About Me

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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Could it be?

Wildlife watchers (or at least this wildlife watcher) always hope to see rare species, and today I had the fleeting thought that I might actually be seeing an endangered butterfly, the Karner blue. This particular butterfly lays its eggs only on the wild lupine (Lupinis perennis), which generally lives in oak savannas, an ecosystem that has become rare. I am not sure that the meadow at the Wintergarden Preserve in Bowling Green, Ohio, is in fact an oak savanna, but it is home to nice swaths of lupine, which today were in full bloom.


According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Karner blues do not typically emerge until late May, but many plants (and perhaps caterpillars?) have been early this year. Certainly, there were quite a few little bluish-grayish butterflies flitting among the lupines.

A girl can hope.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A new love

A plant I had heard of but never seen materialized on an afternoon walk today. Wild hyacinth, or camassia scilloides, grows in abundance in a nearby wetland that I had managed never to visit during the right time of year. At first, I did not know what this gorgeous thing was


since, fully bloomed out, it does not have the classic hyacinth shape, and the only camassias I have ever seen at garden centers or in catalogs are the more brightly-colored western varieties. But the woods were full of the plant,


and I eventually recognized it (with the help of thoughtfully-provided signage on the edge of the trail and some plants still wearing the more recognizable hyacinth-like form).


Camassia is an important early nectar source for a number of native bees, and the bulbs were sometimes eaten by Native Americans and early European settlers. The Illinois Wildflower Society notes that the plant is an indicator of quality habitat, which is good news considering the sky view from this particular wetland.


I would much rather look at the flowers.


Warning: wild hyacinth has a short bloom season, so if you want to see it, head for your local wetland forest or moist prairie now.

Monday, April 17, 2017

No reason to complain

Some people, of course, complain about everything. Some people in our little town complain that the city does not mow the parks early enough in the spring; they dislike seeing the "weeds" that interrupt the view of what they think should be a swath of pure green. I do not share this complaint.

Being fortunate enough to live next to one of our parks, I am generally delighted at the delay. The spread of white in the photo below is not snow, or bare sand, but drifts of claytonia, commonly known around here as spring beauties. That little rise, by the way, is the Turtle Mound, part of a complex of Hopewell earthworks well over a thousand years old.


The next block down includes quite a nice mixed grouping of spring "weeds" or "wildflowers," depending on one's view of them. From a distance, the area does perhaps look a little unkempt.


As one moves closer, however, the view becomes progressively more interesting. Here, the weeds reveal themselves as a mix of spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), and violets (probably Viola sororia, but my violet identification skills are lacking).


The lamium is one of the most cursed-at of our local weeds because of its tendency to spread, but this mint relative plays well with others and asks for no care, so I have rather a fondness for it, and for its cousin henbit.


Besides, it is an important nectar source for early bees, which need all the help they can get. And look at that blossom. If it were hard to grow, we would pay for it. (Other lamiums are offered at exorbitant prices at local garden centers, although they are probably not quite as enthusiastic as this one.)


Spring beauties and violets are the classic April combination in our neck of the woods, and both are essential to the health of our local ecosystems. Tiny as they are, they feed the earliest, smallest bees and flies, which become food for the birds that are returning to the area (as well as those tougher customers who hang around all year). Violets have the additional distinction of being the sole food source for the caterpillars of certain species of fritillary, some of our most attractive butterflies. (One must occasionally consider aesthetics.)


And of course, spring brings the return of the ubiquitous dandelion--not native, but probably here to stay. I happen to love their perhaps obnoxiously  cheerful yellow flowers, but they, too, are a major nectar source. If allowed to go to seed, they feed songbirds, particularly the tiny, ground-feeding chipping sparrow.


So on the issue of "late" mowing: saving taxpayer money by starting the mowing season relatively late in the spring also saves the pollinators and the songbirds. Tell any grouches you know to stop complaining.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reflections

. . . although not my usual sort, which involve photos of water. This week instead has me reflecting on the passage of time. Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my younger sister's death, and tomorrow would have been my first husband's seventy-ninth birthday. He did not want to live long enough to become decrepit or experience dementia, and he didn't. She was not so lucky.

Today I moved a literal carload of boxes of photographs, some framed, some in albums, some in envelopes, some just there, from the home in which said husband's aunt had lived since 1955, the year before I was born. (The car was a Honda Civic, but that is still a lot of pictures.) One small box was labeled "High School Pictures," followed by a list of names of members of the class of 1937. Another label read "Family pictures, around 1905." That box is sealed and has most likely not been opened for many years; when the step"children" (all now in their fifties) and I break the seal, who knows what we will find.

Aunt Pat took pictures of everything, and what she missed, my first husband got. Several of the boxes contain pictures of various trips and of every family gathering during the fifteen years of our marriage. A small envelope of wedding photos surfaced and had to be reviewed. The pictures were shocking.

Twelve days away from my thirty-second birthday, I had thought of myself as a semi-geriatric bride. Looking at today's find, I am not certain that I know that girl. With flowers tucked into her long hair, the person smiling out of those photos looks not too dissimilar from the teenager in my high school graduation picture. My mother, who seemed like an old woman at the time, was not much older than I currently am. Nearly everyone in the family shots is now dead, as are many of the friends. In less than a thirty-year period.

Time: not something to waste or kill.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Confused

Or at least the plants are. Never before have I seen snow crocus, daffodils, star magnolias, azaleas, and spring beauties all blooming at the same time. It's a lovely picture, and the scent of the magnolias is welcome at this time of year., but this combination is a first in my sixty years. What's next--roses for Easter?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why I want to go back to Cozumel

Sky




Public Art









 

Wildlife


Butterfly at San Gervasio Maya site

Iguana at San Gervasio





 And of course--water


Monday, February 13, 2017

Commemorating a complicated history


A cultural difference I am noticing: the (admittedly limited) parts of Mexico I have visited are very upfront about their bloody history. More importantly, they take pride in the mixed identity of modern Mexico. While Merida has a more diverse ethnic mix, with folks from China, Korea, Lebanon, and Italy wandering in during the 19th century (and never mind the flood from everywhere today), Cozumel has won my heart with the public art along its waterfront. Not only is there a fountain for Ixchel and a pyramid topped with a Franciscan chapel , right on one of the prettiest stretches of the Caribbean, just up the street from the city museum, is the Monument of Two Cultures, sometimes called the Monument to Los Mestizos. This complicated structure celebrates race mixing. (Take that, alt-right!)



The story told in the monument is one of shipwreck, conquest, love, and hard choices. In 1511, a shipwreck caused some would-be conquistadores to wash up on the shores of what is today Quintana Roo, in the land of the Maya. Some were sacrificed, some escaped and were enslaved by other groups, and two remained with the original group of Maya. (Historical note: the Maya of this period were no nicer than most other empires.) A few years later, Cortes, on his way to destroy Tenochtitlan and found Mexico City, landed on the Isla de Cozumel and sent for the two Spaniards still living with the Maya. One of the shipwreck survivors, a Franciscan friar, rejoined the Spaniards and served as an interpreter, but the other refused. This man, Gonzalo Guerrero, had become Maya: he had a wife, children, and an honored place in the society of the people who had saved his life (okay, after enslaving him first). Go home? This is my home. Rejoin my people? These are my people. Seek honor and glory? I have them right here. Or at least, that’s how I read the face on this sculpture.

I have to argue, however, with the depiction of the wife in this monument. Not only is she physically smaller than her spouse (as she probably would have been, the Maya of my acquaintance not being very tall people), she is depicted sitting on the ground, beneath him, behind him, and looking up to him.

Now I have no problem with a woman sitting down to feed an infant, as she is doing, or looking up to a spouse, for that matter, but the artistic choice here is troubling. On the Island of the Goddess, she should at least be his artistic equal, and Zazil Ha, the actual historical person, was a princess, the esteemed daughter of a warrior king. One early account, based on the stories of the friar who returned to the Spaniards, has her referring to Cortes’s emissary as “a slave” and ordering him to get out of town. Hardly a sweet, submissive little thing.

The sculptor, however, included another detail that I love, and one that carries a subversive message. This couple had three children: the eldest is the son standing next to his father, one is the infant being nursed by the mother, but the third child is sitting on the ground behind the other figures. This third child is playing with a conquistador’s helmet: a soldier's armor has become a child’s toy.




History, of course, is seldom quite so simple or so uplifting. While some of the Maya actually got along with the Spaniards for a (brief) while, war did eventually break out. The man who fathered the first mestizo family in what eventually became Mexico was killed fighting his former companions in 1536.

But another message was delivered this morning. A rather handsome bird landed on the warrior’s elaborate hairstyle, preened for a while, then flew off. The human stories told in the monument seemed not to interest the bird at all.