Monday, June 30, 2008

Lynx Rufus

I grew up in the country and I've clocked a fair amount of time in the woods, but I don't think I've seen more than a half dozen bobcats in my life. They're solitary and very shy. It's always exciting to see one. Small as they are, they still have that intense predatory aura all wild cats have, an energy field that stops you cold for an instant when you encounter it--which is just what happened to me this morning.

I had just crossed a creek and was headed toward a picnic area when I saw a critter about 10 feet away, sitting with its back to me. For a second I was flummoxed--What is that? Not a raccoon, not a fox ...

He turned around and looked at me with his amber eyes.

Damn, that's a bobcat!

He took off, ran past me back across the creek and disappeared into the trees. I was shocked to see him in such a well-traveled place so late in the morning--it was after 7 am. I asked one of the park staff about it and she agreed it was unusual but said it's been dry and he was probably drawn to the creek.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad he gave me the pleasure of seeing him. He sure was pretty.

You can read some bobcat facts here. The photo is from New Hampshire Public Television's Natureworks site, which you can see here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Observing the Sabbath

This afternoon I dreamed I was a prostitute. To be more precise, I dreamed I was becoming a prostitute, getting ready for my first gig, mentored by a younger, prettier, more experienced woman. She bore a distinct resemblance to Jennifer Jason Leigh circa 1986.

This is strange. Belle de Jour is not my favorite movie. I have plenty of fantasies that wouldn’t pass muster with my feminist conscience (no, we won’t go into them just now) but being a hooker isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, this was a very hot dream. Not the hooker part--I never actually got to the point of turning the trick, because the client and I got bogged down in negotiations over whether he was going to wear a rubber. He didn’t want to. I was adamant. Safety first.

No, the hotness was all between me and JJL’s dreamland twin. We were making out in the bathroom prior to my professional debut, which was taking place in my john’s house. She was there because she had a paid date with his wife. Thinking about it now, it seems odd that a guy would engage my services while his wife got to dally with a cute blonde, but there's no accounting for taste.

I have a longstanding girl crush on Jennifer Jason Leigh, so I’m not at all surprised that she would show up to tempt me in my dreams. What’s peculiar is that my unconscious seems to feel I have to earn her by selling my body to someone else. I suppose that’s my Christian upbringing showing itself.

Photo by Julian Mandel, early 20th century. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is a sad story

The dogs killed a hummingbird today. I had just gotten home from a grocery run and I was headed outside to deliver treats to Nio and Kobi--my usual ritual--when I saw the tiny green carcass lying on the porch under the feeder. "You little bastards," I said, because it was obvious to me that one of the pups, probably Kobi, was responsible.

My outburst brought Dave to the door, and just about that time the hummingbird, which had been completely motionless, suddenly rose up and perched on the edge of the swing. I got excited for a second, thinking it had just been stunned, but then I saw that its beak was mangled and it had a tooth hole punctured in its head.

Dave shooed the dogs off the porch while I fretted over the bird, trying to decide if there was any hope at all that it might live. It really was obvious that it wouldn't, but I am so attached to the damn things that I actually stood there telling myself it could. Then it did something unbearably pitiful. It flew up to the feeder and began to try to drink with its ruined beak.

That didn't last long, of course. In less than a minute it lost its grasp on the feeder perch and fell back to the floor to commence its death throes. I couldn't bring myself to grab it and twist its little neck. I think the 4-year-old inside me was still hoping it wouldn't die. I could have let Kobi loose to put the bird out of its misery, but I kept her away so she wouldn't feel rewarded and decide this is something fun to do on a regular basis. That was silly. Kobi has killed birds before--though never a hummer--and I'm sure the initial attack was entertaining enough that she'll go for the next one that's unlucky enough to get within striking distance. To be honest, I mostly kept her away because I was pissed off and felt like being spiteful.

Mercifully, the little bird died pretty quickly. I carried it out into the yard to be food for the ants, or some wandering cat.

Ah the joys of keeping predators as pets. Its funny how I react so differently to their choice of prey. I've watched Kobi kill a sparrow and it didn't bother me in the least. When Pearl attacked a baby robin I freaked out. I didn't like Nio getting hold of a baby rabbit, but if one of these worthless canines would kill a mouse I'd celebrate. Clearly, I am hopelessly speciesist.

Oh yeah, one bright note in all this: the hummer was a male. Male hummingbirds do nothing to nurture their young, so there's no nest full of babies that will fail to survive because of Kobi's errant impulse.

Now, click here for a happy page about hummers that will put this little tragedy out of your mind.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Sentence Perfume Review: Lys Méditerranée, Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums

Starts out as Jean Seberg in Breathless, winds up as Bo Derek in 10.

Notes per Basenotes: Ginger Lily, Lily of the Valley (Muguet), Angelica Root, Orange Flower, Water Lily, Musk.

Jean Seberg in a scene from Breathless

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

I couldn't resist

I was going to do a post about how all the deer I've seen lately are "stag parties" of fuzzy-antlered bucks, but then I saw this impossibly cute picture and decided to do a fawn post instead. While the bucks are keeping each other company until September when they'll start battling for girlfriends, the does are busy having babies. New mothers leave their fawns to feed, but they don't gang up together and roam, which is why I'm not seeing them much. In a few weeks the fawns will be following them around, playing in the creek and being generally adorable. (And getting run down by speeding cars, but let's not talk about that.) Meanwhile, click here for an explanation of why you shouldn't freak out if you come across a baby deer all by its lonesome.

Photo (c) 2006 by John Delano. Image from Wikipedia.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happy Solstice!

Rich music breathes in Summer's every sound;
And in her harmony of varied greens,
Woods, meadows, hedge-rows, corn-fields, all around
Much beauty intervenes,
Filling with harmony the ear and eye;
While o'er the mingling scenes
Far spreads the laughing sky.

From "Summer Images" by John Clare (1793-1864). Read the complete poem at Poetry Foundation.

The Great Morning, Philipp Otto Runge, 1809-10. Image from Web Gallery of Art.

(The 2008 Summer Solstice occurs in the Northern Hemisphere on June 20 at 7:59 p.m. EDT--or 8:00 p.m. EDT, depending on whose chart you consult. More info and some nice links are here.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I love a man who embraces his gender stereotype

Dave and I have tentative plans to go to Alaska later this summer. If we do, we'll definitely go hiking in Denali National Park--the happiest place on Earth, as far as Dave is concerned. So I couldn't resist sending him this story about a couple of lost Denali hikers who phoned home.

Don't let this happen to us, I said. His reply?

"Don't worry--I would never call--I'd keep insisting I could find our way back."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An encounter with royalty

I was trudging along this morning when a bright spot of color caught my eye. It was a Royal Walnut Moth, also known as a Regal Moth, lying on the trail with its wings spread, enjoying its last moments of life. This creature is incredibly beautiful. The 2 pics here were the best I could find online, and neither of them do it justice. I'm sure the one I saw was a female because of her size--her wingspan was probably more than 5 inches across. It was tempting to bring her home and photograph her for the blog, but I didn't have the heart to take her, since she was not quite dead. I did put her on a leaf and move her off the trail, just so she wouldn't be stomped by some oblivious hiker. Silly, I know, but I was really touched by her beauty.

Here's what her babies, known as Hickory Horned Devils, will look like when they emerge in late summer. Not so pretty as Mama, but impressive in their own way:

Read a species account of this critter here.

Both pics of the moth are from What's That Bug?
Photo of the larva from

Monday, June 16, 2008

Play date

As I was finishing up my walk this morning I heard a lot of pileated woodpecker laughter, much longer and louder than the usual brief outburst. Just one bird was making all the noise, but as I got closer I realized there were two adults chasing each other from tree to tree. One bird would fly to a tree and cling to the far side, then the other would follow and they'd play peek-a-boo around the trunk. Pileateds have this cool way of hopping down the side of a tree, almost like rappelling, and they both kept doing that to stay out of the other's sight. Circling a tree like this is actually one of the ways that woodpeckers fight over territory, but when it's a serious battle there's usually a lot of pecking, wing-flapping and rushing at each other. These guys weren't doing any of that. I really think they were just amusing themselves, like little boys play-fighting. They were still engrossed in their game when I moved on--in fact, they had displaced a squirrel from his perch and I could have sworn they were trying to get him to play. I don't think he was into it.

It's strange how some birds seem to put a lot of energy into play, and some don't play at all. I've seen crows, woodpeckers and blue jays all engage in social games that don't appear to have anything to do with romance or serious territorial disputes. Crows will get in little groups of 4 or 5 and just act stupid, hopping around and poking at each other. Doves, cardinals, finches and sparrows all have various flock and courtship behaviors, but I never see them busy themselves with anything that looks like pointless play. Raptors don't really seem to have any interest in social games, either. Vultures like to socialize, but they don't do anything except sit around like a clutch of stoned teenagers, looking morose.

I think there's a tendency to assume that wild animals are engaged in some meaningful survival behavior every waking moment, but of course they aren't. I think they get bored and and look for idiotic ways to entertain themselves, just as we do. In fact, I'd say they face a much bigger challenge in this regard, since there's no corporate Big Daddy to tell them how to waste their time and energy. They have to figure it out for themselves. Here's a pileated who's decided to kill a few minutes going ape shit on a potted plant:

Photo of woodpecker family by Juan A. Pons, from the fabulous woodpecker page at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm in the mood for some grand sadness

Grand: Jessye Norman
Sad: Dido and Aeneas

Really, I can't imagine anything that could fill the bill more perfectly. The wild visuals are a nice bonus.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In honor of George Bush's farewell visit to his European partners in crime ...

here are a few apt lines from Margaret Atwood. This poem was actually written more than 30 years ago. Some things never change, huh?

Backdrop addresses cowboy
by Margaret Atwood

Starspangled cowboy
sauntering out of the almost-
silly West, on your face
a porcelain grin,
tugging a papier-mâché cactus
on wheels behind you with a string,

you are innocent as a bathtub
full of bullets.

Your righteous eyes, your laconic
people the streets with villains:
as you move, the air in front of you
blossoms with targets

and you leave behind you a heroic
trail of desolation:
beer bottles
slaughtered by the side
of the road, bird-
skulls bleaching in the sunset.

From Selected Poems 1965-1975. Text from Poetry Foundation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Once I loved a spider..."

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly
by Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)

Once I loved a spider
When I was born a fly,
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye.
She ate my wings and gloated.
She bound me with a hair.
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair.
To educate young spiders
She took me all apart.
My ghost came back to haunt her.
I saw her eat my heart.

Text from Poetry Foundation.
Bookplate from A World History of Art.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Turtle days

It's very hot here for early June, mid-90s Fahrenheit, and it's been like this for several days. We usually don't get a solid heat wave until July, and everybody's doing a lot of complaining about it. Nothing unusual about that, but thanks to the constant babble about global warming, everyone feels obligated to speculate about the coming climatic apocalypse. Somehow the dose of fear makes the kvetching especially tedious.

The turtles aren't worried, though. They are loving the extra heat. The box turtles are out on the trail before the sun is completely up. The sliders are on the move, too. I just love seeing the large, ancient ones who are, sadly, becoming very scarce. We used to see an enormous male from our neighbor's pond traveling across our property every June, presumably to mate, but I've missed him the last couple of years. I suspect the nasty little housing development that went in near us destroyed the abode of his potential girlfriends.

The bugs and the birds love the heat, too. The hummers have been inspired to start fighting over the feeders, which seems to be their favorite form of entertainment. I'm looking forward to swarms of their babies in August.

Photo of Eastern Box Turtle from Wikimedia Commons.

Click here for a good general info page on box turtles that explains why you really shouldn't adopt them as pets. And here you can see some photos of the box turtle's surprisingly athletic sex life.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Of mice and perfume

Saturday I was in the mood for sniffing, and I decided to make a quick foray into Sephora and Macy’s. I figured there’d be lots of weekend shoppers to distract the SAs, and I’d be able to sample the testers unmolested. No such luck, of course. The pretty young things at Sephora were like a pack of rabid poodles, cute but scary as they tracked me through the store, offering assistance (with what, I’m not sure) and a free makeover. I realize that the true purpose of this behavior is “loss prevention,” and I can see why that’s a problem given the nature of the shop, but honestly, I’d rather be searched on my way out the door than put up with the make-believe customer service.

Macy’s was even worse. As I walked up to the counter my path was blocked by a motherly woman in her 60s.

“Can I help you?”

“No, thanks. I just want to sample a few things.”

“Oh, we’ve got a new fragrance I’m sure you’d like. It’s called Flowerbomb.”

[For you non-perfume people, Flowerbomb is a) not new; and b) is one of the most god-awful, chemistry-experiment-gone-awry perfumes of the past decade. JMHO, of course.]

I politely declined to sample Flowerbomb. The motherly person faded away, but was quickly replaced by a pretty woman in her 30s with too much makeup on her face and a hair color not found in nature.

“Let me guess—you’re looking for something light.”

“Well, no. I’m kind of a perfume collector. I just want to sniff around and see what’s here.”

Something about that answer clearly rubbed her the wrong way. Her voice took on a definite edge.

“You’re fair, and fair people always want something light.”

“Really? I like a lot of different perfumes, pretty much across the spectrum.”

“Oh.” Sniff. “Well, you’re just different.”

Mee-ow. She turned and departed.

Needless to say, I left the mall empty-handed, and annoyed that I had wasted my time. When I got home, there was a mouse in one of my snazzy, no-kill traps, so I carried him out to the blackberry bramble in the yard to set him free. He was my third capture since I started this campaign of relocation, and like all his predecessors he clung to the door of the trap, grabbing the edge with his little paws, resisting liberation. I finally shook him loose and he disappeared into the thicket.

A little while later I watched one of the neighborhood feral cats ambling across the yard with her kitten, and I wondered if Mr. Mouse would become a meal for them. Highly likely, unless a big black snake gets him first. Is that a better fate than having his spine crushed in a snap trap? Hard to say. A mouse’s lot is not a happy one, any way you look at it.

On the assumption that they are going to wind up as cat food, I think I’ll say a few words to offer all my future trapped varmints to Bast, who is, among other things, the goddess of perfume. Maybe that’ll bring me better luck at the fragrance counter.

Photo of Bast statue from

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Your kisses turbulent, unspent"

I Want to Die While You Love me
Georgia Douglas Johnson

I want to die while you love me,
While yet you hold me fair,
While laughter lies upon my lips
And lights are in my hair.

I want to die while you love me,
And bear to that still bed,
Your kisses turbulent, unspent
To warm me when I’m dead.

I want to die while you love me
Oh, who would care to live
Till love has nothing more to ask
And nothing more to give!

I want to die while you love me
And never, never see
The glory of this perfect day
Grow dim or cease to be.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry, 1922. Text from Read about Georgia Douglas Johnson here.

Hero and Leander, William Etty, 1828. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I love a man with a sense of smell

Dave got in late last night from a trip to New York, and when I stumbled into the kitchen early this morning I found a bottle of Neil Morris Midnight Flower sitting on the kitchen counter. I'd asked him to hit Takashimaya and see if he could get me Intimate Lily, my favorite of the vault fragrances I've tried so far. There was none in stock, but with the help of the lovely Danielle (Dave assures me she's lovely), he did some sniffing of his own, and Midnight Flower got the nod. I'm happy to report that, as usual, he picked a winner.

The sweet orange in the opening is pure pleasure, uplifting and soothing at the same time. The aldehydes are definitely present, lifting the fruit out of the aromatherapy realm, but to my nose they're quite subdued. (I have a very high aldehyde tolerance, though, so those who detest them should approach Midnight Flower with caution. )

The jasmine and gardenia in the heart are gone in a flash, alas, quickly followed by the hint of fig. What emerges in their wake is a floral accord dominated by plumeria and a full-bodied green tea note. These two compete with each other for a while, but the tea wins decisively. I am not always a fan of green tea in perfumes. It's often bitter or bland, with a faint chemical aura that leaves me feeling as if I've bathed in a neglected swimming pool. Happily, Midnight Flower's green tea is rich and wine-like, but it has enough astringency to make an interesting complement to all the flowers.

Neil lists amber in the base, but it's almost imperceptible to me. I find the dry down to be gentle musk and even gentler patchouli, with the ghosts of the tea and flowers lingering on.

Midnight Flower is one of those rare fragrances that is rich enough to satisfy a desire for serious perfume, yet is light enough that I'd happily wear it on a 95 degree day. I can only think of two others in my collection--Ivoire and Fidji, both light chypres. MF is going to be my sophisticated floral for August.

It's a wonderful thing to have a surrogate shopper with taste as reliable as Dave's. This is not the first time he's picked out a perfume for me without my input, and he never fails to choose something beautiful that I would not have had the good sense to choose for myself. Previous Dave discoveries include N'Aimez Que Moi, Chamade and Creed Royal Delight--all of them favorites now. I gather Danielle was impressed with his sniffing skills. (He asked to see lists of notes and knew what the coffee beans were for. The man is well trained.) I'm hoping to meet Danielle when Dave and I go to New York for my birthday in November. Maybe she and I can chat while he does the shopping.

Photo from Wikipedia.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A post for Dave

Honey, this is for you, and any other amphibian lovers who happen by. You'll find some of your brothers and sisters in the cause here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

There haven't been enough pretty men on this blog

Patroclus, Jacques-Louis David, 1780. Image from Web Gallery of Art.

"A revolt of the bland"

In reference to yesterday's smackdown among the Democrats, a brilliant friend who asked to remain anonymous wrote the following in an email:

The protests of the Clintonites seems very wrong to me. My first reaction was "these people are racists and should be called on it." That might be true, but then I started thinking about a disrupted convention, with echoes of 68, but it's different. This is a middle of the road revolt, led by people who seem disturbed by the prospect of anything too vivid or an inch off the expected path. It's a revolt of the bland.

Exactly. There's a lot more psychology than politics going on here. The Clintonites remind me of the worshipful Bushies who used to be so plentiful. Whenever they talked about their man, they'd go all glassy-eyed, clearly in love with the way he mirrored their inner frat boy, or stirred their rape fantasies. Or both. They've mostly fallen out of love with him now, but he had to build a hell of a rap sheet to make that happen.

Of course, the Obama and McCain camps are also full of true believers, they just don't have a good opportunity for acting out their passions right at the moment. It'll come, and I'm sure they will make the Clinton fans look positively rational.

Wouldn't it be nice if people were willing to put all that energy toward actually changing things, instead of just bestowing the crown on their chosen love object?