Walking the Malachite Trail in the SWA portion of the most wonderfully pristine Everglades watershed of the Grassy Waters Preserve, an old tree displayed new life with a whimsical fungi arrangement — a fairy staircase!
Sing a song of sixpence,
pocket full of rye,
four and twenty blackbirds
baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
the birds began to sing:
isn’t that a dainty dish
to set before the King?
The King is in his counting-house
counting out his money;
the Queen is in the parlor
eating bread and honey;
the Maid is in the garden
hanging up the clothes,
when down swoops a Blackbird
and snaps off her nose!
There are many interpretations to this curious nursery rhyme, dating to the 18th century. It’s been traced to the 16th-century practice of placing live songbirds in a pie (who wouldn’t want live animals flying out of their prepared food?), to various historical events and folklorish symbols, and even to a coded message used to recruit crew members for pirate ships. Lord Byron, James Joyce, Virgina Woolf, Agatha Christie, George Orwell, and Roald Dahl all referenced the ditty, and it’s appeared in songs by The Beatles, The Monkees, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and others. Obviously this mysterious little rhyme continues to captivate our popular consciousness.
As we approach the equinox, I’m anxious to spy our returning colonies of Red-winged blackbirds — the males, glossy black with their brilliant scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches, puffing up or hiding (depending on their level of confidence), and belting out their conk-la-ree songs. And the more subdued females, with their brown colorations and clever camouflaging — so much shyer than their male counterparts.
And the GIRLS…
Hand in hand, with fairy grace, Will we sing, and bless this place. —William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
As we hiked the Apoxee Trail in the Grassy Waters Preserve, it was often flooded — pictures forthcoming, because wading through 4-6 inches of swamp / marsh waters in the Florida Everglades is always an adventure! My most worried comment, 2 hours into the trail: “Errr, it appears as though these waters are now even with the swamp.”
But everywhere I looked, itsy-bitsy cricket frogs were jumping about the trail, and these lovelies were hiding in the vegetation and waters. He’s a Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala), common to the marshes, swamps, and cypress swamps of our area. The frogs range from dark brown to bright green. Apparently, the existence of a subspecies — the Florida Leopard Frog (Rana utricularia sphenocephala) — is debated among the experts.
Their colors are pure brilliance, with luminescent greens flashing here and there. There were so many frogs I wanted to photograph, but it was tricky nabbing them as they leapt into the waters or darted into the undergrowth. Just magical. So naturally I had to include one of my favorite children’s illustrators — Ida Rentoul Outhwaite — and her more famous images of frogs and fairies.
Nature’s colors, intensity, and variations continue to amaze — may your weekend be equally as spectacular and magical as this brilliant but diminutive frog!
It’s easy to see why the wings of birds were appropriated for heavenly messengers in early religious art. Their combination of delicacy and strength — of grace and sinewy power — is mesmerizing. There were no wings donned by angels in the earliest Christian art, however. Beginning in the 4th Century, halos were replaced with wings to represent heavenly figures, and any creature of the divine. But it was during the Renaissance and Baroque periods when the winged angelic messenger really took root in the artistic and cultural mindset.
Here, two separate cormorants stretch their wings to dry after fishing in the South Florida wetlands bordering the Everglades. Similar to the cormorant-like anhingas, their feathers don’t possess the waterproofing oil of other seabirds, and they must dry their feathers after each fishing trip.
As promised in a recent post, I was lucky to sneak up on a baby marsh rabbit during a recent walk in our wetlands — not always the easiest thing to do with wild adult rabbits, let alone the babies. (Learn more about Marsh Rabbits here.) And as promised…. Cuteness factor through the roof! In honor of their adorableness, I included vintage illustrations of rabbit romps with fairies, and fairytale rabbits — because when I see these delicate marsh rabbits (or as I call them, swamp bunnies, much to the chagrin of the more uptight naturalists), especially the babies — it’s hard not to picture them in such a setting. I like to envision fae around all critters, helping us occasionally close-minded humans love and appreciate their, and Nature’s beauty all that more.
“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” So, with the help of the fairy who cares for all playthings, and makes them Real…