Tag Archives: nature

Two’s Day/Cave Conversation

Today’s date, according to the Gregorian (western) calendar, is 2/22/22. And it happens to fall on a Tuesday! How cool is that?

Even cooler is the fact that TWO people pointed out the date to me today.

A date like that happens only TWICE every century! It took me a while to come to this conclusion. I had to write it out, like this:

            21st century:  1/11/2011 and 2/22/2022

            20th century:  1/11/1911 and 2/22/1922

            19th century: 1/11/1811 and 2/22/1822

        etc.

No sooner had I written this, than I began to wonder how far back the pattern would go. When was our calendar invented, I asked myself. And so, of course, I traveled down the proverbial rabbit hole and discovered that the history of the calendar is (a) fascinating, and (b) confusing!

What I can tell you, though, is that it has to do with the cycles of the sun and the moon that ancient peoples observed. You probably already knew that, but what might be news to you is the actual very first conversations by cave people in the process of inventing the calendar, which I’ve reconstructed here for the first time:

Cave Woman to Cave Man: Hey! Come here! Stop hunt! Look at sky! Light! Dark! Light again! Dark again! I make mark on cave wall each time! Okay, you make mark, I hold baby. Let us call marks “days.” … Just do it! Me no know why! Me just like sound.

Later, Cave Man to Cave Woman: Hey! Stop cook! Look up! Yesterday moon little! Now moon bigger! Other day moon very big! Me make more marks on cave wall! Oh, okay, I hold baby, you make moon marks. You make pretty marks. You pretty. You … okay, me go sleep now.

Much later, Cave Baby to Cave Parents: Mom, Dad! Look! Moon get big every time we have this many marks on cave wall! (Holds up both hands and flashes all ten fingers three times.) Let us call this many marks “month!” … Me no know why! Me just like sound.

Much, much later, Cave Grandkid to other Cave Grandkids: Hey! Come to my cave! We have many cool marks on my cave walls! (Flashes all ten fingers 30 times.) Marks in color! Come see marks, then play games!

Outside of cave, Grandkids playing rock, rock, rock (paper and scissors not invented yet): Winner make up funny word for 300 marks on cave wall! Okay, how about … “year?” (Howls of laughter)

And now for a photo I took last summer in the Adirondacks, in honor of Two’s Day:

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If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.

Where Did I (Gink)Go?

photo credit: olga drach on unsplash

Quick: What ancient Chinese tree is known for its reputation as a memory-enhancing supplement?

If you guessed “GINKO,” you’d be just partially right, because you misspelled it. The word is “GINKGO,” but I’ll forgive you for using only five letters, because you’ve probably been playing too much Wordle.

I’m writing about the ginkgo tree today for three reasons:

  • Their leaves are gorgeous.
  • They’ve managed to survive for thousands of years.
  • I have some photos of ginkgo trees to share with you.

But on a deeper level, my reasons are more complicated. As you may remember if you’ve been taking your ginkgo supplements (just kidding!), my dog Maya and I packed up and moved cross-country last year. You can read about our journey in my previous blog series, “New Latitude.” I stopped blogging temporarily, but now that I’m all settled in, I want to get back to my mission: writing stories inspired by my camera.

Yesterday, I uploaded 24 new photos, and I’ll be writing about each one, starting with GINKGO LEAVES:

And now for some Fascinating Facts about the Ginkgo tree:

  • Its scientific name is Ginkgo biloba.
  • It’s native to China.
  • Although its natural range is a small area of China, it has been cultivated in other parts of the world. (My photos were taken at Highland Park in Rochester, New York.)
  • Fossils in the Ginkgo genus date back to the Middle Jurassic period (about 170 million years ago). It was cultivated early in human history.
  • Its DNA genome is about three times as large as our human genome, which is thought to be why the ginkgo tree has many natural defenses against bacteria and chemicals. In fact, it’s so resistant to environmental assaults that six specimens growing in close proximity to the 1945 atomic blast at Hiroshima, Japan survived and continued to grow as healthy plants. They are still alive today.
  • According to an article by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, its use as a dietary supplement for the treatment of various diseases is mixed, and more study is needed.
  • It originally was two separate Japanese words pronounced “gin kyo.” Its current spelling dates back to a probable spelling error by a German, Engelbert Kaempfer.
  • It can grow to over 100 feet tall.
  • It’s considered a “living fossil.” Some living specimens are reported to be over 2,500 years old.
  • The ginkgo leaf is the symbol of Tokyo.

I’m glad I thought to take pictures of those pretty ginkgo leaves in Highland Park last summer. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so inspired to learn more about this admirable tree. I’d love to read about what inspires you. Please leave a note in the Comments section if you’re so inclined.

Before I go, I just want to say it’s (gink)GOOD  to be back!

—–

If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.

Funny Looking Snowmen

It rarely snows in Tucson, Arizona, but when it does, it’s a pretty big deal.

There was a dusting of snow to our north last night, and probably five inches of the stuff 25 miles up the road, in Oracle State Park, which is where I went today to take photos. The place was swarming with “snow peepers,” and some of them were building snowmen.

Here’s one of my snowmen photos. But this snowman isn’t really a man, is it? Because he (it?) has three ears (horns?) and wings (gigantic shoulder muscles?). Obviously, it was built by a bunch of men with issues. I won’t say what their issues are, but what’s that guy in the red jacket pointing at?

Snowman 1-2

I do think this snowman is kind of lovable. Just look at that expression.

Here’s another snowman. This one is more typical of the ones I saw in Oracle today:

Snowman 2

A 3-foot tall snow person with eyes made from a plant called “desert broom.”

Obviously, we southwest Arizona residents aren’t too good at building snowmen. But then, can you blame us? It only snows one day a year here! We need more practice.

On my way out of the park, I spotted this 2-foot tall model pointing the way:

Snowman 3

Actually, I think its arm fell off.

I think this minimalist sculpture was the best little snowman of all.

If you like snowmen, you’ll probably enjoy listening to my song about them, called “Gonna Build a Snowman.” It’s guaranteed to get you in touch with your inner child, and you can listen now, for free, here:

http://www.pacificbuffalo.com/music

Just click the link, then click “Gonna Build a Snowman.”

Happy Snow Year!

 

A Song About Mars … and Earth

In 2010, I was hiking near the San Pedro River when I was inspired to write a song about the planets.

You may be wondering (as I was at first) how a walk in the woods could turn into a song about outer space. Well, I can explain. Meet my muse, the vermilion flycatcher.

Bee in the Pink-3

There I was, minding my own business, walking through the woods on a bright autumn day, thinking about trees and sky and birds. I was hoping to see a vermilion flycatcher. I didn’t see one that day, but I think one must have been up in the trees looking down at me.

As I walked along, I was filled with a beautiful feeling. Maybe it was the fresh air, the blue sky, or the bright sunshine, but I felt a song coming on. I thought it was going to be about that bird.

But when I got home, the words that came out were about two planets instead. Earth and Mars. I think I wanted to write about Earth, and thoughts of the vermilion flycatcher made me think of the color red. Somehow the two came together into this song about two best friends in space, Eartha Tierra (Earth) and Marty Vermilion (Mars).

Since NASA landed a probe on Mars today, I thought it would be a good day to post the lyrics to the song. You can listen to it for free by clicking on the song title, which is:

Vertical Horizon

Eartha Tierra was a beauty
Marty Vermilion was her friend
It had been that way since forever
It looked like it never would end
Eartha Tierra turned to Marty
My friends call me Mama, she said
Marty rearranged his auburn hair
And he answered, You can call me Red
 
Eartha and Marty were neighbors
Grew up on the same side of the tracks
In daytime they traveled in circles
At night they watched each other’s backs
The days soon turned into seasons
The seasons turned into years
Some years were better than others
And some just brought Eartha to tears
 
                        Some folks believe in miracles, she cried
                        They pray for salvation and such
                        Others just tryin’ to survive
                        They don’t really ask for much
                        But I’m lookin’ for a vertical horizon
                        A total eclipse of this scene
                        Somewhere a settin’ sun is risin’
                        That’s where I wanna be
 
One day Eartha said to Marty
There’s problems from pole to pole
The gravity of this situation
Is beginning to take its toll
No sooner had Eartha spoken
Than Marty was quick to agree
I’m tired of this constant revolution, he said
I need some peace and tranquility
 
                        Why can’t people be friends like us
                        And walk in each other’s shoes
                        They could be tasting heaven on earth
                        Instead of these heart-heavy blues
                        So I’m lookin’ for a vertical horizon
                        A total eclipse of this scene
                        Somewhere a settin’ sun is risin’
                        That’s where I wanna be
                        Yeah, I’m lookin’ for a vertical horizon
                        A total eclipse of this scene
                        Somewhere a settin’ sun is risin’
                        That’s where I wanna, that’s where I wanna be.
 
nanopoblano2018-notrim

 

Haiku with a Little Help (from my Friends)

The word “BLOG” was written (just like that, in all caps) on my to-do list for last Sunday. How confident of me! I should have known better.

As usual, I ignored the word “BLOG” that day, but, unfortunately, I noticed it again on Monday. (Maybe I shouldn’t have written it in all caps.) On Tuesday, I avoided looking at my list altogether and just read my email instead.

That’s when I saw a post by Ritu (“But I Smile Anyway…”), who shared a lovely haiku she’d written in response to a poetry prompt by Colleen (“Colleen Chesebro – The Fairy Whisperer”).

Colleen’s prompt was to write a haiku, tanka, or other specific type of poem using SYNONYMS for “fall” and “try.”

I like prompts. They give me ideas. So thanks to Colleen and Ritu — what would I ever accomplish without my wordpress friends?

Here’s my haiku using synonyms for “fall” (descend) and “try” (strive).

a chill in the air

I strive to reverse the clock

but leaves will descend.

 

tanka-tuesday-fall

 

 

 

Colorado Rocks

Colorado always seemed like a distant idea to me: a concept, as opposed to a real place I’d ever get to visit. I’m not sure why that is. I’ve traveled all across the country and back. I’ve been to each of Colorado’s neighboring states. I’ve also been to Hawaii. Hell, I even hitchhiked across Canada (back in the 70s when it was a little safer and I didn’t know any better). But until last month, I’d never set foot in Colorado.

Well, I’ve just returned from a five-week-long road trip with my husband — more posts about that to follow — and I can finally say, “I’ve been to Colorado.” By the way, Colorado is AWESOME. I’m sorry it took me so long to get there.

As I crossed the state line from New Mexico into Colorado, though, it was pouring rain, and the sky was a dull, drab gray. An even duller, drabber highway sign announced, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado.” It looked something like this:

Welcome to Colorado BW

(Photo credit: marchinileo0 via Pixabay)

“Colorful?” I asked myself. “What’s so colorful about Colorado?”

Well, a little farther down the road, we came to Trinidad, Colorado, and the sun started to come out.

Garden of the Gods 5

I could see the potential and hoped for more color as we traveled on.

That night, we stayed in Colorado Springs, also known as “Olympic City USA.” That’s because the headquarters for the US Olympic Committee, the US Olympic Training Center, and the US Anti-Doping Agency are all located there.

Speaking of drugs, Colorado was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use and sale. But I didn’t need to visit one of their green stores to appreciate the place. You can get high just walking around admiring the scenery.  John Denver knew a good thing when he saw it.

We had a little spare time the next morning before continuing on our journey, so I googled “Top 10 Things to Do in Colorado Springs.” Garden of the Gods popped up as #1, so that’s where we went. Here are some photos I took while there:

Stay tuned for more photos of our trip in my next post.

 

 

 

 

Yellow

YELLOW

In spring

yellow makes me feel like laughing

the tickle of a lemon breeze

ruffles my hair and

puckers my lips

In summer

it pours from the sun

like hot flat sheets of maple syrup

drenching my body

in liquid sugar

In autumn

yellow turns to orange

and licks my face like a ginger cat

purring

until I try to catch it

In winter

it’s a trickle of iced tea

dropping in to say

stick around

I’ll be back soon.

Acacia Flower

The Language of Living Things

How do birds chirp? This is a question I asked myself yesterday while taking a walk and listening to a songbird.

Do they have vocal cords? Do they blow air through their nostrils? Or is it something I can’t even fathom, like maybe a hum that starts in their bellies? I’d like to know the answer.

Somehow, the universe must have heard my question, because last night my husband turned on the TV to watch NOVA, and the episode was about how animals communicate. And although it didn’t specifically answer my question about how birds sing, it did have some fascinating things to say about the language of animals.

Did you know, for example, that male spiders have a vocal language when they mate, and that whales have certain hit songs that spread from ocean to ocean like the British Invasion of 1964?

We humans have much in common with other animals when it comes to language, and I’m not just talking about our mating behavior. Take Zipf’s Law, for example, which I learned about for the first time last night on NOVA. According to Zipf (by the way, I’m not sure how to pronounce Zipf, but he probably could tell me if he were still alive, since he was a linguist), there’s a universal rule when it comes to language.

Using computers, linguists have analyzed large texts in several languages and have found that if you rank the words in order according to how often they appear, there’s a mathematical relationship (Zipf’s Law):

  • The frequency of word #1 is two times that of word #2,
  • the frequency of word #1 is three times that of word #3,
  • and so on.

If you plot it on a graph, it makes a straight line (slope) from upper left to lower right. And the same graph happens no matter what language you use. It even works with vocalizations of dolphins, elephants, and birds!

I don’t pretend to know much about animal language, but it’s already changed how I react when I listen to the birds sing.

I wonder if they write poetry, too?

Hovering

Yesterday, while walking with a friend along the Rillito River, we stopped to admire a small wall that had been decorated with tiles. It depicted a desert scene, complete with cactuses, bees, flowers, and bats. There was a poem written in smaller tiles along the length of the wall. I’d seen the wall before and had read the poem, which is by Wendell Berry and is titled, The Peace of Wild Things.

I decided to snap a quick photo with my phone. Not wanting to hold up our walk, I gave the design a cursory glance and then decided to zoom in on just one cactus. My choice was almost random; there were many other images that I could have chosen, but this one seemed particularly colorful and I thought it would look good on Instagram.

After I got home and edited the photo, I noticed something almost miraculous. Right underneath the section that I had shot were the words, “Peace of Wild Things.” I thought it was a fitting photo for the day before Earth Day.

Untitled

And then I went for another walk, today, actual Earth Day, and I was lucky to spot a number of wild things, including the Anna’s hummingbird pictured at the top of this post. I also spotted several other birds, lizards, and flowers — all before arriving at my destination, a coffee shop where I enjoyed an Americano and a blueberry scone.

I felt lucky to be alive on this peaceful Earth Day morning, able to take a walk along a trail where wild things abound. I let my mind hover over that thought while sipping my coffee, much like that little hummingbird with her bright red flower.

Happy Earth Day Everyday.

 

 

Mountain Man

Today I attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, Jerry. He was married, had two sons, worked for 30 years as a self-employed building contractor, and loved nature. He climbed all 46 of the Adirondacks mountain peaks. The room was packed with friends, neighbors, and family who came to say goodbye. There was a tremendous outpouring of love for Jerry. My mind is so full of all of the beautiful reminiscences, quotes, anecdotes, stories, and descriptions of the man that I am at a loss as to what to say on this page tonight. All I can do is tell you a little bit about him through the following poem that I wrote for him.

For Jerry

When I think of you, Jerry,

I think of mountains

and oceans,

your arms and hands

gentle yet well-suited

for climbing

and fishing

and building.

I think of your smile

and of fatherhood

and of sticking with a plan,

and of your interest

in our family

and in many things

other than yourself.

I’m so sorry you are ill

but I’m thankful that you feel no pain

I hope for your recovery

and yet I know that you are climbing

the steepest mountain of your life.

(Is it number 47?)

And we are here with you

calling out to you,

steadying your feet,

handing you a rope,

but we don’t need to do that

you can handle it

you with those mountains in your eyes.

Some of us are up ahead,

and others of us, well,

we aren’t too far behind

we’re keeping our eyes on your light

shining like a beacon on the mountainside.

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