Notice Nature

The Japanese have an ancient calendar that divides the year into 72 seasons, each with a name more evocative than the last. September 28 – October 2 is “Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors.” Apparently, this applies mostly to bugs.

With that in mind, I headed out this morning on the first day of a new month-long challenge to notice nature. Tickled by an invitation to moderate EcoAction Arlington‘s kick-off Biophilia Live! event on October 8th, I was inspired to “live biophilia” this month, taking time every day to notice, appreciate, and “love our living world.”

#NoticeNature #LiveBiophilia #ChoosetobeCurious

October 1 – Micro-environments

So there I was, walking along a busy access road when a cacophony of crickets stopped me cold. I peered across at the grassy, overgrown barrier and smiled at the noise those little guys were making in their green space.

I was reminded that we will find nature in surprising places — if only we look (and listen!) for it — and that micro-environments are often especially delightful.

October 2 – Beach Combing

I thought today was going to be about pinecones, but then I took a late afternoon walk on Rehoboth Beach and had a pretty unusual find. What do you think: fish vertebra? I wonder what kind of fish it was. Where did it live? How far has it traveled? How did it die? One little bone, so many questions…

October 3 – Palette Palate

I needed a palate cleanser between Zoom meetings today, so I took a quick walk out the Thompson Island trail to the northern edge of Rehoboth Bay. As a life-long mountain girl, I never expected to be so taken with low land vistas, but I have been. I love the soothing, sherbet-soft color palette. It just never gets old. What palette soothes you?

October 4 – Maturity

Six months from my 60th birthday, I headed out in search of the oldest non-human living thing I could find. I soon realized I didn’t know what I didn’t know about native species, life expectancy, relative growth rates, and the vulnerabilities of a seaside ecosystem. In the end, I realized I was witnessing not just what survives, but what thrives.

(Thompson Island [Oct. 3] has some of the oldest growth forest in Delaware, but that wasn’t where I was headed today.)

October 5 – Color

This gorgeous calibrachoa was a gift from a friend. I’ve noticed the colors have shifted over the summer. I don’t know if that’s a function of changing light, water, temperature, or just the inevitable march to the end of its glorious season, but it sure is pretty.

October 6 – On the Scent

I’d lived with ivy for a long time before I realized it had such a delicious, spicy scent. It would fill the air when I mowed it back along the fence line. Walking up these steps this morning, I confess I stepped on a few leaves in an effort to catch the bright, sharp smell.

October 7 – Texture

I’m still getting to know my new neighborhood. Today, focusing on texture helped me notice and appreciate these fabulous scraggly-barked river birches across the way.

October 8 – Industry

I admire the overnight industry of my balcony spiders. I’ve never seen them, but evidence of their handiwork is everywhere.

October 9 – Let’s Hear It for the Crows

Today’s focus was a foregone conclusion. I’m interviewing John and Colleen Marzluff, experts on all things corvid: so today I’m loving the living world of crows.

The inspiration for today’s focus came from my new balcony. Sitting out there at sunset one night in August, I noticed hundreds of birds flying up the Potomac and landing on the high-rises of Rosslyn. At first I thought they were sparrows, or starlings. They were the wrong shape to be like the swallows I had seen mass at the mouth of the Connecticut River.

At dawn days later, I noticed them fly back down the river and off into their day. Before they launched I could hear their low chatter, tho’ they seemed relatively quiet as they took to the air.

I recalled the bird litter (read: poop and feathers, lots of both) under some trees near The Belvedere in Rosslyn. The evidence was clear: I was looking at crows.

So I started reading all about crows — which turn out to be very intelligent (even curious) creatures that use tools, are self-aware, understand analogies, and have a reputation for recognizing faces and keeping score. That led me to John and Colleen, at the University of Washington. I get to sit down with them this afternoon to interview for an upcoming show. Stay tuned!

I’m honoring the day with my crow mask.

October 10 – Hint of Fall

I lived in New England when I was young and, ever since, I’ve thought of the long weekend in October as the peak of autumnal color. Even on this grey day, I can enjoy the tinges of color starting to appear around me.

October 11 – Hunting

I heard geese this morning, but couldn’t spot them, so that set my theme today: I was going goose hunting. I headed for Lady Bird Johnson Park and Lydon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, places I have driven by countless times but never approached by foot.

I was rewarded with the hush of tall pines, the mystery of low tide rivulets, a bit of history, fishing heron, scavenging squirrels, turning leaves, and only the occasional human.

Finally, on the return home, near their monumental brethren: geese!

P.S. Inspired by EcoAction Arlington’s Connect the Dots #EcoActionBiophilia challenge, I walked the last quarter mile home barefoot, across the grassy slopes around the Netherlands Carillon and Iwo Jima Memorial. Felt great!

October 12 – My Babies

As a young adult, I had lots of houseplants, but when children came along I used to say, “I can keep kids or plants alive, but not both,” and I made my choice. Now I’m learning what each of these little ones needs and wants.

October 13 – Bejeweled

The ancient Japanese 72 seasons are rooted in China’s 24. For both, this is the season of cold dew. I suspect what I was seeing had more to do with “constant drizzle” than “cold dew” but the water droplets today were amazing.

October 14 – Hope Garden

I came for the color and stayed for the cause. First, the big black cistern attracted my attention to the bright little garden near the County offices, then I discovered Moms Demand Action adopted the park.

Paint a rock and join the cause!

October 15 – The Built Environment

Urban walking helps you see and appreciate the artistry of those who think about and implement biophilic design. (Freedom Park, once an abandoned overpass through Rosslyn…)

October 16 – Pinecones

I was well in to adulthood before I noticed that pinecones, even those that are long-fallen and quite dead, will pull closed when wet and then re-open as they dry. If ever we doubted the impact of our environment or weather…

October 17 – Schooled

Reading so much about birds lately, I thought I might instead focus on mammals. I set my sights on spotting something not domesticated — and gained a new appreciation for squirrels which, besides the backside of one bunny, was pretty much all I saw. But crossing the bridge over Silver Lake, these fish were busily up to…something.

October 18 – Behind the Scenes

Today I am loving the living world that puts food on my table. As a mostly urban-dweller, I can be oblivious to — even ignorant of — the effort and infrastructure that support agriculture. Where would we be without it?

October 19 – Step Out, Look Up!

One of my walking mantras is “look up” and on Day 1 of the WalkArlington 8-Week Walking Challenge I was definitely rewarded for doing so.

October 20 – Foreground

First thing today I was reminded how easily we can “foreground” the natural world and push the rest out of the center of our focus for once. (Pretty spectacular fog this morning!)

October 21 – Flower Power

When we first moved to our new condo, a friend who is also a realtor recommended getting fresh flowers right away to help us feel more settled. Great advice. Every 10 days or so I invest a few dollars in my well-being.

October 22 – Investigative Effort

I’m not typically a fan of yellow jackets, but I admired their investigative efforts this morning.

October 23 – Watching for the Gold Rush

I’ve got my eyes on the ginkos. At some point pretty soon, they’ll turn all buttery yellow, and then –whoosh– they’ll drop all their leaves at once.

October 24 – Shrooms!

Walking across a bridge, I spotted these mushrooms below me and made a detour to check them out. Something had been eating at them. I didn’t expect it to be a slug!

(Funny:I just noticed that the mushrooms are just across the street from the picture above. I took those very steps down to investigate. #dailyroute)

October 25 – It’s Raining, It’s Pouring – Hurrah!

We grumble about rainy days, but there would be no living world to love without them. And they make everything so vivid!

October 26 – Canopy & Carpet

Above, a canopy of fabulous foliage; below, a carpet of brilliant bits.

October 27 – Nuts!

Admiring the acorns, I found some other nuts as well…

October 28 – Crows, En Masse

It’s my page, so I can repeat if I want to…

There I was, minding my own morning meditation business just before dawn, when I heard the crows. They were launching, en masse, in undulating waves, working their way upward. It looked like they were warming up from a chilly night’s sleep, literally stretching their wings. I wish I had video of it. Mesmerizing.

October 29 – Foothold

Today, on the heels of Zeta’s deluge, I enjoyed spotting the “found places” where life secured a foothold.

October 30 – Holy Sap Drip, Batman!

I was enjoying the hydrangeas’ surprising autumnal splendor, the last hurrah of the tall grasses’ regal plumes before being laid low by snow and snipping shears, the profusion of Backyard Habitats, and wondering which would be the day’s theme, when this tree stopped me short.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a pronounced and prodigious sap ooze…

October 31 – Gratitude

I know it is Halloween, not Thanksgiving, but I found myself feeling grateful for the splendor of squash as I carved my jack-o-lantern this afternoon. Ritualized, nutritious, cheerful: behold the humble pumpkin’s many gifts.

…and with that, I bring a month of #noticenature #ecoactionbiophilia #choosetobecurious to a close. Keep an eye on it, or nature will take over.

Or maybe that’s for the best…