WINTER SCENES – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter Scenes


It certainly is winter here and today, it was actually cold. The earlier parts of the month were springlike, sometimes downright summery. Today, cold. Tomorrow? Snow? Sleet? Rain? Cold? Warm? All of the preceding?

NOW you’re talking. our precipitous winter days have mostly been a bit of everything, usually in about 12-hours. Although we have rapidly changing weather, it doesn’t usually all happen in a single day between dawn and the late news.

Junco in a bird’s winter

Waiting to a place at the feeder

Home in the snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

A bench on the Common with snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

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 DID NOT DO ENOUGH.

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?

ONE MORE SUNSET #16 – Marilyn Armstrong

ONE MORE SUNSET

Yes, I know my numbers are out of order. That’s the price we pay for trying to work with material coming from the other side of the world. Posts show up late, sometimes a couple of days late and since I can’t control when they wind up in my “inbox,” I just do the best I can. Hope no one minds!

The west-facing road that passes our house and travels from route 146A all the way to Johnston, Rhode Island, a big area for antiques. I don’t go there because I’ll buy something. I don’t go to antique stores, book stores, or art galleries. These are places I find irresistible. Not only do I not have extra money to spend, but I need more antiques like I need a hole in my head.

Along this little road are at least three small towns, all located on a waterway. There is a lot of water around here and it all flows south towards the Atlantic Ocean and exits via Narragansett Bay. Which is, of course,  the outlet of the Blackstone River and almost every other river and stream in the Blackstone Valley.

On the road to Rhode Island

In case you didn’t know, the Blackstone Valley runs through two states. It begins at the head of the Worcester Hills in Massachusetts and continues through Rhode Island until it runs into the ocean. Along its route are more rivers most of which are tributaries of the Blackstone. Also interesting are the ponds, lakes, streams, and rivulets, often unnamed. Just more water.

Route 98 runs through inhabited areas. Lots of small farms and tiny groups of homes too small for maps to name them as a village, though most places have a name. A few have no names. They are simply a crossroads with a shop and a couple of houses. But of course, we have towns that look like that too.

CHANGING FORMATS ON WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

In an attempt to somehow get the reblog button to show up in the scroll, I switched templates four times in about two hours today.

Apparently, REBLOG doesn’t work while scrolling on any template and what is more, a lot of templates have some very strange formatting I’ve never seen before. I couldn’t even recover the format I was previously using. It has vanished.

I hate to say this, but they are doing it to us again. I have no idea exactly what they are doing, but the software is changing. Without getting complicated, WordPress’s upgrades give me a migraine.

Be aware that if it changed on my blog, it’s likely to change on yours. Maybe not immediately, but eventually, so don’t be surprised when it occurs. I hoped it might be that specific template, but the same thing was true on every template I tried.

I put a note at the top of my WIDGETS column explaining that if you want to use REBLOG, you have to click on the title for that blog. You won’t find a reblog button while scrolling. Also, the bizarre spacing issues are back again and your choices for headings are large (which is the same as ‘Normal’) and small, which is too small and sets the title tight against the following paragraph making it not only hard to see but unattractive. I yearn for the day when you could indicate font size using points.

NONE of the newer templates let you use the full wide of the page. They are all scrunched into a smaller panel, probably to accommodate phone users, The problem is, for art and photography blogs, it means you can’t show off your work properly.

I have fought the good fight and lost. One of these days, I think they really ARE going to push me out.

GREAT TEACHERS: A VERY LONG DEFERRED THANK YOU – Marilyn Armstrong

In the course of my school days, I had a handful of great teachers to whom I will be eternally grateful. They taught me to learn, to love reading, to make up stories and write them down. To write non-fiction that was complete, accurate and unbiased. To find humor in physics. To love history, religion, archaeology, philosophy and the mysteries of our world.

They encouraged curiosity, imagination and creative thinking.

This is P.S, 35. It’s still there, but I’m not.

Mrs. Schiff, a 4th-grade teacher at P.S. 35. She suggested I write “diaries” of historical people and put myself into their worlds. Thank you. You encouraged me to write and find other worlds.

Dr. Silver, who taught English Literature and Linguistics at Jamaica High school. He forced me to parse sentences and respect punctuation and grammar while making me laugh. His doctorate in Linguistics helped him make our language intriguing, like a giant mystery to unravel. I’m still unraveling it.

Dr. Feiffer — my high school physics teacher — taught me, the least mathematically inclined student ever, could be fascinated by science. I never got together with numbers, but I learned to love science and I still do. The logic of it, the truth of it, the importance of it have stayed with me an entire lifetime.

Professor. Wekerle, head of Hofstra University’s Philosophy department. He believed in me. He taught phenomenology, History of Religion, Philosophy of Religion, but more importantly, saw through my bullshit. The first — and ONLY professor to give me a grade of D-/A+ … D- for content, A+ for style. He didn’t let me get away with anything. He made me fill in all those leaps of logic even though I whined vociferously that “everyone knows that stuff.”

Hofstra in 2014

Wekerle said “No, they don’t. You know it. Now tell them about it.” And I did and from that, I extracted a 40-year career.

I got what so much from these overworked and underpaid teachers who were dedicated to teaching dunderheads and wise-asses like me to think, write, research and love learning. Bless them all. The gifts they gave me were precious beyond words!

BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON #17 – Marilyn Armstrong

By the light of the moon

The sky is grey with snow expected, but it might be rain. it’s supposed to get cold. January is normally our coldest month, except it has been springtime warm. I don’t have any flowers blooming, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people with better gardens are seeing very early buds. I also think the birds are breeding. Many of the ladies have a big belly in which I think there are eggs. I worry about a sudden cold snap, but I can’t do anything about the weather except to keep the feeders full.

Whatever has been predicted, you don’t know what will happen until you get up in the morning and look out the window. As far as light goes, I have long thought that ALL photography is about light. Just saying.

Given all of that, time to hit the archives!

Full Harvest Moon – Sept. 2016

Super Moon Dec. 2016

Sept. 2016 – Full Harvest Moon

It’s pretty hard to get a good shot of the sky from our property. The Super Moon was taken in a parking lot after a movie, but the others are from our deck.

 

MORE RED FINCH AND FRIENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Since I couldn’t square up most of these pictures, I thought I’d just post them because I like them. Red birds always get a lot more attention than other birds. They are so striking. We had a Cardinal visit the other day. It must be the same Cardinal because they are so territorial, we can’t have two living in the same area. He was a much duller red a couple of weeks ago. Now, he is brilliantly red. I wish he had held still and let me take his picture, but he was in a shy mood and flew off.

The red finches are surprisingly friendly. You can see where you might think of them as potential pets. They are all kinds of adorable.

Three feathered friends on a feeder

Fine day on a feeder

When the food is good, the birds like to hang around

Three birds and it is lunchtime

Today, all three feeders were occupied by Goldfinches. They simply took possession of and held onto it. They come in flocks and I swear they sleep on the feeders to keep other birds away.

 

BERNIE’S MISTAKE – REBLOG – Jan Wilberg

Exactly so!

Red's Wrap

Bernie Sanders isn’t alone in wondering if a woman can be elected president of the United States. I’ve wondered the same thing. I’ve said the same thing: I don’t think a woman can be elected president.

I think Hillary Clinton’s loss had an enormous amount to do with her being a woman, with the sexism from the right and the left so thick sometimes it made my eyes water. Her defeat depressed me so much that it called into question what might be a fundamental truth about my fellow Americans – they can’t bring themselves to vote for a woman. Oh, they hide it pretty well. But those of us who grew up in the swamp of sexism can smell all the creatures who live there from 5,000 miles away.

So Elizabeth Warren says that Bernie expressed his view that a woman couldn’t be elected president. And then ensued a…

View original post 227 more words

ALL ABOUT A DOWNY WOODPECKER AND HER NUTHATCH LUNCHMATE – Marilyn Armstrong

I had a really big set of photos from last week. I’d processed maybe 10 of them, then I took some more and worked on them. But I knew there were a bunch of pictures in there with which I’d not done anything. I’d shot these pictures quickly and taken a long sequence of a lovely lady Downy Woodpecker sharing the feeder alone or with a Nuthatch.

Last night, I put a bunch of them together. This is a lady Downy because she doesn’t have a red patch on her head.

Downy and Nuthatch

Just hanging out

Seedeaters!

Very plump or full of eggs?

It’s good to keep them al so well-fed.

OFF ON A TANGENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Tangent

The tangent is a line that touches a curve or curved surface at a point, but if extended does not cross it. It’s also the line between the two arms of an equilateral triangle. How it came to also mean in common speech a completely different line of thought or action., or as we like to say, “a digression,” no one knows. I’m pretty sure most people have no idea what the word originally meant unless they are in fifth grade and learning the rudiments of geometry. I actually did very well in geometry — the only math course that didn’t lose me the first day in class. At least I could see what you might use it for. It was very useful when I was trying to measure the floor of my tepee.

A digression or tangent coming right up.

Tepees look round, but are more “egg-shaped.” It has to do with the positioning of poles. This is a bit of a measurement conundrum, so you have to visualize in segments and measure each, then add them together. You have to put a tepee on a deep layer of gravel to encourage drainage, but gravel is not comfortable. So one puts layers of coverings inside until it’s soft and cozy. I used an indoor-outdoor rug at the base and that piece needed to fit the tepee closely.

That is when everything I’d learned in geometry got used for the one and only time in my life, not counting sailing and figuring out how to configure the sail to the wind. One wet finger didn’t do it for me (second digression). Geometry let me figure out how big a rug I’d need before trimming. If you have enough money, you can buy all of this stuff, but we were shoe-stringing the project. Other than the canvas and instructions, it was a project of (for us) epic proportions.

More tepee construction

In a bigger tepee, (I would have liked a big one and could have gotten a huge one for free if I could acquire the poles), poles are not easy to come by. Buying them was not expensive, but trucking them across the U.S. from Washington to Massachusetts cost more than the entire project times five. Maybe more.

We don’t live in an area of lodge-pole pines. Our trees, while sturdy, are all whorls, kinks, and miscellaneous lumps. You don’t know how truly crooked a sapling is until you try to turn it into a lodge-pole. Moreover, for obvious reasons, the bigger the tepee, the bigger the poles need to be — and you also need a lot more poles. It was difficult enough finding 18 poles for a small tepee. 27 poles of twice the height? Not likely.

We never had a properly smooth tepee because oak and sassafras won’t produce straight poles, no matter how much you trim them. They stay lumpy. Moreover, we have no flat land and it turns out, you can’t build a tepee that is going to stand more than overnight without a flat piece of ground under it. If it’s a temporary overnight construction (say something to stay in while you’re hunting), you can slapdash it together, but if you want to live in it, flat ground is a mandate.

Thus we had to create a flat piece of ground. We built what (had it been surrounded on three sides with water), a peninsula of land poking into the woods off the back west corner of the yard. That’s where our land drops off from sloping and dives down about eight feet, then slopes for another few hundred feet, after which it drops off another dozen feet. After which there is a flat area.

But we could not get there on foot without felling a dozen or more big red oaks and bringing in a plow to create a path. Even inside the flat area, there was a mighty oak in its center which would have caused construction issues.

Owen designed our spit of land. Our construction crew — Owen and Garry — determined that a 12-foot teepee was about as much as they could manage. Owen designed it with old railroad ties (from an old railroad … there were a lot of them and those ties are as close to eternal as any wood product could be) as the walls. The guys then filled it with dirt and sand. It was then covered with a dump-truck full of gravel, all of which had to be hauled down one wheelbarrow at a time from the top of the driveway to the edge of the woods.

Owen and Garry grew very muscular that summer.

All of this was followed by painting (my job). I had grand plans but eventually settled on painting the door flap, with an exterior of a buffalo headdress and an interior that was all our hand-prints. I copied the design from pictures. It came out better than I expected.

From the rear of the teepee, the day is ending in mid Autumn.

I would have liked to paint the whole thing, but once it was up, it stood more than 18 feet high I designed an interior cover for insulation. By this point, I was on my own, but it was fun. I also built a fire pit and learned to get the fire blazing in under three minutes. When it’s mid-winter in New England, getting that fire roaring fast is important because after that, your hands are frozen and you can’t manage the matches. The fire was big for the 12-foot tepee but it was super cozy.

The tepee was completed and dedicated in October. For five years afterward, we had the coldest, snowiest winters anyone remembered. Many evenings I spent with a blazing fire, sitting by the open flap because the tepee sometimes (often) got a bit sauna-like Sitting in the doorway watching the snowfall with the fire behind me was everything for which I had hoped.

The tepee stood for six years, all year round, after which it came down because the poles began to rot. Also, a bobcat had moved in and had a litter of kittens there. She did not want to leave. Still, it was a great five years, pre-bobcat.

So now, you’ve gotten the tangent as geometry plus a tangent as a digression. In one post! And welcome to the tepee.

BIRDS DU JOUR AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I have good days and bad ones for bird photography. Some days, the birds decide I’m okay, so I get pictures. Other days, they decide my camera is a gun and I’m going to shoot them. The last couple of days have been pretty good. Also, I improved the food. The same food I used to feed them. There is no high-quality cheap birdseed. Sometimes you get lucky (there’s a sale somewhere), but usually, it costs a lot more than seems reasonable.

Nuthatch and Frog

This picture of the Nuthatch and the Frog was a bit dark, but not out of focus. I thought it would look good in monochrome. Then I added a bit of graphic treatment to brighten it up. I really like the way it came out!

Vertical Goldfinch

Goldfinch in the air and another on the feeder

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker sharing a bit of lunch

Freefall for a Goldfinch. These little birds like to play and do some exciting, fun flying

Fluttering Goldfinches and a Rose-breasted Titmouse

Of all of the birds, the most fun to watch are the little birds: the Chickadees and various finches. They don’t take off from the feeder. They fall off, only opening their wings just before they hit the ground. They also fall out of the trees and are inches from crashing when they finally open their wings. Owen says they used to roll off his barn roof and fall until right before they hit the ground.

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker

It can’t be accidental, either. They obviously have fun flying, so when they aren’t raiding a feeder, they like freefalling from trees and railings. Do they have to dare each other? Are there prizes for those who get closest to the ground?

Photobombing woodpecker?

The previous picture was funny. There were two Goldfinches on the finch feeder, but this nosy Downy Woodpecker wanted to see if maybe there was something delicious for her to eat. Mind you the holes in this feeder are too small for a bird of her size. I’m pretty sure it’s a girl because she has no red patch on her head and she also looks like she’s carrying around a few eggs.

Portrait of a hungry Goldfinch

SPRING IN THE VALLEY – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring Scenes and flowers of the day

We don’t have much of a spring season here. It tends to stay cold until suddenly in May, the leaves pop out of the trees and everything blooms during one, sunny midday. The process takes just a few hours. It’s amazing. One year, it was winter when we went into the grocery and summer when we came out.

Autumn to winter can be like that too. Garry and I went out for lunch in Boston wearing tee-shirts and shorts,. Two hours later, we came out and it was near freezing, We ran home — which, fortunately, wasn’t very far.

We do get spring flowers, though. And birds. I hope that will count because otherwise, I’m just out of luck!

Harbinger of spring – our purple crocuses

Columbine

More yellow daffodils

The Goldfinch turning bright yellow for mating season.

Spring along the river

Our last Tulip.

More bright Goldfinch

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

Along the fence, Forsythia flowers

And the House Finch turns brighter too

Spring on the Mumford River

Solomon’s Seal

Springtime on the Commons

FOTD – January 14, 2020 – Daffodils in Bloom