By Mary Beth Pottratz
Driving to the nether ends of the Arboretum’s main parking lot, I realize many other people are suffering the same strain of summertime cabin fever that had befallen me during our 100-degree days. With temperatures twenty degrees cooler today, people swarm like bees over lipstick-colored annuals.
The display and perennial gardens are filled with visitors. A bridal party poses in the Japanese garden. Photographers are everywhere, bending close to flower buds. The bright sunshine and storm-fresh air succeed in shooing my cabin fever the way the quick breezes shoo mosquitoes off my skin.
I escape down the cool calm of Wood Duck Trail, climbing the slope around a washout from the recent heavy rain. With each step, the clamor of people and traffic noise recedes. Soon the din is covered by birdsong. Dragonflies and damselflies dart and soar around me. An black-tipped turkey feather glows iridescent in the sun.
Walking into a forest is like pulling a favorite blanket around my shoulders. Craggy oaks and tall maples tower protectively above me. Plants, flowers, and berries nurture with their colors, scents, forms and tastes. Sparrows, finches, vireos and robins serenade me in Surround Sound. Sunbeams shine through the canopy in ever-moving spots and slides. The ground gives lightly under my feet; respite from hard sidewalks and floors. One deep breath and I feel balanced and grounded again.
An Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly poses congenially for me. Click on the photo to enlarge it and note its fringed wings, white-spotted antennae, the orange spots on its hindwing, and its tiny wisp of tail. It slides its wings back and forth, giving a glimpse of the dark brown upper side.
Red baneberries stand out among green leaves on the forest floor. Monarchs cavort in twos, and a pair of bluebirds flies past. Mr. and Mrs. Blue Jay are noisily chiding their children. Swamp milkweed is in full bloom along the sunny spots near the edge of Wood Duck Pond. An orange Meadowhawk dragonfly rests atop a leafless stem.
Staghorn sumac berries are turning from green to red atop the
soft, peach-fuzz branches. A tall White meadowsweet is in bud. Indian grass florets are fringed with tiny red flowers. Bluets – those sweet turquoise and black damselflies – rest inconspicuously on grasses and slender stems.
Healing from cabin fever never felt so good!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org/.