WONDERS: Overhead and At My Feet

The pandemic has turned the world upside down for many of us, smashing routines to bits and making fear and anxiety our daily companions. Normally I like the unexpected – it perks me up and keeps me engaged. But a world-wide crisis in which countless people suffer isn’t what I have in mind when I consider the benefits of change. People across the globe have been forced way out of their comfort zones. We’re all doing whatever we can to cope with the consequences of a situation that would have sounded like science fiction a year ago.

For many people that means getting outdoors as much as possible, trying to gain a little distance from the news and relieve the restlessness that comes with quarantine restrictions. Unfortunately, the ability to go outdoors is only a dream for some people. I’m lucky – access to nature is not difficult where I live and I’m healthy enough to get myself out the door. Being outside has always been my salvation, so lately, I get out almost every day.

And I never know what I’m going to see next.

How about having sky overhead jam-packed with thousands of honking, flapping geese frantically flying back and forth? That was certainly an unexpected sight, and I loved it. Or how about a tiny, glittering pink gem rising out of the rough detritus of the forest floor? Finding dainty Calypso orchids in the woods made my heart pound. Startling sights above my head and at my feet – these are interruptions in the routine that I welcome.

*

1. This is a fraction of the immense flock of Snow geese (Chen caerulescens) that we came upon in the fields of Skagit County, after a trip to the bakery one afternoon.

2. We reveled in the deafening noise.

3. Most Snow geese that spend winters in Skagit county breed on Russia’s Wrangel Island, far to the northwest. Many farmers leave crops (like potatoes and corn) in the ground for the geese and for Trumpeter swans, which also winter here.

4. Handsome birds!

5. Photographers like this man are thrilled to be in the midst of a whirling flock of Snow geese. I didn’t see them all winter. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time (they cover a wide area, moving from field to field). I thought they would leave before I could see them this year, but the day we saw this flock proved me wrong.

*

You can experience the deafening noise of Snow geese yourself here. My own amateurish video didn’t upload but the second video in the link looks a lot like what we experienced, except it’s far louder in person. Three Bald eagles were harassing the geese that afternoon. People walking their dogs may also have disturbed them. I don’t like seeing the geese unsettled for too long (we watched for at least 20 minutes). They need their energy. But I trust they are healthy and most will make it back to their breeding grounds.

Many of you know the poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver. She also wrote this poem, about an encounter with Snow geese.

Snow Geese

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
To ask
Of anything, or anyone,
Yet it is ours,
And not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
Above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
A flock of snow geese, winging it
Faster than the ones we usually see,
And, being the color of snow, catching the sun
So they were, in part at least, golden. I
Held my breath
As we do
Sometimes
To stop time
When something wonderful
Has touched us
As with a match,
Which is lit, and bright,
But does not hurt
In the common way,
But delightfully,
As if delight
Were the most serious thing
You ever felt.
The geese
Flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
Is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
As through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

*

Another startling sight I experienced recently is the glorious vision of small, delicate magenta orchids growing on the forest floor. The little Calypso orchid (Calyso bulbosa) grows mainly in undisturbed northern forests, all around the globe. I saw my first Calypso last year and since then I’ve found them in three different parks here on the island. They are an astonishing sight, a real anomaly. Shaped and colored like miniature corsage orchids, you would expect to find them in a greenhouse, or growing in the luxurious warmth and humidity of a tropical country. As if someone dropped an earring made of brilliantly colored stones on the floor of a dusty old factory, the orchids push straight out of the dim forest floor, with just a single leaf pressed close to the earth. They’re a delight for anyone sharp-eyed enough to notice them – but only for a few weeks.

Wikipedia says, “The etymology of Calypso’s name is from καλύπτω (kalyptō), meaning “to cover”, “to conceal”, “to hide”, or “to deceive.” I think the name works on several levels for this plant: the flower contrasts sharply with its surroundings but is so small that it’s often hidden in the previous season’s detritus. The most intricately patterned parts of the flower are concealed below the upper petals (actually they are sepals, petals and a bract). Finally, the plant deceives potential pollinators by appearing to be source of nectar, which it is not.

*

6. I was serious when I said these orchids are small and like to come up through all the branches, twigs, leaves and other detritus on the forest floor.

7. I found this younger specimen growing under a cedar log on the side of a trail in the forest.

8. I’ve read that these little gems smell sweet but the chilly, early spring air makes my nose stuffy; though I scrunched down to smell the flower I couldn’t discern any fragrance. The sight is reward enough for me.
9. The flowers look enticing to insects (and to me!) but in fact, they don’t have nectar. Bees learn there’s no reward for them after a few visits, but apparently even just a few visits to different Calypso orchids will get the pollination job done.

10.

11. Seen from above: pure elegance.

One more…

***

12. A gaggle of Snow geese in black and white.

***


81 comments

  1. What a sight that must have been! I can imagine I would have burned through a few hundred images in very short order.

    Twice (when we lived closer to the river) I believe that I heard snow geese…but…..

    once at dusk unseen above
    the clouds squeaking and creaking
    like unoiled wagon wheels

    and the last time—with the ailing
    dog trailing behind me—clear in the
    crisp late winter night over the old
    oak tree and across the moon in their
    perfect V and me without my camera

    And yes! what a little gem that orchid is. It dances in my eyes!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful post, Lynn – I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a huge flock of birds like this, the sound must have been amazing. The birds here dwell in groups of 2 – 5 but I still love their visits. Mary’s poem is the perfect accompaniment for your photos.
    “I
    Held my breath
    As we do
    Sometimes
    To stop time
    When something wonderful
    Has touched us . . ”

    Indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The snow geese are awe inspiring. The orchid is precious. Here in Minnesota the state flower is the Lady Slipper, aka the Moccasin orchid, similar to the Calypso. A warm memory of springtime in my youth. Thanks you, Miss Blue.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know the Lady slipper – I used to see them when I lived on the east coast, if I was very lucky. What a beauty! It’s good to bring you a pleasant memory, I’m glad. Thank you for telling me…take care, Mr. Don.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that the human being is a “bridge” between heaven and earth and that our look and senses are the path that makes this connection possible.
    In that place it would be impossible not to hear the noise of these incredible snow geese and look up. But looking down and detecting such delicious orchids is only for the most attentive and nature lovers. Many people would not see and would easily ignore them. Or even step on them!
    Once again, the published images reveal this ability to be a “bridge and the path” that show us nature beauty. Naturally.
    Thank you so much for that ability and have a nice (but so strange…) Easter!

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a fine idea, having the potential to bridge heaven and earth simply by being human. And I’m gratified any time I can be a bridge showing the way to more natural beauty. We’re remembering last year when we were in Europe at this time. We noticed people were more engaged with Easter traditions than people are here. The bonfires the day before Easter were just one example – wonderful! Enjoy your traditions, whatever they are, and thank you. .

      Liked by 1 person

  5. yes, YES to all of it … to the swirling geese; to the delicate orchids (bringing me memories of lady slipper orchids up the Bruce Peninsula); and to loving the lovely thing that does not last … cf John Le Carré, in his book of his personal philosophy called Aristos, telling us to note the word “worthwhile” and to see what it says, that the “worth” is in the “while” and thus in the impermanence…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady slippers are such beauties – really prettier than the Calypsos in my mind, but the way Calypsos rise from the dry, brown forest floor makes them amazing. I love that dissection ( I won’t say unpacking) of “worthwhile.” There is so much worth our while – whether it’s a short while or a longer one. In the constant flux, what matters is the seeing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just this reminder brought back the thrill of encountering my very first snow geese blizzard. The certainly are the spectacle. Lucky you to chance upon them. Talk about squeals of delight!!!

    Love you’re orchids, too. These diminutive specimens seem all the more special for being so coy.

    Then to top it with Mary Oliver. She’s pretty special.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Gunta…the Calypsos have been delightful. Last year I only saw one or two because I wasn’t here at the right time, and didn’t really know where to look. I found one hidden place in the woods where close to 3 dozen were growing. Enchanting. And the geese, yes, that was lucky. I think they’re gone now. Next year!

      Like

  7. The many … and the single. Reflections on the pandemic that dive deep into the essence of the situation. And your answer comes as beauty in photographs and poetry, in art and nature as rescue beyond all.
    Overwhelming the many, the single so full of grace. Thank you for this beautiful Easter greeting. And my best wishes for friendly Easter to you 🌷.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your comment is well appreciated Ule. I’m overwhelmed by the many AND the single – the wonders around us are such a gift, aren’t they? It’s corny but true. Fond wishes being sent your way, with memories of spring in Germany, with friends. Happy Easter! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a wonderful wind-… or, rather, wingfall, and the additional bonus of the orchids–you must have been dancing on a cloud. The prospect of being such a part of the migration brings one particular thought to mind: do you know the music of Einojuhani Rautavaara? There’s a composition of his called Cantus Arcticus, which is a “symphony for birds and orchestra,” and it incorporates recordings of migratory birds in Finland, including snow geese. If you’ve never heard it, you are in for an amazing revelation. Please pick a time when you have 18 quiet minutes to be uplifted and inspired, put on some good headphones, and give it a go. You will not be sorry.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I don’t know Rautavaara, but I do now, thanks to the link you sent. It seems almost impossible to blend an orchestral composition with bird song without it being corny or overdone, but he succeeded. It’s fascinating that he managed to make it work, and it’s beautiful – you can get lost in it. Someone wrote this on another YouTube recording of the same piece: “What an astonishing work this is. I have worked long hours and days on a large river estuary during the Winter, in a small canvas hide and entirely on my own, doing bird survey work for a research project. This music brings it all back, the light, the feel of the air, and the mysterious ‘otherness’ of so much wildlife, so many birds just doing what they do, going about their existence in this vast expanse of unforgiving wet and cold. I find something deeply moving in the thought that they have been doing this year after year, and living for thousands of years, long out of sight or thought of Man. For me, Rautavaara’s music here captures that deep and mysterious quite energy of life and survival, both sad and impressive, and also utterly captivating.” Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m delighted that you also liked the music so much. Rautavaara has given his approval to other orchestras to perform this Concerto, but I’ve read that he has always insisted that only the recordings of the birds that he incorporated into the original be used.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That makes sense – one of the videos I came across showed some of the notations on the sheet music – it’s so interesting to think about how one notates music that goes out of the box. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Good golly! Go great geese gaggle!
    And what a well-toned orchid portrait in #11.
    You brought up Calypso: the same root appears in eucalypt(us), ‘well covered.’ I wondered about that and found in the Online Etymology Dictionary that it’s “so called for the covering on the bud.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • 🙂 All those G’s got me grinning. Steve. Thanks for that! I thought you might appreciate the name origin discussion and sure enough, you took it and ran with it. Interesting! Also, thanks for mentioning #11. Have a good Easter, Steve, and stay healthy.

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  10. We get the beautiful snow geese here in Northern California. There are several bird sanctuaries nearby. Armed with my new camera three years ago we drove an hour to the Colusa Preserve but there were very few to see. We just got out of the drought with so much rain, but the water was too deep for the geese to feed off the bottom. So I love your photos and hope to capture them with my lens some day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s frustrating that you can look and look and not see them, then when you’re not expecting to see them, there they are. I’ve been happy to hear about all the rain CA has been getting – it’s wonderful. But gee, from one extreme to the next, right? I think that’s the way it’s going to be for a long time: swinging between extremes. Thanks for your comment, and yes, one day you will. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. How special that you saw the geese in their hordes, Lynn. It’s something I’ve not experienced, but would love to one day.

    And wonderful words from Mary Oliver, too…I particularly like the last four lines….

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t know which is more delightful and surprising – the Snow geese or the Orchid.
    Thanks for sharing, Lynn.
    They make an uplifting break in the day, although I have to admit that Easter has been so peaceful and quiet in my urban area, that in itself is a welcome break from the normal.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Both these events made my heart sing. I’m going to look for those orchids – maybe they grow here too. And suddenly now I think Don and I should take a trip out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary to see if we can see the snow geese again. We usually go once or twice a year to see them and have seen them only once. Maybe this year. It’s such an astonishing sight.
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

    • They should be in your area. Have you ever used inaturalist? You could search for other people’s sightings of the flowers in your region on that app. It would help narrow down the locations since they can be fussy about where they grow. Yesterday I used the app that way for the first time, to narrow down a search for another really cool plant. With a GPS tracker on my phone, I was able to find a whole colony of the flowers, still in bud. I wouldn’t rely so heavily on an app normally – I believe in the joy of serendipity, and the value of just being outdoors and looking at what’s around you. But the bloom time for some flowers can be brief so I am motivated to find them. 🙂
      Reifel is a place I will visit one of these days – when we Americans are allowed back in! Just kidding. 😉 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You’re so lucky to be able to get out into nature so often, Lynn. I would have loved to see the snow geese overhead. I’m sure it was a magnificent sight. And i love the photos of the Calypso orchid. Happy belated Easter, and I hope you stay healthy and hopeful. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s more rural here so some local parks remain open since the danger isn’t as great as it is in more populous areas (though all our state parks are closed). Several gorgeous places are just a 10-minute drive away and 95% of the people I see are respectful. So I will keep getting out as much as I can! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the images, (I can easily picture you being thrilled at the sight of a flock that size). A belated Happy Easter to you, too, and thanks for stopping by. Stay healthy!

      Like

  15. Quelle série, magnifique…l’envol époustouflant (à couper le souffle de beauté) et cette si belle orchidée sauvage qui me rappelle ma joie d’enfant quand on en découvrait une en balade avec mes parents…sourire..merci Lynn

    Liked by 2 people

    • Merveilleux! Je suis heureux que cela ait ramené un bon souvenir. Désolé d’avoir été absent de votre blog – j’y arriverai bientôt. Restez en sécurité et en bonne santé, et merci.

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      • Il n’y aucun problème, chère Lynn, je suis moi-même pas très régulière ces temps..sourire..puis cela doit rester un plaisir…grand sourire..et surtout tout pareil…

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  16. Nature is always our refuge from the craziness of humanity. Thanks for this diversion, Lynn. I have never experienced the sound of thousands of honking geese although there are many videos out there. But I am sure they cannot come close to the “being there” itself. And Calypso orchids. I’ve never seen one so I am seriously envious of yours. And the shots of them are lovely.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Love your photos. I really enjoy the flower ones. But the geese drive home a point that has been in my mind. While we suffer through a pandemic the rest of the animal kingdom knows nothing of it and continues life as usual as if nothing were going on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly. It’s true that what’s going on with us will have effects on many species, but still, it’s refreshing to think of life going on as usual out there. 🙂 Thank you, Howard – I’m glad you enjoyed the little orchids. More flowers soon!

      Like

    • Interesting! I tend to inspect the ground a lot but sometimes forget to look up and there are wonderful things to see when we do, even if it’s not quite as exciting as “zillions” of geese. Thanks, Louis – I hope you’re enjoying your garden these days and feeling content, somehow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • We’re certainly enjoying the garden in the warm sunshine. Feeling contented I’m not so sure about. It’s clearly going to be a while yet before we can relax. Take care and stay safe!

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  18. I watched the videos, the snow geese are incredible! The noise, their flight, how they fly together, just wonderful. Awesome, gorgeous, marvellous 🙂 Thank you for the link. It is so wonderful to see, I love it!!!!! How lucky you were 🙂 I like the poem. – The orchid is magical! Again such a tiny flower and so beautiful. I can imagine that it is smelling, when the air is warm enough. I found out recently when I went by a field of violets. They smell the most, when it is warm and sunny. In cold days there is no smell at all. Petals and what? I have to admit I don’t see through with Botany. I rather stick to insects I think 😉 Your photos are beautiful and underline the tenderness of this flower. In #10 they look like 2 rabbits, but maybe that is an Easter relict 😉 It seems to be a discrepancy, that a flower like this is growing in such harsh and difficult places, but it needs attention and so it works. What a nice find! Makes you happy, right? It is so easy to find happiness in nature 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • You made a good point about the fragrance – it has been chilly here and the little orchids are never really in the sun, so I don’t think I’m going to have any luck smelling them. And yes, the geese were wonderful. I was in that area again earlier this week and saw them again, but they were not so close and they were staying in the field, not flying around like before. Seeing two rabbits in #10 made me giggle – yes, maybe too much Easter on your mind but that’s not a bad thing. It makes me more than happy!! Thanks, Almuth, let’s toast to finding happiness in nature.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow, that Super-Gaggle must’ve been stunning! Canada geese come through the Finger Lakes by the tens of thousands, but the Snow Geese are less common, and I’ve never seen a concentration like this! That final shot is like those “hidden picture” books, where if you let your eyes blur, an image emerges.
    I commented to someone, how it’s amazing the geese don’t collide, and she said, well, in the city there’s crowds everywhere, and they don’t collide. And as she said this, she was gesturing wildly, and with a fork in her hand, and almost got me! I would feel safer around the geese.
    That miniature orchid is amazing. What a fantastic reward for looking closely, and your caption on #11 is inarguable, pure elegance. Orchids are the kind of sight that always make me think, how did such complex visual patterns and shapes ever come to be?
    Well, wow again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Canada geese confused me when I moved here – we have a different race, called Cackling geese, and their necks are shorter. They concentrate too, of course, but I don’t know if they reach the numbers that the Snow geese reach here. We noticed lots of geese making last-minute, sharp turns to avoid other geese. Sometimes almost flying upside-down for a split second! But we kept our forks and other dangerous implements to ourselves because we learned from them. 😉
      Yes, it’s crazy the way orchids evolved, and crazier still when you read about their pollination strategies….but, too much for this space. Thanks for being here, as always, Robert. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • What I thought was that there’s a nice symmetry between infinite numbers and singularity, and the full, noisome sky and that one spot of pink on the silent earth. But you noticed something more, and I thank you for that. It’s very good to hear from you, Paul. Stay healthy!

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  20. Nice to know that you can manage to go out in this situation. The opposite happen with me. Was traveling from past one and half year and did not focus on WordPress. Finally , the lockdown caught me, and now coming back to share my experiences and to read the blogs I follow. The birds reminded me of my PhD life while I was doing a research on storks. The flock of geese is so magnificent. The expression is so beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry to hear that your peripatetic lifestyle has taken a hit, but one of the advantages of stopping is that (I assume) we will be treated to new posts from you. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you’re doing OK. (Yes, we’re very lucky here, living on an island with an abundance of parks, many of which are still open. That’s partly because it’s not densely populated and most people are being careful). Stay healthy!

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  21. I’m sorry to hear that your peripatetic lifestyle has taken a hit, but one of the advantages of stopping is that (I assume) we will be treated to new posts from you. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you’re doing OK. (Yes, we’re very lucky here, living on an island with an abundance of parks, many of which are still open. That’s partly because it’s not densely populated and most people are being careful). Stay healthy!

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  22. Absolutely mesmerising, Lynn. Great captures of the big flock of Snow Geese and it goes so well the Calypso Orchid.
    What I really love about North Norfolk in winter are all the big flocks of Pinkfoot geese and Greylag geese flying over the reserves. The sight and the sounds of thousands of birds in motion are awesome.

    Liked by 2 people


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