Often I found myself expelling a quivering, involuntary “Whoa”

The trees are so big that it would be cowardly not to deal with their bigness head on. They are very, very big. You already knew this — they’re called “giant sequoias” — and I knew it, too. But in person, their bigness still feels unexpected, revelatory. And the delirium of their size is enhanced by their age, by the knowledge that some of the oldest sequoias predate our best tools for processing and communicating phenomena like sequoias, that the trees are older than the English language and most of the world’s major religions — older by centuries, easily, even millenniums. The physical appearance of a tree cannot be deafening, and yet with these trees, it is. Facing down a sequoia, the most grammatically scrambled thoughts wind up feeling right. Really, there’s only so much a person can do or say. Often I found myself expelling a quivering, involuntary Whoa. […]

Late one afternoon, I lay down in the snow at the base of one for a while, watching as the fog poured in through its crown, and I remembered how untroubled Riksheim sounded at the bar the previous evening when, lowering his voice, he mentioned that there was a particular sequoia near his house that he was keeping an eye on. He could wake up dead tomorrow, he said. “It’s just that flying, fickle finger of Fate. Every once in a while, it’s going to point at you.” Then he fluttered his long, bony index finger through the air and lowered it with a sudden whoosh. Out of nowhere: crash. And I realized that his experience of it — a feeling of forsakenness, of arbitrary cruelty — would be essentially the same as the tree’s.

Two days later, I was snowshoeing around alone when I discovered I was standing in front of the same sequoia I had lain under. There, in the sloping snow at its roots, I saw my imprint. My back and legs and arms were joined into a wispy column, with the perfectly ovular hood of my parka rounding off the top. It looked like a snow angel, but also like a mummy — an image of both levity and dolefulness, neither all good nor all bad. I took a picture of it: what little of myself was left after I’d gone. The figure looked smaller and more delicate than I thought it should, but the Giant Forest was so quiet that I couldn’t imagine who else it could be.


Photo: The General Sherman Sequoia Tree – 275 feet tall, 100 feet around. Sequoia National Park from the foothills of central California’s Sierra Nevada. “To a human being, a 2,000-year-old sequoia seems immortal.”  (David Benjamin Sherry)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

meerkat


Source: Male Mouse Lemur by Malcolm S. Ramsay (via Cheetah Camp). Found only on the island of Madagascar.

Piper (Best Animated Short)

Miracle. All of it.

lava

Mount Etna on Sicily spews lava as it erupts on March 1, 2017.

(Inspired by:

God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.

Li-Young Lee, from “This Hour and What Is Dead,” The City In Which I Love You)

 


Notes:

  • Photograph: Antonio Parrinello, Reuters, March, 1, 2017, wsj.com
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Miracle. All of it.

turtle-eggs

 An olive ridley turtle lays her eggs in the sand at Rushikulya Beach, nearly 100 miles southwest of Bhubaneswar, on Thursday. Thousands of olive ridley sea turtles started to come ashore in the past few days from the Bay of Bengal to lay their eggs on the beach, which is one of the turtles’ three mass nesting sites in the Indian coastal state of Orissa. (Asit Kumar, Agence France Presse, via wsj.com)

And don’t miss one of the 2017 Underwater photographs of the Year:

[Read more…]

Come to the woods, for here is rest.

tree-cold-winter

To Fight the Winter Blues, Try a Dose of Nature by Florence Williams (excerpts):

Wintertime is rough on those whom the 19th-century hiker-philosopher John Muir called “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.” But we have an obvious cure for our doldrums: go outside. Though we are months away from the flowers and leafy foliage of spring, a dose of nature can still calm the mind and solidify human bonds. The real question is why we don’t partake more often of this easy balm…

After crunching the data, Dr. MacKerron and Susana Mourato…found people were significantly happier outdoors, especially in natural settings, than they were indoors…But there was a catch: Most of the participants didn’t behave as if they knew this, because they were rarely outside. They were indoors or in vehicles for 93% of their waking hours.

The study reveals our epidemic dislocation from the outdoors—an indictment not just of the structures and expectations of modern life but of our self-understanding. As the writer Annie Dillard famously said, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Why don’t we do more of what makes us happy? Part of the answer is that we’re flat-out busy. But even when we have free time, we’re not always smart about how we spend it…

Because we don’t spend enough time outside to notice that it makes us feel good, we spend even less time outside, replacing it with shopping, social media and so on. We especially “devalue nearby nature,” she says, such as small urban parks and tree-lined streets, because we tend to think they aren’t impressive enough as destinations. Scientists are quantifying the effects of even small doses of urban nature not only on our moods and well-being but also on our ability to think—to remember things, plan, create, daydream and focus… [Read more…]

It could not even see or hear. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world

snail-elizabeth-tova-bailey

I finished this book a month ago and it hasn’t left my consciousness. Who would have thought a book about a snail would have so captured my attention, and held it for so long.  Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal…told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.”

And here’s a few memorable passages:

“…I observed without thinking, looking into the terrarium simply to feel connected to another creature; another life was being lived just a few inches away.”

“By day, the strangeness of my situation was sharpest: I was bed-bound at a time when my friends and peers were moving forward in their careers and raising families. Yet the snail’s daytime sleeping habits gave me a fresh perspective; I was not the only one resting away the days. The snail naturally slept by day, even on the sunniest of afternoons. Its companionship was a comfort to me and buffered my feelings of uselessness.”

“…my snail could not see the moss over which it glided or even the plants it climbed. It could not see the trees, nor the stars overhead. It could not hear birdsong at daybreak, nor the midnight howls of coyotes. It could not even see or hear its own kin, let alone a predator. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world.” [Read more…]

Happiness is…

hug-tree

Fall.
Naps.
Miami.
Spring.
Canada.
M*A*S*H.
Full moon.
Saturdays.
Snow Days.
Hot shower.
Maple trees.
Warm winds.
Orange Jello.
Family Dinner.
Blog followers.
House Finches.
Fleetwood Mac.
Morning Papers.
Haruki Murakami.
Zeke’s waggy tail.
Shiny black shoes.
Anything àla Mode.
Buttered Spaghetti.
Finishing a long run.
CBS Sunday Morning.
Netflix binge watching.
Milk Chocolate with nuts.
Rachel & Eric coming home.

~ DK


Photo: via Hidden Sanctuary

Miracle. All of it.

duck-cold-winter

A small child next to us looked down at her snow-covered boots, then pointed to a duck that stood on the ice on the bank and asked her mother an extremely good question: “Why don’t his feet get cold?”…

It’s this: The bigger the temperature difference between two objects when they touch, the faster heat will flow from one to the other. Another way of putting that is to say that the more similar the temperatures of the two objects are, the more slowly heat will flow from one to the other. And that’s what really helps the ducks. As all that frantic paddling was going on, warm blood was flowing down the arteries of each duck’s legs. But those arteries were right next to the veins carrying blood back from the feet. The blood in the veins was cool. So the molecules in the warm blood jostled the blood vessel walls, which then jostled the cooler blood. The warm blood going to the feet got a bit cooler, and the blood going back into the body was warmed up a bit. Slightly farther down the duck’s leg, the arteries and the veins are both cooler overall, but the arteries are still warmer. So heat flows across from the arteries to the veins. All the way down the duck’s legs, heat that came from the duck’s body is being transferred to the blood that’s going back the other way, without going near the duck’s feet. But the blood itself goes all the way around. By the time the duck’s blood reaches its webbed feet, it’s pretty much the same temperature as the water. Because its feet aren’t much hotter than the water, they lose very little heat. And then as the blood travels back up toward the middle of the duck, it gets heated up by the blood coming down. This is called a countercurrent heat exchanger, and it’s a fantastically ingenious way of avoiding heat loss. If the duck can make sure that the heat doesn’t get to its feet, it has almost eliminated the possibility of losing energy that way.

So ducks can happily stand on the ice precisely because their feet are cold. And they don’t care.

~ Helen Czerski, from “Why Ducks Don’t Get Cold Feet” in  Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

 


Notes:

  • Image Credit: wsj.com – Agence France Presse / Getty Images
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Dark to dawn, with long warm breaths (60 sec)

Heartwarming moment with man rescuing sparrow after its wet feet froze onto a water tank pipe. The footage was shot in Idaho, USA, shows the man pressing his palm against the bird’s feet to free it from the ice before blowing on them.

“While feeding my horses on New Year’s morning I noticed a solitary sparrow perched upon the steel fence near the water tank. The tank is heated to keep it from freezing. It is not uncommon for birds to drink from the heated tank. Apparently this unfortunate bird had gotten its feet wet and, while making its exit, had become frozen to the fence in the prevailing near zero Idaho temperatures. First, I attempted to warm the feet of the frightened bird by pressing my palm against both the fence and the birds feet, while also gently restraining the bird’s flapping wings. It then seemed that warming the birds feet with my warm breath would bring quicker success. Gentle sideways motion with my thumb brought freedom for the frightened bird and a smile of satisfaction to my face… a delightful way to start a new year.” (Source: Newsflare.com)


Notes:

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