Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. ~ Rumi

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Typhus augustifolia
  With the growing season transitioning from fall to winter here in the flood plains of northern California, birds of all kinds have begun to stop here on their migratory route. Like the birds, I have landed, seeking nourishment. This refuge is called the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area, a subset of the Sacramento River floodplain. These lands are being restored from their previous use as farmland into a managed wildlife area. This restoration came about in 1997 from the persistence of concerned citizens who formed the Yolo Basin Foundation in 1990, a group with diverse backgrounds that included agriculture and wildlife conservation as well as government and business interests. They formed partnerships with other organizations, creating a public/private enterprise that has set aside 16,000 acres that are continually being restored to a more natural state, providing various ecologies for the wildlife and us to enjoy. From warblers to geese they are beginning to blanket these restored ecosystems that include; permanent wetlands, seasonal wetlands, riparian forests, and grasslands. The California Department of Fish and Game is responsible for managing these acres and work in partnership with the Yolo Basin Foundation. Groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat, water quality improvement and flood control are the benefits created by this restoration not to mention the   opportunities for education, research and recreation which continue to draw in supporters.

As I walk through the mudflats and up through the seasonal wetlands with the wind in my face and redwing blackbirds congregating in the cattails I am reminded that this is autumn, a time of transition. Hopefully, we can reflect on our own transition towards this healthier way of life… as Aldo Leopold put it, “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." I am grateful for the abundance of vision and hard work that it took and is taking to nurture this community and I will take my fill from the bounty that surrounds me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Like a Moth to a Flame

Walking under the moon at night a fragrance pulls at me until I identify its source. As I get closer I realize that it is the flower of the moon vine, Ipomoea alba, opening up and releasing an intoxicating fragrance. This plant is a night blooming morning glory native to the tropics and sub tropics from northern Argentina to Mexico and Florida. It is listed as a perennial in the tropics but in southwest Florida it dies back in the cold and re-emerges in the summer and fall.

Life begins for this plant as the testa on the seed softens and the embryo pushes out to set down roots. Then a shoot grows, twining around shrubs and trees, putting out cordate or heart shaped leaves, leading up to adjacent buds. One at a time the buds mature into long tubular flowers, resembling soft ice cream that spirals towards its apex. Each four inch bud can be visible just before dusk when it begins to unfold. The corolla appears to be an elegant origami unfolding and lasts only a few hours until dawn when it resembles crumpled paper. When opened, the shape and color of the fluted corolla reflects that of a full moon, measuring five to six inches across. Even in its unfolded state, the creases remain, serving as a tactile road map that the moth uses to locate the nectar at the bottom of the long tube with its probiscis. After pollination the ovary swells and then dries releasing white seeds the size of large peas. With more rain the process will begin again.

I can just imagine the thread of scent wafting through the air that reaches out to night pollinating insects including moths. My attraction also ignites a curiosity about the chemical properties of the nectar. Like the moth I can’t resist. Mmm…if only I had a probiscis. For now I am content to relish the fragrance and behold the blossom as I walk on the edge of the woods on a tropical moonlit night.