Showing posts from May, 2019

This week in birds - #354

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Summer Tanager image from All About Birds website. That other redbird, the Summer Tanager , is here. Can summer be far behind? Three weeks behind according to the calendar, but, with our recent temperatures topping 90 degrees Fahrenheit every day, it seems that summer, like the tanager, is already well and truly here.   *~*~*~* In one of the more gruesome consequences of the heating up of the planet, the bodies of some climbers who died on Mount Everest but whose remains were never recovered are now being revealed by the melting snow and ice. Many of the bodies are quite well preserved. Finding dead bodies has become a new normal for those who attempt the climb. *~*~*~* We are all too sadly familiar with the phenomenon of climate change deniers, those who make the claim that all those climate scientists are in cahoots and are seeking to scam us while they rake in the big bucks from those who are paying th

Any Other Name by Craig Johnson: A review

Is it ever summer in Wyoming? Or spring? Or fall? It always seems to be winter in these Craig Johnson novels. Winter with a blizzard blowing and ground fog creeping up making for whiteout conditions. And into such disorienting conditions that would stupefy and overwhelm any ordinary human being, Walt Longmire must venture in order to pursue some really, really bad guy who must be brought to justice. Not only will he pursue but he will do so in spite of the fact that he has been shot and/or beaten and may be barely lucid, but he is led on by the spectral voice of his long-dead friend Virgil White Buffalo or by the otherworldly songs and drums of the ancient Cheyenne residents of the area. Such hallucinatory events play a big part in the Longmire psyche. Indeed, the plots of these Longmire mysteries have become pretty predictable. After all, if you've got a winning formula, why change it? We start out with Walt investigating some murder. In this instance, it's not even a de

Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker: A review

Let's face it, the mysteries in these Bruno, Chief of Police, "mysteries" are strictly secondary. The books are really a travelog of the Dordogne section of France, all about the laid-back country lifestyle and especially the food.  After all, this Chief of Police is a gourmet cook who delights in preparing food for his friends and neighbors using the vegetables from his garden, fungi from the woods, and the products of the animals, mainly chickens and geese, that he and his neighbors raise. And of course the wine! Ah, the wine, at least two different kinds served at every meal and always at the ready to be served for any occasion. If Martin Walker is to be believed, the champagne flows freely in the little Dordogne community of St. Denis. Food and wine and friends as always play big parts in the plot of Fatal Pursuit , but the main action is a car rally race. The race and a classic car parade are the main events of St. Denis' annual  fête. The c ars have attrac

Poetry Sunday: Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I was a child growing up, the holiday that we observe on Monday was called Decoration Day. It was a day to wear a poppy and to take flowers and/or flags to decorate the graves of loved ones who had fallen in wars. The name of the holiday was officially changed to Memorial Day in 1967 and the law took effect at the federal level in 1971. Decoration Day was established three years after the end of our Civil War as a day to honor the war dead and to decorate their graves. At the time that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived, in the late nineteenth century, the holiday was still commonly called Decoration Day. He wrote this poem in commemoration of it.  Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest   On this Field of the Grounded Arms, Where foes no more molest,   Nor sentry's shot alarms!  Ye have slept on the ground before,   And started to your feet At the cannon's sudden roar,   Or the drum's redoubling beat.  But in thi

This week in birds - #353

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Common Nighthawks are back in town. Actually, they've probably been here for a while but this is the first week when I've heard them calling as they circle around my backyard late in the afternoon searching for flying insects. *~*~*~* Several of the states with shorelines are well aware that the seas are rising and they are making plans to try to deal with that fact. Louisiana is one of them . The state's plan looks at ways to ease the transition as people begin to move farther inland to escape the higher sea levels and to help communities close to the sea be more resilient and able to withstand the changing environment. *~*~*~* Another consequence of climate change that gardeners are very familiar with is the fact that plant hardiness zones are changing . As the climate warms, tropical plants can be found in gardens farther and farther north as the zones change. When we first moved here 30 ye

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell: A review

I am frequently flabbergasted when I consider all the excellent literature that is being produced at this time in human history. And so many of the wonderful novels that keep attracting my attention are the  first novels of the authors. Where do all these accomplished writers spring from? Well, in the case of Namwali Serpell, they spring from Zambia, at least originally. She and her family moved to the United States when she was only nine years old, so she actually grew up here, and she now teaches literature at the University of California, Berkeley. But she retains her Zambian roots and ethos. At some point, she decided to move on from teaching the art of literature to practicing it. The result is nothing short of dazzling. The Old Drift is set mostly in Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa. It starts with a brief retelling of the story of how Stanley meets Livingstone along the Zambezi River. The river and the great falls which white people named Victoria Falls pl

Poetry Sunday: The Birds of America by Billy Collins

Over the years, as I have consulted my various field guides to try to identify some new bird, I have pondered what the life of a birder would be without those wonderful guides. What a debt we owe to those artist/conservationists who were able to bring those lifelike illustrations - and in many of the more recent guides, pictures - to us so that even if we don't hold the bird, either dead or alive, in our hands, we can key in on specific field marks and know the name of the bird that we are viewing.  And I think particularly of John J. Audubon and his passion for the birds of America and his determination to capture them in his art so that others could see them as he did. Billy Collins thinks about that, too.   The Birds of America by Billy Collins Early this morning in a rumpled bed, listening to birdsong through the propped-open windows, I saw on the ceiling the figure of John J. Audubon kneeling before the pliant body of an expired duck. I could see its slender,

This week in birds - #352

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Yellow-billed Cuckoo image courtesy of I heard my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo call of the year this week. It's always a welcome sound that I remember well from my childhood. Where I grew up in Northeast Mississippi, these birds were called "Rain Crows." There was a myth that their calls predicted rain. Of course, the birds called every day or whenever they felt like it and they had nothing to do with rain. The bird that I heard would have been a little late with his prediction. We've had very heavy rains over the last couple of weeks but this week is dry so far. *~*~*~* A Texas investor and retired naval officer made a dive in a submarine into the Mariana Trench, nearly 36,000 feet deep, and discovered...litter! The litter appeared to be pieces of plastic. This was the deepest dive ever into that deepest place on Earth. He went 52 feet deeper than the previous deepest descent tha

Throwback Thursday

These days it seems that American women are living in a permanent "Throwback Thursday." The men who are in power in this country seem determined to return us all to the days of women as chattel, with no control over our own bodies or lives.  What we really need is a heartbeat law for women: If a woman has a heartbeat, she shall be in control of her body and her life decisions! HT to Jen Sorensen who sums up the danger succinctly. Elections matter, people!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2019

Late April and May have been a hectic time for me and not in a good way since it involved health problems for both my husband and myself. His was definitely the more serious of the two since he had heart bypass surgery on April 29. He's at home and well into his convalescence and I have learned a new respect for nurses! Unfortunately, my function as a nurse has not left much time for gardening and my garden shows it. In short, it's a mess and that mess hasn't been helped by the near monsoon rains we've had recently. But even amid the neglect and the mess, many of my tough old plants just keep on blooming. Here is some of what I found on a walk through the garden today. If it is May, there must be magnolias, of course. This is the month when their beauty makes us forgive them their untidiness throughout the year.  My hydrangeas are just beginning to bloom. Likewise, the oleanders. Many oleanders around town are in full and glorious bloom already, but mine a

Poetry Sunday: Such Singing in the Wild Branches by Mary Oliver

The birds' spring migration continues and one never quite knows when one steps outside each day just whose voice she will hear. But no matter who is singing, these song-filled days can create magical moments for the listener, moments that stay with us and comfort us when our souls need comforting. Once heard, such songs are not forgotten. Or as Mary Oliver puts it:  "It's one of those magical places wise people like to talk about. One of the things they say about it, that is true, is that, once you've been there, you're there forever." Such Singing in the Wild Branches by Mary Oliver It was spring and I finally heard him among the first leaves–– then I saw him clutching the limb in an island of shade with his red-brown feathers all trim and neat for the new year. First, I stood still and thought of nothing. Then I began to listen. Then I was filled with gladness–– and that's when it happened, when I seemed to float, to be, myself, a win

This week in birds - #351

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Willet explores the rocks by Galveston Bay keeping an eye out for tasty tidbits. *~*~*~* The big news of the week in the environment was the landmark report issued by the United Nations with the input of scientists at universities around the world. The report warned that up to one million species of plants and animals are on the verge of extinction and that the losses are directly linked to human activity. Moreover, these coming extinctions have dire implications for our own species. There can be little doubt the planet is in the middle of the sixth great extinction in its history. The question is, will the last victim of that extinction be humans? *~*~*~* Not everyone in power in this country is ignoring the problems outlined in the United Nations report. Although the federal government in its present incarnation refuses to act or to even acknowledge that there is a problem, many states and cities are wo