Showing posts from April, 2022

Poetry Sunday: It is Not Always May by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Can it really be May already? Where did those first four months go?  But as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow pointed out in this poem, it will not always be May. Soon enough June will arrive and we will wonder where those first five months have gone. So let us enjoy the pleasures of this month while they last.  It is Not Always May by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow No hay pajaros en los nidos de antano. Spanish Proverb The sun is bright,--the air is clear, The darting swallows soar and sing. And from the stately elms I hear The bluebird prophesying Spring. So blue yon winding river flows, It seems an outlet from the sky, Where waiting till the west-wind blows, The freighted clouds at anchor lie. All things are new;--the buds, the leaves, That gild the elm-tree's nodding crest, And even the nest beneath the eaves;-- There are no birds in last year's nest! All things rejoice in youth and love, The fulness of their first delight! And learn from the soft heav

This week in birds - #499

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Willet in flight over Galveston Bay. *~*~*~* Scientists warn that the warming climate will likely give rise to future pandemics .  *~*~*~* Southern California officials have declared a water shortage emergency and have limited outdoor watering to only one day a week. *~*~*~* A highly contagious disease called stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is ripping through the Caribbean's coral reefs causing devastating losses. *~*~*~* Even more devastating losses may be on the horizon. Scientists warn that if fossil fuel emissions continue at their present pace there could be a mass extinction of sea life by 2300. *~*~*~* Despite the Cop26 deal to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of the decade, the relentless destruction of the rainforest is continuing with the tropics having lost 11.1 million hectares of tree cover in 2021. *~*~*~* On the plus side, some are trying to help make up for that loss by plantin

When I'm Gone, Look For Me in the East by Quan Barry: A review

How do I even begin to sum up this book? How can I describe the experience of reading it? It is set in a culture so completely alien to my own that it is difficult to find any reference point from which to start to understand it. And yet I found reading it an entirely mesmerizing and lyrical experience.   The story briefly is this: The setting is Mongolia. There, twin brothers, Chuluun and Mun, had become Buddhist monks. They had been "discovered" when they were eight years old and Mun had been recognized as the reincarnation of a deceased lama. They had subsequently been taken to live in a monastery.  The twins are now in their twenties. About a year before the action of the novel, Mun had renounced the monastic life. He was drawn to the temptations of the world and had chosen to live a secular life. Chuluun, however, has been faithful to the monastic calling and it is through his eyes that we experience events. He is our narrator. The twin brothers have a gift that is somet

Poetry Sunday: The Sleep of Seeds by Lucia Cherciu

I was busy in the garden all last week, mostly weeding and planting plants. And watering. We've had a very dry spring so far, not an auspicious start to the growing season. I have a small - very small - vegetable garden this year and I've been trying to encourage those plants to grow. And I've been adding some more perennials to the garden for flowers. They all need water and the weather has not been cooperative, so out with the watering can, hoses, and sprinklers. I haven't resorted to prayer as the gardener in this poem did but to each his own. Whatever works. The Sleep of Seeds by Lucia Cherciu It didn’t rain all summer. Instead of water, my father used prayer for his garden. Despite his friends’ laughter, he planted spinach and lettuce, countless rows of cucumbers in beds lined up meticulously ignoring old people’s warnings about the drought. Every afternoon, he pushed his hat back, wiped off his sweat, and looked up at the empty sky, the sun scorching the acacia tr

This week in birds - #498

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Cooper's Hawk in the neighbor's tree keeping an eye on the birds in my yard. *~*~*~* President Biden has reversed the action of his predecessor by restoring a landmark environmental law . The new rule will require agencies to consider the impacts on the climate of proposed highways, pipelines, and other projects and it will give local communities more input on those projects. *~*~*~* The Sixth Extinction which many scientists believe is now occurring is such an overwhelming concept that it is hard to wrap our minds around or to find ways to talk about it. The Revelator has some suggestions . *~*~*~* How much do you actually know about climate change? This quiz will help you find out . (Full disclosure: I got 8 out of 10 right.) *~*~*~* Uh oh . This is not good news. Avian flu is abroad in the land once again. It's the worst outbreak among domestic poultry since 2015, but, unfortunately, it is also affecting

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez: A review

  I have been busy in the garden and consequently have been neglecting to review the books that I've read and now I am soooo far behind. But the only way to catch up is to make a start - one book at a time - so here goes: Olga Dies Dreaming is the debut novel of Xochitl Gonzalez, but it doesn't really read like a debut. The writing is very assured and engaging. The plot is quite a vivid page-turner and the characters are relatable. What more could a reader ask? The book is based on Puerto Rican culture and features a sister and brother, Olga and Prieto. We see events primarily through Olga's eyes. She is a much-in-demand wedding planner for Manhattan's elite. Her brother is a popular congressman who represents their Brooklyn neighborhood, a mainly Latin area that is quickly becoming gentrified. Olga and Prieto were raised primarily by their grandmother because twenty-seven years earlier their mother, a Young Lord turned radical named Blanca, had abandoned her family t

Poetry Sunday: An April Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes an April Day; a day "When  the warm sun, that brings  Seed-time and harvest, has returned again," and " 'T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs  The first flower of the plain." The day as he describes it seems just about perfect to me. An April Day   by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow When the warm sun, that brings Seed-time and harvest, has returned again, 'T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs The first flower of the plain. I love the season well, When forest glades are teeming with bright forms, Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell The coming-on of storms. From the earth's loosened mould The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives; Though stricken to the heart with winter's cold, The drooping tree revives. The softly-warbled song Comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along The forest openings. When the bright sunset fills The silver w

This week in birds - #497

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : This male Northern Cardinal serenaded me as I worked in the garden. *~*~*~* The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is out and the good news is that it is not without hope . It offers some practical suggestions for dealing with the problem of climate change, but will the world listen and implement them? *~*~*~* According to an in-depth analysis of the net-zero pledges made by nations at the UN Cop26 climate summit in December, keeping the rise in the planet's temperature to less than 2 degrees centigrade is doable. The bad news is that the 1.5C goal no longer seems possible. *~*~*~* You would think that if any plant would be able to adapt to a warming planet it would be the cacti, but it seems that even they are not safe from the effects of climate change. *~*~*~* Remember the excitement of a few years ago when it seemed that perhaps the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was not extinct af

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2022

 I'm a bit late with my Bloom Day post this month. My excuse is that I've been busy... gardening. And then along came one of those April showers before I could take pictures. My plants really appreciated that brief rain.  And now here we go with my April blooms. Let's start with the roses. 'Chrysler Imperial.' 'Belinda's Dream.' I do love 'Belinda.' 'Julia Child' was my first rose to bloom this spring. 'Old Blush' is my ever faithful bloomer. Pansies... ... pansies... ... pansies... these are just about at the end of their bloom cycle... ... and still more pansies. And not pansies but violas. These were hidden "volunteers" in a pot of echinacea that I planted in a garden bed this week, so I popped them into their own little pot.   Salvia. The 'Tangerine Beauty' crossvine only had this one sad little bloom on it today, but more are on the way. I'm not sure of the name of this succulent but it has performed bea

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green: A review

  Here's a contribution to my attempt to keep my pledge to read more nonfiction this year. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a series of essays by writer John Green that actually gives ratings using the one- to five-star method regarding various elements and events, past and present, of human life on Earth.  The Anthropocene, of course, is the name given to the geological age in which we live. Its name recognizes the impact that human activity has had in shaping the planet and its biodiversity. The subjects of Green's essays are wide-ranging, to say the least. He jumps around from topics as diverse as hot-dog eating contests to his relationship with his brother Hank to why we have the QWERTY keyboard and many more just as random. He makes each of his topics personal and relates them in such a way that they have emotional impact while never overloading them with subjectivity. It's a delicate balance and for the most part, he succeeds, I think. The essays are short and briskly wr

Poetry Sunday: Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

This poem speaks to anyone who has ever lost someone they love to death, which, I guess, is all of us. The physical body dies but the spirit lives on for the people who loved them. And as long as we remember them, they are never truly gone. Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning's hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.

This week in birds - #496

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The warblers are passing through on spring migration. A Wilson's Warbler stopped for a drink at our little fountain. *~*~*~* Human-produced microplastics have invaded the ocean  where they become part of the "marine snow" that is then colonized by microbial hitchhikers and inevitably becomes part of the environment. *~*~*~* Oil drilling in Canada's boreal forest is changing the environment for the animals that call it home. Species like wolves and caribou are being crowded closer together and it is changing how the species interact with each other. *~*~*~* The changing climate is causing birds to lay their eggs earlier . Many species are now laying eggs as much as a month earlier than they did in the past. *~*~*~* Xavante villagers in Brazil collect seeds from native trees in order to replant one of the world's most biologically rich regions, thus seeking to restore areas that have been deforeste

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami: A review

  Haruki Murakami is a highly acclaimed writer of fiction and I have read and enjoyed books by him before, books such as Killing Commendatore in 2019 and Kafka on the Shore in 2017. I had had this one in my reading queue for a while and kept putting off reading it because it is over 600 pages long and I didn't want to commit myself to the time and effort it would take. But finally, it was time to just bite the bullet and get on with it. I had actually looked forward to reading it and anticipated a challenging but ultimately enjoyable reading experience. That is not the experience that I had. I'm not sure how Murakami envisioned this book. Did he mean it as a fairy tale? A detective story? Science fiction? A bit of all three or maybe something else? In the end, after 600+ pages I just couldn't decide.  In addition to all the above, the author gives us a bit of World War II and post-World War II Japanese history and examines Japanese guilt in all of this. It is a very heavy

Girl in Ice by Erica Ferencik: A review

  It seems to me that I have been reading a lot of books lately that I can most charitably describe as fairly mediocre. It doesn't do much to recommend my choice in reading material. So, imagine my delight that I finally picked a book that I unqualifiedly enjoyed! Erica Ferencik's Girl in Ice was a thriller that actually thrilled me. First of all, the protagonist was someone that I could identify and sympathize with and that was a good start. Her name is Val Chesterfield and she is a linguist in an extremely esoteric discipline, dead Nordic languages. She has had a successful career, but she suffers from anxiety and possibly agoraphobia. Moreover, she had a twin brother named Andy, who was an accomplished climate scientist. Andy had been stationed with a research team on a remote island off Greenland's barren coast. But now Andy is gone, having committed suicide by venturing unprotected into 50 degrees below zero weather. Or, was it suicide? Val is inconsolable and she has