AN ARRAY OF PAST FLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – April 23 – Past Flowers

It’s another grey, cold day. I’m not yearning for flowers as a dedicated gardener. I just long for color. It has been gray and often very dark gray almost all the time since last December. No snow all winter. A little in late autumn and very early December, then nothing until … April?

Solomon’s Seal

I cannot entirely blame climate change for our messy, cold, wet spring because spring is an awful season in New England. Everyone used to call it “Mud Season.” First, you’d get snow that lasted from Thanksgiving until late March or mid-April, then it would melt, often accompanied by torrential rains and a wet basement.

I also comforted myself by pointing out to me that at least we weren’t going to run out of water. Because from May or June through August, there was little or no rain at all.

Lilac

We went one year with not a single rainy day in May to one of two in June, so by August everything was tinder-dry. We were lucky to not have any fires. We did have a pretty big one last month, but they got it put out fast. Afterward, it rained heavily for a few days, which really put the sodden finishing touches on it.

Columbine

We had a ridiculously warm winter with the kind of torrential rain and wind we normally reserve for our so-to-speak spring. Then, it turned cold. Most of the winter was in the fifties and sixties and periodically, the 70s.

As soon as it became “technically” spring, the temperature at night dropped into the 30s and occasionally even colder and even in the middle of the day, it was only in the low 40s. This can be bearable if the sun would shine. I don’t need sun every day, but once in a while would be nice, especially if we got two days in a row without a storm!

Since our flowers are more than a little pathetic, I thought I’d find flowers of the past. Maybe I’ll feel warmer. You think?

Chinese lily

The Flowers

From Child’s Garden of Verses

– – –

All the names I know from nurse:

Gardener’s garters, Shepherd’s purse

Bachelor’s buttons, Lady’s smock

And the Lady Hollyhock

Tiny trees for tiny dames —

These must be fairy names!

Tiny woods below whose boughs

Shady fairies weave a house;

Tiny tree-tops rose or thyme,

Where the braver fairies climb!

Fair are grown-up people’s trees,

But the fairest woods are these;

Where, if I were not so tall,

I should live for good and all.

WILDLIFE IN THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I continue to hope that we will come to our senses and save our wild creatures. That being said, I have serious doubts that anything larger than a squirrel will survive in the wild.

I believe that all Earth’s large animals are doomed in their native habitats. Some will be gone soon. We will see the last of them in our lifetime.  The remaining species will succumb eventually. Tigers, wolves, lions, jaguars — all the big cats — as well as other large land animals — elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, apes and many more –will no longer have a home on this planet.

There will be no wild places.

Humans will, for a while, maintain controlled populations of various species in zoos and special habitats, as if that could make up for their disappearance. As if warehousing is the same as having a wild kingdom. We’ll see the end of tigers and elephants in less than a decade. It’s possible the rhinoceroses are already gone. If wolves are removed from endangered species status, they will be hunted to extinction in no time flat.

elephants-in-the-serengeti

Want to know why? Really? It isn’t the long complicated explanation you will get from environmentalists or public talking heads. Let’s skip past statistical analyses and the convoluted nonsense spouted by government officials and corporate stooges.

It’s simpler than that.

The animals will disappear because they are in our way. Animals don’t fit with human civilization. They are untidy. They eat cattle, goats, chickens, sheep. They trample fields, demolish gardens. They take up space that could be more profitably used for shopping malls and suburban subdivisions. They are more valuable dead than alive — and ever so much fun to kill.


Predators and large animals are inconvenient.


When humans find something — anything — inconvenient, we eliminate it. Kill it. Demolish it. Knock it down. Whether it’s a species, a river, a mountain, or a classic old building. If it’s in our way, we make it disappear.

There’s a moral to the story. We should all take care because we can be eliminated too. If we don’t watch our step, we will eliminate ourselves.

Siberian Tiger Français : Tigre de sibérie Ita...

If you think I’m exaggerating, please check out the Durell Wildlife Foundation, which is one of many organizations desperately trying to save what is left of our wild creatures. Durrell is my favorite, probably because Gerald Durrell who founded it was the writer whose work first got me interested in wildlife and saving it.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG, THE GRASS HAS RIZ – Marilyn Armstrong

BUT I KNOW WHERE THE FLOWERS IS …

Today is the day. The very first day of Spring 2020. The technical beginning of spring, though having not had much of a winter, it’s been fairly springlike since last December.

Hairy Woodpecker

The birdies are blooming in breeding colors. There are crocuses in the garden and shoots for daylilies and daffodils. What else is up? The bugs are happy because they didn’t have a winter. They are alive and breeding. It’s going to be a very buggy summer.

Back from the south, Carolina Wren

Nuthatch who never gets dizzy upside-down!

Another odd couple — Carolina Wren and GoldfinchOur Carolina Wrens are back and the Goldfinch have turned bright yellow. The House Finch have turned very red. Squirrels that fly, squirrels who leap, and bandit bands of raccoons all eat at our place. There were half a dozen doves on the deck this morning, doing a daily cleanup.

Bright little birds!

Red and yellow, oh my! Better than flowers!

It is not quite springtime in the Valley as it is in other areas, but for this part of the world?

This is spring. Or kind of springlike. More or less springlike. We’re working on it.

I wonder where the flowers is?

Ah, they are indeed here.

FLYING SQUIRRELS AND BIG FURRY RACCOONS – Marilyn Armstrong

We knew we’d gotten a lot of pictures last night because a lot of food went missing. About 4 pounds of food from the big feeder and maybe another two from the smaller one.

Conga line Raccoons

One-Two-Three-KICK!

Two by the feeder, one on the deck

We moved the camera from the tripod and attached it to the wall of the house. It was actually designed for that and came with a special plate for attaching it, probably because this isn’t just a trail camera but also a surveillance camera. As a surveillance camera, it’s not great.

Dive, dive, dive!

Coming in for a landing

Cute little guy found the feed

Pictures taken in the dark are black and white, which would be fine if there were also enough detail to recognize a face. I can barely recognize a raccoon and all flying squirrels are just white. If it weren’t for their cute little ears, I’d never figure out what they are.

Seeking seeds

Back a little further on the wall, the raccoons look better. You can see that they have masks on the faces and stripes in their tails. As for the flying squirrels, you only know the squirrels fly because you see them in the air, a big white strip or patch of fur without any other sign of life.

ABOUT THE LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

Why do you take pictures? What makes you pick up your camera? Is it just the beauty of the scene? Or the smile on someone’s face?

I’m sure it is different for each of us, but this morning, I remembered what it is for me. Because even before I turned on the coffee machine, I grabbed my camera. The light was coming through the window and the Dutch door and I saw something. I remembered abruptly that this is what always grabs me. I take pictures of my granddaughter, my dogs, friends just like everyone else. You don’t need a degree in photography to take a snapshot.

Spectacular scenery is inevitable. Like any photographer, I’m going to try to grab it because I’m a sucker for a pretty picture. But that’s not it. In the final analysis, it’s the light. The color, the subtlety, the flare, the radiance.

It has always been about light. My very first roll of film, in black and white, about half the pictures were of light coming through trees.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to show just how light filters through leaves or the way it shines through a window. Reflected light on water or wet sand. The sun as it rises or sets. I love the subtleties, the minute by minute changes of color of the sky.

That’s why I almost never raise the saturation level in a photograph. I’m looking for delicate shadings and subtle colors. I don’t want everything more vivid. I am more likely to turn the color and contrast down than to push it up.

Misty beach

The changing colors of the light through the seasons: golden in autumn, nearly white in winter and how these annual color shifts change the way the world looks. Ephemeral, fleeting, soft. I love shadow, the brother of light and how these change with the time of day and the seasons. I can watch for hours the changing colors of the sky while the sun moves across until it finally sinks below the horizon to full dark.

Have you ever watched the sunset from the late afternoon until full dark? The light lingers even after the sun is below the horizon. The further north you are, the longer the sky stays light. Everyone shoots brilliant sunsets or sunrises. I favor sunrises, but I realize that may have something to do with living on the east coast.

Facing east makes sunrise more accessible.  Yet even the most ordinary dawn or dusk contains its own beauty. It’s harder to capture it. Brilliant color is easy compared to incremental pastels. You don’t get nearly as many “oohs” and “aahs” from a photo composed of softer pastels.

I’m fascinated by the way shadows shift as the day ages. All the colors of the world change as the sun sinks and we move into artificial light — street lamps, candles, neon signs — each have their own spectrum and effects.

It’s all about light.

MY OLD NEIGHBORHOOD – Marilyn Armstrong

I grew up in a semi-rural nook in the middle of Queens, New York. The city had surrounded us leaving a tiny enclave walking distance from the subway.

The house was more than a hundred years old. It had been changed by each family who had lived there, so much that I doubt the original builder would have recognized it. From its birth as a 4-room bungalow in the 1800s, by 1951 it had become a warren of hallways, staircases and odd rooms that could be hard to find.

96-Holliswood1954

It sat at the top of a hill amidst the last remaining mature white oaks in New York, the rest having fallen to make masts for tall ships. The shadows of the oaks were always over the house. Beautiful, huge and a bit ominous. Some of the branches were bigger than ordinary trees. I remember watching the oaks during storms, how the enormous trees swayed. I wondered if one would crash through the roof and crush me.

I was four when we moved into the house, five by summer. When the weather grew warm, I was told to go out and play. Like an unsocialized puppy, I had no experience with other children, except my baby sister and older brother and that didn’t count. Now, I discovered other little girls. What a shock! I had no idea what to do. It was like greeting aliens … except that I was the alien.

First contact took place on the sidewalk. We stood, three little girls, staring at each other. First on one foot, then the other, until I broke the silence with a brilliant witticism. “I live up there,” I said. I pointed to my house. “We just moved here. Who are you?” I was sure they had a private club into which I would not be invited. They were pretty — I was lumpy and awkward.

Oak woods

“I’m Liz,” said a pretty girl with green eyes. She looked like a china doll, with long straight hair. I wanted that hair. I hated mine, which was wild, curly and full of knots. She gestured. “I live there,” she pointed. The house was a red Dutch colonial. It had dark shutters and a sharply pitched roof.

A dark-haired, freckle-faced girl with braids was watching solemnly. “I’m Karen,” she said. “That’s my house,” she said, pointing at a tidy brick colonial with bright red geraniums in ornate cement pots on both sides of a long brick staircase. I’d never seen geraniums or masonry flower pots.

“Hello,” I said again, wondering what else I could say to keep them around for a while. I’d never had friends, but something told me I wanted some. We stood in the sunlight for a while, warily eyeing each other. I, a stranger. I shuffled from foot to foot.

Finally, I fired off my best shot. “I’ve got a big brother,” I announced. They were unimpressed. I was at a loss for additional repartee. More silence ensued.

“We’re going to Liz’s house for lemonade,” Karen said, finally. Liz nodded. They turned and went away. I wondered if we would meet again. I hadn’t the experience to know our future as friends were inevitable.

Summer lasted much longer back then than it does nowadays. By the time spring had metamorphosed into summer, I had become a probationary member of The Kids Who Lived On The Block. I did not know what went on in anyone else’s house. I imagined the lights were bright and cheerful in other houses. No dark shadows. No sadness or pain except in my scary world where the scream of a child in pain was background noise, the sound of life going on as usual. Behind it, you could hear my mother pleading: “Please, the neighbors will hear!” As if that was the issue.

Across the street, Karen’s mother was drinking herself into a stupor every night. The only thing that kept Karen from a nightly beating was her father. He was a kindly older man who seemed to be from another world. As it turned out, he would soon go to another world. Before summer was ended, Karen’s father died of a heart attack and after that, she fought her battles alone.

Three friends

October 1952

In the old clapboard house where I thought Liz led a perfect life, battles raged. Liz’s father never earned enough money and their house was crumbling. It legally belonged to Liz’s grandmother. Nana was senile, incontinent and mean, but she owned the place. In lucid moments, she always reminded Liz’s dad the family lived there on her sufferance. Where I imagined a life full of peace and goodwill, there was neither.

A lovely neighborhood. Fine old homes shaded by tall oaks. Green lawns rolling down to quiet streets where we could play day or night. I’m sure the few travelers who strayed onto our street, envied us.

“How lucky these folks are,” they must have thought, seeing our grand old houses. “These people must be so happy.”

I have a picture in my album. It’s black and white, a bit faded. It shows us sitting in Liz’s back yard. I’m the tiny one in the middle. A little sad. Not quite smiling.

We envied each other, thought each better off than ourselves. It would be long years before we learned each other’s secrets. By then, we’d be adults. Too late to give each other the comfort we’d needed as we grew up. Lonely in our big old houses, all those years ago.

DON’T PUT ME IN CHARGE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ruler

Let me start by saying I do not want to rule the world. I don’t even want to rule this house. Not even a tiny corner of it. I get exhausted trying to manage dogs, convince them to go out to do their business and not steal my socks.

So if you give me a superpower, I might use it to eliminate us. What an annoying bunch we are.

As custodians of the earth, we’ve failed. We have poisoned the water and air, brutalized the earth, slaughtered the wildlife, cut down forests, dammed rivers, and polluted everything with our garbage.

We haven’t been any better to each other than we’ve been to the animals we’ve driven to extinction or near-extinction. We’ve murdered each other and stolen the darkness. We’ve made privacy a joke, eliminated alone time, and somehow, lost respect for each other and life. If we could start over, maybe we’d do a better job, but I don’t see a “redo” in the works.

Autumn at home

If indeed we were chosen to care for this world, we have done a poor job. Personally, I’d make a terrible ruler. Humans cannot be trusted. Even when we try hard, we just don’t seem to get it. I think we weren’t meant to be in charge. We need a better leader, one with the power to make things right and keep them that way.

See? I told you.

Don’t put me in charge. You won’t like it and I know I wouldn’t.