Wednesday, February 28, 2007


This sunset the other evening was so beautiful that I kept getting up from the dinner table to run outdoors with the camera.
It's really all we ask from life--
that it pull and awaken us,
that everyone everywhere has the peace of mind to be able to notice,
that this splendid earth is valued enough to be protected.

We're going to stop blogging for a while. We'll be back at some point, until then, please take the time to notice.



Monday, February 26, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

...and the Oscar goes to...

We are so delighted that this documentary took the Academy Award. It gives us some hope. Not sure why, though, it's not like a movie can change the world. Can it?

Friday, February 23, 2007

my tech support comes through

back in december i asked for a bit of help with a microsoft access database program i am creating for the local affiliate of habitat for humanity to account for mortgage payments. if all the mortgagees paid their exact coupon amount due every month data entry would be so simple. alas, there are under and over payments so i had to assemble balance due amounts and nominal coupon amounts on a form and then enter the actual check amount and have access allot the dollars among principal and taxes and insurance and post that entry.

anyway.....i was stuck. my wonderful tech support--you, or some of you--offered the right blend of expertise and encouragement. i thank you. my successor in this volunteer bookkeeping gig will thank you. jimmy carter would thank you if he knew of your contribution to the success of the local habitat for humanity organization. the picture above is a screen shot of the main menu. of course you don't know if there is anything behind it. there is. all the data is up to date and all of it agrees with the functional but basic spreadsheet system i inherited.

this project has been a major time-suck. i won't whine (well, maybe a bit) about access being not merely user-unfriendly, but actually arcane. robin has been an "access widow," kinda like other wives are "golf widows." it has had, however, the positive aspect of filling up my thoughts and leaving scant room for contemplating the stark reality of our culture, our country, and our planet all disintegrating. britney's shaved head, anna nicole's dead body, our constitution's demise, and the worldwide retreat of glaciers, to say nothing of the pre-pre-pre-mature start of the next presidential election were all shoved aside for the nonce while i wrestled with access. please, pretty please bill gates, buy filemaker. oh, better yet, don't. just make access easier to use.

Susannah of Wanderin' Weeta is hosting Good Planets for the last time this Saturday. The final elemental theme is "fire." Please sent your fiery photos to susannah at dccnet dot com. The following edition after that will be March 10th at Bev's Burning Silo.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Last Night's Dinner Conversation

The Libby trial closing arguments were absolutely enthralling to follow. We will be forever indebted to Firedoglake for their live blogging of the proceedings. Will Libby be convicted? We don't know, but we find a strange and tiring irony to the argument that lying under oath isn't that important. How can that be? We just lived through the insane impeachment of a president for that very thing. "Please," they said at the time, "it's not about sex, it's about lying under oath." Oh, okay. This is about lying under oath, but they say it's about memory or something else. If justice prevails, Libby will be jailed and Cheney will be indicted.

We are utterly impressed by Dana Priest's reporting about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Hospital, Building 18. Did we ever tell you that we had an opportunity to hear Ms. Priest discuss journalism at her alma mater, UC Santa Cruz. In her college years, she was the editor for the UCSC campus newspaper City on a Hill Press. I was their adviser for 8 years, so when Ms. Priest came to campus (years before her Pulitzer) it was quite a moment to see how how much a motivated student can really achieve. She attended the university long before I was employed there, but the very fact of her was like a promise to all the students who came to listen in awe.

We had a crazy revelation the other day. We learned that the poet who started the "Poets Against the War" as a protest to Laura Bush's invitation to the White House in 2003, is a local poet and former editor of Copper Canyon Press. Not only that, but Sam Hamill is the partner of a woman we met recently, and who we are are getting to know. Oh what a small and beautiful world it is.

My back has been bothering me lately, and the pain shoots down my leg. All I can think is that it's my sciatica acting up. For some strange reason I want to say sciatica sciatica like Al Pacino shouting "Attica, Attica" in Dog Day Afternoon. Pain can do that to you.

So, how are you and what are you talking about at the dinner table?

Susannah of Wanderin' Weeta is hosting Good Planets for the last time this Saturday. The final elemental theme is "fire." Please sent your fiery photos to susannah at dccnet dot com. The following edition after that will be March 10th at Bev's Burning Silo.

The above photo is the mated pair we photographed last week. We think the object they are perched on is the tsunami warning siren for Port Townsend.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Springs Eternal

For those of you who are still in the thick of winter, with your ground covered in snow and tree branches still bare of bud, here's a peek at two flowers that bloomed in our yard over the past few days. Just a reminder for you that spring really is on its way. It can not be stopped.
periwinkle grows
from fall's leafy filigree
out of hope does spring

early iris blooms
when despair declares winter
will never yield spring

If you are really missing the rich colors of spring, click on each photo for a deeper look.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Last year on Earth Day Roger and I signed up to take a Marine Mammal Stranding Network training. We were placed on the email list and were sent periodic email updates. But personnel changes meant a delay in training, and there wasn't one until this past Saturday. Here's our report.

It was interesting, but far too disorganized to be of much value. We spent the first hour talking about how to fill out Level A Responder forms. It's the report that is ultimately submitted to the NOAA Fisheries. The presenter was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but not particularly adept at explaining why these forms are important and what we, as network volunteers, should be looking for to be able to adequately fill the forms out, when we observe stranded animals. The second hour was more interesting and probably should have preceded the first, because it introduced us to the mammals we might encounter (seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, whales) when called to check out a stranding. We did learn a few tricks, like how to tell the difference between a male California Sea Lion and a female Steller Sea Lion (which can be the same size)-- the male has the scrotum. How we're going to get close enough to see that is a trick they did not cover.

We learned that most of the work volunteers do is to identify dead mammals, approximate the decomposition level, try to determine if the mammal has died as a result of human activity, take a gps reading, and then someone determines what to do with the carcass:
1. Left at site
2. Buried
3. Rendered
4. Towed
5. Sunk
6. Frozen for Later Examination
7. Landfill
8. Other
We were not told who determines the disposition of the animal, or how that determination is made. If the stranded animal is a baby harbor seal which accounts for most of the calls, volunteers would take shifts making sure humans, dogs, and other predators are kept away. Baby harbor seals are often left onshore for considerable periods of time while mom is out hunting. They are not stranded.

If I could redesign the training I would present photographs of stranded animals, with examples of different stages of decomposition. I would also show pics of the results of human activity, netting, propeller wounds, etc. Then, I would use those examples to show how to fill out the paperwork. Seems a more logical approach.
When we first signed on to the volunteer email list, a note was sent about a stranded baby harbor sea, last July. We were not "trained" yet, but we went down to photograph the baby from an appropriate distance. We assumed that at some point, if the mother did not return the seal would be rescued and brought someplace for care and rehabilitation. Turns out, the stranding network doesn't do many rescues. There aren't enough facilities to handle the number of mammals that are stranded. I understand that that baby died. I had hoped that part of what we would learn is how to assist in rescues, but that's not the plan, unless an animal can be safely returned to the sea.

The presenter did tell us a very wild story. All marine mammals are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Humans are not to move, touch, or disturb the animals; not drive them back into the water; not pour water on a seal, seal lion, or sea otter; and, not try to feed them. Of course, humans don't always pay attention to rules. So sometimes they get close enough to these animals to be bitten by them. They don't often report this because in order to sustain such an injury, they have to be breaking the law. However, one woman was compelled to report being bitten by a baby harbor seal, after she contracted a marine mammal disease. The wild part of the story is that she was bitten while trying to breast feed the baby seal. Oy. There are just some things about human behavior I wish I didn't know.

P.S. When I look at seals, I have to say, it never once occurs to me that they should balance a ball on their nose. But of course, when I look at a bear, I never think, "Wow, I'd like to see that creature on a bicycle." Maybe it's just me.

1. Top photo taken at the Santa Cruz wharf where many California Sea Lions lounge. We can't see the scrotum, but we're assuming this is a male CSL.
2. The baby harbor seal we photographed last summer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

120 Years

There's a sunrise every morning. Roger and I have been around long enough to have seen 23,000 of them. In our combined 120 years we've also seen a lot of joy and sorrow, so we tend to be pretty philosophical about life. We are highly opinionated; our families find us a bit bristly, and we've been known to have a row every now and then. We stay pretty much to ourselves, have a few friends who we break bread with, but for the most part, it's just the two of us and the cat day in and day out. We enjoy each other's company immensely, and we can happily spend hours and hours in our silence and solitude. Life, for us, is almost exactly how we want it.

So, why do we make an effort to stay engaged with the world, read the news, and complain about it? We've got our 2 1/2 acres, our south-facing house where eagles circle overhead on a good day, and a yard that attracts a wandering bobcat every now and then. We grow our own organic veggies, make stir fries with spicy tofu or tempeh, and enjoy a bottle of fine red wine with dinner every night. We laugh with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, we dance to music that streams out of our iPod. We're in good health, our families are as well. We hike beautiful trails on this good earth. We've got high-speed internet. What more could we ask for?

Life is good.

It's just that we take it so damned seriously. We can hardly believe how different the bigger world is from how we'd like it to be, how we think it could be. We can't seem to get over that, or how the leadership of our country acts so irresponsibly and worse, unconstitutionally. We ponder how things would be different if conquest and fortune were not always at the root of power. What would all of our 120 years have been like if cooperation and community were at the root instead? We have never believed that growing old meant relinquishing or denouncing our idealism. In fact, maintaining ideals into old age is the real fountain of youth and quite an aphrodisiac. We don't know how to be complacent. We never shrug off a terrible president, an illegal war, or our struggling planet. After all this time, we still take it all very seriously, even while we are laughing, clinking our wine glasses and toasting something at the end of every day.
Twenty-three thousand sunrises and sunsets and still waiting for the best of all possible worlds. We're not hopeful, but we'll never give up.

Hope you've all sent a photo depicting the element "air" for this week's Good Planets to susannah at dccnet dot com. I sent mine in! Check out Wanderin Weeta.

We're going to tweak Good Planets a bit, and think maybe in March and thereafter, it should be twice a month on the second and fourth Saturdays. The March host will be amazing and wondrous Bev of Burning Silo. Would anyone out there like to grab April?

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

One Year Later

It's been a year since we photographed this bobcat. Much has changed on the land where it stood looking back at us.
Where once there was no winding driveway or giant foundation holes in the ground, there is now a torn up land, and plans for people who will live there.
The arrow shows you where the bobcat was standing. Now there's machinery that pushes the earth around, and trees that have been uprooted and burned. The orange peel fungus we found in December has been covered with gravel so people can drive up their driveway.
We will have new neighbors in a few months. But we so much prefer these old ones.
This the progress of our neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I am Spartacus

In case you've not seen the movie Spartacus. Here is the relevance of the "I am Spartacus" quote:
It refers to a scene in the movie "Spartacus" starring Kirk Douglas as Spartacus. After the army of former Roman slaves led by Spartacus is defeated in battle by legions of the Roman army, a Roman general stands before the captured surviving members of the slave army and demands that they turn over Spartacus, or else all of the former slaves will be executed. Upon hearing this and not wanting his friends to be executed, Spartacus stands up and says "I am Spartacus." However, the loyalty of his friends is so great that each of them stands forward in succession, shouting "I am Spartacus!" until the shouts dissolve into a cacophony of thousands of former slaves each insisting "I am Spartacus!" Bewildered and still not knowing which of them is Spartacus, but impressed by the loyalty he inspires in his army, the Roman general has all of the slaves crucified in a miles-long display alongside the Appian Way leading back to Rome.

Riding the Currents

While we were being mesmerized by the aerial dynamics and treetop ardor of the Bald Eagles on Monday, we couldn't help but notice this Red-tailed Hawk calmly riding the currents in the same sky.

It hung in the air, nearly motionless. I took several photographs before it even moved a single feather. When it did move, it folded its wings and tail close to its body and took this "Valentine-heart shape" that allowed it to move very quickly along the currents.
It continued to change shape as it slid silently along the sky above us.

Until it reach its destination and spread its wings to hunt once again.
We spent a fair amount of time trying to determine if the hawk was riding a thermal current or if it was ridge soaring, which is a related atmospheric phenomenon. We're including a link for you to read, so you can visualize the difference. Either way, it was fascinating to watch it ride the currents, simply hanging in the air and expending very little energy while it hunted. Between this hawk and the amorous eagles, we absolutely tweaked our necks looking up for so long, but we took it as an early Valentine's Day present, and loved every minute of it.

This Saturday's Good Planets has a particular theme: air. Do you have a photograph that depicts the beauty of our planet and captures the air element? If you do, please send it to susannah at dccnet dot com. Check out Wanderin' Weeta. When I think about air, I think of birds soaring in it, the wind bending trees, or the fluttering petals of a flower. What do you think?

There is no one lined up to do Good Planets for March. If anyone is interested, please email us at newdharmbums at Thanks. and Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mated For Life

Last month I wrote my goals and objectives for the year. One goal was to see a pair of eagles in their aerial mating ritual. I knew it was possible, but that it was really about being in the right place and the right time. Roger and I went for a walk on Darwin's birthday with some dear friends. This is what we saw.


their life together
finds each spring a renewal
no vows but season

Monday, February 12, 2007

In Darwin's Dreams

We all know what natural selection means, and how it is that all living things have come to be what they are.
We see the workings of natural selection in the flash of red on the wings of a Red-winged Blackbird, and are delighted by the dazzling diplays of male plumage.

And we know why this sapsucker's bill is a perfect shape for how it obtains food.

no story but this
everything that's come before
lives on in our cells

Happy 198th birthday, Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. Some people have an impact on the world long after their bones have turned to dust.

1. Top photo taken at Port Townsend Bay.
2. Red-winged blackbirds in our backyard.
3. Red-breasted sapsucker in the neighborhood.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Leaving the World Behind

I don't know why, but I often want to start our Friday posts with: It's been a quiet week here at Lake Wobegone. I guess because it really has been quiet--days and days with no visible horizon. The clouds and fog moved in again, and we spent most of the week under a low-hanging ceiling of uniform gray, and a view that barely took in the boundaries of our property. Yes, it's slowly driving us crazy, but we slog on-- and who would notice anyway?
I spent a good part of the week reading a fine mystery novel The Liar's Diary written by fellow blogger, Patry Francis of Simply Wait. I don't usually read mysteries, but was so pleasantly surprised and drawn in by this engrossing and interesting story. Patry keeps you guessing all the way through, and the roller coaster ride of clues, details, and intrigue makes this a truly gripping whodunit. I give it five stars***** and two thumbs up!

I made myself put the book down, though, so we could leave the house and get out on one of our favorite trails. Even on the grimmest days, a walk along Chimacum Creek lifts our spirits. I told Roger that I don't know how I could put up with the news of the world, if I didn't have these fine sights to assuage my battered spirit. I wish I didn't take the world so seriously, but I do.
So, we walked and watched many water birds gather in the creek. Glad to see them in such numbers. While we watched them fly in from all directions, a coyote appeared on the other side of the creek. I thought for sure it would charge in after the birds, but it just sauntered along, until it was joined by another coyote. The two of them strolled a bit, sniffing under logs and low branches, before heading up into the hills.
It's why we walk out of our house, even on the dreariest of winter days. We look around, waiting for something to catch our eyes and pull us out from under the fog. We leave the world of news behind, of wars and tragedies, of trials and thieves, of presidential campaigns and netroots bloggers. We leave it all to come into the world where the wild things are.
I hope you have remembered to send your splendid good planets photo to Susannah at dccnet dot com. This week's theme is "earth." I like it. Check out Wanderin' Weeta for details.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

datil peppers now?

datil pepper seedlings, with thumb for scale

when we thought we were going to be gone for a month, before sanity prevailed, we rigged a plant sanctuary in our guest bathroom. we put the cherry tomato and basil seedlings on a box in the bathtub under an HPS (high pressure sodium) yard light, and set up a drip watering system. they have done reasonably well and have been moved to the house to live, lit by the sun in south facing windows. eager to see if my remaining datil seeds are still viable, i put several in starting soil and found space under the light for them.

that was a month ago. you can see how well they are faring. but now what? warm weather, even in the greenhouse, is months away. i am not good at thinning carrots or other vegetables. i will tuck extra starts in anywhere rather than let them die. some of you gardeners may be like wise afflicted. now i have tropical pepper plants. move over tomatoes.

here is one of the cherry tomato plants, complete with cherry tomatoes.

we bought some seeds. the peas will be planted outside soon. the carrots and broccoli and beets will be sown under a tunnel cloche. the rest will wait for warmer weather. yes, we will be buying more varieties of seed.

garlic. planted last fall. these shoots were up before we had snow. they went through weeks of freezing nights, down to 20F, and many days of 31F. tough plants. tasty too.


a bit of explanation about pictures and captions......we like to use centered captions, sometimes in small font. when we do, the rest of the text in the post is changed to single space, instead of the spacing you see now (we hope), which we prefer. thus------no captions!

Don't forget to send your Good Planets photos to Susannah of Wanderin Weeta. Her email is susannah at dccnet dot com.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Beauty of Nothing

I googled "nothing" and clicked on images. Found this:

The beauty of everything
Our junco is still alive. I googled "bird lives" and clicked on images. Thank you, Charlie Parker.

I have nothing to say. The bird lives.

Monday, February 05, 2007

An Individual Bird

I sent an email to Julie Zickefoose on Sunday. The subject line was "Is it Crazy to Save a Bird?" If you read Julie's blog you know she has a great reputation for rehabilitating a lot of birds (and other wild creatures, including a lawn-mower-chewed box turtle). Julie knows how to do it. We don't. We don't even know how to begin. Even if we decided to intervene, how do you get a bird into the bird-cage where it will be fed and cared for? Mmm? We can't just say, "Here birdy birdy, we'll take good care of you," in the same sing-song voice we use for the cat.

For the past three days, I've noticed an Oregon Junco in the yard. We often have 25-30 juncos at a time out there, so how could I identify just this one? Easy. It just doesn't move very much. When all the other birds scatter quickly spurred on by the arrival of the Stellar's Jay or the speedy and body-twisting Sharp-shinned Hawk, only one junco stays put, on the lawn, camouflaged by mounds of mole-strewn dirt. When this bird tries to fly, it merely flutters and barely gets three feet off the ground. It does get from here to there, from lawn to rock and back, but with difficulty and a heavy awkwardness. But once you've identified a sick or injured bird, then what? I went over to Dave's site, The Bird Learning Center, but the link to Help I've Found An Injured Bird was gone. What to do?

Fortunately, Julie was right there in Ohio, and emailed me back with excellent advice. She told us how we might try to capture the bird, if it seemed like it was something we were willing to do. She said I could take a thin, large towel out into the yard and toss it over the bird, being careful to pin it and pick it up. She told us how to hold it, and what to look for. It was like a 9-1-1 virtual call with a kind, smart and loving caretaker on the other end.

I went out into the yard, buoyed by her confidence. All the birds but our troubled one, scattered. He let me get so close I could almost just bend down and scoop him up. I took the towel and tossed it lightly over him. He quite spritely and smartly flew right out from under it. I was so dismayed. I just couldn't try again and stress him out any more than I had already done. So I just let him be.

He spent most of the afternoon in the yard. I've been keeping my eye on him. His stillness is sad and troubling. I promised myself I would try again on Monday, if he makes it through the night. I am so grateful for the help Julie gave me in real time. The internet makes the world seem small enough that sometimes I feel I could contain it in my heart.
On that note, we would like to take a moment to say farewell to Zeke, Chris Clarke's beautiful dog who died on Saturday. Chris's writing helped all of us fall in love with that wonderful dog. Good Zeke went out on his own terms, on his own beautiful wings. Farewell to Zeke. Our sympathies to Chris and Becky.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Our Pessimistic Perspective

We don't usually post on the weekends. It's how we acquired the "bums" part of our name. But the report by the IPCC has had us thinking and talking for two days. What can we say? We know the stakes are incredibly high, but we've come to the awful conclusion that humans won't rise to the occasion. (Sorry, we don't mean to bum you out.) We just don't think it's possible. Even a profound leader (I signed the Draft Gore petition) can not erase the six billion lives that draw on every last resource this planet has to offer. It's simply too late, and there are too many of us who want the same things.

Do you know anyone who is really able to change their lives to save the planet? Who doesn't need a car to get to work? Who knows a better way to heat their homes? Who can stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere? Who grows their own food? Who will agree to zero population, even if it means that they won't have children? Sure there are probably a handful of people who might be able to hide away in the woods and try to grow their food (like us), but we still drive, heat our house, leave a substantial footprint. Roger and I are somewhat anomalous, something Life Magazine might have covered 40 years ago-- a delightful cover feature-- people who have fled the city for rural life in their retirement years. But for the first time in human history more than half the world's population lives in urban centers. How can we alter the course of human endeavors and both maintain what is, and inexorably change it all to save the planet? That's the quest, isn't it?

We don't think it can be done. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. We should. We must all work together so at the very least we might have a moment where we can all look at each other as kindred spirits on the same whirling planet in space, working toward the same goal, without the pretense of borders and religions to separate us. Because, that's all we've ever been, everything else has been a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Then, maybe, we can all go down holding hands. (And that would be the optimistic ending, folks.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Spring in Winter

We're ignoring the avalanche of bad and crazy news coming out of Washington, DC and Paris. Well, really we're not ignoring it, we're just not going to comment on it. We have nothing profound to add. You know us and how we feel about the times we're living in. So here it is Friday, and we've just had a week of the most beautiful weather since November. It felt like spring, a true respite. Time for some pics and haiku.
rascally squirrel
eating last year's dried berries
amid thorny vines
treetop hunter waits
hopes something will shake loose, that
rascally squirrel

Don't forget to send your Good Planets photos to Susannah of Wanderin Weeta. Her email is susannah at dccnet dot com. We've added Good Planets carnival to Blog Carnival and have that very fine reminder in our sidebar. Check it out. Also check out the Flickr site to see the stunning gallery of photos that have been submitted since August. It's an ongoing celebration of our good earth. I hope you'll send something beautiful to Susannah. Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter Fog

Wednesday morning at 1:40 am, it's 29F (-1.6C) and we have our bedroom window wide open so we can have the cold brisk air on our faces when we sleep. I think we must have the genes of ice age wanderers in us. We love the chill, find it invigorating during the day and sleep inducing at night. We like lots of blankets piled on, in a cold room. Suddenly out of nowhere, the howling cry of a coyote splits the night air like a blade cleaving the silence from the darkness. Again. A different sound, another coyote. Their voices are so close we think they must be just beyond the fence no more than 150 feet away. They howl and chatter loud and crazy, a cackle or demonic laugh. I immediately think of Bev. I leap from the bed to get the camera. I know I'm not going to get a photo in the night, but Bev has recently recorded the coyotes at her place using her camera. The howling stops. We've heard the coyotes before, although never this close and never just in a single outburst like this. I expect another round. My heart is beating. I don't want to turn the light on to find the movie record setting. Silence. Our neighbor's motion sensor light goes on. Five minutes. It goes off. Silence. The coyotes have moved on without another sound. Gone.
It is almost too much to fall back to sleep. Those cries were so close and wild, we are full of adrenaline. Doze a bit, but awaken again. The night air fills with a muffling fog, and by morning the sunrise reflects the eerie night we've had.
Soon enough, though, the fog lifts completely. It's a perfectly clear blue-sky day at our house. So we head out to the Larry Scott Memorial trail to see if we might find our friends, the amorous eagles. But when we arrive we find the trail is still covered in fog all the way to the ground. We think it is a suitably beautiful match for our foggy state. We see no eagles, and the tree where they often perch is barely visible until we are directly beneath it. Off in the bay we hear the gulls crying and crying, but we can't see them either. Nothing happens, but this.


Don't forget to send your Good Planets photos to Susannah of Wanderin Weeta. Her email is susannah at dccnet dot com. We've added Good Planets carnival to Blog Carnival and have that very fine reminder in our sidebar. Check it out. Also check out the Flickr site to see the stunning gallery of photos that have been submitted since August. It's an ongoing celebration of our good earth. I hope you'll send something beautiful to Susannah.