Friday, February 15, 2013

Mary Thornton Nature Preserve, Wabash County

Walking in a wintery wonderland at...
Mary Thornton Nature Preserve, Wabash County, Indiana
      The last couple of winters around here have produced little in the way of measurable snowfall, sadly.  I have become anxious about receiving visual inspiration for my Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship project's "Winter" stained glass panel. What's winter with no snow? Brown, that's what.
A snowy path through Mary Thornton's woods.
      Luckily, Mother Nature finally decided to bestow upon us some of the white stuff. Not enough to cancel school, (not even a delay!) but enough to provide me with a snowy photo op, and hopefully some wintery inspiration.
A perfect winter snow: soft, fluffy, and peaceful.
      My time spent outside during my Teacher Renewal Grant has taught me that I can learn to be more outdoorsy. In fact, I have come to crave being enveloped in the great outdoors - the colors, the air, the sounds and smells.  However, the preparations required for an outdoor adventure in the dead of winter is not a craving that I have yet acquired.
There's so much to do...long johns, socks, another pair of socks, heavy jeans (for those of us who own no coveralls or snowmobile suit)...
...long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, hair pulled back, sock hat, hair taken down because a sock hat hurts with a pony tail, snow boots made one size too small from two pairs of socks...
...scarf, winter coat zipped up, winter coat unzipped due to aforementioned scarf caught in zipper, coat zipped again, gloves with removable finger covers for camera clicking, sunglasses for blinding snow...
...and finally, off to the woods!
      If I had to get in a car and drive to a nature preserve after all the effort of preparing for it, my "Winter" inspirations would probably be sourced from Google.  Lucky for me, the Mary Thornton Nature Preserve is a mere quarter mile walk from our front door.  Doable, even with my extra tight boots.  
Many fungi do not die in the winter. Several types of lichen and fungi are able to dehydrate their cells to prevent cellular freezing. They lie dormant until they are free from ice and suitable weather conditions have returned.
       Once inside the preserve, I was surrounded by a pristine, white blanket of snow.  Much of nature's details were hidden from view, but I was able to find several varieties of friendly fungus.  
Try as I might throughout the preserve, I was unable to find many colors.  I saw a lot of white (duh), brown, and oranges.  And this welcomed, be it tiny, bit of green moss.  
It can take years for bracket fungi, like this Turkey Tail variety, to break down and decompose a fallen tree.  The concentric lines you see on these fungi are growth rings, giving you an idea how long they've been working on this hunk of wood.
     This nature preserve is a small one, so I was finished with my picture-taking and snow-hiking before too long.  But the stillness of the frosty air and the gentle snowfall was so peaceful that I found myself lingering just a little longer within nature's wintertime splendor.  

Woods in Winter

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When winter winds are piercing chill,
  And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
  That overbrows the lonely vale. 

O'er the bare upland, and away
  Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
  And gladden these deep solitudes. 

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
  The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
  The crystal icicle is hung. 

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
  Pour out the river's gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater's iron rings,
  And voices fill the woodland side. 

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
  When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
  And the song ceased not with the day! 

But still wild music is abroad,
  Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
  Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.
Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
  Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
  I listen, and it cheers me long. 

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