pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Last Saturday Eric and I borrowed Lydy's car, since she had plans that did not require it, and went to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. We'd missed the previous week because Eric was out of town. It was a chilly, cloudy day, but we'd decided not to try to cram the garden into Sunday along with grocery shopping and hearing Sister Tree at the Powderhorn May Day celebration.

The steps down to the front gate were lined with the spotty leaves of Virginia waterleaf, which blooms somewhat later than now. But off a few feet in the woods was a glimmer of rue anemone, all pale pink, with their varying numbers of flower petals and their three-lobed leaves. Just outside the gate, the wild ginger leaves were big and all unfurled. Inside the gate the vivid gold of wood poppies and a patch of false rue anemone, five-petalled white flowers and little clutches of three leaflets, waved in the wind. A patch of white trout lilies was blooming on the upper part of the path that leads down to the shelter. After dithering a moment, we went downhill past the shelter and through the woods to the far side of the garden, overlooking the swamp. Virginia blubells were blooming richly, looking ethereal in the strange overcast light. There were more wood poppies. Elderberry bushes were blooming. All the trillium that had been in bud was blooming. The trout lilies that had been blooming two weeks ago were mostly done. Their gray-green, spotted leaves lay in overlapping layers as if someone had raked them all in one direction; maybe borne down by the ample rains of the last week or so. There were brilliant patches of moss hopefully holding up its fruiting bodies.

The heptatica was done, but white, purple, purple-and-white, and the tiny yellow violets bloomed along the same path. Two weeks ago I told Eric that certain plants were either tall meadow rue or early meadow rue; now I could say that they were definitely the former. We had avoided the marsh last time because it had been so wet, but now we decided to go at least as far as the fine new boardwalk, raised some feet above shallow water and mud scattered with the now-huge green leaves of skunk cabbage, would take us. More Virginia bluebells, the leaves of flag iris, the first pale soft new needles of the tamaracks, and a wide swath of marsh marigold, with smack in its center a sign saying, "Swamp Saxifrage." We discussed, as we went past the end of the new boardwalk, admiring the new red-banded green horsetail ferns, whether the name of the marsh marigold had been changed. I eventually looked up swamp saxifrage, and it's something entirely different that clearly blooms later in the year, since there was no sign of it now. We came around the bend of the path and saw a tom turkey. Around him here and there, tearing up grass and shoots and resolutely ignoring him, were four hen turkeys. We admired their green and bronze, and the general magnificence of the tom. He ruffled up his dark back feathers once or twice, but decided not to actually go to the trouble of spreading his tail.

We went on up the hill, looking at fern fiddleheads, some covered with fine hairs that made them look gray, some growing tidily in the circle of the rust- or cinnamon-colored fronds of last year's greenery, some still reddish with just a hint of green. We came back to the area around the shelter and decided to go left past the huge patch of periwinkle and up the steep hill to the meadow. On our left as we went ferns were coming up all over; on the right were wood poppy and false rue anemone and finally the periwinkle, blooming happily away. We sat down on a bench for a few moments. We had been hearing a pileated woodpecker laughing in the distance, and as we sat it flew over our heads, landed on a tree halfway up the hill, let us see it for a few seconds, and ran around behind the tree trunk. Then it flew on up the hill and disappeared.

We went up the steep hill to the meadow and found that they had burned most of the near side since we were last there. There was not much going on in the meadow yet even where it had not been burned, but we went up the hill past the juniper tree to look for prairie smoke. The wind hit us with a huge gust as we labored up the slope, and almost blew my hat away. We did see a patch of prairie smoke, not yet open; and standing on the hill briefly we turned to admire the grove of paper birches, now in small green leaves, and saw a little redbud in full bloom at their feet. We went under the arch of the wild plum that frames the entrance to the meadow. It was blooming but past the best. We did see another wild plum in full bloom on the other side of the garden, but I can't recall quite where now. It had a lovely scent.

We decided that it was chilly and getting dark, and we had had a fine time, so we went on down through the white pines and out the front gate and so back to the car and dinner at Pho Tau Bay.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Eric and I visited the garden briefly last weekend; we were having a discussion of different driving routes for his old and new apartments, and he mentioned that we hadn't taken this bit of 394 in quite some time, but used to use it as a fast way to get to Eloise Butler from my house. "Eloise Butler," I said reflectively, meaning, hey, the garden is open and it's not a horrible day in terms of weather. So we dropped by quickly, postponing our grocery shopping.

It was classic very early spring in the garden. No overall mist of greening leaves, but the occasional fantastical bud, sticky-tight, or half-open, or frothing out its small leaves in unrecognizable shapes. We heard red-bellied woodpeckers saying Quirrrr quirrr quirrr. Here and there the little white candles of bloodroot stood about, wrapped in their gray-green fringed leaves. On the slope where they surprise us every time, clump after clump of sharp-lobed hepatica bloomed in pink and blue and white, bowing and shaking on their thin stems in the spring breeze. Trout lily leaves were up in abundance. The false rue anemone was up here and there, many of its leaves still reddish. Skunk cabbage was red and redolent in the marsh.

The little snow trillium was blooming furiously just up the hill from the swamp boardwalk.

So that was our first visit, and we were very glad to have made it. We went back with forethought yesterday. It was a hot day. I resent hot days in April more than I can say. It should not be hot before the leaves are out. It should not be hot in April at all.

That said, by the time we had left the steep driveway and taken the little gravel trail that leads down the hill to the front gate of the garden, I had become resigned to the weather. Before we were halfway up the drive, Eric pointed out a deer crossing it, in a very leisurely manner. We were able to spot her again, standing in the brush on the righthand side of the drive and looking at us, ears alert. She was mostly able to blend into the thin wavery brush, but the ears gave her away.

We were hearing a lot of red-bellied woodpeckers, and one flew past and gave us a couple of good quick views in between its trips behind whatever tree we were looking at it in. Then we heard a Woody the Woodpecker laugh, and Eric said, "That's not quite big enough to be a pileated -- no, wait, it is a pileated." Sure enough, that crazy hammer-head with its stripes, and the remarkably huge body of the woodpecker showed briefly before this one too, in the manner of all woodpeckers, moved around behind the tree so that we couldn't see it any longer. We were enormously pleased, feeling that anything after this would just be extra-fancy icing.

We decided to go up to the meadow first. We had left it unvisited the last time because not much in terms of flora happens there early in the year; but I'd recalled that there is a little prairie smoke and some pasque flower up there and we thought we would look for them. There were some nice clumps of bloodroot along the trail under the white pines, and then many leaves of Virginia waterleaf, and some thistle and aster rosettes, pushing up through the few remaining fallen stems of last year's prairie. When we came around the bend and saw the first part of the meadow, everything seemed very open and empty; in summer and fall, the plants and grasses are shoulder-high on me, but now nothing more than a few inches high was visible. It looked as if they might have burned the slope of meadow visible from the approach, not recently but maybe last fall sometime: the thick layers of fallen grasses and prairie flowers were missing. We'd seen plum trees blooming in people's yards as we rode the bus to the park, but the little arch of wild plum that leads to the meadow proper was just coming into bud.

We went down the slope and onto the path that goes around the central meadow hill, where we were intercepted by a tall dark-haired young man with a walking staff. He asked if we wanted to see the owlet. Well, yes, we did. He pointed it out to us, but we couldn't see it -- he was much taller than I am, and there was a screen of brush that confused the eye. "I'll walk you down to it," he said, so we followed him down to the lowest part of the meadow, where finally, just the other side of the garden fence, we saw a big cream-colored ball of fluff with an owl's face, clinging very firmly to a short stub of a branch not very far from the ground, blinking from time to time, and looking like any fledgling simultaneously terrified, winsome, and bewildered. We had encountered one of the staff on our way down, and she and the young man were discussing the mother owl, which after quite a lot of work Eric and I managed to see high up in a white pine behind the owlet's tree. "Look for her little white bib and the horns," the young man urged, and they were there, but she was very well camouflaged. So they were great horned owls, which we've hard hooting many times and seen silhouetted against the sky on the other side of the garden. But we had never seen an owlet before, or had a glimpse of an adult that showed the white bib.

After a while we thanked the young man and went on up the next hill, stopping to look down at a little loop path that is packed with ferns during the garden's proper season. The ferns weren't up yet, but there was a good patch of bloodroot down at the bottom of the loop. A cardinal was tuning up from the evergreens, and a few more red-bellied woodpeckers quirred somewhere hidden. We went along the edge of the hill and sat on a bench, marvelling at the view when there were no leaves to block it. The clump of birches at the other end of the meadow had new pale green leaves. The meadow was still brown, but Eric noticed a dragonfly, a migrating green darner; and then another; and then the sun came out from behind the clouds and backlit six or eight darners and the cloud of tiny insects they were hunting.

We finally tore ourselves away and went back to the bottom of the central hill to check for asparagus spears, but it was too early. We went down the steep trail through the woods with its sheets of emerging trout lily leaves, and I saw a single plant of Dutchman's breeches, fine frilly leaves and ridiculous white and pink flowers on their tiny stalk. Further down were more hepatica, a number of clumps of actual rue anemone in pink form for easier identification; and, increasingly as we went downhill, big patches of false rue anemone, in bud and blooming shining white, according to the light they were getting. We decided that we'd see the most flowers if we bypassed the marsh and went along the far side of the woods, so we did that, noting in passing that the marsh marigolds, which had been up last week, now had minute yellow buds. The skunk cabbages had put up bright green leaves and were somewhat less stinky. Eric noticed that the patch of Virginia bluebells on the left side of the path had buds, some still pink and some blue already. The snow trillium was still blooming ferociously, and we started to see first individual trout lily buds and flowers, and then, as we went up the far slope of the woods above the marsh, a patch of yellow trout lily, and another, and another, and then sheets of white ones interrupted by clumps of yellow. I remarked that another name for the yellow trout lily is the dog's-tooth violet.

We passed some people who told us that they had seen four deer and three wild turkeys. We felt smug about our owlet, but when we saw the first wild turkey hen poking around under a fallen tree trunk, we stopped and gaped at her anyway. At some point we sat down on a bench overlooking the marsh, and Eric checked the time and the bus schedule and we realized that we'd have to hurry. We didn't do very well at that, however. There were other hen turkeys; there were flowers and fantastical shrubs budding, the trillium leaves we had seen last week, had their pointy buds well out, and it's a bit of a hilly slog back up towards the Martha Crone Shelter. When we got there, a nice man told us there was a tom turkey displaying, and he was, right on the path that goes past the periwinkle further on; so we watched him for a while. He was missing a tail feather, but still a splendid sight. I've seen a tom turkey displaying his feathers once before, but hadn't really noticed how the rick black feathers of the back get into the act as well, so that he looks as if he is part very upset cat. The hen turkeys stalked stolidly through the dead leaves, poking with their beaks for insects, and at least pretended to ignore him. We got our best view when a woman with a camera made him decide that he should turn back and go into the woods just below the shelter.

We had missed our intended bus by then, but they were about to close the shelter, so we dawdled up the hill and, when one of the staff came to lock up, out the gate and up to the parking lot, where we sat on a bench under the beautiful river birch they have there and watched the quintessential common animals disport themselves in the grass: a robin, a gray squirrel, and an Eastern chipmunk. The disparate birdsong that we'd had as background had changed to chickadees saying, "Cheeseburger," over and over, establishing their nesting territories. Wee went slowly back down the driveway, now lined with robins about twenty feet apart, and found our bus stop, and went home.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I want to put down at least a few brief notes about things I had hoped to write about at length when my memory was fresh.

First, Minicon 50. As [ profile] mle292 so clearly explained at Opening Ceremonies, Minicon 50 did not mark the fiftieth year of there being Minicons, and nor was it actually the fiftieth Minicon. However, we were celebrating anyway. The three co-chairs had worked very hard to build up membership and guest-of-honor goodwill, all to culminate in this convention. I complained a lot about how it was a day longer than most recent Minicons. In the days of the huge Minicons, were you so inclined, you could attend a party every night for eight or nine days, beginning on the weekend before the convention and spilling over at least onto the Tuesday following it. I've become sufficiently hermitic that I don't even go to the work party or the first party at the hotel, so that my usual Minicon runs from Friday afternoon through, if you count post-convention sushi and ice cream, Monday afternoon. This year we checked into the hotel on Thursday. I still skipped the Tuesday work party and the Wednesday party at the hotel.

Eric was the at con head of the Volunteers Department and a responder for the Code of Conduct Committee, so he got talked into coming to the Wednesday party, which he said was great, but it made him feel anti-social on Thursday. We ended up borrowing Lydy's car and slipping off for dinner on our own. We went, somewhat at random, to the Malt Shop, and got caught up on one another's news. We ordinarily have a date on Friday or Saturday, but of course at a convention it all has to be fitted around other events. We had one other meal together because our timing didn't suit anybody else's. Other meals were properly conventional: sheerly by accident, we ran into Lois who is not on LJ and Jon Singer, and had lunch with them in the hotel restaurant, with very pleasant and wide-ranging conversation.

On Sunday after Closing Ceremonies we slipped away to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden for an hour or so. The weather was threatening rain, but we did manage a walk around. There were snow trillium. All the tamaracks were still buttoned up as tightly as could be; of the understory, only a few dogwoods showed the fantastical beginnings of leaves, but there were recognizable rosettes of thistle, false rue anemone, wild ginger, and trillium

We came back to a dinner with Ctein and Jon again. We went to Peninsula and had excellent food. I also ate one Dairy Queen meal in the room on the day that I had my reading; and Eric and I had a lovely meal both for food and conversation with [ profile] eileenlufkin, [ profile] mrissa, and [ profile] alecaustin at whatever the Sofitel has become -- maybe a Sheraton. I refuse to keep track. They were remodelling their actual restaurant, so they guided us through wide shadowy spaces to their temporary restaurant. It was a bit like eating in a spaceport, but the menu, while limited, had very good things on it. No blue food, however.

I usually get in at least one meal with David, but he was busy with the Cats Laughing concert on Friday night and with hosting room parties other nights. He does sometimes complain about going out for meals at conventions with people he lives with, so I trust this was more satisfactory in any case.

The dreaded 11:30 a.m. panels were both extremely good. I believe that the Scribblies (minus, sadly, Kara Dalkey) managed to keep Jane Yolen entertained while we interviewed her; and the Fairy Tale panel was by far the best one I've ever been on. Everybody was very insightful and intelligent, and there was also a running joke from I have no idea where, in which one put up one's hand if one felt uncomfortable. This came in very handy when people began complimenting one another and when Jane Yolen told family anecdotes about Adam Stemple.

On Saturday afternoon before and after my reading I spent most of my time listening to a really fine lineup of other people read -- Naomi Kritzer, Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, Marissa Lingen and Alec Austin, Michael Merriam.

I had never heard Naomi read and, though I like her writing very much and already knew that she is funny, I didn't realize how much theatrical skill she put into reading her work aloud. She read a time-travel story that was a lot like an anxiety dream in its repetitive failures, but much funnier and better structured.

Marissa and Alec are a very good team both for writing and reading, with a nice contrast in manner and in particular flavor of humor; Marissa also read a work of her own that did what most of her short work tends to do to me, which is to proceed stealthily towards a point that perhaps should not be surprising but generally is. (If not surprising, or sometimes while also being surprising, this moment tends to knock the metaphorical breath out of you for other reasons, mostly the logical coming-together of disparate and intense elements.)

Jane and Adam also did a mix of collaborative and individual reading, passing scenes back and forth like, um, some kind of ball in some kind of sport I'd think of if I knew any sports. Jane's poems are often not unlike Marissa's short stories, only more compressed -- one moment you are laughing, the next your eyes sting with tears. I mostly hate war stories, but Adam read a very good one.

Michael has done a lot of spoken-word work and it informs his reading very pleasantly, insofar as that's a good word to use about rather grim subject matter. But I liked the touches of humor and the local settings.

I missed Scott Lynch and Bear reading, again, and will need to put that at the top of my list for next year because this is getting ridiculous.

My own reading went well enough, but I need to find some better solution to the fact that I always overrun a half-hour slot but cannot really fill an hour before my voice gives out. Pat Wrede came in just as I'd finished and was somewhat frustrated, since she knew I would be reading a few passages from our joint story in Points of Departure. The "print ARCs" had arrived over the weekend, and she kindly handed me hers (she commutes to the convention, we don't) to show off and read from. My own was awaiting me when I got home.

I didn't get to as much other programming as I would have liked, but I got to hear [ profile] matociquala and other fine people talk about artistic bravery.

And of course there was the Cats Laughing concert. A spreading fear that the room provided would not be large enough caused a lot of people to line up well in advance of the starting time. I myself got in line maybe half an hour before then and had good conversation with [ profile] laurel, Jon, and Mike Pins, who I think is not on LJ. We ended up sitting in a row with [ profile] ckd and [ profile] aedifica, which was pleasing. Eric didn't stand in line because he didn't want to be trapped in the middle of a crowd rather than being able to come and go. As it turned out, there was room and a little to spare, and he came and sat behind us about two-thirds of the way through the concert, having been in and out and sometimes dancing before that.

The opening act was Sister Tree, whom I had not heard before; but David had, and told me they were very good. They are, and in a way that I particularly like. They did a number of traditional folk songs in their American versions, and each of them did a version of "Cruel Sister" that arrived from and ended up at a very different place from the other's -- with footnotes. I have seldom had such a rollicking academic time.

The Cats opened with "See How the Sparrow Flies," which I had been playing a lot because of the Kickstarter extras. I loved it but remained fairly calm. However, the next song they did was Mike Ford's "Black Knight's Work," and I immediately got extremely teary and felt profoundly moved and nostalgic for the rest of the evening. The Cats sounded excellent. I kept flashing on an alternate history where they had stayed together and evolved into this form -- "So yeah, Steven decided to ditch the trap set because... " and "Scott came in about five years ago when... " They didn't sound the same any more than any of us really looks the same after 25 years -- but they sounded like themselves.

I missed far too many concerts, some because of scheduling conflicts and some because I was too scatterbrained to organize myself. But I did get to attend a room party or two with music, and also to listen to the music circle on Sunday night.

This is far from a full account. I was very happy to see Star and Pooch, as well as everybody mentioned above and quite a few I do not at all mean to leave out.

I think this will have to do, though I'm hoping that having recalled so much will shake up my brains so that I start out of bed at four a.m. remembering entire events that must be committed to writing at once.



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