Perception

rockThis is a detail of a volcanic rock I picked up in Iceland a few years ago. Do you see what I see? The chocolate brown portions look like they are above the darker blue-black portions. They look like hills.

But they’re actually the subsurface part of the rock, the pits. Twice now I’ve experienced my eyes bringing this background to the foreground, as if it was a moving image, rack-focused. Now I can’t get my eyes to see it correctly.

This was a nice reminder that we should always consider our perception as well as our perspective. You all know about the classic social science studies which show how biases of various kinds color our perception of events (the majority of white students who say the white man who barges into the classroom with a gun is black, etc.), how malleable human witness turns out to be. TV dramas have long perpetuated the opposite notion, how foolproof eye-witness is, but then that bullshit industry has also convinced many that crime is much more prevalent than it actually is.

I was reading some comments in a piece on the myth of the black panther, which a fair number of people claim to have seen in the Southeast and elsewhere. After a thorough explanation of why there are no “black panthers,” the first comment essentially says: I know because I’ve seen one and everybody who disagrees with me has a closed mind. Actually, no; sorry, although mind might be the best place to look for your conviction. The fact that there are no black panthers will no more stop some from believing in them than the lack of verifiable UFOs stops UFO-spotters (or alleged abductees).

Interestingly, there don’t seem to be so many UFOs anymore. Could that phenomenon have been specific to its time and place? And aren’t these black panther sightings very much a phenomenon of our now? Doesn’t it seem to speak to a longing for the wild, a diminishment of the natural world, a rebellion against the shrinking of the imagination, not to mention a guilt-ridden sense of denial? The Thylacine, for instance, was “seen” for decades after its extermination in Tasmania. Many species are gone now, but we obsess on some examples: everybody knows the dodo, or thinks they do. Mostly they picture John Tenniel’s illustration for Lewis Carroll, for only a few parts of the bird remain; what it looked like is a conjecture.

We live in a time of a longing of another sort, too, at least among some. Too many, as it happens: millions are clamoring for a corrupt, orange-tinted reality-TV huckster, a con-man who wants to be a strong-man. A creature of astonishing mendacity, even on the spectrum of politician-bullshit, yet he still appeals to a crowd of sucker-punching racists and authoritarians as well as that desperate and broken contingent abandoned by the Democratic Party. I strive to understand how someone who lies so much can have a following, but Reagan long taught the Republicans that “facts are stupid things.” Rationality is irrelevant here: it’s emotion that empowers fascists, above all rage and resentment, and gives wing to the fantasy that Trumpenstein will get the trains running on time.

To return this to nature, which is of course inseparable from politics, consider the experiences of J. Drew Lanham, who “birds while black”: that’s the deplorable America Trump supporters are voting for, regardless of their reasons and/or their grievances.

View From The Moraine

img_9734A green lacewing (Chrysopidae) paused briefly on the window recently.

Lepidoptera Lowdown

A veritable blizzard of Lepidoptera over a patch of ground-loving Buddleja last week. img_9900Lots of skippers skipping. This is a male Sachem (Atalopedes campestris), I think. img_9898Several sulphurs ever so briefly alighting. This is purported to be a Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)… probably: Orange and Clouded can mix it up genetically, so these are hard to differentiate; perhaps the species definition should incorporate them both? One of them had an intense orange to its inner wings. Junonia coeniaA common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) showing a lot of late season wear and tear. A bird attack? Helicoverpa zeaAnd a lone moth, Helicoverpa zea, the Corn Earworm, obviously named for its caterpillar form. Most moths are active at night, which is why this blog is so notably absent in them; also, they’re hard to identify, not least because they are so many of them: there 11,000 species currently recognized in North America. Bugguide.net helped me with this ID. Curiously, this individual was chased by groups of several skippers, as if they really did not want the competition.

Gnatty

gnatThe other evening I walked from Sunset Park to Grand Army Plaza, the last half mile through Prospect Park’s Long Meadow, which was surprisingly empty of the usual clutter of bipeds and canines. As I entered the park at 9th Street, past Layette and groom, I saw the horse-chestnuts and buckeyes anticipating conker-fall, and a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a bare branch of a pine tree surveying the landscape. On the Meadow itself I was infested with storms of tiny flies. They clumped in the air, whirling around themselves. (Above magnified perhaps 3x, along with my own tectonically-crinkly hide.)

They landed on my hands, bare arms, and shirt. Perhaps they fed on my sweat, for it was a devilishly humid sunset and I had zigzagged from 41st to 9th Streets and 5th Avenue to Prospect Park West (9th) in a hurry. What matters is that they did not bite me (I am a mosquito feeding-station.) No, I could have eaten them, like the Common Green Darner I saw plowing through them like an ice-breaker the ice, but I kept my mouth shut.

For Want of a Tail

Geothlypis trichasA female Common Yellowthroat warbler (Geothlypis trichas) absent all her tail feathers. A small bird made even smaller. She may have lost them all at molt, although that’s usually a progression not a sudden loss. Or maybe a cat got her? Geothlypis trichasWhatever the case, she was doing fantastic work grabbing larvae and adult bugs, even a moth. Managed to fly out of the way of a yoga dude so in tune with the universe that he didn’t notice.

You’ve Been Warned

dogwoodThis is a kousa dogwood of some variety, multi-trunked with interesting mottled bark. img_9850They say the fruit is edible. I tried one once. Meh. It was very woodsy.dogwoodooFor some mammals, though, that’s not an issue. Raccoon scat, if I’m not mistaken.

Milkweed Monday

img_9721


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