Showing posts from April, 2021

This week in birds - #448

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  The Eastern Kingbirds have arrived in the area, along with tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks , and, allegedly, Baltimore Orioles , although I confess I haven't yet encountered any orioles. Nevertheless, my oranges are out and waiting for them! *~*~*~* Scientists have counted more than 25,000 barrels in waters off the California coast that are believed to contain DDT-laced industrial waste. It is believed that this may help to explain the extraordinarily high rate of cancer in adult sea lions in the area. Some of the barrels may have been languishing there for at least 70 years. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972. *~*~*~* On Wednesday, Senate Democrats employed an obscure law in order to resurrect Obama-era regulations on limiting emissions of methane . The regulations had been wiped out by the previous administration. *~*~*~* Native American lawmakers in Montana have called on President Biden to help craft

The Life of the Mind by Christine Smallwood: A review

  The Life of the Mind might have been more accurately called The Life of the Uterus because that is the locus of the action in this book. It is particularly focused on the events in the uterus of the protagonist who has suffered a miscarriage and been treated with the drug that induces medical abortions in order to clear the uterus of the debris from the miscarriage. She was told to expect bleeding for about ten days, but weeks later, she is still experiencing the after-effects. Then later her best friend decides to have an abortion. So, yes, uteruses rule in this tale. But perhaps I am being unfair because the protagonist whose name is Dorothy also thinks a lot so her mind is engaged. She thinks a lot about the miscarriage although she doesn't particularly grieve about it. Mostly she thinks about it because she hasn't told anyone except her partner. She has withheld the information from her best friend, the one who later decides to have an abortion. And she has withheld the

Girl A by Abigail Dean: A review

  I generally try to avoid books about the suffering of children and animals, especially when that suffering is caused by deliberate torture, so what am I doing reading - and enjoying - this book which is about the confinement, starvation, and torture of seven children over a period of years in a "house of horrors" by their parents? Perhaps there really are exceptions to everything. This book grabbed me right from the first chapter and it was propulsive reading from there right through the end. It is a psychological family drama with a bit of thriller thrown in as the reader wonders how and if these children will ever escape their captivity. Well, in fact, we know they did because the book begins with the mother's death in prison and learning that she had designated her oldest daughter Alexandra ("Lex") as the executrix of her will. Lex is now a successful New York-based lawyer and she returns to England to fulfill her executrix duties. We learn that Lex is Girl

Poetry Sunday: Democracy by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was arguably the best and most famous African-American poet of the twentieth century. His poems spoke for people who, even one hundred years after the end of slavery, were not fully free, were not fully able to participate in what we like to think of as our democracy. His poems speak for any who are denied full participation in the political and social life of the country. They still speak for people who cannot wait for things to "take their course" because what good is freedom when they are dead? Democracy by Langston Hughes Democracy will not come Today, this year   Nor ever Through compromise and fear. I have as much right As the other fellow has  To stand On my two feet And own the land. I tire so of hearing people say, Let things take their course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need my freedom when I'm dead. I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.      Freedom      Is a strong seed      Planted      In a great need.      I live here, too.      I wa

This week in birds - #447

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Barn Swallows are nesting. *~*~*~* President Biden has pledged to slash the country's greenhouse gas emissions by one-half by the end of the decade. The action is part of an aggressive push to combat climate change and to persuade other countries around the world to take similar steps.  *~*~*~* Hope is the thing with feathers as Emily Dickinson once told us. It is also an essential element in saving the things with feathers, as well as the rest of Nature. Hope and conservation go hand in hand. *~*~*~* The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf happened eleven years ago and its effects are still being felt. We have learned a lot about the ecology of the Gulf and about the risks of deep water drilling in the past eleven years, but are we now any safer from another such disaster? *~*~*~* And what about the animals that were rescued from that disaster eleven years ago? Many of the birds were taken to Georgia to a

Mona by Pola Oloixarac: A review

  How do I even begin to review this book? How can I sum it up? It is an Argentinian writer writing about a Peruvian writer who lives in California and is nominated for a prestigious Scandinavian literary award so she travels to a small gray village in Sweden near the Arctic Circle where she hobnobs with other writers from around the world all of whom seem to engage in the insufferable and self-important behavior that one might expect from a group of pretentious posers. It is (I think) meant to be a satire on literary festivals and prizes and in that regard, it is quite successful. It is somewhat less successful in making the namesake narrator known to us but that may be because that narrator doesn't really know herself. Here's what we know about Mona: She is a prolific user of drink and drugs to the point where she loses herself and loses memory. On the day she is to fly out for the Scandinavian literary festival, she wakes up with extensive bruises on her body and no memory o

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia: A review

  Gabriela Garcia's debut novel gives an account of five generations of women from four different countries: Cuba, the United States, Mexico, and El Salvador. Each generation of women has in common their victimization by brutal men and, in some cases, by brutal governments. The first woman in the line is  María Isabel  from Camaguey, Cuba. It is the nineteenth century and  María Isabel  works in a factory that rolls cigars. She is the only woman working there. Each day, while the workers roll the cigars, a reader reads for them from a book.  María Isabel falls in love with the reading and with the reader.   The reader gives her copies of two books,  Cecilia Valdés and  Les Misérables . (These books will make a reappearance in the story generations later.) The couple marries and their daughter is born on the same day that her father is brutally executed by the state for alleged crimes against the government. The daughter is named Cecilia. Fast forward to the mid-twentieth century i

Poetry Sunday: Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

I'm currently reading a biography of Sylvia Plath, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark. I'll be reading it for quite some time yet for it's about a thousand pages long and I'm only up to her twentieth year when she was a student at Smith College. It is rich with the most minute details of Plath's life. She was a prolific journal keeper. She was extraordinarily explicit about her experiences. She maintained correspondences with several people who kept her letters and all of this material was available to Clark in writing her book. I've never read very much of Plath's poetry. I did read her one novel, The Bell Jar , which I found fascinating. But of course, it was the poetry for which she was primarily famous. Clark makes reference to several of her poems in the text of her book. One that she particularly references is this one, "Lady Lazarus." Throughout her early life, in her journals and correspondence Plath

This week in birds - #446

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Double-crested Cormorant perches on a post at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. *~*~*~* A recent study suggests that only about 3% of the world's ecosystems remain ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and an undisturbed habitat. *~*~*~* Even if we manage to drastically cut greenhouse emissions it will take time before the change translates to an improvement in the atmosphere. That is because those gases already added to the atmosphere persist over a long period of time. The decades of accumulation of such gases will take centuries to completely dissipate. *~*~*~* The European bison as firefighter? Maybe, at least in a manner of speaking. It seems that the bison loves to graze on the shrubs and underbrush that feed wildfires and reintroducing them to areas of the continent where they had become extinct could help in fighting or even preventing those fires. *

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2021

Blooms are still sparse here in my post-February freeze Southeast Texas garden, but, happily, many of the plants that I had feared had been lost have started to come back. Slowly, but they are coming back. I'm glad that I have been slow to replace them. Meanwhile, my roses are in the pink! My 'Old Blush' heirloom rose is beginning to blush once again. Here's a close-up of some of its blossoms. 'Belinda's Dream' rose is just as dreamy as ever, covered in these big, squashy blooms.   'Peggy Martin' was hit hard by the freeze and seriously knocked back. I cut her way back afterward and now she is all the way recovered and just about to be in full bloom. The pink Knockout, too, is doing its best to live up to its name. I do actually have other colors of roses in my garden but only the pink ones are in bloom at the moment. That yellow flowering plant next to the bottle tree in the back garden is a wildflower called Texas groundsel. Here's a closer vie