Archive for the 'nature' Category

Life and pictures

February 12, 2016

I walked around the Reservoir this morning, despite the ice and packed snow.  It was pretty, if a little slippery — and very cold.

When I got to the part of the Res where water enters it from a brook, the water rushing over rocks while half covered by ice and snow looked so picture postcard perfect.  Or maybe it reminded me of a picture on a Christmas card.

And that was the problem for me:  when I initially encountered the scene, I was drawn into it, and engaged with it.  But when my monkey mind suggested parallels from pictures, the moment was gone and I was left with a much more superficial appreciation of what I was looking at.

It’s one thing to see pictures of places and things we will never see in person, but having seen a picture I think can be a distraction if and when we encounter the real thing.  Not sure what more to say than that.


January 11, 2016

The Boston Globe attempted to change its delivery service vendor at the end on December, and managed to throw a monkey wrench into not only the delivery of its newspaper but the delivery of other newspapers to homes in the region.

I think many of us thought that the disruption to The Globe delivery would be something like a couple of days of non-delivery (we were given 2 coupons to obtain a paper for free at a store) and then some late deliveries.  But the new company hadn’t hired enough drivers and their software for planning routes was unable to handle the idiosyncratic layout of New England roads, and so the disruption was more like no papers for days stretching beyond a week.

And at the beginning of January, my delivery of The New York Times was also disrupted.

Now delivery has been restored, not quite to the level it was before the disruptions (papers have been arriving later in the day and not where they’re supposed to be left), but they seem to be coming again regularly.

What’s interesting, in this day and age of concern about carbon footprints, is that the two newspapers I subscribe to are now delivered by two separate drivers.  This is clear from when and where the respective papers arrive.

The Globe is apparently going to save some money from the new arrangements.

While cap-and-trade has always struck me as some kind of a kluge, this newspaper delivery situation makes it clear that the good of the environment is not always lined up with corporate profits.  One would think that it should be more profitable for everyone involved to have one driver deliver two papers to the same house, but apparently it isn’t.  That arrangement would also reduce the amount of gasoline consumed and exhaust vented.  But since profits lie elsewhere, two delivery services we have.

To paraphrase Tacitus, they make a less environmentally-friendly arrangement and call it progress.

Red feathered bird with black featherless head

August 1, 2015

There’s a bird that’s been in my backyard of late.  It’s really bright red on the body — looks like a cardinal — but its head is completely black and looks featherless from what I can see — I am reminded in some ways of a very small and very red-bodied vulture.  Don’t know what to make of him, but he seems to be doing okay, finding stuff to eat on my patio, flying around with things in his mouth.

On the subject of interesting wildlife observations:  I saw a very small rabbit chasing s grackle and then later calmly munching clover while a bunch of grackles pecked nearby on the lawn.  Weeks ago I saw what I think was this same small rabbit being chased by a very frenetic chipmunk, who I think lives in the back retaining wall — I wondered if he (?) was being territorial.

A variant that worked

July 11, 2015

Yesterday morning Jordan left the house before I left to take a walk around the Res.  Some documents had come in the mail that I needed first to photocopy so I could scan both sides, and then to scan and attach to emails and send off to multiple parties, making sure the attachments were not too big for my commercial email server’s settings and making sure that my email program was not inserting an email address other than the ones I intended.  Then I filed away those papers, and a couple of others I had put off filing because it meant moving around stacks of cartons of files in the attic, so by the time I got out of the house, Jordan had been gone for a while.

So Jordan reached me by cell phone as I got to the Res, and he asked if it was okay if he invited a couple of friends over in the evening, to play boardgames and card games, and whether one of them could do a load of laundry in our machines while he was over, and I said it was fine, after reviewing what Jordan needed to do that day.  So when Jordan asked when I thought I would be back, I thought he was calculating when he was going to do something or other, either a chore or some prep for the game night, that he wanted to do before I returned.  I told him I thought I’d be another hour, and I didn’t pay the exchange much mind.  He had said, earlier in the conversation when I had asked where he was, that he was coming up the hill to the house from the bus stop.

And I took a glorious walk.  Saw a Great Blue Heron flapping over the water, saw small dark fish with iridescent tails in the shallows of the water near the shore, clambered down to the shore in less accessible places that seemed to have things that needed to be seen, found a sea shell and saw a rabbit.

So I get back to my house, climb the front steps up to the porch, and notice, as I am fumbling for my keys, Jordan’s messenger bag on one of the chairs.  And then I notice other stuff on the middle chair, and no, not Goldilocks in the third chair, but Jordan himself — he hadn’t left his things on the porch by mistake, but he was there with his iPad doing his millennial generation screen engagement thing.  I was a little surprised to see him sitting there.

I thought he had taken his key with him when he had left, but, as I learned, he had forgotten to.

After we clarified that, he said, “I didn’t want to tell you because I wanted you to take your time and enjoy your walk.”

I generally don’t like being deceived, and sometimes an attempt involving deceiving me has backfired royally, as when someone says they will come and help in some way, perhaps thinking that that sense of back-up will encourage me to do more myself and that by then I won’t need their help.  When the person doesn’t follow through, I have found my reliance on the promise and my continuing need for the help to be a difficult combination to deal with.  The reliance produces a shift in me that is difficult to undo sometimes.

But Jordan’s variant on this mix of inducing an attitude on my part and not being completely straightforward actually worked for me.  I had a great walk.

Jordan was absolutely correct that had I known he had forgotten his key, I would have been at best somewhat distracted.  It’s summer and he’s 23, so I wouldn’t have worried, but his waiting for me so as to be able to get back in the house would have been in the back of my mind to some extent, and I might not have taken as much time as I did on my walk and in my explorations and gazing, even though it turned out that I got back from my activities in the amount of time I had estimated it would take me and which Jordan had accepted without any discussion.

For me, this was an iteration of a pattern that had been quite painful rearranged into something quite pleasant, including my appreciation of Jordan’s considerateness and thoughtfulness and that he knows his mom and her issues.

That this episode involved someone returning home and another person waiting for the return had resonance for me, reminding me of a tradition of stories in which someone is told that someone will be coming back.  I had been thinking recently of a version of such a story, in which the little girl left at an outpost in the wilderness would have been much better off without the promise of a return by the grown-up, who told her he’d come back in part to make himself feel better and in part because he didn’t realize she had better coping tools than a false promise.  So my experience of a deceit involving a return home and a wait in which the elements have been reshuffled to produce happiness all around meant a lot to me — I like to think it reflects that progress of some sort is being made.

And Jordan had brought back with him to share with me a free chocolate candy bar that he had been given at a table in front of a yoga studio near his gym.  Priceless.


June 9, 2015

I learned today that the large wild rose bush growing next to the stump of the pear tree is considered an invasive species.  I was looking it up online to see how big it is likely to grow.  Here’s how it looks now:



Three to five meters, is what I read.

My other welcomed guest that is considered a pest are the rabbits that have been happily eating the clover in my lawn (which is probably itself also a pest).  The rabbits I’ve also seen eat leaves off the rose bush, I might add.

Anyway, another couple of wild rose bushes are growing in front of my house, among the foundation shrubs, near the front stairs.  I am actually kind of grateful for those as well, because where they’ve taken root I don’t think I would have been able to get anything that I bought at a nursery to grow.

I enjoy the low maintenance of the wild rose bushes and the wild bunnies.  Of course I am aware that there may come a point when the balance changes and I find I am having too much of what I had considered to be a good thing.  I read that to get rid of rosa multiflora, I will have to dig it out by the roots.  In the meantime, I am enjoying my pest ecosystem, if I can call it that.

Goose, goose, turtle

May 18, 2015

A couple of times now, at least, I’ve seen a delightful little scene in a marshy corner of the Res.  I think there must be a capsized tree beneath the surface of the water there, with bits of trunk and branches poking up through the water’s surface.  There have been three or four Canada geese perched on the wood, and among them, also on the wood, has been a turtle, a rather large turtle.  I’ve seen this scene on multiple days, which has surprised me, but I can’t tell if it’s the same geese and the same turtle.

In any event, it impresses me that the turtle seems very comfortable to be out there among the geese, and the geese remain perched up on the wood — sometimes on one leg — rather than floating along on the water.

It’s a nice grouping to come across, both picturesque and full of life.


May 16, 2015

I was walking in a colonial-era graveyard the other day, and I was visiting a great big maple tree there I like.  And I noticed on the ground a piece of a limb that had apparently fallen off — there was a jagged stump up in the tree from which it probably had broken.

It hadn’t happened all that recently — the wood was exposed without bark.  And that made it easier to see the small holes that I am guessing reflect the activity of critters — insects that bore into trees.

I think I started reviewing other objects that fall from trees, like fruit, like Newton’s apple, like enlightenment.  And that got me wondering, in keeping with the Adam and Eve story, whether with knowledge come less benign influxes, too — there could be critters still abiding in the piece of wood that fell, ready to branch out if one were to take the wood home, say as firewood or to use as fencing material or out of which to create a sculpture.  Do we increase our knowledge but also import with it into the world greater capacity to do with it something unhelpful, for example?  We have the internet, we have hacking and identity theft, for example.

I am not sure how we would measure the things I am trying to compare over time — the seemingly positive increases with losses elsewhere in our collective lives.  How has our quality of life improved and how has it deteriorated?  We would need a large group to survey, so as to filter out idiosyncratic anomalies and so as to take into account lots of differently situated demographic groups.

Anyway, things fall — apples, branches, pine cones, flowers.  (Rain, too.)  Some provide a vector for other things to come into our lives, too.

Nighttime rabbit

December 18, 2014

So I am taking tea leaves and eggshells to the compost heap, and there’s some movement in the backyard and it’s got a cottontail and yes, it’s a rabbit.  At nine in the evening in mid December?  Guess so.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen a rabbit in my yard after dark this (late) autumn.  Maybe it’s the mild weather.  I don’t know, I don’t usually see them after the early fall.

Fishing out feathers

October 31, 2014

There were about a dozen swans on the Res yesterday, a heron, two cormorants, a bunch of geese and ducks.

Not surprisingly, there are feathers along the shoreline in places.  I sometimes clamber down to the water’s edge and fish a couple out.  If the shore is too muddy close to the water or the feather is too far off in the water, I look for a long branch.  And then I try to snag the feather using the branch.

It’s kind of like a sport or hobby.  I get a kick out of figuring out how to get down to the shore, what stick to use, how to employ it as a tool.

I am not always very good at the snagging part.  Sometimes I end up pushing the feather further away or sinking it or getting it further stained or covered with muck.

So I ask the universe for help.  I admit this is a pretty silly context in which to ask for the help of the universe, but on the other hand it is very good practice for “turning things over.”  I know I can’t get that feather back without help, and I throw myself on the mercy of those forces beyond me, my motions become more effective, and I lift the feather from the water with my stick.

The other piece is how refreshed I feel afterwards.  I have succeeded in completely distracting myself from all the cares and tasks seemingly on my plate, and for a few minutes, I am just in the moment of fishing out a feather, and in the arms of the universe if I’ve asked for help.  The physical activity I think also contributes to the catharsis.

Bunny redux

September 27, 2014

I was putting something away earlier today, and I came across, while doing so, a photo of a rabbit in my yard from a couple of years ago.  And I thought, “Gee, I don’t think I’ve seen a bunny in the yard for a long time [and I have enough clover in the lawn to feed a whole colony of rabbits].”

My mother called just now and I was staring out the window, and sure enough, there’s a bunny right in the same place as the one in the photo, between the back walk and the big garden.