Showing posts from December, 2022

Poetry Sunday: To the New Year by W.S. Merwin

On this the first, unblemished day of this brand new year, all things are achievable. World peace. A cure for cancer. Justice for Donald Trump. It could happen. For on this day, all  our hopes are " invisible before us -  untouched and still possible."   To the New Year by W.S. Merwin With what stillness at last you appear in the valley your first sunlight reaching down to touch the tips of a few high leaves that do not stir as though they had not noticed and did not know you at all then the voice of a dove calls from far away in itself to the hush of the morning so this is the sound of you here and now whether or not anyone hears it this is where we have come with our age our knowledge such as it is and our hopes such as they are invisible before us untouched and still possible

This week in birds - #531

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  A pair of Whooping Cranes searching for crabs in the waters of the Gulf. *~*~*~* Though it hasn't been as cold here as in more northerly parts of the country, it has been pretty cold relatively speaking. We can handle 102 degrees Fahrenheit quite well but temperatures in the 20s not so much. The same is true for wintering bats in the area, many of whom had to be rescued and nursed back to health.  *~*~*~* The top conservation issues for 2023 include rising sea levels and the need for the protection of wetlands. *~*~*~* The Revelator rates its best articles of 2022 . *~*~*~* Fossils of a 30-foot-long prehistoric lizard have been found near the North Sulphur River in North Texas. *~*~*~* What will the human epoch of geologic time be called? *~*~*~* The iconic California mountain lion known as P-22 is no more. He was euthanized after apparently having been hit by a car. His fame made him an ambassador for city wil

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny: A review

  It is always a pleasure to spend time in the cozy little village of Three Pines and that continues to be true in Louise Penny's latest addition to her Inspector Gamache series. This is the eighteenth in the series and the stories have lost none of their freshness. In this entry, we find two young people, a brother and sister, who had entered Gamache's and Jean-Claude Beauvoir's lives several years earlier when they were children. Their mother had been murdered, shattering her children's lives. And now they have returned to the village but the question is why? This is a complicated tale that has its roots in that long-ago tragic event. Of the two, the brother and sister, the sister seems to have survived the tragedy with greater resilience. Her name is Fiona and she has lived with the Gamaches and now is graduating from school. Her brother, Sam, also attends the ceremony and seems determined to stay in Three Pines. This concerns Inspector Gamache because Sam is a very

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng: A review

( Note to readers: Celebrating the holidays has put me behind in reviewing the books I've read recently, so until I catch up, my reviews may be a bit more truncated than usual .) Celeste Ng's latest is a cautionary tale for our times. She describes a time in America when the government has passed and signed into law the Preserving American Culture and Traditions (PACT) Act. The act allegedly is meant to "protect" American values from the influence of foreign entities, especially China. But what it really does is provide a framework and an excuse for institutionalized racism and violence against minorities. Many books are banned and internet searches for cultural and historical subjects are blocked. Children are being taken away from parents who are deemed "bad influences" and people who dare to question anything about the act are being arrested. The protagonist through whose eyes we see and experience all of these events is a twelve-year-old boy named Bird.

Happy holidays!

I hope your holidays are merry, safe, and warm, and please accept all my best wishes for a healthy and happy 2023.     

Lessons by Ian McEwan: A review

  Lessons, both learned and missed, are the foundations of life and history. In his latest book, Ian McEwan explores those foundations through the life story of his protagonist, Roland Baines. The story takes place during the mid-to-late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in England. It is a long book, close to 500 pages and it is deserving of a thoughtful read. We meet Roland as a child. His father is in the army, stationed in Libya. Roland is sent 2,000 miles away from his family to an English boarding school. There he has "lessons" with piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, but the lessons aren't only about the piano. Not to put too fine a point on it, Miss Miriam seduces her vulnerable young student. The affair, if we can dare call it that, scarred Roland for life.  Fast forward to April 1986 and we find the grown-up Roland married to Alissa. They have a seven-month-old son named Lawrence. As the novel begins, Alissa has just left Roland and her son. There was no

Poetry Sunday: December by Edwin Arnold

Our "whirl around the sun" for this year is almost done. Sad or glad, we'll soon let the "Old Year" go as we look forward to the blank slate of 2023. What will it bring? What will our thoughts be one year from now as we look back?  December by Edwin Arnold In spangle of frost, and stars of snow, Unto his end the Year doth wend; And sad for some the days did go, And glad for some were beginning and end; But sad or glad, grieve not for his death, Mournfully counting your measures of breath; You that, before the worlds began, Were seed of woman and surety of man; You that are older than Aldebaran! It was but a whirl round about the sun, A silver dance of the planets done, A step in the Infinite Minuet Which the great stars pace to a music set By Life Immortal and Love Divine Which sounds, in your span of threescore and ten, One chord of the Harmony, fair and fine, Of What did make you women and men. In spangle of frost, and stars of snow Sad or glad—let the Old Yea

This week in birds - #530

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The very appropriately named Long-billed Curlew takes a stroll along the edge of the Gulf. *~*~*~* We all know about the pleasures of bird watching but it turns out there are positive health benefits as well. And perhaps the greatest benefits can be realized by "slow birding." *~*~*~* California's most famous and beloved mountain lion, P-22, is getting quite aged for a cat in the wild and may be experiencing distress. Wildlife officials are planning to capture the big cat to assess his health.  *~*~*~* And, in fact, P-22 has now been captured and taken to a wild animal facility for that assessment. The assessment revealed he probably had been hit by a car at some point. It is unlikely he will be returned to the wild.  *~*~*~* The Arctic's weather is changing, becoming wetter and stormier . The effects of such changes will be widespread, reaching far beyond the Arctic. *~*~*~* A Maryland couple deci

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2022

There isn't a lot of blooming going on in my garden at the moment, but here's a taste of what is. Wedelia, always a dependable bloomer. If it is December, then of course the loquat is in bloom.  Turk's cap. The little lemon tree, gifted to me by my children to replace my old tree that finally succumbed to the cold last winter, is now in bloom. Purple oxalis, constant bloomer. Sweet-smelling almond verbena perfumes my entire backyard.                                                  Yellow cestrum.                                                       Carolina jessamine. This azalea, the variety name of which I've forgotten, was gifted to me on the death of my mother in 2004, so it has significant sentimental value for me. I think it holds the record for the longest I've been able to keep a potted plant alive. The glowing orange of the Cape Honeysuckle blooms light up my backyard.                                              Lantana - always in bloom.                

Note to readers

 My blog has recently been under attack by some unknown entity that has been attempting to use the comment section to pass along information to some other entity. Consequently, I have been forced to activate comment moderation. Please be assured that any legitimate comment will be approved and published as soon as I can get to it. I love your comments and look forward to reading them.

We Spread by Iain Reid: A review

  I have not read any of Iain Reid's previous books, but based on my enjoyment of this, his latest, one, I think I will certainly be seeking him out in the future. My first quandary in attempting to describe the book is to decide just which category I should assign it to. It is literary fiction, certainly, but also it is a thriller, a mystery, with even a bit of horror thrown in for good measure. Reid has the perfect subject on which to expound on all those themes - old age. His protagonist is named Penny and when we meet her, she has already had a very long life. She is at a crisis point in her life. Sometime earlier, her life partner had died but before he died, he had made arrangements for Penny to have a residence at a unique long-term care facility. Now, after a series of concerning "incidents," she has decided to take up that residence. The house in which the facility is located is surrounded by beautiful woods. It is quite a peaceful site and at first, Penny is ver

Poetry Sunday: It sifts from Leaden Sieves by Emily Dickinson

A snowfall has the power to change the look of the land as it wraps the world in a layer of "fleece." It's not something that happens where I live now but I remember the snowfalls of my childhood. Those were magical times. And then the sun came out and melted the snow and everything turned to slush. But Emily Dickinson preferred to write of the beauty of the snowfall itself. It sifts from Leaden Sieves by Emily Dickinson It sifts from Leaden Sieves -  It powders all the Wood.  It fills with Alabaster Wool  The Wrinkles of the Road -  It makes an even Face  Of Mountain, and of Plain -  Unbroken Forehead from the East  Unto the East again -  It reaches to the Fence -  It wraps it Rail by Rail Till it is lost in Fleeces -  It deals Celestial Vail To Stump, and Stack - and Stem -  A Summer’s empty Room -  Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,  Recordless, but for them -  It Ruffles Wrists of Posts  As Ankles of a Queen -  Then stills its Artisans - like Ghosts -  Denying they

This week in birds - #529

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  The beautyberries are ripe and the American Robins and other fruit-eating birds are grateful. Interestingly, I have a couple of bushes that produce white berries and those have already been stripped. Apparently, there is something about the white berries that tastes particularly good to the birds. There are plenty of the purple berries left to help feed them through the winter.  *~*~*~* Let's start this roundup with a positive story: In a report published this week, the International Energy Agency says that renewables will overtake coal to become the main source of electricity generation by 2025.   *~*~*~* At this point, is it even possible to save Nature? That is a question being considered at the COP15 meeting in Montreal this week. *~*~*~* One writer believes that a good way to save Nature and the planet is to focus on saving wild cats . *~*~*~* The continuing eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano has given scientis

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver: A review

  Barbara Kingsolver's latest is essentially her retelling of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield set in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. The main character of her opus was named Damon by his teenage mother but, of course, that was easily turned into "Demon" by the other kids.  Demon was born to a single mother in a single-wide trailer. His mother was a troubled adolescent who had not the first clue about caring for a baby. Demon inherited his good looks from his father who had died before he was born. Part of those looks was his distinctive copper-colored hair. Demon soon became a ward of the state's foster care system. As such, he experienced an often traumatic existence, but from somewhere - either genes or some of his caregivers along the way - he developed a strong instinct for survival. In school, it was discovered that he had some athletic talent and that helped to smooth his way through the system. Kingsolver tells her story through Demon'

Poetry Sunday: Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams

I love the look of the deciduous trees in winter after they've shed their leaves and stand naked under the sky. The trees in our yard are mostly evergreen - live oaks and magnolia - but we do have some that shed their leaves, notably a red oak that is a particular favorite of mine. Of course, it never sheds all of its leaves, as Penelope, the wife of Odysseus in Greek myth, was well aware. But in the present day, the "disattiring" of the trees is basically complete now. Winter, if not actually here yet, is waiting on the doorstep and the trees "stand sleeping in the cold."   Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold.

This week in birds - #528

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Maybe my favorite of our winter visitors, the American Goldfinch has returned to us and that is always good news. *~*~*~* The United Nations projects that the world population of humans has now passed 8 billion , with much of the growth coming from the developing nations in Africa. *~*~*~* Humans love to give names to the various epochs of their history. Will future generations designate our time as the "Age of Extinction" ? *~*~*~* Mauna Loa is blowing its top. The Hawaiian volcano has erupted for the first time in nearly forty years. *~*~*~* Could the mighty Mississippi River actually dry up ? It is difficult - and scary - to imagine but long stretches of it have in fact run dry. And out West, the Colorado River faces a similar fate . *~*~*~* Bats, it seems, have quite an amazing vocal range .  *~*~*~* There is a supervolcano at Yellowstone in northwestern Wyoming and it has a plentiful supply of magma sto