Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright

Parts of this, like the first bit, were fascinating and quite humorous (in a nerdy way, maybe).  Like all the funny wordplay taxonomists engage in while naming new species.  Like the accidental humor stemming from not-so-clever taxonomists or from juicy scientific intrigue.  And I love this line:  "The 'Linnaean system' is still what people think of on the rare occasions they think about taxonomy at all."

It was all quite well written, but I did think a few sections were too slow and detailed for the average layman.  I learned a lot (though there was so much information I'm not sure how much I'll retain, and some left me only with a basic grasp of the topic). 

Though I know that Latin names for plants and animals sometimes change (I've been researching cactus and a couple of important local species have changed scientific names between the publications of various sources), I've always rather thought of them as consistent, as more reliable than the multiple and changeable and fallible common names.  This book, more than anything, disillusioned me about that.  Well, they're still more consistent than common names, but they're not consistent.  But I guess it's good that our names can bend and change along with our ever-expanding knowledge. 

I did find it a bit condescending (or maybe just overly academic) when the author complained about so many cultures and scientists in the past classifying plants by unscientific principles such as…gasp…what is edible and what is poisonous and what is medicinal.  Those seem very logical and pragmatic categories to me.  Even now, if I get lost in the wilderness, I'm afraid I'd rather know what's edible than which genera are most closely related in the evolutionary tree.

I still don't think I'll ever remember more than a few Latin names, despite how much I love nature.  Maybe I should make it my new goal.   

I recommend this for anyone interested in the topic and unafraid of some deep delving and a LOT of Latin. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I love this book and have always loved the old Disney movie with Megan Follows.  I think that some of Anne's sentiments shaped my world view.  Like the thought about how if she really wanted to pray, she'd go out in a big field and look up at the sky and just feel a prayer.  And her habit of naming natural places.  In my hikes in the hills above Vsetin, I've names the parts of my two favorite trails, things like "The Meadow at the Top of the World," "Giants in the Mist," "The Sacred Grove," "Deer Crossing," "Escher's Woods," and, of course, "Green Gables."  I totally agree with Anne that there's more "scope for the imagination" in nature. 

I love the character of Anne:  the funny and over-dramatic things she says, the scrapes she gets in, her unique way of looking at things.  I was in love with Gilbert when I was younger.  I love Marilla and Mathew and Diana.  I quote Anne regularly.  It's a great book.

Reading now, being used to the style of today's novels, some of it does feel a little clunky—the long (though pretty and character-driven) descriptions of nature, people talking to themselves in a way that feels awkward, since it's the style now to use internal thoughts instead of internal dialogue, the slightly rushed feel toward the end, etc.

Despite the old-fashioned style, it's withstood the test of him.  I love it.

And it's such a beautiful thing to have a warm, mostly happy, non-violent, loving book. 

In all honesty, if I were reading it for the first time today, I might only give it a 4.5 because of the above-mentioned characteristics.  But it's too much a part of my life and childhood to not love it with all my heart. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Birds of Pandemonium; Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered by Michelle Raffin

This was a very interesting and absorbing book—and I'm not even a birder (though I do love reading about animals and wildlife).

I loved the stories of individual birds and their relationships with each other and their people.

I loved the way the family's life transformed, all beginning with one little injured bird on the side of the road.

I loved the warmth on so many pages.

I love the pictures—though not all the animals Raffin talked about were represented.

It did skip around confusingly in a few places, and sometimes the chapters (which were mostly more like individual essays) would end on what felt like cliffhangers that were not really resolved in the next chapter (or ever).

But what an unexpected pleasure—this random book I found on the library shelves. 

Recommended to anyone interested in animals.

4+ stars

Michelle Raffin with a Victoria crowned pigeon:

Friday, September 7, 2018

Unexpected Wildlife on the Mogollon Rim

On my mid-August trip to the Mogollon Rim, Arizona, I saw several sets of deer, including two nice little bucks, but didn't get pictures of them.  Also saw some osprey and other unidentified birds of prey, beautiful Albert's squirrels, and three small groups of elk:

But the most unexpected and exciting wildlife encounter was near dark on the empty dirt road going toward our campsite.  I'd been out looking for deer or elk, with no success, and was walking down the road, not a care in the world, listening to the crickets chirping and the beetles buzzing.  Then one buzzed really loud.  It took me a second to realize it wasn't buzzing, and it wasn't an insect.  That bzzzz was actually tttttttt.  There, right in front of me in the middle of the road was a black rattlesnake, sprawled out almost lazily but with his head raised and curled toward me.  Rattling furiously and probably hissing (too dark to see).  I backed up and let him be.  He stopped rattling.  After a minute or so, he started slithering away.  I tried to get a picture, but even using my flashlight as a spotlight, here's the sad result:

Yeah...there's nothing to see. 

I'm sure glad my little friend rattled.  I would have walked right past him...or on him..if he hadn't.  As you can imagine, I was a bit jumpy after the encounter, shining my flashlight on any remotely snake-like shadow in the near darkness.  I'd never seen a rattler at that high of elevation, though I know they exist, and members of my family and I have seen them with regularity in the somewhat lower Pinal mountains above Globe.

This is only the third rattlesnake that's rattled at me in my life.

Once I knew I was safe, it was pretty cool.  But the next day when I was bushwhacking through tall grasses, I carried a snake stick.  :)


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bear Canyon Lake, Arizona

This is Bear Canyon Lake in the Rim Lakes area of the Mogollon Rim.  On the beautiful day we went, there were only 2.5 other boats on the whole lake (the point five boat was this strange fishing contraption where you pretty much sat half submerged in the water and paddled around with your feet.) 

I think the quietness is because it's a bit of a drive on a dirt road and there's no boat ramp, so we had to haul my new inflatable kayak down the trail to the lake--something we could never have done with our huge canoe.  However, I hear there's alternate access from the road to the east of the lake, if you ever decide to go with your small carry-able boat.  Either way, on the upstream end we had the entire lake to ourselves.  So peaceful.

We saw two huge tree-top nests which might have belonged to the ospreys who were flying around. 

Very nice place.

And on the drive back, we saw this:

Not as exciting as the bear my dad and brother once saw near Bear Canyon Lake, but thrilling nonetheless. 

I love the Rim.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Flowers on the Mogollon Rim

To compete with a whole kingdom of mushrooms showing off for me,
the wildflowers put on their finest and pranced in the breeze.

Rim Lakes area of the Mogollon Rim, Arizona
Mid August of a good mushroom and flower year