National Geographic : 1956 Jun
812 Virginia L. Wells Shy Wood Nymph Keeps Its Head Bowed Single-flowered Moneses thrives in mossy glades. There I saw on the forest floor, caught in a web of sunlight, a group of lovely wood nymphs, each head shyly bowed. All the joy of finding the long-sought came to me with the sight of the wood nymphs standing quietly in their puddle of light. Our return to Anchorage took us through the valley of the Tlikakila River. Gradually it narrowed until I feared our plane's wings would scrape the mountains on either side. Looking up, I saw the blue tongues of glaciers stretching down from between the peaks. Suddenly we reached valley's end and found it blocked by a wall of ice. As our plane lifted, I saw that here several glaciers, pour ing out of the mountains, had joined forces on their march to the lowlands. When I stepped from the plane at Anchor age, I was momentarily disconcerted at being thrust into the everyday busyness of civi lization. It seemed a thousand years since I had left and that I had been in paradise. Alaska's spring is reluctant to arrive and quick to depart. Our days begin to get notice ably longer in February, and by the middle of March we have from 10 to 12 hours of sunlight. But the snow stubbornly persists. April has long, warm days, but spring still dawdles. By May 1 most of the snow has given way, so every morning I tour my wooded back yard area eagerly seeking some sign of renewed life in the perennials or some tiny sprout of a seed. But the time between the snow's going and the first tender leaflet seems to stand still; the earth is neither dead nor alive. I can feel the promise of spring but find no evidence of its fulfillment. But one May morning I will see yesterday's black net of birch branches etched against a pale-green mist and then, in my walk through the woodland, I will find a tiny violet as white as the recent snow. Following the miracle of the violet, spring may stay as long as a week, then suddenly leave us with summer. My back yard wood land whitens with creeping dogwood (oppo site) and Labrador tea, and I begin my war against the fireweed. Often I feel a catch in my throat at the beauty of the fireweed as we travel highways through aisles of its six-foot magenta spires (page 817). I even feel grateful to the flower when I find it masking fire-burned areas with vivid color, as if embarrassed by man's care lessness. But, along with its good and beau tiful works, fireweed is a notorious gadder. From early spring, when I pull the young fireweed's red rosettes, through a summer spent digging its roots and plants, until Au gust, when I stand helpless while the flower's myriad airborne seeds cavort around me, I wage unceasing war against this invader of my garden. But I fight a losing battle. Bog Photography Has Its Hazards I find the many bogs and marshes around Anchorage fascinating places. Covered with short, scrubby growth-mosses, cinquefoils, Labrador tea, and bog rosemary-they are whiskered with gawky black spruce trees, which remind me of witches' brooms. I discovered the hazards of bog photography the first time I tried it. I had started to photograph a fine clump of bog rosemary, whose tiny bells tint the marshes pink. Sud denly I felt a cold wetness around my feet and found I had sunk into the dry-looking moss until water covered my shoetops. The bog was like a huge sponge. If I walked quickly, I kept relatively dry; but when I paused for only a moment, I began to sink into the apparently bottomless mass of water-soaked moss. Since then I use a telephoto lens or wear rubber boots when making bog pictures.