We don’t need scientists to explain climate change to us. We can see it all around us. The rivers are dry with their muddy bottoms showing. Fall came weeks early and blew away a week later. The winds which normally blow straight up the Atlantic shore are twisting eastward, so all the rain goes from the mid-Atlantic area straight out to sea, completely missing the northeast.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As a watershed area, the water that we store here is part of the water that keeps the entire state flowing wetly along. And some of the water normally flows down into Connecticut and parts of southern New Hampshire.

Muddy banks, short dock at Riverbend

I leave a bowl of water on the deck. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds  … they all come to drink. Usually there are little rivulets and patches of wet through the woods. But not this year. It’s bone dry which is scary for any number of reasons, including the danger of fire. So far, it has just been little brush fires, quickly squelched. But New England is 70% wooded. There’s a lot of forest and it’s dry. And contrary to presidential warnings, no one has been out there raking the woodlands to keep them neat. What a really stupid idea that is. There’s so much stupidity going around. It’s hard to keep track of all the dumbness. I wish some of the incredibly stupid ones would drop by. Check out our dry rivers. Maybe pick up a rake and start raking my woods. Maybe cut down a few ailing trees while he’s at it.

We aren’t waiting for climate change to come. It’s here. We’re living in it.


The Changing Seasons, September 2020 – A Hard Month for One and All

It has been a difficult year. Possibly the worst year of my life and our collective lives together. And yet, despite this, we had a brief but beautiful Autumn. Early. About two weeks early, probably because of the long summertime drought. The drought ended a few days ago and it has been raining since then. Not pouring, though it will take a while to make up the 10 inch gap in water we suffered in August and September.

I took a lot of pictures, as did Garry. Some I have shown before, others are new, but all are from this month.

About the Changing Seasons

From Su Leslie:

When I took over hosting The Changing Seasons from Max at Cardinal Guzman, I carried on using the format that Max had developed. Over the years though, I think that we’ve all evolved different ways of approaching the challenge and for some, the original guidelines may seem prescriptive or even off-putting. My own view is that The Changing Seasons is an opportunity to reflect on the month that has passed, and to share those reflections in whatever way feels appropriate. For some bloggers, it’s a framework to record and reflect on particular interests and projects — like a garden. For others, every month is different, and so there is no set way of approaching it. I think we do need guidelines, especially for those who are new to the project. But do those we have still work? I’m interested in your views.

In the meantime, here is Max’s original statement.

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month. If you would like to join in, here are some guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month. Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots. Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month. Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material! Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them. One thing that won’t change though. Include a ping-back to this post, and I’ll update it with links to all of yours.

For those of us who have participating in this challenge for years … since the first years when Cardinal Guzman ran the challenge, I think we have our own style and know how to make it work. I could never use a single picture. I’m too indecisive. Given the rapidly changing climate we are experiencing, I think has become an important challenge. 

Like Su Leslie, this has been a debilitating month. It has been a debilitating year, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this challenge. I want to see the how the world is going on, that the world is going on. Please don’t forget to put in a link to Su Leslie so she can collect our entries. The world has gone a bit mad and we are all a bit mad collectively and individually. May we continue to have world to exhibit!


I’m often horrified at what this country has become, especially because it didn’t start with Trump. It might very well end with Trump but it began before the U.S.A. was a country, when we decided owning slaves was okay because making money was more important than justice. That our first bunch of presidents were also slave owners AND did not free their slaves even though they knew slavery was wrong didn’t help. These were not stupid guys. If they could write the constitution — not to mention some amazing personal notes and letters — they could dope out that slavery was not a great policy for our country.

We’ve never been a genuine democracy. One vote is not one vote. Between slavery and all those years when dark-skinned people were 3/5ths of a person and then Jim Crow — not to mention the interference of the electoral college, no one’s vote has ever been a real vote.

So now that we’ve gotten exactly where we always wanted to be … a kleptocracy where the guy at the top has run the country entirely based on what he and his personal buddies and backers — not to mention family — could get out of it and we are morphing (or have already morphed) into an autocracy, what next? Do we really think that ANY president could unring 45 corrupt bells? Do we believe for a minute that the amount of destruction we have wrought on our poorest, most vulnerable people will ever be redressed? That we would ever seriously try to redress it?

I’m not in a rage. I’m not suffering the woes and illnesses of watching the country go suddenly downhill because it’s been going downhill for my entire life and many lives before mine. I will vote, absolutely 100% no matter how long it takes. If youngsters think blaming their grandparents for what they see is in some way going to make it better when they aren’t willing to put their own shoulders to the wheel, they are deluded.

I don’t know where we are going or how we could ever get there. Aside from systemic racism and a level of endemic corruption that boggles the mind, if we don’t deal with the climate, human beings won’t have a world to live. With whatever problems humanity had before, never did we face trying to maintain life in a world unsuitable for it. In the meantime, our younger generations can grind their teeth because grandma and grandpa had a better life. Sorry, kiddies. Life isn’t fair. No one promised me it would be fair. Did someone promise you? If they did, they lied. You should definitely complain because there’s nothing like a lot of whining to fix a broken world.

I sure hope we get some rain. It’s been bone dry here. The leaves are turning brown and falling off the half-dead trees. Welcome to the New Earth.


The Changing Seasons: July 2020

It’s not just about pictures anymore. It’s about energy … finding enough of it to actually take pictures which look exactly like the pictures you took last month because you are still at home, so the plants may be a bit bigger and the woods greener, but essentially you are taking the same pictures. Again. I’m also suffering from a bad case of the blahs. It’s like a bummer, but without the enthusiasm.

Duke the First

Duke is now “the dog.” it’s very strange to have just one dog. We’ve always had at least two and I feel that Duke needs a pal. I’m sure he misses the terriers. We certainly do. I’ve done a little investigating, but adopting a dog these days costs more that buying Bonnie from a breeder! I understand that adoption groups have big expenses, but basically, this puts getting pets out of the reach of many people, including us.

That has been some month. With the exception of a short visit to Tom and Ellin, life has been much the same — not counting filling out mountains of papers to get a refinance and dealing with the boiler — yes, we STILL need a boiler — and the back of the house because it’s still a mess back there. And for those of you that live in pot-friendly states? Get rid of it before the appraiser comes. Because federally speaking? It’s STILL ILLEGAL.

Don’t ask. My brain is totally fuddled. Not be-fuddled. Just fuddled.

I keep thinking one day the world will be normal, but I no longer am sure what normal actually means. We weren’t really normal before we got this abnormal. We thought we were normal, or, more to the point, most of us were paying very little attention to the base realities of life in this country. Some of us are at an age when we feel we have done as much as we could do and we don’t really want to do a lot more. I was thinking last night about writing a book because for the first time in some years, I had an idea for a story about how somehow, in 2020, we wound up on an alternative earth where things look like they used to look, but they really aren’t the same things.

On a positive note, we still have a house to live in and we still have whatever money we used to have arriving on schedule. It may not be enough money, but compared to so many other people, we’re downright wealthy. Not rich enough to do what we need to do, but at least we have a home and with a little luck, we get to keep living in it.

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, so Su Leslie can update it with your link.


Bonnie passed at the beginning of June. We were doing what we swore we would NOT do, which was keeping her alive when it was obvious that she was really gone. At least she was (mostly) physically healthy until the end, not counting the blindness, deafness, and dementia. I thought I’d written about it. It was a relief in the end. I had not realized how much of our day was involved in caring for Bonnie. I hope she and Gibbs are friends again.

The face that launched a thousand cookies!

We are still waiting for a final word on our refinance and THEY are waiting for the appraisal, which normally takes about a week and is now just four days ago. We might have it tomorrow or Thursday. If it’s OK, we are a “go.”

I have plan B if it doesn’t work out and I’ve put in the down payment on the boiler and prepaid the payment for August, so I don’t owe them anything more until September. It’s the back of the house that needs more immediate work — and the one remaining toilet that needs to be replaced before it starts to leak. It’s badly corroded internally and sooner or later, it’ll just stop working. The other two have been replaced.

I don’t know what will happen with this election. It OUGHT to be a full landslide against Trump, but he is doing things that I didn’t believe any president could do. Stuff that was never legal, but he has corrupted the U.S, Attorney, too. Stacking the court hasn’t done him as much good as he thought it would. It turns out that Supreme Court judges don’t have to answer to anyone since they are appointed for life. He finally admitted that we have a pandemic which is likely to get worse before it gets better. It’s bad in most of the country. It was much better here, but we are beginning to see another rise now. It’s very small so far, but I think we are about to get wave number two as people pour in from other states where it is worse and bring the virus with them.

Theoretically, we are trying to keep them out, but that’s effectively impossible. This IS one country and you can’t close all the roads in and out of the few states that have managed the pandemic better then others … and ALL of them are in this northeastern region of the country — New York and New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine). New York has the biggest problem New York City is like London: jam-packed top to bottom with high-rises and other than a few parks, no safe place to go.

Meanwhile, the teacher’s (national) union is threatening a strike if Da Prez doesn’t pull back on his orders to open all the schools full time next month. As one teacher’s sign put it, “I can’t teach if I’m dead.”

A point well taken.

The additional unemployment money the government was feeding into the economy ends this Friday and there is no follow-up plan. Along with the expanded unemployment, the protection against eviction ends for renters. I don’t know what they think evicting so many people will accomplish. The result will be a massive housing crisis – tens of thousands lot of empty apartments and no one to rent them. An awful lot of people don’t have jobs to go back to. The places they used to work are gone. If they close down restaurants a second time, most of them won’t reopen. The entire hospitality industry is down the tubes — and that includes places like casinos.

This country, whatever happens in the next election, is going to be a different one than that which we had when we went into this pandemic.. There are very few restaurants or hotels except for chains (like McDonald’s) where you can order from your car plus take-out places for Chinese food and pizza. Many hotels will never reopen, at least not as hotels. Many malls are going to be empty hulks. We can fix this — over time — but not with Trump at the helm. He is a deeply mentally-ill man.

Close for now or forever?

We are going to have to rebuild our economy. We need to bring production facilities back to the U.S. and end pur insane total dependence on foreign manufacturing and international freigh. We don’t need to eliminate foreign production, but we certainly need to bring back at least some basic, necessary industries to the U.S.

Airlines are dying and they are almost giving away cars. Sports, which only started a few days ago, are showing up with huge clumps of COVID-19. The pandemic is alive and getting worse.

Trump seems to be trying to start his own Civil War using Homeland Security as his personal secret service. It looks worse on TV than it really is (I had a long talk with a friend who lives there last night and he says it’s basically confined to a single block in mid-town Seattle — other side of the continent from us) … but he’s threatening to move into other cities … and I think that really COULD cause a war. People are so angry.

There’s potentially some good news about vaccines — but there are months of testing yet to come. They don’t know how long protection lasts and whether via vaccine or suffering through the illness confers long-term immunity. It might be less than a year. AND it might not work for everyone. And then, of course, there’s the battle for equal justice which Trump is totally ignoring … but the citizens are NOT ignoring. That battle has been waiting for 150 years to blow up. Mind you, this is not by any means its first blow-up, but this one involves more people of different races — and maybe that means something. And Trump has managed to get his very own secret police involved. Gee, and right here! Who’d have thunk it?

So, summarizing: we have no schools, no plans for what to do about them … and students are falling farther and farther behind. Computers are not a real substitute for schools. Kids need more than memorization. They need relationships with other  kids and teachers. They need the social experiences that will make them into real people and maybe save us from a future too much like the present.

Of course, a lot of people are dying — and not just old people. People get sick, get better, but there are after and side-effects from the virus — even in very young people — and there are NO cures. None at all. We have not advanced much from medieval times in terms of how to deal with a pandemic whose source of infection we don’t really understand. True this plague is a lot less lethal than Bubonic Plague, but it’s bad enough. COVID-19 grinds slowly, but surely. It just keeps going.

We have killer mosquitoes which are an outgrowth of our changing climate. These mosquitoes never came this far north before, but it has been warm through the winter, so the bugs didn’t die and now we have lethal mosquitoes. Very few people survive those infections (there are two or three of them and I forget the names).

Trump, in his madness, thinks he can order sick people to work and that solves all the problems. He has the mental aptitude and social graces of a toddler with a bad temper. As for medical care: “Obamacare” (really it’s the ACA, but everyone calls it Obamacare), we are eligible for Medicare which was put in place in the early 1970s by Lyndon Baines Johnson — along with Medicaid that supposedly helps those who really have NO money at all. It isn’t free, but it’s a lot less than we’d pay if we were working. I think also that Massachusetts is better off than most states. We had our ducks in a row,  medically speaking, for at least 25 years — the first state to have full medical care for everyone. Under a Republican governor too.

I suppose in the end, what worries me the most is if we are going to have a “real” election and whether or not we will wind up in our own civil war. I would have thought this was impossible, unthinkable. Obviously not. It’s looking very real and I am so glad we live out here in the sticks. Whatever is going to happen, it’s the big cities that are going to get hit the hardest. We are a low density population. The battles will be fought in the cities.

A woman wearing a mask walks past a wall bearing a graffiti asking for rent forgiveness on La Brea Ave on National May Day amid the Covid-19 pandemic, May 1, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. – Several cities and states, including California, have passed executive orders prohibiting eviction of tenants affected by the coronavirus crisis. But when the lockdown lifts, the moratorium will end. And tenants will have to pay their back-rent or move out. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Finally, there’s the mental state of our country. People are depressed, bummed out, demoralized. Wondering if there is a normal in our future or if this is the new normal. I really don’t know. I have no way to predict anything and should we manage to have a fair election — without the intrusion of China, Russia, and Iran — there’s a big question about whether or not Trump would even be willing to leave the White House.

It’s a catastrophe, top to bottom. And how quickly it all happened, too. From what we thought was a normal country to this disaster in just about three years, most of it in the past four months.

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other.

WHAT ABOUT THE ELECTION? – Marilyn Armstrong

Georgia’s primary the other night was a warning to all of us of what may be coming. In the course of writing this blog, I’ve had direct communications with several real-life historians and all of them have said exactly the same thing:


When I first heard this, I pooh-poohed it. That can’t happen. It can’t. But since then, I’ve realized that many things that can’t happen have happened, are happening, will happen. Why do we think Trump wants to ditch the post office? You think it might have something to do with preventing people from mailing in votes?

Gerrymandering as been around for a long time. More than a hundred years and for all I know, longer than that. The Democrats have done it too … but they haven’t turned it into the science as has the GOP.

Why not?

I don’t think it’s out of a higher form of political beliefs. More like if everyone voted, there wouldn’t be a Republican party, or at least not the current one. Most Americans are in favor of universal health care, a more controlled police force, fewer guns on the streets, a greater degree of honesty and transparency in government,  good education for everyone based on truth, facts, and science and not being gouged by pharmaceutical companies.

These past three and a half years have been a nightmare. Aside from Trump, who is a nightmare all by himself, there has been a plague and now, finally, one murder over the line, a broader recognition that killing dark-skinned people for being different than you is not okay. Nor is giving these same people substantially harder sentences for relatively minor crimes or making sure they have the worst paying, most insecure jobs in our so-to-speak economy. It’s NOT right. It was never right.

Dr. Seuss Cartoon from 1941 on antisemitism. The old story, just updated with a red hat.

The way we underpay women is wrong. They fact that we have allowed women to be brutalized in and out of the workplace is not even remotely acceptable.

We can disagree about how our national taxes should be spent but on principle, we all believe in honor and justice for everyone. Yes, there are bigots too, but I think they are a small minority. If they didn’t have access to powerful military guns, they would also be mostly harmless.

The press may not always be correct, but the fourth estate is the only thing that stands between us and a Stalinesque dictatorship. In all the years that Garry worked as a reporter — and all the people with whom he worked — never did any of them drag themselves out of bed so they could lie to you.

Errors are made by everyone, but the only news outlet that makes lying a fundamental premise of their news production is Fox News. If they aren’t ashamed, they should be. And maybe, one of these days, they will be. I would not like to tell my grandchildren that my career was  a series of well-produced lies. Would you?

Things are beginning to turn around. But what about the election? Will we be in the middle of a massive resurgence of COVID-19 as November rolls around? If the election is not held on time, will it be held at all? Ever? It’s a lot easier to keep a democracy than rebuild one.

We are standing on treacherous ground. We should be grateful for the changes and potential changes we see, but until we get this worst of all presidents out of the White House, we aren’t safe.  Rebuilding America isn’t going to happen overnight, either. There’s a LOT of work to be done and we will all have to do some of it.


I don’t usually publish donation ads, but this particular one is near and dear to my heart. I read Gerald Durrell’s books when I was a kid and continued reading them into adulthood. From him I learned about saving rare and nearly extinct species. His stories helped me become increasingly involved in wildlife. I owe a lot to Gerald and his whole family.

They made a mini-series about him and his family (his brother was Lawrence Durrell) and their life on the isle of Corsica. I think it was made by the BBC and it has been shown on Acorn and and PBS.

I have always tried to send them any bit of money I could dig up and today, I figured somehow I could swing $25. I hope that many people will help them. Without tourism, they have no means of support. The lives of many rare animals depends Durrell’s Zoo, one of the places I always wanted to visit.

Durrell Zoo on Jersey

From all at Durrell’s HQ in Jersey, we hope that this email finds all our friends in America staying safe and well during these times of global upheaval.

These have been very unsettling times, and despite our hardest efforts, the present pandemic is having a devastating effect on the income of Durrell, and we need your help.

Our global conservation work, and 61-year history of saving species and habitats from the brink of extinction, is in real danger due to the impact of the pandemic on Jersey Zoo.

Jersey Zoo is the heartbeat of Durrell. All of the Trust’s global conservation work is underpinned by the zoo.

Despite having reopened the gates to our zoo on the 12th May, we are still facing an 80% reduction in income, given our unique position of being dependent on travel and tourism.

We are facing the impact of at least 18 months without tourists visiting Jersey. It is always challenging to run a zoo on an island with a catchment of just over 100,000 people. With no tourists able to visit, and islanders that are still fearful of COVID-19 and venturing out, the challenge is proving too much at the moment.

This situation is having a devastating effect on the income of our charity. A large portion of our income is raised through Jersey Zoo, so quite simply, if the zoo fails, the whole of Durrell fails.

Given our shared passion for Durrell and the environment, I know you wouldn’t want this to happen. But the future is looking bleak, so I need to ask for your help now, more than ever before.


We have been so moved by supporters asking how they can help us at this uncertain time, that we have launched a campaign called Love Your Zoo, where those who are able to can help us by donating and contributing to the care of our animals.

It costs us $5,200 per day to care for the 1,285 animals at Jersey Zoo, so gifts of any size really do mean so much. If you can, are you able to share your love of Durrell and make a donation today?


 For our supporters in America, donations can be made through American Friends of Durrell, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, established in 2014 to facilitate contributions to Durrell.

I am sorry not to be writing with better news, but I am hoping that together we can prevent the worst scenario from happening, and ensure the future for Durrell.

Best wishes,

Lee Durrell
American Friends of Durrell

Source: Durrell’s mission is in jeopardy



Blogging Insights — What’s Next?

Here are the original questions:


What suggestions / tipsdo you have for improving/upgrading this series?Do you have any questions that you would like me to feature?

If you are new to the Blogging Insights series, how about trying out some of the questions?There is no time limit so feel free to answer any whenever you please. 

Remember to tag your post #blogging insightsand also linkback to my blog. This will make sure that I do not miss out on reading your views and will also enable me to share your posts on my blog. You can check out the previous questions by clicking on the links below:

I’ve been following this series through other blogs. It pops up pretty often. I think you are doing just fine. I don’t want to put ideas in your head because I think your ideas are good and your own creativity will find the right way.

Seven orchids on a shoot

Blogging isn’t just something we do because we have nothing more interesting to do. And we each have our own reasons, often many different reasons. It’s a hobby, an avocation, a dedication, an art form, a post-occupation-occupation — all at the same time.

That’s probably why we like to ask each other about blogging and why you do it which makes me think about why I do it. For those of us who are retired, it has become our new occupation after giving up whatever it is we used to do. Since before this, I was a writer, I am now truly enjoying this busman’s holiday.

Three on the yellow feeder

I started out doing this because I had a ton of pictures and no one ever saw them because they were all on my computer. I figured what the heck, I might as well publish them where others might enjoy them. It became a good reason for spending way too much money on cameras and lenses and the urge for better and better cameras and lenses and processing software never ends.

In this age of Trump and the crushing of everything I believed in, not to mention the eruption of our very own plague, I’ve felt that I need to not just post pretty pictures, but talk about the world. Climate change. Oppression. Racism. The hatred that seems to bind us tighter than love ever could.

I keep hearing that all we need is love, but that’s a song lyric, not a meaningful way of life. We need a lot more than love. We certainly can love people who aren’t our personal family or friends a lot more than we do, but that’s not going to fix the ozone layer or bring back the dying creatures our “development” of the wild places have killed. I fear that in the end, this world will be entirely paved over with roads running from an empty mall to another empty mall.

And if that isn’t scary enough, we need to get serious about figuring out how we can support all these PEOPLE. We are so over-populated, it’s terrifying. You know when you crowd the rats this much, they start to try to kill each other. Periodically Garry and I congratulate each other on having the sense to get OUT of Boston. With all the limitations of living in the middle of nowhere, it’s a whole lot easier on the nervous system than any city anywhere.

Today I write as much because I think there are important issues that need to be talked about. It’s not just about trashing the president. He’ll be gone soon enough. But clearly, we need to hate less and care more. The world has become ugly and greedy. For there to be subsequent generations of humans, we need to be a lot less ugly and massively less greedy. So I figure I have a small, but living bully pulpit and I might as well use it. And I can still post pretty pictures. I wouldn’t want to stress everyone out.

So for me, what’s next is to do the best I can do. Write, create pictures, count the flying squirrels, and hope I can keep affording food for the creatures of the woods.


Hi Mankind. This is Earth again. Some of you call me Earth, some call me Terra, some call me Gaia.  Call me what you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner.  (I still don’t really get that joke, but I got a whole bunch of ‘likes’ when I said it in the last letter I wrote you).

I last wrote you on Earth Day in 2019.  I was touched at how many of you felt you were destroying my environment and maybe you should stop doing that. I pointed out that I’ll be fine. I’ve been around for a few billion years. My environment changes all the time. It’s you guys who should be worried.

I’m writing this time because I noticed that you are all getting sick. Really sick. All over me. Everywhere. This isn’t surprising. It happens more often than you think. You just don’t notice it because you guys have really short life spans and even shorter attention spans. I know a lot of you write stuff down when things happen. You call it “history.”

I’ve also noticed most of you don’t read history. If you do, you can’t remember it.

For my first few billion years, I was pretty much a big ball of hot rocks and volcanos. Then something happened and it rained for a long time, even by my standards.

Then the weirdest thing happened. Life appeared. It was really cool. I enjoyed watching it grow and develop.  Much more interesting than watching a volcano erupt. I mean, it’s still cool, but it does get a little boring after the first few billion years.

I noticed after a while that all the different types of plants and animals developed a system to make an environment that made it easier for them to survive. I think you folks call it “Ecology.” It made sure that if one species grew too much or was eating more than they should, something would slow them down.

For instance, if there were too many plants and trees, deer and other animals would eat plants and trees. If there were too many deer, wolves would eat more of them. If there were too many wolves, they would die out because they ran out of deer to eat. You get the idea.

Then you guys came along. At first, you pretty much fit in with all the other life on my surface. I noticed, as time went on, you started to figure out how to get around all the checks and balances that would keep your population in check. And in balance.

You figured out how to live in any of my climates. My deserts, my mountains, my lakes, my forests. Suddenly, you were everywhere. After a while, there were no normal ways to keep your population in check. Or in balance. Sure, you could get eaten by lion, or a tiger, or a bear (someone told me if I say ‘Oh My” right now I’d get a big laugh. Don’t get the reference, but what the hell, why not. Click “like” or “subscribe” below). But there’s not enough of them to make any real difference.

There are only two things I’ve seen that tends to weed you out.  First, there’s disease. Epidemics. Pandemics. It works pretty well. You had one a while back. I think you called it the “The Black Death.” Oh, and don’t forget the 1918 flu. That was even bigger than “The Black Death.” It did a really good job. 50 million deaths on that one.

Global disease isn’t working long term. Not as well as it used to work. You’re figuring out ways to get around it.

But what I find fascinating is that you guys are trying to help out by finding ways to kill yourselves off!  For instance. You invented war. Do you know you are the only species to do that on a global level?  Damned nice of you to try to help out the ecology. But it hasn’t really worked well in the long run.

Why are we bothering? We’re just going to have to do this again in 20 years.

However, you still have a very powerful tool to help you all “cull the herd,” as you like to say. That tool is stupidity. It’s been around since you all showed up. Recently, I’ve noticed the number of stupid people seems to be growing exponentially. (I’m not totally sure what that word means, but I see it a lot on the news.)

Even though you’ve figured out ways to stop this current virus, stupidity is fighting back. It could be winning. I’ve seen the stupidest among you having protests, gathering together in large crowds and hugging and kissing each other. They claim this virus is a hoax. They don’t believe it’s real. The great thing about a virus is that it couldn’t care less if you believe it’s real. It just wants you to hug and kiss and get together in big crowds.

Now, there is a possibility that stupidity might stop being as effective as it currently is. In theory, humans could reach “Peak Stupidity” after which the stupidity curve would flatten out. Then the virus would be less effective at “culling the herd.”

I’m not worried about that. I don’t think there is a peak. You can’t cure stupidity.

I think it was one of your unusually smart humans, Einstein, Steinberg, something like that. He wrote, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the former.”

So, there you have it mankind. I must admit, I really don’t want you all to disappear.  I’ve watched millions of species come and go. I’ve liked most of them. I’ve grown really fond of you guys. I mean, you invented beer! And Netflix! I’ve really gotten into Netflix. I can’t stop watching Tiger King. Talk about stupid!

Sincerely yours,

The Earth


For the past couple of weeks, Garry and I have been watching (again) all 7 seasons of “The West Wing.” Aside from being a brilliantly written show, it clarifies where we are as a nation. That we are fighting exactly the same battles today we were battling 10 years ago. They are using the same words on the show we are using now. They are fighting the same “refusnik” Senate we have been fighting. Maybe it’s worse now, but it was not much better then.

As you watch the show, it produces a lot of responses:

  1. Realizing there were actually some good television shows with great dialog.
  2. Recognizing the mistakes Democrats made, mostly by trying to be everything to everybody and never being themselves.
  3. Failing to recognize issues which needed to wait until another day would become life and death issues in less than a decade. For example, all those environmental issues they ignored or avoided because it would anger contributors or Republicans or their own members.
  4. Never really confronting the gun issue or immigration.
  5. Often doing half a job and never completely dealing with major issues.

The show is so well written that you see how and why they fail and why even the successes aren’t really successful, how many bills were essentially toothless.

Middle of the road is not a safe place to drive and this show has a liberal president who is essentially afraid to be the liberal he really is. He’s always trying to placate someone and the results leave you wondering if he really accomplished anything. When you drive in the middle of the road, you are very likely to crash into another car or truck or pedestrian.

The show is so well written you feel as if you are actually participating in a government. Our government. Because whatever is wrong with their televised version of “The West Wing,” it is a government. They try very hard to do the right thing. Even though they often don’t get where they should go, they do the best they can. They work very hard. Win, lose, or partly succeed, it was a government, though I think people on it were a bit more clever and witty than they are in real life.

It’s playing continuously on Netflix. These days, because we have been down the Obama and now the Trump path, we know where those decisions lead and why it wasn’t the right way to go. We watched the whole series during the last few weeks and when we ran out of shows, we decided to watch it again. It fills a gap in our lives. It makes us feel that somewhere in the ether, a better government awaits us.

SNOW BY DAY & A DASH OF DUKE – Marilyn Armstrong

I got up and went into the kitchen. It was snowing. Just a little bit at that point. Just a dusting — a rather wet dusting. I figured it was going to stop any minute, but it kept on snowing for most of the day. For all I know, it still is snowing, but it’s dark.

Flying Squirrel in a fast glide while another is eating.

There are probably a few raccoons outside and no doubt a handful of the bandits who’ve been hitting the feeders with a vengeance every night. As well as Flying Squirrels. Our nighttime visitors.

Chipping Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker

Today, there were the usual birds at the feeders. Goldfinches, older, younger and a few adolescents. Titmouses. Nuthatches.  On one branch of our tree, there were half a dozen Mourning Doves lined up, one after the other. Hunkered down because it was colder than most of the winter.

It’s supposed to be 60 degrees tomorrow and there are early buds on the trees. At least a month early and in some cases, more than two. The weather has been zephyr breeze-like from late Autumn until winter was officially past and Spring has technically come.  So we got our first snow for the season today and it will all melt tomorrow.

Goldfinch in snow

I wonder how much of our current plague has to do with how badly we’ve treated the earth? No one has said anything about it, but the world is very different than it was merely ten years ago. The changes are deep, profound, and every bit as worrying as the current plague. As soon as we stop sheltering in our homes (those of us who are lucky enough to have homes in which to shelter) will be instantly sideswiped into the planetary crisis.

And just look at the heft of those raccoons!

When we stop dying of plague and we have something resembling an economy, we will be back to the upcoming and not far-off death of our (human) position as the dominant species on planet Earth.

What is this world I am living in? I know how we got here — but I also don’t understand how so many of us let it go. Tomorrow was always another day while we were busy dealing with today’s issues.

Snowy Goldfinch
Junco with the Toad

We don’t seem able to plan ahead. Individually maybe, but collectively we are failures. Despite our upgraded brains, we aren’t that much ahead of our dogs and cats. We live in the moment because tomorrow, much less the year after, is far too complicated. Now is too complex for most of us to manage. You have no idea how often I want to throw my arms into the air and say to the universe: “You win. I give up. I have nothing left with which to fight.”

Three Goldfinches on the little feeder

But, I have this blog. I can write. That’s something. I can take pictures and hopefully do my best to make people feel better. I also try to tell them (to the degree that I have the correct information) what’s going on. I try to make people laugh, though laughs are harder to find than they used to be.

I feel a bit lost. I see what’s happened and can only imagine what will happen next … and so much of the things I’d hope would happen are going to get lost in the hysteria of a collapsed economy, an election … and all those Coronavirus deaths.

THE FIRES OF HELL ON EARTH – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #56

This week’s question is taken from Melanie’s “Share Your World” for the week. And my answer is an expansion of what I wrote on that post.

The world is on fire and we will all burn. No need to wait for hell to engulf us. We merely need to wait for the overcooked earth to dry up and burn. I read a post today from NASA and another couple of agencies whose logos I’ve forgotten. It was beyond dismal.

Basically, it said that we have failed to do anything about climate change for far too long and now, only very drastic action will accomplish anything. 2019 was the hottest year on record. Ever. Two entire countries — Switzerland and Khazakstan — have both exceeded the 2-degree-Celsius danger point. Fires swept through much of America’s west and last year was truly terrible, but almost nothing compared to the horror of what has occurred in Australia. Only two entire countries have exceeded the 2-degree-Celsius danger point, but most American cities have reached or exceeded it as have their suburbs.

The ice is melting faster than anyone expected and the sea is rising. The burning of the Amazon rain forest is a manmade tragedy that will help climate change develop faster. The entire world is hotter and where it hasn’t flooded, there are droughts. Flowers are blooming in Switzerland in January and last Friday, it was 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it is 50, which is a kind of weather we normally get in late spring. Certainly not in January.

Oh, sure, we might get snow, but we got almost none last year and there has been very little this season. We are getting tick warnings from our local government. I had to put collars on the dogs because ticks and fleas are out there having a great time, bouncing around, injecting diseases in humans and animals.

Forty years ago, I was the English-language editor at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory. I worked there for almost five years during which we addressed issues of wastewater, air and soil management. The country was still quite small. I think we had fewer than 7 million people then.

The scientific staff traveled from kibbutz to kibbutz, then to any other area that was under cultivation. The goal was trying to explain why it was so critical we stop using nitrogen-enriched fertilizer and start managing wastewater and figure out safe ways to use it. No one listened. My boss predicted we’d lose our aquifer by 1985. He was wrong. It was dead by 1983.

Flames from the Valley Fire cover a hillside along Highway 29 in Lower Lake, California September 13, 2015. The swiftly spreading wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of residents to flee as it roared unchecked through the northern California village of Middletown and nearby communities, REUTERS/Noah Berger

The point is not that I knew something important about our climate before most people were up to speed. It is that we have known about the danger to our environment for 100 years and for at least the past 50 have had top-quality scientists warning us again and again while we just went ahead, worrying about whether to buy the bigger SUV or maybe go for something smaller.

Since the 1970s when we officially declared “Earth Day,” many of us have tried to “do the right thing,” when we could figure out what that was. Most of us recycle, even when we know they aren’t doing anything with the trash, just moving it around. We lowered car emissions. We closed down coal-fired plants. We did something, but it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t done everywhere it needed to be done. Many countries have done absolutely nothing, either because they are too poor or in denial. Australia was one of the countries that did nothing much, not because people didn’t want change, but because the government wouldn’t budge.

Nor was enough done anywhere else on earth. The worst part? Even in places where they have been extremely careful, their neighbors are killing them. Like Switzerland.

To expect the nations of the world to get together and repair the planet so our children and grandchildren can live here is one of those great ideas in which I don’t believe. Humans don’t work together. We can’t get a Congress that agrees on anything, much less a planet. We fight, we kill, we destroy collectively, but repair things? Make things better? When has that ever occurred?

The smoke from 1500 miles (2000 km) away turns the skies in New Zealand orange.

We improved car emissions. We knocked out the smog in some major cities. We cleaned up some polluted rivers. Some of us did our best to manage recyclables. Some places did better than others. We didn’t build enough plants to deal with the plastic and paper and we charged extra for products made from recycled materials — which was not what people expected. Reality notwithstanding, we didn’t expect to be charged a premium for recycled goods. A lot of places — like where we live — do not have any recycling plants and we know they just take the recycling and dump it in landfills. Or worse.


We are not doing enough now, then, nor are there plans to do what needs doing. We have no firm plans to do much of anything going forward. It’s a lack of interest. It’s a lack of solid plans killing us. We talk about it, but long before Trump got into office and has been doing his utmost to make a dire situation direr, we were busy making minor changes with vague plans for the future. We’ve been permanently at the discussion stage and never at the implementation stage.

Meanwhile, our planet is burning. If the fire hasn’t come to you yet, wait a while. It will come. First the heat, then the drought, then the fire.

The world’s population has grown exponentially everywhere. For every little green area we plow so we can build a condo or mall we don’t need, birds and other small animals die, often forever. In poor countries, you can’t blame them for trying to create farms to feed their people. Large mammals — like elephants — are antithetical to local farming.

LAKE TABOURIE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 04: Residents look on as flames burn through bush on January 04, 2020 in Lake Tabourie, Australia. A state of emergency has been declared across NSW with dangerous fire conditions forecast for Saturday, as more than 140 bushfires continue to burn. There have been eight confirmed deaths in NSW since Monday 30 December. 1365 homes have been lost, while 3.6 million hectares have been burnt this fire season. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

I spent five years surrounded by nothing but environmental scientists. I edited their material, sent it to magazines for publication. I read the papers. I understood how important it was. For all of that, I couldn’t imagine it could happen here. That my reality would change. That my birds would die and insects would arrive bringing diseases to kill us. Meanwhile, our way of stopping the insects — which are the direct result of the climate change we’ve been ignoring — is poisoning everything else. We seem to be helping the disaster, not stopping it.

For all I know, we are beyond help. Maybe we can ameliorate the process. Maybe we can stop building on every piece of ground we find. Maybe we can do something to create food for more people with less destruction to the earth. I don’t have answers.

Meanwhile, I have nightmares of the fires and the death of all the things I love.

If this doesn’t terrify you, what does? I too worry about freedom in this country, healthcare, and all that stuff — but if we can’t breathe, have no water, and the air is full of smoke while the sea rises and sea life dies — how much will freedom matter?