icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

WHAT THE WALRUS SAID--Our Authors' Blog--

BEAR CROOKS

 

 

I once worked at a zoo, as keeper of the bear-cub pit, overseeing twenty-eight orphaned baby bears, all roughhousing in their enclosure. I've been a bear fan ever since.

 

So the other day, on national public radio, I tuned into a Fresh Air interview with science-writer Mary Roach, author of a new book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. She got my attention right off, because she said "bears."

 

She talked about bear home invasions.

 

She said bears have learned how to use door handles to open doors. Sometimes they do break the door down, but they can be thoughtful about it. For instance, one bear knocked down a house's front door, then carefully picked up the fallen door and neatly leaned it against the adjacent wall.

 

My favorite bear crime was ice-cream theft. Mr. or Ms. Bear breaks into your house, bee-lines for your refrigerator, opens the freezer, and takes out the ice cream containers. However, says Mary Roach, the bears have become particular about ice cream.

 

They ignore supermarket-brand ice creams. If it's not Ben & Jerry's or Haagen-Dazs, or some other gourmet ice cream, they just leave it in disgust.  

 

Often, though, before lumbering out with their haul, they politely shut the freezer door.

 

Thanks for the bear uplift, Mary Roach. I'll be reading your book!

 

--Richard

Be the first to comment

BIRDHOUSE FOREST

 

 

South Hero Island, in Vermont, offers stunning views of Lake Champlain. It also offers "Birdhouse Forest."

 

Driving north, toward Canada, you pass a sign: "White's Beach." Look to your right.

 

Most travelers stop here, where a swamp borders the road, unsure what they're seeing.

 

Every tree sports a birdhouse, each in bright flower colors—rose, lilac, daisy, buttercup….

 

This might be a fairy city.

 

Even a few dinosaurs roam among the trees.

 

All this began when two neighbors learned tree swallows eat huge numbers of mosquitoes. Living beside a swamp, they had mosquitoes. So they decided to craft twenty swallow houses and put them up.

 

Swallows came, and flew through the swamp on mosquito hunts. So the neighbors put up more birdhouses, and more, and more….

 

Twenty years later, Birdhouse Forest is a swallow city, with 800 brightly colored birdhouses. For an added frisson, they installed carved wooden dinosaurs. Probably the reptiles wouldn't scare away mosquitoes, but still, worth a try.

 

Keep a lookout, driving America's back roads—you never know what you might see.

 

--Joyce

Be the first to comment

A BIRD IN A BUSH

 

 

One July afternoon, when I was ten, a classmate and I bicycled through the hills outside of town.

 

We rode through a tippy landscape of slopes and valleys, where brown-and-white Herefords grazed in green meadows, and maple and sycamore leaves riffled in the breeze.

 

In a small pond, on a floating log, a line of painted turtles sunbathed.

 

I took it in without noticing, the way we breathe.

 

And then, in a bush, a flash of blue—it startled me.

 

One sneaker planted on the road to balance, I stared.

 

I knew what it was, because my father had just returned from his annual session at furnace school, learning the new models, and he'd brought me a gift: The Golden Nature Guide to Birds, 112 Birds in Full Color.

 

I'd never particularly noticed birds. Now, having gone through that book, page by page, mesmerized by the golds and oranges and scarlets, and the sharp black eyes, I knew what I saw in that bush.

 

Indigo bunting.

 

Blue as the zenith.

 

In a moment, it vanished, deeper into the foliage, I suppose.

 

Many decades later, I still remember that indigo flash, so stunning it seemed a message.

 

Message received, but never fully understood.

 

Keep alert, I guess. That would be one thing.

 

Because, any time, you could pedal past a marvel, thinking about something else.

 

You'd miss it.

 

--Richard 

Be the first to comment

SWIMMING WITH MONSTERS

 

 

After he anchored his boat at the reef, the ichthyologist let us choose—Richard opted for aqualung, Joyce for snorkel.

 

Here, not far out from George Town, the Grand Cayman Island capital, we looked down through perfectly clear Caribbean waters at black bat shapes gliding across the white sand bottom.

 

A moment later, we swam among them. They looked like B-2 Spirit strategic stealth bombers.

 

Sting rays.  

 

We should have been frightened of creatures that looked so lethal. In fact, the Australian conservationist and zookeeper, Steve Irwin, died after accidentally disturbing one and receiving a sting to the chest.

 

Yet, we felt no fear. We felt charmed.  

 

As Joyce snorkeled near the surface, rays flew up and swam with her, gently flapping their huge wings. She felt surrounded by friendly dogs.

 

Richard, near the bottom with his aqualung, found himself escorted by a squadron of the black animals, each the size of a dining room table. One swam up from behind and wrapped its wings around him, scuba gear and all.

 

And what Richard would always remember, looking into those brown eyes—sentience.

 

Maybe humanity doesn't need to go as far as the stars.  

 

We can find intelligent alien life here on Earth, and in its waters.

 

—Joyce & Richard

Be the first to comment

SIMON SAYS

 

Simon says: "Top O' the Mornin' to you!"

 

He wants everyone to see him in his St. Patrick's Day outfit. Mainly, he just likes everyone to see him. 

 

He's a Pembroke Welsh corgi, not Irish, but he feels that's close enough. 

 

He lives with our good friends in Virginia, Clarissa and George, who sent us this photo for him, because Simon has no computer skills. For that kind of thing, he says, "See my people about that." 

 

He also says, "Eat your heart out, poodles--cuter than this it doesn't get!"

 

--Joyce & Richard

Be the first to comment

WHAT IS YOUR DOG THINKING?

 

 

 

We met a woman today who noticed the t-shirt one of us wore, with a picture of a Pembroke Welsh corgi on the front.

 

Our best friend, we said. He'd been astonishingly bright.

 

So she told us about her dog—also now gone—a Bernese mountain dog, with some collie mixed in.

 

"He was a genius," she said.

 

As evidence, she told us how one of her cats would escape, out to the meadow, where  danger lurked. Coyotes, for instance.

 

So she would tell the Bernese mountain dog: "Go find the cat."

 

Off he'd go, into the meadow, sniffing for cat. When he found her, he had no way to bring her home. So he'd gently place his huge paw on her and press her down.

 

Then he would wait for the lady to come and retrieve her imprisoned cat.

 

Later that day, our friend Eric visited us, with Murdock, a west highland terrier. We told him how impressed we'd been with that Bernese mountain dog's intelligence..

 

Eric looked unimpressed.

 

"Sometimes my cat disappears in the house," he said.

 

He stared down at Murdoch.

 

"Where's kitty?" he said. "Find kitty."

 

Immediately Murdock went hunting her. Is she behind the television? Under the bed? Did she sneak into the pantry?

 

This was our house, with no cat. However, Murdock diligently looked for her. Just like that Bernese mountain dog, he understood—"Find kitty."

 

So, double proof—some dogs know exactly what you're talking about.

 

--Joyce and Richard

Be the first to comment

PROTONS, ANTI-PROTONS, AND BISON

 

 

After I left O'Hare, I drove  out of Chicago, then through farmlands and hamlets, until a futuristic skyscraper loomed on the horizon—Fermilab.  

 

Scientists took me down into the buried accelerator, a subterranean ring, 3.9-miles around, where they crashed protons into anti-protons, to study the debris.

 

That's how physicists here discovered the "top quark."

 

I had a day rife with bosons and gravitons, gluons and photons, and chalkboards covered with equations—finally I had spinning head syndrome. So I went outside, taking a break.

 

Sunshine, and a tremendous gabbling of waterbirds.

 

Fermilab's accelerator generated tremendous heat, which went up into a surface pond to radiate off into the atmosphere. Always warm, steaming even in January, that pond became a heaven for ducks and geese.

 

I wandered off to look at the lab's approximately one-thousand acres of reconstituted tall-grass prairie. Something moved behind those thick grasses, tall as a basketball player, and the grasses parted—I gazed at the enormous head of a bison.

 

Fermilab maintains a herd of bison, currently 32, with little bison born annually, aiming to preserve a bit of the ancient prairie.

 

So, under my feet, subatomic bits of energy whizzed and collided. Down there, I suppose, and in the skyscraper, our future understanding of reality's underpinnings is evolving. Up here, I'd stepped back centuries, to when giant grasses covered the prairies, and vast herds of bison roamed.

 

After all that, heading back to Chicago to catch my plane, I found I'd lost my rental car in the lab's huge parking lot. I had to enlist security guards in a patrol cruiser to drive me around until I found my wheels.

 

There's meaning in all that, I think. Someday, maybe, I'll figure it out.

 

--Richard   

Be the first to comment

THANKSGIVING VISITATION

 

 

We woke early this frosty Thanksgiving morning, and looked down from our third-story apartment at our building's little park, with a hillside meadow beyond—we saw a fox.

 

A handsome red fox, healthy and robust, with an extravaganza of a tail. It stalked the mowed meadow, sharp eyes alert for mice, ears pricked.

 

For a moment, it strolled along the park's macadam walking path, just as its twin pranced up, equally handsome and healthy and robust.

 

We thought: the Magnificent Mr. Fox, and the equally Magnificent Mrs. Fox. They brought beauty into our morning, and wild joy.  

 

In a moment they hurried up the knoll, and over, and were gone.

 

We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Right now, though, most of all, perhaps, we're thankful that, in this world, there are foxes.

 

--Richard and Joyce

Be the first to comment

ERIC AND MURDOCK

 

This photograph shows our friends Eric Morse and Murdock, the West Highland Terrier, just after they won yet another "six-legged race," meaning one human and one dog.

 

We think this photograph speaks for itself.

 

--Joyce

Be the first to comment

REEVE IN MAY

  

Reeve, pictured above, is sending us all a message.

 

We told Reeve's story five blog posts back—

 

Bad situation in her native Louisiana, then adopted by Ben Power, a Broadway musician, who gave her such a warm new home that people ask us: "Who is that man who's so wonderful with that dog?"

 

Ben's been traveling back and forth to the city—his show, Come From Away, is due to revive from covid dormancy in September, with practice sessions already underway. His friend Maggie has watched over Reeve while he's away, and she took this photo.

 

She says: "Doesn't this picture speak volumes about the simple pleasures in life?"

 

It does, and Reeve can add to that message—In springtime, to lie in new green grass and sniff the violets brings peace.    

 

--Joyce & Richard

1 Comments
Post a comment