Monday, March 30, 2009
Well, Mary tried to throw a bit of a wrinkle into the system this morning. First, she demanded that Becky pay her a fish for making her bed. "It doesn't work that way." Becky replied. "Okay, here you go," said Mary, handing Becky a fish as if to say, "Go ahead: I'll gladly pay a fish to have you make my bed." "Sorry," countered Becky, "It doesn't work that way either."
Take that, sugar monkey!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Whisperin' Jack is six foot five and weighs about 140 and wears a brown Dobbs fedora that, despite his degree from the Harvard Medical School, makes him look like the kind of quiet creepy guy whose car trunk is one day discovered to contain the sucked-upon finger bones of missing hitchhikers.
Like I said, the man can write. But clever asides like that are just the appetizers, the main course is a series of fascinating essays on natural history: crows and cockroaches, black widows and vampire bats; life and death and sex all take their turn beneath his wry and inquisitive gaze. Not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure, but fascinating stuff.
(As an aside, I once wrote Quammen a letter and asked him the secret to great writing. His answer: "hard work.")
Our family has spent a fair amount of time recently exploring Native American ruins of one kind or another, particularly those involving the Fremont Indians, who, at the height of their culture in about 1000 AD, occupied much of present day Utah in small farming and hunter/gatherer communities. Though the archealogical record is uncertain, the Fremont culture appeared to die out gradually between about 1250-1500 AD.
Unlike the Anasazi, who built elaborate villages of mud and stone, the Fremont built simple pit houses and rocky granaries to store corn they grew along the creek bottoms. For some reason--war? drought? internal conflict?--the Fremont eventually moved these granaries from the sedate creek bottoms to the dizzying heights above, where they camouflaged them carefully and tucked them into barely accessible nitches and narrow ledges. To this day, it remains difficult to spot these granaries, some of which still hold corn cobs and other artifacts, and even more difficult to access them, with many accessible only by helicopter or by skilled climbers using ropes and rappelling gear. We've found a few, but they remain elusive, even with a good pair of binoculars. (Can you spot the granary in the attached photo? I've made it easy for you by reducing it to a single cliff face. Hint: you can double click the photo and view it large.)
In any event, we've loved learning more about the Fremont and poking around in artifact rich areas like Nine Mile Canyon, which contains a stunning array of Fremont petroglyphs, ruined granaries, pit houses, and even a 700+ year old corn cob, which Sarah and I discovered near the remains of an ancient village (and, which, I'll have you know, we duly left right where we found it).
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Can you guess where she wants to go?
Monday, March 9, 2009
I did so with all kinds of happy thoughts running through my head: “Gee, these plants are swell. Won’t this look nice when it all fills in?” In my mind’s eye, I saw the yard as a refuge, a sedate place for light weeding and blissful contemplation.
We finished the last yard project in 2007 and promptly moved to Maryland. When we moved back last August, I was thrilled get back and see how the yard had fared: beautifully, as it turns out, thanks to an improbable renter who loved yard work and had a flair for neatness, a quality that, sadly, I lack. So the yard looked great, but many of the trees and shrubs had grown in leaps and bounds, which got me thinking about … pruning.
And I was excited about it. You know, the cool little nipper things, and the giant scissor-looking shears, and the heavy, muscled lopper … it gives one a sense of power and accomplishment: trim a little here, cut a little there, yes, yes, me, the master of all I survey.
That was before I learned that pruning requires a PhD. Seriously. Astro-physics has nothing on pruning. Each tree or shrub, I learned to my horror and amazement, has different pruning needs, and those needs change based on time of season and the plant’s maturity. And there are rules—lots and lots of rules--though every rule has an exception and competing schools of thought and, as the pruning instructor at the local nursery told me, “Rules are meant to be broken,” except of course, when breaking the rule will kill the plant, or turn one’s life into some kind of pruning Hell for all eternity—the Myth of Sisyphus in your own back yard. Fun!
I also discovered that plants have one serious evolutionary advantage over humans: they can regenerate lost limbs, a lesson that struck me with particular force when I took my new set of nippers and promptly pruned the little finger of my right hand, leading to an episode of rapid blood loss, muttered curses, and stumbling blindly around the yard in near-shock. But, hey: once I wrapped my finger in a mass of bandages and sat down to keep from fainting, at least I had few quiet moments for contemplation.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
I was deeply touched by a recent piece I heard on NPR from the "This I Believe" series on the power of forgiveness. Here's the link, which tells the story of a woman who picked the wrong man out of a police line-up, sending him to prison for 11 years for a crime he did not commit. Remarkably, the two of them are now friends, and they composed the NPR piece together. Here’s the link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101469307.
The story reminded me of another powerful story of forgiveness from the recent past, that of a community of Amish farmers in Central Pennsylvania who have embraced the family of a mentally ill milkman who killed several children at an Amish school before taking his own life. That story, too, was profiled not long ago on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101469307.
In sharing these, I don’t mean to suggest that forgiveness is, or should be, simple or automatic. From personal experience I recognize it as a deeply personal choice, and one that can’t be forced or pressured. For forgiveness to mean anything, the “if” and the “when” must be left entirely to the individual.
But when an individual does choose to forgive, these stories speak of the powerful healing effect of forgiveness on the forgiver as much as on the forgiven. In the end, forgiveness isn’t about what's just or fair, but rather a conscious decision to let go and to move beyond, to love and forget, even when there’s no reason for either.