Most people identify butterflies and bees as harbingers of springtime, when the flowers begin to bloom. So do I.
As a librarian at the Hurlock Branch of Dorchester County Public Library for 13 years, every May I’d scour the shelves for books to display about the pollinators buzzing and fluttering about.
But Fall, too, is a prime season for pollinators. As the flowering banquet of spring and summer recedes, these critters still need to feed. Gardening experts are now encouraging growers to leave bloom remnants behind for them instead of cutting them down.
At the Cambridge Community Garden behind historic Waugh Chapel, supervising Master Gardener Kathy Burtman advised plot holders cleaning up their dwindling summer veggie plantings:
“Feel free to leave the flowers in the beds. The pollinators still need them and the seed heads will feed the birds this winter.”
I took a field trip to the Pollinator Sanctuary at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, MD on September 28 and found the meadows dappled with autumn hues and alive with bee activity. My companion, photographer Micheal Rhian Driscoll, “wombled” along with me (a lovely word he adopted from Facebook friends hailing from Wales).
Besides bringing his camera and iphone, Mike contributed his love of the Japanese concept known as Wabi Sabi, which he delights in photographing and curating wherever he can find it. Here is a link to his Wabi Sabi Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WabiSabi-1710784495814426/
According to the website Japanology :
“If one were to pick a phrase that aptly sums up the traditional aesthetic sensibility of the Japanese, it might well be wabi-sabi. A combination of two old words with overlapping definitions, wabi-sabi might be the Buddhist view of the facts of existence: Both life and art are beautiful not because they are perfect and eternal, but because they are imperfect and fleeting.
If you note a touch of melancholy there, you have begun to understand wabi-sabi.” http://japanology.org/2016/04/what-does-wabi-sabi-mean/ —
To me, this truly translates the more somber but still riveting beauty I find among fall gardenscapes.
I hoped especially to catch glimpses of monarch butterflies feeding along the route of their fall migration south to Mexico, and kept eyes peeled and phone camera ready while walking the path of the Pollinator Sanctuary area.
In spite of due vigilance, not a single monarch was sighted alighting on the bountiful floral banquet–I was a week late. But on the path ahead, instead, darted a too quick to be photographed brown bunny rabbit. A slow and steadily crawling “wooly bear” caterpillar caught my eye and wound up as a camera capture.
Traveling the footpath further I came to a clearing containing a very old graveyard. Tombstones with inscriptions time had long worn away appeared just beyond a large spreading tree.
The Refuge office and visitor’s center personnel could not offer specific information about the cemetery, other than noting its likelihood of dating back to the family farmstead whose site the Refuge was built upon and around in the early 1930s.
Before turning back we traveled the length of the path greeted by cattails popping up as we grew closer to the marsh and almost incessant buzzing of tiny bees taking their pick of the meadow’s offerings.
We headed for the car with mental notes made to revisit during Spring’s hey day and to note on the calendar next fall’s Monarch migration visitation more accurately by checking this site: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration
and this one: https://monarchwatch.org/tagmig/peak.html.
Winding through the Refuge’s scenic Wildlife Drive at a turtle’s pace, we eagerly stopped each time we sighted one of several elegant white egrets. The crowning moment came farther down the windy single lane roadway, with a view of two bald eagles towering on a landing high up in the air.
Thrilled by the sight, Mike snapped away; just as he did, I spotted a sneaky, single monarch scoot by us! By the time the camera was turned, the fleeting regal beauty, original object of our visit, was gone. Though not captured on film, the cameo appearance provided a fitting wabi sabi footnote to the day’s journey.