Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

Photo: cc by-nc-nd B. Monginoux / Landscape-Photo.net 
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

~John Muir

Friday, July 27, 2012

Weekend Haiku and Limericks


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

photo by .Bambo. on Flickr
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.

We're looking forward to seeing your haiku or limerick in the comments, below!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace

photo by .Bambo. on Flickr
Queen Anne ruled over Great Britain from 1702 to 1714, but the flower named after her continues to reign in fields, meadows, and roadsides of America. The childhood legend says that the Queen was making lace and pricked her finger--which resulted in the red or deep purple floweret sometimes seen in the center of the "lace."


Each flower is made up of many little five-petaled individual flowers, with the smallest ones near the center. In each of the flowers around the edge, the outermost petal grows larger than the other four, giving the entire flower head its pleasing, symmetrical disk shape.


See the larger petals on the flowerets nearest the edge?
photo by +vega on Flickr
The shallow flowers are so wide open that it seems like their pollen could be washed out by a summer rain. But in wet weather, a portion of the stem about an inch or two below the flower head becomes so flexible it no longer supports the weight of the inflorescence, and when the head bends over, the flowers are protected from the rain. (Older plants that have lost their pollen stand tall in the rain.) 


Seeing Queen Anne's lace bow during rainstorms always reminds me that there's a lot more going on in nature than most of us realize--even among the weeds.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: dentalia 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, July 19, 2012

Dentalia--as good as gold

How times change... for an estimated 2500 years, these dentalia shells were the gold standard along the Pacific Coast. The small mollusks spend their lives buried in offshore sediment, where the Nootka (from what is now Vancouver Island) sought them out.

Native people once gathered at trading sites, bringing bartering items from their various regions, including abalone shells, mountain-sheep horns, canoes, slaves, or whale and seal oil.

The dentalia were strung on thin lines of deer sinew; some researchers suggest that a six-foot strand of quality dentalia was worth a slave. The shells were (are) worn as decoration, or used as payment. Wearing a strand meant a man had his money at hand should he decided to barter or gamble.

Oblivious to the worth people may or may not assign to them, dentalia continue their quiet offshore lives. They spend their adulthood burrowed into the sea floor, pointy end up. Each tapered shell contains a mollusk with a foot for digging and a mouth for eating.

Although the people of the Pacific Northwest may now place their collective faith in discs of metal and pieces of paper, it will take hundreds of years longer before modern money outlasts the span of time during which dentalia shells were valuable.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: pikas, 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, July 12, 2012

Pikas: making hay while the sun shines

Photos by Fool-On-The-Hill 
The sun is (finally) out in the Pacific Northwest, which means that the little pikas are out making hay. Literally. 


These rock-pile dwellers gather grasses and lay them out in the summer sun to dry, and then tuck them away in caches deep in the rocks. 


Although they live together in colonies, it's every pika for itself. They don't share dens or food supplies, so each is intent in putting in its own stash for the winter.


They do keep each other informed of the approach of dangerous animals, though, which is why you're likely to hear a pika before you see one. Their warning yell is a nasal eenk and surprisingly loud for such lil' fellas (about 5-6" long).


But should a weasel--a pika's worst enemy--show up to scout the rock pile, the little loudmouths shut right up. Slinky weasels can follow a pika down into its burrow, so then discretion is the better part of valor.





Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote


As people complain more and more these days, attention spans are growing shorter, and we’ve begun living in attention blinks. More social than ever before, we’re spending less time alone with our thoughts, and even less relating to other animals and nature. Too often we’re missing in action, brain busy, working or playing indoors, while completely unaware of the world around us.
One solution is to spend a few minutes every day just paying close attention to some facet of nature.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks


Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: salmon, handouts and human nature, 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, July 5, 2012

At the door...Human nature

I recognized the guy at the door. He'd first stopped by several weeks earlier, at a loss after the death of his father. He'd been by a couple times since, and I'd given him a gift card for a meal and another for clothing at a local store. Worth maybe fifteen dollars total, which is not much when you're trying to dig yourself out of the hole of poverty. I knew he'd been looking for work for a while, and hadn't had success.

Now he had a bus schedule in hand, and a plan. "Look, it costs $17 to get to Seaside. Do you have any work around here I can do? Whatever, yard work, vacuuming, anything. If I can get to Seaside, my brother is there. I can stay with him, and he's got a job lined up for me if I can get there by tomorrow."

But I didn't have any work for him to do, and a phone call I made to scare something up found nothing available.

I did, however, have $20 in my wallet, fresh from the bank that morning.

I hesitated. It's difficult to know the right thing to do. I got out the $20.

He was incredulous, tears in his eyes, a grown man jumping up and down, "Really? Really? I'll pay you back, I swear I will!"

"Don't worry about it," I said. "I'm lucky enough to have a job; now you're going to have one too."

For obvious reasons, I don't make a habit of giving out my money to those who come to the door, but from time to time... I went back to my work after he'd left, feeling warm and fuzzy from a good deed done--and wondering how the heck the poor fellow was going to eat for the day on the leftover $3.

He'd had the same thought, and returned a hour later to ask for another $20. "Really, I promise I'll pay you back." I had another $20, just as fresh as the first, that could solve his hunger problem.

I hesitated. It's difficult to know the right thing to do. I said, "I'm afraid we've come to the end of what I can do for you."

"Okay," he said, "I'm really sorry to have to ask."

"And I'm really sorry to have to say 'no,'" I told him. This time when he left, my good deed didn't feel quite as warm or as fuzzy as it had.

It felt even worse a week later, when he knocked on the door again. "I thought you were going to Seaside," I said.

He coughed. "I got sick. I couldn't go. Could you help me out with one more of those gift cards?"



(Want to read more of these stories? Click on the "Search this Blog" box to the right and enter the words Human Nature.) 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Return of the salmon

Public domain photo. For great pics of sockeye, check out
www.brandoncole.com/photos_sockeye_salmon.htm
The salmon are coming back to the Columbia Riverand coming and coming and coming. In recent days, sockeyes have been swimming past the Bonneville Dam in greater numbers in one day than have been seen in entire years.

Most Northwesterners know that salmon faithfully return to the very stream (or pond) in which they are hatched. And these sockeye are determined: they travel over 500 miles roundtrip to the ocean and back to their natal homeand pass 9 dams to do so.

According to the Associated Press, biologists credit the huge return to "habitat improvements ..., improved dam operations, and favorable ocean conditions."

More than 400,000 sockeye are expected to return this yearand "nearly all" are wild, rather than hatchery fishwhat a fantastic piece of environmental news!

Welcome back home, Salmon; we're glad to see you!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote


I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far! 
~ John Muir