Thursday, October 21, 2021

Deconstructing an Owl Pellet

 

            Owl Pellet

 

Your artist’s fingers work

needle-nosed pliers into

brown fibers of an owl pellet.

 

You are at a table in

the natural history museum.

A girl sits with you, pellet

 

before her. Her brother stands

behind her. You tweezer out

a white toothpick of bone,

 

one end curved like

a fingernail. “And this is?”

“Shoulder?” “Yes.” You place it

 

with like bones. A dozen

piles on the table. The girl

probes the pellet. Finds what

 

might be a beach-worn shell.

Worries it free. Smiles. You

smile back. Pieces of mouse

 

assemble on the table. You

become the mouse, the owl

who ate it, the pellet

 

ejected to be found beneath

an oak tree. Such is

the power of love. The mouse – 

 

its fragments probed, grasped,

known – quivers to its feet,

scurries from the table.

 

You hear its quick heart,

sense behind you the deadly

hush of wings.

 

 

            I’m not sure who the “you” is in the poem. “Artist fingers” suggests it’s Kim, but I don’t recall her teaching or demonstrating at the Natural History Museum in Gainesville, though she has probed owl pellets, and she might be able to identify a mouse’s shoulder bone. Doesn’t matter. But then, as we approach the end of the poem, “You / become the mouse.” “You” also becomes me speaking the poem, and also you, the reader, becoming mouse and owl. As I watched this deconstruction of the owl pellet, I imagined the owl catching and eating the mouse, and the brief terror of the chase. The owl is now behind us, and I hope you enjoy the mouse’s terror.

 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Diminished Things


            Fall has always been my favorite time of year – the colors, of course, and the end of hot, humid days. And when I was teaching, I looked forward to autumn as a time of beginning, with new students facing me, new ways to throw them off balance, (“Yes, the Greek myths are true, even today. Let’s see how . . ..”). [Note 5 punctuation marks in proper sequence.]

 

            But now, fall has a different feeling, perhaps because it mirrors what can optimistically be seen as my time of life, with winter looming. It seems to be a time of putting things away. Yes, the birds and squirrels are storing nuts and seeds. And our neighbors just north of us, before departing for California, packed away their dock, their outdoor furniture, paddleboards, boat, etc. We have put some of our summer stuff away, too – my paddleboard, our kayak, a teak table and chairs, my hammock. Our neighbors to the south, here until late October, are sharing apples, pears and veggies from their garden – not exactly “putting things away,” but still, it’s moving things inside – inside my stomach.

 

            Kim and I are looking forward to winter. Our world will be smaller here, with neighbors gone, but we love the beauty of snow – not so much with an April snow, but the first snows are thrilling. We’ll be indoors more, though I enjoy the shoveling, and Kim and I are planning to take walks most days. We have been very busy with our yardwork – weeding, of course, some tree work, cleaning up the beach, planting trillium, and Kim located about two dozen basketball-sized rocks that we needed to dig up and reposition beautifully. Indoor projects will give us a break from these physical demands. Unless Kim decides that the two of us need to lift the garage and move it a few feet closer to the house . . ..

 

            All of which leads to one of my favorite poems by our old friend, Robert Frost:

 

            The Oven Bird

 

There is a singer everyone has heard,

Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,

Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.

He says that leaves are old and that for flowers

Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.

He says that early petal-fall is past

When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers

On sunny days a moment overcast;

And comes that other fall we name the fall.

He says the highway dust is over all.

The bird would cease and be as other birds

But that he knows in singing not to sing.

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

 

            That’s it, then. Now that “early petal-fall is past,” and “the highway dust is over all,” the question is, What do we “make of a diminished thing” at this time in our lives?

 

            Here’s one idea:

 

 


Honey Mushrooms, choice edible

Oyster Mushrooms, choice edible

White Spongy Polypore, not edible




Multicolor Gill Polypore, not edible

Shaggy Mane, choice edible before it self-digests


Shaggy Mane, not edible beginning to self-digest turning black liquid


Destroying Angel, as name implies, deadly poisonous

These identifications are guesses from Doug Reilly. He strongly cautions, "DO NOT ACCEPT MY GUESS!"

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Shrooms


            Flowers, birds and butterflies are fairly common subjects for nature photographers. Kim has taken it a step further to seek, appreciate and photograph lichens and fungi, especially mushrooms. Why not? It’s a beautiful world if you know how to look. And mushrooms tend not to fly away as you are just about ready to take your shot.

 

            The plan was for me to identify the plants – mainly mushrooms – in Kim’s photographs. Then I saw that there are 10,000 species of mushrooms in North America, so I’m including only the names of those Kim identified, plus any I might stumble upon. I invite you to come up with your own names, based entirely on what the photograph suggests.

 

            Here we go:


Turkey Tail Mushrooms



Shelf Fungus - aka Artist's Fungus



Red-capped Russula -maybe






Orange Cup Fungus


Hericium Mushroom - aka Lion's Mane, Monkey Head, etc.






Frog Skin Lichen - from British Columbia

British Soldiers Lichen


American Fly Agaric

Ghost Pipe - a flowering plant that looks like a mushroom

False Morel Mushroom - don't eat it!





Morel Mushroom - yum!




There is a lot more to say about fungi. The place to find it is the Netflix movie, "Fantastic Fungi."

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Autumnal

 

            Autumnal

 

“No Spring, nor Summer Beauty hath such grace

As I have seen in one Autumnall face”  –John Donne

 

You accuse me when I say I wish

I had known you then, when you were young,

and I admit it, yes, and I think it

more often than I say it, but never add,

slim and beautiful, as you accuse,

nor think your autumn any less than spring:

 

Your beauty grows: When I study those

old photographs that make you young again

your wedding, with your kids, your modeling pose,

when you tell stories of your hippie days,

wild and shy with other men, those Kims

only layer and deepen whom I love:

 

the Kim I touch with an eye caress

across the table, the Kim my brain and blood

explore when I pause and stare at nothing

in my office, the Kim whose skin and voice

I consume in the dark, back to back,

the soul of your foot on mine, soul mate:

 

just as in passion I long to hold you

entirely in my arms and search with nose,

tongue and kisses every inch of you,

to know as much of you as sense can know,

to inhale, devour the every Kim of you,

so do I love the every when

 

of you alive in your electricity:

When I enter you I enter all the pages

of your scrapbook, enter all your lives,

and I become your lovers—cowboy,

matador, some Hollywood types,

pilot, teenager learning how.

 

Can’t you see? Fall has always been

my favorite. Leaves golden on the trees,

the structure of trunks and branches

emerge in their strength, and textures

growing on the ground celebrate

temporary blooms of summer, now.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Even More Movies

 

            OK – the pandemic is not over, so you have a perfect excuse to watch even more movies on your home screen. Or: We worked hard all day taking care of the house, yard and David, so it’s time to kick back and watch a movie. Or: We worked hard at our jobs for years, and we are getting too old to work into the evening, so let’s head for the couch – maybe even for an afternoon nap – and see what’s happening on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

 

            So, here are some of our recommendations. But first, a note on categories. You know what documentaries are. Many of our choices have to do with the natural world. “Feel-Good” means different things to different people. Most of ours have to do with people who, unlike us, have some flaws. “Thought Provoking” is also very personal. I have not included the thought, “Why are we watching this garbage?”

 

Documentaries

·      “Fantastic Fungi” – Better than the title suggests – amazing photography, information, world we live in

·      “Sensitive: The Untold Story” – a psychologist’s examination of people, perhaps 20% of the population, who are unusually sensitive to their surroundings. I’m not one of them.

·      “The Keepers” – A series exploring sexual abuse and murder in connection with the Catholic Church in Baltimore. Alarming how deep the damage goes and how complicit were Church officials.

·      “Blackfish” – All about a killer Orca held by Seaworld

·      “My Passion for Trees by Judy Dench” (YouTube) – Kim and I have a thing for trees. This little movie shows just one reason why. Again, what an amazing world we live in.

·      “Garnet’s Gold” – A treasure-hunting oddball searching for treasure hidden in Scotland. Fascinating character study.

·      “The Elephant Queen” – A tale of love and loss about a mother elephant’s efforts to protect her herd.    

 

Feel-Good

·      “Sam I Am” – Sean Penn as a father with an intellectual disability attempting to gain custody of his daughter.

·      “The Book of Henry” – A young genius, dying of cancer, tries to save the girl next door from abuse.

·      “My Afternoons with Margueritte” – Gerard Depardieu as an illiterate man’s friendship with an older, well-read woman. Better than it sounds.

·      “Same Kind of Different as Me” – a wealthy couple in a troubled marriage turn things around thanks to their connection with a homeless man. Based on a true story.

·      “Peanut Butter Falcon” – A young man with Down syndrome escapes from assisted living and befriends a wayward fisherman on the run.

·      “The Lighthouse of the Orcas” – a mother with an autistic son travels to Patagonia to meet a ranger and wild orcas.

·      “Penguin Bloom” – A mom, coping with a crippling injury, finds inspiration from an injured magpie taken in by her family. Really.

·      “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” – A wilderness misadventure in the wilderness leads to life-changing discoveries for a troubled orphan teen. Sam Neill.

 

Series

·      “Food Club” – Charming tale of three Danish women who go to Italy to cook and refocus their lives.

·      “Acceptable Risk” – Irish murder mystery – a good one.

·      “Undoing” – Nicole Kidman as a therapist whose life unravels when she suspects her husband might be responsible for a widespread disaster.

·      “Alias Grace” – True-crime drama about an Irish immigrant to Canada, convicted of murder, and the psychologist who interviews her.

·      “A Mother’s Son” – A mother suspects her son might be a murderer and agonizes over what to do with her suspicions.

 

 

Thought-Provoking

·      “In and Of Itself” – Fascinating performance by a magician who explores questions about who we really are. See it, and get back to me.

·      “Wakefield” – Bryan Cranston plays a lawyer on the edge of madness who disassociates himself from his own life, living hidden in his garage. Amazing performance.

·      “The Dreamseller” – A disillusioned psychologist tries to commit suicide until he strikes up a friendship with an unlikely savior.

·      “The Sense of Wonder” – A widow with two children almost crushes a man with her car. He has mental disorders (unlike us), and her caring for him helps both of them.

 

 

Favorite Actors

·      “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” – Jane Fonda as hippy

·      “My Old Lady” – Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline, Kirstin Scott Thomas

·      “A Family Thing” – Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones

·      “The Magic of Belle Isle” – Morgan Freeman

·      “Nomadland” – Frances McDormand

 

Personal choices, we know. Most are on Netflix or Amazon Prime, a few on Hulu. Some might cost a couple of bucks, or you can skate by on a week’s free trial. Enjoy! And please send us your suggestions.

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Flying Dream

Missed my post last Thursday because my computer died, and the new one would not open my blogger posting site. Problem finally solved, and I suspect nobody wants to hear about someone else’s computer struggles. Anyway – here’s my post: 

 

At breakfast Kim and I sometimes share our dreams, if we can remember them. Here’s one from a few years ago:

 

The Flying Dream

 

At breakfast you tell me your dream:

You are swimming in the ocean.

It is warm and calm. You move

effortlessly, like a ray.

 

the way I fly in my dreams

 

Soft water glides along

your skin in a caress.

You shimmer. Kelp touches

you like a lover’s fingers.

 

it’s becoming my dream

 

You have no need to breathe.

Amazing fish, coral, sponges,

anemone all welcome you.

The undersea joins you in dance.

 

like the music in my dreams

 

But when you surface you see

only water and sky. No waves

point the way to an invisible

shore. Nobody comes to

 

where am I?

 

your rescue. Nobody hears

the calls you don’t make. In

the giant ocean you find yourself

lost, alone, complete, serene.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Favorite Word

            Years ago, I used to watch Inside the Actors Studio, where James Lipton would interview famous actors. He was known for asking every actor the same ten questions:

·      What’s your favorite word?

·      What’s your least favorite word?

·      What turns you on?

·      What turns you off?

·      What sound or noise do you love?

·      What sound or noise do you hate?

·      What is your favorite curse word?

·      What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

·      What profession would you not like to do?

·      If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

 

            I confess that I have not made it past the first item, and even there, I have to use two words: “and yet . . ..” Why? you ask? I’m drawn to the words because they pivot my thinking in a way that is related to what I learned in college about critical thinking. When you think you have an answer, look a little deeper, or look from another perspective or angle, or maybe entertain a counter-argument. I just like doing the kind of thinking that “and yet” suggests, even though it might make me appear to be a bit indecisive, even wishy-washy.

 

            Kim, by the way, chose “serendipity” as her favorite word. She did not hesitate. It’s a perfect word for her. I believe that serendipity is more a matter of how you see and experience the world than it is the accidental circumstances you encounter in the world. And yet . . ..

 

            I cannot come up with a least favorite word. There are words, of course, for things that I don’t want to be called, but I don’t hold that against the words themselves. I like words. And yet, I’m sure I could come up with one or two. Maybe “meme” (and yet, when I finally looked up the definition, I rather liked it). Or “E-Z” (as in “E-Z open”). How about that troublesome word, “love?” There’s an old joke about The Three Great Lies:

·      “The check is in the mail.”

·      “The government will take care of that.”

·      “I love you.”

·      (I’ve added a fourth to the joke: “I have read these Terms and Conditions.”

 

“Love” is difficult to define, means different things to different people, etc., etc. I use the word daily, always with sincerity, and I’ve never lied about it. And yet . . ..

 

 

If you have the energy, send me your answers to any of James Lipton’s questions that engage you.

            dstring@ix.netcom.com