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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Glorious spring with a sad tinge

For a brief springtime period, a shaft of sunlight bathes one special dog bed every morning. This morning, S found the warm spot and curled up in the sun. He's always been a 'comfort-seeking missile' as my brother likes to say, and relaxing in the warm sunshine defines comfort. I'm feeling very sad about S right now because it seems like the evil cancer is moving faster than we expected. We don't know how much time we have left with him. He still seems happy, even content, most of the time so that's good.K and I rode out into a glorious morning of blue skies and sunshine but we were burdened with heavy hearts. As we rode, I appreciated having my chocolate friend by my side. After visiting our favorite spots down on the lower trails, we climbed up to Hug Hill. This view is the first glimpse of the Divide that I see when I'm about 20 yards below the peak.
We tried to push the envelope of 'ridable trails' but spring slushy snow still swamped our favorite west-facing ledgy trail. We made it about a half mile and I decided to wait a few days to try again. The sun is melting the snow so fast that the world seems transformed daily.

After dropping off K, I rode a route that follows a creek, where many deciduous trees and shrubs, including willows, dominate. Willows have either female or male catkins on a single tree, and today I identified both kinds. Below, a female catkin looks greenish. Each stalk-like protrusion is called a pistil, and the forked shape on the end is the stigma. Pollen from a male catkin needs to be deposited into the pistil for a viable seed to develop.
Below, a nearby tree displayed a veritable forest of male catkins, and a bee perched on one of them, doubtless drinking its nectar and getting pollen dusted on its body. Later, if this same bee visits the nearby tree with female catkins, he'll take the pollen with him. As I inched closer to the tree to photograph a bee on a catkin, an undeniable buzzing sound emanated from its branches. I scanned the tree and saw bees visiting catkins all over its dense lattice of branches.
After following the meandering creekside trail dense with water-loving trees, I climbed up to a south-facing plateau which is like a different universe in terms of trees and other plants. As I rode along a dry and dusty trail, a bright pink and yellow flower stood out like a beacon. The Mountain Ball Cacti (that's what I think they are) are blooming in the sunniest spots along this trail. The quills, armed and ready, contrast dramatically with the soft and glowing flowers.
A close-up look at a flower emphasizes its soft glow. It also shows the detail of the flower structure. I believe that we're seeing a forest of anthers, with pollen pellets on their tops, surrounding a single pistil. However, I'm no expert on botony so please correct me if I'm wrong.
The proximity of such different worlds struck me. I'd just been creekside, looking at water-loving trees and shrubs, and now I was on an arid plateau where cacti bloom. Then, I looked over my shoulder, and a snowy mountain peered at me between rocky outcroppings and forest-fire burned trees. I love the extremes of the west.
After seeing the dawn of true spring here today, I wistfully wondered how much of the spring we'll get to share with S. I hope that he gets many more chances to bask in the sun - one of his favorite things.


  1. Oops. I posted my flower comment in the wrong spot, but you should seriously make some of these photos into greeting cards. Lovely!

  2. One of our dogs especially loves the sun and follows the sunbeams throughout the house. I'm glad S has this spring and the warm sun and did not leave in the midst of winter.

  3. KB- you totally got it. All those gazillion little stalks are the male organs. They're called stamens, and the pod on the tippy-top is called the anther. The anther's filled with pollen, which gets all over the place once the anther splits open, which these clearly have. The stalk part of the stamen is called the filament.

    The big stalk in the center is indeed the pistil (female organ.) Pistils can have 1 or more stigmae (a sticky "landing pad") up top; I can't tell from the photo whether this one has more than 1...

    If you're interested, I did a Flower Anatomy 101 post last year that describes all the basic parts, and I did another post that describes what happens after the pollen successfully gets (or is delivered) to the stigma.


  4. It's so hard having an animal become ill. You feel so helpless. But you are doing everything you can for S to make him comfortable and let him know how special he is. I hope you get many more chances to just sit in the sun with him.


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