Posts tagged with "nature" - Faerye Net 2011-12-03T15:54:36+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Frozen 2011-12-03T15:54:36+00:00 2012-01-03T16:52:35+00:00 <center><a href="" title="Polar bear cubs. by USFWSAlaska, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="328" border="0" alt="Polar bear cubs."></a></center> <p>So <a href="">Ryan</a> and I have been watching <a href="" target="links"><em>Frozen Planet</em></a>, and I realize I may be a little obsessed.</p> <p>For example, when describing to a hapless class of high school sophomores the other day how language and the exchange of stories allows us to create continuous culture, I said otherwise we would have to learn everything from scratch, &#8220;like baby polar bears emerging from a snow den for the first time.&#8221; Because, you know, that was the obvious metaphor?</p> <p>Or how I drive along thinking about narwhal traffic jams. Or I look at my friends&#8217; dogs and think about how odd it was someone looked at those terrible wolves slavering along after caribou or bison and thought, &#8220;I want one of <em>those</em> in my house!&#8221;</p> <p>I think it&#8217;s the focused nature of this special that makes it stick so much in my mind: not <em>what</em> it&#8217;s about so much as that it&#8217;s about one thing. The <em>Planet Earth</em> series was a collection of dazzling and fascinating sights, but so different they didn&#8217;t leave an overall impression save that of majesty and variety. This is a symphony with overarching themes. It leaves you looking about you for the cycles in your own life, in humans: the frozen winter that gives way, all of a sudden, to a brief, frenetic period of creation and growth. I think how important it is to seize those moments of sunwarmed opportunity and beauty; but also to know that they will, like the summer sun, always come again.</p> Spider Summer 2010-08-20T11:56:06+00:00 2010-08-20T12:04:51+00:00 <center><a href="" title="&quot;Nest&quot; by Louise Bourgeois by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="376" alt="&quot;Nest&quot; by Louise Bourgeois" /></a><br /> Nest<em> by the late Louise Bourgeois, at SFMoMA</em></center> <p>I&#8217;m not a summer person. It&#8217;s the heat, the unaccustomed dryness. It&#8217;s the contrast with the cloudier, rainier summers I remember or imagine from my youth. But these hot temperatures, these gentle breaths of air, these verdant trees stretching out their branches to reach something &#8211; each other, the eaves of a house, the railing of a stair &#8211; have made an army of creatures in my environs very, very happy.</p> <p>You notice it first through the kitchen window: a row of lovely spirals bobbing over the lace-leaf maple. Then there are the front stairs, shaded by a lilac tree &#8212; a succession of webs. I leave my house now waving my hands like an aspiring zombie, flailing my keys or mail, or bobbing my head from side to side to locate the gem of a spider floating in midair. I trust the neighbors to understand. Once, past the stairs, striding confidently into the wide, unspider-spannable world, I took a web to the face. I got to the car to find spiders busy on the mirror and windshield-wipers.</p> <p>Leaving the house might seem to be the trouble &#8211; the screen door in the back stuck to its frame by an empty egg sac, the large spider that hit my head like a pebble when I stepped through the front door last week &#8211; but indoors we find little refuge. I was scrubbing my hair one day in my basement bathroom when I noticed a tiny spider, the color of wilted celery, busy building his first web in the frame of a window above my shower. At the bottom of the sill, another. Another two setting up shop at the top of the shower stall. Another investigating my back brush. This was positively friendly compared to the day when I was drying off and a wolf spider with a silver-dollar leg-radius dropped out of my towel and skittered for the safety under the laundry machines.</p> <p>I try, gazing out of my window at the row of dessicated egg sacs lining the undersides of the eaves like reversed icicles, to remember that spiders are here to help me, too. I try to think of these lines of white husks as defense: against wasp nests, against the swarming air power of mosquitoes. I do try.</p> <p>Then I see another spider on the wall and call the cat, who comes bounding. It may be the tone in my voice that tells her it&#8217;s time to hunt, but I suspect she has learned the creepetty-crawletty little word: <span class="caps">SPIDER</span>.</p> My favorite thing about California 2008-05-12T22:00:26+00:00 2008-05-21T21:55:25+00:00 <p>I admit I&#8217;ve been pretty negative about moving to the Golden State. I&#8217;ve been ungrateful about the way the drivers and roads <a href="">are training my reflexes and skills</a>, and suggested that the state&#8217;s most lauded private academic institution is <a href="">a cruel maze</a> from which escape is perilous. I have, as my coworkers could tell you, stared out at blue-sky day after blue-sky day and sighed after the variation and excitement of cloud and rain.</p> <p>However, this state has its points. And chief among them, in my opinion, is the bird life. I&#8217;m not an ornithological authority, and apart from the occasional hummingbird or finch, I&#8217;ve little idea what birds are flitting around my yard and mocking my cat from behind glass. But they are many, diverse, and lovely. Qubit likes to watch them&#8230;or at least, feels compelled to do so. From the frustrated hacking growls she emits, I don&#8217;t think she enjoys it too much.</p><p> I like to listen to them. When I sit at my dining room table, their songs come from several directions. I feel surrounded by their music. In my study, I can hear the clear repeated trills of a bird that frequents the tree in the front yard. These songs are far different from those I&#8217;m used to in Oregon, the sounds that are so much a part of my childhood I barely heard them until I left the state and returned. These are more tropical, like the calls at the zoo, from the aviary or on a looped soundtrack at an exhibit. They are merry and beautiful, clearer and more warming than the sunshine. I won&#8217;t live in California forever, and I&#8217;ll miss the birds when I go.</p> Back on the beach 2008-01-13T23:52:13+00:00 2008-05-25T20:12:04+00:00 <p>What is the difference between very little and nothing? Approximately the difference between my posting habits in the last few months and my posting habits for the last week and change. I&#8217;m back in my grad school grind (tho&#8217; not a Gradgrindian school). It&#8217;s my final semester&#8230;only one more of these mad, lovely swirls of theory and work, friendship and inspiration awaits me. </p><p>So I write from a hotel room looking out on the Pacific, whose surf is still white even when the water stares black at the starlit sky. Oregon is in my bones as well as in my heart. It&#8217;s good to be home.</p> Waterfalls 2006-04-06T20:02:09+00:00 2008-06-08T14:22:50+00:00 <p>I took an out-of-town friend up the Gorge today, and we wended our pilgrim way from fall to fall, taking away photos, misty blessings, and newly waving hairstyles. We were both struck, standing in the susurrating roar of Latourell (first fall we found), at the strange shape of the place. Factually, actually this place has been carved out by millennia of busy water; fingers shaping, wearing, prying. But in the presence and immediacy of the spring-swollen waters, it does not seem a prosaic thing of friction and time.</p> <p>The walls curve, great massy things of mossy basalt, hewn large and rough from the earth. They tease at the eye, falling in towards the wraith of water. So also does it seem that light falls, and gravity; reality itself making soft obeisance. These do not seem like places which work themselves softly out of the world of physics; they seem like temples sprung to life to house these falling gods.</p><p> I have studied my geology, and I know these places; sheltered Latourell and welcoming Wahkeena, the majestic plunge of Multnomah; are merely small tributary waters showing their chisels are much less busy than those of the mighty Columbia. I know the softly curving walls did not appear in reverence, but slowly crumbled into being over long years of water&#8217;s caress and ice&#8217;s invasion. I know that water is just the dance of polar molecules, drawing life and death&#8217;s debris over the globe in accordance with laws of physics and chemistry. I know that my eye interprets its falling disarray according to its own confused fancy, and no matter what shapes it seems to have, the water has no spirit and no life. But I cannot stand in such a place, kissed by the chill of the falling water, and swear I know no magic. I cannot tell you I am not on holy ground.</p> <p><center><a href=""><img src="" alt="The plunge pool at Latourell" title="Latourell Falls" border="0"></a></p> Childhood memories: Mother Ocean 2004-08-17T15:18:15+00:00 2008-08-14T11:21:20+00:00 <p>When I was little, my parents would take me to the beach, and my father would carry me in a sturdy baby backpack along the grey, shimmering margin. I don&#8217;t know, truly, if these are my memories, or back-formed images tricked out of photographs and later trips. But the later trips &mdash; those I know I remember. My mother would wear a quilted aqua jacket which I privately thought looked like Princess Leia&#8217;s Hoth vest, and my father would wear his sturdy brown corduroy coat with the big knobbly buttons, just as he would to work outside in bad weather. The corduroy was large of wale, and made a sound like a giant zipper when he moved his arms.</p> <p>My sister and I would wear little hooded sweatshirts or jackets, gathered tight around our faces to save our ears from the whistling wind, but there was no way to save our red noses from cold and dripping. Our bangs would tangle and fill with salt and sand as we dug and played. I loved to dig, and my sister, I think, loved to build, so she would set me to making the moat while she used the resulting pile to build a castle &mdash; one year, my parents bought her sand castle molds, and her castles rose perfect and tidy until the waters came.</p> <p>I would dance along the waterline, spinning in the wind or the sun, just as I do now, child that I am, when I see the sea. I walked along the coast alongside my long-legged parents, and ran like an excited puppy at every tantalizing treasure half-exposed in the sand &mdash; the fragment of sand-dollar that <em>might</em> have been a whole, the bit of wood that <em>might</em> have been a timber of a wrecked ship, the jelly-fish that <em>might</em> have still been alive, and wriggling, and dangerous. I would write my name in the sand, and then, as I grew older and came to look upon the ocean not just as a vast, beautiful noise, a force that had tried to draw me in when tiny, a m&eacute;lange of shimmers and shadings, but as the source of life, I would dawdle behind my parents and my sister as they headed up the beach away from the waterline, and write in the wet sand, &#8220;Mother Ocean.&#8221;</p>