Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Tagore

Gitanjali 35
by Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action—
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Text from Poetry Foundation

Nude Girl Seated in Profile, Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919). Image from BYU Museum of Art Collection.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Following up yesterday's screed...

I've got a review in the Scene this week of a show by a Nashville artist that's all about conceptions of the female body in contemporary culture. I don't usually link to my articles when they're this local, but the artist, Lauren Kalman, has a website where you can see photos of the exhibit. You'll find them here, and my review is up at the Scene's website here. I thought Kalman worked out some intriguing ideas in this show. She has a remarkable ability to incorporate varied, contradictory images of "femaleness" into a single object. The decontextualizing I mention in the review is problematic, especially in a show such as this, which is essentially a social critique. Still, there's some powerful stuff in this woman's work.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Your ass is yours

I ran across this post at Shakesville today--in case you don't feel like clicking, it's a love letter from Melissa McEwan to Emma Thompson, lauding Ms. Emma for protecting her young co-stars from pressure to become sylphs. In fact, Emma goes all Mama Bear and makes them eat, according to Hayley Atwell. Now, I'm pretty keen on Emma Thompson myself, and I certainly respect Melissa McEwan, but the idea that poundage fosters female self-worth is as ridiculous--and anti-feminist--as the endless quest for size zero.

Yes, it's disturbing to see actresses and models who look like walking skeletons presented as beauty icons. It probably does encourage unhealthy dieting in young women, though it certainly is not the primary cause of anorexia and other eating disorders. I was an anorexic for nearly ten years. I'm lucky to be alive, and if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that nobody ever starved herself to death because she wanted to be pretty. It's a lot more complicated than that. Trust me.

I'm all for defying the beauty burden placed on women in a consumer culture, but you don't do that by defining yourself in opposition to it and demanding that other women do the same. That's just another form of control, another distraction from the things in this world that ought to matter. It's galling to me to see this fake notion of owning the body pop up so often in female discourse. It gets lip service all along the feminist spectrum: from suburban mommies (from whom, frankly, it seems a lot like camouflaged envy), to Goddess girls who like to sit around on their abundance and declare it sacred.

The truly radical act is to claim your body as your own and do with it what you will, independent of imposed notions of beauty--and yes, health. If you want to fast until you look like a greyhound, go ahead. Get as fat as you please. Pierce anything you like. If you're really certain you'd still want them if you were stranded on a desert island, get the fucking breast implants. Whatever. But do it because it is what you want to do. Take charge of your body and leave other women alone to do the same.

Chloé, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1875. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

"Hell hath no fury like a modern liberal."

So, Ralph Nader is running for president again, and apparently some Dems are all spluttery about it. I voted for Ralph Nader in 1996 as a write-in candidate, and I voted for him again in 2000--a vote for which I feel not the slightest shame, although I have taken plenty of shit for it from people who think Ralph robbed Prince Al of his birthright. I won't vote for Ralph this year, in part because the reign of George Bush seems to have driven him slightly batty, but I do think he has every right to run. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm glad he's running. Somebody has to carry the flag of genuine democracy, even if it's an old crusader teetering on the edge of senility. Click here for a nice column by Michael Colby at Counterpunch on what's right with Ralph, and what's wrong with his critics.

UPDATE: Just ran across this, which seems like a perfect example of the kind of knee-jerk reaction Colby is talking about.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Malachi is not forgotten

Dave sent me the link to this clip from a recent Al Jazeera English piece about Malachi Ritscher. If you are not familiar with Malachi's story, see my previous post about him here. You'll find a blog post here by one of the interview subjects in the video.

This story is hopelessly sad and frustrating, and I thought twice before posting the video. I might have decided against it if I hadn't heard a story on the radio this afternoon that included the sound of a Turkish mother wailing over the coffin of her son, who had been killed in the fighting with the PKK.

It's essential to remember how horrible war is. Malachi knew.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

BitterGrace is taking a little break

I'll be back to blogging in a day or two. Y'all have a happy Monday.

Cupid and Psyche, Jacques-Louis David, 1817. Image via Web Gallery of Art.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dinah sings Bessie

One of my musical goddesses, channeling another. Can't do better than that.

Click here for an NPR story on Dinah Washington.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes"

Hurt Hawks
by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him. (more)

From The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (2001). Text via Poetry Foundation.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Scene article, not my own

I can't resist sending you all over to the Scene to read Jack Silverman's article about The Cherry Blossoms and their European tour, which Dave joined in Glasgow. Jack's piece may give you a better sense of what the band's all about than their own website does, and hey, I like seeing Dave's name in print. Click here to read it.

The painting above, as well as the one with the article, is by Peggy Snow, whose vocals are the heart and soul of the Cherry Blossoms. Peggy makes it her mission to memorialize doomed buildings, racing out to demolition sites even as the bulldozers move in. You can see more of her paintings here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Love is in the air

It's about a month early by my reckoning, but all the birds seem to be courting. It was windy and snowy this morning, so there wasn't much action, but yesterday I watched a pair of wrens chasing each other in that "you know you like me" way. A downy woodpecker couple was doing the same. There were two gorgeous pileated woodpeckers feeding together. I'm not sure if they were really working up to love, since mated pileateds stay together all year, but they were certainly very chummy. It was so sweet to see. Of course, there's always the possibility of trouble in paradise:

**"As with other woodpeckers, there are sometimes triangular encounters among pileateds, when an intruding bird challenges a mated pair and tries to steal a mate for itself. In these cases, the conflict is between the intruder and the member of the pair that is of its own sex, that is, male versus male or female versus female. The other member of the pair may just remain in the area, instead of flying away, and does not join in the conflict... Usually the intruder is routed."

That "usually" seems kinda sad, doesn't it?

**From Stokes Nature Guides: A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 3, Donald and Lillian Stokes (Little, Brown & Company, 1989) 274

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A belated, uncertain review of Temple

When I reviewed Kaffir by Anya's Garden back in December, I said I'd review her other new scent, Temple, as soon as I decided what I thought of it. What I've decided is that I could go on thinking about it for the rest of my sniffing existence and never come to any firm opinion. I just can't pass a definitive judgment on this baby, but after much testing I do have a few impressions to share.

First of all, Temple is the most idiosyncratic of Anya's scents, which is to say that it is a seriously odd duck. All Anya's perfumes are distinctive--and I mean that in the best possible way--but Temple seems truly unique. I've sampled enough perfumes that I never meet a new one that doesn't remind me of one I already know. Not so with Temple. It has fleeting moments that bring to mind everything from Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte to Dzing!, but its overall character is sui generis.

The opening actually seems quite conventional: a pretty, "don't-worry-be-happy" orange note. It's a very pure, sweet orange--no fizz, no bite, no lurking pungency. It lasts only a moment on my skin, however, lulling me into an easy, open frame of mind before I'm suddenly ushered into a realm of olfactory weirdness. This is the heart of Temple. It's not a bad place--on the contrary, sometimes it's quite alluring, filled with a complex melange of herbaceous, floral and spicy notes reminiscent of an herbal apothecary. Other times, unfortunately, it reminds me more of Indian takeout. I get pushy cumin, faintly musty coriander and a fatty sour-bitter note that has something in common with lime pickle--all pretty far afield from the official notes, but that's what I perceive. I never know from one wearing to the next which way Temple will go for me, and while I'm always happy to smell like an herbalist's, I am only occasionally in the mood to waft the odor of a curry shop--and when I'm not, I'm really not. I have had to resort to scrubbing the perfume off at this stage a time or two, I'm sorry to say.

It's a shame that the middle notes of Temple are so troublesome for me, because the base, with its combination of an incredibly smooth oud and earthy notes, is unfailingly beautiful. I have never been an oud fan. There's been something unbearably heavy and hot about it in all my previous encounters, but Temple's oud is mellower, lighter, almost pretty. There's a subtle, dry, faintly sweet note underneath the wood, which I assume is the "earth tincture" listed in the notes. It is indeed earthy, but not in a literal, Demeter Dirt sort of way. It's more of a soft background for the oud than a scent with a distinct character of its own. This accord seems to embody most clearly the healing, meditative character Anya says she was working toward. It has a remarkable calming, uplifting effect. If my whole life smelled like this, I'd be a far more blissful person.

I'm not sure I'd ever anoint myself with Temple before venturing out into the wild world. It's not a perfume for adventure, though it is an adventurous perfume. Leaving aside the curry house moments (which are, I suspect, down to the wild hormone swings of middle age), Temple is a scent I'll hold in reserve for those moments when I'm alone, and want a fragrance that offers peace with a bit of challenge.

Notes per Anya's Garden--Top notes: distilled orange juice, borneol crystals. Middle notes: aglaia flower, cassia, Ayurvedic herbs and spices. Base notes: sustainable Laotian and Vietnamese Oud agarwood, earth tincture

Maharashtrian Lady, Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906). Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Random delight

My Valentine bouquet has a lot of white stargazer lilies that have been slowly opening, filling the kitchen with their scent. This makes me ridiculously happy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Law and order

I know what you're thinking: "Oh, no, not another dog post!" Well, this isn't a dog post, although dogs inspired it--or rather, a dog owner did. She's a regular at a nature preserve where I often walk.* She's an older woman, maybe in her sixties, and I suspect she's a borderline collector; i.e., one of those people who compulsively takes in stray animals. She's obviously not completely around the bend, since her dogs seem well cared for, but she clearly has taken on a lot more than she can handle. She brings as many as six unleashed dogs to the park at one time, all of them mixed breeds in the 40 to 80 pound range, and lets them run along the trails and through the woods. They ignore her commands, and you can hear her hollering at them all over the park. The dogs aren't vicious, but they are obnoxious — running up to people en masse, sniffing and slobbering . A couple of them are overly protective of her and bark aggressively at anybody who gets too close. Although there's some risk of a serious incident — a multi-dog melee, or somebody being bitten — the main issue is simply that the woman and her dogs are a nuisance.

The rules of this particular park are clearly posted at the entrance: No unleashed dogs allowed, and no wandering off the trails. Therein lies my problem. To put it mildly, I am not big on rules and regulations. I generally take a lot of pleasure in seeing people ignore petty authority, but my feeling about this woman gives the lie to my libertarian pretensions. It pains me to admit it, but she strikes me as the sort of person who makes rules necessary, and there's a part of me that wishes the park police would nail her. I'd never make that happen by complaining to them, but I did find myself confronting her directly the other day. I had to wade through her mongrel horde on a narrow part of the path and my irritation got the better of me. I'm afraid my tone was not friendly.

I hate that. I hate it partly because I don't like to think of myself as on the side of authority, ever — but I also hate it because I feel a certain sympathy for her. I see myself in her, for obvious reasons, and I can understand that she is indulging in a fantasy when she goes tromping through the woods with her adopted pack. I'm sure her fantasy is important to her, and I actually have a lot of respect for that. People can't live without some dream of themselves, and in a perfect world she'd have woods in which to wander without coming into conflict with snooty people like me, who are busy indulging their own fantasies.

She actually seemed a little embarrassed by our encounter, and I haven't seen her since. It's possible that I stomped on her buzz so effectively that she can't enjoy the park anymore — which, if it's true, makes me a certified jerk in my own eyes, even though I suppose I got what I really wanted.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

From "Law Like Love" by W.H. Auden. Read the complete poem here.

*I assume regular readers have figured out that the walks I blog about actually happen in different places--some rural and remote, some more urban. The park in this story is one that sees a lot of day visitors.

Diana with Her Hunting Dogs beside Kill (detail), Jan Fyt (1611-1661). Image via Web Gallery of Art.

It's 10 pm in Glasgow. Do I know where my husband is?

He's probably not at the little hotel above, though he tells me it's quite nice and that we should stay there next time we go. Odds are he's at The Arches, listening to "Energy Births Form," one of tonight's shows at the Instal Festival. Dave and his buddies play tomorrow night, right after a Japanese act described as "durational group-mind drone and clatter: bamboo, electronics, the contents of your local ironmongers bin."

Am I sorry I'm missing this? Well, kinda.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Really, love is complicated

"At first the female seems to show little interest, but gradually she will approach a nest hole where a male has displayed and perch nearby, or look in and out of the hole. Often the male will then enter the hole and may even sing softly while in the hole. The female usually leaves after a first visit, in which case the male continues his displays. She often approaches several boxes before she finally enters one. In the interludes between visits to nest holes she may also Wing-wave and give Song.

If she enters a nest hole while the male is also inside, this is a good sign that the two are paired. Following this she takes more of a lead around the nest site and is able to displace the male from any place that she flies to. She may be dominant over the male at this point."

Notes on Eastern Bluebird courtship from Stokes Nature Guides: A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 3, Donald and Lillian Stokes (Little, Brown and Company, 1989) 319.

Happy Valentine's Day

My beloved is away this Valentine's Day. He's off to Glasgow, to play a music festival with his pals The Cherry Blossoms. He didn't forget me, though. He sent me a message this morning telling me where to find my present--a fabulous boxed set of R&B classics, which I've wanted for a long time. (The doorbell rang just as I typed that last sentence. Yep, flowers for me from Dave. That man is a keeper, even if he does run away to consort with musical eccentrics.)

Here's a little Aretha, in honor of Dave, the day, and my delightful gift.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From Professor Melani's Syllabus

The Two Children, Part 1
by Emily Brontë, 1845

Heavy hangs the raindrop
From the burdened spray;
Heavy broods the damp mist
On Uplands far away;

Heavy looms the dull sky,
Heavy rolls the sea -
And heavy beats the young heart
Beneath that lonely Tree -

Never has a blue streak
Cleft the clouds since morn -
Never has his grim Fate
Smiled since he was born -

Frowning on the infant,
Shadowing childhood's joy;
Guardian angel knows not
That melancholy boy.

Day is passing swiftly
Its sad and sombre prime;
Youth is fast invading
Sterner manhood's time -

All the flowers are praying
For sun before they close,
And he prays too, unknowing,
That sunless human rose!

Blossoms, that the westwind
Has never wooed to blow,
Scentless are your petals,
Your dew as cold as snow -

Soul, where kindred kindness
No early promise woke,
Barren is your beauty
As weed upon the rock -

Wither, Brothers, wither,
You were vainly given -
Earth reserves no blessing
For the unblessed of Heaven!

Text from a course website at Brooklyn College.

Jeune homme nu assis sur le bord de la mer, Hippolyte Flandrin, 1855. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

One Sentence Perfume Review: Gotham, Neil Morris Fragrances

"Oh, darling, I seem to have left my purse in the cab--I guess I'll just have to go home with you tonight."

Notes from SavvyThinker: Black Pepper, Yuzu, Rose, Narcissis, Amber, Pearl Musk, Myrtlewood, Tonka absolute, Labdanum, Russian Leather, Redwood, and Ambergris.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pity me

My teacher's been out of town and I've been busy, which means I've barely touched my violin for the past three weeks. In an hour I'm due at a group lesson which will include a horde of mean children who can all play better than me. Lots better.

I try to remind myself that an attachment to dignity is very aging.

I've been soothing my dread this afternoon with the lovely sounds of Regina Carter. She's as easy to look at as she is to listen to, as you can see in this clip of her at the Bern Jazz Festival in 2003.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Can we all just get along?

This painting reminds me of Kobi when she's sleeping peacefully at my feet. She really is a sweet, endearing beast when she's all drowsy and affectionate. I love to see her dreaming. She does the chasing rabbits bit, but she also still nurses sometimes in her sleep. That's adorable.

Unfortunately, I have never been able to train her to sleep 24 hours a day, and whenever she's awake there's a good chance all hell will break loose. I've already detailed her phobias, panic attacks and hypervigilance, but the thing that really gets to me is her sibling rivalry with Pearl, our other spayed bitch. Kobi is absolutely certain she is the boss of Pearl, but Pearl is not so sure, and therein lies the problem. Dogs are happy fascists, and any lack of clarity in the hierarchy of power leads to unhappiness--which in this case takes the form of fierce squabbling in which fur flies and (occasionally) blood is shed. Pearl, being slightly smaller and considerably saner, does most of the bleeding.

Yesterday afternoon I brought both girls in to feed them, just as I always do. They had been outside in the cold all day, so I filled their bowls with extra kibble and some treats they like. I headed back to my computer to work, certain that they would both sack out shortly, but no. Pearl committed some offense to the social order, some faux pas only dogs can discern, and Kobi jumped her furiously. By the time it was over one of Pearl's ears and both of her front legs were bloody, and Kobi was panting as if she were about to have a heart attack. I was thinking about running away from home.

Dog experts are always quick to say that such sibling rivalry is the owner's fault. Misguided humans supposedly fail to respect the dominant dog's status, thereby making her insecure and anxious to assert her authority. Dumb people also encourage the beta dog to be uppity, further provoking boss dog. All of which makes perfect sense--in theory. In real life, Dave and I have worked pretty hard to let Kobi run her canine crew without interference, and she still feels the need to hammer her sister. (For the record, she hammers Nio, too, but he never fights back, so things don't escalate. In any case, he's nearly twice her size, and I don't worry that she'll do him any serious damage.)

A good friend who has a whole slew of rescued dogs that get along beautifully tells me the secret is for me to assert my authority. If I fulfill my role as boss of bosses, everything will calm down. She recommends the "flip and hold" approach, where you put the aggressor on her back and hold her until she stops resisting. Again, this seems like sound advice, except that it doesn't work. I did it with both girl dogs in response to their puppy aggression toward me, and they have never, ever challenged me as adults. But my authority counts for exactly nothing in their canine disputes.

For the present, I've got the two girls sequestered in different parts of the house. (Nio is outside, having resumed his status as porch dog. That's a whole other story.) I really am concerned that Kobi might seriously hurt Pearl one of these days. I wonder whether some of Kobi's insanity is related to her epilepsy. There's no question she's somewhat improperly wired, but I just can't tell exactly where misbehavior ends and pathology begins. My vet is terrific, but so far hasn't had much help to offer.

Dog experts with novel advice should feel free to chime in here. I'll try anything, almost. And let me know if I can come crash with you when I run away from home. I promise not to bring my dog.

Dog Lying in the Snow, Franz Marc, 1910-11. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Woman, ranting

So tell me, my feminist sisters, do you ever just want to grab other women by the throat and scream, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING? I do. Yesterday I went to see an exhibit of paintings by a local artist--a feminist artist--that was so smug and mindless it actually made me shudder. It was a series of portraits of women, all sitting in gardens holding various fruits of the earth. The paintings were pretty bad, but most paintings are. I wouldn't hold that against anybody. No, the problem was the artist's statement and the captions she wrote for each piece, which kept identifying the women's bodies with nature and talking about how the world would be at peace if men would just ... well, be more like women.

Given my Wiccan sympathies, I suppose it might seem a little surprising that I would be so disgusted by the idea of the uterus as a vessel of peace, but I actually think it's a profoundly woman-hating, anti-feminist notion. It's one thing to embrace a consciousness of the feminine aspects of nature, and to value our place in the endless cycle of birth and death. It's something else entirely to reduce individual women to some kind of faceless femaleness, and to suggest that biology bestows moral purity. That's exactly the kind of thinking that any feminist worthy of the name should reject. There's no difference between saying (as fundamentalists of every stripe still do) that a woman's body is filthy and sinful, and saying that her clit is a sign post to the divine. Both ideas rest on the assumption that women aren't rational and have no moral intelligence.

What I hate most about the Mother Earth brand of faux feminism is the gutless passivity it promotes. Don't get me wrong--I'm all for peace, but we live in a world where peace is despised. Peace is not going to happen because we wish for it. We have to demand it. We'll never get it sitting in the garden with our heads up our cunts.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Love is so complicated

Avising the bright beams of these fair eyes
Where he is that mine oft moisteth and washeth,
The wearied mind straight from the heart departeth
For to rest in his worldly paradise
And find the sweet bitter under this guise.
What webs he hath wrought well he perceiveth
Whereby with himself on love he plaineth
That spurreth with fire and bridleth with ice.
Thus is it in such extremity brought,
In frozen thought, now and now it standeth in flame.
Twixt misery and wealth, twixt earnest and game,
But few glad, and many diverse thought
With sore repentance of his hardiness.
Of such a root cometh fruit fruitless.

By Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542). Text from Poetry Foundation.

The Death of Hyacinth, Jean Broc, 1801. Image via Web Gallery of Art.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Long night

The death toll from last night’s tornadoes has topped fifty. Not surprising, I guess. I can’t remember such long bout of severe storms. Usually these violent fronts move through quickly, and it’s all over in an hour, often less. This round was an all-night ordeal, ten hours straight. I’m not especially jumpy where tornadoes are concerned, but it’s still incredibly nerve-wracking, sitting around wondering how much attention to pay to the warnings. Even if a tornado has been spotted in the area, it’s usually a waste of time and energy to take shelter, since your odds of being hit are as slim as winning the lottery. That’s what’s so cruel about tornadoes. They wipe out a family here, a home there, but leave everyone else unaffected--except for the fear.

Almost everybody feels the fear, even my dogs. Pearl and Kobi each have a special ritual response to the rage of the thunder god. Pearl is of the “duck and cover” school. At the first sign of bad weather, she finds a place to hide and hunkers down, trembling violently, until she decides the danger is past. Kobi is the panicky girl. She pants, whimpers, drools, attacks the water bowl, claws the walls, etc. etc. I’ve tried tranquilizers, valerian, Rescue Remedy, behavior modification--you name it. Nothing really calms her when she gets going. She will not tolerate being crated or tied. I usually resort to sitting beside her with my hand on her collar, just to keep her from hurting herself or destroying my house. Sometimes even that won’t work, in which case I just open the back door and let her go apeshit outside. It’s not the safest option during a really violent storm, but she actually seems to prefer it. If she ever gets hit by lightning I’ll feel guilty, but as I said, dealing with storms here is all about playing the odds.

Nio, the blissful boy dog, is oblivious to threatening weather, although he does enjoy howling along with the tornado sirens. He’ll watch the girls go through their various conniptions and look at me as if to say, “What ails them?” I wonder myself. Sad to say, I think the phobic pups have spent their lives a little too close to humans. Nio spent his first two years outdoors, untended, and he’s a little more at peace with world and all the things he can’t control in it. He’s not going to worry about the worst until it happens. I wish we could all be more like him.

Tornado in Howard, South Dakota, 1884. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Five reasons I look forward to death

1. No more Pap smears, mammograms, telemarketers or evangelical Christians. (I know that last one's not a sure thing, but I'm hoping for the best.)

2. Somebody else will have to mop the damn floor.

3. I can finally stop worrying about all the things I haven't read.

4. No more guilt over my carbon footprint, my failure to recycle and my secret addiction to Johnny Mathis songs.

5. I'll never get another whiff of Tresor.

Death and the Maiden, Hans Baldung Grien, 1518-20. Image via Web Gallery of Art

Monday, February 4, 2008

A post for Dave

The Flower-fed Buffaloes

The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prairie flowers lie low:--
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by the wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us, long ago.
They gore no more, they bellow no more,
They trundle around the hills no more:--
With the Blackfeet, lying low.
Withe the Pawnees, lying low,
Lying low.

By Vachel Lindsay, from Anthology of Children's Literature, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 1970)

Western Kansas, Albert Bierstadt, 1875. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ready for Fat Tuesday?

Be sure to break out your favorite Hové or Bourbon French perfume to complement that perfect Mardi Gras ensemble. If you're just not in a carnival mood, click here to watch a video from this year's Barkus parade. That oughta do the trick.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, February 3, 2008

You had to be there

Today was definitely not a day of rest in the woods. The warm weather is hanging on, and all the birds and furry things were busy enjoying it. Lots of singing, chattering, bark nibbling, etc. I was enjoying it, too, trudging along the top of a ridge, when I heard a loud rustle of leaves below me. I looked down to see a group of ten deer charging through the trees--odd behavior for the early morning, when they're usually busy feeding. They saw me and came to a stop, looking sort of flummoxed. I wondered if somebody's dog was loose down there, giving them a hard time.

I walked another 20 yards or so and saw saw something with a canine gait moving up the hill, coming from the same direction as the spooked deer. I indulged in some unkind thoughts about negligent dog owners. Then I realized that the dog was actually a coyote--a big one, pretty in his heavy winter coat. He had something in his mouth, and he seemed very pleased with himself, carrying his goody back to the den. He crossed the trail about twenty feet in front of me and never so much as looked my way. The deer were still locked in place behind us. I can't imagine they had much to fear from a lone coyote, but they clearly did not approve of him.

Coyotes are pretty common here--not as much of a nuisance as they are out West, but they do cause problems with livestock and chow down on the odd pet cat. We hear them near our house all the time, but it's rare to see one casually going about his business the way this guy was. He wasn't doing the usual coyote slink. He was trotting along, head up, with his russet-tipped fur being ruffled by the wind.

He was gorgeous, and I was sorry for a moment that I didn't have a camera with me so I could share him with you. I almost never carry one into the woods. I find they suck all my attention toward looking for good things to photograph, and away from the experience of being where I am. The camera turns me into a tourist, which defeats the whole purpose of being out there. So, the Canis latrans above, courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, will have to stand in for him--but trust me, my coyote was prettier.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 1, 2008

Perfect timing

It was gray, cold and sleety here today, but I braved the weather and was rewarded with the sight of crocuses. It's nice when nature does things right on cue. What could be a better hint of spring than a crocus on Imbolc? Okay, they hadn't actually bloomed yet, but the shoots were unmistakable, tucked under a big beech tree. So, as far as I'm concerned, winter's on its way out, no matter what the groundhog says tomorrow.

It's amazing to see how much the atmosphere of the park has changed since the dry, desolate days last summer. The streams that didn't flow for weeks are about to top their banks. The recent warm spell has tender grass coming up, so the deer are eating well. It's a pleasure to see them content, because they were looking pretty ragged at the end of December. This mild winter has been kind to them after the summer drought. The birds appear to be having a tough time, though. They empty my feeders even faster than usual, in spite of the fact that their numbers overall seem to be down.

The rabbit that hopped across my path looked healthy enough, if not exactly hasenfeffer material. He was busy looking for his own share of sweet greens, and it occurred to me that pretty soon I need to do that, too. Nothing's better in the spring than a salad with sorrel or young dandelion greens gathered from the yard. I just need to find a fat rabbit to go with it.

Photo from Wikipedia

It's Imbolc

Tell a story, milk a cow, pet a lamb--or just feel grateful that winter is coming to an end.