13 November 2014

About leaves: a science lesson

Leaves are descended from dinosaurs.

 They are vertebrates.

 Although they appear to be cute, one must be cautious. They are wild creatures.

 Leaves are territorial, and therefore can be tense when coming upon another species.

 Introductions must be done carefully, much like cats and dogs.

 Sometimes the interactions are not friendly.

Leaves protect themselves with large fleets of airborne vehicles. They are well-organized and can create havoc at certain times of the year.

 Leaves reproduce in much the same way as homo sapiens. That is to say, they are delivered by storks.

 There is great diversity in the leaf world: some baby leaves develop into fish-like creatures.

 While others resemble birds.

 Thank you for reading this science lesson. As you leave, please watch where you step.

08 November 2014

Fellow students

I was walking through the parking lot at the community college, on my way to class when I noticed these two vehicles parked next to each other:

 First the car.

Then the pick-up.

The ensuing thought process went like so:

1. Hey that's funny, think I'll take a picture.
2. I wonder if they attend the same class. Haha! 
3. Crap. I hope they're not in my tai chi class.
4. That's an uncharitable thought. Both of these people need tai chi.
5. Hope I don't have to stand between them.

29 October 2014

Back from the east

Entrance to the National Lampoon building
 We just returned from a trip to the east coast, visiting our son in Boston and daughter in Princeton, NJ.

Chairs all helter-skelter on the Harvard campus
I love traveling in October because it's such a colorful time of year and relatively free of weather-related hang-ups.

 This was an urban kind of trip, in which we often found ourselves on public transportation: planes, trains, and buses, all great for people-watching and occasionally for dog-watching as well.

Ivy on sycamore
Ivy? There isn't actually that much of it crawling around on Ivy League campuses. I've walked around 3 of them this year and there was a notable lack of ivy.

The buildings are pretty great.  In old cities like Boston they have such cool roof lines that I find myself looking up constantly.

Looks like a satyr up there...we just don't put these on the tops of buildings nowadays.

No, but we do have lots of pigeons looking down on us.

 Our son works for the Union of Concerned Scientists, located in the glass and concrete structure on the right, a nice juxtaposition to the astrologist down below.

 A bird's nest in a lion's mouth.

There's an incredible collection of glass botanical specimens in the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It's very hard to believe these plants are made of glass!

 We had a nice walk in Concord, MA, not far from Boston. The area is steeped in revolutionary war history, and with its stone fences, colonial style buildings, and vivid fall coloring it epitomized "New England." It just doesn't look like that anywhere else.

After the big city we chilled with our daughter & hubby in Princeton. It felt good to be lazy, going on dog walks and exploring nearby.

It rained quite a bit when we were in Princeton, so there are fewer photos. Next time I'm there I'll have to make up for it.

13 October 2014


Most days Ed and Reub and I go on multiple short walks. Sometimes these excursions are ordinary and once in awhile they aren't.

A couple of weeks ago we came upon wood rat nests on and above the path, not far from the house at all, a one minute walk.

Funny, private little creatures minding their own business, kind of like me.

Wood rats are pack rats. I take them offerings: bay leaves, acorns, a pop-top, a green bean. These objects have moved a few inches, all of them, as if they have been examined. The green bean was mostly consumed. I feel appreciated, but I am not certain.

I imagine a little rodent, dressed during the day in a tiny mid-18th century French gown, blue, enjoying haricots verts, waiting for nightfall, when she changes into the attire of a lady bandit... oh never mind. It's probably not so. But there is no proof, really, that she's just an ordinary rat. We do not know for sure.

Here's the thing...

Today I set out with Ed and Reub down the path.

I squinted...in the middle of the path which is used almost exclusively by myself and my dogs, and just 20 feet before we come to the rats' abodes...

...is a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

I was born and raised breathing the fumes of the Pabst brewery's hops in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I can't help but think I am being given an offering. A perfect gift, but from whom?

Call it the remnant of a kid's unfulfilled experiment in the woods. I don't know, though. Seems like the kid would have finished the beer, or hidden it. And that expiration date, does it mean the 22nd of this year, or will this can last until 2214? You tell me.

But I know this. That PBR was totally meant for me, no matter who left it. I wish to believe that it was offered by my friends, the Dusky-Footed Wood Rats. I don't know where they got it.

09 October 2014

Ride at dusk

It was near Fossil, OR, that we spent a few days on a ranch. One afternoon, just as the day was turning to dusk we rode up into the hills. There were three of us: a handsome wrangler named Colton, John, and myself.

Okay, four of us if you count Colton's dog, who was curious about the black and white magpie scolding him nearby. Oreo-like creatures, both of them.

Up and up we went. In the distance there was the screen of an outdoor theater. Colton said it was hard to get to, but if you had an ATV or 4 wheel drive vehicle you could catch the occasional movie shown there under the wide empty expanse of the central Oregon sky. Makes you want to go, doesn't it?

 Actually, there's enough drama in the landscape that no movie could hope to match.

 Late afternoon sun turned the world golden.

 When the moon began to rise, we knew it was time to head down.

 Back to the ranch with its wooden buildings and neatly stacked piles of hay.

 In the waning light John brought out his guitar and played to a rapt audience.

 Finally it grew dark and the huge moon rose in all her glory. It was a great day.

01 October 2014


You could visit Wheeler county in central Oregon for the sheer beauty of its wide, lonely landscape.

There are towering rock formations,

and sculptures as impressive as any artist could dream up.

But aside from the spectacle of the place, there's another reason to slow down and spend some time there.

Embedded in those rocks are millions of fossils. Weather and erosion cause them to appear magically, as if you were looking at old photographic film being developed in a darkroom.

It's high and dry now, but plants and animals were captured by violent, muddy ash-flows back in the day when the area was a semi-tropical landscape.

Now they come slowly but continuously to the surface.

You can collect leaf and invertebrate fossils for non-commercial use on most public lands and all road cuts, but there is only one specific public fossil-hunting bed, and that is located behind Wheeler High School in (where else) Fossil, OR. For a 5 buck donation to the school you can borrow some gear and climb around in the loose, sharp rocks above the football field.

 It's just like hunting for treasure.

Metasequoia sp, now extinct: my very own astonishing little post card from 33 million years ago.