Tag Archives: nature

The Monarch’s Incredible Journey

The iconic Monarch butterfly certainly made an impression on my young self. Late in August we’d be out floating on the pristine marsh rivers of Ontario, picnicking after a swim, and in the balmy afternoon breeze a flutter of orange would catch my eye, brilliant against the teal green water.

In those days I didn’t realize the Monarchs traveled from Canada to Mexico on their monumental migration. I was impressed enough it would head out across the 30-mile span of Lake St. Clair.

Visit the Forest Service page to get all the details about their incredible journey:

Eastern North American monarchs fly south using several flyways then merge into a single flyway in Central Texas. It is truly amazing that these monarchs know the way to the overwintering sites even though this migrating generation has never before been to Mexico!

Monarchs are Threatened

These beautiful and inspiring creatures are facing multiple survival challenges from commercial agriculture, deforestation and climate change.

What you can do:

•Create a habitat in your own garden and in your community. Plant milkweed (Asclepias L), the only species that Monarch caterpillars will cocoon upon. Invite and protect the flashy caterpillars and their homesand you can enjoy the Monarchs rebirth in late summer.

•Support the work of National Wildlife Federation and other organizations that have habitat projects, protecting and replacing lost habitat along highway corridors and agricultural lands.

Support World Wildlife’s efforts to preserve Mexican forests by supporting alternatives to clear cut lumbering.

DO NOT USE PESTICIDES

Please do not use pesticides or herbicides in your garden or lawn. These chemicals have a devastating effect on not only monarchs but all pollinators, the creatures that make our food grow. For assistance with organic gardening practises click HERE.

And, tell me your Monarch stories. I’m sure you’ve got some!

Seeing More: A Scientist’s Field Journal

I’m linking to Isaac Yuen’s piece at the Ekstories blog because it tells a wonderful tale of art and science, as inseparable as mind and body.

Finding Place through Art and Science: The Field Journals of Lyn Baldwin

Biologist Lyn Baldwin’s field journals are full of beautiful watercolors from her travels as a biologist in British Columbia.

Her careful observation and reverence are apparent in the drawings.

“I always see more when I draw.”

from the post:

Baldwin describes the act of drawing as a powerful means to know something on an intimate level, whether it be a single flower or an entire landscape.

In an increasingly disconnected and attention-deficient world, sketching the veins on a leaf or the mountains out the living room window can help ground us in place and time, train our gaze towards the ordinary beauty we would otherwise skim over.

While her finished illustrations are stunning, Baldwin stresses the importance of process over product. “Regardless of what the final drawing looks like,” she writes, “I always see more when I draw.”

Do you sketch when you travel?  Document flowers and bugs in your garden?  Tell us about it, share your work!

Read the whole blog post HERE

Read an article by Lyn Baldwin HERE

My Heart Flow with the Waters

I live on a lovely little bay off the Potomac River, downstream from Washington, DC. It’s alive with turtles and catfish and migrating water birds. Bald eagles nest in the woods nearby, along with osprey, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks and many other birds.

it blocks the light, killing plants below, rotting makes a stinking black mess

But my bay, and the larger Chesapeake, is choked with foul rotting algae much of the year, the result of excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers. The sewage plant has recently had to absorb the waste outflow from a gigantic new development over 12 miles away, with more than 5,000 residents and 13 million  visitors annually.

While National Harbor has brought jobs and tourist dollars to Prince Georges County, which has never benefited as much as surrounding counties from DC’s economic growth, this overwhelms the sewage treatment facilities resulting in more filth in my bay.

Few people consider how their toilet flushing, lawn chemicals, street run-off or local farm waste are affecting our natural environment.

And yet our river is quite healthy for an urban river, as the birds and  the fish who still live here will testify. In many places the situation is much, much worse.

The voracious habits of the developed world, now exported to China and India’s millions of aspiring workers, are only accelerating the pace. In my lifetime we’ve destroyed most of the ancient forests on the planet, and killed half of the wild creatures that roamed the earth.

Consider this, from Joanna Macy & Jennifer Berezan:

Please be thoughtful in your choices that impact our world. Consider what you can do and give to help reverse the damage our people do to the world.

Alice Ferguson Foundation
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Indigenous Environmental Network

Law of the Jungle

I saw Disney’s new Jungle Book film, and it’s a magnificent experience – a beautiful, heart-wringing adventure. As one of the millions of kids who were a captive audience for the 1967 animated version, I watched it in rapt delight and breathless anticipation.

I’m more of an experiential viewer than a critic; thus I fell in love with Bagheera’s green eyes and cultured voice (Ben Kingsley.) Bill Murray as Baloo the bear was inspired. The lushly detailed environments, plants and animals is a feast for the eyes. But the story the crisis that Mowgli the man-cub brings to his jungle community is bittersweet.

Mowgli is raised by the wolf pack and mentored by Bagheera. They consider the boy one of their own. Shear Kan, the menacing Bengal tiger, claims that man is the most dangerous beast of all, and insists that the man-cub must leave, and later, die. The community erupts in debate, and Mowgli, unwilling to be the cause of such strife, agrees to leave.

For all the lush beauty of this film, with it’s depiction of vibrant life, knowing it’s all created with CGI leaves me with a hollow ache. The ‘jungle’ world that Kipling wrote of in 1894 no longer exists today, except in scraps of parkland.  So Shear Kan made a valid point: humans will bring the end of life as they know it.

Please, go enjoy the movie. It’s lovely. But then take some small action to help the creatures in the film.

To learn more about the state of the ‘jungle’ today, visit one of these organizations.

Global Tiger Initiative

Wildlife Conservation Society

World Wildlife Society

 

 

Cherry Blossom Joy!

I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.

CherriesPhotog2016
Ducks check out the Photographer

When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.

Morning at Capitol Plaza
Morning at Capitol Plaza

Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.

If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!

Even the Desert Blooms

The March Equinox Arrives

At this moment of Equinox (latin ‘equal night’), the Northern Hemisphere crosses out of winter. Preparations for Passover and Easter are underway. Dormant buds are preparing, or indeed bursting, into bloom. I’m poised for my annual cherry blossom painting frenzy. The ospreys returned last Thursday, immediately busying themselves with nest-building.

All living creatures respond to the change. Bob Wells, long time van dweller, (he writes the blog Cheap RV Living) heard that Death Valley was experiencing an unusual ‘Super Bloom,’ and earlier this month pointed his mobile household west.

from the NYT: a Desert 5-Spot. Read about it at http://nyti.ms/1Qv5hGA

From Bob’s Blog:

“Once you’ve spent some time in the desert and opened your soul to hear it’s unspoken message, you quickly come to see how very tiny and puny we are in the grand scheme of things.

“The desert has stood in one place with very little change not just for tens of thousands of years, but for thousands of millenniums. It’s ancient wisdom laughs at our insignificant discoveries. In a moments time it could snuff us out like the locusts we are.”

“When I step out of my van in the morning and look around in a 360 degree circle, the sheer immensity of it’s size humbles me. It would take me days of walking to reach the distant mountains and many more days of walking to reach the next distant mountains. To reach them all would take me many months of walking and I would be dead before I reached them unless I give the desert the respect it demands and learned and followed it’s ways.”

 

Read more at Death Valley Superbloom

The Earliest Frogs

I hear frogs.

Yesterday a deluge. Wild storms ripped libs from the trees.
Pounding rain left pools of cool spring water
the vernal pools that invite the sleeping ones awaken.

Imagine: your world is cold, solid, dark. You are one with the winter dream, until a trickle of liquid warmth reaches down, stirring something in your sleep.

This (relatively) warm tickle, a tentacle, touches tentatively, teasing a limb
reminding a muscle of its urge
to leap, to stroke, to swim. Your chilled blood moves.
Your amphibian body stirs.

Restless, confined, no longer adrift in the winter dream
with a little birth struggle
you press forth from the cold mud,
slip into the vernal pool,
wave your webbed feet and trill.

Mighty Hunter

There’s a big red tailed hawk sitting in the oak tree on the edge of the bay.  I’m across the road, but from here I can see her cock her head, look from one side to the other. She’s rosy in the morning light, and fluffed up in the cold, looking like a small chicken, kind of sweet, or at least innocuous. But she’s there watching my neighbor’s big bird feeder that hangs about 15 feet away. This beautiful bird, soft feathers, warm breast, and bright eyes, is a ruthless killer.

If you haven’t read Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk, you should. Especially if you’re a fan of raptors, or someone who’s grieved a parent. But it will forever dash your romanticism about the noble hawk.

The book is Helen’s personal saga of raising and training Mabel, a goshawk. The process of training this fierce creature to come to her command after hunting is not for the squeamish. Mabel eats frozen dead chicks at home, but her preferred meals involve lots of fresh blood.

So I understand the calm, focused, vigil of this bird. She keeps glancing right, eyeing that bird feeder for her best moment to grab breakfast. I know the folks who live in that house; if they see the event, they will exclaim in horror, ‘oh the poor little birdies!’ But I’m cheering for the hawk; it’s worth knowing she will, for one more day, sit somewhat sated in the afternoon light, preening those ruddy feathers.

PS Helen McDonald writes about the return of the wild boar

 

 

Share Some Self-Love this Valentine’s

This beautiful card and others like it are on sale just in time for Valentines Day, in an effort to promote more genuine self appreciation.

dust-again

 

How about a self-love Valentine this year?

While it may be true that there are certain, say, presidential candidates who don’t need encouragement in this area, most of the people I know could benefit from more sincere self-appreciation.

I wrote about Terri last year in THIS POST

What if we didn’t just wait, hoping that others might notice we need love and appreciation? What if we had a day to honor the best in ourselves?  Well, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts posted this on her blog: “Let’s put the Heart in Valentine’s Day”.

You’ll find some heartfelt examples there. And I bet you can think of people in your own life who deserve more love and credit for goodness than they give themselves.

Let’s give it a try. First, spend a little time considering what you need, and see how you can give yourself more. More peace, more time, more love, more patience; more compassion. And look for ways to share this gift with others who need a little, or a lot, of encouragement to honor themselves.

It just might make the world a better place.

A New Year Dawns

I’ve been grumpy about the unseasonably warm weather – over 70° leading up to Christmas just didn’t feel right. But heading into the end of the year, Voila! And it’s so crispy cold that the bay has frozen.

There is a beauty to the frosted morning, a certain chilled pink and blue glaze over lawns and hills. White clouds lift from chimneys like weightless cotton candy. I don’t think of the water as noisy, but the hush when the bay freezes is palpable.

I love winter. It has it’s place in the cycle of life, for hibernation, rest, reflection. It’s a time of meditation, reading and stirring a cauldron full of veggies to warm the belly. For a cat in the lap. For contemplation and planning, for reviewing and resolving to move ahead.

skatersWelcome, winter. Thanks to the Solstice we know your time is limited. I will enjoy you while you’re here.