Showing posts from July, 2016

Poetry Sunday: Summer

We are just about at the high point of summer, the mid-point, the "dog days." Soon we'll be on the downhill side of this - for us - most uncomfortable of seasons, headed toward benevolent autumn. It can't come too soon for me. Although this poem by Amy Lowell is entitled Summer , it is really an appreciation of Nature at all seasons. She catches my feeling about summer very well in this passage: To me alone it is a time of pause, A void and silent space between two worlds, When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps, Gathering strength for efforts yet to come. Well, my inspiration has certainly lagged. But I keep telling myself that I am gathering my strength for efforts yet to come. In autumn.   Summer by Amy Lowell (1874-1925) Some men there are who find in nature all Their inspiration, hers the sympathy Which spurs them on to any great endeavor, To them the fields and woods are closest friends, And they hold dear communion with the hills; The voice of wa

This week in birds - #217

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : This Greater Roadrunner has just spied something that may be very tasty. Or perhaps it is Wile E. Coyote. *~*~*~* Huge wildfires continue to burn out of control in California.  One blaze near Big Sur spanned 42 square miles and has destroyed 34 homes, forced the evacuation of 350 properties and put at least 2,000 buildings at risk, as well as causing one death so far.  *~*~*~* Common Cuckoos are in decline in some parts of Europe and their migration habits may be partly to blame. The birds that take the shorter migration route to and from Africa through Spain actually have a lower survival rate than those that take a more easterly route. *~*~*~* The populations of Gulf Coast shorebirds have seen a steady decline since the days of John James Audubon.  Nesting on the beach is a huge challenge due to coastal development, off-road vehicles, beachgoers, and pets, not to mention disasters like Hurricane Katr

Ham Bones by Carolyn Haines: A review

Ham Bones by Carolyn Haines My rating: 1 of 5 stars Feeling the urge for some popcorn for the brain - or, since it is summer, perhaps a shaved ice for the brain - I turned to one of Carolyn Haines' Southern Belle Mysteries. This is the seventh one in the series. I had read the other six and found some of them diverting and others less so. There was at least a fifty percent chance that this one would entertain me. I don't give up on books. If I choose to start reading one, I'm going to finish it, even if I don't like it. Many, maybe most, readers can't really understand this, feeling that life is too short to waste any of it on a bad book, and they have no hesitation in tossing one aside if it doesn't appeal to them. But I have this sense that I've made a contract with the writer by picking up his/her book and I need to fulfill my contract. All that being said, I came about as close as I have in recent memory to giving up on a book after about fifty pages

The cartoon says it all


Backyard Nature Wednesday/Wildflower Wednesday: July images - Joe Pye Weed

If it is July, it must be Joe Pye weed time. This is the month when this plant really gets its blooms going. They are very long lasting, continuing into the end of August or even into September. Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum , has begun to come into its own recently. No longer seen by gardeners as just another unwanted weed, the attractive plant has come to be appreciated for its good qualities, namely as a wildlife attractant for habitat gardens. It is especially attractive to butterflies that flock to feed on its sweet nectar. Interestingly, the plant got its common name from a New England man who used it as a medicinal herb in the treatment of typhus fever. In addition to its medicinal qualities, the plant's flowers and seeds have also been used in producing pink and red dye for textiles. Joe Pye weed is hardy in zones 4-9 and can be found  growing in thickets and woodlands throughout the eastern half of North America. They can grow quite tall, anywhere between 3 to 12 fe

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes: A review

Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes My rating: 4 of 5 stars The books in Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series often are rich in literary and film references and this one is no exception. The homage to Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo is perhaps obvious from the title, but there are also overt references to Thomas Hardy and William Butler Yeats, as well as more subtle nods to Oscar Wilde and even the Bard himself, Shakespeare. It all makes for a fun game for the reader, a kind of hide-and-go-seek, which is an actual game that plays a part in one of the mysterious deaths of the plot. Once again, Jury is called upon to investigate a cold case, this time as a favor to a friend. Seventeen years before, Tess Williamson died in a fall down stone steps in the garden of her house in Devon. The verdict on the death was left open, as no definitive conclusion could be reached, but the inspector in charge of the investigation at the time leaned toward an accidental death d

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker: A review

Bruno, Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside by Martin Walker My rating: 4 of 5 stars Benoit Courreges, known to everyone as Bruno, is the chief of police in the small village of St. Denis in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. He's a unique kind of policeman. He has a gun but he keeps it locked away. He makes every possible effort not to arrest people, preferring reasoning with them and sometimes turning a blind eye to minor infringements. His main challenge as a policeman seems to be protecting the vendors at the village market from the EU health and safety inspectors who are charged with ensuring that regulations are followed and who are authorized to hand out fines to those who attempt to circumvent the rules. Bruno is an orphan who found his calling as a soldier serving with United Nations forces in Bosnia. Coming home, he had a mentor in one of his former commanders in Bosnia and through the efforts of that man, now the mayor of the town, Bruno became

Poetry Sunday: Analysis of Baseball

I'm not a big sports fan in general. But there is one game that  I love, that I have loved  since I was twelve years old and that  is baseball. I love the grace, the balletic quality of  the players  in the field as they go for the ball. I love the twitchiness of the  batters at the  plate as they fiddle with their gloves, adjust their  helmets, and play for time as they try  to figure out what the  pitcher is going to throw next. I love watching the pitcher and  catcher collaborate as they work on a plan to get this guy out. I  love the fact that it is a  timeless game; i.e., it's played without a  clock. The only limiting factor is 27 outs - and  sometimes not  even that is enough. I love the fact that the same game can be  played  by 6'2" Mike Trout and 5'6" (maybe on a good day) Jose  Altuve and that Jose Altuve  can win, proving that size truly  doesn't matter, except maybe the size of the heart. I think May Swenson love

This week in birds - #216

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Male Wood Duck . *~*~*~* June marked the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat on the planet. It is likely that July will be the 15th. *~*~*~* Osprey and Bald Eagle chicks in Florida are starving, possibly as a result of the encroachment of salt water into the fresh water areas where their parents seek food to feed them. *~*~*~* The "Capital Naturalist" tells us about a very interesting insect, the cicada killer or cicada hawk . *~*~*~* Unesco has designated the Iraqi marshlands as a world heritage site . The area includes four archaeological sites and three wetland marshes in southern Iraq. *~*~*~* Bird species that are able to adapt and live in different types of environments can more easily make the adjustment when faced with the challenges of climate change. *~*~*~* Trump's border wall would be a disaster for wildlife.  The worst thing about the wall's likely

Nastiness multiplied

Courtesy of , here is some of the merchandise that was on sale outside the Republican national convention this week. Reportedly, the vendors were doing a brisk business. (Click on the photo to enlarge it for easier reading.)

Throwback Thursday: Rampant denialism

In 2010, I wrote this post about the phenomenon of denialism, the refusal to accept evidence or proven truths if they conflict with your personal feelings. Unfortunately, the last six years have only seen a hardening of denialism in some quarters. It has become their knee-jerk reaction to any uncomfortable truth. I was reminded of this, of course, by the hatefest occurring in Cleveland this week. We have seen a mindless mob, calling for the incarceration - and, in some instances, the murder - of a political opponent whom they hate. They insist that their opponent is guilty of crimes related to the attack on diplomatic missions in Benghazi and the handling of her emails.  They believe this even though TEN separate committees headed by Republicans have investigated Benghazi and determined that Hillary Clinton has no culpability for it. Moreover, the FBI, also headed by a Republican, investigated her handling of email and found no reason to charge her with a violation. But none o

Yes, it's hot - but not as hot as some places


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: July images - butterflies love tithonia

Gulf Fritillary butterflies crowd aboard a tithonia (Mexican sunflower) blossom.

The Woman Who Read Too Much by Bahíyyih Nakhjavání: A review

The Woman Who Read Too Much: A Novel by Bahíyyih Nakhjavání My rating: 3 of 5 stars "A woman should know her place." - the grand Mullah, uncle/father-in-law of the poetess of Qazvin This is a story about a woman who most definitely did not know her place, or rather, she rejected the "place" that her society assigned to her. The story is based on a real woman, Tahirih Qurratu'l-Ayn, the poetess of Qazvin, who lived and died in the mid 19th century in Persia, during the time of the Qajar dynasty. The poetess was the daughter of a Mullah who took the unusual step of defying the strictures of his society and his religion by teaching his daughter to read and to think in philosophical terms. Literacy was something that was denied to Persian women, so this was a revolutionary act. The poetess was beautiful and intelligent, possessed of a first rate mind, and she took to learning as a duckling takes to water. She learned not only to read but also to write, so

Poetry Sunday: Still I Rise

I know I've featured this poem before, but it is a favorite of mine, so sue me! This is for all the uppity folks who refuse to stay in the "place" that society assigns to them. May they continue to rise. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops. Weakened by my soulful cries. Does my haughtiness offend you? Don’t you take it awful hard ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own back yard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But s

This week in birds - #215

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A favorite of backyard birders, the Tufted Titmouse , pays a visit to my backyard fountain. *~*~*~* A cooing Tyrannosaurus Rex ? A study of the vocal equipment of dinosaurs finds many parallels between them and birds. Thus, scientists postulate that many of their vocalizations may have been closer to the cooing of doves than the bloodcurdling roars that we tend to imagine. *~*~*~* The Republican Party's platform committee has adopted a plank of the platform that calls for selling off public lands and logging national forests . No more Yosemite or Yellowstone National Park and no more protected national forests. Turn it all over to the developers - the miners, loggers, and ranchers. The platform also specifically calls for keeping Greater and Lesser Prairie Chickens and gray wolves off the Endangered Species list .  *~*~*~* The first of what is hoped to be an annual event, World Shorebirds Day , is co