Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (Up, Up, Up, all together now)

“A photographer in Australia captured stunning images of something one might only see once or twice during the migrating season: two whales breaching in perfect synchronization. So you might say photographer Jonas Liebschner of Whale Watching Sydney hit the daily double as he saw and snapped photos of two pairs of humpback whales breaching simultaneously only seven days apart. On the second day of whale-watching season off Manley Beach north of Sydney, Australia, Liebschner took a photograph showing two humpback whales breaching in perfect tandem with flippers in identical positions before splashing down.


Grindtv.com Pairs of whales breach in perfect tandem; photographer captures the moments (June 6, 2017)

I imagine how the press of cooling air might feel against its wings

For some weeks, I’ve been worried about the health of family and friends. Today I’ve stared at a computer screen for hours. My eyes hurt. My heart does, too. Feeling the need for air, I sit on the step of my open back door and see a rook, a sociable species of European crow, flying low toward my house through gray evening air. Straightaway I use the trick I learned as a child, and all my difficult emotions lessen as I imagine how the press of cooling air might feel against its wings. But my deepest relief doesn’t come from imagining I can feel what the rook feels, know what the rook knows — instead, it’s slow delight in recognizing that I cannot. These days I take emotional solace from understanding that animals are not like me, that their lives are not about us at all. The house it’s flying over has meaning for both of us. To me, it is home. To a rook? A way point on a journey, a collection of tiles and slopes, useful as a perch or a thing to drop walnuts on in autumn to make them shatter and let it winkle out the flesh inside.

Then there is something else. As it passes overhead, the rook tilts its head to regard me briefly before flying on. And with that glance I feel a prickling in my skin that runs down my spine, and my sense of place shifts. The rook and I have shared no purpose. For one brief moment we noticed each other, is all. When I looked at the rook and the rook looked at me, I became a feature of its landscape as much as it became a feature of mine. Our separate lives, for that moment, coincided, and all my anxiety vanished in that one fugitive moment, when a bird in the sky on its way somewhere else pulled me back into the world by sending a glance across the divide.

~ Helen MacDonald, excerpt from “What Animals Taught Me About Being Human” (The New York Times, May 16, 2017)


Photo: Gregory Colbert (Thank you Sawsan via Last Tambourine)

Forget Calories. Go for Awe.

Excerpts from Julia Baird’s Forget Calories. Exercise for Awe. (May 6, 2017, NY Times):

If you joined the hundreds of people in my swim squad, you might think at first that the routine was simply about getting a solid bout of exercise before the day begins…The caps we wear are bright pink. The name we call ourselves, the Bold and Beautiful, is also quite daft, but it’s a reminder that the squad was formed several years ago by middle-aged women who were too nervous to swim the distance alone. This morning swim was never about skill, but about pluck.

Most days, at some spot along the mile-long route, heads will cluster, arms pointing down under the water at enormous blue groupers, white dolphins, color-changing cuttlefish, wobbegongs (bearded sharks), and even tiny turtles and sea horses. One summer, a white dolphin frequently appeared. At this time every year, gangs of young dusky whaler sharks swarm the bay, several feet beneath us, migrating only after they have already become large enough to make people nervous. There’s a reason a collective term for sharks is a shiver.

It’s not always sheer delight. Sometimes we emerge with red welts from stingers (usually jellyfish) across faces and limbs, and have to battle thickets of seaweed, powerful currents and crashing waves. But the daily difference in conditions is part of what makes it thrilling. One day, a whale glided into the bay and played with the swimmers for an hour — though I refuse to talk about it because I wasn’t there…My atheist friends who were there described it as like a prayer or quasi-religious experience; their faces turned solemn at the recollection… [Read more…]

Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

Try to pinpoint the last time you took a purposeless walk through the late spring breeze, when there was no itch in your hand to reach for a mobile device, and you felt like the wind and sky around you had nothing to disclose to you other than the vast and mysteriously sympathy of existence itself. Was it 2007? Or as far back as 1997? Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

~ Michael Brendan Dougherty, from I write on the internet. I’m sorry. (The Week, May 1, 2007)

 


Art: Eiko Ojala with “I found my silence“. The Estonian artist famous for his paperwork released a new personal project with no clue on what media is used in it. This could be a beautiful mix of paper, photography and illustrations but we are gracefully confused, but incline to paper. The only thing we know – it is beautiful (via DesignCollector)

Berg!

An iceberg ran aground over Easter weekend just off the small Newfoundland town of Ferryland, population 465, drawing knots of tourists eager to catch a glimpse.  Some are locals or travelers who happened to be nearby, but many are a special Canadian breed, the iceberg chaser — People who flock to the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland at this time of year hoping to see the huge frozen chunks of broken glacier that drift by on a stretch of sea known as Iceberg Alley.

The berg at Ferryland rises about 15 stories above the waterline — and that is only about 10 percent of its mass. Some of the submerged ice comes into view when the berg is seen from above…

The stunning view that is causing traffic jams of onlookers on the coast road is actually a snapshot of the iceberg’s death throes, 15,000 years in the making. What began as snowflakes falling on Greenland during the last ice age has crept to the sea in a glacier and then broken off, probably sometime in the last three years, to float slowly out into Baffin Bay. Bumped and nudged by one another and by melting pack ice, the bergs eventually get caught up in the southbound Labrador Current and sail down Iceberg Alley.

~ Dan Levin, excerpts from a story in the NY Times, April 20, 2017

Don’t miss the full story and other fantastic photographs by Jody Martin here: A Chunk of the Arctic Stops By for a Photo Shoot

(Relief from) waking each day in disbelief at the news feeds on my phone

Rob Cowen, excerpts from Where Nature Gets to Run Amok:

A few mornings back, after another week of waking each day in disbelief at the news feeds on my phone, I rose early, pulled on my clothes and headed out into the darkness. There’s a place I always go when I feel like this. Crossing over the highway, weaving through the masses of housing and the still-sleeping suburbs, I sensed it rising behind the low walls and privet hedges on the outskirts of town like a great wave — that strange space beyond the streetlights; the tangled, messy border where human and nature collide and collude. Edgeland.

By the time I reached it, the sun was rising to the east, coaxed into the sky by the chorus of blackbirds and robins. It had been clear and cold overnight, and a thin mist hovered over the shabby fields, like a breath exhaled. Rounding the corner of an old lane, I’d seen them — a pair of roe deer feeding close to a hawthorn hedge, their great hare-like ears twitching and flicking as they ranged for sounds. The wind was with me, the noise of my approach was masked by the first washes of traffic spilling onto the main roads, so I was able to watch them for a while before I was detected. Then one shot up its head and fixed me in its otherworldly vision, and some silent signal was exchanged. Both vanished noiselessly over the field in great leaping bounds, like fairground horses on a carousel. The whole encounter lasted five, maybe seven minutes. There, then gone. A brief portal into another realm and other vivid lives lived in parallel to our own, but more than enough to get me through the day ahead. [Read more…]

I am bound to praise the simple life, because I have lived it and found it good.

I am bound to praise the simple life, because I have lived it and found it good. When I depart from it, evil results follow. I love a small house, plain clothes, simple living. Many persons know the luxury of a skin bath — a plunge in the pool or the wave unhampered by clothing. That is the simple life — direct and immediate contact with things, life with the false wrappings torn away — the fine house, the fine equipage, the expensive habits, all cut off. How free one feels, how good the elements taste, how close one gets to them, how they fit one’s body and one’s soul! To see the fire that warms you, or better yet, to cut the wood that feeds the fire that warms you; to see the spring where the water bubbles up that slakes your thirst, and to dip your pail into it; to see the beams that are the stay of your four walls, and the timbers that uphold the roof that shelters you; to be in direct and personal contact with the sources of your material life; to want no extras, no shields; to find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift of tropic fruit; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest, or over a wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

~ John BurroughsThe Writings of John Burroughs (1908)


Sources: Photo – Shutterstock. Quote: Thank you The Hammock Papers

in a language no school has taught you

You heard—the song the moth sings, the babble
Of falling snowflakes (in a language
No school has taught you), the scream
Of the reddening bud of the oak tree

As the bud burst into the world’s brightness.

~ Robert Penn Warren, from “Muted Music,” The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren


Notes:

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.

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