Happy Birthday (Chanterelle, Again)

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Another day of heavy rain and warm weather did it, the chanterelles have come out, just in time for my daughter’s birthday, who, alas, just left again.

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My first serious harvest this year was enough for two toasts (with Phantasia, a wonderful local goat cheese, and aragula sprouts),

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as well as a small salad with roasted vegetables.

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Let’s see what else July will bring.

Winter in Summer

After all the spring wildflowers are gone, there is not much left blooming here. So these little flowers came as a surprise when I found them on my Pate Hollow Trail.

What we have here is Chimaphila maculata, or the Striped Wintergreen (an odd name for a summer wildflower).

Endangered, it says for Indiana.

This has been my first time with this rare misfit, and I hope it is here to stay.

Paradise Lost

Snowfall overnight in late April is rare here, but has its own strange appeal.

Unfortunately I had other obligations this morning, so I couldn’t go on a longer expedition, so I paid our campus a visit.

While the trees have mostly managed the extra burden, most flowers did not.

It’s not all sadness. Hours later, the snow was all gone, and the recovery has begun.

In the afternoon I went on a short hike at Pate Hollow. Many wildflowers were gone here, and tree blossoms have fallen. Grayness has returned.

But there still is life,

and thus hope.

Night Walks

The end of winter marks the time when I started to walk the Pate Hollow trail on an almost daily basis, to stay physically fit and mentally sane.

I know this trail like a close friend, in every mood and season. I mostly walked in the early morning hours, but lately I enjoyed the late evenings, after sunset, using a flashlight for the last half an hour.

The light at dawn has a different quality than at dusk, it has a certain tiredness to it that I can’t explain, but which feels good, like being tired after having persisted, through a day, or through a year.

There is also a certain urgency to this hour, to complete the circle before the time is up.

Darkness enables intimacy — maybe because it forces us to focus harder, maybe because the visible is so close by.

A year has passed. I will treasure every minute spent with a good friend.

The Cemetery of Trees

Southern Indiana can have some violent weather, and the forests are often littered with branches and fallen trees.

Most people think that they just lie there and rot away, providing nutrients for the Mycelium.

But healthy forests have special places, hidden away from the trails, where the fallen trees are being cared for.

There are various forms of burial rites, including a careful shrouding with dried grasses.

If you stumble across a place like this, spend a few minutes and say your prayer.

Snow (Frost III)

After 4-5 inches of snow over night, I couldn’t resist to get up early to be the first on Pate Hollow. Well, I wasn’t quite the first, as numerous animal tracks testify, but otherwise the trail was so completely virginal that it was almost invisible.

Snow increases gravity, which is why I have changed the usual aspect ratio from 3:2 to 2:1.

There is resistance against the gravity, and efforts of verticality have become more pronounced against the uniformly white backdrop.

The Black and White contrast makes it possible to spot the Baxter branch in a trail-less valley down below which we will pay a visit soon.

Then there is my favorite detour to the desolate peninsula.

The lake only appears to be frozen. Snow can be treacherous, too.

I return to the trail: but where is it?

As time expands (it took me three instead of the usual two hours to hike this trail today), the attempts to defy gravity become more and more futile.

But there is no giving up. Just look at these pine needles!

Unintended

I thought I’ve done all of it: Forgot the camera, leave the battery uncharged, overwrote the memory card. And not just once. So I have become pretty good at double checking my equipment.

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I did check everything before I went today to take some shots of my beloved Pate Hollow trail in snow.

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What I forgot was that I had set the camera to take double exposures when I took photos for Wenckheim X. Back then, I had try to compose the double exposures carefully.

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Not so here. They are completely unintended. Of course most of the pictures are just trash.

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Some, however, came out nicely, when the subconscious effort to capture the atmosphere of the place superposes its actual appearance.

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I see this as a unique opportunity. There is no way to make the same mistake unintentionally a second time.

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Infinite Difficulties (Wenckheim VII)

The Professor, international expert on mosses, is back at Thornbush, and busy with thought-immunization exercises.

… not a single moment can be left to the brain to find some pretext in order to escape from the questioning gaze, namely, the brain is looking at itself, and this looking must be comprised of sheer mistrust …

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Facing deathly revenge from the bikers, he acquires an insane amount of gasoline and stages his own death in the flames, re-creating a Burning Thornbush. We are led to expect that he will escape.

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While busy with preparations, the Professor ponders the meaning of life and death in a long monologue (speaking to his dog Little Mutt), beginning with questioning the infinite, and accusing the mathematician Georg Cantor for thinking the infinite is real, which the professor refutes, based on the lack of empirical evidence:

…namely, no one has ever wished genuinely to confront the deeply problematic nature of empirical verification as such, because whoever did this went mad…

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The denial of the infinite leads the Professor further — thinking itself becomes suspect:

…the mere appearance of a thought hauntingly reminds us that the way a person thinks is but one concept of infinity,…

Existence beyond being extant in time and space is questioned:

…there’s only that which takes place…

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The denial of the infinite and with it anything transcendent however causes a problem: our universal fear of being finite, that is, our fear of death: 

… what we must deal with here is, namely, Cantor and his god — because if we’re dealing with this, then at least we’re dealing with something, namely we’re dealing with fear, and we have to deal with that if Cantor and his god are interesting — and they are interesting — and that’s why, at this point, we must refocus our attention on this, as fear is what defines human existence, …

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The Professor’s monologue culminates in what I would call his theology of fear:

… fear, if we regard it as a creationary force, a general power center, from where the gods evaporate, and finally God emerges, and yes, the God of Cantor too, because the fear of the cessation of existence is a force field which we can’t even measure, … 

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Strikingly, the Professor comes to the realization that fearing death and loving to live are identical:

 

… the fear that is within us and the joy of life that is within us, well, these two things are one and the same, two sides of one fact, because we are a web of events that seeks to sustain one thing and one thing only, namely continuity, … 

So he can, simultaneously, affirm life as a process that aims to constitute infinity, and deny the existence of anything infinite, including God.

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The simplest infinite set in mathematics, the set of natural numbers, is postulated to have the property that for every number there is a successor. Within mathematics, it is not stated what it means that such a set exists — but most of mathematics is based on the firm belief that there always is a number that’s by one bigger than the previous one, that there always is one more step, just as in life. 

 

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Has the poor Professor not understood yet that if you have lived you don’t fear death?

Thank You, Dear Trail

It’s time to thank my trusted companion, the Pate Hollows Trail, which has kept me mentally and physically healthy this remarkable year.

Today, on Christmas day, we had a bit of powdery snow, providing just the right amount of contrast to what makes the trail, the ground.

Thanks for the leaves, the ferns, the moss and the mushrooms.

Thanks also for the water and the roots.

A loop trail like this has no other purpose than to be walked.

Which teaches us an important lesson, maybe the only one: There always is one more step to take.