Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from the shores of Lake Erie

On Winter's Margin

On winter’s margin, see the small birds now
With half-forged memories come flocking home
To gardens famous for their charity.
The green globe’s broken; vines like tangled veins
Hang at the entrance to the silent wood.

With half a loaf, I am the prince of crumbs;
By snow’s down, the birds amassed will sing
Like children for their sire to walk abroad!
But what I love, is the gray stubborn hawk
Who floats alone beyond the frozen vines;
And what I dream of are the patient deer
Who stand on legs like reeds and drink that wind; -

They are what saves the world: who choose to grow
Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor.

Mary Oliver

And, as a bonus, a patient deer:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why I Marched

-- Because as long as any of my fellow citizens can't enjoy the same rights that I do and are not "equally protected" under the law, America is ignoring its own Constitution.

-- Because just as the civil rights movement for Blacks needed the participation of Whites to succeed, the civil rights movement for GLBT people needs the participation of straight folks to succeed, too.

-- Because the person who lives in THIS house:

...and the people who work in THIS building:

need to understand that equal rights for GLBT citizens is not an issue that is going away.

I'm tired of hearing "He has too much on his plate now." I'm tired of hearing "You have to wait until the country is ready." I'm tired of hearing "Your tactics are ill-timed and confrontational."

Dr. King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We are tired of waiting for America to come to its senses and recognize the equality of all its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. I know a march is not enough;we need to keep the pressure on the President, on Congress and on state legislatures. And contrary to Barney Frank, we can do both.

Those of us who stand on the side of love and justice will never give up until all of us enjoy the same rights, privileges and protection of the Constitution.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Flu Bayou

I got my flu shot this morning. Well, let me clarify -- I got my first flu shot, for the seasonal variety. Whenever the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, I'll get that, too. I've gotten a flu shot every year it's been offered (free!) and never had any problems. Of course, I did a get a mild case of it last year, but I like to think I would have been a lot worse off if I hadn't.

My employer is making the vaccine mandatory. We are a rather large medical center and though our vaccination rate in the past has been around 75%, they're aiming much higher this time around. The only deferrals accepted are for medical or religious reasons, and if you do defer, you need to wear a mask from now till about March. If you don't take the vaccine just because you don't want to, you can be fired. that has a few folks up in arms but NC is a Right To Work state so good luck with that.

I know the shot doesn't provide complete immunity, but it gives you a much better chance of avoiding real misery (and a pretty serious illness if you've got some other medical things going on).

So knowing that I have prepared my Flu Box. In one of those big plastic lidded storage containers I have 6 cans of soup, a box of crackers, a six-pack of Vernor's Ginger Ale (thank Gnome they're finally selling it down here) , a couple bottles of Gatorade (or whatever that less sugar alternative is) some herbal tea and an extra box or two of Kleenex. That should get me through the worst of it. I've also checked the Tylenol supply. It's good.

I am ready.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wild Kingdom

The past few days have been glorious here in NC. Sunshine, cool temperatures, Carolina blue skies -- perfect squirrel watching weather. Today's lunchtime feeding started out as most of them do, with some peanuts and sunflower seeds strewn on the ground and then the waiting for somebody to notice. After about ten minutes one squirrel appeared, then another, and the feasting began. A couple big crows stood on the periphery and would occasionally glide in, take a peanut, and glide out again.

Then I saw it -- a flash of white up in the trees. The crows scattered and the squirrels stood stock still. One of them began making a sound that was a cross between a moan and a bark. I knew we had an unwelcome visitor, but I wasn't sure exactly what kind of wicked this way came. I just knew that Something Very Threatening lurked in the trees. One of the squirrels scampered up into the maple tree and curled himself up into a ball, cleverly hiding his white belly and blending perfectly into the bark. But the other one was frozen on a stump and at that point I was feeling very guilty about baiting the field.

And then the Something Very Threatening revealed itself by flying into a tree closer to me, where I could get a good look at him.

A beautiful Redtailed Hawk. He rested in the tree for a minute while I and every other living creature around me held our breaths. And then he flew off. I watched the two squirrels continue to hold their poses, and after about five minutes the one on the ground decided it was safe enough to resume hoovering up the sunflower seeds. The one in the tree stayed where he was, though, and every so often he looked straight at me. I couldn't tell by his expression if he was rebuking me for leading him into a trap or asking me if it was safe to come down.

I've seen hawks around Winston-Salem before, usually sitting on the tops of light poles. Two weeks ago I saw what I am sure was a Merlin (although my friend in the Audubon society chuckled and said "If you think you saw a Merlin, then you saw a Merlin") in that same area of the park. But this was the first time I'd seen predator and prey so close together.

If anyone wants to know what I want for Christmas, a good pair of binoculars would be on that list.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Field Notes

I've been feeding the wildlife at the park for a while now, and it's become an addiction. At least once a day I must visit the park, food in hand, and watch the show. I can recognize individuals squirrels now, especially one who had a sore on his back (which is now healing nicely -- Nature has a way). I also find myself getting annoyed at people who walk their dogs on my lunch hour (which scares the squirrels) and anyone who parks in the best spot for throwing food from my car. Once the mosquitoes calm down I'll actually get out of the car, but till then all you people just stay away from the spot at the far left end of the lot, okay?

Going once or twice every day has led me to some conclusions:

1) Gray squirrels have an amazing ability to blend in with the bark of trees. They can hold stock still and unless you'd seen one scamper up the trunk, you'd never know he was there.
2) Crows are greedy, but shy. They are reticent about investigating a possible food source and wait till others have sampled whatever's there. Then they swoop down and take 4 or 5 bits at once.
3) Blue Jays are badass birds. They will take out squirrels, birds, other Blue Jays and small dogs if any of those get between them and the food.

I've also observed that the preference for food, among all customers, is as follows
1) French fries
2) Peanuts
3) Popcorn
4) Cherries/Grapes

With that diet I guess I should scatter some Zocor along the way, too.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I am a proud, card-carrying member of the Cult of Clete.

A grand slam earlier this year, and a walk-off home run last night. Yes, I know he has Nancy Pelosi eyes but

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Luncheon Theater

I've taken to spending my lunch hours at Miller Park, where I can eat my sandwich in peace without the plaintive cries and outright begging of cats. Part of the attraction of Miller Park are the squirrels who are also good at begging, but not quite as loudly as the cats.

In 1989 a tornado came through town and Miller Park was closed for about a month while downed trees and branches were dealt with. The poor squirrels, who were used to handouts from the lunch crowd, were thoroughly confused when faced with the prospect of gathering food themselves ("What are these acorns of which you speak?")

I was a little concerned these past few days because the squirrels seemed to have disappeared. I didn't see a one on Monday, and just one on Tuesday. But today they were back in force, and they were quite amusing to watch. At first there was one...then two...until I counted about a dozen.

Squirrel snacks today consisted of popcorn and cherries (I try to provide a balanced diet)

Here's one determining the edibility of a popcorn kernel.

I haz a cherry.

This guy's my favorite. I've seen him before and it took a while for him to show up today. Notice the red tail and patch on his back. Some Yankee red squirrel must have passed through town...

I also provide lunch for a couple blue jays, cardinals, and one very persistent chipmunk. And I saw what I thought was a millipede crawl across the sewer cover. A very big millipede. {shiver}

Jane Goodall's got nothing on me.