Category: Nature

’tis Autumn

The trees, they are tired. They’ve borne too much fruit — so says the song. In Southern California, Autumn is different than, say Wisconsin, where October and November bring with them a massive denuding of foliage, turning magisterial maples into plaintive skeletons. The leaves drop, everywhere, covering driveways and lawns, and the mood is generally...

A Backyard Report, With No Deeper Meaning Intended

The flock of goldfinches — about 20 of them — that lives in my backyard, coexisting with house finches, sparrows, wrens, jays, and the occasional black phoebe and grosbeak, serve as an early warning system. Lately, at least once a day, these energetic little yellow peckers disappear into the ficus trees, or into a neighbor’s...

Poem: The Character of Flowers

Can it be said (with certainty or not) about the things that grow?: There, see it! That’s (fill in the blank) incarnate! They do not feel, we suppose. So is it not somewhat fatuous, silly as a schoolgirl discovering the pulse Of a bass guitar limning the rhythm of adolescence, To call wisteria wistful. To...

The Humbling Storm

The deluge that’s transformed New Orleans from a steamy celebration of Gothic cool into a living hell in which the dignity of the surviving human beings has been obliterated reminds us that nothing is more powerful than Nature. The drowned and the dispossessed, the starving and the ill, are residents of the United States of...

Grow, Purge, Renew

When I was a child, once a year my family would conduct what my uncle the Marxist called “the great purge.” We would cull from our closets old clothes and other unwanted stuff, and make a giant charitable donation to Goodwill Industries, a local organization aiding the developmentally disabled. There was a sense of cleansing...

Poem: Floral Message

Bursting forth, saying in color and delicate shape that striving for the sun is worth the heartache, the petals of the plants, demure and bombastic, try for nothing more than survival. But in this effort their nonchalant beauty, which impresses thirsty birds and dust-covered bees as much or more than human admirers, reminds all who...

The Joy of Pressure-Washing

In our dotage, we’ve discovered a new passion: pressure-washing. To call the weekend mornings we spend blasting flat surfaces around the MK.com headquarters with a hose-gun-wand-thing “a hobby” doesn’t fully capture the cathartic joy some middle-aged guys — like us and, we’re told, the ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel — derive from cleaning wood and...

Basic Instincts

The half-dozen or so bird feeders in our back garden attract hundreds of birds. The hundreds of birds attract several neighborhood cats, including our tabby, Sam, who has 24-hour access to delicious cat kibble. (Well, delicious to him and his sister the dog.) Still, he leaps — literally — at any chance he gets to kill one...

Evolution

A recent trip to the Galapagos, Charles Darwin’s remote research center in the Pacific Ocean, got us thinking about evolution, that heretical theory that certain school boards around our semi-enlightened country don’t want taught to impressionable children who might question the validity of the Creation Story. Evolution is not kind. It’s a wicked filter that removes...

Sheep, Cows, and Fields of Grass

Spending a week in the Welsh countryside is like a drinking a nepenthe that scours away all memory of air pollution, terrorist attacks, and venal corporations. The real world feels far, far away. Although it was the first country to become industrialized (to exploit the coal, copper, and tin in its ground), Wales today is...