Category: Nature

Philippines Notes, Part One: Litter in Paradise

The easy default reactions of an American who encounters unspeakable poverty and squalor when visiting a country like the Philippines are pity, scorn, and outrage. How monstrous, it seems, to call places like these “developing countries” when the extent of their development is obvious: great bastions of wealth and property concentrated in the hands of...

Poem: Cooper’s Hawk (with Apologies to Wordsworth)

Regal, as if touched by royalty, you light upon the wire, Surveying the buffet of opportunity below, where we Who cannot soar, cannot glide, forlornly aspire To shed our earthly shackles and be free.   You cannot be called a kind and caring raptor, A patient pedant, with heart o’erflowing with generosity. Your icy mission...

’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...