Showing posts from April, 2023

Poetry Sunday: In May by John Burroughs

This   poem caught my eye because of the first line. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have been passing through our yard this past week and they were accompanied by Scarlet Tanagers . It's always such a joy to see these wonderful birds as they hurry on their way to their breeding grounds. And all the other signs of spring are present as well. John Burroughs described it beautifully. Indeed, "all the world is glad with May." In May by John Burroughs  When grosbeaks show a damask rose Amid the cherry blossoms white, And early robins' nests disclose To loving eyes a joyous sight; When columbines like living coals Are gleaming 'gainst the lichened rocks, And at the foot of mossy boles Are young anemones in flocks; When ginger-root beneath twin leaves Conceals its dusky floral bell, And showy orchid shyly weaves In humid nook its fragrant spell; When dandelion's coin of gold Anew is minted on the lawn, And apple trees their buds unfold, While warblers storm the groves

This week in birds - #547

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  A Snowy Egret searches for its meal while wading in the shallow waters at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. *~*~*~* The virus H5N1 is devastating the world's birds once again. *~*~*~* And in Canada, leaks from tailings ponds at oil sands operations are also having a devastating effect on the environment. *~*~*~* Lights Out, Texas is Audubon's campaign to have Texans turn off outside lights at night from March 1 through June 15 to avoid disorienting birds during their spring migration through the state. *~*~*~* European countries are pledging to expand their use of "green power" by increasing their reliance on North Sea wind farms. *~*~*~* You probably will not be surprised to read that 2022 was "nasty, deadly, costly and hot." *~*~*~* Removing river barriers such as dams and weirs is allowing rivers in Europe to flow freely and migratory fish to reach their breeding areas.  *~*~*~* A bird o

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare: A review

Wait! What? Who? Miss Aldridge ?  The title of this book was guaranteed to get my attention. I used to be Miss Aldridge long ago. (Actually, long, long ago now, in what seems like another lifetime.) Ah, well, time marches on and so do I, so I read the book about this Miss Aldridge, and here's what I learned about her. Lena Aldridge had hoped for a brilliant career in the theater but when we meet her she is reduced to being a nightclub singer. We are in London in 1936, so, fraught and disappointing times to begin with. Her married lover has just dumped Lena and she's wondering if anything is ever going to go her way. Then, to make matters worse, her best friend's husband is murdered and her world truly seems to be falling apart. When a stranger unaccountably offers her a chance at a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary to take her there, she jumps at the chance without questioning her good fortune. But then bad luck seems to have followed her

Poetry Sunday: The Song of the Mischievous Dog by Dylan Thomas

There are many quite well-known poems by Dylan Thomas. This is not one of them. But it made me smile when I happened upon it last week. Perhaps it may do the same for you.  The Song of the Mischievous Dog by Dylan Thomas There are many who say that a dog has its day, And a cat has a number of lives; There are others who think that a lobster is pink, And that bees never work in their hives. There are fewer, of course, who insist that a horse Has a horn and two humps on its head, And a fellow who jests that a mare can build nests Is as rare as a donkey that's red. Yet in spite of all this, I have moments of bliss, For I cherish a passion for bones, And though doubtful of biscuit, I'm willing to risk it, And I love to chase rabbits and stones. But my greatest delight is to take a good bite At a calf that is plump and delicious; And if I indulge in a bite at a bulge, Let's hope you won't think me too vicious.

This week in birds - #546

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Spotted Towhee searching for a meal. I love those red eyes! The photograph was taken on a trip to New Mexico. *~*~*~* A rainy winter has helped to create a glorious spring in California where a "super bloom" of wildflowers is in progress. Here's an explanation of how it came to be. *~*~*~* The Houston Arboretum had become badly overgrown, but never fear; the goats are on the job !  *~*~*~* Sex for tigers in a zoo can be an iffy and dangerous thing so sometimes their caretakers have to intercede . *~*~*~* Many waterways in America are endangered but the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon may be the most endangered of all . *~*~*~* A record amount of seaweed appears to be headed across the Atlantic toward Florida.  *~*~*~* A virtual "insect apocalypse" seems to be underway. Can it be reversed ? *~*~*~* When buildings are taken down in the city, what becomes of all that material? "Urban mini

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano: A review

  Hello Beautiful is essentially a retelling of the plot of Little Women . We have the four Padavano sisters instead of the March sisters. Instead of Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth, we have Julia, Sylvie, Cecilia, and Emiline. They are part of a Catholic household with a devout mother who taught them to respect the saints and a loving father who was a dreamer unable to provide an adequate financial base for his family. The book's title is the greeting that their father always used for his daughters.  Julia is the ambitious high-achiever in the family. She is like a second mother to the other girls. Sylvie is the romantic who is waiting for a man to come along and sweep her off her feet. Cecilia and Emeline are twins who tend to live in their own world but they have quite different personalities. Cecilia is forthright and plain-speaking. Emeline is the peacemaker in the family who tries to make everyone feel better. Then along comes William, an introvert from a family that neglected him. H

City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende: A review

  This book was first published in 2002 so it has been around for quite a while, but I had never encountered it although I have read other books by Isabel Allende. The book seems primarily directed toward a young adult audience, of which I meet only the second word in that description. The two main characters are teenagers Alexander and Nadia. When Alexander's mother becomes quite ill, he is sent to New York to stay with his grandmother, Kate. She is a magazine reporter who is irascible and tough-minded, not qualities that one would normally associate with the word "grandmother." She had been planning a trip to the Amazon to search for a gigantic legendary creature known only as the Beast and to encounter the lost tribes who live in that region. Now, she'll be taking Alexander along with her. The local guide for the trip into the Amazon has a teenage daughter named Nadia, and she and Alex quickly bond. Other members of the expedition include an anthropologist, a docto

Poetry Sunday: Spring Gladness by John Burroughs

John Burroughs celebrates the beauty and sounds of April in this poem. I think they are sentiments that we can all appreciate and agree with.  Spring Gladness by John Burroughs   Now clap your hands together, For this is April weather, And love again is born; The west wind is caressing, The turf your feet are pressing Is thrilling to the morn. To see the grass a-greening, To find each day new meaning In sky and tree and ground; To see the waters glisten, To linger long, and listen To every wakening sound! To feel your nerves a-tingle By grackle's strident jingle Or starling's brooky call, Or phoebe's salutation, Or sparrow's proclamation Atop the garden wall! The maple trees are thrilling, Their eager juices spilling In many a sugar-camp. I see the buckets gleaming, I see the smoke and steaming, I smell the fragrant damp. The mourning-dove is cooing The husky crow is wooing, I hear his raucous vows; The robin's breast is glowing, Warm hues of earth are showing Behin

This week in birds - #545

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Northern Cardinal 's cousin, the Pyrrhuloxia . I photographed this one on a trip to New Mexico. It is a resident of West Texas and southern parts of New Mexico and Arizona. *~*~*~* There has been a dramatic surge in sea levels along southeastern coastlines and the Gulf of Mexico since 2010. *~*~*~* A study reveals that nearly three billion birds have been lost on this continent since about 1970. That is a 30% decline in the total bird population . *~*~*~* Here's a commentary on E.O. Wilson's grand idea of how to save the planet . *~*~*~* This spring seems to be promising a spectacular bloom of wildflowers in the West. *~*~*~* With the help of conservationists, the seriously endangered Gray-breasted Parakeet is making a comeback in Brazil's Atlantic Forest.  *~*~*~* The Great Salt Lake had seemed to be in danger of drying up but this past winter's record snowpack has given it at least a tempora

Plunder by Mary Anna Evans: A review

This is the seventh book in Mary Anna Evans' Faye Longchamp archaeology mystery series. In this one, archaeologist Faye Longchamp has married Joe Wolf Mantooth and together they have started an archaeology-based consulting business. Their first big job finds them working near the mouth of the Mississippi River, researching archaeological sites that may soon be flooded by oil. This is during the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.   Their lives are now complicated by the fact that they have a son who is a toddler and they must provide for his care while they are working in the field. When their babysitter is injured, their solution to that particular problem is to hire a local teenager, Amande, who lives nearby with her eccentric grandmother.  Then Amande's grandmother and her uncle are murdered, leaving her with only two other known relatives who are only interested in claiming her small inheritance, and Faye and Joe find themselves as surrogate parents who must protect the

River Spirit by Leila Abouela: A review

Set in nineteenth-century Sudan, this novel tells the story of the years that led up to the British conquest of that region in 1898. It explores the tensions that existed between not only Britain and Sudan but also between Christianity and Islam. We experience all of that through the eyes of a girl called Akuany. Akuany and her brother Bol were orphaned by a raid on their village in South Sudan. Subsequently, a young merchant named Yaseen took them in and promised to care for them until they reached adulthood, but this proved difficult as events in the Ottoman Empire became more and more unsettled. Akuany at first lived with Yaseen's sister but was later enslaved. A revolutionary leader who proclaimed himself the Mahdi (the prophesied redeemer of Islam) came to power in the region and the people had to choose sides between this "Mahdi" and those who opposed him. Yaseen's choice was to oppose him, even as this choice seemed to tear his family apart. Akuany, now an adul

Poetry Sunday: Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay

This poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay was published over a hundred years ago, in 1921. I've read that it was written after the end of her affair with another poet and that it reflected her emotions regarding the end of that affair.  I was particularly arrested by her statement that it is not only underground that men's brains are eaten by maggots. I think I've met some of those people! Still, in spite of everything, every year April comes down the hill "like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers." And aren't we grateful that it does!   Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay To what purpose, April, do you return again? Beauty is not enough. You can no longer quiet me with the redness Of little leaves opening stickily. I know what I know. The sun is hot on my neck as I observe The spikes of the crocus. The smell of the earth is good. It is apparent that there is no death. But what does that signify? Not only under ground are the brains of men Eaten by maggots. Life

This week in birds - #544

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :   Cactus Wren photographed on a trip to New Mexico. *~*~*~* The Biden administration rather inexplicably approved an $8 billion project to drill for oil in the National Petroleum Preserve in Alaska, the nation's single largest expanse of untouched wilderness, and ConocoPhillips is moving full steam ahead on the plan.   *~*~*~* A mass hunt of bison on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park has killed 1150 animals . The hunt was intended to help keep brucellosis from spreading to nearby livestock.  *~*~*~* Here's a commentary on planting native plants in your garden. *~*~*~* Is the Tasmanian tiger truly extinct or is it just very, very good at hiding itself from human eyes? *~*~*~* This is a snailfish that was filmed five miles underwater off the south coast of Japan. That is the deepest fish that has ever been recorded . *~*~*~* Tulare Lake in central California has been resurrected from a parched expanse

Killing a Cold One by Joseph Heywood: A review

In honor of my Michigan-born son-in-law, I decided to read another of these Woods Cop mysteries that are set in his home state. They feature "Woods Cop" Grady Service who patrols the Mosquito Wilderness area of that state. Though his official job is as a conservation officer, he always seems to get drawn into investigations of murders and that is the case once again in Killing a Cold One . This one was a rather complicated story; moreover, there are a LOT of characters and I sometimes found it a bit difficult to keep them all straight. This was not made any easier by the author being inconsistent in the names that he used for them. Every character seemed to have at least three names and each of those names might be applied to him/her at different points in the narrative. Color me confused. The story involved the violent killing and mutilation of two Native American girls. Their bodies were found in a tent in a remote area of the Huron Mountains and nearby there were strange,

Poetry Sunday: Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Long, long ago, I was a freshman in college and one of my required courses was English literature. Early in that course, the name of Chaucer came up and, inevitably, "The Canterbury Tales." Our teacher was a big fan and one of her requirements was that we learn and recite from memory the prologue to the tales in the Middle English in which it was written. I'm sure I have forgotten much of what I learned in college but I can still recite most of that prologue! The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licóur Of which vertú engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye, So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages, Thanne longen folk to