12.08.2014,9:47 PM
A Song to Another Aging Child Gone

"Through the windless wells of wonder
By the throbbing light machine
In a tea leaf trance or under
Orders from the king and queen

Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one

People hurry by so quickly
Don't they hear the melodies
In the chiming and the clicking
And the laughing harmonies

Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one

Some come dark and strange like dying
Crows and ravens whistling
Lines of weeping, strings of crying
So much said in listening

Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one

Does the moon play only silver
When it strums the galaxy
Dying roses will they will their
Perfumed rhapsodies to me

Songs to aging children came
This is one.*"

This was one.

May you rest in Peace, my friend. From my inside child to yours, we all find peace in our own ways. I will miss you. Gracias a la vida

"So they broke your soul, 
and they took  your place." 
   - 'Tears on a Page"  KidneyThieves

* "Songs to Aging Children" Song and lyrics by Joni Mitchell
posted by Macrobe
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12.01.2014,11:29 AM
Tenth Month, Twelfth Month. What's in a Name?
Today is December 1st. Waiting for some warmth to chase away the chill in my feet (hot coffee is working on the rest of me), I was curious about the etymology of the word, 'December'. I was surprised to see the trail of alterations from the original root, decem, which is Latin for 'ten'.

'Ten' what? I discovered that December was the tenth month in the early Roman calendars, which started with March. Ah! So, New Year's Day was actually March 1!

T.G. Tucker, author of Etymological Dictionary of Latin, posits that the first five months of the Roman calendar were named for their occurrence in the agricultural cycle, and "after the gathering in of the crops, the months were merely numbered."  The Latin suffix -ber was added onto the five numbered calendar months.

The first calendar was thought to be invented by the Roman king Romulus (or he took all the credit) around 760 BC. It had only ten months of 30-31 days and only lasted 304 days. Thus, 61 days were unaccounted for in the winter. I wonder if life was relatively unimportant during that time. Reminds me of the long winters in the HBO series, Game of Thrones. Perhaps the Romans went around exclaiming 'Winter is coming!' and all life stood still. More likely, all human life centered around agricultural activities and winter was ignored. At least, in calendars.

Names of the first five months in the Roman calendar were derived from names of gods and goddesses, except for February. During that time of the year was a dies februatus, Latin for the "day of purification". The Roman festival of purification was celebrated on February fifteenth, but has been long lost in history.

Now, when the enlightened French displaced the global Roman influence, december became decembre. Most of the Latin calendar names were later retained or altered in the Old English version. This early form of modern English language was developed by the Anglo-Saxons in present-day England and parts of Scotland, and persisted from the mid-5th to the mid-12th centuries.

Old English, and I could argue modern English as well, is a 'mutt' language, where most of the words were borrowed from, combined with, or were bastardized (now, that word has an interesting etymology!) forms of many tongues. The Anglo-Saxons founded Old English mostly on the West Germanic languages, vastly different from the modern English. 

Indeed, if anyone had to suffer studying the epic poem Beowulf (circa 700-1000 B.C.) in its original Old English form (yes, I had to do that in high school), they might recall it was like reading a foreign language. In all essence, it was, and is. Can you imagine trying to memorize and recite it? If one considers that literacy was very uncommon in those early centuries, the poem was known more in its oral form rather than written.

Like any language, English evolved over thousands of years. Words were changed or dropped, shortened or lengthened. It's an ongoing process; grammar is simplified, and meanings change like the phases of the moon. Even pronunciation of words vary between continents and even between regions of countries. "Tomato, tomahto"; "barn and bahn"; we don't have to call the whole thing off! Like any association with self-identity, precise language usage is a relative trait of human nature. There are purists with binary black-and-white minds who insist on traditional and precise use. But there exists a huge dynamic gray world in between. Me? I consider myself a pragmatist. ;)

Regarding the month of December, the modern English name made it full circle using the original Latin name. Let's celebrate that!

Note: Bastardize is a verb derived from the well-known noun. The Old French word bastard was used for an "acknowledged child of a nobleman by a woman other than his wife, probably from fils de bast 'packsaddle son,' meaning a child conceived on an improvised bed (saddles often doubled as beds while traveling)". The term was not always demeaning; offspring from relationships non-sanctioned by the Church were common and not always discriminated against.

The word 'bastard' later assumed more derogatory meanings. The figurative sense of of the word as "something not pure or genuine" appeared in use during the late 14th century. It's popularization as a vulgar term of abuse for a man is traced back to the 1830's and sticks today.

However, the verb 'to bastardize' has been in use since the early 1500's, and figuratively means "to make degenerate, debase". We English-born people tend to do a lot of that. Even my birth-given name is a bastardization of a German name. I get some odd looks when I explain that to people. ;)

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posted by Macrobe
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11.27.2014,12:31 PM
Turkey Day on the Refuge

As I sit in my 'home on wheels' drinking my early morning coffee on Turkey Day catching up on correspondence, I hear the air boat out on the large marshes across the road and RV 'Village' on the Refuge. One of the biologists is out this morning picking up dead snow geese. They are carriers of and susceptible to avian cholera. With the prolonged unseasonal cold weather we've had here, we're seeing early mortality of snow geese. I also wonder how much stress levels from extremely high human visitation with the recent Crane Festival adds to increases in mortality rate, possibly compounding overall stress from cold temps, lower water volume, and less corn/feed access than in previous years. One of the biologists mentioned last week that recent mortality incidents are earlier and greater than normal. 

During the Festival I was fortunate to accompany as an aide a six-hour Sandhill Crane Behavior class. The instructor was crane biologist Paul Tebbel and his associate. Our group of 15 Festival participants was out by one of the 'Crane Ponds' in the dark at 5:45am to watch the 'fly out'. The 'fly outs' and 'fly ins' are the daily celebratory attractions for people from all over the country as tens of thousands of snow geese and nearly 10,000 sandhill cranes take to the sky in the morning and land in the evening. We chose one of the smaller marshes for a closer and more personal view of the cranes. It was indeed magical and awe inspiring despite temperatures in the mid-20's. Even the cranes were reluctant to take flight until the sun warmed them a bit. We could see 'bracelets' of ice on their legs when they moved around in the marsh.

Paul has been involved in sandhill crane biology and conservation for decades. Formerly the director and manager for the 1400-acre wildlife sanctuary on the Platte River in Nebraska (the bottleneck for sandhill crane migrations), he is now head of the Effie Yeaw Nature Center north of Sacramento. His expertise is crane behavior and he has conducted workshops here at Bosque del Apache Refuge for 20 years!

He is one of the best naturalist instructors I have had the fortune to meet and work with! His casual approach to imparting information on biology and animal behavior elicited a genuine and more personal interest from all participants. I especially enjoyed how he and his associate demonstrated the crane's pre-flight signals between crane family units (forward leaning and looking back to see if other family units were attentive). The two presenters mimicked the crane behaviors accompanied by a human speech interpretation: "Look, Junior, I'm leaning forward now! It's time to fly! Are you paying attention? Is Mom there, too?" 

I learned more about cranes in those six hours than I could ever accumulate from reading literature! And I now have a greater personal and scientific understanding of cranes, as well as an increased overall appreciation of how special they are. Not just because they are 'big and pretty' (the most common response to Paul's question to participants why people are interested in cranes), but also because they have extraordinarily complex social behaviors. And bird/animal behavior is my primary interest (second to biology).

The Festival overall was a huge success for all involved: participants, the Refuge, the Friends of BdA, and the volunteers. It was crazy busy for us all, but well organized. Every single Refuge staff member worked long hours and every day along with the rest of us, and it was truly a great 'team player' experience. Even the Refuge Manager was on board daily with smiles and encouragement. All the vendors and auxiliary representatives from public (federal and state) agencies and other non-profit organizations (e.g. wildlife conservation and rehabilitation groups) were tremendously friendly and interactive with both Festival staff and visitor participants. 

Now that the Festival is over, all of us get a chance to relax and enjoy more personal time. I volunteered to help conduct raptor surveys every Saturday, which I enjoy immensely. Especially when pointing out one of the bald eagles to visitors that may be around me when surveying the two main marshlands. Folks are thrilled to see them.

I have to admit that I have grown very fond of our smallest falcons, the American kestrels. And giddy with excitement when close to a rehabilitated female kestrel ('Gertrude’). Additionally, I now have the opportunity to see many of the male duck species that nest at Malheur NWR in all their winter plumage! One of my favorites is the male bufleheads; they look like large floating black and white Nike sneakers. The only waterfowl missing here from my ‘Favorite List’ is my old friends, the loons. They are a very rare occurrence here. 

Since serving the wildlife refuges is my new retirement 'career', my intentions are to improve and expand my professional capacities that will enhance my skills and performance as a naturalist and a biologist. This was my goal upon retiring: to devote myself to the conservation of wildlife and contribute to enhancing the connection between wildlife and people. 

Our volunteer group here is planning a large turkey dinner potluck this afternoon, including those of the Refuge staff that live on site. Now that we all have more free time I plan to finally take my camera out and hike in the mornings! Although I think I might invest in a pair of insulated coveralls ;) 

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posted by Macrobe
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11.07.2014,2:10 PM
Two Days Back in Time
On the way from Oregon to New Mexico, I spent two days back in time. A long time ago.

Traveling on the road can sometimes be as exhausting as it is often exhilarating. I needed a break. I've always wondered what was hiding in the northeast corner of Arizona. And one point of interest which may travelers often pass by without stopping is the Petrified Forest National Park, which also contains the Painted Desert. The latter is like eye candy for many, but there is so much more revealed there.

I spent almost two full days exploring both. And it wasn't enough. Like many places like this national park, a one-day, even two-day visit is more a superficial introduction. But it barely is enough time to immerse one's self into all the land and cultural features. Especially the hikes.

So I will return some time to spend more time. And it won't be many years down the road!

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posted by Macrobe
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10.21.2014,9:27 PM
The Human Wolf, and a memory
My annual viewing of a movie that belays superficiality: Brotherhood of the Wolf. A French production of much depth. We fear the wolf because it reveals our deep inner selves. So we ascribe our demons onto this animal and hunt it to exorcise ourselves.

"I set upon you a beast that will consume our livestock and reduce our lands to deserts." Now, what book did that come from?

In addition, I once knew a young French-Canadian man very much like Grégoire, the Royal naturalist in the movie. He was also part Cree, and so, also like Mani, like the Mohawk that Grégoire called, "Brother."

That was a long, very long time ago. Some people you never forget. Even after 38 years.

posted by Macrobe
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10.18.2014,10:28 PM
I didn't retire from Life!
I just realized my second retirement anniversary whizzed by without remembering. I guess I was too busy to remember.

The first year and 1/2 after my official retirement date from full-time incarceration in the Cage of Academia sucked. Point blank: it really sucked. It was like decades of sour demons escaped from where ever they were hiding and crapped on me. I lost my Home, my father, some friends (who perhaps were not real friends after all), my heart, and my future went down the bottomless hole. 

The last half (almost 1/2) of the second year was the best months in years. I have no home, no money, no insurance, and I live each day one at a time. What I do have is this: my freedom, independence and integrity. I have a Home on wheels that I take with me like a turtle. I have my family. I have new friends and have reconnected with old friends. I have a new purpose in life that includes humans and all species of animals. And I give myself to them all.

The coyotes sing with me, birds take me for flights, plants call me names, water carries me, the wind pushes me along with it, the lightning shoots me to the sky while the stars twinkle me in their eyes. Mountains grow inside me and the ocean sings me lullabies. The moon tells me stories while I whisper to it in Italian, and the sun and I play hide-and-seek.

I am more alive than I have been in years. And the demons have been put to bed. So far, I'm on the right Path; a Path with Heart.

posted by Macrobe
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10.12.2014,8:02 PM
How animals grow in the presence of nature
"Research suggests the cultural shift required to develop affinity for nature is closely linked to the level of independence children have when visiting natural areas. Children who design and direct their own play experiences in nature seem to have a greater understanding and confidence in natural environments than. Holden who visit under close supervision."
(And, I might add, whose visits are strictly structured)

I dare say the same applies to adults. 

Go walk on the grass barefoot, pick a flower and put it in your hair. Yip with the coyotes and howl with the wolves, move like a deer, and sing like a bird. Run on the beach and climb over the rocks, beam like a full moon and shine like the stars. Hug a tree and lay on the sand with a turtle.

Immerse yourself. Touch that child inside you and live again.


posted by Macrobe
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