Stillness (the art of traveling far in a short distance)

This guest post is from artist, naturalist and Seattle Nature Alliance member, D. Nordin.

I routinely walk every day. These walks usually amount to a brisk 4 to 6 miles. These walks typically occur in the morning, and more often than not, include the great pleasure of watching the first bits of light come to yet another day. I am fortunate to live near a large wooded park, and I make sure that on every visit, my footsteps lead to encounters with the flora and fauna that find their home there.

fungus on the forest floor
‘Dyer’s Polypore’ | Phaeolus schweinitzii

On a recent walk, I meandered a bit off the formal trail and stepped into the woods. I confess, this is not uncommon for me, but on this particular morning it was unplanned, and I had not figured it as part of ‘the allotted time’ for this excursion. Just steps into the woods I encountered a ‘Dyer’s Polypore’. I kneeled to examine and marvel at this velvety bracket fungus, and decided to take a few pictures (I have been informally documenting my fungi encounters in this park for the past 6 months and this was a fungi I had not yet seen – so it was as they say -’a find!’).

plant, oregon grape
Oregon Grape | Mahonia aquifolium

As I emerged from this first encounter, I stood silent for a moment. In the distance, I could hear the wings of a hummingbird. Soon my eyes spotted a male Anna’s darting low in the foliage in what I presumed was a hunt for insects. It seemed particularly fond of the oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) which was just beginning to form clusters of yellow buds.

Foreground: Picipes sp. (best guess) Background: Golden Jelly Fungus | Tremella sp.

As my eyes slowly scanned the ground, around me I spotted yet another mushroom shape. Sure enough, on closer inspection I realized I was looking at what I suspected was another polypore, a lovely little specimen nestled in among the moss and forest detritus. While on my knees examining this I saw the cap of another ‘LBM’ (little brown mushroom). Closer inspection revealed a trio of these little fellows sprouting from the side of a moss covered log.

As I sat back to pan through the pictures I had just taken I heard what I thought to be the ‘kek’ of the Cooper’s Hawk, and within a few minutes, I was able to identify where the short vocalizations were coming from and could just barely make out the form of the hawk, not far from where I was kneeling.

Fungi on lichen covered alder/hazel branch.
Scurfy Alder Cup | Encoelia furfuracea

I slowly stood up and decided to move slightly east. After a few steps, I had to duck under an alder branch, and as I did, I noticed some more finger-tip sized protuberances along this branch. Once again – something new, something not yet encountered.

As I scanned other branches, I counted close to a dozen: fuzzy little bundles, revealing a soft texture in the early-morning light. I took a series of photos, and as I moved around the limb to position myself for a better camera angle, I also became quite enamored with some interesting textures, and this added yet another layer to my current voyage. Mosses, lichens, and fungi oh my! I had hardly taken 20 steps.

lichen and moss
Lichen and Moss (detail)

I grew up in a family that hunted, fished, farmed and foraged, and I learned from an early age to have patience. As a hunter I learned if you want to see anything in the forest you practice stillness. My father always said if you just slow down, if you become still and silent, nature will come to you. As a bird watcher I know this to be true. The longer you sit, the more you see. On this morning, it definitely proved to be true. It seemed the fungi paraded in, circling around my feet, and we all had a splendid conversation on this beautiful March morning.

grand fir tree, detail of flower
Fir | Abies sp. — past, present and future

Oh, and did I mention that nifty and inviting time-travel vortex I discovered? Spring provides some great encounters with past, present and future – all in one glance. It’s an invitation to many magical voyages, and as luck would have it they are free, and leave a very small carbon footprint.





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