Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who knew that cats are their protectors?

Good to the Last Drop
After taking this photo of a bumblebee enjoying one of our last summery days, I looked them up in Wikipedia and came across this lovely passage by Charles Darwin on bumblees (called "humble bees" in England at the time) -- and clover, mice and cats as well.
Plants and animals, most remote in the scale of nature, are bound together by a web of complex relations. [...] I have [...] reason to believe that humble-bees are indispensable to the fertilisation of the heartsease (Viola tricolor), for other bees do not visit this flower. From experiments which I have tried, I have found that the visits of bees, if not indispensable, are at least highly beneficial to the fertilisation of our clovers; but humble-bees alone visit the common red clover (Trifolium pratense), as other bees cannot reach the nectar. Hence I have very little doubt, that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear. The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, believes that 'more than two thirds of them are thus destroyed all over England.' Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman says, 'Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.' Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!
After all the bad press outdoor cats get for going after birds, it's nice to know that they're also, indirectly, protectors of bumblebees.

Who's stalking whom?

Checking Me Out
On a recent walk around Stricker's Pond, we saw these Sandhill Cranes off in the distance of the nearby park. I started walking toward them with my camera, clicking off shots. Then they took an interest in me. First they started strolling toward me, as if they just happened to be coming in this direction. Then they ran more rapidly in my direction. I had to force myself to stand my ground. They're big birds, and they were approaching like feathered velociraptors. But they slowed down, seemed to lose interest ("just another human holding one of those glass eyes"?) and wandered off.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why I didn't feel like watching much TV Sunday

World Trade Center Observation Deck, 1980: City of Light
I prefer my own memories. The endless anniversary commemorations and slow motion reenactments of the tragedy haven't done much for me. They won't bring back more than 3,000 lost souls, the twin towers themselves, or the ten dark, wasted years of war since then that threaten to drag on without end. It didn't have to be that way.

I prefer to remember them as they were. For our family the World Trade Center will remain forever engraved in memory as a treasured experience in the summer of 1980. From the top of the world we looked past the north tower, up the glittering avenues toward the lights of midtown Manhattan glowing in the dusk.

World Trade Center Observation Deck, 1980: Sunset Over the Hudson
We visited the towers late in the afternoon and took one of the express elevators that accelerated like a rocket to the observation deck. A surprisingly stiff wind blew across the catwalks on the observation platform. Phobic as I am about heights, I still remember a twinge of vertigo that I forced myself to ignore. We watched the sun set over the Hudson River, past the big red microwave horn.

World Trade Center Observation Deck, 1980: Moonrise Over Brooklyn
To the east, we saw the Moon rise over Brooklyn, with the graceful parabolas of three historic bridges twinkling below us -- in the distance, the Williamsburg Bridge, then the Manhattan Bridge, and in the foreground, the oldest of all, the Brooklyn Bridge. One of the great vistas of all time.

For more than 30 years my slides were in the attic, and for the last decade I never had the heart to look at them. But recently I brought them down and digitized them. It's time to move on. And the Forever War needs to end. We can do so much better.