Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jim's Garden

While I'm on the subject of nature, one of the best things about spring, summer, and early fall is being able to enjoy Jim's garden. (By the way, I know all the pictures here are small but you can click on them to make them bigger). We have a fairly large lot and, over the years, Jim has gradually reduced the size of the yard by planting, extending, and connecting gardens. There are all sorts of flowers, climbing vines, grasses, bushes, and even trees and we often just walk around to see what new is happening or blooming. And sometimes we can munch on raspberries or strawberries right off the bush. There's a kiwi vine, but nothing to pollinate it so no kiwis.

I've gotten in the habit of sitting outside to read. It's very quiet and, after I've read for a while, I can sit back and watch all the animals running around, birds come by for the feed and bird baths, etc.  We've seen some real sights over the years.  Once a hawk fly by with a dead squirrel in its claws. And we've seen hummingbirds (not too rare but rare enough to create excitement), strange bugs, and of course rodents of all kinds running around.

Some of the rodents are our sworn enemies (rabbits), others are cute but starting to become pests (chipmunks), and others don't create issues (squirrels and mice).  Once we even had a giant praying mantis (6 inches long) living in the vines on the trellis! And of course there was the deer that ran through the yard, and Jim once saw a coyote. Most of all though, I like the quiet and being able to just sit back and listen to the breeze. Before very long, I forget about everything that might be troubling me and I can often get into a state of samadhi while sitting out there. Sometimes, of course, I just nap. I keep hinting about a hammock, but Jim says I'll never use it because of the bugs. Plus it would probably be a total eyesore in the middle of all this!

Jim's the architect of it all. I can't make mold grow.  Our neighbor gave me a plant to tend once, and I did. But it died in a week. No green thumb here. So I'm very lucky to get to enjoy all this without having to do any gardening, which I have to admit has never held much attraction for me.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In for a treat!

Outside my study window, a robin has built a nest in a big rose bush supported by a trellis and a wooden arch in the garden.  Pretty good location in that it's sheltered by the house and hidden by the rose bush. Though I was surprised our proximity when we sit outside on the patio was okay with the bird.

When I looked outside the other day, I saw that we'll have quite a miracle of life going on over the next few months. (Click the pic to enlarge). I try not to look out the window too much as I do not want to spook the mother bird, but I can't wait to hear the sound of little chicks squeaking!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"There's nothing on the radar."

That's what Jim said this afternoon after I said, "I'm not sure if we should go on a bike ride." Of course I retorted that when I see clouds and feel rain, I don't really care what's the radar says. But Jim persisted, and I hated the idea of wasting a chance to get some more miles in.

Well, the picture here is what happened after we left the house. We got poured on, with gritty water flipping up our backs and down our asses, took shelter in an underpass for twenty minutes, learned that where we had been not ten minutes before was being pelted with hail, and then got to look like major dorks riding home in the rain along a busy road.

And only 8 miles to show for it. Jim will not live this down for a long time (and we're getting the deep dish pizza I like tonight!). But I guess it's really nothing to cry about.  After all, it's just water. And it'll make a great story!

Note to the President

There's a page on the White House website where you can send notes to Obama.  Here's what I sent:

"Once the Gulf spill is under control, please use this disaster as a means to drive stronger efforts needed to move this country in the proper direction on energy. Americans need to understand we cannot consume oil and also protect our environment. This isn't the first oil spill disaster and - if we continue relying on oil - it won't be the last. The only way to prevent this from ever happening again is to move away from oil.

"This requires more than energy policy. It extends to incentives in city planning and construction that makes part of highway and roadway projects the expansion of other means of transportation, such as trains and even bicycles. It also means improving access to these modes of transportation. For example, expanded train service is great, but if there are two year waiting lists for the parking at the train stations then people can't use it. This doesn't have to happen overnight (and it can't), but we aren't doing enough to take even the small steps that will lead to better energy policy in the future.

"Another needed approach is to punish those who actively avoid intelligent fuel decisions (e.g., SUV owners). Let's push for a tax on these vehicles (like the 'sin tax' on cigarettes and alcohol) that will ensure there are funds for the future clean-ups that will be needed. Perhaps an SUV tax added to their car payments, or a surcharge added to their insurance, or a higher toll for SUVs on the highways that means they have to go in the manual lanes? Whatever the case, people who flagrantly waste oil should be required to bear extra burdens versus those of us who make more intelligent transportation choices."
 
Here's the link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Oceans

Hoping for a big screen version of Blue Planet and always interested in sea life, I dragged Jim to Oceans this past weekend. I was very excited, but it was a real disappointment and I ended up apologizing to him.

The good: there were several really awe-inspiring shots of wildlife. One shot had a diver swimming near a whale and I really got a feel for the scale of the animal, which is not often the case in whale footage. Another shot had a diver swimming alongside a great white shark. Again, I got a feel for the sheer size of the animal. I also liked the scenes of jellyfish herds. Very beautiful.

I use the word 'shot' in describing the movie because, unlike much better treatments of nature, such as Blue Planet or Planet Earth, this movie felt like a lot of 'shots' strung together. There were no 'sequences'. And this was really the main problem with Oceans, it was utterly directionless. The narrator said something about the first horseshoe crabs rising out of the water, and I thought: "Okay they're going to make some point about the history of the sea or something." Nope. They switched to a completely unrelated topic within three seconds when the next shot came up. While the really good documentaries I mentioned above transition between a lot of different topics in a fairly loose manner, there is a sense of organization and flow.  The narrator sticks with one idea for a bit, makes a point, and then guides you to the next idea.

Oceans felt like a jumble of undersea footage stitched together without rhyme or reason. Pierce Brosnan's pompously voiced narration created a lecture hall dreariness, underlined by the grandly worded but often meaningless text he was saddled with. 20 minutes into Oceans I was flat-out bored. When I heard the narration start up with the 'man hurting the environment' line, I realized we must be coming to the end and literally felt relief. Though the satellite images of pollutants flowing into the oceans were quite compelling, I was too close to napping to really care.

Some might point out that Oceans is primarily aimed at kids, and that this would be the reason I found it dull. However, the amount of fidgeting from the dozen or so kids around Jim and I suggested to me they were as bored as us. Perhaps the scattered approach was an attempt to keep the kiddies engaged by always having something new flashing across the screen? If so, it didn't work. It came off as dumbed-down, not kid-friendly. At the half-way point, I heard one child loudly ask his father in an utterly bored tone: "Can we go home?" So much for instilling the wonder of nature in the next generation.

I'm glad Disney made this effort, and I hope they continue doing flicks like this. But maybe they ought to try a little harder next time.