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Once again the Earth has cycled back to where its northern half (which happens to include us) is tilted towards the Sun, giving us our longest days and some of our warmest weather - our High Summer. In our corner of the Catskills, and on our reach of the Hudson Valley, in terms of burgeoning life- forms, this is a rich, rich time of year - a veritable Life-Storm. We are literally surrounded by the fruitfulness of the season. The heavy, humid air we wad through is thick with insect life (though not as thick as it should be). Every specie of animal is busily reproducing their kind and raising their young. Myriad trees and other plants are racing for the sky, and sending down new roots and making seed. The very topsoil at our feet is seething with countless forms of life - animal, insect and microbial. As I sit here on this beautiful June day I am happily bombarded by a host of sensations. Most striking, with memories of a barren winter and a sparse spring fresh to mind, is the rich green-ness all around me - from tall trees that seem even taller now with their proud leaves out, like sails set on the Sea of Life (green reaching halfway up the sky), down to the younger, smaller trees, shrubs and vines, climbing and entwining higher and higher and then all the way down to grasses and mosses bending underfoot. A veritable sea of green, growing steadily deeper and darker. The pleasant warmth of early summer is wonderful, too, as a light breeze brings myriad scents to me. The term “spectrum” is generally used visually yet my ears are joyously assaulted by an entire spectrum of sounds - ranging from the gentle breeze sighing through the trees and shrubs, to the ecstatic cacophony of a multitude of songbirds all singing their summer songs. It is so interesting to watch the light change as clouds move overhead, their shadows dappling tree, grass and shrub with more subtle shades, then becoming bright again as the sky changes back to sun. No wonder some of the most powerful art was made in trying to do homage to this timeless natural palette.

WATER - Recent rains have thankfully pulled us (temporarily?) out of the dangers of drought. The Sawkill had been becoming distressingly low with carpets of algae forming where they never should be and the woods were a dry, crunching cacophony underfoot. Now the algae has dissipated and the forest is wet, tamping down drought- and fire-danger for now. Also, the rain has given the bears a much-needed rinse. Since their fur is so oily they can smell really bad by now (think rancid grease). Let’s all hope and pray the rain continues (intermittently, of course) so that we can avoid the worst-case scenario of brush- and wildfires. Unfortunately, unless we do something about the conditions we’ve allowed to accrue (like extreme amounts of underbrush in the forest), the very real danger of fire is not going to go away. FLORAL FAUNA - Woodstock’s Town Flower - the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifola) left, with a Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on it - is just about done with its seasonal flowering. Tulip Trees are also finished as the season cycles inexorably on. The beautiful - but invasive - Multiflora Roses persist with their bright whiteness as the bulk of our flowering shrubs finish up their season. Since the forest canopy has filled in now, returning our woods to their cooler, darker, more mysterious and primordial, form, the bulk of the flowering now is happening in our open spaces. One exception is the Partridgeberry. Growing on runners along the forest-floor right now their little, tiny, white trumpet-like flowers, standing up as if declaring pride knowing that their pretty red fruit will be along soon. In a veritable floral land- rush in our fields and meadows we have Beebalm, Goldenrods (not an allergen), Ragweed (the real culprit, dark anthers hiding in plain sight), Wild Blackberries and Raspberries, Wild Strawberries, Red- and White Clovers, Long-stemmed Buttercups, Oxeye Daisies are proliferating wildly (as well as numerous other Asters), Cinquefoil and Queen Anns Lace. Milkweed is just starting to flower, which, more times than not means that their symbiotes - the Monarch butterflies - must be “just around the corner”. According to the Monarchs are arriving in the region and should show here shortly - yay! Perhaps these will be the first scouts checking to make sure the green, sunny open spaces they had dreamed about while wintering in Mexico were really and truly present. Who knows, perhaps generations of Monarchs have passed down tales of these storied green meadows - their Avalon. These are amazing creatures when you consider their epochal migration over thousands of miles and the challenges presented to them in doing so. Also, their intertwined dependence on and with Milkweed should teach us about our own dependence on the varied elements of the world around us. As more and more flowers bloom more and more butterflies and moths will show up as well. Mullein are jumping up so fast, some flowering already.

FAUNAL FLORA - Tiger Swallowtails have been here for a bit already and even one or two Black Swallowtails and a few Captains. Soon to come will be Brushfoots, Dusky- wings, Fritillaries, Hairstreaks (I’ve said this before - great name!), Hop Merchants, Viceroys, Whites and Sulphurs, Metalmarks, Nymphs, Questionmarks (why?), Satyrs, Skippers, Snouts, Spring Azures - all waiting for their reigning kings and queens. Also in the insect realm, we have good populations of Dragonflies and Fireflies. As the Crickets proliferate and the Katydids hatch, with any luck we’ll experience our full Cricket Chorus when our Seasonal Cicadas join us. Coupled with the virtually invisible Tree Frogs, we should all be able to enjoy our yearly Summer Symphony (backlit for a short while by the Fireflies). I have seen a few of our local lobsters - Crayfish, that is - as they insist on nibbling on my toes. I don’t remember when I’ve seen so many Snapping Turtles. Great Blue- and Green Herons are present, scooping up unwary frogs, small fish and anything else they can get. Local Red-tail Hawks have fledglings now, which accounts for their temporary absence - they are very doting parents.

SUMMERY SOLSTICE - MIDSUMMER, THE HIGH TIDE OF LIFE - It is that magical season of (almost) unending daylight with every life-form taking advantage of it - “making hay while the sun shines” - including us. Who could possibly stay in bed when the sun is up so early or go to bed early when it is still light out? It is only natural for every creature - at Midsummer - to want to simply go, go, go, non-stop. Please safely make the most of this special time. Sad to say, but since last Wednesday the days have started getting a tad shorter each day. Let’s make the most of each and every one. Thank you all.

Please have a fun-filled, healthy Summer - “Ranger” Dave Holden


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