Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

by 


Although ecology may be treated as a science, its greater and overriding wisdom is universal. That wisdom can be approached mathematically, chemically, or it can be danced or told as a myth.

~ Paul Shepard

Friday, December 28, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: solstice, anxiety, hikes, 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.

Kindly post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Human Nature: Toward the light

Earlier this month came the shooting in my community's mall, the horrific event in Connecticut, and more recently and more closely for me, a disturbing encounter with a mentally ill man who, by the time the police showed up, was angry about roommates who repeatedly kill him ("You wouldn't like to die every day, would you?! Neither do I!").

I was unsettled, I was anxious. 


I know of few cures for this, but nature is one of them. At first opportunity, I grabbed the boots I'd bought at the mall, and headed for the woods.

It's the connection to the wider world, the large beauty, and the beauty in the details; it's the literal, physical grounding of walking a few miles that calms and soothes. It works whether you walk alone



or with a companion.

It also helps to know that we're turning back toward the light. Five days now since the solstice, 24 seconds more light today than yesterday.








In anxious days, keep your feet on the ground, put your arms around those you love, and keep on toward the light.




Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: singing, mall, reclaiming, 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.

Kindly post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Human Nature: Reclaiming...

It's the mall where I bought my hiking boots. It's the mall where my daughter, when she was little, sat on Santa's lap. And it's the mall where, a week ago Tuesday, a man opened fire and killed two people--miraculously not more--before killing himself.

Yesterday at Clackamas Town Center, a group of us gathered in the food court, by the tables people had huddled under when the shooting began. We were there because of an email sent out by my friend Lisa, asking folks to join in a caroling event to "demonstrate our empathy and compassion for those affected by the shooting. The message we wish to deliver is that we will not allow the darkness within a few disturbed individuals to extinguish the light within us all."

I'm not sure how many of us were there because of the email and how many shoppers spontaneously joined in, but over 150 people came together and sang. And sang, and sang. Lisa's plan had been to keep it short and simple--just the first verses of 6 carols--but folks didn't want to stop, and so we sang on. 

http://www.kgw.com/video/featured-videos/Flash-mob-carols-at-Clackamas-Town-Center-184277741.html

It felt like a reclaiming of that space, a sanctifying of it after tragedy. It was the first time I'd been to the mall since the shooting, and it was a good way to return: singing. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Nature Quote

photo by Terry Foote on Flickr

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~ Wendell Berry

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: shrews 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.

Please, oh please post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below. 







Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marsh & Water Shrews

This is not really our water shrew, but looks similar.
Photo by James T M Towill
To see photos of a PNW water shrew, visit
 http://www.sccp.ca/species-habitat/pacific-water-shrew
You're sitting on the bank of a small stream when an animal about the size of a mouse swims by underwater like a miniature submarine. The air trapped in its fur makes it appear coated with silver, and little bubbles string out in its wake. You've just seen a marsh shrew.

The Pacific Northwest has two shrews that are as comfortable in the water as they are on land. The marsh shrew (also called the Pacific water shrew) inhabits lower-elevation waterways, particularly marshes and streams, while the water shrew takes the upper elevations.

Both species have "swimming fringes" on the sides of their feet. These stiff, short hairs not only aid the animal in swimming, they also trap air so that, for a few seconds, the shrew can literally run across the water's surface (!).

I've never chanced to see one of these, either running or submerged. How about you?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

 NASAESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to ... stars that exploded their chemically-rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe atomically.... That makes me smile... It's not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us. 
~Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: forests, love, and loss 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. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nostos felicis: a homecoming

When the massive red cedar fell alongside the forest trail, it must have been a thunderous landing. The old tree had spilt lengthwise for about ten feet, and the path beside the tree dipped downhill below that split in such a way that, if you wanted to, you could duck your head and step right inside the embrace of the old giant. Morning rain had turned the revealed wood within the tree a red so bright and fresh that it nearly glowed. 

The family had already passed the fallen tree as they'd walked down the trail; now, on their return, they could see the legs of people who had accepted the tree's invitation, and stepped inside. And as the family came closer, they saw that there were more than a dozen people standing within the tree, clustered together. 

What were they doing?

When we ducked out of the tree, wiping our eyes, we found a family regarding us with some curiosity. We greeted them but didn't explain ourselves ...  we'd been saying goodbye to a baby we love. He had been born too early, and terribly sick, and we had been looking for a good place in this forest to consign his spirit. His mothers had chosen this old tree for a ceremony of remembrance; it was a place that would nourish the forest and would grow new baby trees.

And so we stepped inside the tree for a brief and sweet and mostly impromptu ceremony, giving baby Felix over to this tree (and the black bear and the salmon, and the maidenhair fern, and the flying squirrel, and...). Ralph sang a song for him, and for us, that ended with the words May your spirit be ancient and enduring.

A giant tree that had lived for centuries and a baby who was too tiny to live more than fifteen days. There are some griefs and sadnessesand some miraclesthat only a forest can hold. 
by ChibiJosh

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

photo by  
I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the message of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day--the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: leather chitons, 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.

Please post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leather Chiton

Chitons like the West best. They're bigger and more abundant here, and there are more species along the Pacific Coast than on the Atlantic Coast--or just about anywhere else in the world.

Chitons (pronounced "KI-tuns") are marine snails with eight plates that make up their shells. Hard flesh called a girdle surrounds the valves and covers them to greater or lesser extent, depending on the species. 

Most chitons sit tight in a "home spot" all day, and wander around at night, scraping their food stuff, like algae, off rocks, and return to their usual spot by daybreak.

by Minette Layne
But the leather (or Katy) chiton eschews the customs of chiton society. This mollusk cruises the rocks any time of the day or night in a shiny, black, leatherlike girdle and scrapes up algae whenever it damn well feels like it.

One of the most conspicuous chitons on the rocky coast, the Katy is about 1 1/2 inches to 3 inches long, but occasionally reaches 5 inches. Its Latin name, Katharina tunicata, honors Lady Katherine Douglas, the naturalist who sent the first specimen of this species to England for study in 1813.

Have you ever seen a Katy/leather chiton?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

photo by Joanna Boj. 
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
~ Edward Burke

Friday, November 23, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: ptarmigans, camouflage, 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, November 21, 2012

White-tailed Ptarmigans

Unable to find a share-able photo of a white-tailed ptarmigan, I offer you instead
this closely-related rock ptarmigan ~ photo by brettocop on Flickr 
These pretty white birds are sometimes called snow grouse, but if you call them ptarmigans, remember to leave off the silent "p" when you ptalk about pthem.

They're not white all year-round, but from the photo you can see how handy it is to be white in the snow. These birds spend their whole lives trying to look like something else--something inedible. Snow, or in the summer, just another boulder in the talus of a mountain. 

Ptarmigans have camouflaging mottled brown feathers in the warmer months, which they achieve via a seasonal molt. As the days begin to lengthen, the white plumage gives way to the darker feathers. The molt begins at the head and progresses down the body, nicely matching the melting snow and emerging turf. From the time the molt begins, the birds avoid pure white expanses of snow. 

True to their names, the Pacific Northwest's white-tailed ptarmigans retain an edge of white feathers on their tails, as well as on their bellies or legs.

Have you ever managed to spot one of these beauties in the wild?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

by 

You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers...; a certain free margin, and even vagueness--perhaps ignorance, credulity--helps your enjoyment of these things.
~ Walt Whitman

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: harpoons, narrow escapes, ships, 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.

Please post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.          



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Escape of the Rainbow Warrior ... Greenpeace Days

In 1980, the good ship Rainbow Warrior was detained by the Spanish government over a disagreement about harpoons. Greenpeace thought they should be in a museum, and Spain thought they should be used to kill whales. Hence our crew putting themselves in little inflatable boats between the whaling ship and the whales, and thus the arrest of our flagship the Rainbow Warrior.

Which only led to another disagreement with Spain over money, in that we refused to give them any, while they wanted Greenpeace to pay them a half a million dollars to cover the cost of the whales we'd prevented them from killing. This stalemate resulted in our ship languishing at dock in the military town of El Ferrol.

Not only was the R Dub parked in the midst the modern-day Spanish Armada, it had been disabled by the removal of the thrust block, a vital part of the propeller shaft. And it was under 24-hour guard. And her bow was pointing toward shore.

So first things first. The skeleton crew that remained aboard began painting the side of the ship beside the dock. When that side was done, they sought and received permission to spin the ship around, using the rope lines, so they could paint the other side.

During this time, a replacement thrust block had been manufactured in the UK;  Tony smuggled it across the border in an old VW van. He drove into the military port and audaciously parked next to a police vehicle, then sauntered off to join the crew in their nightly pub crawl.

So far so good. Now the trick was to get the thrust block past the guards and onto the ship. For this, the crew used its own bad habits as cover. Late one night they staggered back from the bar, rowdy and boisterous. Athel peeled off from the group and stopped off at the van. He staggered onto the ship, apparently from drunkenness, but really under the weight of the thrust block; with the military police amused and distracted by the happy revelry of rest of the crew.

After they'll installed the thrust block (quietly, quietly!), Tony slipped over the side to check the state of the ship below sea line. The Rainbow Warrior had now spent five months at dock, and the hull of the 146-foot ship was coated with the seaweed. Tony was able to scrap off the stuff attached to the propeller, but the seaweed remaining on the hull worried the crew.

David noted that when the guards switched there were sometimes two or three  minutes when no one was closely watching the ship. So the crew watched the guards who watched the ship...and at the evening changing of the guard, the two men stepped briefly away, deep in conversation. The crew threw the lines aboard and--another miracle--the engine started up without complaint. 

The ship motored toward the sea, but the seaweed on the hull slowed them down. They could only make 7 knots, which is ridiculously slow. So ridiculous that when the Spanish navy realized the escape and started after the Rainbow Warrior, they passed our ship in the dark. The anxious crew could see the lights of a helicopter searching ahead of them. Instead of making a straight run across the channel to the UK, as Spain anticipated, the R Dub hugged the coast, and crept across the French border. 

By the time the crew made it to England, the cameras and the champagne and the cheers were waiting for them. 


The guys who brought back our ship:
Pierre Gleizes, Tony Marriner, Athel von Koettlitz, David McTaggart,
Cap't. Jon Castle, Tim Mark and Chris Robinson. 
(Want to read more about Greenpeace days? Click on the "Search this Blog" box to the right and enter the word Greenpeace.)  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

photo by Alan Vernon. on Flickr
An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.
~ Aldo Leopold

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: red-tailed hawks, 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.           

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Red-tailed hawk

I find it very convenient that the Northwest's most common hawk has a conspicuous and identifying mark--the red tail for which it was named.


On sunny days you can often see them perched on utility poles along the highway, or soaring above searching for voles, mice, squirrels, and such.

The realization that red-tails weren't chicken killers started in the 1950s or '60s. Look in any bird book from that time and you're likely to find a plea that farmers stop shooting them out of the sky and a heartfelt defense against the accusations of them as "chicken hawks." In the nick of time, laws now protect all predatory birds.

Red-tails are also North America's most common hawk, but their coloration varies from east to west. They tend to be darker here in the West; occasionally they look almost black. But check out that handy-dandy red tail to help identify them.

Have you noticed red-tails perched along the highway? 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

Photo by INABA Tomoaki 
Simplicity in all things is the secret of the wilderness and one of its most valuable lessons. It is what we leave behind that is important...when in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost.
~Sigurd Olson