Δεκέμβριος 31, 2017

"Song I Remember"

"One crow
Slowly goes over me --- a hoarse coarse curse --- a shrill
Jeer: last of the past year or the first of the new,
He stones me in appalling tongues and tones, in his tried
And two black lingoes. A dirty word in the shine,
A flying tombstone and fleering smudge on the winter-white page
Of the sky, my heart lightens and leaps high: to hear
Him. And the silence. That sings now: out of the hills
And cold trees. Song I remember."

  • Thomas McGrath, from Letter to an Imaginary Friend
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Winter Oak

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Δεκέμβριος 30, 2017

Moon in the Trees

This is how the year should end, I thought to myself while walking the dog in the dark just after 8 pm. The temperature was dropping, headed somewhere well into the negative digits. The sky clear. The moon caught overhead in the bare branches of a mid-winter tree. The night calm and quiet but for the squeak of new fallen snow beneath my boots.

On similar nights during other winters I've heard owls (though usually later in the night and later in the season). I suddenly felt the longing to hear them again, to stand and listen as long as it might take. Like the poet Thomas McGrath awaiting the "blue star Kachina," I would keep vigil for the voice of a Great Horned Owl. I stopped when the dog stopped, and I listened. The sound of a car passing many blocks away. Then the night was quiet once again.

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Δεκέμβριος 29, 2017

Vade Mecum

Vade mecum is defined as a handbook or guide that is kept constantly at hand for consultation. The Latin literally says "goes with me."

Across a lifetime, there has been a series of important items I've kept close at hand, mostly books, but there have been years when a certain pen or a new insect net has been consulted as often as a familiar book. And, in recent years, I'm tempted to name places, lakes and trails, landscapes that have become treasured texts.

No book altered the course of my life more than the immense, book-length poem Letter to an Imaginary Friend by the North Dakota poet Thomas McGrath. The writing and its arguments taught me to think, refined my Great Plains dialectic, combining threads of agrarian common sense, folk surrealism, and an innate wonder for natural world. There's little doubt that this book was, has been, and will remain my vade mecum.

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Δεκέμβριος 28, 2017

Dragonfly Food

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Δεκέμβριος 27, 2017

Diary of a Madman

December 26. Having near at hand Gogol's collection of stories, I read (actually re-read since I'd originally read the stories many years ago) the short and bizarre 'Diary of a Madman.' This story contains some very amusing passages, plus there are striking similarities to Dostoyevsky' s 'Notes from the Underground' and Melville's 'Bartleby, the Scriviner." Perhaps, at some point, I'll return to these journal pages and recognize that same mad grin invented by these mad protagonists... 'Journal of a Mad Naturalist.'

Another frigid day. The forecast is for the final week of 2017 to be below zero, consistently cold. I set out some dried mealworms for the Chickadees and Nuthatches but they have yet to find them. My order of live blackworms arrived at the pet shop, food supply for the overwintering dragonfly nymphs in my office. I dropped a small, writhing glob and as they dispersed slowly through the cold water I watched, with satisfaction, the large Macromia nymph capture one with ease.

Photographed another trap nest. Again it looks to be an Aphid Wasp nest, but the inner most cells held empty pupae, so the nest had held another species earlier in the year, the Aphid Wasp that provisioned this nest was the second wasps to make use of this particular segment of Joe-Pye Weed stem.

I also photographed a batch of exuviae that Janet Nelson had collected in June from Lake Kabetogama. This batch consisted of four Ladona julia and twelve Epitheca nymphs (probably E. spinigera).

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Δεκέμβριος 26, 2017


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Δεκέμβριος 25, 2017

Two Beetles

Christmas Eve's Day. Read Gillian Clark's poem, 'The Christmas Wren.' Cleaned the house, wrapped gifts. Lisa's mom arrived in the afternoon. The four of us cooked and watched a movie and played some dice.

I photographed, early in the day, two small beetles, both dead, that had been found in my office, hoping they could be identified, hoping (also) that they were not feeding on specimens kept there.

The wing sheaths, the elytra are not completely shut like obstructed cupboard doors. One of the beetle's final acts must have been flight, or the attempt at flight. The membranous wing tips protrude, a bit of an embarrassment for the living onlooker.

It's pebbled back, hunched shoulders and tucked head, its six legs clutching its antennae beneath its body, take on a recognizable aspect, a penitent perhaps, or simply the wish for better circumstances, say an open window and a way to escape. Smaller than a grain of rice, its suffering was on the same scale with any other of the living.

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Δεκέμβριος 24, 2017


Lisa's birthday. And as part of her day, we took a family walk in the afternoon at the Cowling Arboretum, Lisa, Lida, myself and the dog.

The recent cold weather has constricted the open water to the main river channel and the swift tributary streams; most of the ponds and lakes are now frozen. This concentrates the Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks overwintering in the area and during our walk the sound of thousands of honking geese flying overhead and congregating at the last open water on Lower Lyman Lake embrightened the quite winter woods.

Along the river, beavers have been harvesting small trees. Here and there the stumps of trees stick out of the ground like thick pencils freshly sharpened with a knife. Their work trails and riverbank slides are as wide as cattle paths and evidence of their persistent labor.

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Δεκέμβριος 23, 2017

Scuttle Fly

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