Friday, August 19, 2011

The Garden as a place for questions

Today's conversation was enriched by Alex, a participant new to Open Phenology. As a sculpture technician, Alex works with Walker staff to keep the outdoor sculptures in good condition. I like to think of our parallel experiences: while I've been surveying the Garden's living residents, she's been tending to its non-living structures. As I've been witness to time passing in biological terms, for her time is evidenced by erosion, mineral deposition, oxidation, and other forces of the earth sciences.

Photo by Sharyn Morrow
Besides our shared landscape, what do Alex's and my experiences have in common? Questions! From "Will you take our picture?" to "So, why is this art?," Alex and I concur that Garden visitors are curious and inquisitive. What sculpture prompts the most questions? In Alex's experience, the winner is Dan Graham's Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth. Maybe this work's deceptive simplicity inspires a skeptical response like, "But it's only glass windows! What's so great about that?" "Well," Alex reminds us, "We're only carbon." As an art history student with career plans in art conservation, Alex seems to enjoy the dual nature of things, simultaneously considering their material nature while contemplating their conceptual and expressive potential.

What: A Green Heron—Kudos to Alex who spotted this one just moments before it got skittish and flew. Maybe not a significant phenological marker, but one of my favorite birds to share with non-birders, who are usually struck by its short stature in comparison to the Great Blue Heron.
Where: At the pond's edge, near Spoonbridge and Cherry
Observers: Abbie, Alex, and Martha
Date/Time: Friday, August 19, around 10:15 am
Conditions: Slightly overcast and breezy, about 75°

What: Damselfly, unidentified species, possibly a sprite. We saw a variety of dragonflies and damselflies drifting along the water's edge and darting across the pond, but this is the only photo worth sharing.
Where: Pond's edge, near Spoonbridge and Cherry
Observers: Abbie, Alex, and Martha
Date/Time: Friday, August 19, 10:10 am
Conditions: Dragonflies are a challenge to observe and identify! I'm tempted to invest in a pair of close-focusing binoculars and a specialized field guide. If you can ID this one, please comment.

What: Butterfly, probably a Monarch, on swamp milkweed flower. (Seeing this made me wish I were a more diligent phenologist, the type who dependably notes the season's first sighting. And speaking of first occurrences I've failed to record, most of the common milkweed plants I see around town finished flowering a while ago and have sizable green pods by now.)
Where: Arlene Grossman Memorial Arbor and Flower Garden
Observers: Abbie, Alex, and Martha
Date/Time: Friday, August 19, around 10:40 am
Conditions: Abuzz with insects. Also a good locale to spy Black-capped Chickadees and Mourning Doves.

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