Friday, August 18, 2017

Mid-August report #phenology

Morning: dark, clear, skies nicely set off the waning crescent moon. The smart phone camera took some of the most undistinguished photos imaginable. There were but two small, bright dots in a field of black. They aren't worth sharing.

asters and goldenrod
asters and goldenrod
Photo by J. Harrington

Later in the day, several bumble bees enjoyed the Anise Hyssop plants. What may have been a black swallowtail butterfly flittered across the grass tops surrounding the wet spot behind the house. Elsewhere multitudes of tiger swallowtails are enjoying August's blooms. Round-headed bush clover is approaching fully grown status with flowers becoming noticeable, but we haven't had sufficiently breezeless periods to enable us to get a decent photo. No matter how fast the camera's shutter speed is set, the breeze's timing and direction seem designed to thwart getting an in-focus picture. At least there's Samuel Beckett's wonderful quote for consolation: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." Asters haven't failed, they're now in bloom in abundance among the goldenrod.

bumblebee and anise hyssop
bumblebee and anise hyssop
Photo by J. Harrington

Ruby-throated hummingbirds continue to use the feeders. No further sightings of orioles to report. We have, however, noticed several folks collecting cattail leaves and female flower heads from local road side ditches. We know from past experience that the flower heads, if kept too long as part of a bouquet, release the seeds and they drift about the house every time someone passes by. They do look nice though until they start shedding.

                     The Flower Press



It was the sort of thing given to little girls:
sturdy and small, round edged, wooden and light.
I stalked the pasture’s rough and waist-high grass
for worthy specimens: the belle amid the mass,
the star shaming the clouds of slighter,
ordinary blooms. The asters curled

inside my sweat-damp palms, as if in sleep. Crushed
in the parlor’s stifling heat, I pried
each shrinking petal back, and turned the screws.
But flowers bear no ugly bruise,
and even now fall from the brittle page, dried
prettily, plucked from memory’s hush.


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Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Accentuate the positive

We engaged in a bit of remedial education this morning, centered around the word reciprocity. We had come to believe that the word essentially means "tit for tat," or "quid pro quo," possibly because we were unduly influenced, years ago, when we took small boat and seamanship courses and learned about reciprocal bearings. (If going away from port due East, the reciprocal to return is due West.) It turns out that maybe we had oversimplified our definition just a teensy little bit. As with so many things these days, the meaning of a word seems to very much depend on context.
To be candid, for years we hadn't thought much about the meaning of reciprocity, because "everybody knows" what it means. It means what we think it means. This works until someone who considers reciprocity only as positive or balanced reciprocity tries to communicate with someone familiar only with "an eye for an eye." That's not the same as how the earth provides us with fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink. How should we reciprocate with the earth?

Northern Minnesota lake
Northern Minnesota lake
Photo by J. Harrington

Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her wonderful book Braiding Sweetgrass broadens our concept of reciprocity with her description of Honorable Harvest. Then, this week, as we worked on plans for the removal of poison ivy in a couple of limited areas behind the house, we again encountered the concept of a variation on reciprocity, the need to plant something to take the role the poison ivy was filling and to use the nutrients made available by the elimination of the ivy. It's not likely to be successful if we just eliminate what we don't want, we need to create what we do want. (Nature abhors a vacuum?)

Braiding Sweetgrass  cover

Much of the focus of liberals and progressives since November 8, 2016, has been on preventing "roll-backs" or other negative effects triggered by the election. It seems, based on much of what we think we know, that resistance may be necessary but is insufficient. We have to sort out what it is we do want to replace our political poison ivy. Being a smaller patch of ivy, being not as bad as poison ivy, aren't at all likely to create the culture, society or future we do want. Think of how many futures you's like to avoid could be created. Can you prevent them all without providing a better alternative? R. Buckminster Fuller offered us sound advice when he pointed out:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
We need new models of our presidency and our congress. How are we going to create them? What must we change first?

This Morning I Pray for My Enemies


Joy Harjo, 1951


And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.


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Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.