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Seeing the Sourlands Essays by Jim Amon

Greenbrier (March 2024)

Greenbrier (March 2024)

Greenbrier is a vine with large rounded leaves and thorns along the stem (not visible in this photograph)Greenbrier can interfere with a pleasant walk in the woods; it is a vine that can be up to twenty feet long and has very sharp thorns. It is pretty widely...

Black Walnut Trees (February 2024)

Black Walnut Trees (February 2024)

 In the fall the leaves of black walnut trees turn yellow and fall from the tree before the nuts, giving the tree an interesting profile.There was a woods bordering the backyard of my father’s house, and one year a scout from a tree harvesting company knocked on his...

Turn a New Leaf (January 2024)

Turn a New Leaf (January 2024)

Plants produce brightly colored flowers to attract pollinators. From the plants’ perspective, it is unimportant that people love those flowers. From the humans’ perspective, the flowers are sometimes so important that they fail to see any other aspect of the plants...

Photos at Year’s End (December 2023)

Photos at Year’s End (December 2023)

The end of the year is a time when lists appear—10 best books, 10 best movies, 10 best spaghetti sauces, it goes on and on—and in December I have developed a habit of publishing my 10 best photos. Not just the ten best, however, the ten best photos from the Sourlands...

Red Maple Tree (November 2023)

Red Maple Tree (November 2023)

I begin looking for signs that spring is coming in early March. Almost every day I check the spot in my garden where bloodroot has grown in past springs; I examine the buds on spicebush shrubs for signs of swelling; and I begin looking closely at the buds on red maple...

Unheralded Autumnal Beauty (October 2023)

Unheralded Autumnal Beauty (October 2023)

When was the last time that you heard someone say “I love to walk in nature preserves in autumn because the poison ivy is so beautiful.”  You could substitute many other things for “poison ivy” in that sentence—try “foxtail grass,” “dogbane seed pods,” or “swamp...

Flowers of September (September 2023)

Flowers of September (September 2023)

Spring means flowers.  It means simple little flowers—a few white petals, a dimpled yellow center—emerging from the newly warmed and softened forest soil.  It means shrubs and trees covered with larger, more complex flowers.  All these flowers are just what the insect...

Northern Harriers (August 2023)

Northern Harriers (August 2023)

Northern harriers fly low over meadows while hunting. The females are predominately brown and are larger than the grey and black males. Both sexes have a bright white patch at the base of their tails, which makes them easy to identify from a distance.There is a place...

Grass (July 2023)

Grass (July 2023)

For several years my sister-in-law, Penny, joined my wife, Kathleen, and me for our two-week vacation in Maine. All three of us were outside from dawn to dusk, hiking along the bold coast, through the spruce forest, or across meadows. Mostly, we followed Kathleen’s...

A Second Look (June 2023)

A Second Look (June 2023)

I started this essay in late April when dandelions were in bloom and I was struck by their beauty as though I had never seen them before.  I realized that there are a lot of plants and animals that are quite beautiful but I scarcely see them because they are common. ...

Blue Flag Iris (May 2023)

Blue Flag Iris (May 2023)

Blue flag irises growing on the edge of a pond where they protect the water’s edge from erosion.There are two hundred and eighty species of iris in the world, twenty-eight of which are native to North America, and one that is found in the Sourlands. Blue flag irises...

Dandelions (April 2023)

Dandelions (April 2023)

Dandelions got their name as a result of their French name dent de lion, which translates at “ tooth of a lion.” The term refers to the shape of their leaves.It started with a whim. I was walking along the edge of a meadow, enjoying the spring meadow flowers, when I...