Archive for November, 2011

If I Love Them Enough

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

     Georgia O’Keeffe once made a comment that has stayed with me for many years:  “God told me that if I painted the Pedernal (a mountain in New Mexico) enough times, He would give it to me.”

     The artist’s comment came to my mind recently as I watched a bright-eyed titmouse, perched on the edge of the feeder, while I also savored the sounds of a couple of juncoes nosing about in the brush.  If I love these birds enough, I wondered, can I save them?  Can my love protect them from the hardships imposed by global warming and a degraded environment? 

     As I savored the sights and sounds of the birds around my home, I remembered something else.  I recalled how, many years ago, I told a wise woman of the grief I felt for the planet, of my sense of helplessnes and frustration that, despite my great love for many of my fellow species, I was impotent, utterly unable to help them survive the threats they face.  

     Then, a thought I’d never had before popped into my head, and I asked her:   “Do you think it’s possible that my love itself could make a difference?” 

     “Of course it does!” she answered, without a moment’s hesitation.   Her reply comforted me.  Someone whose opinion I respected so much was sure that my love actually benefitted the creatures I love so deeply.

     Was she right?  Well, I’m at least certain that my love does no harm to the birds and all the other creatures whose beauty fills my heart.  And I’m sure that the love I feel is good for me, even though it is inextricably mixed with grief.  After all, I am more alive than if I turned away from the love because of the pain.  

     A poet I admire, Stanley Kunitz, said it very well:  ”The heart breaks and breaks, and lives by breaking.”–April Moore 

 

a titmouse at our feeder

a titmouse at our feeder

 

 

one of Georgia OKeeffes paintings of the Pedernal

one of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings of the Pedernal

 

    

The Life of an Island

Friday, November 18th, 2011

     Biological evolution fascinates me.  I find it truly wondrous that life began where there was no life and evolved over millions and millions of years into the astonishingly complex web of life that exists today.

     Because I love learning about evolution, I am reading THE SONG OF THE DODO:  ISLAND BIOGEOGRAPHY IN AN AGE OF EXTINCTION by David Quammen.  In an effort to understand the implications of the ‘islands’ that human activity is creating on our continents, Quammen explores the ways in which life evolves differently on islands than it does on large mainlands.  We humans are turning once vast stretches of wilderness into small, isolated chunks, with our roads, pipelines, shopping centers, and subdivisions.  By better understanding the ways of evolution on islands, Quammen believes we can better understand why diversity declines on isolated ’islands’ of wilderness.  

     Despite the book’s sobering premise, it reads like a novel.  Quammen, an award-winning science writer, tells us so interestingly why some kinds of creatures abound on islands, while others are rare or non-existent there.  He writes with humor and a great sense of ‘Wow!’  And you don’t have to be a scientist–or even particularly science-oriented–to love this book.

     I would like to share here a short passage from THE SONG OF THE DODO that explains why mammals are found only in small numbers, if at all, on islands.–April Moore

     “If I haven’t said much about mammals in this discussion of island colonization, it’s because there is not much to say.  Mammals don’t travel as well as most other vertebrates.  Their dispersal ability across salt water is generally low.  They are burdened with urgent physiological needs and blessed with only modest endurance.  Starvation and drought can kill them quickly.  So can drowning.  If they do manage to make a crossing, their prospects of establishment are still poor.  Since they reproduce sexually, give birth to live young, and suckle those young, they don’t enjoy the same adaptive advantages as many plants, insects, and reptiles.  An adult mammal needs a mate;  an infant mammal needs a mother.  All these factors reduce their chances of colonization.  Rarely a species of mammal does reach an island and establish itself, but more commonly an island remains empty of mammalian fauna despite the passage of eons.  As reptiles and ferns and pigeons tend to be disproportionately present on islands, mammals tend to be disproportionately absent.”–David Quammen, THE SONG OF THE DODO

 

Red–in Flora and Fauna

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

     I just had to post this lovely photo taken recently by my friend Monika Kienzle.  So much red!–April Moore

cardinal-and-red-leaves

Fall Colors, Including White

Friday, November 4th, 2011

     Last weekend we got eight or more inches of snow in the freak October snowstorm that hit the east coast.  My husband Andy Schmookler wrote this nice little piece about our experience: 

     “We were caught in that early snowstorm of yesterday–heavy, wet snow on trees whose leaves had not yet dropped off.   One much-loved tree on our place sustained damage I’ll do my best to repair with ropes and splints.  But our day was most affected by presumed tree damage elsewhere:  as predicted by the weather channel, the storm brought massive power outages, and we were among those cast suddenly back into the 19th century, except that we are not set up for life without electricity.

     “Our heat depends upon electricity, our well uses electricity to pump water.  We do, however, have candles, and after the sun went down, we read by candlelight while under the blankets.

     “Finally, after about 12 hours without power, some blessed crew somewhere on the landscape re-established the connection and, “Let there be light!”  And heat.  And the Internet.

      ”It all makes us appreciate how much our lives are enriched by the power we so often take for granted:  switch a switch and one goody or another is ours to enjoy.

     “Powerlessness for 12 hours was an adventure–shaking snow off bending trees, helping neighbors, walking in the woods, cobbling together a cold dinner, measuring reading light by candlepower.  But we were glad for the adventure to end.

     “In the political sphere, powerlessness is not so easily overcome.  But the urgency is no less great!” 

snow and fall color--together around our house

snow and fall color--together around our house

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