Showing posts from July, 2022

Poetry Sunday: Fireflies by Frank Ormsby

I well remember the summers of my childhood when I played outside until dark and my mother had to call me in. I loved that time of day and one of the things I loved best about it was the fireflies. We lived in the country and there were always plenty of fireflies around in those days. Today I live in the suburbs of the country's fourth largest city and I seldom see fireflies. I don't know if that is a function of where I live or if fireflies have become that much scarcer. Both perhaps. Frank Ormsby remembers fireflies, too, and he wrote a poem to celebrate them. Fireflies by Frank Ormsby The lights come on and stay on under the trees. Visibly a whole neighborhood inhabits the dusk, so punctual and in place it seems to deny dark its dominion. Nothing will go astray, the porch lamps promise. Sudden, as though a match failed to ignite at the foot of the garden, the first squibs trouble the eye. Impossible not to share that sportive, abortive, clumsy, where-are-we-now dalliance wit

This week in birds - #511

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  A Sora picks its way among the reeds along the Gulf. Note those long toes that help the bird gains purchase through an uneven environment. *~*~*~* The world of Nature lost a champion this week with the death of James Lovelock who died on his 103rd birthday. Lovelock was the author of the Gaia Theory which posited Earth as a self-sustaining entity . *~*~*~* A deadly heatwave is taking a heavy toll on wildlife in the U.K. *~*~*~* Cutting trees to save a forest certainly sounds counter-intuitive but that is what is happening in Yosemite National Park. *~*~*~* Some of the fastest-growing cities in the country could become unlivable as a result of climate change. *~*~*~* Remember all the kerfuffle about "murder hornets" in the Northwest a few years ago? Well, those critters have a new name. They are now "Northern giant hornets." That doesn't sound nearly as intimidating, does it?   *~*~*~* Brown P

Unraveled by Reavis Z. Wortham: A review

Reavis Wortham is an author who is new to me but he has written a number of books including those in the Red River mystery series. This book was the sixth in that series and even though I had not read any of the earlier books, I did not feel at all lost or confused by the action in this one. The series is set in the (fictional) Northeast Texas community of Center Springs and the time is 1968, so I guess this would qualify as a historical mystery. The action kicks off when a car carrying the White mayor and one of his office employees who is Black plunges through a guard rail in a tight curve on Highway 271. The two occupants of the car are flung down the new Lake Lamar Dam and are killed. Each of the victims was married to other people and the community senses a scandal in their being in a car together. No one knows where they were going or what they were doing together. All of this is viewed through the eyes of a White fourteen-year-old boy named Top Parker who lives with his grandpar

Phantom Prey by John Sandford: A review

I've read a few of the books in this series, four I think prior to this one, but it's been a while since I read one and I didn't have a real firm grasp of the Lucas Davenport story. I remembered that he was from Minnesota and that he was a detective in a crime detection state agency there. And that was about it. So I came to Phantom Prey with no particular pre-conceived expectations. In this one, Alyssa, a woman friend of Weather, Davenport's wife, arrives home to find that her home security system had been disarmed and there are bloodstains on the wall of her kitchen. She expected her daughter, Frances, and her housekeeper, Helen, to be there, but the house is empty. There's no clue where the two have gone or where they might be. The housekeeper does finally show up but Frances remains missing. The other thing is that there was a lot of blood in the kitchen and testing reveals that it is Frances' type. The case becomes a missing person investigation but there

Poetry Sunday: Baseball by Gail Mazur

Baseball is sometimes referred to as a metaphor for life and I suppose it can be interpreted that way, but for those of us who love it, it is first and foremost just a game. A game that is played on lovely green fields within the designated chalk lines. It has rules and it has disinterested arbiters to enforce those rules. The winners are determined by the skill and acumen of the players and their ability to play within those rules. Would that winners in life were always determined in that same way. Baseball by Gail Mazur for John Limon The game of baseball is not a metaphor    and I know it’s not really life.    The chalky green diamond, the lovely    dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes    multiplying around the cities    are only neat playing fields.    Their structure is not the frame    of history carved out of forest,    that is not what I see on my ascent. And down in the stadium, the veteran catcher guiding the young    pitcher through the innings, the line    of concentratio

This week in birds - #510

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Long-billed Curlew takes a walk along the Texas Gulf Coast. *~*~*~* The big environmental news this week has been the incredible heat that is burning the northern hemisphere. A record-breaking heat wave in Europe has been deemed a virtual " heat apocalypse " which has led to the deaths of hundreds on that continent. The UK has suffered its hottest day in history. Exacerbating the problem, a wildfire in France was actually started by an irresponsible human . The heat and drought have fueled wildfires in many places, including Alaska . Extreme heat alerts were issued for 28 states and temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded in Texas and Oklahoma. Weather maps around the northern hemisphere were essentially all red . *~*~*~* But in Hawaii, the big news was water; specifically huge waves , some more than twenty feet high. *~*~*~* Meanwhile, Lake Mead in the Colorado River Basin has withered to on

Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall: A review

  Los Angeles homicide detective Elouise (Lou) Norton and her new partner Colin Taggert are sent to investigate a suspicious death. A teenage girl's body has been found hanging in a closet in a condominium complex. Colin initially thinks that it is a suicide but Lou insists, correctly, that it is homicide. Early in the narrative, we learn that Lou had an older sister, Tori, who disappeared twenty-five years earlier. Lou and Tori were at a neighborhood store owned by a man named Napoleon Crase when Tori was caught stealing candy. Elouise panicked and ran from the store. She never saw her sister again. The police investigated the disappearance but apparently not very assiduously and the case was never solved. Lou is haunted by the disappearance of her sister. It may be one of the reasons she joined the police. Now, in a possible instance of karmic payback, it turns out that the apartment building where the dead teenager was found is owned by Napoleon Crase. Lou will have a legitimate

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt: A review

  Marcellus McSquiddles - a name to reckon with. And it belongs to a creature to reckon with, a giant Pacific octopus who is one of the main characters and the narrator in Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel, Remarkably Bright Creatures . What a pleasure it was to get to know Marcellus and what a pleasure this book was to read. Marcellus is a captive in the Puget Sound Sowell Bay Aquarium and he may be a genius among octopuses. (Or maybe he's just average; who knows?) He is clever enough to squeeze out of his tank in the aquarium and go roaming for a late-night snack. He is also sensitive enough to maintain a kind of relationship with the 70-year-old woman who cleans the space at night. Tova Sullivan is recently widowed and has volunteered as a cleaner at the aquarium. As she goes about her duties, she carries on a "conversation" with Marcellus who is her favorite.  Tova likes things to be just so, a place for everything and everything in its place. She is an assiduous clea

Poetry Sunday: A new poet laureate

Ada Limón has been announced as the twenty-fourth poet laureate of the country. Her assignment begins this fall. The main duty of the poet laureate is to be an ambassador for the form and to help introduce it to those who may not have an appreciation of it.  Many of  Limón's  poems refer to our relationship to the natural world; trees, for example, are important characters in her poetry. Here is an example. Instructions on Not Giving Up by  Ada Limón More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite

This week in birds - #509

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Snowy Egret searching among the rocks along Galveston Bay for a tasty morsel. *~*~*~* One of our national treasures, Yosemite National Park, was burning this week . A wildfire had consumed nearly 4,400 acres by Thursday of this week. *~*~*~* In Europe, an extreme heat wave pushed temperatures all the way up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. In several countries on the continent, water restrictions have had to be imposed . *~*~*~* It isn't just our imagination. Summer in America is becoming longer, hotter, and more dangerous . *~*~*~* Glyphosate, a controversial ingredient tied to cancer and found in many weedkillers, has been found in 80% of U.S. urine samples in a CDC study.  *~*~*~* The Texas power grid has been stressed to its very limit this week as we suffer daily temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT) has asked residents to voluntarily limit their use of electric

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2022

Bloom Day snuck up on me again. I looked at my calendar this morning and realized to my shock that it was the middle of the month already. My next thought was, "That's Bloom Day!" But did I have anything blooming, anything that hadn't succumbed to our 100+ degrees days and weeks-long dry spell? Well, a walk through the garden did reveal a few hardy bloomers. And here they are.  Asclepias tuberosa , the native butterfly weed. It laughs at the heat and the drought. Petunias are pretty tough, too, and a few still bloom in the pots by the patio.   Blue plumbago. If anything daunts it, Southeast Texas hasn't discovered it yet. Portulaca blooming in a pot on the patio table. Native Joe Pye weed blooms next to Hamelia patens . Zinnias, another dauntless bloomer. Pride of Barbados, aka Peacock flower, thrives on heat and drought. The vitex bloomed beautifully for about a month. It's mostly gone now but a few blossoms hang on. One shade of purple echinacea... ... and a