View along the LBSP "Bog Walk" Trail on 10/18/14. Those are Tamarack needles on the water.
I've only been hunting for Minnesota orchids since about 2010 when I first spotted a patch of Yellow Lady Slippers on the Munger Trail. And it's only been a couple years since I started driving up along the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway and exploring the Pennington Bog Scientific and Natural Area (SNA). But even then, I started setting goals for each year's orchid (and wildflower) season.
My goal for last year's season, for instance, was to take photos of the Stemless Lady Slipper, and I was able to fulfill that goal during a visit to Lake Bemidji State Park. There's a lovely little "Bog Walk" Trail there which is beautiful in all seasons. Lots of Stemless Slippers grow there.
|Stemless Lady Slipper, Lake Bemidji |
State Park, spring 2014
|Ram's-Head Lady Slipper|
photo credit: aposematic herpetologist
via photopin cc
It was a nice idea, and I had a lovely day, walking around in the woods--which were golden with the Tamaracks at the peak of their fall color--but I didn't spot any Ram's-Head seed-pods. They would only have been about four inches off the ground, and rather tiny. The woods were still so thick with life and color that I didn't really have any chance of finding the colony. But I did get a better sense of the place, and I really enjoyed the attempt, even though it failed. On the drive up and back, I saw NINE Bald Eagles (I almost got a photo of one), four Swans (two pairs, in flight), and lots of lovely Pitcher Plants.
|Catching my reflection in the Pitcher Plant's reservoir|
|Tamarack Needles in their golden glory|
* * * * *Right now, my AP Lit students are struggling with their Frankenstein drafts. It's been taking them longer than they expected to get their ideas figured out, and I've asked them to do some difficult thinking about some really challenging topics, but that's the way it always is, and that's the way it's supposed to be. Some of them have had to scrap their original thoughts and start over, and try another approach. I've had good conversations with Ethan F, Megan C, Jeremy S, and others who have come in for help.
|The Pennington Bog, with cedar fronds partially covering the still-green moss|
I remember back when I was working on the first chapter of my dissertation: I thought I had finished it, and I was very pleased with it, but then I discovered that another scholar had already published my idea! I was devastated. Six months of work down the drain. My dissertation director John Dings, one of the best teachers and mentors I've ever had, helped me to see this as a great opportunity to strengthen my idea. He urged me to see this other scholar, not as a rival, but rather as a helpful source, as a positive influence on my work. John made me realize that if I could find the vulnerabilities in this person's work (and therefore, of course, in my own), I could use this experience as the foundation for a new, and much better, idea. And that's what I did. Was it easy? No! But John was right--my work was stronger and better because I met this challenge. I thought much more deeply and discovered a line of thinking that carried me through the rest of my dissertation.
|This time of year, the Pennington Bog is carpeted with a multi-colored mixture of live, dead, and dying vegetation.|
In Advisory, seniors are beginning to work on ideas for their Capstone Projects. They're just beginning the same kind of process. Here, however, we're asking them to start with what they love, with what they enjoy, for "a true Capstone Project has its roots in the students' genuine academic and personal interests, pulls together past experiences and future goals, and generates intellectual curiosity and creativity" ("Senior Capstone 2015," emphasis added). Whenever I get some free time, I get out in the woods somewhere and try to find interesting plants, beautiful flowers, and fascinating fungi. It's what I love best, and every time I make a discovery or see something new, I laugh out loud with joy--I can't help it--it makes me happy. It never feels like work, and even my "failures" are fruitful.
Whether you're working on a paper or trying to come up with a Project idea, try to develop the right "Habits of Mind." Be willing to think creatively and ask lots of great questions. Set some goals, throw out some ideas, take some risks, start over (and over, and over), and try again (and again, and again), laugh at the joy of discovery, and fail fruitfully!