Monday, February 27, 2012

Better Than Blue Suede Shoes

A flock of Ruddy Ducks have amassed in the small cove in front of our house.  Last week there were one or two males.  Today I counted twenty.  The Ruddy Duck has to be on your "must see" list, even if you  are otherwise uninterested in birds.  Look for the males over the next six weeks as they come into full breeding plumage.  They have bright blue bills.  I have no idea what evolutionary advantage accrued to individuals with this trait.  In the marshes and ponds where Ruddies mingle with dozens of other ducks and geese, they alone sport a blue bill.   And only during mating season.

Soon you will see those splendid skeins of waterfowl flying north and heralding spring.  This sight has fascinated for centuries.  On the walls and temples of the Nile, ancient artists stylized ducks and geese.  Zeus became a swan for Leda. Waterfowl are prized for their down which remains warm and dry under their thick waterproof feathers.  Some have elaborate courtship displays.  Most have blunt bills with a hard tip, and tongues with serration that allows them to filter fine food particles from water or mud.  Generally, the males are flashy and the females a drab brown that disguises them as they incubate their eggs in their marshy nests.  Look for these birds in a wetland near you.  And watch for a small, round duck with a very stiff tail, flying low with rapid wing beats.  Get a good look.  If his bill is blue, it is a Ruddy Duck dressed for action.

Monday, February 20, 2012

de Tocqueville On Democracy

This short essay by Michael Barone is worth reading.  Michael Barone is a political analyst.  Conservative.  If you are not familiar with Alexis de Tocqueville, quoted by Barone, read about him here

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Go Fish

The dry rattle call of the Belted Kingfisher is unmistakable.  Our house is on the shore of a small lake - a pond really. Yesterday I heard that call and spotted the bird in a scrub willow.  Any visit from a Kingfisher is welcome.  This solitary bird occupies all but the most frozen north of the North American continent.  Winters in Mexico, summers in the north country even out on the taiga and tundra of Canada and Alaska.  Kingfishers burrow into muddy or gravel banks for their nest. Their tunnel can extend as much as 8 feet, sloping upward from the entrance hole.  I especially like that the female Belted Kingfisher has brighter plumage than the male, one of only a few species in which fashion is feminine.  My visitor was a girl.  She watched, waited and dove, making her rattling cry as she launched.  You go girl.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Whitney Houston

There is not much to add.  Be sure you listen to her sing the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV, 1991 in Tampa.  Whatever else she was or became, she was in complete command of her powerful voice.  RIP.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Abraham Lincoln 1809 - 1865

Today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.  For a lovely reflection on our 16th President, visit this site on YouTube.  You can hear the beautiful "Lincoln Portrait" composed by American contemporary composer Arron Copeland.  Take 10 minutes and think about this great man.  Lincoln was determined to manage the war between the States in a way to save the Union.  In doing so, he confronted the major issues of the day - State's rights, economic opportunity, human rights.  He remained dignified, even in the face of ugly opposition.  He accepted the responsibility that events thrust upon him.  He did not shrink from challenge or danger.  He did not mistake his role as leader for an entitlement to power.  He was honest and humble.  Would that we had such a candidate today. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

First a Hatchet, Then the Fire

We are learning details of a murder.  A father bludgeons and hacks at his two very young sons and then burns them alive.  They die of smoke inhalation, not their horrible wounds.  This story is carried on the national news.  I have been thinking about the agony the little boys endured.  I imagine their loved ones' grief.  Author William Paul Young's novel "The Shack" might help them find some peace.  Young offers a passionate and reasoned exposition of the succor God would provide to ease the way of the stricken.  It is a beautiful and very modern construct of a holy trinity.  For the sake of these little boys, I wish it were just as Young describes.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Know me, Care for me, Ease my way.

This is the vision of Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington.  Authors of wordy and labored statements of purpose would do well to consider the power of this message. It reflects the founder of the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence in Washington Territory in 1859.  Mother Joseph's astonishing story is well documented.  Read it here.  Think about the journey of this young woman from Montreal to Fort Vancouver in 1856.  Montreal - at 58,000 the largest city in British North America.  After a 6,000 mile journey, picture Ft. Vancouver - a few hundred soldiers and fur traders living in simple wood shacks.  Try to imagine a service of fifty five years as spiritual leader, architect, building contractor, lead carpenter, financier, fund raiser and mother to thousands of orphans.  Now try to imagine doing all that in the bulky black habitat of her order. Eleven hospitals, seven academies, five Indian schools and two orphanages - over an area encompassing Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  On horseback.  In black habit.  Hear her dying words.  "My dear sisters, allow me to recommend to you the care of the poor in our houses, as well as those without.  Take good care of them.  Have no fear of them.  Assist them and receive them.  Then you will have no regrets.  Do not say - ah! this does not concern me, let others see to them.  My sisters, whatever concerns the poor is always our affair."

In the hustle bustle of today's high technology hospital there is a small chapel.  Mother Joseph is there.  Know me, Care for me, Ease my way.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mammas Don't Let Your Babies be Beauty Queens

Today there is news of  women seeking to have breast implants removed.  Hundreds of thousands of women have implants manufactured by a now closed French company, Poly Implant Prothese.  Apparently these implants rupture, often.

Why can't we encourage women to nurture and love the body they have?  Breast-obsession assures that most girls will find themselves imperfect.  Don't let your daughter get caught in this trap. 

If you wonder about the title of this post, it is inspired by one of my favorite songs.   Here is Waylon Jennings.