in the desert and you see something astounding. I am parched. I crave liquid, anything, water, iced coffee, beer. Desert plants thrive in the heat of the sun. Without water, they ooze color. Yellow desert marigold, a member of the aster family.
The flame of indian paintbrush.
Or these more delicate desert mallow.
Textures seem improbable, like the flirty catkins of the mesquite.
Or the haunted-house barbs of the fishhook cactus.
The prickly pear, just on the verge of busting out.
Back home on the east coast, so far away, the pretty cherries are in bloom. Daffodils mildly wave their snouts. Forsythia, rich but somehow insipid, you can find it at the edge of all the roads.
Here there is drama.
The blue bell jar of sky covers everything. Magnifies it all. Holds you as if you are pinned, gape-mouthed, in thirst and in awe.
The Hudson River Almanac, compiled by a sage named Tom Lake, covers the Hudson River and everything that flies above it, swims in it or roams its banks, from the High Peaks of the Adirondacks to New York Harbor. “It seeks to capture the river’s spirit, magic and science by presenting observations from many individuals who delight in the diversity of nature in the Hudson Valley.” It’s crowd-sourced by a bunch a nature nuts. Dip in and have a happy day.
To illustrate, recently the “Fish of the Week” was the northern stargazer. I had never heard of it but once introduced couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Ichthyologist C. Lavett Smith, I learned, calls the northern stargazer “a bizarre fish.” They are somewhat like the oyster toadfish and somewhat like the goosefish. “They have a nearly vertical mouth surrounded by fringed lips,” The Hudson River Almanac tells me. “Much of their body mass is in their head and they will eat pretty much whatever they can fit in their huge mouth. They bury themselves in the sand with their eyes and mouth sticking out just enough, aimed skyward (star-ward) and wait for prey. When something appealing swims by, the stargazer uses its large mouth to create a vacuum to suck it in.”
Also, these appealing creatures have an organ in their head that can deliver an electric charge that can stun prey and perhaps ward off predators. Their genus, Astroscopus, comes from Latin as one that “aims at the stars.” Their trivial name, guttatus, comes from Latin as “speckled,” like raindrops.
To subscribe to this always surprising publication, go here: Hudson River Almanac . In the meantime, keep your fingers and toes in the boat.