Saturday, July 17, 2010

Will the real Mother Nature please stand up?

When you Google "Mother Nature images" you find things like this--bountiful, rounded women wrapped in flowers and creatures, looking sexy (procreation and all that). When I look out my window I'm tempted to think of her that way, given the proliferation of flowers and winged things just now. But nature can be harsh. Roaming neighbor cats kill songbirds. Bees are disappearing for reasons we don't even understand, and their absence will play havoc with our food supply. Oil set loose in the ocean is killing birds and fish that we can see, and thousands of lifeforms we don't see, all of them part of nature's interdependent system.

I've had this poster by Amado Maurilio Pena Jr.for 25 years. I bought it because I love Southwest Indian pottery (and, I admit, because the colors matched our bathroom decor at the time). I came to see these women as Pena's version of Mother Nature. The black earthen pot is taking on life in utero; a birth canal opens beneath it. The women's faces are lined, and they turn away. Their angular figures resemble the topography of the desert Southwest. In this view, nature appears dry and harsh...because it is.

Children's stories are full of the give and take of nature. Suki, the Saggy-Baggy Elephant, escapes a tiger and a crocodile, and a herd of adult elephants rescues him from a lion. Augie was only two when he fell in love with that story. His mommy cringed, hating for him to know that dangers lurk. But he insisted on reading it. So every day we talked about Mommy and Daddy and grandparents being the "big elephants" who are there to protect Augie and Vi.

Little Cottontail's mother teaches him to evade the fox. But Henny Penny and her foolish, unthinking friends are outwitted, and eaten, by Foxy Loxy. We talk about it with Augie and Vi, but not in detail. Death is not yet in their vocabulary. A month or two ago, we took them to see tiny baby birds in a nest. A few days later the birds were gone. Too young to have fledged; they were probably grabbed up by a crow.The kids never asked and we never mentioned it.

Phoenix newly hatched
Instead, I began showing them an eagle cam. An eaglet called Phoenix was growing up on camera on Hornby Island in British Columbia. We were charmed by the tiny white fuzzball, and the kids were mildly interested in new feathers and rapid growth. In truth, I was the one who became fascinated, checking in every day to watch Phoenix learn to feed herself and begin to stretch ever-longer wings. Reading comments of the chatroom regulars, I learned more about eagles than I'd ever known, and I started to take a certain pride in the spunky eaglet who seemed ready to fly any day.

On Wednesday evening, Phoenix died in the nest. She was seen having trouble breathing, and rescuers with special equipment were on the way but she died before they could reach her. Instead, they brought Phoenix's body down from the nest and flew it to Vancouver, where tests are being done to determine cause of death. Thousands of people around the world had watched Phoenix, and there is great sadness, as you may imagine. To honor Phoenix, people are leaving Facebook tributes, sending contributions to the organization that helped in the rescue-recovery effort and volunteering with avian rescue around the world.

Watching Phoenix was somewhere in the continuum between bountiful Nature and harsh Nature. It was fun, enriching, satisfying, but realities came into view...locals talked about the diminished fish population, noise pollution, other dangers to wildlife. Phoenix's sibling egg never hatched. One of the two eaglets born last year had died in a freak accident (it was caught in Mom's tailfeathers and fell when she left the nest).

It is certain that every living thing will die. Most species survive at the expense of other species, keeping things in balance. And Nature is served when the less fit do not breed...hence the expression "survival of the fittest." When humans, with amazing hubris, poison and pollute and otherwise interfere, Nature produces consequences that we didn't predict and often don't like. We are diminished, whether we know it or not.

We don't yet know what killed the 11-week-old Phoenix. The vet has reported that outwardly, her body was thin but otherwise perfect (and that she probably was female). We speculate...did she eat something poisoned? Were there internal problems? Whatever the reason, I'm sad. Nature is bountiful, and harsh.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday’s Word: Welcome!

It’s my pleasure to be today’s Blogger of Note on Words of Wisdom, or WOW. Sandy and Pam began this network a few months ago to link folks interested in blogs of substance—serious, funny, randomly mixed, anything that makes you want to join the conversation. I was among the first to sign up, and I’ve told readers about it before, but today’s the day WOW followers are visiting me. (Thanks to Leah at Funny is the New Young for nominating me.)

Please have a seat at my garden table, pour a virtual beverage, and look around a bit. (I’ll be watching from the window on the far right.)

I began blogging last August to record stories and photos of our two grandchildren, who share our lives through what I like to call Wild Rumpus Daycare for Grandkids Only. I didn’t seek followers at first, and I didn’t visit other blogs.

Then one day I wrote something for myself, about myself. It drew no comments, but I liked having it out there. After a lifetime of writing for others—magazine stories, brochures, speeches, ads, even three books—I liked writing my own thoughts in my own voice. I also discovered that I love reading and commenting on other people’s ideas. Who knew this would be so much fun?

ViolaMae, 2
Augie, 3 1/2
Transitions figure into a lot of my writing. For example: the amazing and wonderful growth of children, my learning to appreciate life “in the moment” instead of always looking forward, my easing toward retirement, and my sudden transition, 25 years ago, from single to married. I'm learning things about myself from the writing process, and from the comments others make.

Here are a few sample posts.

Where I am in life: Living well in 2010

A few “claims to fame”: I beat Bob Dylan in a talent contest

How I met my husband (a series): The meeting

About kids: But do they wear pantyhose?

I hope you'll find something to enjoy here, and that you'll choose to join the conversation! And if you haven't been to WOW, be sure to check it out; you'll find lots to like!

Monday, July 12, 2010

High summer in the garden

As I sit typing, the garden just outside my window is teeming with life. The coneflowers and liatris are blooming their heads off, and the butterflies know it. I can see at least a dozen red admirals flitting around, sometimes doubling up on the choicest flowers. I'm happy to say that lots of bees are joining them. And finally today I've seen a monarch and a tiger swallowtail. Didn't get to photograph them because the kids kept me busy, but I'm hoping they'll return. (Augie thought a tiger swallowtail should be more orange, so he decided our visitor was a cougar).

This is my best photo of a red admiral so far this year and one wing is a bit blurred. They move quickly and then close their wings, which are not as colorful on the reverse. Anyway, add in the glorious (and tall) yellow daylilies, and this is my little piece of heaven, whether I'm outdoors or at my desk!


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