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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Hampshire, 8Sept07

We enter the forest and experience immediate relief from the sodden heat, the searing sun. Button and Riley don't get too far along the finely gravelled path. Just too many compelling, tantalizing places to explore, fragrant clues to unravel. That's all right. We're glad to take our time. We're in no hurry at all. We find the atmosphere compelling too. Glad to look about ourselves, a trifle more closely than a rapid trek might allow.

There have been some blow-downs since we were last at Smarts Brook. Tall old poplars have cracked under the influence of rain and wind and collapsed to the forest floor. Taking with them slender saplings of birch and maple in their midst. This area has a grand mix of hard- and softwood. Poplar, maple, beech, birch and ash mingle comfortably with pines, spruce, hemlock and fir.

The area, in fact, seems a nursery for the spontaneous nurturing of hemlock and maples, in particular.

The understory of ferns, false Solomon's seal, striped maple and dogwood also appear to benefit from the deep compost of the forest floor, the constant dampness of the mountain stream tumbling raucously over the creek bed's boulders - large and larger.

Mosses and lichens thrive in this atmosphere, as does a variety of fungi; colourful, clinging to rotting cellulose. A sawn log, once a noble tree, hosts a fascinating ruffle of bright pink, flowery-fringed fungi circling its raw circumference.

Mahogany-coloured shelf fungi furnish the trunk of a beech. A cluster of bright white, rippled mushrooms have installed themselves at the foot of a maple. Ample reasons to click one photograph after another, engendering a lot of enthusiastic attention-tugging between us to share these visions of unique growths.

A bright tangle of red berries dangles at the end of a Solomon's seal. Berry clusters festoon dogwood, its leaves also turning a patterned auburn. Starry-white asters litter the area. A butterfly flits lazily in and around, over and about the wildflowers.

Large ancient erratics ornament the hillsides, the trail, the creek bed. There too colour abounds from grey to shades of taupe and iron-oxide red. Sprayed by the loudly energetic flow the colours glow with a life and light whose origins we newly apprehend.

We diverge from the trail from time to time, to amble closer to the brook, to stand on its bank, our hiking boots cradled by the softly yielding generations of needles and decomposed leaf materials. The water hurtles recklessly over granite outcroppings, rounded boulders, shouting triumphantly on its way, shooting spumes of spray over nearby dogwood and us.

The waters roar as they thrash their environment; music to our ears.

On we trek, slowly ascending the gently-led rise. Button and Riley pattering before and after, respectively. Photographs are taken at signal moments, to freeze frames in time and memory. Pale substitutes for the reality of being there, surrendering to the moment.

No wind. the sun sears through the interstices of bough and leaf canopy. Brief exposure is sufficient to elicit a sense of oppressive air density. The atmosphere already close, stifling. Relief found when clouds gather once again to obscure that burning orb. This is the kind of weather that encourages sudden and violent electrical storms.

We access the pine flats, see the remnants of spring's orchids, trilliums. The area is dense with miniature copses of hemlock, pine, spruce. They converge busily upon one another in juvenile competition, under the near proximity of the mature of their kind.



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