Living – Places: 30

"Only in growth, reform, and change—paradoxically enough—is true security to be found."
– Anne Lindbergh

2017

Yesterday, we were graced by the beginning of the first snowfall of the new year. I took this in the afternoon after the first couple of inches of very light, fluffy stuff had fallen and there was a lull in the storm. Overnight another 11″ fell, only this time it was a fine, dense powder. Our world is a magical wonderland today.

First snow of the new year nestled on pine needles

One of my favorite moments in life is the morning after a big snowfall when the first rays of sunshine come up over the ridge to the east of us and light up the freshly fallen snow on our ponderosas.

Snow on the boughs of ponderosas brighly lit by the morning sun

One thing I love in the springtime is the graceful contrast between pale hues of the dried plant growth from the previous season, like this milkweed pod husk, and the freshly minted green of the newly emerging grasses.

Dried milkweed pod husk against a background of fresh spring grasses

After a day that gifted us with nearly 2" of wonderful rain, today dawned bright and sunny, and warm but not too hot. I took a walk and came across my favorite spring flower, salsify.

Bright yellow salsify flower

And here's a salsify seed head some days later:

Salsify seed head

Wow! Spring was unfolding fully, grasses and flowers popping up, leaves unfolding, songbirds migrating through, and then we were walloped with a wonderful snowstorm. Even though the temperature was hovering just above freezing, the snow piled up over the course of 24 hours to more than a foot of the densely wet kind. Up in the mountain communities, they received several feet. Then the sun came out the next day and it all started rapidly melting away.

I came across this view two days later when I was driving home after a morning appointment. No more snow down here, but Mount Meeker was still fully blanketed. So beautiful! I rushed home to get Garima and my camera and drove back out to this viewpoint to show her and snap some photos.

Mt Meeker after a snowstorm

I really love springtime. Today, we were cheered on our walk by lots of Gaillardia blooming along the way; they are sunshine personified.

Gaillardia in full glorious bloom

Here's a more mature Gaillardia seed head a few days later (with a halo of the cottonwood fluff that's doing its magical floating dance right now):

Gaillardia seed head

And I'll admit it, I take an almost guilty pleasure in blooming thistles. Yes, I know they are an invasive species, and yes, they create some awfully gnarly burrs, but the color and vibrance of their flowers always provoke such a sense of awe in me! This one is just about to burst into bloom.

A thistle just about to bloom

(And speaking of prickly invasive species … ever look in a mirror?)

"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
– Bob Dylan

Well that was a treat! I happened to be looking out our picture window at the rain that was falling this afternoon when a dragonfly swooped in and landed beneath the basket of flowers that hangs there. It was a big one, maybe 3-1/2″ long, and it stayed there for a long time, I suppose sheltering from the rain.

Dragonfly perched under a hanging basket of flowers

Conditions weren't great for a photograph as the storm had made the afternoon quite dark so I had to shoot with very high ISO, low shutter speed, and wide aperture in order to get enough light. Also, the plant was swaying in the breeze, so I had to take a lot of shots in order to get one that was in focus. Turned out pretty grainy, but still gives an idea of its magnificence.

I don't know much about dragonflies, though I often see big ones swooping around overhead, especially in the evenings. I did some searching and I think this may be in the family Aeshnidae, commonly known as darners in North America because the female abdomen looks a big like a sewing needle. Apparently they cut into stems with the appendage at the end of their abdomen, which is called an ovipositer, when they're laying their eggs. (Click the photo to see a larger image that more clearly shows the ovipositer.)

Specifically, I think this might be a Blue-eyed Darner or some close relative, though it had its eyes fairly well hidden beneath that wilted flower. For comparison, see the photos on Don Roberson's Creagrus website of Blue-eyed Darners in Monterey County, California. The orange strip on the leading edge of the front wings as well as the general coloration and pattern match pretty closely with Don's photo of an andromorphic female.

According to Wikipedia's Aeshnidae article: "They are the largest dragonflies found in North America and Europe and are among the largest dragonflies on the planet. This family represents also the fastest flying dragonflies of the order of the dragonflies and damselflies.… The adults spend large amounts of time in the air and seem to fly tirelessly with their four large and powerful wings. They can fly forwards or backwards or hover like a helicopter. The wings are always extended horizontally.

Life is so cool sometimes!

We were walking in the Lumpy Ridge section of Rocky Mountain National Park when we enjoyed a rest in the shade of beautiful, gnarled old Douglas Fir whose base was covered with a beautiful selection of pale green lichens highlighted by burnt orange of fir needles and the light orange of ponderosa needles.

To my eye, nothing paints a more beautiful picture than the combination of natural processes and time.

Douglas Fir truck base covered with lichens

We continue to enjoy exceptional August weather … milder than usual and even some rain. Woo-hoo! So we headed back up to take another walk around Lumpy Ridge. The chance that we might (and did) find still more glorious ripe Rocky Mountain Wild Wax Currants to feast on as we walked along helped us decide where to walk.

This is the wonderful view towards the Continental Divide from Lumpy Ridge, which is a part of Rocky Mountain National Park just north of Estes Park.

There has been even more rain up there than we have received, so a wide variety of incredible wildflowers are in bloom all along the trails. Wow!

Looking across towards the Continental Divide from Lumpy Ridge

Enjoying the eclipse! Here it was about 95% of total. Temperature dropped about 10 degrees. Very beautiful light.

These are photos I took just before and after the eclipse peak of a multitude of crescent suns that were dancing in the shadows of birch leaves and ponderosa needles cast onto our red sandstone landing and cement walkway.

Crescent eclipse sun seen in the shadows of birch leaves cast on a redstone walkway
Another view of crescent eclipse sun seen in the shadows of birch leaves cast on a redstone walkway
Crescent eclipse sun seen in the shadows of ponderosa needles cast on a cement walkway

Ah, the beauty of late summer.

Wild White Clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia) seed heads.

Wild White Clematis growing along the roadside

Cattail (Typha latifolia) seed pods.

Cattails in front of an old wooden pole fence

We're having an early winter here this year. The night before last, we received a beautiful snowfall, then it remained below freezing all day long yesterday and we received a bit more snow during the day and the early part of the night. Overnight, the sky cleared, it got quite cold (20F) and we awakened to this glorious dawn. Here, the first rays of sunrise are touching the ponderosas, while the valley beyond remains in shadow and shrouded in a cold fog. Soon it will all melt away, but for a short while, this morning is as beautiful as it gets.

Glorious dawn after a snowfall
Dawn view of ponderosas after a snowfall

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