Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fireflies and Garden Butterflies

Thirty years ago, I heard former President Jimmy Carter give a talk at Fresno State University. One of the vignettes in his presentation was of when Emperor Hirohito was asked by journalists what he thought of the air pollution conditions in Tokyo, he answered, “I don’t see many butterflies in my garden.” That reply supposedly set off quite a debate about what should be done to relieve the poor air conditions in the city. Fireflies, like butterflies, do more than just bring delight to our grandchildren - they are one of many indicators of the condition of the web of life we live within and are all connected. As so go those on the margins, so go the rest of us.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ground Hog Day In June

Not February 2
Lately, every day is Groundhog Day in our yard on the Maryland Eastern Shore. Look at those shadows, nothing is going to bring back winter at this point in time.

Another Comment About Eastern Bluebirds

When we moved the first time to the East Coast, the most noticeable new bird for us was the Northern Cardinal. I saw my first one morning in the cherry tree outside our second floor bedroom window. They were common to our yard, so we saw them all of the time. It wasn’t until one of our visits back home to Oregon that I saw my first Bluebird near a wetland reserve in Corvallis. There were no
Sialia sialis
Bluebird sightings at all in Maryland our seven years there. This year out in the Eastern Shore and after putting in a fence, trees, and shrubs the past summer, Bluebirds are as common as Cardinals were in Annapolis. The difference being here we are surrounded by cornfields and grasslands compared to the wooded suburban neighborhoods on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay. Right now I hear the neighbors riding lawnmowers, Mockingbirds, Sparrows, Purple Martins, and the Barred Owl occasionally caterwauling off in the woods beyond the field, instead of the distant constant purr of cars and the occasional siren of emergency vehicles a few blocks distance to the boulevard. The rural lifestyle suits us well: enjoying this lovely Saturday afternoon of Fathers Day weekend, following a day of selective shopping for a few climbing roses, and medium-sized crepe myrtles, hostas, and assorted potting plants to finish off our garden planing this season. And the smell of the barbecue cooking chicken on our deck for the first time this year

The Other White Meat

Vulpes vulpes, Queen Anne's County
To cap off a perfect evening meal, just as we finished dinner, Jan saw a Red Fox running through the conservation reserve area next to our lot. A little while earlier, we saw an adult Ground Hog make its way through the same area. After we ate our BBQ chicken and first-of-the-season sweet corn, we kind of had an idea about what Mr. Fox probably would have thought of Mr. Ground Hog had they crossed paths: “Ah, the other white meat.”

Friday, June 1, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

What toll extracted
When you have seen grief on mothers’ faces
Wearing buttons with sons’ pictures that look like you
Waves of death and rows of white head stones
Carried caskets varying in weight
Knowing that remaining portions of recovered bodies differ
Depending on how much is left after being blown apart by IEDs

Drilled into your head to have your buddy’s back at all times
But you don’t reenlist when your buddy does
To not be there when he is killed on a bridge in Afghanistan
While you are safe at home

Go to his funeral
Leave with these thoughts
And then your cork pops.

November 17, 2010

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dove Hunting and Tony Calvello - SF Graphic Artist

Unlike a Central Valley Dove Hunt
Growing up on our farm, one of constants was the dove hunt in September. This event was not like the gentile eastern U.S. or European affairs with horses, and hounds, brightly colored sporting attire, and verdant scenery. This was a more gritty event when my Dad and his Elks Club friends, many of whom were World War II Veterans, descended upon dryland prairie pastures at the back of our ranch in their pickups and cars, waiting for sunrise and the Mourning Doves' return from feeding on grain fields that had been harvested earlier in the summer. The birds would fly in waves, with the hunters then popping up from dry creek beds that ran through the fields, pointing their shotguns in the general direction of the approach, pulling their triggers, and waiting for the result. You knew when there was action by the bursts of discharged shells, and the instant there was a hit: the cheers from the entire party as a bird crumpled in mid-air from its flight path with gravity taking over, and the birds falling to the ground waiting to be found among the tufts of dried grass or brush. When recovered, the birds were slipped into the rubber-lined pouch that ran across the back of the tan-colored hunting vests - the uniform of the day. As the morning passed, hopefully the number of birds shot was directly inverse to the fewer numbers of shells that were held in the stretchable fabric that lined the front of their vests. The shells were within easy reach to reload the gun after each discharge.

Back then I used a single-shot Sear's 20 gauge shotgun - my younger brother the same brand, but a 410 gauge version. The two of us brought down more doves in a morning with a third of the number of shells as my dad's friends did with their semi-automatic 12 gauge pieces - a fact our dad often pointed out to his buddies. This must have been a point of pride, probably more a result less to do with our skill, but more to do with the men and their morning beer drinking.

With the passage of decades since those Opening Seasons in the 1960's, the routine seems much the same - just a lot fewer WW II Veterans to fill the ranks of hunters. An article in the local newspaper reports the annual late-summer tradition still continues. I still remember many of the hunters names: Norman, Kibby, Mic, Roger, Guy, Bob, Sheldon, John, Kim, and Jerry. Some of the names dropped from the ranks over time, and a few new ones added.

Jezebel the Hunting Dog
As part of the folklore from that past, it was reported that my dad's pointer named Jezebel once climbed up a broken down tree to retrieve a dove that landed in that snag. Several of the hunter verified the story, and Norman reported what he had seen to a friend who was a San Francisco illustrator. The result was a gift to my dad of a framed sketch  documenting the event, though stylized for effect: the dog hanging precariously from the tree, a dove in her mouth, and her wearing a vest like the rest of the hunting party. That drawing hung on my dad's office wall on the farm for decades, and then in his home office when he and my mom build in town after they retired in the eighties.

It wasn't until two years ago when Jan and I were helping take care of my dad in his home that I searched for information on Tony Calvello the artist. This picture finally hung on the wall of my dad's apartment when he moved to an assisted living facility in Sacramento. It was there as a nine-month reminder of the many people, and places, and times that had passed time with him. Jezebel now hangs on the wall of my home office where I see it every time I work at my desk.