Sunday, February 18, 2018

Forever Young

A young White Fir on a trail in Boyle Ravine. Made me think about a Bob Dylan song I first discovered on a Joan Baez recording.  When I walked by it the first time, there was a single, dead Dogwood leaf resting on it.  On the way back, it was gone.  The ground below the sapling was covered with last season's Black Oak and Big Leaf Maple leaves with a sprinkling of Dogwood.  It felt good to be in a place that reminded me that I was enjoying a moment in time in a place where some things have not changed for thousands of years.

Do good fences make good neighbors?

 Took a short walk up Boyle Ravine this morning and came across this "fence."  It was apparent that is purpose was to prevent fallen branches and other debris from clogging the culvert under the dirt service road.  That makes sense from a water management standpoint.  If the culvert got clogged, water would build up upstream from the road.  Eventually it would overflow and break through the road and flood residences downstream.  But building the road in the first place invited the problem. There are many complicated issues with managing Boyle Ravine which was threatened by the huge fires at the end of last summer.  However, for me, on this casual walk, it stimulated memories of Frost's poem, Mending Wall, in which the narrator questions his neighbor about why do we have this wall between us anyway.  Every winter "something" tries to tear it down.  he question is posed several times and the neighbor responds the same every time: "Good fences make good neighbors." That neighbor probably never visited the USA/Mexico border.
One stirred memory usually leads to another.  I grew up among New England's stone walls, so I remember why they were built, and used to enjoy running across the tops of them until one day I tripped and smashed my forehead on my way off the wall.  But walls mean something different to me now.  As fourth-grade engineers, we used to enjoy building little dams across streams and raising the water level a few inches to maybe a foot. One day we found a spot on a stream with high banks and thought we'd try to build a taller dam, just to see if we could.  When the water depth reached at least three feet, after a long afternoon of rock work, the dam burst and flooded a neighbor's corn field.  We were very frightened of getting caught and ran quite a ways before we were pretty sure no one was chasing us.  An experience with power over nature.  For some people, there's never enough power and hubris.  Thus, we have the Oroville Dam fiasco.  Now I mostly see dams, fences, and walls as dividers between peoples. I also remember in high school days crossing from Vermont into Canada dozens of times with no more inspections than a quick look at my driver's license.  Gone are the days.
Not too long ago, I crossed easily into Tecate, Mexico, and even Tijuana.  I wouldn't even try it today. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Trying to understand the past

 I'm reposting these two images from my January musings by way of explaining the absence of posts for nearly a month.  I've re-named the above image "Age 6" and the one below "Age 70 something."
The first clearly is connected somehow in my memory bank to the second.  Also rattling around in the mix is the influence of Richard Dawkins' book Unweaving the Rainbow."  The central issue in that book was the question of whether scientific understanding of natural phenomena enhances or diminishes one's experience of said phenomena.  Newton's demonstration that white light (AKA sunlight) is composed of a mixture of many wavelengths (colors) that can be separated as by a prism or in nature by raindrops and mist.
These thoughts are all connected to my attempt to put together a kind of memoir of my life's experiences in education as student, parent, and instructor.  Wish me luck.  See the column to the left of this post for another version of this update.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tao Dogs

                                          YinYang, the Harmony of Opposites.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Campus Wilderness

Thanksgiving's over.  They let me get pretty close.

Memories Deleted - Almost

 I've always been fascinated by phone booths, but they are disappearing.  See evidence above.  My high school history teacher and senior class advisor told us stories of his days as a hobo traveling by box car during the depression and how he found a way to steal money from pay phones without damaging them. My buddies and I tried the method and failed.  Fortunately we also failed to get arrested for attempted robbery.  I never did find out if our teacher's stories were true.
Around that same stage of life I used to love watching Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. In one episode a cowboy from the 19th Century was transported via a time machine to modern day New York City.  He arrived in one of those glass-enclosed phone booths with the accordion doors which were closed.  He didn't know how to open the door, so he panicked and smashed his way out and drew his six-guns on the sidewalk as he was also panicking by being surrounded by more people than he had ever seen back in the 19th Century.  A couple years after high school, I found myself in a phone booth in Florida during a warm, torrential rain.  There must have been several dozen tree frogs sharing the space with me.  It was weird, and I wondered why frogs would try to get out of the rain.  Must have been the perfect combination of temperature and humidity, and maybe density of mosquitos.  I could go on and on with phone booth memories, stimulated by my parking in front of the decommissioned phone booth in the above photo near Trader Joe's in Reno.  I felt really sad to see this, and I finally got motivated to take my first (and hopefully last) "selfie" with my iPhone.  I was a reluctant adopter of this technology, and still avoid getting addicted.  It's a tool to fulfill my obligations for family communication.  I even hate the word "selfie."  Just a few years ago it meant "an extremely selfish or self-centered person."  I guess there's probably some correlation between the meanings then and now.  It's late Monday night, and I look pretty sad posing by the disarmed phone booth, so I vow to post some sort of happy scene before bedtime.  Something related to natural history perhaps.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Louisiana Natural History

 My son and I made shrimp Creole a few nights ago, and any dinner based on shrimp, but especially Creole or Cajun style, brings back fond memories of Louisiana and Tulane University where I got most of my formal education in natural history. I wanted to post these two pics while I got a chance and tomorrow I'll add some short yarns about experiences ranging from drinking water from the Mississippi to discovering Tabasco.