More Dogs n’ Birds

Paul’s Zoltar, son of Kyran and Ataika, pensive…

… and in the field:

A fresh- trapped NM Gos, sadly not mine:

The late tazi “Gos” from Kurdistan– those eyes are appropriate!

And Vladimir’s new “Sanct Petersburg” tazi pup Timur– new genes,and beautiful!


Animal Rights proponents demand that those who want a dog go only to the “overpopulated” shelters. So why are shelters going out of the country to get thousands more dogs? “When animal shelters started going overseas to fill their emptying kennels, some worried the imported strays would bring foreign diseases and even rabies into the USA.”

Of course it will likely be people like me or my friend Vladimir, who import only one or two selected dogs, who will be prohibited from bringing them in.

As anyone knows who pays attention, the west is drying up. “You can’t call it a drought anymore, because it’s going over to a drier climate. No one says the Sahara is in drought.” And people keep on coming to the cities… (HT Annie P- H)

The Japanese truly are, as Jonathan Hanson says, “the weirdest country in the world”. I love them but– VENDING MACHINE DISGUISES??

National Geographic has a big pro- hunting article. Prepare for the ravers to come out of the woodwork!

Michael Vick and PETA make common cause. Why am I not (too) surprised? HT Gail Goodman.

Doctors in Britain want to ban pointed kitchen knives. Anthony Bourdain says “This is yet another sign of the coming apocalypse..” But a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said that people in his movement were “envious” of England for having such problems.

If you come right down to it I just don’t like politics. Neither does “Roger de Hauteville”. “When average people are required to pay close attention to the government, because the government is the source of all succor or pain in their lives, the country is doomed. No well-adjusted person should be– or should be required to be– interested in politics very much.

“Come to think of it — none are.”

Nature Writing: Robert Macfarlane

My recent reading of Robert Macfarlane’s fascinating The Wild Places made me think a lot about the differences between (current) American and English “nature writing”, and why I usually like the second better.

There are many reasons and not all are related. English nature and natural history writing, like the (I would argue related) genre travel writing, has a longer history. The English were thinking about their countryside while we were still subduing ours (though see Audubon’s journals and writings, which might also be considered travel writing). The English had to travel outside of their country to see new perspectives, while we were wandering a continent (even recently– think, as a recent writer has persuasively argued, of three definitive books published within a year of each other, all among the best books of the fifties: On the Road; Lolita; and Wild America.

One reason why a lot of contemporary American nature writing bores is the idea that we are something apart from nature. Bill McKibben’s thesis in The End of Nature is that nothing exists we have not altered. But as Tom Palmer, author of Landscape with Reptile (about Boston’s relict rattlesnakes, one of the best “post- modern” nature books existing) argued in an old Atlantic monthly essay that brought down the wrath of the public on his head, why is a Mozart symphony, a product of the human species, less natural than a spider’s web or a bowerbird’s bower? We are ALL products of the planet.

Those who live in societies where human impact is obvious may be more likely to see the forgotten beauty in landscapes that are less than pristine, be it through English nature writing or Japanese ink drawings or Chinese poetry. Nature without humans makes no art, though it may inspire it. They also acknowledge the shared history of human and nature. Too much third- rate nature writing fills the void of the wilderness with the “I” rather than the eye, the ear, the story– what else is there to react? I am not saying one cannot have good nature writing about the wildest places– just that it is still rare, while good writing from more settled surroundings can draw the mind to human- nature interactions and narratives: stories. Is it any wonder that so much good nature writing and art, even in the US, comes from those who live in relatively crowded environs– Palmer, Anne Matthews, the paintings of Walton Ford? Even some writers about wilder scenes actually hale from locales like New England; in The Spell of the Tiger Sy Montgomery, who went as a traveler to the Sundarbans to experience a place where danger, something considered exotic at home, is an everyday part of life, gives us a line about big predators that exceeds many whole books on the subject: “…. you enter a world where the ground sucks you down whole, where the night swallows the stars, and where you know, for the first time, that your body is made of meat”– !!

(And please, if you want to argue, don’t quote Ed Abbey at me. At his best he is a fine writer– but, as even he insisted, he is not a nature writer. Besides, he liked Hoboken too.)

Right now, I’d like to consider a writer who can wring perceptions as fine as that– who can both move you and thrill you and make you contemplate long views– in an old, human – bounded landscape; one who finds in England, to quote a writer he also looks at “a land to me as profuse and glowing as Africa.”

In The Wild Places, Macfarlane circles Britain on an idiosyncratic itinerary (endpaper map with iconic objects by our Pluvialis), starting with places anyone might find wild, in the north, on islands and stony beaches, and eventually returning to the leafy beech woodlands of near- home where the wild is less visible or at least obvious. He talks with people who know these places, examines their literary history and connections (sometimes as far afield as the deserts of North Africa), and tries to know them on an intimate and sensuous level, going out in storm and good weather, hiking in the cold, sleeping on sand and rock, immersing himself in streams and bogs. He describes and brings back tokens:

“A little rhomboid stone, whose gray and white strata recalled the grain of the driftwood and the sand terrace. A hank of dried seaweed. A wing feather from a buzzard, tawny and cream, barred with five dark diagonals.When I teased two of its veins apart, they unzipped with a soft tearing noise. I arranged the objects into lines and patterns, changed their order.”

“Lines and patterns” occur and recur:

“That night on the sea wall, I thought about migration: those strong seasonal compulsions that draw creatures between regions,from one hemisphere to another. More than two million migrating birds used the soft shores of Britain and Ireland as resting points each autumn and winter…. The migrating birds did not shun humans; they were happy to live around them. What they did access when choosing where to land, though, was wildness; how far the water and the land would allow them to follow their own instincts and fulfil their own needs. Where they could not do this, they did not land.”

This is a vision we need– the notion of “wild” as a possibility on a planet where (to be fair to McKibben) we have touched everything. Grazing has altered my remote hills, and there are no grizzlies there today; the remotest wild part of roadless Mongolia has borne the tread of humans and even Neanderthals. But all are worth, and need, celebration as well as, more than, lament. if we want to preserve what is good. We cannot just wall everything off and look at it from behind glass. Says Macfarlane: “My early version of a wild place as somewhere remote, historyless, unmarked, now seemed improperly partial….I had learned to see another kind of wildness, to which I had once been blind: the wildness of natural life, the sheer force of ongoing organic existence, vigorous and chaotic. This wilderness was not about asperity, but about luxuriance, vitality, fun.”

Or, earlier, a simple statement: “The human and the wild cannot be partitioned”.

I’ll leave you with his ending thoughts, near home; I cannot do better:

“Wilderness was here, too, a short mile south of the town in which I lived. It was set about by roads and buildings, much of it was menaced, and some of it was dying. But at that moment it seemed to ring with a wild light.”

Major Find at the Whydah Wreck

I’ve posted several times about underwater archaeology at the wreck of the Whydah, an 18th century pirate ship sunk off the Massachusetts coast. A couple of months back it was announced that a 4,000 pound metal concretion had been discovered in the wreck. Steve’s sister Karen Bodio-Graham has passed along this article from a local paper that tells of its recovery. The main part of the mass of metal has been identified as the ship’s “caboose” or iron cook stove. Apparently all sorts of other metal and organic items have been fused together with the stove in this big concretion. I’m sure the conservators will be years figuring out what all is in there

California Fires

About this time last year I posted on the tough fire season Southern California was having. Two years ago was one of the wettest in the area for the last 150 years and this past year was about the driest, making for lots of dry fuel. Today’s NY Times reports that this situation has made this year’s fires even worse than 2006. I don’t have a lot to add other than I was struck by this accompanying satellite photo taken yesterday showing smoke blowing off of the fires out to sea. This clearly shows the path of the Santa Ana winds blowing out from the desert.

First of the Season

Our first snow storm of the season hit early Sunday morning and left us with 6-7 inches of wet snow.

This view of the deck gives you a little better idea of how much accumulation we had.

It really was very wet snow. The peach trees on the east side of the house still have their leaves and were bent nearly double by the weight of the snow. I spent quite a while knocking it off the limbs.
Sadie has finally decided that playing in the snow really is a lot of fun. Just to show how volatile the weather is here in Colorado, the high temperature on Saturday just before the storm was 80 degrees. And the forecast high for day after tomorrow is 74.