I have been watching the ground. I have been watching, especially under the feeders, around the corn crib, and by the porch. I have been watching the feeders because of the constant activity there. I have been watching the ground deep inside the crib because that is a place where the snow doesn’t quite reach. And I have been watching the porch because the railings provide ample space for perching. I have been looking for places where the snow isn’t too deep, just a thin layer, and where there is something dark underneath. Flat places. My quarry is more likely found on cloudy days and may be hidden by the warmth of full sun. I have had a glimpse on calm days, for wind erases evidence of its passing. I compete with the barn cats, for they too stand vigil. Yesterday, after months on the hunt, I finally glimpsed my elusive prize, and so too did Tolly. I saw him dart and I quickly grab him by the scruff of the neck and told him that I did not need help. I scolded him, for fear he might mar my prize. I deposited the intrusive feline several feet away from my delicate subject. He returned, so I put him inside the corn crib. He could only watch as I moved to capture my unsuspecting prey. I approached quietly from above. I stepped lightly and with care as I looked about. There were so many. Which could I capture quickly, and effectively? Which was complete and in the best condition? I greedily focused my attention on two pairs. In a fraction of a second I had them. I opened the door to the crib and released the confused cat – poor Tolly.
Because winter seems to have brought more than its share of snow and cold, time with the camera has been eliminated from the daily (even weekly) schedule. We have been spending much of our time keeping the stoves stoked, the animals fed and watered, the lane plowed, and the walks cleared. And so it is that I have been at a loss for material to post. The other day, however, I remembered that there were a few rough posts in my drafts folder. I hope you enjoy these images from the spring of 2014 and take them as a promise of things to come. I wrote, last May, I have been out with the camera a few times and have taken, almost as after-thoughts, some pretty botanical images. Because I didn’t think any could work as a post in its own right, and because I didn’t want any these to be forgotten, I’ve put together a gallery for you. Enjoy, clockwise and from the upper left, the Iris, Poppy, Maple, Yellow Flag, and Poppy once again.
I have been a science teacher for more than thirty years and believe that, at this point, I know a little something about communicating the nuances of the discipline. The other day my students were studying cnidarian tentacles for views of the stinging cells characteristic of that phylum. Later in the day I received an email from a student who sent a link to a fascinating video of nematocyst dischange recorded at an astonishing 130,000 frames per second. After viewing the video, one of a series entitled Smarter Every Day, a number of other video selections flashed up on my monitor and, among them, one in particular caught my attention. If you’ve got six minutes and thirty-eight seconds to spare I highly recommend that you take a look at the video entitled The Mystery of Prince Rupert’s Drop. Although it is not my intention that this post should be the first in a series which critiques similar videos, I could not resist posting this one. It is extremely well done. If I had interest and patience enough to watch this clip, several times, then it must be good.
By the way, Prince Rupert is the Prince Rupert (Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, 1st Duke of Cumberland, 1st Earl of Holderness, 1619 – 1682) and, although not a scientist himself, he played an important role in the history of the namesake drops by being the first to bring them to Britain in 1660. He gave them to King Charles II who, in turn, delivered them to the Royal Society for scientific examination in 1661.
I could show more images from Switzerland but the fact of the matter is, this blog is supposed to be about life in rural Pennsylvania. That being the case, I will end the travel series but could not do so without offering this image taken in the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Lausanne. Upon entering, the vaulted ceiling was the first thing to capture my eye, my attention, and my fascination. It was magnificent. If I knew anything about either engineering or architecture I could wax eloquent about domes, barrels, fans, buttresses, and even ribs, groins, and hyperbolic paraboloids. But, alas, I am not and therefore, cannot. As a biologist I am, likewise, speechless. As someone who beheld the structure I can observe that whatever the motivation on the part of those who designed the space, its effect on me was to evoke a sense of awe. I was impressed by its beauty, symmetry, grace, and its overwhelming sense of volume. Although made of hundreds, perhaps thousands of tons of stone, brick, and mortar, the thing seemed to float. I saw and appreciated the place in reverse such that I was captivated less by the physical nature of the thing than I was by the space it created. I thought about how masons, sculptors, wood workers, and glaziers labored for more than a century (1170 – 1275) to create the beauty I beheld. I happened to be watching Michael Palin’s most recent travel documentary, Brazil, the other day. Toward the end he visited the renown statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Jeneiro. Palin interviewed a woman who, if I remember correctly, was the granddaughter of the man who engineered that project, Heitor da Silva Costa. The woman observed (in all seriousness) that her grandfather had been an atheist all of his life but by the time the statue had been completed he had accepted Christ and became a member of the Catholic Church. I don’t know anything more about Costa or his work but, for him, creation of such a magnificent structure was clearly transformational. I wonder about the engineers and trades-people who constructed the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Lausanne. Did the masons and sculptors wake each day and trundle off to work, like so many of us who punch-the-clock and put-in-the-hours? Or, like Costa, did they view their work as service to some higher calling? Those who lived to see that thirteen-century consecration of the structure must certainly have taken great pride in their contributions, however small. But I wonder whether they considered their work divine or divinely inspired? Anyway, I digress. They certainly must have had great satisfaction in what they had wrought. And it must have been the fulfillment of many a life’s dream to participate in such a project. A testament to whatever power you name and to the power of humans to contemplate and to create order from disorder.
I don’t often think of water as having texture. The picture shows a little flume, at Ravensburg State Park, where the stream was directed through a channel formed by large rocks. If the water had been higher, the flume would not have been there … if it had been lower, the flume would, perhaps, have been even more dramatic. I could discern eddies, cascades, and turbulence. I could also see evidence of uninterrupted flow. Where water pitched down over one rock or climbed another, turbulence drew air into the mix. If I fixed my gaze on a particular spot, the pattern of splash and bubble was chaotic. Other areas were perfectly smooth and seemed unchanging. Something of a paradox, since water continued to move through such areas. Like a standing wave, there was movement without apparent movement until, of course, a twig or piece of ice or slush was caught up in the flow, giving a frame of reference for the transport of clear liquid. I particularly enjoyed looking at the two areas to the right. At the bottom was some reflected light that seemed to pulse as water, coming from the left, was caught in the flow, and quickly turned the corner to be redirected downstream. Above, I could see a series of striations. The wrinkled surface was not fleeting, it persisted for as long as I stayed to watch it. The ice too had texture, surely caused by variations in air temperature, humidity, and perhaps the water conditions present when it formed. Some was as clear as glass while other bits were opaque. Some surfaces were smooth, others wrinkled and undulating. Perhaps these ramblings will suggest that I don’t have much of consequence to say. Perhaps they will show that there are many things to see, even in winter, when one takes the time necessary to appreciate the details.
Given the way in which blogs are presented, I am convinced that posts which reside more than a scroll or two behind the most recent are doomed to languish and to be forgotten. Because I believe there is value in looking at contributions from days, weeks, and even months ago, I present here a gallery of images presented during January of 2014. Perhaps it will be interesting to scroll through these and to compare them to those presented during this past month. Be patient, it may take several minutes for all of the images to load fully. Hovering over an image will reveal its title. Clicking one will take you to a carousel view and you can either move through the collection or click the links to read each post in its original form. Note that this is the twenty-third in my series of retrospective posts. You may find interest in taking a look at the retrospective from two years ago and if you missed any of the others, you can find them all by clicking Retrospective in the tag cloud in the sidebar.
The title of this post is a direct quote. It is what Joanna said when she realized that I had uploaded this portrait to my WordPress media library. The trio is a set of Uneeda PeeWee Dolls that Joanna’s mother had unearthed from her attic. Having been returned to their owner, they arrived at the farm at a time of year when warm clothing was essential, and they had none. Joanna went to work, for it was her intention to make a gift of the dolls to a young friend of hers. She knitted (hat, headband, sweaters, and one undergarment), crocheted (hair scrunchie, collars, shoes, and one undergarment), and sewed (pants) for a week, off-and-on and around-the-edges. She asked periodically, while working on the project, Am I crazy to be doing this? Isn’t it funny that I asked the very same question of her yesterday afternoon, up to my waist in ice water, as I grabbed some photos before an advancing snow storm. My answer to her question, and hers to mine was, certainly not, for we both recognize the importance of having a creative outlet. I will be the first to admit that I have always been quick to speak the mantra … Git-r-done. I accept the charge of having applied the mandate too rigidly when the kids were growing up. I accept the charge of having applied it too rigidly to myself. As a result of this myopic focus on getting things done I don’t believe that I ever properly learned how to relax or to call time out. I had hobbies when I was a kid. But surely those were intended to keep me busy. College, graduate school and, since then, academic appointments and the farm have effectively eliminated free time. Time to be creative, and to exercise the right side of my brain (although the pop psychology of lateralization has long since been debunked, the myth persists … so we’ll simply perpetuate it here). Joanna has known all along that taking time for one’s self was important, on several levels. [Note the use of two words (one’s self) rather than one (oneself).] I have been blind to her example. Until recently. As I am now firmly established in what we euphemistically refer to as mid-life, I have come to realize and to appreciate the value of stepping back from work and of doing things that are good for the soul. Although I realize the importance and value of this, I’m not yet very good at it yet. But, practice makes perfect.