Saturday, March 12, 2022

Musings About My Father And The Pacific Northwest Woods And Its Creatures

 In a recent post I mentioned that I had always thought that foxgloves were native to the PNW.

That got me remembering.

Almost everything I have ever known about that magical place I learned from my father and my grandmother - his mother.

That caused me to remember the introduction I wrote a few years back to a Lopez Island bird book that I published.

That caused me to decide to post it here.

Here it is.


My father loved nature.

He was fascinated by it from the time he was a small boy and spent his summers in the woods north of Seattle.

Those woods are now all subdivided and built upon and named Lake Forest Park.

But when my father was a little boy, those woods were just woods.  They had no name.  They were expansive and un-subdivided.

Those woods were full of plants and creatures that were so interesting they made the three month summers pass as if they were only a few days long.

My father told me that when I was a little boy. 

Those creatures were hidden from all but the most dedicated eyes and ears.

My father was an enthusiastic and dedicated observer.  So he had many things to tell that he saw during those summers.

The red huckleberries when they appeared shone like Christmas lights in the forest gloom. Normally those huckleberries were the most nondescript of forest floor shrubbery.  They were things that no one would ever notice.  

The sudden appearance of dark coral berries changed that briefly.  

When the berries appeared those nondescript bushes changed into glorious light green laceworks spattered with countless specks of red.

Then the birds descended upon them.

And then the berries disappeared.

And then the bushes receded from sight into their former anonymity.

But my father knew they were still there.

He told me about them when I was a little boy.

Clusters of gelatinous material laced with tiny spheres appeared every spring in the swamps that oozed out of the little creek that wandered through the woods.

And those spheres always did the same thing.

They always disappeared.  

In their place there were instead large numbers of tadpoles.

And before long the tadpoles disappeared.  

In their place there were instead large numbers of little thumbnail sized frogs.

The tiny spheres disappeared and then the tadpoles disappeared leaving only little frogs because they were all three one and the same.

The gelatin encased spheres turned into tadpoles and the tadpoles turned into frogs.

My father knew that.

He told me about that when I was a little boy.

Underwater in the little creek were things that looked like bundles of fir needles.  And there were bigger things that looked like tubes made of sand grains.

Both of those things were insects.

Rather, they were the larvae of insects yet to become.

“Larvae” was a word my father taught me.

Those larvae lived in the creek bottom until one day they all disappeared.

When they disappeared the air was filled with flying insects.

The larvae disappeared when the flying insects appeared because they were one and the same.

The larvae had turned into flying bugs.

My father knew that.

He told me about that when I was a little boy.

Of all the wild things my father loved, birds were the most loved.

He had books and books of them.

The biggest of the books was the Audubon Bird Book.

When I was a little boy I spent hours and days turning the pages of that gigantic book.

Even now I can often guess at what sort of bird I am looking at aided by flashes of memory from that great Audubon Folio.

I inherited my father’s love of wild things. 

And like him, I put birds at the top of the list.

This little collection is the result of several years of wandering Lopez Island.

The beautiful creatures pictured here all did me the honor of sitting still long enough to allow me to capture their images.

I have too many for a little book like this one.

But here are a few of them.

Each bird speaks for itself.

They are not identified.

I leave that enjoyable task to anyone who looks at this book.

If they want to. 

1 comment: