Quiet, please. We are not alone.

Spring unfolds each year in color, yes, but also in sound. And, regrettably, in noise — some of it emanating from our gardens.

When Nancy Lawson, a Maryland-based naturalist and nature writer, speaks about the voices of frogs or birds, she uses the word “sound.” When she refers to humanity’s voice — the din of mowers, blowers and chain saws — she describes it as noise, specifically “anthropogenic noise.”

Her definition: something that is “disrespectful of all the other sounds and runs roughshod over them,” she said, with “often unnecessary rudeness.”

These days, we’re not just driving one another crazy with the racket that fills most neighborhoods. We’re “smothering some of the opportunities for animals to communicate through their senses,” she said, “to perceive the world through their senses.”

That means communications are masked and predator alarms and other critical life cues are stifled.

The challenge she poses for us: “Let’s think about the fact that these are our neighbors, too. And they can’t just run inside and put on noise-canceling headphones.” […]

In other words: Easy does it.

“If you treat the local environment like the homeland it’s meant to be,” she writes in “Wildscape,” “you’ll be exposed to more cultures and ideas and ways of life than if you visited with people from every country in the world.”

Sometimes, she said, that’s not about doing something, but the opposite: Stop mowing so often; stop leaf blowing. “Stop these sensory disruptions,” she said.

Even with actions we know can cause harm, like using pesticides, it’s not just the direct damage that she alerts us to.

“It turns out that putting out scents into the world that cause odor pollution can disrupt flower fragrances, and bees’ ability to find the floral resources that they need,” she said of an often unnoticed violation of the Scentscape.

Noise has unexpected effects, too, like reducing the nesting success of bluebirds and tree swallows, and decreasing the foraging ability of owls and bats.

Or this: As cars drove past, Ms. Lawson noticed a monarch caterpillar flinching upward from the milkweed it was feeding on near her roadside. A paper she found cited the same reaction — and how traffic-stressed animals even bit the researchers, something they had never documented before.

Quiet, please. We are not alone.

— Margaret Roach, from “Quiet, Please: You Are Not Alone in Your Garden


Notes:

Walking. And walking. And walking.

So, here we are. 1095 consecutive (almost) days on this morning walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

And but for Paul pointing it out yesterday, I would have missed this Large milestone. On May 5th, it was 3 years on this daily walk, I mean 3 years, I don’t even need to count the damn days. It’s been 3 years.

And it’s just like DK, not to ponder how he’s changed, what’s changed, and not to reflect upon all the good that’s come out of this….but to focus on the edges of some nonsense. Paul had to remind me. Can you believe that? I’m forgetting a lot of important sh*t, and don’t even know it.

Every 100 feet or so, my hand reaches for the camera, and then gently sets it back to rest on my shoulder. I’m seeing Nothing worthy. All I see, is Same. Been here. Saw that. Done that. Tired of that. Posted that. 1095 days, on the same track, what do you expect?

I walk.

Stewing. Tired. Dragggggging. Wally’s snoozing. Susan will be asleep for another 2 hours. And here I am traipsing around a worn out track.

Mary Louise Kelly’s Act III: “Act III is the one where it dawns on us that there may not be an infinite number of acts, that we’d best get on with making the most of this one. Which prompts a delightful, nerve-racking question or two: What now? What next?”

I walk. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Modern life has clogged my skull to the limit. Technology has delivered an avalanche of options to preoccupy me at any hour; the notion of idle time that can’t be filled with some form of digital distraction is foreign to me, almost unnerving.

If you’re reading this column on a phone, or any sort of computer, you’re seconds away from all kinds of diversions—social media, digital games, the state of your 401(k), the latest celebrity embarrassment or political mess…

For me, the problem comes when I need to think for myself. If you read this column, you know that any kind of complicated thinking is hard for me, and perhaps impossible. My brain’s interior is not a series of mathematical formulas dancing around balletically, like it does for beautiful-minded geniuses in the movies. My brain is more like a slop-sink faucet, slowly dripping. Or an arcade machine that only plays 70’s-era Pong…

As I get older, I realize I need to utterly unplug. My ideas will not come from my phone, a Facebook post or the latest tire fire on Twitter. For me, they come from digital distance, from oxygen and exercise and especially from time spent outdoors. There once was a time I could get ideas from staring at websites, but not anymore. I get them from looking at trees…

I fear we’re getting worse. Technology just gets better, as those airport bookstores get smaller. I’m wary of our artificial-intelligence future, and the notion that we will lean on bots to think for us, writing code, speeches and even poetry. It sounds like more off-loading of our brain space to technology. And to what end? To watch more episodes of “Love Is Blind?”

I don’t want to sound like I’ve figured it out. I’m not saying this brain of mine is on the cusp of a breakthrough. My brain will not save the world. It barely remembers why it went to the supermarket.

But to get anywhere real, it needs to be uncluttered. It needs to be empty. I mean empty more than the usual. It needs to be bored. And for me that means: unplugged.

—  Jason Gay, from “The Joy of a Totally Empty Brain. Modern distractions cannot compete with the inspiration of old fashioned boredom (wsj.com, April 21, 2023)

I had one good ear that afternoon

I had one good ear that afternoon, and it let me hear Golaski’s voice. What I also heard: the brush of my feet in grass and dry leaves and the pops of breaking twigs. Wind: the stop and start of it you can’t predict, or control. Skittering insects, chirps of forty birds, fifty clicks, chitters, squees, throat clearing, a rusty hinge squeal, a piping, pinched flutes, calls like a finger on a wet glass, return calls. The green insect almost too small to see— you couldn’t make out its shape, just a speck of green… the sound of lake water lapping a shore, the coos of doves interwoven with less familiar birds, the harmless buzz of insects with beautiful names: nyenje, usubi, nyuki.

John Cotter, Losing Music: A Memoir (Milkweed Editions, April 11, 2023)


Book Review by Lisa Zeidner titled “In his moving memoir, John Cotter anticipates a world without sound. ‘Losing Music’ offers readers a compelling portrait of what life is like with the rare and incurable condition Ménière’s disease. (Washington Post, April 12, 2023)

I say a silent thanks. For the beauty of that.

I sometimes think I could write my own book on what dogs, specifically, do for us — and I don’t mean the herding, the hunting, the guarding. I mean what they do for us emotionally and spiritually. My relationship with Regan would give me much of the material I need, and that material would include how dogs turn our attention toward, and heighten our appreciation of, nature.

The centrality of an animal or animals in our lives reminds us of all the other animals out there, of how the world teems with remarkable and curious creatures, some of which our dogs and cats bark or hiss at, some of which they chase, a few of which they kill, at least if they’re sufficiently bloodthirsty and skilled.

But dogs also connect us with nature because they invite and encourage us to venture with them into it. We spend more time outdoors and more time appreciating the outdoors, whether we’re in cities, suburbs, exurbs or rural areas.

With Regan, I take forest walks of a length and adventurousness that I wouldn’t otherwise, and when her nose twitches and her ears swivel at the smell or sound of something, I find my own curiosity piquing, my own senses sharpening. I hear the woodpecker that had escaped my notice just seconds before. I see the white tail of a deer almost obscured in tall grass. To follow Regan’s gaze is to be introduced to the turtle moseying over the lip of the creek, to the fat wild turkey waddling up a distant slope. They were always there, but I wasn’t around to note them, or I wasn’t surveying the landscape with the requisite reverence.

But take the woods and the hikes out of the equation and Regan still reorients me toward the natural world. A walk with her around the block means breezes and bird song. In opening the door to let her out of and into the house, I notice a shimmering orange sun as it tugs itself above the horizon, a smudgy red one as it takes its final bow. I pause. I say a silent thanks. For the beauty of that. For the dog in the dimming light.

—  Frank Bruni, “On A Personal Note” in The New York Times, April 6, 2023

Monday Morning Wake Up Call

Photo 1 was taken this morning.

Photo 2 was taken in March 2022.

Oh, what a year makes.

Yes, different weather.

No, I was not standing in the exactly the same spot, and likely not the same focal length.

But close enough for you to get the point.

Photo 1 was taken after the completion of a major dredging project this winter to remove “sediments and debris” from the marina and channels.

Yes, it is likely that the park’s upkeep depends on marina revenue.

Yes, certain boat owners’ livelihood may depend on the marina.

No, this isn’t close to being on the same scale of the Amazon deforestation.

But…


For more photos from this morning’s walk, click here.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I do not live happily or comfortably
with the cleverness of our times.
The talk is all about computers,
the news is all about bombs and blood.
This morning, in the fresh field,
I came upon a hidden nest.
It held four warm, speckled eggs.
I touched them.
Then went away softly,
having felt something more wonderful
Than all the electricity of New York City.

—  Mary Oliver, “With Thanks to the Field Sparrow, Whose Voice is So Delicate and Humble” in “Evidence: Poems


Notes:

  • We’ll ignore the consequences of touching/picking up bird eggs from a nest… 🙂
  • Poem: Thank you Make Believe Boutique
  • Photo: Eva Bronzini via Pexels

Lightly Child, Lightly.

 
You know how every once in a while you do something and the little voice inside says, “There. That’s it. That’s why you’re here.” …and you get a warm glow in your heart because you know it’s true? Do more of that.
 
Jacob Nordby, author of The Creative Cure: How Finding and Freeing Your Inner Artist Can Heal Your Life (Hierophant Publishing, February 16, 2021)

Note:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. Come fly with me. 6:41am, 46° F. February 16, 2023. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  More pictures from this morning’s walk here.
  • Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

 
…If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
 
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
 
So like children, we begin again…
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, from “How Sure Gravity’s Law,” Rainer Maria Rilke’s the Book of Hours: A New Translation with Commentary

Note:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. February 8, 2023, 6:35 am. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More pictures from this morning’s beautiful light show here.
  • Poem: Thank you Vale of Soul-Making
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

What would it be like, I wondered, to live with that heightened sensitivity to the lives given for ours? To consider the tree in the Kleenex, the algae in the toothpaste, the oaks in the floor, the grapes in the wine; to follow back the thread of life in everything and pay it respect? Once you start, it’s hard to stop, and you begin to feel yourself awash in gifts.

—  Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions, September 16, 2013) (via acti-veg)

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Not far from the city I had a secret refuge, a small cove that I liked to visit at the kindling of the morning star. At that hour there was nothing more translucent under heaven than the shallow sea between the rocks. The seabed was everywhere visible and the water, blue as an eye, grew lighter the closer you got to the surface, until it turned green, then vanished—and I breathed it in.
It was there that the god found me.

– Sjón, The Whispering Muse


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Sawsan for sharing. 942 consecutive (almost) days in a row on this morning walk in my almost “secret refuge, a small cove that I liked to visit at the kindling of the morning star.” These words magic, capture it.
  • DK Photo @ Daybreak. 6:14 am. 48° F. December 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  More pictures from this morning’s walk here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Sunday Morning (Miracle. All of it.)

Of all natural patterns, the one I think that moves me most, is the sight of a flock of wild geese.

A single goose passing high overhead carries with it a sense of freedom and adventure. “He is,” in the words of Hal Borland, “the yearning and the dream, the search and the wonder, the unfettered foot and the wind’s-will wing.”

But a complete formation of geese is, for me, the epitome of wanderlust. Each one leaves me, no matter what I happen to be doing, wondering how long it will take me to pack my bags. And it’s not just migratory restlessness, the knowledge that by dawn the flock will be in other climes. I don’t feel the same way about swallows. There’s something about the goose formation itself, that arrowhead symbol of limitless horizons, that hints at appropriate and meaningful adaptation. A sense not only of going somewhere, but of doing so together in the best possible way.

Observations of geese in passage, show that they invariably adopt a “vee” formation, flying on the same level, equally spaced out but not necessarily along arms of equal length. The important thing seems to be that the vee must have an apex – that the leading bird should always have others on either side.

It has been suggested that this characteristic formation is nothing more than a simple consequence of the fact that geese have immobile eyes on the sides of their head; and that, with the beak pointed forward, the best way to keep a neighbouring bird in full view is to take up a place just behind it, either to the left or right eye side. But direct measurement of flights of Canada geese shows that the angle between the arms of the vee formation varies even in a single species between 28 and 44 degrees, which doesn’t necessarily correspond with the fixed angle of clearest focus.

Another theory suggests that the vee formation allows one goose, presumably a stronger and more experienced bird, to lead the way, cleaving a path through the air for the others. But, once again, field studies show that the leadership changes constantly and that this position, far from being reserved for wise old ganders, is in fact shared out amongst the younger and weaker members of the flock.

The answer seems to be largely aerodynamic. A recent computer study shows that there is an upwash beyond and behind the tip of a moving wing that can be useful to other birds nearby. If the spacing between wings is optimal, this saving in energy can be considerable. For instance, a formation of twenty-five birds can, just by adopting the most favourable formation, increase their effective range by 71 per cent.

And this seems to be precisely what happens. Travelling geese usually fly in groups of around twenty individuals and invariably adopt a vee formation. If they flew in line abreast on a common front, the birds in the centre would enjoy twice as much uplift as the ones on the ends of the line. But as soon as the line is bent backwards, the ones at the rear begin to pick up additional upwash from all those in front, which effectively cancels out most of the disadvantage of their position. And as they travel, other small inequities which may exist are dealt with by regular and democratic changes of place.

Lyall Watson, Beyond Supernature: A New Natural History of the Supernatural


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Cove Island Park this morning. For other photos from this morning’s walk, click here and here.
  • Post Title: Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

It sometimes sweeps through him in quick glimpses like an illumination and yes, yes, then he’s filled with a kind of happiness and he thinks that there might be a place somewhere… what if everything could be like that? … He thinks about a place like that, which is obviously no place, he thinks, he falls into a kind of sleep that isn’t like sleep but more a bodily movement where he’s not moving… everything’s heavy and hard and there’s a place in the big heaviness that’s an unbelievably gentle shining light, like faith, yes, like a promise.

Jon Fosse, The Other Name: Septology I-II.


Notes:D

  • DK Photo @ Daybreak. 67° F, with light rain. 6 am. November 12, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

I saw a man once, I waved to him and he did not wave back; I felt very self-conscious, partly because of how often I was walking this road. I walked until I got to the small cove we had driven past the first day we came here that had thrilled me so quietly; it still gave me a quiet sense of awe… And then I would walk back again.

— Elizabeth Strout, Lucy by the Sea: A Novel (Random House, September 20, 2022)

Notes:

  • Elizabeth Strout’s words spoke to me, this 905th consecutive day (almost, like in a row) on my morning walk at Cove Island Park.
  • Photos from yesterday’s morning walk @ Cove Island Park. More photos from yesterday’s walk here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

74 seconds of must watch TV

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
“Now a year ago I put you a very similar video, but I’m telling you it’s not the same. Here you will see how a pair of blue tit examines the new home, builds the nest, lays the eggs and cares for the young. Don’t miss a detail” 🐣. 📹 Nest Box. pic.twitter.com/4S57xWigtV

— Barrufet del temps (@MeteoBarrufet) October 6, 2022

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js


Thank you

Miracle. All of it. (19 sec)


Notes: Source: Lunch Time @ Monterey Bay.  Post Title: Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.”

Yep.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Gull @ Daybreak. 42° F. 6:48 am. September 24, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here.
  • Quote Source: @jessecase (via Last Tambourine)

this is a moment to remember

The older we get, the more rapidly time seems to move. This phenomenon has been well documented by psychologists and average humans alike, but it was only a couple of years ago that we had a physical explanation for our changing perception of time. In 2019, mechanical engineering professor Adrian Bejan presented a peer-reviewed argument based on the physics of neural signal processing. Bejan hypothesized that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, which makes time seem to speed up as we age.

This tracks. Time feels especially slippery for me lately. Days with a toddler are simultaneously long and short. And the weeks, months, and years of pandemic life have been increasingly hard to wrap my head around. As writer Christine Speer Lejune described it, “Some memories from these pandemic years are sharply vivid; others feel as hazy as an old film reel, more like impressions of having done things than memories of actually doing them. Almost all of them are untethered from anything like chronology, just bobbing around together in a two-year-old pandemic stew.”

Time passes. Things happen. Days drag on and weeks zoom past. Before I know it, six weeks have gone by, and I’m left wondering what I did with all that time.

Thankfully, I have photos to rely on. Even if no one else sees them but me, my family, and a few random friends. My phone is full of big and small moments, captured so I don’t forget them.

The vast majority of the photos I take these days are of my daughter. I document her dutifully for a multitude of reasons: because she’s cute, because she grows so quickly, and because I know she’ll have few, if any, memories from this time.

I also take photos of her because she loves seeing them. “Pick-urs?” she asks, pointing to my phone. “Yes, we can look at pictures,” I reply.

She snuggles up in the crook of my arm as we scroll through the same old set of images. “Paint!” she shouts, seeing herself trying out watercolors for the first time. “Mama!” she says, pointing to a photo of me posing for the camera. “Beep beep!” she cheers, pushing her hand against an imaginary wheel, as she spots an image of herself in the grocery cart that’s shaped like a car.

She’s seen these photos a hundred times, and still, they bring joy.

These photos bring me joy, too. As counterintuitive as it may seem, taking photos helps me to stay in the present—signaling that this is a moment to remember. (Turns out, science backs this up.) Afterwards, looking through those photographs reminds me how beautiful everyday life can be…

Katie Hawkins-Gaar, from “I Want to Remember” (My Sweet Dumb Brain, August 16, 2022.) A newsletter about facing life’s ups and downs, all while being kind to yourself. Katie Hawkins-Gaar was 31 when her husband, Jamie, collapsed while running a half-marathon and died in 2017. A year-and-a-half after Jamie’s death, Katie launched her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, all about the ups and downs of grief.)

Lightly Child, Lightly

In the midst of financial news that seems to get grimmer by the day, one story of a man trying to escape caught my eye. Andrew Formica, the 51-year-old CEO of a $68 billion investment firm, abruptly quit his job. He did not have another job waiting—or anything else, it seems. When pressed about his plans, he said, “I just want to go sit at the beach and do nothing.”

Easy, right? Not for a lot of us, it isn’t. Besides the fact that you need to have a good deal of financial security to quit working, “it is awfully hard work doing nothing,” as Algernon said in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I can relate to this. I work long hours and have sometimes planned to go away and do nothing just for a week or two. But when I try, I find I am utterly incompetent: Idle chitchat drives me crazy; I get the jimmy legs 30 minutes into a movie; sitting on a beach is a form of torture. Whenever I make an effort to rest, my mind always wanders back to the work I am fleeing.

As difficult as it may be, Formica has the right idea. For the sake of happiness, strivers and hard-driving work machines of any income level need to learn to stop. If you are in this category, nothing should be high on your to-do list

Choose soft fascination.

During your unstructured vacation, choose activities that can gently hold your attention while also leaving you plenty of bandwidth to mentally meander. This is what three University of Michigan psychologists call “soft fascination,” and you might find it by walking in nature, or watching the waves. In contrast, “hard fascination” (found by, say, watching television) occupies attention and rules out mind-wandering. Research has found that soft fascination is more restorative than hard fascination. For example, in a 2018 study, survey respondents said that walking in nature was 15 percent more effective at helping them “get away from it all” than watching television…

If scheduling leisure seems unnatural to you, consider the way good health requires you to schedule your meals and exercise at more or less a certain time each day for a particular amount of time. Schedule “white space” in your day, and keep it off-limits from the tyrannical urgencies of your work (as well as from eating and exercise). If your guilt creeps in, or if you’re worried that “wasting” this time will somehow make you poorer, try to remember the words of the Welsh poet William Henry Davies: “A poor life this if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.”

— Arthur C. Brooks, from “How to Embrace Doing Nothing” (The Atlantic, August 4, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:51 a.m. May 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

A well-cultivated mind comes to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful

I learned calligraphy in the seventh grade when my classmate’s mother taught the basics during an afternoon art class. In my case, it was pearls before swine. I was hardly an apt pupil. Art was where I parked myself between recess and after-school soccer. But even in my grubby pre-adolescence, her elegant pen strokes struck me as beautiful…

I’ve never employed my chirographic skill apart from that homework assignment. I do, however, remember the lesson vividly for three reasons.

First, it taught me there is beauty in this world. Some things are pleasing when seen; calligraphy is such a thing. It is beautiful to behold and drew me out of my pubescent self.

Second, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but many see beauty in the same things. Some objects are man-made and others are natural, but attraction to beautiful things is nearly universal. This speaks to an ineffable longing written on our hearts.

Third, we each have the capacity to create beauty through the choices we make and things we do. Not all we do will be beautiful, but it all has the potential to be. The gift of freedom behind all these choices, made and to be made, is itself beautiful.

I’m glad I was dialed into middle-school art class that day so long ago. An impromptu calligraphy lesson taught me a lot about beauty in this world and the one to come.

— Mike Kerrigan, from My First Lesson in Beauty (wsj, July 30, 2022). Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte, NC


Notes:

  • Post and Post Title inspiration: From a response to this article by Jim Reardon: I enjoyed Mike Kerrigan’s “My First Lesson in Beauty” (op-ed, July 30). Mine came when I encountered Shakespeare in ninth grade. Never had I imagined language could be so powerful and, yes, beautiful. I share Mr. Kerrigan’s skepticism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A well-cultivated mind comes to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful, whether in art, nature, science or noble acts.
  • Photo by Diana Schroder-Bode via unsplash
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