Saturday, January 30, 2010

Burn, Baby, Burn!

In going through my grandfather's papers, a photo was found. A photo of my father, much younger, with a big smile, a gun, and a stuffed great horned owl. I grew up with that owl, and a grey squirrel, and a pheasant. Call them the Dead Pets Society. None of the dogs ever got stuffed.

This one photo, among the hundreds or thousands there, was pulled out and brought in the car with us, as three of us headed to a vegetarian restaurant to humor me. While driving, my father proudly told the tale, excitement in his voice, of two young men with guns, and how he got his up first when they spotted the owl. When they reached the owl, her talons were still flexing in death spasms. "They'd put you in jail for that today," I said.

In the states bordering Lake Superior, federal officials are investigating the illegal murder of 16 wolves in November and December--8 in Wisconsin, 6 in Michigan, and 2 in Minnesota which interestingly has by far the largest wolf population among the three states. Not surprisingly, this coincided with the most recent legal murder of deer season, when the woods were flooded with brave men with guns, eager to make the world over the way they think it should be--for them, their convenience, their whim. their dominance.

Some of the bodies were found because they wore radio collars which pinpointed the locations where the
green fire left the wolves' eyes. Something I doubt any of the killers ever noticed, more ignorant than their fellow Wisconsinite some 90 years ago. (GreenFire, the movie, coming soon.) No doubt there are more dead, unfound as yet. The commonly heard phrase is Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up, but I think most of these cowards are too lazy to shovel and too drunk to shut up. There's only one thing they're capable of--shooting prematurely.

Last night a friend and I went on an owl hike at a nearby sanctuary. Armed only with flashlights, I got mine up first when we heard the owl. And though it can't compare to the magic of being camped in the UP where the River meets the Lake while someone asks
"Who cooks for you?" just above the tent, a hearty "Hoo, hoo" still makes me hot.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Polls! New Links! Posts Which Might Have Been!

I've added a couple polls which might remain permanently asking for your favorite posts and favorite types of posts. I don't expect this will make any difference in what I write; I'm just curious green. If you choose Other, please explain here. Also, a new search box since I never categorized these posts. So if you want to find everything I've written about the Carolina Parakeet (as far as I remember, nothing until just then), have at it. And I plugged in a "Currently Reading" box which I always intended to do but never got around to. I've tried a few approaches to counter a big spam increase and have settled for moderating comments only on older posts--I want real people to be able to comment anonymously if they choose, and I don't want to make you type a bunch of letters.

I often tinker with my Blogodiversity list of links to other sites. Here's some of what's new there.

Animal Rights and Anti-Oppression -- One of my very first blogging buddies, Stephanie Ernst later got a gig as animal rights blogger for She's now left that site, rounded up a few more writers (some I'd been reading, some new to me) and started this site. Power to the people (and all the other animals)!

Robyn in Yellowstone -- A Minnesotan snow-lover works in Yellowstone and posts lovely wildlife and landscape photos.

Isle Royale Wolves Journal -- This link's not new, but a new season of wolf/moose study and posts should be starting in a week or so. Tune in.

It's no secret that the quality of this blog has dropped since I've had much less computer time and much more stress. That's why I planned to end it when I left Duluth, but I discovered it was still a tenuous link to the world and readers I wanted to hang on to. Here are some topics I would have written about under better conditions.

Hunters around Lake Superior complaining it's harder to kill deer because there are too many wolves. This one really would have had my venom spitting, and you can probably imagine it without my needing to write it. Partly a ploy so they can kill wolves too, this really exposes the hypocritical rhetoric about hunters controlling the deer population. Many people would like to see fewer deer for many legitimate reasons--hunters aren't among those people. They just take advantage of the sentiment to make themselves appear to be acting for the public. (And this headline today--Nearly a dozen drunken hunters arrested in Wisconsin.")

Sea Shepherd--the bow of one of their boats got smashed off by a Japanese whaling ship! I'd love to be an onboard volunteer, but the application requires swimming ability I don't have. I suppose events like this are the reason for the requirement, but really, swimming in Antarctic water isn't going to make much of a difference. It's fun to compare both sides' self-serving and conflicting press releases and try to guess what really happened. And praise to Bob Barker for donating $5 million.

I hope you got to see the video of the octopus grabbing big shells to use as a shelter. I'd read previously about the intelligence of octopuses, and generally have a higher opinion of the capabilities of non-humans than most people do, so I wasn't that shocked. But for the average person who doesn't follow such things, wouldn't you expect, ideally, a little respect or contemplation, or at least a "Wow"? Not from the news anchor I saw present the video--he said it made him want a plate of calamari. And that's the way it is.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Out of Place

Some of what follows may strike readers as self-pitying, heartless, and/or depressing. As always and as forewarned, feel free to be appalled. Or just skip ahead to the cutesy nature description paragraph.

Looking through the ten remaining boxes of my life stored in a damp cellar, acquiring the sick smell of disuse and decay, I found my copy of Bart Sutter's Cold Comfort about life in Duluth, and unsure whether it would bring pain or joy, tears or smiles, lost resignation or renewed desire, knew only that I had to read it again now.

I'm trapped on an almost completely unassisted death watch for which I did not volunteer and feel unequal to, frequently woken and always tense for the calling of my name for my next chore. The man now has 22 more years than pounds but continues to have me move him back and forth between bed and chair. Fortunately, he spends most of his time in either location asleep because when awake, he says things like, "Put that window shade up another quarter inch" or wakes me in the middle of the night to ask how many cans of Coke are in the refrigerator, or has me perform the many compulsive behaviors he no longer has the energy to do himself.

This is what modern medicine, industrial civilization, the overvaluation of human life, and the attempt to escape death and nature has brought us. Pointless existence. Overpopulation. Depleted and destroyed "resources". Let us lay where we drop to feed the crows and vultures. Wrap us up in a canoe and float us on our way. Leave us in a pretty place with a blanket and a few meaningful objects. Tear down the buildings and let the weather and the predators take the weakest and the slowest. Choose quality over quantity.

I escape the physical shell of my prison for a few hours a day, getting outside in any weather, but seldom fully appreciating the woods or river I walk through or beside, feet bleeding in my boots as I doggedly try to stomp off my frustration and be anywhere else. What I have noticed: many squirrel tracks creating a trail back and forth across the snowy frozen surface of a river branch, presumably between home and food source, but maybe a couple neighbors visiting and wondering when breeding season will finally get here. Below a dam, branches of shrubs overhanging the water, with thin glassy coatings of spray forming on them individually, then merging, creating hanging buckets of ice which swing heavily when a new wave hits. A flock of robins in a snowstorm. Also, cardinals in larger numbers than I'd gotten used to seeing in Minnesota. And the same feral cat on two occasions, before and after the snow, seeming none the worse yet for the new background which makes him so much more visible. And, just yesterday, I managed to slow my feet and take a deep breath and follow a trail new to me where I found four ducks on a stream of snow and ice and flowing water, beneath low trees and fallen branches, small and hidden and as beautiful as any winter scene to be seen.

From the book's introduction, "I decided place was more important than employment." Yes. "Those first few weeks in Duluth, I was euphoric." Check. Make it years. "Something strange was happening. I seemed to be happy here, even though I had gradually grown to believe that happiness was a shallow emotion reserved for people who lacked brains." True for me also, but not brains, perhaps perspective, or more than narrow self-interest. As I wrote to a friend recently regarding how humans have treated what I value most in the world, I can't forgive us, or pretend that the pursuit of my own happiness is more important. "As dark as those days were, I still wanted, every day, to see what the light looked like on Lake Superior." I still do, in these dark days, 1360 miles away. I settle for checking Canal Cam. I saw a photo recently of the Lake steaming, and felt a shiver of more than cold. "This place, which had drawn me back to it with magnetic force all my life, pulled me through." I feel the draw, I need the pull.

I applied for spring employment at a National Park which I think is extremely unlikely because the words "credit report" appeared in the small print and those things don't come with the 30 year history of excellent credit reports. I'm now exploring the possibility of a room and board (vegetarian!) in exchange for part-time work opportunity, which I think could be very good for me in several ways personally as well as making connections and gaining experience for possible future opportunities. But that ideally wouldn't begin until September and I wonder how to get from now to then with no income and dwindling cash. Duluth calls again--I hear it's nice there in the summer, doesn't snow too often, lots of wild spots to sleep, berries to eat. And falcon nestling season is just a few months away. I recently found this video shot in our falcon viewing park--you can catch the brief sight and sound of greentangle in naturalist mode at the 40 second mark. It was good to be back there for a few minutes.