Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday's Nature Quote

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.
                                                                                                                 --Indian proverb



Sunday, October 30, 2011

All my relations

Okay, I confess: I'm not one of those Oregonians who loves the rain. I'm always sorry to see the lovely summer chased away by the descent of the dark damp days.


You gotta pet it, right? How could you resist?
But...this time of year, the lichens and mosses are once again all plumped and beautiful, and they make such absolutely pettable pelts on the trees. 


And here on the western side of the Cascades, those mosses and lichens grow on anything that doesn't keep moving--tree branches and trunks, stumps, and rocks, and the trail side itself. 



You'd best keep moving if you don't want to end up like this.

Dude, that wig isn't fooling anyone.

But in the end, I really can't complain too much. As people who live here are fond of pointing out, it's the rain that keeps the Pacific Northwest so green. 

Besides, repeatedly reassuring ourselves of that helps to relieve the tedium of the downpours.





















Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: harbor seals, surfers, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hey, who's that?

Photo by mikebaird 
Years ago I sat on a beach watching my friend Jolyon surf--when a dog poked its head out of the water behind him. It took me a moment to realize that the "dog" was really a seal. I yelled and pointed, but Jolyon couldn't hear me over the sound of the surf and never did turn around to see the companion that trailed along behind him.

When harbor seals are in their element--water--they tend to be very curious. They'll check out boaters as well as surfers, and will swim parallel to people walking along the shoreline. 


When the animal dives, it closes off nostrils and earholes, and its heart rate slows to 10% of its capacity. Blood flow remains strong to the heart and brain, but dawdles to the extremities. A harbor seal can hold its breath for 20 minutes in dives that reach nearly 300 feet below the surface. But most of the time the seal is underwater for just 3 to 5 minutes before popping its head up for a quick look around.


Have you ever watched seals--or had them watch you?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday's Nature Quote

I am in love with this world. I have nestled lovingly in it. I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, crossed its deserts, felt the sting of its frosts, the oppression of its heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.
--John Burroughs



Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: song sparrows, bird calls, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Song sparrows

Photo by Paul Sullivan
When you're ready to tackle sparrow identification, the song sparrow is a good bird to start with. For one thing, it is probably the most common sparrow in the Northwest US, and for another, it's easy to identify once you know what to look for. These birds have brownish streaks on their breasts, but here in the Pacific Northwest, the streaks converge to form a central spot. 


As you might expect from a bird with the word "song" in its name, its call is also one you can learn to recognize. Thoreau interpreted the male's three short notes and buzzy trill as "Maids! Maids! Maids! Hang up your teakettle-ettle-ettle!" but other interpretations are "Hip-hip-hip-hooray, boys, spring's here!" and "Pres-pres-pres-byteri-eri-erian," and the more ecumenical "Peace-peace-peace unto you, my children."


See if you can hear the beat of those phrases--or come up with a better interpretation--by listening to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website's song sparrow call here

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekend Haiku or Limerick

Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: devil's club  or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Devil's plant, anyone?

 Photo by pfly 
Do you have a devil plant in your neck of the woods? Plenty of thorny or otherwise disagreeable plants are tagged as various possessions of the devil--maybe you know devil's paintbrush, weed, claw, trumpet, or pincushion. Here in the Pacific Northwest, in moist woods and along streambanks, we've got devil's club, an impressive fortress of a plant that can grow up to 10 feet high. 


Spines up to half an inch long crowd its thick stems. Its pretty, maple-shaped leaves, which can grow to 15 inches across, wield additional, smaller spines. Even the undersides of the leaves are spiked. This plant is  seriously armed.


Despite all this--or maybe because of it--the plant had many uses among Native American tribes, some of which extend to present day. Shamans carved the plant's wood into powerful, protecting amulets, and built shelters of devil's club when they needed special protection. Fishing hooks and lures can be made from the wood; burnt stems mixed with grease make a reddish-rown face paint.


Devil's club is in the ginseng family, so it makes sense that the roots and green inner bark were especially important in making medicines. These were used by different tribes to treat a variety of ailments including diabetes, arthritis, rheumatism, tuberculosis, ulcers and other stomach troubles. Rather than avoiding this plant, Indians respected it and gathered it for its powerful medicine.


How about you? Have you had any experiences with a devil plant?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday's Nature Quote

"We shall not love our corner of the planet less for loving the planet too, and resisting with all our skill and passion the dangers that would reduce it to ashes."

--Adlai Stevenson

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: elk, gifts from the wild, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.


Post 'em when you've got 'em!

Gifts

Ralph Naess, making like an elk
in the Cedar River Watershed
Remarkable things happen to those who spend time outdoors. One March, my friends Ralph and Celese were driving through Washington's Cedar River Watershed, where they work, on their way to meet with a school group. Ralph braked the car when they spotted an elk with magnificent antlers crossing the road ahead of them. It was the time of year when elk shed their antlers, so Ralph hollered through the windshield, "Hey! Shake your head!"


The obliging elk bucked, then shook his head. His antlers fell off, one after the other, and landed in the middle of the road. Apparently startled by the sound of them hitting the pavement, and perhaps by he sudden loss of their weight, the bull raced off into the woods.


Ralph and Celese took just a moment to look at each other, wide-eyed, before scrambling out of the car to collect the antlers. They found that the base of each was somewhat moist and spongy and tinged with spots of blood. Still standing in the middle of the road, Ralph and Celese held the huge antlers and called their thanks into the forest.


In the wilds, we receive many gifts. Most of them are intangible, like joy and serenity. But every so often, a gift received is as solid as an elk's antler that you can hold in your hand.