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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

So, snow

A LOT of snow came falling from the sky today, but really, it is already melting, and one feels one could have left it where it lay–but after all, my ballet class has been cancelled and one needs some exercise. So I dutifully shoveled the walk and the driveway.
Yesterday le tout Washington kept an attentive eye of mild alarm on the heavens, waiting for this Winter Storm to blanket the city. Which it politely did not do until this morning, and now the sound of running water is to be heard everywhere, together with bird song. The birds know that it is spring and there are VERY important things to be done.
But the humans can’t help playing in the snow.

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Animal Planet

Last night I thought I might watch a little entertainment–having paid the bills, done the laundry, and spent the day in (basically) healthful activities.
So, I peered about Netflix looking for shows while Bertie sat in my lap (he is such a fan!)
What do you know, just about every show these days is Dark, Violent, Sublimely Creepy, Filled with Disturbing Revelations.
This was not exactly the note I was striving for last night.
So I clicked on Planet Earth II, and watched astonishing animals as Richard Attenborough narrated. He was talking about islands, and there were crabs, birds, monkeys, lizards–this is the show that gave us that brave iguana baby fleeing his natal sands for the shore chased by HUNDREDS OF HORRIBLE SNAKES, a little clip that will make your blood run cold. Talk about sublimely creepy!
The most lovely part focussed on Bullers Albatrosses, who spend half a year alone, winging over the vast southern ocean, and then fly thousands of miles home to rejoin their dear mates and raise one precious chick in the brief summer of the islands off New Zealand. They are odd birds, presenting a strangely unreal aspect, what with their dark brows, tri-colored beaks and white bodies.

We waited with one swain, who anxiously peered about looking for his wife–and finally she appeared. He modestly held back for a moment, but then the two birds cried aloud their joy, and did their dance of happiness. It is simply lovely, and so moving–here is a clip of Layser albatrosses dancing.
Then there was the odyssey of 50 million red crabs. Colorful, very. But not quite as moving, somehow.

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Discussing the weather

The animals were gone, the skies were empty of life, the waters were poisoned, and where paradise had once beckoned now desolation ruled, and it was all by our own righteous will. ‘The last pair of politicians fell with hands around each other’s throat, trailed by frantic toadies and professional apologists looking for a way out, though none existed, and soon they too choked on their own shit. ‘As for us, well, we leaned our bloodied pikes against the plinth of the toppled monument facing those broad steps, sat down in the wreckage, and discussed the weather.’

From The Crippled God, by Steven Erikson

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I was calmly reading a review of what seemed like an interesting book, The Fear Factor, about the abnormal lack of empathy that characterizes some humans, so that they have no compunction causing pain and terror to their fellow beings. The author, Abigail Marsh, a psychologist and neuroscientist, goes into the subject and has an interesting thesis to offer. However, she then opens up into a more general discussion of human behavior, and I was charmed by the following quote:

“Describing the extraordinary evolutionary change that enabled mammalian mothers to feed their young with milk, she writes: “Imagine if you one day discovered that you could shoot hamburgers out of your armpits at will. That’s basically how incredible lactation is.”

HAHAhaha! That certainly livened up my morning commute! I kept my arms firmly DOWN at my sides, in case any errant hamburgers might be squirting out.

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New neighbors

I looked out into the yard–and there was a raccoon looking back at me. No– not looking at me–looking at her 3 babies who were trotting towards her, along the garden path right under my window. I RUSHED to get the phone, but too late, they had all gone when I returned.

Bertie indicated that he would like to go out and welcome these interesting new neighbors, but I forbade it.
Image result for raccoon
Because, rabies.
Also because I am cruel to cats, or at least, that is what Bertie says.

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This morning I opened the dishwasher to discover–it had been invaded by ants! Horrors! I quickly turned it on, selecting STUN WASH, and left for work feeling that the invasion had been stymied. These are tiny marauding ants that infiltrate my defenses every spring, coming through god knows what breach in the walls to attempt the storming of the kitchen.
Well, comrades, when I came home this evening I did indeed find the dishwasher strewn with tiny corpses, but also–arrogant fools–they had foolishly established a bunker on the top lid of the dishwasher and had actually laid eggs! So that I saw that the wickedness of the Ants was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually. And I said, I will DESTROY the ants from the face of the earth. First I rained poisonous bleach on that arrogant nest, and then I cleaned it out with paper towels. AND I caused another flood to carry away their generations, not heeding their cries of anguish and loss.
Image result for noah's flood
Afterwards, I had dinner.

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By way of restoring the soul between riveting BUT HORRIFYING episodes of Game of Thrones, I have been watching a nature series called Africa, narrated by—of course–Sir David Attenborough (who is now about a hundred and five or so). One astonishingly fabulous vision after another—I found that my jaw was quite literally dropping open in sheer amazement. As for instance, at the huge panorama of a million million pale pink flamingos feeding in the strange soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley. Or, a giraffe battle in the Namib desert—the giraffes whip each other with their long stately necks in an oddly beautiful dance (except that both victor and loser are bloody and bruised afterwards).

There was a particularly charming scene, filmed at night, showing a group of black rhinos—normally solitary creatures—who gathered at a waterhole, appearing to greet each other with great good cheer. One young male, having been dismissed by haughty female, reappeared bedecked with an antelope skull, the long horns forming a sort of perky hat. WELL! She was captivated, and a rhino dalliance ensued. Not perhaps a very graceful proceeding, but there, we can’t all be Baryshnikovs.

Except the springboks, that is—they outdo any human dancer. There is even a name for their acrobatic bounding about: pronking. As Sir David says, it’s hard not to think they are leaping for the very joy of it.

Among many breathtaking scenes—good lord, the Dragon’s Breath Cave!—the odyssey of the King Fish stays with me—completely mysterious, completely splendid. These enormous and powerful fish have a unique custom: periodically, they gather together and leave the ocean to swim up the Mtentu River, deep into the interior. Once arrived at the place they seek, they gather into a vast ring and dance in a circle. And then they turn and go back to the ocean. No one knows why.

Except the King fish of course.

As I said, it made my jaw drop, just drop.

It reminds me of a recent story about an archaeological find in Turkey, Göbekli Tepe, a site of great age, built possibly 11 thousand years ago—whose elaborately carved monoliths imply a technology that seems impossible in a time when humans still lived in small hunter-gatherer groups.

And yet, there it stands.

Whenever you hear someone announcing that the science is settled, that he knows all the answers, ask him about the King fish’s dance. Ask him about Göbekli Tepe.

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