I took these photos yesterday, 20 June 2019, the last day of Spring. They were taken at home in Bailey, Colorado, elev. 8750′. –s.a. bort
Living at 8,750′ elevation in the mountains of Colorado, Spring is here for Jean and I, finally! (Although, it’s May 10th, and it has been snowing for two days.)
We saw our first aspen tree catkins of the year on Saturday, April 20. Above is a photo I took of them on April 27. We have quaking aspens, by the way, as opposed to the other two mentioned in the below article.
We heard hummingbirds for the first time and saw one briefly on the feeder, also on April 27. We always see the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds first, pictured below: “Migratory hummingbirds usually in [their] breeding territory about mid-April. They breed across mountain forests and meadows throughout the Western United States from eastern California and northern Wyoming south through Great Basin and Rocky Mountain states to southern Arizona and western Texas. In September, they generally move south to winter in Mexico, Guatemala and, occasionally, El Salvador.” Soon afterwards, the Rufous species of hummingbird shows up here, at our elevation, in Bailey.
As far as Maibocks, I love good beer. These beauties “are brewed in winter and released in late April and May. They are rich yet not overbearing, and are enjoyed before the searing throes of summer.” Aside from that, they are very good to my taste buds at just this time, when the aspen catkins grow, then fall away, after which little green aspen buds appear. Those buds then transform into the quaking, green aspen leaves that most people associate with aspen trees.
But, what of the too-often overlooked, too-little-reflected-upon catkins? The following article, hopefully, will nurture such reflection.
The Aspen Catkin: What will become of this fuzzy little thing?
Kara Rogers – April 13, 2011
Aspens, of which there are three species—the American quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), the American big-tooth aspen (P. grandidentata), and the European aspen (P. tremula)—exhibit several curious traits when it comes to reproduction. For example, each tree is either male or female, a condition known as dioecism, and while both male and female aspens produce catkins, only the male catkin has pollen, which is transferred to a female by the wind. And when the right breeze comes along in early summer, the pollinated female will release her seeds, which parachute along through the air, swept away to some distant place.
Aspens have a low rate of reproductive success. Indeed, it takes trillions of seeds being dispersed on the wind each year to ensure that a percentage sufficient for species propagation happens to parachute into a suitable environment, where they can germinate and sprout. Reproductive success is limited in part because aspens have strict germination constraints. For example, aspens are shade-intolerant, and therefore a seed needs a sunny spot to grow. That spot also must be free from seed-eating animals and able to retain moisture.
Another constraint on reproduction actually is imposed prior to pollination and has to do with the distance between male and female trees. Each aspen grove is a clone, meaning that all the trees in a grove are identical to the founder sapling. Hence, if a female sapling happened to give rise to the grove, all the individual trees in the grove will be female. This means that pollination can occur only if groves of the opposite sex are relatively close to one another. If they are separated by too great a distance, pollination between them is unlikely.
The future of each species of aspen hinges on its tufted catkin seeds, new generations of which face the perilous wind-borne journey every spring. Most do not make it. The ones that do, however, spawn entire groves of aspens—stands of trees that may survive for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.
This post was originally published in NaturePhiles on TalkingScience.org.
top photo by: s.a. bort / 27 April 2019 / Bailey, CO.
second photo by: s.a. bort / 10 May 2019 / Bailey, CO.
Good things rise—
When a loved one dies.
After years of
Thank God for Facebook—
That 21st century
Graphical phone book!
Regrets are shared—
Stories are told and
Tears are shed.
It’s all a good thing—
Rising in his spring.
in memory of Uncle Tom Rhein
photo by S.A. Bort, April 2005
As You Like It, being, congregation, death, faith, Father Mapple, God, Herman Melville, Ishmael, life, Moby-Dick, old age, pulpit, sermons, Seven Ages of Man, Shakespeare, ships, soul, spirituality, Spring, substance, turning sixty, voyage, whalers, Word of God, youth
Two years ago, I turned sixty, and I reflected on Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man,” from As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII: “And then the justice, / In fair round belly with good capon lined, / With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, / Full of wise saws and modern instances; / And so he plays his part.” I noted in my journal that I, for the first time, felt that it was as if I had become my father.
Melville, in chapter VIII of Moby-Dick, writes of Father Mapple: “Father Mapple was in the hardy winter of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into a second flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shone certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom—the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February’s snow.
I can honestly relate to both passages. I feel, though not as a preacher, that I have entered a new spring of my life. Somewhat amusingly, I even have a “round belly” and “beard of formal cut.”
When one turns sixty, it’s time to think about spiritual things. Melville writes in Chapter VII: “Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the less of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.”
“It is not me”! Then who is Ishmael? He says: “my shadow here on earth is my true substance.” Is he speaking of a “soul?” I believe he is, or he and the other whalers would not be bothered with Father Mapple’s church and sermons.
Melville writes in chapter VIII: “to the faithful man of God, this pulpit, I see, is a self-containing stronghold . . . with a perennial well of water within the walls. . . the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”
Now in my sixties, I consider myself a faithful man. I and my wife attend weekly services, and I serve as a reader, standing at the lectern and proclaiming the Word of God to the parishioners. I think Ishmael and Father Mapple’s congregation take the sermons from the pulpit, and especially the Word of God, with them onto the unpredictable water and into the smell of the great whales—and possible death.
Time walked through a door
Of human construct.
Summer has arrived.
Skies have duly cried.
Its tears earth hath sucked.
Now, the people play,
Festive through each day
Of sunshine and warmth.
Seasons’ morbid blues?
Death tolls month the tenth!
Rather each moment?
Now, in the present—
Such internal rhyme!
photo and poem by S.A. Bort / 20 June 2016
Two leaves falling with the wind.
There’s a chill in the air, but
It’s somehow warm,
Perhaps from the friction.
Other leaves are falling too.
It’s autumn, after all, and
Difficult to expand attention,
Two leaves seemingly with conviction.
The colors of death,
As vibrant as life–
Yellows, oranges, reds and light green.
One would easily be fooled into spring.
Two leaves falling with the wind, and I–
The obstinate king.
–photo by S.A. Bort