Saturday, July 31, 2010

On a happier note...

Catmint makes Baby giddy (click on photo)

“One joy scatters a hundred griefs.”
~Chinese Proverb

Friday, July 30, 2010

Theme of endings

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly(Libellula pulchella)

Baby Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)

As the month of July comes to a close, the theme of endings seems to loom large. I found the Twelve-Spotted Skimmer in a parking lot, and still marvel at how perfectly preserved it is (click on the photo for a closer view). My guess is that it had died only hours earlier, having come as far as it could from a nearby marsh. The fact that it remains beautiful in death is interesting. The Transcendentalists referred to the thin veil between life and death, and in the case of this dragonfly, I find that to be an apt description.

The wild baby Cottontail died in my hands, albeit peacefully. Since its life had only just begun (wild cottontails have a life expectancy of less than two years) this death struck me as tragic. Though I was happy to have saved its sibling, I dearly regretted the loss of this baby (click on the photo for a closer view).

In thinking about what living means, I am certain of this: It is one thing to live and another to be truly alive. We can only be truly alive if we are pursuing our passions and living with intention and authenticity, oil spills and double dip recessions aside. This is our time. Our time is now.

I like the way the playwright Arthur Miller put it when he wrote:

"The word "now" is like a bomb through the window, and it ticks."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A time for reflection

There is something so peaceful, reassuring and healing about these river stones (click on the photo for a closer look). They convey permanence, which I find comforting in the days since losing G. And they look almost magical against the damp bluestone.

Last night a friend lost her beloved mother. Her name also began with G. This woman, like my G., was extraordinarily brave in the last weeks of her life. And though I never got the chance to meet her, I felt I knew her in some way.

I think these river stones are also stepping stones. Whether we step from this life into the next or from one experience to another, the death of someone we love often brings a heightened sense of awareness of the paths we have taken and those that still await us.

This is a time for reflection. There is much to learn.

Friday, July 23, 2010

On the passing of G.

For G., who was like a mother to me.
May she rest in peace.

"Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned…

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~Edna St. Vincent Millay
Dirge Without Music

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Fountain

Fountain of sorrow

A dear friend has been taken off life support. Her once-mighty life force is waning.

Although I love listening to this little fountain gurgle on summer nights, mingled with the sounds of birds getting ready for sleep and crickets calling, these last few evenings have been filled with dread. As I wait for the phone call I know will come, the fountain sings a sorrowful song.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is killing penguins?

Hundreds of dead penguins are
washing up on Brazil's beaches.
AP Photo: Aquario Municipal de Peruibe

Click here to read the story by Associated Press Writer Stan Lehman. Scientists are investigating but worry that overfishing may have played a role in their deaths.

How long will it take for humanity to respect the delicate and intricate web of life? When will we end our practice of taking more than we need?

These penguins are telling us that things are going terribly wrong. We have so little time now to get it right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If you sow it...

Baby plays amid overturned nursery pots of catnip

Here's proof that the old saying is true: 
 "If you sow it, they won't know it,
but if you set it, they will get it."
 Life is short and this scamp is worth indulging

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slumbering Sisters

Baby sleeps with abandon

So does Daisy, orange foot up

Sisters ― so different and yet so alike. One thing these two definitely have in common is their sleep style. When I first brought them home from a crowded shelter last summer, they seemed to luxuriate in sleep as they enjoyed the comfort of a bed for the first time in months. It did my heart good to see how relaxed and safe they felt on their very first night.

It has been a year of laughter in between the tears for Rock. I don't know what I would have done without these goofy girls and their wacky ways! Click on the photos for a better view.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Border Collies Chase Geese Away

Photos by Marc Vasconcellos

"Nothing spooks a Canada goose like Louie the border collie and his business partner, Tug. The canine agents, dressed in orange life jackets, send their targets honking from ponds on golf courses, cemeteries and college campuses."

Click here to read more of of Amy Littlefield's story for The Enterprise, a Massachusetts daily newspaper.

If the officials in charge of parks and recreation in Brooklyn, New York had used a team of Border Collies to keep the Canada Geese population at bay, all those put to death (read previous post) would still be enjoying life. Border Collies are also extremely effective near airports and other locales where geese can compromise air travel safety.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

They suffered in secret

Goslings like these were among hundreds of geese
from Prospect Park that were put to death.

Last week, in the early morning, wildlife biologists descended on Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York. There, working with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they herded hundreds of Canada Geese into a fenced area, packed them two or three to a crate and took them to a nearby building where they gassed them to death.

Not even the goslings were spared.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Agriculture said all this was “necessary.”

Read more here

This is the first I've heard of what the Humane Society of the United States calls “geese round ups." I find them to be despicable acts, especially because they are carried out during the birds’ annual molt, when they are growing new flight feathers and can’t fly — from mid-June through July.

And, why on Earth didn’t anyone call GeesePeace, an organization dedicated to building better communities though innovative, effective, and humane solutions to wildlife conflicts?

In the Gulf waterfowl are dying by the thousands in the wake of the BP Oil Spill and in the so-called “greatest city in the world,” waterfowl are being executed to ensure safer air travel for humans. It doesn't make sense and it's all about us and what we seem to need.

But, what about them?

I've always had a tremendous affinity for geese. I can only imagine the fear and panic they experienced, especially the goslings, separated from their mothers. The disregard for these innocent lives and the suffering they endured is more than egregious; it is a reflection of who we are and who we are becoming.

Like the great Albert Schweitzer I believe that "the only thing we are really sure of is that we live and want to go on living. This is something that we share with everything else that lives, from elephants to blades of grass – and, of course, every human being. So we are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect, that we wish for ourselves."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A change of worlds

My "Rock-dog" in the summer of his life
(click on the photo)

I woke up happy this morning because last night I dreamed about Rock, a rare event these days, but one I recognize as significant, for I believe that those whom we have loved and lost can visit us in the realm of sleep.

I dreamed I was standing in a huge crowd, people were calm but the energy was chaotic. I could see an escalator carrying people in one area just ahead of where I stood, but the place itself was vague, not a shopping mall, not outdoors and not indoors.

The next thing I knew was that I needed to find Rock. I called his name and out of the din of voices I heard his meow in reply. Just like that we found each other. I reached down and picked him up and held him in my arms. He was paler than he had been in life – his coat was a soft gray instead of Brown Tabby, a purebred Maine Coon coloring that often appears black.

Rock is letting me know that no matter what, we will always be able to recognize one another whenever and wherever we meet again. I will always recognize his voice and he mine. The paler color of his coat is a sign of time passing, “going gray” and the gray shadow side of life.

More than a year has passed since I laid eyes on my Rachmaninoff. He’s gray, gone away, faded...dead.

“Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.” ~Chief Seattle

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cricket Summer

Snowy Tree Cricket (Oecanthus fultoni)

Northern Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia)

Dog Day Cicada (Tibicen canicularis)

For me, true summer begins when the crickets, katydids and cicadas start singing, specifically, the Snowy Tree Cricket (Oecanthus fultoni), Northern Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia) and Dog Day Cicada (Tibicen canicularis). This year, like everything else, they are about two weeks early and how wonderful is that?

This is also the time of Fireflies (Lampyridae), Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus), sweetly scented Night-Blooming Woodland Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) and fragrant Black Plums (Prunus domestica).

But the crickets, cicadas and katydids leave me spellbound. Talk about an Electric Light Orchestra. At times the very air seems to vibrate with the sounds of their low chorus and high pitched buzz.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nesting Tree Swallows

Tree Swallow chick, about a week old
Young Tree Swallow ready to fledge

Wrapping up my tour of wild Concord:
We ended the day with a visit to an expert birder's home. Her meadow-like property is dotted with nest boxes that attract Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. During our visit she opened two boxes to allow us to view Tree Swallow chicks at various stages of development. She carefully removed these two chicks from their boxes in one deft but delicate movement, allowing me to snap a couple of photos before quickly returning them to their nests. Their parents, flying in and out with meals of insects, hardly seemed to mind. Clearly, there is a great deal of trust between avians and humans here.

I learned that the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) is a ready inhabitant of nest boxes and very much appreciates having access to them as more and more people remove dead and dying trees without regard for their use as essential nesting sites for birds and other creatures.

Tree swallows are common summer residents in Massachusetts. I have always found them enchanting and I particularly enjoy their song, a series of repeated whistles and twitters. Listen.

During our visit we also saw a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, a male Eastern Bluebird, Downy Woodpeckers and Red-winged Blackbirds. What a magical way to end the tour!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lodge by Castor canadensis

The American Beaver (Castor canadensis)
Photo: Gainesville State College

A beaver lodge in the Estabrook Woods, Concord, MA

More from my tour of wild Concord, (June 29 post):
We came across this beaver lodge in the Estabrook Woods and it was a marvel to behold. These shelters have underwater entrances and beavers build them from the inside out using mud, grass, and branches. Most predators find it too difficult to break through the complex network of branches and mud so the beavers stay protected. Beavers that live in rivers do not usually build lodges instead they create burrows out of the mud along riverbanks. Some beavers build in existing lakes while others build in the newly formed ponds that they create with dams.

Beavers' ability to change the landscape is second only to humans. Mostly nocturnal but also active at dawn and dusk, adults may weigh over 40 pounds, and beavers mate for life during their third year. Both parents care for the kits (usually one to four) that are born in the spring. The young normally stay with their parents for two years, and yearlings act as babysitters for the new litter.

Beavers love to eat the bark and leaves from the trees that they fell. Their favorite trees are aspens but they will also eat birch, alder, willow, and mountain maple. They usually prefer trees between 2-6 inches in diameter. A busy beaver can chew through a 5 inch willow tree in 3 minutes! With the leftover wood they create dams and lodges.

I was not surprised to learn that wildlife rehabilitators have found beavers to be gentle, reasoning beings who enjoy playing practical jokes. An Indian word for "beaver-like" also means "affable." Once weaned, their favorite foods include water lily tubers, clover, apples and the leaves and green bark (cambium) from aspen and other fast-growing trees.

Source: All About Beavers

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Robert Byrd: Animal Lover

Byrd with his beloved Maltese Billy Byrd who died in 2002

I will continue my posts on touring wild Concord but today I wanted to pay tribute to Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who died Monday at age 92. He was the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate and today he made one final visit to the chamber where he spent 51 years to lie in repose, allowing members of Congress and the public to pay their respects.

Like me, you may not have known that he was a longtime animal welfare advocate. I learned this when I read A Humane Nation, a blog by Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. The following are excerpts from his June 28 post on Remembering Robert Byrd, Lifelong Leader for Animals:

As a teenager, he butchered hogs. But later in life, he came to love animals in a profound way, especially his beloved Billy Byrd, a Maltese. While he voted for the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act in 1958, it was during the last decade of his career in office that he truly made his mark on animal welfare, his love nourished by his relationships with his dogs and his conscience pricked by cases of cruelty, especially in livestock agriculture. He worked to increase funding for enforcement of all major animal protection laws, to halt the slaughter of American horses, to crack down on animal fighting, and to reform industrialized agriculture. He took to the floor of the U.S. Senate time and again during the last decade, arguing for the proper care and decent treatment of all creatures.

Today, as a tribute to his extraordinary and impactful work, I excerpt some of the most memorable lines from his Senate speeches:

About the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms: "Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric. Six-hundred-pound hogs -- they were pigs at one time -- raised in 2-foot-wide metal cages called gestation crates, in which the poor beasts are unable to turn around or lie down in natural positions, and this way they live for months at a time.

"On profit-driven factory farms, veal calves are confined to dark wooden crates so small that they are prevented from lying down or scratching themselves. These creatures feel; they know pain. They suffer pain just as we humans suffer pain. Egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages. Unable to spread their wings, they are reduced to nothing more than an egg-laying machine."

About the inhumane treatment of farm animals: "It is one thing to determine as a culture that it is acceptable to raise and rear and then eat animals. It is another thing to cause them to lead a miserable life of torment, and then to slaughter them in a crude and callous manner. As a civilized society, we owe it to animals to treat them with compassion and humaneness. Animals suffer and they feel. Because we are moral agents, and compassionate people, we must do better."

About cruelty to animals: "Animal cruelty abounds. It is sickening. It is infuriating. Barbaric treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated, even if these animals are being raised for food -- and even more so, more so. Such insensitivity is insidious and can spread and is dangerous. Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a civilized society."

And from a stirring speech in 2007 where Sen. Byrd condemned dogfighting: "The immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice reserves special places in hell for certain categories of sinners. I am confident that the hottest places in hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God's creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt."