Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving

we feed the feral siamese that calls our neighborhood — and the woods surrounding it — home. we have been for almost a year now. at first it was, "awww…look at the cute little cat. she looks hungry." so we'd stick a little bowl of food out for her. of course, our back porch became her favorite spot, and now she enjoys three hearty meals a day out there. she grew on us, with her beautiful coat and color, and her striking blue eyes; we looked forward to her arrival, came to expect her presence at our back door.

then, 4 days ago, she stopped coming around.

we scanned the woods for her cream-colored silhouette; we watched the stump of a large, dead tree that had become her throne, where she would bask in the sun and bathe herself; we consistently eyed the corner of the house, expecting her to slink around the corner at any moment, plop herself down, and wait patiently for her meal; we monitored the back door, turning toward it with so much frequency our necks started to hurt, hoping to see her face pressed up against the glass…


our hearts, heavy, surprised at how much we missed our little visitor. there have been a lot of hawks around lately. vultures, too. and let's not forget cars.

we feared the worst.

then, thanksgiving eve.

out of habit, i turned toward the glass door, now coming to expect a backyard devoid of furry animal friends, but too set in my new ritual of hope not to look…and there she was. like a ghost. silent, her face pressed against the transparent barrier; patient, as if saying, "no, no…don't get up. finish what you're doing. i can wait."

so today i'm thankful that our "unofficially adopted outdoor pet" is safe, and has resumed her daily routine at "restau de le dugfresh."

i'm thankful for God and for the seemingly impossible likelihood that He continues to love a sinner like me.

i'm thankful for my family, and for our health.

i'm thankful that i have a job, and can still pay (mostly) all the bills.

and i'm thankful for birds. and flying squirrels. and cats and dogs and dragonflies and caterpillars. racoons, foxes, coyotes, and possums, bats, mayflies, assassin bugs, northern water snakes, deer, boxelders, towering oak trees, ferns, rain…for nature and this wonderfully complex and bewilderingly beautiful planet that circles the sun at just the right distance away.

happy thanksgiving, readers. (although it's only one four so far, i'm still thankful for you.) i hope your day was filled with joy, comfort, love, family and friends, and appreciation for all the little things we can so often take for granted.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

case of the curious flying squirrel-like bird-thing

so this thing came gliding down from the canopy of tall oak trees, from the upper left field of my vision, gliding down to the right in a slight arc. i watched, filled with anticipation, wondering what new species of bird i was going to discover at 7:45am saturday morning. without warning — no flapping or extending of wings to slow down and prepare for a graceful landing — *SMACK!* mr flying thing hits the side of a large tree. my brain was in denial that a bird would travel that fast and smack into a tree (nothing bounced off and landed in the crisp bed of leaves on the forest floor), so my eyes kept following the possibly-now-deceased bird-thing's previous trajectory. they gave up when my brain registered the fact that they were just sweeping across a scene filled with trees and not much else and that all the action was back there at the tree. so my eyes swung back to the crash site.

nothing moved.

there were some thin branches, belonging to equally thin trees, stubbornly clutching on to their last reddish-orange leaves that crossed in front of the tree i was watching. the leaves swayed in the cool morning breeze every once in a while. registered that: not a bird-thing.

there was a knot of wood on the trunk of the tree; it didn't move. file that: not a bird-thing.

up a little ways, above the criss-cross of branches, above the benign knot of wood, there was a vertical gash, dark brown, about six or seven inches long. hmmm…that's right about where the flying thing smacked into the tree. registering…registering…

two to three minutes later, it hadn't moved. register that: not a bird-thing.

a few seconds after i filed that into the mental topographic map of this tree, the gash moved. it scampered up the tree. no hopping, bouncing, or fluttering; it climbed. my brain decided that this was a pretty fantastic moment, so it sent signals on down to my facial muscles to assume the appropriate expression, meaning that my mouth fell open in that universal countenance indicating reduced mental faculty. as that happened, the once-flying-now-scampering thing leapt from the tree and glided down *SMACK!* into another equally unforgiving tree. same descending arc. no wing action.

my brain, being overstimulated at this point, busied itself with the task of rearranging the expression on my face into one of delight, surprise, and confusion, while simultaneously toying around with another thought: flying squirrel.

could it be possible? they're nocturnal creatures. it was pretty light out, and anything past 6:00am, in my book, is disqualified from being classified as "nocturnal." even so, i'm sticking with my decision until someone can prove me wrong, based on these three Very Scientific Observations:

Very Scientific Observation number 1: it didn't fly. at least, not in the traditional sense. wing beats were never present, nor was there any spreading of wings to slow down before landing.
Very Scientific Observation number 2: it didn't die. birds are not constructed to survive SMACKING into trees at moderately high speeds. this creature was supposed to be able to SMACK into tree trunks. he probably thinks he's pretty cool, too.
Very Scientific Observation number 3: it scampered. in addition to surviving high-speed impacts into solid objects, scampering is also something that birds do not do well.

as you can plainly see, the Scientific Evidence is stacked in favor of the southern flying squirrel. and you can't argue with science…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

on the wings of a song

those hard-working ornis at cornell have postulated (and through the clever application of lasers, proven) that birds can "sing" by using their wings. or at least this one can. it's a club-winged manakin, found in south america (possibly peru?).

i think it's my new favorite bird. it's beautiful, and that little trick he does with his wings puts him right over the top. i also like how he puffs up after his little wing song, like he's saying, "that's right…with my wings. you wanna see it again?"

enjoy. (and it looks like you might have to go full screen to do that…not sure what's up with the incredible shrinking player…)

Monday, November 16, 2009

mute monday

gonna let the great blue heron speak for itself.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

seeing red

i'm seeing red again, which is usually what happens when i spend too much time thinking about the direction in which this great country of ours is headed. but this red isn't due to societal ills — this red centers on my haven from all the madness: nature.

this time of year, the northern cardinals seem to increase the intensity of their hue, as if in competition with the trees to see who can draw the most attention with their splendid display of color.

make sure you get my good side…

i love the tchip-tchip of the females hidden in neighboring trees, no doubt voicing their admiration of the males showing off for them.

…and don't forget my other good side…

the votes are in: cardinals—10; trees—9. cardinals take this round…