Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Hour In My Backyard

This afternoon I spent one hour in our over planted, overgrown backyard just observing the wildlife there. It was pretty amazing and there was a LOT I didn't photograph. I DIDN'T photograph the squirrels, including the short-tailed one I nicknamed "Stumpy". I didn't photograph the many tiny butterflies or the $%@^&* pigeons or the chipping sparrows. I didn't photograph the bees and wasps. Here is what I DID photograph:

This bird is a black throated blue warbler - a first for our backyard. The only other place I've seen this warbler is on a trip we took to Jacksonville one time. There were two of them and they flew right over my head a few times as they went back and forth from one set of bushes to another eating insects.

What got me to go outdoors to begin with was the sight of a male common yellowthroat through the window of my computer room. Outside that window is a Cape Honeysuckle bush that we have to constantly trim back. The yellowthroat was deep in the bushes, but I could see him from my side of the window. If there hadn't been a screen to ruin the photo, I'd have taken a picture of him from there. Once I went outside in search of him, I found the black throated blue warbler and got distracted. It took about 45 minutes before I could get a picture of the common yellowthroat. I saw him several times, but by the time I put the camera to my eye, he had moved too far for me to track. I'm not sure if the third pictre is a female common yellowthroat or a female black throated blue warbler - they are pretty drab compared to their mates - and they look somewhat similar from a distance.

The day wouldn't be complete without at least one dragonfly:

And one Skipper:

Then there was the swallowtail butterfly that I've seen so often but never been able to photo. He stopped long enough to let me take pictures today, although they didn't come out as sharp as I would have liked:

There were the usual birds. The bluejays usually get their picture taken, but not so much today. I couldn't resist this one fellow who looked like he wanted me to take his picture:

We have a pink bougainvillea that has one pure white flower on it amongst the pink - kind of like an albino flower. I have no idea how that happened - it's the first time I've ever seen that, but I took a picture of it amongst it's "siblings":

Here is boat tailed grackle next to a dove - two of the regular visitors to our yard. My husband and I notice each August how the birds look like they've been in a bar fight. Their feathers are scraggly and missing, some have no feathers on their heads or no tails. They look awful. Then, come September, their molt is finished and they look absolutely beautiful. This fellow is no exception:

The red winged blackbirds are back, too. There was a first year male in our yard. You can still see the speckles almost finished turning pure black. His wings were beautiful and I tried to get a few photos where he was moving his wing so you could appreciate his "epaulettes":

Here is the female redwing:

The redbellied woodpecker was visiting today, also. We put peanuts and suet out for him, so he and his wife are regulars. Here, he is telling the red wing to take a hike:

Here is the red bellied woodpecker using his long beak to reach into a feeder he is not supposed to be able to get into - but I don't mind:

Even though this warbler wasn't in my backyard that I know of today, he WAS there on Saturday - er, rather, she. I almost always see female American Red starts, never the male.

Just for fun, I'll add a couple of photos that were taken recently in the Everglades. These are migrant warblers:

Rudolph the Red Nosed Dragonfly? Plus, he has a Snidely Whiplash mustache:

Pretty everglades sweet smelling vine:

Weird everglades yellow flower:

A honey bee and a bumble bee - I love bumble bees - it doesn't seem possible for such a fat bug to be able to fly with those little wings. I'm seeing a lot more honey bees both in my yard and everywhere down here - I am SO relieved!!

Beautiful jewel-like fly:

A Cardinal in the Everglades and a White-Eyed Vireo:

Last, but not least, a flycatcher that was trying to nap with his foot tucked up into his chest:

That's it for now. Phew!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The "Bailout" of the Unworthy

This post is just to show that I am aware of the events of the present day, and not just buried in the Biblical past, although I prefer the supposed "dry" and "dusty" pages of the past to the ugly present.

When I first watched Wall Street taking a dive, I thought, like many others, of the crash of 1929 and the resultant Great Depression. And perhaps there are many parallels between the greed of the past and the greed of the present. I don't know enough about finance to even guess what caused the 1929 crash, except I have read that there was spiralling speculation on meaningless paper, people buying stock on credit, hoping to pay for it when that stock rose higher and they sold it. At some point, stock stopped going higher and those left holding all the stock that was not even paid for, were told they had to pay up. It is kind of similar, I guess, to the housing mortgage problem of today. If a house goes up to ridiculous levels in supposed value, and everyone buys at that level, or borrows against the house at that level, when the level drops, people are left holding mortgages that are more than the actual property is worth - and, incidentally, they can't pay, because the banks loaned to them even when their credit was bad and they were clearly unable to show ability to pay. I believe there is a lot more to this problem than that, but I think that the "straw that broke the camel's back" is the mortgage "crisis". All the other houses of cards will fall like dominoes because of the first domino - the mortgage and housing crisis.

What bothers me more than the crisis itself is the lies that are being propagated by professional politicians, a.k.a., Congress, a.k.a., our elected representatives (said with tongue firmly in cheek).
A majority of those of the Democratic Party persuasion began the mortgage problem to begin with by demanding that banks not be "prejudiced" against minority buyers, which, coincidentally, were often ineligible for a standard morgage loan. That is sad, yes, but if you can't afford something, it is better to find a real way to afford it, than to let government coerce banks into letting you borrow money you can't afford and may well end up foreclosing on. So - the bottom line to me is - the Democratic party - the party of creeping Socialism - is responsible for this debacle. I am not under the illusion, however, that Democrats are Satan and the Republicans are saints. Far from it, but, in this instance, the Democrats are firmly in the wrong.

Now the worst part. Those in Congress who caused this mess with their misplaced legislation are the very ones who are in charge of the solution. Those Democrats who, time and again, refused to allow Republicans or President Bush to put mechanisms in place that would mitigate the coming financial disaster, are now pointing fingers at everyone else, especially Republicans, as the cause of the crisis. They are lying and they know it. These are our elected representatives, and they are lying and they know they are lying. They are counting on the stupidity of the American people, which is pretty depressingly high. They are also trying to use this "opportunity", though it should hardly be considered that, to pad their pockets with more money and to insure their power over what should be a free market.

The whole bailout debacle is just a shocking example to me of how far gone our government is, and how drugged by socialist thinking the American public is.

I think we should somehow kick every Congressperson OUT of office TODAY and find a way to elect worthy replacements, if any exist - and that is the absolute worst - IF any exist.

I'm going back to my Bible study now because He will be my Rock in the midst of this filthy mess America is in.

Here is a video that tells the truth that I think everyone should see.

A Man After My Own Heart

I have a copy of the 1560 Geneva Bible - it fascinates me because the English, though just post-Middle English, is understandable and forceful. Now I have gone further. I have found this website, which is a PDF document that compares all the major pre-King James Version Bibles in their translations. The Wycliffe translation from the late 1300's through the Geneva, which was the last major translation before the King James in 1611.

I've just started reading the PDF document, but I also was directed by that document to a web site that features the original Wycliffe translation in all it's Middle English glory - still understandable, I think, and gloriously beautiful.

The Bible that we know has been around a long, long time - it is, I believe, the Truth, God's Word, and it has survived from the original writers to this day, and not without considerable persecution, sacrifice and bloodshed.

Wycliffe translated the Bible from Latin, which few people, even few priests, understood at the time, to English. John Purvey, a scholar who worked closely with Wycliffe, and was a follower of his, was unable to face martyrdom by burning, at the stake, so he did what the Catholic Church at the time demanded, and recanted his position. He felt guilty after that and eventually took up preaching openly again, and was again imprisoned. No one knows exactly when he died, but I can SO identify with this man. I admire those who have given their lives for the cause of Christ, for the furtherance of the Gospel. I don't just admire them, I know I could never be like them. That's why John Purvey, a wonderful scholar and preacher, a supporter and helper of Wycliffe, and an editor of Bible translations in his own right, is a man after my own cowardly heart. I believe he is in heaven today, having gone to a reward well earned. Perhaps he wasn't the stellar saint that other martyrs were, but Purvey served the Lord, and fulfilled His will. So, he fell, and gave in to the threat of horrible bodily harm - how many unnamed saints of the Lord have done the same over the last 2000 years? Not many mighty are called - and I am not even close to the stature and bravery of a John Purvey, let alone someone even braver and greater. Yet I know the Lord loves me, has provided and will provide for me, and I pray that I can fulfill even one small portion of His will before I meet the fate of all men.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Florida Bloggers Are The Best

I was doing my daily blog reading this morning, and I stopped by one of my favorites, Florida Cracker Crumbs, and found I had been awarded the "I Love Your Blog" prize by that blog's lovely owner. Thank you!! I love your blog, too, especially the Monday Mystery photos.

Now, following the rules of blogdom, I must bequeath this award upon others. Here are my picks:

Some Cranky Guy who makes me laugh so hard sometimes I spit on my monitor.

From A Heavenly Land whose daily devotional writings gleaned from her own life are an inspiration to me.

Here is the award - just right click on it, save the picture to your computer and post it on your blog. To be polite, you should pass it on.

Daily Sarah Palin

I've been reading James Lileks' blog for years. His sarcasm is so finely tuned that it makes a high note only dogs can hear. He has been documenting the anti-Sarah Palin screediness on a daily basis now - and it's too funny to miss. Here is my favorite paragraph of today's column:

"The term “elitist” does not mean a smart person with an area of expertise. It means a person who occupies a narrow stratum of society, usually academic – although people in think-tanks who view the world through steepled fingers qualify as well – whose Olympian perspective is usually predicated on a set of assumptions about people tinged with equal parts indulgent condescension and faint amusement, as an anthropologist might bring to the study of a Cargo Cult. It also confuses proximity to the Washington Monument with access to truth. "

I think he hit the nail right on the head. You must read the rest - there is more of the same, in answer to quotes from various anti-Sarah Palin writers. It is too delicious to miss.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Marianne Faithful

I don't know how or why, but I was reading about Marianne Faithful the other night. The name sounded vaguely familiar. Turned out she was an English folk singer who got noticed by Mick Jagger, who then promoted her - and she became his girlfriend/lover from some time in the 1960's until 1970. We all know Mick Jagger has been through tons of women. She was just one of them, almost a "first love" for him, although I think there were girls before her. He seemed to have been quite crazy about her for a long time by Jagger standards. Once their relationship was over, she fell apart. She became a street tramp doing drugs all the time, like a homeless vagabond. A few years later she pulled herself together and went on.

The part that pierces my heart is the fact that she, to this day, has no remorse for the destructive lifestyle that she indulged in. She doesn't see how it almost ate her alive and spit out the bones. Here she is during her hey-day, while she was with Mick Jagger:

Here she is with Mick Jagger:

This fits in with the delirium of youth. When you're young you think you'll live forever. Everything has the taste of drama and immortality, until you age a bit and reality hits. She still, today, has no remorse for the loose sexual behavior she exhibited back then. She admits to sleeping with many men, not just Mick Jagger. She "had fun" according to her present view. She is still an attractive woman, but the magic is gone, buried under the everyday-ness, the ordinaryness of her. After all, she has aged like we all have, and the "eternal" youth with it's excesses is long gone. Mick isn't looking so good these days either.
Here is Marianne today:

We all age. The magic of youth doesn't last. Even the richest among us are subject to the limitations of this body and time. I wonder how they can deal with the passage of youth without the promise of eternity, without the grace of God. It all seems so sordid and sad, when looked at from middle age. Youth, being beautiful in itself, gilds the sin and makes it appear palatable, understandable. Age just makes it all look tired and vain and empty. I wonder - didn't Mick Jagger worry about her - try to make sure she was taken care of when she lived on the streets? I don't suppose any of this matters, but to me, it's just a symbol of what total antinomianism will do - like Solomon, who let it ALL hang out and seemed close to suicide in Ecclesiastes, without God there is no meaning at all to this "life".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Time and Memories

It's late. 3:00 AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning to be exact. I'm NEVER up this late, but I'm listening to music and I'm wide awake. At night it's easy to be somewhere else. I'm physically in my little room where my computer is, but mentally? I'm certainly not bound by these walls. Here is what I've written while I've been listening to music. I'm not sure what made me begin to write this, but my childhood, my past is always just behind my conscious thought. The older I get, the more beautiful are the memories from years gone by.

Favorite glimpses through the strange portal that is the past:

I'm lying in home's backyard. It's finally spring and the sun feels so warm. I'm so young and I know it. I know time is...time is...time is.... a hammer, a metronome.

My radio is AM only, WABC, Dan Ingraham, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, mostly the sky and the high waving green leaves of the trees. A weeping willow, like Medusa's tresses is behind me, and the cottonwood tree with three trunks that sprang from one is next to my house. 7 years old, I climb into the midst of the trunks and span them with my feet and hands until I run out of length, and the tree runs on above me, touching the sky.

The kitchen window is open to the back of the house and my mother is running the water, sounds of cooking, pots clanging, distant conversation. All. Is. Well. There will be good food and iced tea at the table with 3 windows open round about - summer is calling, calling - "hurry up and come back outside - come and play - hurry!". There will be a pink and golden sunset and a hot bath and clean, crisp, fresh white cotton sheets. Sleep sweet, no worries, no fear, windows open to the cool breeze, gentle rustle of dark leaves in the night. Mother and father in the next room, all doors open, the attic fan sucking the curtains in, bringing the smell of rich, wet earth.

I take a book, perhaps "The Secret Garden", perhaps "The Lord of the Rings" - up, up the trees around the corner from our house. I climb above everything, to the branch that cradles me, a V I fit into with my feet against the trunk, leaning against the finer branches with their cushioning leaves. I wait, rapt, for the wind to blow and for the swaying of my perch. The tree carries me in its' arms and rocks me. The air is redolent with the smell of cut grass, warm dirt and pond water. Promise of life life life life - it will never end.

I'm 7, I'm close to the ground. I wonder what it's like to be so high above the earth as my father - will I be dizzy? My legs will carry me anywhere. I'm fast - I can beat the boys at school. I can play "Come Across, " a bloody tag game. Boys on one side of the parking lot that passes for a playground at the ancient stone Catholic grade school I attend. Girls on the opposite side of the lot. In between, a line of taggers. We must run from one side to the other without being tagged. I fall, my knee is bloodied, but I keep on running. I am tough, the wind is in my hair. I fall again and I don't care. It's just a knee. I can still run with the gravel embedded in my skin, glorying in the speed - I can do anything. I can climb trees, pull myself up and swing up, up, up - sure that the maple will accept me. It knows me. I know it does. All the trees I climb know me, and so do the birds that nervously hop on the branches above me, eyeing me sidewise in wonder at first - what is she?

The world, oh the world, has such beauty and such pain.

I walk down Fairlawn to Cherry Street. The sound of cicadas are lazy, but insistent. I turn on Cherry Street and reach the High School field. Across the field, I think about the library, piano lessons, church - and wonder - who am I really? Over the years I walk this same path in search of books, music and God Himself.

Walking while reading my precious library books, using peripheral vision to avoid places where the sidewalk has buckled, giant elm roots lifting the slate slabs to crazy angles.

The Egg Pond, green and mysterious through the chain link fence. Why is it called the Egg Pond? No one knows. It doesn't smell like rotten eggs - it seems there is no reason.

Fall - my bedroom windows open. The sound of rustling leaves, dogs barking and the children down the street playing and shouting faintly.

As always, the world is something I stand aloof from; I am a voyeur of life, looking on, but not involved. Lying on my bed staring out the window, dreaming, dreaming; listening to the sounds of life as the moments pass.

I remember the feeling of running FAST, of the ability to do whatever I thought of - climb, fall, slide - I could sustain it all. I remember a flat stomach, taut and tight, and feeling my hip bones protruding from my skin before I fell asleep at night. My belly was concave, my legs as long as a grasshopper's, my arms brown and strong. I would take off my shoes as soon as my mother wasn't looking and feel the cool, soft grass pushing between my toes.

Try this. Lay lengthwise at the top of a green grassy hill, perpendicular to the bottom. Tuck your arms in and then begin to roll, side over side down the hill. Faster and faster as gravity grabs you, you tumble to the bottom, smelling of the sweet green grass, dizzy, laughing.

Try this. See a strong tree branch above you? Grab onto the trunk and swing yourself up, holding on with arms and hands, until you are astride the branch like riding a horse. Perhaps your sneakered sockless feet dangle down on either side. Someone who didn't see you climb passes below you, not knowing you are above - you remain silent, watching them, not breathing until they have gone.

Try this. Clamber out to the screened porch in the crowded neighborhood you call home. You know there is no home but the one from which you sprang so many years ago. Now. Lay down on a chair and push it back until you are flat. Feel the ache in your joints and the bulge in your belly, but ignore that. Fasten your eyes on the trees that crowd the screening. Smell the warm sun on the grass, listen for the birds. You can't climb and you can't run. You have fear and you don't play - there is no time. Try this then - remember. Remember hard.

My father is 89 now. No longer the father of my youth. He dreams at night that he is striding with long steps across Congress Park in Saratoga Springs. The grass springs beneath his shoes and he is young and strong and purposeful. Everything is ahead of him and there are no limitations, but he simply walks the park and, in his genes, the love of the trees and the grass are being imprinted and passed on to the future. To me.

Try this. Just sit - sit like you couldn't when you were small because you hadn't the patience - sit and watch the bees, the butterflies, dragonflies. See the glint of the sun on their wings and marvel at their colors.

Try this last of all. Yearn. Yearn for forever. For that eternal that God placed in my bones, that has called me more and more insistently as the years pass like blurred markers on the road. He taught me to love the trees. He taught my father. He made my father and He made me. He placed me in that house, in those trees, in that backyard. He has placed me here, longing for Him and for the running of my legs again, the tickle of long stems and flowers brushing them.

God will give my father and I the trees to climb, in the fullness of our knowledge, not limited by these dimensions.

The feelings I put away in the closet during the normal times - they take my breath away. How I love my daughter. She is all grown up - and can someone tell me when that happened? I don't remember. I don't remember her being born, but I do. I don't taste the days of her childhood, but I know they are back there in the closet somewhere.

My God. When I open that closet door. A rush, a swoosh of black, musty, dank air rushes out.

She is 24 years old. Going on 25. When did that happen? Where did she go? She is a part of me, she is indeed a part of the child in the tree, like I am a part of the man walking Congress Park and a part of the young girl who remembers her mother making bread and butter pickles in the fall, in the cold, brisk, bright blue air - and the smell as she entered the warmth of home. Home. Her mother turns from the lined up glass jars full of sliced, marinated cucumber, and asks how the day has gone. "Put your books away and come into the kitchen." 70 years later, Emily closes her eyes and sees the sun on her mother's hair through the kitchen window, smells the vinegar and sugar, pungent in the autumn air.

Richard and Emily.....Susan.....Ashley - God knows us. He is preparing the crisp, clean white sheets of home. He has thrown open the windows of our rooms, in preparation for our arrival. He has made sure there are beautiful trees who will cradle us in their arms, He is in the next room so that we are safe. Forever - and in forever we can all play together.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Two Things

The first thing is that the storm appears to be going south of us for now. It's Saturday night and it looks like Cuba - the Guantanamo side - will be hit with a Cat 4 hurricane - very scary for them. Cuba insists that there were no deaths from Gustav, which hit the west side of the island as a Cat 4, I believe. Now they can do the same on the east side - and claim there were no problems. Those poor Cubans. We'll still watch through Sunday in case Ike takes a turn back toward Florida. My husband is disappointed that we'll not get any days off from work - and he's cranky because we FINALLY bought a generator and we might not need it. I'm just glad to be prepared - better safe than sorry.

The second thing is that I just enjoyed watching for maybe the 10th time one of my favorite movies - "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" I'm not sure why I like the movie so much. I love George Clooney's character. I love innocent Delmar and passionate Pete. The bad guys get it in the end and our heroes survive to live another day. I realize the movie is patterned after "The Odyssey" and it is SO clever. I love the Christian overtones - even though George Clooney's character makes fun of faith. The music is pure old time Appalachian, one of my favorite and most beloved genres. I have the sound track to the movie because I love the music so. I love the 1930's dusty, agricultural South as depicted in the film. It is very unrealistic because the boys survive everything and have no trouble breaking out of jail twice - but that is the whole point. This movie is escapist for me. I go back in time to another era - the clothes, the music - and it is the South, the defeated, dusty, dirt-poor Depression South. Something resonates with my imagination whenever I see this movie - it's safe because I know it ends well - and it takes me to a wonderful place.

Here is the trailer from the movie. The song "Man of Constant Sorrow" is the featured song from the film.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Am NOT Happy About This

Those who live in South Florida will know what I'm talking about:
I don't mind a Tropical Storm - I welcomed Fay because we got 2 WHOLE DAYS off to stay in and watch the rain. I knew Lake Okeechobee would get refilled and that our drought would be over. All my plants would get much needed rain and I could hibernate inside for 2 straight days and enjoy the respite.

Not so with a Cat 4 storm. Those babies rip off roofs, destroy homes - heck, trailer parks don't stand a chance - and just ruin everything. Trees are down everywhere and houses - not so good. Not to mention the actual going through 6-10 hours of hell on earth while the shrieking banshees are howling around the corners of your house looking for little crevices to hide in, gain a foothold, then pry up and rip off, bit by bit. If anyone remembers what it looked like after Andrew passed - it looked like a nuclear bomb hit. Not good. Then there are the weeks afterward until power is restored while you sweat in houses not built for Florida conditions, while your neighbors run 1 million decible generators right outside your windows. All I can say is "Arrrrrgh". May God allow Ike to do what Floyd did, except not hit ANY land at all.