), wearing striking clothing (Yankees t-shirt), or in a terrible place (environmental wasteland such as a city, barren land, woeful cropfield). The person displayed various degrees of dignity.

"It's ironic that..." a classmate might begin when asked to comment on the image.

"What the photographer does not reveal, is the..." another would continue.

Above, I've decided to crop out the invasive Callery pear seedling that was in the foreground of this photo. Bright red and out of place against an autumn sky and sassafras hedgerow. I just couldn't stand it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

After the storm

Staying oriented in the forest was difficult. Old trails were obscured.

Perfect site for turtle basking and spotted salamander egg laying. The leaning white oak finally fell.

A table for squirrels and their hickory nuts, opossum path, and owl haunt.

And then the next storm came...

Mother and child vagabond in the public square by the Princeton Public Library. Here, we stop for lunch--a Rainbow Wrap from Whole Earth Center's booth at the Princeton Farmer's Market. We found our appointed seat. During the blackout my son and I walked into Princeton a half dozen times to pass the time.

We left Saturday (10/29) morning for kung fu class and dropped our son off at my in-laws' house. We packed pretty well, thinking we might stay out after class.

As we practiced, the rain shifted to snow.

Back at my in-law's the world appeared ready for snow shoes, not trick or treating. We called our house, and already, the power was out. No answering machine - no power.

Snow fell, branches fell. Our son was ill, my husband was ill. We stayed with my in laws until our power came back on Thursday night.

Rain Barrels, Barrels and Barrels

We're still working on the house - our house always grows mold in August. This year was the worst. According to preliminary data from Rutgers an average of 17.22 inches of rain fell in August. Our 'new normal' for August is only 4.21 inches. The house was disgusting - my throat closed, my chest tightened, and I coughed every time I was inside. My son, too, became ill. We felt better outside and away, but getting out and away while 17.22 inches of rain fell was difficult.

Mold grew on the
musical instruments
kitchen drawers
kitchen implements
on the isopropyl alcohol bottle!

My vintage light clothes became spotted rusty colored ('foxed' is the used book term), photo mattes warped and mildewy, anything black was spotted whitish-grey... I'm still opening boxes and leaving things in the sun.