Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

In Winter

Aesculus hippocastanumThe dried fruit capsule of the Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is distinctively prickly. weedsI just started a class on Native Flora in Winter at the New York Botanical Garden. I hope to share some of what I learn in the coming weeks. Let’s start with: the mints (Lamiaceae) are one of the easiest families to identify in winter; they have square stems, opposite branching, and smell minty-great.

But in the meantime, the horsey Aesculus is generally unmistakable, littering the ground with conkers and spiky capsules. But should you not find any of those trouts in the buttermilk, look to the tree’s bud scars: they are horse-shoe shaped with seven “nails.” This classic park tree is also an introduced species, so it will not be not covered in the course. But I just love those prickly capsules.Gymnocladus dioicusHere is a North American native, a Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus). But, on 5th Avenue near Green-Wood, somewhat out of its historical Old Northwest range. This youngster probably came from the nursery with this cargo of lichens. Lichens are highly sensitive to air pollution, so, alas, they may not linger on this busy avenue. Note those characteristic long furrows. They won’t be so pronounced in maturity (knock wood), but they certainly are in youth.

And now for some highlights of the Women’s March(es). And some of the signs, some of them not at all pretty.

American Robin

Turdus migratoriusHere’s a bird you don’t see too many of in winter up here. Note the binomial Turdus migratorius, the wandering thrush. Most of them do head south for the winter, but some will stick around, usually flocking together as they wander around for berries and the remains of fruits. Off the lawn and out of sight? This loner was on its own on the grass.

As lawn-lovers, however, they’re particularly vulnerable to the pesticides and other poisons people insist on pouring on the grass. Any minute now, expect the new regime to start telling you to pour pesticides on your children. It’s good for them! Lead, mercury, e. coli, et cetera, should all be released from the dead hand of government regulation. They’ve already scrubbed climate pages from the White House’s website. Ditto information on LGBT rights in the workplace. The Ministry of Truth is hard at work trying to erase history and guide the Great Orange Leader to the future. The fundamentalist-plutocratic nexus that Trump figureheads is predicated on mendacity, non-stop lying, from Trump on down. His mouthpiece Sean Spicer boldly lied at his first press conference yesterday. We have to call these lying bastards out for what they are, every single one of them. Trump, after all, built his pyramid scam of an empire on bullshit (and debt). They temporarily stopped the National Park Service from tweeting, in retaliation for a picture of the empty bleachers at the barely-attended inaugural. The banner image on Trump’s @POTUS Twitter account was originally a stock photo from one of Obama’s inaugurations. The inaugural turnout was an embarrassment, enraging the First Narcissist, while his poll numbers are at historic lows. An evil man with a monstrous crew, from his cabinet on down, dedicated to fucking America.

49th5thBut yesterday another America spoke. Yesterday’s marches across the country, and world, in solidarity with the DC Women’s March were much bigger than expected, perhaps the largest mass demonstration in American history. This is where I was, on 5th Avenue yesterday. Trump lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. This is worth fighting for.

January’s Flower

violaA cultivated Viola we found in a Green-Wood Cemetery planting recently.

How can one despair when the earth continually cycles through its great changes? After winter comes the spring. In the dark, there are the stars. In the grey and the sere, there is a flower the color of the sun.

Harper’s latest issue has a Resister’s Guide for the dawning age of Trump that is very much worth reading. Not a subscriber? Should be.

Raptor Week IV

img_1475Sometimes the bird gets away from you. Many times, actually. S’ok. Sometimes you see the Snow Leopard, sometimes you don’t.

Over the harbor. It came towards us, but no closer in resolution. What do you think it is?
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While you are pondering, consider: here’s a list of Trump-supporting companies, either carriers of that mafia family’s junk or funders of his malignancy. The rot is deep. And we’re all implicated. Last week there was some noise about the reactionary Linda Bean, spawn of the LL Bean family. She’s on the company’s board, so she profits from every purchase at the company. She then funds Trump and other far right projects, including, for decades now, the war on women. I heard a lot of surprise on Twitter about people just tuning into her. Welcome to the club: I haven’t purchased anything from LL Bean since the early 1990s, so boycotts are nothing new to me. And don’t get me started on Nestle.

Less consumption is a critical component of anyone living ecologically. Obviously, however, we need a certain minimum of food, clothing, and shelter. Beyond that, though, the rest is pretty much all discretionary. We really must be more political with our money.

For instance, are you still paying for a cable-subscription? That means, whether or not you watch it, you’re paying for Fox News. Not much on every bill, but every little bit has helped them. I’ve never owned a television. Life’s too short. But it feels longer and sweeter knowing I’ve not fostered the poison of Fox, now poised to be the official propaganda channel of Trumpism.

Not that there aren’t plenty of other corporate tentacles around my throat. It is nearly impossible to make your escape. But we can do what we can to battle this beast.

Capitalism, which profits from poisoning our bodies, the bodies of every other life form, and the air, water, and soil, has, unsurprisingly, always been fine with authoritarianism. Always driving towards oligopoly and/or monopoly, either with state assistance or not, corporations don’t give a fig for us, or citizenship, or democracy. They say “More, more, more!” Be it petroleum, sugar, fat, oxycontin, or all the pollution off-loaded into our environment. We must say “no, no, no!” any and every way you can.

Raptor Week III

Falco sparveriusThis big antenna a long block away from my apartment is a regular perch for a male American Kestrel. (This is what it looks like without much optical enhancement, btw.) He’ll park on either the taller or the shorter portion (the shorter is bent back towards us), sometimes on the cross-bars. Sometimes just for a minute or two, sometimes a little longer. What is he hunting in the winter? And what kind of antenna is this (there are three more I know of in the ‘hood.)Falco sparveriusAnother time, another borough. I noticed something atop a watertower on West 18th Street in Manhattan. Luckily, I had my camera at hand. This is also a male — note the blue wing. He has caught a small bird. (Curse these overcast days, not to mention my less-than-long lens.)

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You can’t ever read Orwell on politics and language too much. Or his “Notes on Nationalism.”

Raptor Week II

Buteo jamaicensisRed-tailed Hawk. Buteo jamaicensis: “of Jamaica,” where the original specimen was taken. The most common road-side and soaring hawk of North America. To recap, the common name is particularly unhelpful when you get a yearling like this one. The brick-red tail feathers don’t appear until after the first year of life, if they’re the one out of three who make it that long. But for the junior varsity team, those stripes on the tail, and the tail’s shortness compared to the bulk of the body, and that whitish mottling on the feathers, are all good signs you’ve got a RTH.img_1036Here’s an adult’s tail-end for comparison.

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A bracing morning read: Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau.

Remember, we are the majority! We are Unstoppable Together.

Raptor Week I

Accipiter cooperiiCooper’s Hawk. Accipiter cooperii. William C. Cooper’s hawk. The species was named in his honor by Charles Lucien Bonaparte. Cooper was a conchologist and founder of what became the New York Academy of Sciences. Bonaparte was a Bonaparte, a nephew of the Emperor, and an ornithologist who explored the U.S. in the 1820s. You can’t name a life-form after yourself… you can’t name them at all, really, but it’s a convenient fiction.
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Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Here’s his “Letter from A Birmingham Jail.” In it King defends the non-violent strategy of resistance to segregation and racism in response to some white clergy who complained that he was breaking the law.


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