Thursday, April 30, 2009

Set in Stone

Walking down this rocky road,
wondering where my life is leading,
rolling on, to the bitter end.
Finding out along the way
what it takes to keep love living.
You should know, how it feels my friend...

Now I'm on my feet again.
Better things are bound to happen.
All my dues, surely must be paid.

from Ready for Love (click to listen)
by Paul Rodgers

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Still Stoned

The pebble in the brook secretly thinks itself a precious stone.
~Japanese Proverb

This post continues a brief series I am calling Stoned, dedicated to my love of stone and fascination with stone work.

This is one of many photos I have taken of brooks through the seasons. As a writer, I look forward to having a small country cottage beside a brook where I can write to my heart’s content.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Stoned Again

Hawk Tower

This post continues a brief series I am calling Stoned, dedicated to my love of stone and fascination with stone work. I thought maybe I was borderline obsessed with stone, but the great American poet Robinson Jeffers gives new meaning to the word "obsession." He built Tor House and later, Hawk Tower with his own hands.

"In 1914, when they first saw the unspoiled beauty of the Carmel-Big Sur coast south of California's Monterey Peninsula, Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) and his wife, Una (1884-1950), knew they had found their "inevitable place." Over the next decade, on a windswept, barren promontory, using granite boulders gathered from the rocky shore of Carmel Bay, Jeffers built Tor House and Hawk Tower as a home and refuge for himself and his family. It was in Tor House that Jeffers wrote all of his major poetical works."

~photo and text courtesy of Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation

Friday, April 24, 2009


This post begins a brief series I am calling Stoned, dedicated to my love of stone and stone work. I begin with this beautiful stone wall and little fountain pool in a garden I visited last summer. I have been drawn to and fascinated by stone for as long as I can remember. Bluestone, flagstone, fieldstone, granite, marble, slate ― the list is endless. I am particularly fond of smooth river stones that have been polished by swiftly flowing rivers and streams.

River stones also remind me of a friend from college who would return from break complaining about being relegated to the "Brook House," a small cottage made entirely of stone and set above a brook on the family horse farm. "The bedsheets were usually damp," she said, "but the sound of the brook always lulled me to sleep."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heartened by the Chorus

Photo by Lang Elliott

"And where the shadows deepest fell,
the wood thrush rang his silver bell."

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

I saw a Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelin) in a thicket near my study the other day, and hearing its song heartened me. Whittier was inspired by the wood thrush and the abundant natural beauty that surrounded his rural homestead in Haverhill, MA.

Listen to the chorus of birds in the morning and evening. Some have traveled far from their wintering grounds in boreal forests near the Arctic Circle to set up house again here with us. As this is nesting time, help by hanging bits of thin strips of cotton rag over your clothesline or on tree branches, and leave dried grasses where they stand a while longer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Path You Choose

Look at every path closely and deliberately.
Try it as many times as you think necessary.
Then ask yourself,
And yourself alone,
One question.
‘Does this path have a heart?’
If it does, the path is good;
If it doesn’t, it is of no use.

Because I believe that, so far, humanity has chosen the wrong path, I feel circumspect and somber this Earth Day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No More Loneliness

At the Zoom Erlebniswelt zoo in Germany, Polar bear Bill (left) arrived as a new partner for polar bear Lara (right).
This is their first meeting.
Photo: Associated Press

Like us, animals experience the pain of loneliness and the thrill of love at first sight. When I look at this photograph, I think of words from a Native American Wedding Prayer:

Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beware These Invaders

Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
Photos courtesy of UMass Extension Services

I'm not referring to Martians, but invasive plants, animals and insects. Perhaps you are already familiar with: Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Hemlock woolly adelgids (Adelges tsugae Annand) and Asian Longhorn Beetles (Anoplophora glabripennis),but that's the short list.

Why should you care about invasive species? Check out Invasive Species 101 - An Introduction to Invasive Species.

I mention all this because I ran into Peter Alden last night, world renowned naturalist, wildlife lecturer, ecotourism guide and the author of 15 books on North American and African wildlife. We met three years ago when I attended a talk he gave on invasive species. I suspect he'll have something to say about the Korean azalea I featured in yesterday's post, beautiful to gaze upon or not, because Peter is extremely passionate about invasive species and the benefits of native plants in the landscape. Talking with him again last night reminded me that increasing awareness of the harm invasive species can do is a cause worth championing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April is a promise

Korean azalea (Rhododendron yedoense var. poukhanense)

April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it.

Hal Borland wrote what he liked to think of as his "outdoor editorials" for the Sunday New York Times from 1941 until just before his death in 1978. Born on May 14, 1900, on the prairie in Nebraska, he grew up in Colorado, and then moved to New England in 1945. Borland brought to his writing both personal life experience with nature and the wisdom and ways of rural America.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Waiting for Catmint

First leaves emerging...

Hurry up and grow!

From summer 2008

Walker's Low Catmint (Nepeta faassenii) is my Rachmaninoff's drug of choice and he’s waiting patiently for his supply to come in. Just the scent of the first leaves emerging in early spring is enough to captivate him― that’s how potent this plant is.

Approaching his 18th birthday on May 6th and still blessed with a long and totally intact memory, Rock enjoys his catmint every summer and can hardly wait for this season’s lush growth to begin.

I love this perennial, named 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. It has the aromatic foliage that Rock loves and sends up a profusion of lavender-blue flowers that bees and butterflies adore.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where There Is Great Love

Tiger cub and pig snoozing together at the Sriracha Zoo in Thailand. Photo by Earth Picture Galleries.

"Where there is great love there are always miracles."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pansies for Remembrance

Pansy (Viola x Wittrockiana) is just an English way of saying the French word “pensée,” which means thought, and people used to send these flowers for their nearest and dearest to remember them by.

This little flower with the smiling face was said to be a love potion, and was the cause of Titania falling in love with an ass in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. It has also been called Herb Trinity, because there are often three colors in the one flower, reminding us of the Holy Trinity.

Perhaps the best known of the names, however, is Heartsease, for it was believed that carrying the flower about with you would ensure the love of your sweetheart.

~ The Language of Flowers

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Salvelinus fontinalis

Eastern Brook Trout

The Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is also known as the “brookie” and “speckled trout,” and of all the places I would like to see them, plunged in ice at Whole Foods is not one of them. As I took this photo I wished I had a magic wand so I could send them back to their native waters and watch them swim away, sparkling in the sun, though I'm sure these were farm raised.

I first learned about trout by reading Trout Reflections: A Natural History of the Trout and Its World by David M. Carroll, a friend, author, artist and naturalist. David has dedicated his life to studying turtles and in 2006 he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Wild trout are in trouble and the following excerpt, from a December 2005 report titled Conserving the Eastern Brook Trout: An Overview of Status, Threats, and Trends by the Conservation Strategy Work Group, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, explains why: "The brook trout is a recreationally and culturally important species, regional icon, and indicator of high water quality. Biologists have long known that brook trout populations are declining across their historic eastern range from Maine to Georgia. Wild brook trout populations in the eastern United States declined substantially during the past century and continue to face threats. Impacts from agriculture, grazing, loss of riparian forests, urbanization, and competition with invasive species, global climate change, acid precipitation, and other anthropogenic alterations to the landscape are decreasing the presence and robustness of brook trout populations across their historic range."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A World Without Amphibians?

Red eyed Tree Frog
Photo courtesy of Nature
Glass Frog
Photo by Andrew Young

A world without amphibians?
Unthinkable but very likely if we don't act now.
Watch "Frogs: The Thin Green Line," now showing on NATURE (PBS).
"Frogs have been living on this planet for more than 360 million years, and over the centuries, evolved into some of the most wondrous and diverse creatures on earth. Today, however, all their remarkable adaptations and survival tactics are failing them. Recent discoveries are startling: more than a third of all amphibians – most of which are frogs and toads – have already been lost, and more are disappearing every day. It is an environmental crisis unfolding around the globe, traveling from Australia to North and South America. Where the calls of frogs once filled the air, scientists now hear only silence. Ecosystems are beginning to unravel, and the potential to discover important medical cures may be lost forever. Habitat loss, pollution and a human population that has doubled in the past 50 years have set the stage for their diminished numbers. But now, a fungus called chytrid has been identified as the major culprit, and so far the spread of the fungus can’t be stopped."

Learn what you can do to help frogs. Click here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Northern Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

Jeepers Creepers, I almost forgot about the peepers! But two nights ago, while driving past a wetland area, I heard them calling, and what a thrill it was. For me, their evening symphonies are a quintessential springtime event and a performance that is not to be missed. We've had heavy rain in the last 24 hours, so they must be in peeper heaven.

These tiny frogs are found in marshy woods and non-wooded lowlands near freshwater ponds and swamps. They rely heavily on vernal pools, which are fast disappearing due to development, timing their breeding season to make use of these pools, which usually dry up after the tadpoles have transformed into adult frogs and left the water. Although they are good climbers, spring peepers seem to prefer to be on the ground or hiding in leaf litter.

Never mind dinner and a movie ― my idea of a fantastic Saturday night in early April is a walk beside the wetlands when the peepers are in full chorus. To listen, click here:
Spring Peeper (RealAudio sound sample)

Photographs by: Suzanne L. Collins, Center for North American Herpetology

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rocket Man

March 13, 2009

April 2, 2009

"Rocket Man" is the new nickname that my friend Rick, an accomplished landscape and abstract painter, gave my Maine Coon cat Rachmaninoff. But there was a crash landing. Friday, March 13, 2009 proved to be an unlucky day for Rock. When I left that morning, he was fine, but on returning that evening, I was horrified to find him lame and staggering and later incontinent, none of which had ever happened before.

I really thought the end had come.

But after two days in ICU mode, including “crafting” temporary diapers from disposable Pampers, he recovered some use of his legs and full use of his bladder! Amazingly, but true to his nature, he insisted on dragging himself outside both days, with me following closely behind while he sat in the sun and listened to birdsong. The most potent prescription for “the Man of the Forest” is and always has been NATURE. He definitely takes after his mom.

Rock had developed very high blood pressure, which can cause lameness, and often develops as chronic renal failure (CRF) progresses. He’s been on BP meds since then and I’m happy to report that his pressure has come down and he has recovered 90% of the strength in his legs with more improvement to come, I hope. Our wonderful vet says he has "a very strong life force and lots of fire in his eyes." Yep, that's Rock all right.

This week marks the anniversary of his namesake's birth,
Sergei Rachmaninoff, born April 1, 1873 (click on the link to sample some of his music). Yesterday, Rock greeted Mr. Groundhog (they’re old friends) making his first appearance of the season, then ran to his favorite tree (an Elm) and scratched with vigor.

The Rocket Man is ready for take-off once again.