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…]
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…]
Zeke’s waggy tail.
Shiny black shoes.
Anything àla Mode.
Finishing a long run.
CBS Sunday Morning.
Netflix binge watching.
Milk Chocolate with nuts.
Rachel & Eric coming home.
Photo: via Hidden Sanctuary
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.
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)
“Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková was first discovered 13 orbits ago in 1948 and has returned to the inner Solar System. It is physically ancient. It spends most of its time near the orbit of Jupiter and last neared the Sun in 2011. Over the past few months, Comet 45P’s new sunward plummet has brightened it considerably. The comet is currently visible with binoculars over the western horizon just after sunset, not far from the much brighter planet Venus. Comet 45P was captured last week sporting a long ion tailwith impressive structure. It will pass relatively close to the Earth early next month.”
My hope is that this minuscule prayer
will reach out to the god unknown I just sensed
passing in the rivulet of breeze above the mere rivulet
of water in this small arroyo. To the skittering insect
this place is as large as the Sea of Galilee.
In prayer I’m a complicated insect, moving
this way and that. The insect before me puzzles
over its current god, my dog Zilpha, who watches
with furrowed brow and thinks, “Should I paw
at this bug in this shallow pool, bite it, roll
on it in this tiny creek in the late afternoon heat,
or perhaps take another nap?” She looks at her god,
which is me, understanding as her eyes close
that the gods make up their minds as they go.
They are as patient as the water in which they live,
and won’t be surprised when they reach the sea
with their vast collection of reflections, the man, the dog,
the stars and moon and clouds, the javelina and countless
birds, bugs and minnows, the delicate sips of rattlers,
the boughs of mesquite, the carapace of the desert tortoise,
the heron footprints, the water’s memories of earth.
~ Jim Harrison, “Small Gods” from In Search of Small Gods
Hundreds of pieces of lint bangin’ around upstairs, but none stretch into a fluffy middle or knit to a checkered flag at the end. Flash. Flash. Flash. Blah. Nothing there. Nobody home. Nobody. Nothing.
When you bathe yourself in Mary Oliver poetry, her essays, her shorts – and when you waterboard your Blog followers with her Art, should there be any wonder of the source of the crippling doubt, the wellspring of inadequacy? Come on DK.
So here we go. In-n-out of her ethereal breezes to my…
It’s daybreak, yesterday. We’re on the way to Mianus River park for a trail run. The gauge reads 27° F, and wind chill is knocking that down. We’re on a cross-street in Stamford, five miles out. There’s no traffic. I stand at a red light. Anya‘s in the trunk, peeking between the head rests; outside, water vapor from the exhaust pipes spills into the cold and flurries of white smoke cloud the rear window.
My attention is pulled right. There he was. A Pigeon. He’s sitting on a ledge on a wall of the building lining the street, at my eye level. He’s looking at me, me at him. [Read more…]