Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Passing of Ezra


I'm pasting this from the Cornell website:
The devastating news is now posted on the Cornell Webcam page - Sad News From The Bird Cams: Ezra, Beloved Red-Tail At Cornell, Is Dead March 21, 2017
As some of you may know, Ezra has not been seen on the Cornell Hawks cam or on the Cornell campus for the past several days, and worries have been mounting. We are extremely sad to have to share the news with you that we learned this evening that Ezra has died.

On Saturday, March 18, the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center received an injured Red-tailed Hawk who we now know was Ezra, and who had been found near the A. D. White House on campus. After examining him and taking X-rays, veterinarians determined that the severe wing fracture could not be repaired and flight would never again be possible. They made the difficult but humane decision to euthanize him on Sunday. Meanwhile, “Birders on the Ground” (or BOGs) Cindy and Karel Sedlacek had grown increasingly concerned about Ezra’s absence and contacted us here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

We reached out to the Wildlife Health Center to ask whether any hawks had been brought in, and were able to confirm through his leg band numbers that this bird was Ezra. We will share any other updates we receive after a final necropsy is completed. Ezra has touched our lives and the lives of millions of people of all ages ever since we started watching him and Big Red in 2012. He inspired us with his beauty and personality as well as his devotion and success in working with Big Red to raise 15 nestlings in just the past five years.

I've been watching Ezra and his mate, Big Red, since 2011 or 12.... Their nest has been up on an 80 foot iron floodlight tower on the soccer field at Cornell.  Each year they have mated and hatched and raised at least three young ones.  The excellent cameras on those towers have provided me, and thousands of others, a view of a wild family "up close and personal."

This beautiful bird was at least 12 years old.   How we will miss him!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Perfect Dress

Today is International Poetry Day.   I'm posting a poem I love by Marisa de los Santos:

Perfect Dress



It’s here in a student’s journal, a blue confession

in smudged, erasable ink: “I can’t stop hoping

I’ll wake up, suddenly beautiful,” and isn’t it strange

how we want it, despite all we know? To be at last


the girl in the photography, cobalt-eyed, hair puddling

like cognac, or the one stretched at the ocean’s edge,

curved and light-drenched, more like a beach than

the beach. I confess I have longed to stalk runways,


leggy, otherworldly as a mantis, to balance a head

like a Fabergé egg on the longest, most elegant neck.

Today in the checkout line, I saw a magazine

claiming to know “How to Find the Perfect Dress


for that Perfect Evening,” and I felt the old pull, flare

of the pilgrim’s twin flames, desire and faith. At fifteen,

I spent weeks at the search. Going from store to store,

hands thirsty for shine, I reached for polyester satin,


machine-made lace, petunia- and Easter egg-colored,

brilliant and flammable. Nothing haute about this

couture but my hopes for it, as I tugged it on

and waited for my one, true body to emerge.


(Picture the angel inside uncut marble, articulation

of wings and robes poised in expectation of release.)

What I wanted was ordinary miracle, the falling away

of everything wrong. Silly maybe or maybe


I was right, that there’s no limit to the ways eternity

suggests itself, that one day I’ll slip into it, say

floor-length plum charmeuse. Someone will murmur,

“She is sublime,” will be precisely right, and I will step,


with incandescent shoulders, into my perfect evening.


Marisa de los Santos



Monday, March 20, 2017

A Light Exists in Spring

Even though we're halfway through March, I still love this poem by Emily Dickinson, and find it appropriate:


A LIGHT exists in spring
  Not present on the year
At any other period.
  When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad        5
  On solitary hills
That silence cannot overtake,
  But human nature feels.
It waits upon the lawn;
  It shows the furthest tree        10
Upon the furthest slope we know;
  It almost speaks to me.
Then, as horizons step,
  Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,        15
  It passes, and we stay:
A quality of loss
  Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
  Upon a sacrament.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Modern life's aggressive haste

I have come to love Maria Popova's "Brain Pickings Weekly" - her compendium of articles, quotes, and ideas posted each Sunday. Now, having signed on to Twitter, I find that she posts daily there in "Brain Pickings."  I usually "retweet" her postings for later reading. 

The irony of the closeness of "retweet" to "retreat!"

But today I was reading something she posted about "Breaking the Trance of Busyness."

She quotes Herman Hesse, who laments how modern life's
"aggressive haste” — and what a perfect phrase that is — has “done away with what meager leisure we had.” He writes:

Our ways of enjoying ourselves are hardly less irritating and nerve-racking than the pressure of our work. “As much as possible, as fast as possible” is the motto. And so there is more and more entertainment and less and less joy… This morbid pursuit of enjoyment [is] spurred on by constant dissatisfaction and yet perpetually satiated.

Noting that he doesn’t have a silver bullet for the problem, Hesse offers:

I would simply like to reclaim an old and, alas, quite unfashionable private formula: Moderate enjoyment is double enjoyment. And: Do not overlook the little joys!
Even in these days when I have so much less to do than I did fifteen years ago, I still fall into the mindless busyness mode so easily.
But I don't overlook the little joys!
The latest little joy for me has been the discovery that those six or seven garden plants I was so worried about have survived the freezes and snows of last week!
Another daily little joy is to tune into the Service Dog Project's website and see what's happening there:

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Bright Shillings of March

On Saint Patrick's Day,  I share a poem by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh:


My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel. 

My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket. 
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage. 

The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: "Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor."
I hear, and is my heart not badly shaken?

-Patrick Kavanagh
Copyright © Estate of Katherine Kavanagh

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I am so worried about our country on many levels...

...especially what will happen to poor people and elderly people.

The proposals that Donald Trump unveiled are so upsetting to me:

And I'm cutting and pasting this from the New York Times today.  True , Trump calls them his enemy, and "fake news"  but I believe them:
"We have now passed the 50-day mark of the Donald Trump administration and one thing is clear: There is no new Trump.
There is only the same old Trump: Dangerous and unpredictable, gauche and greedy, temperamentally unsuited and emotionally unsound.
If you were trying to create in a lab a person with character traits more unbecoming in a president, it would be hard to outdo the one we have.
He continues to have explosive Twitter episodes — presumably in response to some news he finds unflattering or some conspiracy floated by fringe outlets — that make him look not only foolish, but unhinged.
"And when he’s not making explosive charges, he’s taking destructive actions.
He has signed a slew of executive actions to demonstrate his power and signal his administrative direction.
As Business Insider pointed out, as of March 6, “The 45th president has signed 34 executive actions so far, with far-reaching effects on Americans’ lives.” These included “16 executive orders in 45 days.”
In addition, federal agencies and the Republican-controlled Congress have “delayed, suspended or reversed” more than 90 regulations in the short time since President Trump took office, according to a tally by The New York Times.
The Times’s report continued: “The emerging effort — dozens more rules could be eliminated in the coming weeks — is one of the most significant shifts in regulatory policy in recent decades. It is the leading edge of what Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, described late last month as ‘the deconstruction of the administrative state.’”
"Now, Trump and congressional Republicans have locked arms in an effort to ram through a disastrous Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan — attempting to cast doubt on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in the process — that promises to be a boon to insurers and the rich and a bane to the poor and the elderly.
Trumpcare would likely not only be more expensive and cover fewer people, but some people currently in need of care to extend their lives would no longer get it.
Put quite simply: This plan is not only bad, it could be deadly.
Add to these destructive policies the fact that this president and his family are burning through taxpayer funds like it’s Monopoly money.
"As The Hill reported on Saturday, “President Trump paid a visit to one of his golf courses again Saturday, marking apparently his ninth visit to a golf course in the seven weeks since he took office.” The site pointed out, “Trump has made several weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., as well, calling the property the ‘Winter White House.’ ”
In February, numerous media outlets pointed out that Trump was spending on travel in a month nearly as much as what the Obamas spent in a year. This doesn’t even include the travel and security costs of Trump’s children or the cost of Trump’s wife and son remaining in Trump Tower in New York, at least for now, which is estimated to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousand of dollars a day.
This was particularly jarring because Trump had been a chief critic of the amount of money the Obamas spent on vacations. Indeed, Trump tweeted in 2012: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars — Unbelievable!”
No, what is unbelievable is the staggering nature of the hypocrisy of Trump and his current spending and the near silence of Obama’s conservative critics.
Trump appears to view the Treasury as a personal piggy bank and the presidency as a part-time job.
I think any who have been holding out hope that Trump will eventually change into someone more polished, professional and amenable than the man we have come to know must simply abandon that hope."
These words come from Charles M. Blow in the March 13 New York Times.
One of my biggest fears, though, is that the crazy man running North Korea is going to provoke a nuclear war, and that will be the end for all of us.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Snowstorm

I am worried about several of the plants in the courtyard.  I planted them last summer:  a Gentian,

eight Phlox plants that should look like this when they are fully blooming:
and also, two Hydrangeas and an Oriental Poppy.
They were tricked by several 70 degree days we had in late February, and they've sprouted their vulnerable green leaves.
They don't stand much of a chance with 19 degree temperatures, which we've been having for a number of nights.
I have been covering them up with burlap and blankets, and now they are blanketed by a foot of snow.
I hope they make it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mid March

We've had terrible weather swings. Some of the summer-looming perennials have begun to emerge, and then the temperature plummets again.  This morning, it is 19 degrees.  I'm covering the most tender ones up overnight, hoping they survive.

Here's a sprightly poem by Richard Kenney:

Sky a shook poncho.
Roof   wrung. Mind a luna moth
Caught in a banjo.

This weather’s witty
Peek-a-boo. A study in

Blues! Blooms! The yodel
Of   the chimney in night wind.
That flat daffodil.

With absurd hauteur
New tulips dab their shadows
In water-mutter.

Boys are such oxen.
Girls! — sepal-shudder, shadow-
Waver. Equinox.

Plums on the Quad did
Blossom all at once, taking
Down the power grid.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

My college closed in 1973.

As Emily Dickinson said, "My life closed twice before it closed"

Sometimes I look across to the college


I can see the brick buildings and the five turrets – the Chapel, Brute, Verdier, Burlando…

In the mild March evening at 6Pm before dark, I imagine that over there, across the lawn,

The college is going on with its life as it did fifty years ago. 
  My young self and my friends are there, leaving the dining hall and walking back to the dorms, laughing and talking.  The next day’s classes, the papers due, the ideas that rose from that day’s lectures… the boyfriends…

What did we talk about?

I see them as ghosts, and a lump rises in my throat… the days that are no more, but that weirdly, live within us.


Friday, March 10, 2017

One more thing I never thought about until today

How many years do parents have to teach their children table manners?  It’s a process that must take years.
I couldn’t remember myself or my parents doing this, but they must have.
I never thought about this until today, when my college classmate brought her 8 year old grand-daughter up to visit me.
We went out to lunch.
She is a beautiful child. She’s very shy, and very well-mannered.  But she is still 8 years old.  My friend had to correct her and encourage her at the table on how to manage a fairly complicated croissant grilled ham and cheese  sandwich:  pick it up and eat it, don’t tear it into little pieces with your fingers . The little girl did very well with it, but I was also awed by my friend, the grandmother: capable, gracious, but direct and directive. It worked.
Then I thought:  my friend is one of seven children. She and her husband had three children, and now she has seven grandchildren.  She is used to eating with children, and helping them learn to use their knives, forks, spoons, and napkins correctly.  What long love and patience has been involved !
I came home and googled "teaching children table manners" and read a great lot of interesting information from many mothers.
I never thought about any of this!   Me -  the only child of older parents, eating at the table with my mom and dad all my childhood.
No older or younger siblings to distract me, or to distract them from me.
And then, away to college – I only recall one time when I noticed the table manners of myself or my classmates, and it was a very funny one.
Then, after college, for seven years, eating many meals alone, and on the run.
Then, the following thirty-nine years of my adult life, eating always with other adults.  Today is one of the few times I have eaten with an 8 year old!
What I have missed!  What I didn’t even know I had missed!  One of those rituals of adult life that people don’t even notice when they are performing it.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

"Girl, Roof, Moon"  by  Natasha Villone

I have long loved the song by that name, sung years ago by Judy Collins.

Here's a cut and paste from "Brain Pickings Weekly" Anna Popova' wonderful weekly gathering of insights:

“If our heart were large enough to love life in all its detail, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer,” wrote the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard as he contemplated our paradoxical experience of time in the early 1930s just as Einstein, Gödel, and the rise of relativity had begun revolutionizing our understanding of time. “Time is the substance I am made of,” Borges proclaimed a generation later in his exquisite 1944 refutation of time. “Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

If Borges’s words sound like a song lyric, it is because there is something singularly musical about our perception of time — we speak of our daily rhythms, abide by the metronomic ticking of the clock, and feel the flow of time like one feels the flow of a melody. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the elusive and indomitable nature of time preoccupied not only the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers, scientists, and writers, but also one of its greatest musicians: Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known as Nina Simone (February 21, 1933–April 21, 2003).


On October 26, 1969, at the Philharmonic Hall in New York City, Simone performed a version of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” written by the English folk-rock singer-songwriter Sandy Denny and popularized by Judy Collins. The version was released a year later on her live album Black Gold and was later included in The Essential Nina Simone.

Simone, who was at least as devoted to civil rights as she was to music, considered this “a reflective tune” that “goes past all racial conflict and all kinds of conflicts,” for it deals with the supreme unifying force of all human existence: the shared experience of time’s inescapable flow. She introduced her cover with a beautiful, simple, profound prefatory meditation on time —

Sometime in your life, you will have occasion to say, “What is this thing called time?” What is that, the clock? You go to work by the clock, you get your martini in the afternoon by the clock and your coffee by the clock, and you have to get on the plane at a certain time, and arrive at a certain time. It goes on and on and on and on.

And time is a dictator, as we know it. Where does it go? What does it do? Most of all, is it alive? Is it a thing that we cannot touch and is it alive? And then, one day, you look in the mirror — you’re old — and you say, “Where does the time go?”

Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving
How can they know that it’s time to go?
Before the winter fire, I’ll still be dreaming
I do not count the time
Who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know that it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
For I do not count the time
Who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
But I am not alone as long as my love is near me
And I know it will be so till it’s time to go
All through the winter, until the birds return in spring again
I do not fear the time
Who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Wandering Eye

( eyes in 1970)

Or, I should say, my permanently wandered eye.    In 2003,  I went to the eye doctor for a checkup, and found that I had a Macular Hole in my left eye.  Not the same as Macular Degeneration.  Some injury ( and I thought of two falls on my face that I had sustained the previous three years)  some injury had left scar tissue on the Macula of the Retina of that eye, which had now torn a hole in the retina.

After four unsuccessful surgeries, I was left with no central vision in that eye.  Since the right eye was ok, I could still read and drive, etc.  And I had about 80% of the vision in the left eye... but it was all peripheral vision.

I didn't notice until 2014, when I saw a photo of myself, but that left eye had compensated all by itself by moving the iris over to the side, so it was using the peripheral vision to see, and to help out the good eye.


Consequently, I look cockeyed.   Since then, I hate to have photos taken of myself.

eyes in 1979
eyes in 2002
eyes in 2007
eyes in 2014

In addition to all the facial scars,  this wandered eye makes me look like a veteran of many wars.

I was thinking of a poem by Theodore Roethke, called "Meditations of an Old Woman"

Here's an excerpt from the first part:

How can I rest in the days of my slowness?
I've become a strange piece of flesh,
Nervous and cold, bird-furtive, whiskery,
With a cheek soft as a hound's ear.
What's left is light as a seed;
I need an old crone's knowing.


Often I think of myself as riding
Alone, on a bus through western country.
I sit above the back wheels, where the jolts are hardest,
And we bounce and sway along toward the midnight,
The lights tilting up, skyward, as we come over a little rise,
Then down, as we roll like a boat from a wave-crest.
All journeys, I think, are the same:
The movement is forward, after a few wavers,
And for a while we are all alone,
Busy, obvious with ourselves,
The drunken soldier, the old lady with her peppermints;
And we ride, we ride, taking the curves
Somewhat closer, the trucks coming
Down from behind the last ranges,
Their black shapes breaking past;
And the air claps between us,
Blasting the frosted windows,
And I seem to go backward,
Backward in time:


Two song sparrows, one within a greenhouse,
Shuttling its throat while perched on a wind-vent,
And another, outside, in the bright day,
With a wind from the west and the trees all in motion.
One sang, then the other,
The songs tumbling over and under the glass,
And the men beneath them wheeling in dirt to the cement benches,
The laden wheelbarrows creaking and swaying,
And the up-spring of the plank when a foot left the runway.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Meet the Press

Lately I have taken to watching "Meet the Press," which airs at 10AM on Sundays. I guess it's been several weeks, certainly since the Inauguration.  I wanted to see the characters in this ongoing drama, and to hear what they had to say.  More on some of them another time.

Yesterday morning, two of the persons interviewed were Schumer, the Democratic Senate Minority leader, and Rubio, the Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Also interviewed was James Clapper, the head of Intelligence under Obama, now retired:

The topic was Trump's tweets accusing Obama of having his ( Trump's) building/offices/residence  in New York  bugged in the weeks before the Inauguration.
The Obama spokesman has denied it, and Mr. Clapper, a veteran intelligence officer, denied it .
I want to cut and paste part of the discussion among the members of the press about this issue.
This is part of the transcript of the show.  I zeroed in on the remarks of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. I have been reading his essays and articles for many years and think he is very insightful.
Here it goes:

Chuck Todd:

Welcome back. Panelists here: Democrat pollster Cornell Belcher, he's author of the book A Black Man in the White House, Kim Strassel, columnist and member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, Danielle Pletka of The American Enterprise Institute, and Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times. At some point, I don't know where to begin here, but Tom Friedman, it is, it was jarring, President Trump accusing President Obama. And obviously, I guess it was an attempt to distract? But I don't see how this distracts from the Russia story.


Thomas Friedman:

Well, it was beyond jarring, really, when you think about it, Chuck. This is such a serious charge. Under normal circumstances, it would be a six-column headline in my paper and I think every other paper. And a serious person, before he made such a charge, would have brought together the Congressional leaders, briefed them on it, brought together the intelligence community, and given the public evidence.

The fact that he just lobbed this out there on Twitter at six in the morning is shocking. I think we have to keep one thing in mind, though, the big picture. The big picture, Chuck, is Russia is not our friend. Vladimir Putin is not our friend. He has some very specific goals. He wants to fracture N.A.T.O.. He wants to fracture the European Union, fracture N.A.T.O. so it will not be a military threat, fracture the European Union so it won't be a counter-example for Russians. And he wants to destroy the ability of the United States to lead a Western Alliance. Right now in Moscow, they must be clinking vodka glasses. Because for less than the cost of a MiG-29, they have thrown the West into complete disarray.

A little later in this first segment:


--some of us in the press. But my point here, what worries me, Chuck, is this. Government moves at the speed of trust. And right now, there is, like, so little trust. We have a completely polarized environment. And somehow we have got to restore that. Because I don't see how the president's going to be able to solve any of these big issues: Immigration, debt, health care, at the level of polarization we have right now.


It is-- I think we've exemplified it here a little bit. We're going to pause the conversation and pick it up, I have a feeling, on the other side of the half hour. But coming up is a man who may know more than anyone about Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. It's the former Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper. He joins me next.


Then Jim Clapper came on.

Then, in the next segment:



Back now with the panel, and we have been going over the Jim Clapper interview just now. And here's the specific transcript for everybody here on the FISA court order. I asked him, at this point can you confirm or deny if this FISA court order exists. He says I can deny it. "There is no FISA court order?" I follow up. Clapper: "Not to my knowledge." "Of anything at Trump Tower?" "No." How big of a deal?


Well, I think him denying that there was a FISA order is a big deal. But why are we talking about this? We're talking about this because Donald Trump tweeted it out, in pretty much the same breath that he tweeted about Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Which by the way-- I know, I know. Say no more.


Don't let us get distracted by that as well. But I have to ask myself, would we be talking about this at all if he hadn't tweeted that out?


Well we'd be talking about the Russia angle itself.

DANIELLE PLETKA:Wouldn't we be talking about Sessions?


Right. But he actually, he made two pieces of news I think here this morning. Not just he said that there was no court order, and assuming he just wasn't being careful with his words, it sounded fairly categorical to me. But the other one was that there is simply no evidence of collusion, at least while he was there, which was until very recently between the Trump campaign and the Russians.


You know, Chuck--



So what have we been talking about for the last three weeks?



This is -- waking up at 6 AM in the morning, tweeting out one of the most damning accusations one president could make after another, and then, as Dany said, then talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, that is not—


And he did 18 holes.


--non-presidential behavior. That is not adult behavior. That is juvenile behavior. And the fact that we have a president who engages in that is, to me, deeply disturbing. Because think about this. Now he's going to have to go to Europe very soon and interact with other European leaders, other world leaders. What would you think if you're a world leader going into a meeting with the-- "What do I say to this guy? What might he say about this meeting?"

He is everywhere we look. And we talked about this before. I quoted my friend, Dov Seidman, who makes the point there's a big difference between formal authority and moral authority. This president has formal authority. But every day you see him eroding his moral authority. And in the end, that is really going to hurt us.


So... Friedman voices what I have been disturbed by and worried about.
What is going to happen next?
I know that Trump's  "base" of followers don't believe any of this; they believe everything he says.
Will that ever change?