Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Abundance



As this anxious summer wears on I've been making regular visits to a little pond not far away, one that, in spite of its diminutive size, hosts an astonishing array of wildlife, all of it unconcerned with our troubles. In addition to hundreds if not thousands of frogs of various sizes, which dash into the water with cries of alarm as I circle the shore, there are snapping and painted turtles, at least one water snake, small fish, and several species of dragonfly. As I arrive great blue herons fly up, issuing unearthly raucous cries, and rabbits, deer, and wild turkey browse the adjacent meadows.


The rabbits have apparently become accustomed to human presence and continue nibbling until I'm almost on top of them, a complacency that may be ill-advised as there are foxes, coyotes, and other predators in the vicinity. The dragonflies don't seem to care much about me either; they dart about, carefully avoiding hungry mouths lurking below the surface of the pond, and rest here and there on rocks and vegetation, only flitting away when I come within an arm's length. The green one immediately below is (I'm told) a female eastern pondhawk, which is a wonderful and appropriate name, for this is very much a hunting creature.


The frogs must be the keystone species here, their sheer numbers guaranteeing their own perpetuation as well as the survival of those who prey upon them. Over the past weeks the young ones have been slowly metamorphosizing from tadpoles. Some are still confined to the water, while others now hop about, soon to lose the remnants of their tails. They're utterly absurd creatures, and as such instantly recognizable as our kin.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Chaos of the Age (Leo Perutz)



(The Emperor Rudolf II addresses his lover, by means of a mutual dream.)
"In the dark hours of the day, when the chaos of the age weighs on me like a nightmare and the noise and bustle of the world is about me with all its perfidy and cunning, its lies and treachery, my thoughts fly to you, you are my comfort and consolation. With you there's clarity, when I'm with you I feel as if I could understand the way of the world and see through the lies and penetrate to the truth behind the perfidy. Sometimes I feel lost and call you, call you aloud, though in such a way as not to be overheard — but you don't come. Why don't you come? What holds you back when I call you? What prevents you?"

No answer came.

By Night Under the Stone Bridge

Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth



The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor.

Read by General Gordon Granger, June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.

Jamelle Bouie:
Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

Why Juneteenth Matters
More information: "Juneteenth, explained"

Photo: Unknown young woman on the campus of Langston University (then known as the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University), probably before 1920.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Dreaming Again (Zachary Richard)




From singer, musician, bilingual songwriter, and all-around good guy Zachary Richard, a beautiful, moving, and timely new song of hope. Downloads (here) benefit the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic.
When the danger at long last is gone,
And peace has returned to this land.
When we can all embrace without fear or disgrace
And all come home safely again.

I hear the thunder, and I am afraid,
Of the darkness that seems not to end.
But then I remember that you are always with me,
And I go back to dreaming again.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Quote of the day


Robert Hendrickson, Rector at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona (via Daughter Number Three):
This is an awful man, waving a book he hasn’t read, in front of a church he doesn’t attend, invoking laws he doesn’t understand, against fellow Americans he sees as enemies, wielding a military he dodged serving, to protect power he gained via accepting foreign interference, exploiting fear and anger he loves to stoke, after failing to address a pandemic he was warned about, and building it all on a bed of constant lies and childish inanity.
I can't even bear to look at the photo in question. It turns out that the last refuge of a scoundrel isn't patriotism after all. I'm not religious and I'm not sure I know what "the soul" means, but I know when someone doesn't have one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cypripedium acaule



I'll always associate pink lady's-slipper or moccasin flower with my childhood, because there was a secluded spot in the woods about a mile or so from my house where they could be found quietly growing, if you were observant and if you went at the right time of year. I haven't been back for decades and I have no idea if they're still there, though I wouldn't be surprised if they were. These native orchids require just the right habitat and are said to be extremely difficult to cultivate.

I know of another place where they still grow in relative abundance, though, and over the weekend I trekked into the woods and found several dozen of them in bloom. They're not visible from a main trail, but are easily reached if you happen to know where they are. Two other hikers walked right past them while I was there, but they either didn't notice them or weren't interested (or maybe they were just giving a wide berth to the eccentric kneeling on the ground with a camera).


The white moth on the specimen below is Tetracis cachexiata. I know that fact not because I keep that kind of information in my head, but because an online search for moths associated with the plant immediately brought it up. The moth has been spotted on lady's-slippers many times in various locations over the years, but no one knows quite why. It's not believed to be a pollinator of the flower (which is pollinated by bees), nor does it derive any apparent nourishment from it. One theory is that it obtains some kind of pheromone from the plant. Charley Eiseman at Bug Tracks has more information.