Slowing Way Down = Seeing Even More

A month ago I wrote about how an injury prevented me from running and forced me to slow way down throughout the spring and early summer. Even walking was painful for a long time. Today, I’d say I’m almost back to normal, resuming running regularly, mostly pain-free. Yay!

The irony, though, is even though I really want to run, it’s… August. It’s been hot and humid all month so far, with the heat index in the mid-80s by 7:30 am. That too warm for Conall, and for me.

Humidity is typically highest just after sunrise. Being morning creatures, that’s when the boys and I like to head out for our daily exercise, whether it’s at a walking pace so Finn can join us, or me and Conall going for a run. But when humidity is at 96% at 7:30 am, as it has been the past several mornings? With sunshine? Uh uh. No running. That feels like a sauna to me. Not worth the struggle. Even walking in such humidity is a slog, my shirt sticking to my back because my sweat can’t evaporate, the air so thick and heavy it feels like I can grasp it in my fist. Conall and I do okay, but Finn struggles. So, we slow down to Old-Man-Finn pace.

two dogs in an open field of grass, clover and young milkweed plants
Heading through the fields, Finn sitting next to some second-growth Milkweed plants.

This morning, to make things more interesting for the dogs’ noses, we ignored the usual paths and instead forged cross-country through the fields. You never know what you might stumble upon, I thought. Big round plastic-covered bales dot the landscape like marshmallows, reminders that there was a cutting in early July. The field grasses, Clover, Bedstraw and some wildflowers are bounding back, getting a second chance to entice my eyes, the dogs’ noses (…sniff sniff, deer came through here!), and those all-important pollinators.

I stopped occasionally to look at young Milkweed plants growing back after that earlier mowing. They’re not even a foot tall yet, but some were developing flower buds. I pondered why I’ve yet to see a Monarch caterpillar munching on any of the Milkweed plants – in these fields or along nearby roads. Milkweed leaves are their sole source of food, which is why it’s so important to maintain plenty of the plants. I’ve seen several Monarch butterflies; surely they laid eggs? The caterpillars are distinctive, easy to identify. Where are they? June is supposed to be the best month to spot them.

closeup from above of milkweed leaves with two earwigs nestled near the stem
Two earwigs snoozing in the top of a Milkweed plant.

What I did see as I inspected the re-emerging Milkweed plants surprised me: the newest leaves sprouting from their tops formed a sort of natural cup, and in almost every one of them I found pairs of earwigs nestled together, hugging the stem. Occasionally there were more than two earwigs to a cup, but usually, just two.

They’re not my favorite bug, even though I know they rarely bite or pinch. The pincers on their hind end look prehistoric and mean. (They’re also called pincher bugs.) In fact, this summer I’ve learned to shake my bath towel out after plucking it from the hook where I hang it to dry after a previous shower. There’s almost always one earwig snoozing there. Apparently they’re nocturnal, so I imagine the earwigs I saw in the Milkweed cups were settling in for a day’s snooze.

As I looked for earwigs, something red with black dots caught my eye a little lower on one of the Milkweeds. Ladybug? Moving closer, I saw a different sort of beetle, with very long and thick, black antennae. They weren’t quite as numerous as the earwigs, and they were moving on the plants. I saw a few more on nearby Milkweeds. Interesting. I took a photo so I could identify them later.

closeup of milkweed leaves with two milkweed beetles, red with black spots, along the stem
Red and black beetles on a Milkweed plant.

Already I was proving myself right: You never know what you might stumble upon! Take a new path because and be surprised at what you find. A slow pace increases the chances of new discoveries.

(When I got home, I googled “red and black beetle on milkweed plant” and viola! They’re Milkweed Beetles. Of course they are! They’re native to the area and pose no danger to anything.)

two dogs wading in a pond
The ponds are a nice respite. They’re much lower than this time last year.

After letting the boys cool their toes and get a drink on one of the ponds, we started to head home. We took a path alongside a long swath of woods about 30 feet wide between two big fields. There are lots of tall maples providing shade for woodland plants and wildflowers.

Where fields and woods meet, I’ve seen a variety of wildflowers or blooming shrubs and wild cherry trees all spring and summer. I’m grateful for Google Lens, allowing me to identify them instantly (and quite accurately, although I always double-check other sources when I get home). This morning, ambling along with the boys next to that swath of woods, then cutting through it to the other side, I discovered several late-summer wildflowers and berries.

closeup of white parasol flat-top aster flowers
Parasol Flat-top Asters, aka Flat-Topped White Aster
closeup of purple-stemmed aster plant with flowers, white parasol flat-top asters nearby and a dog hiding behind
Purple-stemmed Aster (purple) nest to the white Parasol Flat-tops, with Finn hiding just beyond.
closeup of pink musk mallow bloom
Musk Mallow. I was surprised to see it, having seen many earlier this year. Turns out they bloom June through September.
closeup of purple large-leafed aster flowers and leaves
Large-leaved Aster, aka Heart-leaved Aster.

I also saw several Common Blue-tailed Damselflies, and one smallish dragonfly I haven’t tried to identify.

closeup of dragonfly in grass and clover
Small dragonfly hiding in the grass and clover.
common blue-tailed damselfly on goldenrod flowers
Common Blue-tailed Damselfly perched on some Goldenrod.

Finally, crossing back through the field, in an area the landowner mowed a grid pattern on in late June for no reason I can discern other than to have some fun after mowing around the ponds, I enjoyed seeing and thinking about the abundance of Milkweed, clover and other wildflowers getting a second chance where mowing had occurred.

open fiend with a portion cut in a grid pattern, trees and clouds beyond
The grid pattern mowed into a section of field in late June.
dog in mowed lane of field cut in grid pattern
Finishing our walk by going through the grid where mature (and uncut) Milkweed are growing.

In that grid, where the landowner hadn’t mowed, the Milkweed was tall and mature, the flowers having died off. That’s where I noticed their seed pods. Why hadn’t I noticed them last year? They’re enormous.

closeup of milkweed seed pods
Close-up of Milkweed seed pods, dead flower petals still clinging to the plant.

I squeezed one. It felt soft but firm, sort of like pushing on a mattress. So strange. I half expected it to pop, mostly air with a few seeds inside, but no, it was solid and unyielding. Back home, I found a video that showed how eventually, each pod will split and open, and inside, a core of dark brown seeds – each with it’s own umbrella of silky filaments, rather like Dandelion seeds – will be released on the breeze to find a new home.

mature milkweed plants in field with seed ponds on each
Several mature Milkweeds with seed pods growing in the grid area of the field.

I’m going to bring some of those Milkweed seeds home and disperse them on the bank between the road and my fenced yard. I’ve already seen lots wildflowers blooming there along with the grasses – several types of Aster, Goldenrod, Garden Phlox, Ox-eye Daisies. Why not Milkweed? Especially when they smell so wonderful, sweet and spicy.

Nature’s resilience at its best. The pollinators are happy. The dogs are happy. And so am I. Nature proves a good role model: slow is good.

two dogs in field, one rolling on its back with joy
Finn wasn’t too tired to enjoy a roll in the grass as we finished out walk.

By the way, if insects and the various flowers and plants they enjoy are of interest, visit Kim Smith’s blog, Nature is My Therapy. She’s knowledgeable, informative, and friendly, and her photos are fantastic.

[All photos mine, taken during this morning’s incredibly slow yet enjoyable walk. Despite 96% humidity.]

14 thoughts on “Slowing Way Down = Seeing Even More”

  1. I enjoyed this so much!!! Slowing down sucks but it has rewards. I’m glad your injury is healing. Bear and Teddy would like to tell Conall and Finn that it’s almost fall. They have no idea what that means, but I keep telling them…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re getting to know so many flowers at your new place. They’re gorgeous! I’m glad Finn’s slower pace has helped you meet local flora and fauna. Both dogs look like they’re smiling in the second picture. 🐶

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I try to find an upside to the things I can’t control. Finn’s slowing is just one example that’s worked out wonderfully. And yes, I thought both boys were smiling in that photo, so I chose it over several other where Finn was often licking his lips, showing his displeasure that my camera was pointed at him yet again. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hope your weather improves. Here, during the monsoon I have to reconcile myself to a couple of months without outdoor exercise every year. And that usually comes after a couple of months when the weather is similar to what you have right now.

    Your experience with the lens is quite opposite to what I find. It consistently misidentifies what I point it at, usually giving a north American identification. Once I found its cultural bias I had fun pointing it at the food I cook and watching it misidentify the dish. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do not cross check, and publish blogs or web sites with geographically impossible identification.

    Thanks for the link to Kim Smith’s blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you noted the cultural bias of Google Lens. It had occurred to me that its improvement over the past year or two in identifying what I’m seeing is because, as more people use it and tell it the ID is correct, its accuracy increases. But I wondered where most users were located. Your experience would suggest North America. Definitely not India. Maybe there’s a similar app more popular where you live? I can imagine how fun it is for you to ask Lens to identify food dishes 🙂

      I think I’d go crazy if I couldn’t get outside to exercise for two-plus months! But maybe the body appreciates the rest.

      I hope you enjoy Kim’s blog as much as I do.

      Liked by 1 person

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