Not everyone has a marsupium.

23 06 2009

There are firewood rounds sitting on my driveway arranged around the basketball hoop.

A tree leaned its way across my driveway in a winter windstorm and the inexperienced handyman cut all of the rounds at an angle, so they are devilish to split, but I’m making progress, if only to make basketball less treacherous now that Robin has grown large enough to play.

Lifting one onto the chopping block, I disturbed dozens of tiny shelled creatures who had made their home in the decaying wood at the bottom.


Sow bugs, these are called.

They’d be pillbugs, if they rolled that way. (or any number of other names)

Crustaceans, like lobsters and shrimp and such.

Woodlouse seems like a nasty name for a creature that come out of the wood looking so clean and does no harm in the world, really – mostly just helping already decaying things along their way.


One of them was the largest I’d ever seen, as big as my fingernail, bigger than the biggest watermelon seeds from my childhood memories of gargantuan Hempstead, Texas watermelons. In Texas I was told that like armadillos, they could carry leprosy. This is a canard, but there is some size at which crawling things go from almost cute to almost creepy, and this one edged toward creepy. She was large enough that I after I coaxed her onto my hand, I could feel her individual feet as she ran along the back of my finger and eventually to my arm. I flipped her over to see the gills on her undersides, the 14 wiggling legs, and what I think was the white marsupium where she would store her eggs – or could have been storing them yet.

In this picture you can see one shedding its skin – they do one half at a time, for some unknown reason.

The Kids are Coming!

7 06 2009

In a couple of hours, I’ll be off to pick the kids up from their late-night flight into town. There’s a lot that I hope we’ll pack into this summer, and they are coming in just the nick of time. They’ve missed the great hot weather we had last week – into the 90’s.



This moth hiding in the grass would have been fun to show the kids.

He was really calm in the cool of the evening when I took this shot on my finger.


I finally got out of the house around 7 today to walk around. Many of the flowers have faded, like this rhodey:


Others, like this lovely one covered in water droplets, have a few blooms left.


Others are going full throttle


Just like last year, in spring one of the plum trees was covered in blooms, while the other, knocked back by drought and deer, had only a handful. I picked those and tried a bit of my own pollen match-making – looks like it (or something) may have worked! Some of the plumlets are being shed, but a few are developing into hard green fruit.


This one, in particular, looks promising. Probably it will make a nice mouthful for a deer…


Every year, the leaves make a nice meal for various caterpillars. The ones that come later I can easily find – their protection, as far as I can tell, is to excrete all over themselves – they look evil and smell like rotten prunes. I think this early batch saves itself by dropping from the tree when I approach – I found a small caterpillar clinging to my arm last week when I visited the tree. When I tried to pick it off, it flung itself away on a strand of silk and then, after a moment, started climbing the strand again.


On my walk in the damp and cool, I also came across these mushrooms growing on a dried out dead tree, just behind a strand of gooseberry and a small salmonberry bush. They look good enough to eat, although I’m not going to attempt it!


Most importantly there are salmonberries.


Although a few have been snatched by the birds, the salmonberries are just getting started!

The yellow-orange ones are always the first to arrive, later we’ll also have the beautiful red ones. The Indians called them salmonberries because they thought the drupes looked like salmon eggs. Wikipedia says that it’s said “the name came about because of the First Nations’ fondness for eating the berries with half-dried salmon roe,” but that ain’t the way I heared it.


Drupes, by the way, are the small fruits that collect to make aggregate fruits like raspberries. Salmonberries are in the Rubus family, along with raspberries and blackberries.

This lovely one is not ripe at all! Plenty of time yet for the kids to get some!


Working hard

4 06 2009

I unexpectedly had a moment before I left for the bus this morning.

I stopped to watch a robin working his way through the uncut part of the lawn. The tops of the unopened dandelion buds are just over his head. He moves with an eye cocked, rushing forward from time to time to snatch at something I cannot see. The sun is already pretty high when I’m heading out. (It was pretty far up when I woke up – the days are long!) He works all day long – sometimes I resent having to work, as though leisure was the natural state. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks off soon, but when does he get time off? Sometimes animals do get leisure – often from human’s labor. Birds and baboons freed from having to work focus on social status (and, for baboons, grooming, which is all tied up with social status). Hmmm.

Written while taking a moment before giving a talk to a room full of strangers.

the world offers itself to your imagination

2 06 2009

I don’t know why I’ve been spending my evenings inside — habits of the winter I suppose. Much nicer out on the deck. The bees are so loud in the rhododendrons that I keep turning my head to see what is there. A few moments ago, I heard a bear off in the woods, in earshot for just a few moments. The paths always grow too crowded for the bears, and they crunch their way noisily through. Why should they tiptoe?

Here’s a poem by Mary Oliver, I just ordered a collection of hers, New and Selected Poems, Volume Two

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Here’s another flickr pic, well worth looking at, but, alas, by a spoilsport who’d rather not crown a blog post with their picture!View On Black.

Don’t be shy.

31 05 2009

Deer eyeing me.
I walked out on the front deck this morning to knock the dried bits of grass off of my best pair of jeans so I could wash them. I shook them a couple times and startled the young deer that was feeding on my landscaping. My deck is high off the ground, and he spun around, a bit of greenery still in his mouth.

It doesn’t seem to matter how quiet I am – the deer run away. So I went ahead and shook the pants some more, struck them against the railing and brushed them with my hand. The deer must have decided that I was noisy enough to be harmless without being too startling, since he went back to feeding.

He looks young and frail, ribs showing, tiny nubs of antlers barely visible, if I’m even seeing them right.

Bellevue Jazz Festival

15 05 2009


This looks good — lots of free acts and some pretty quality ones at that. And some pretty well known names for pay, if you like them enough!

Here’s a link to a list of the artists and show times — I think I’d like to check out one of the ones at one of the restaurants.

I, paparazzi.

14 05 2009

I went out after dinner to cut down a pair of fallen-down out-of-control ugly ornamental trees that are chocking the yard on one side of the driveway. Defintely the wrong plants in the wrong place. I got the chainsaw started (yay — sometimes this is hard after it’s been away for a while), but needed to lop some branches to get close enough to the trunk. I’m snipping away and what do I see? A big nest tucked away in the branches and, holding herself as still as can be — but with a careful eye on me — a momma robin sitting on her eggs. I’m close enough to reach out and touch her (of course I don’t) but she is as still as the dead. She’s pressed down into the nest, her head arched up and her tail tufting up the other side. Did I mention she was motionless? In fact, I’d expect a dead bird to show more signs of life (false though they might be) than this bird does.

I run and get the camera, but pointing that big eye of a lens at her freaks her out and she swiftly wings away, only to return and squawk desperately and flutter about the branches on the other side of the tree when I maneuver closer to the nest. So I quickly snap this paparazzi shot of the eggs and run off so she can get back to brooding.
robin's eggs

After that, I take a bunch of pictures of the clouds and the sunset and the forest in the growing gloom.