Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Little Blue Heron

We live in a subdivision of cookie-cutter houses in South Laurel, called "Montpelier." There are many well-manicured lawns--not ours!!--with beautiful flowers. Some may say we fuss too much over our yards, but untamed nature carries on despite our efforts to shape and control the natural habitat. 

We saw a groundhog trundling along our backyard retaining wall. 

Last week a fox kit appeared beside the Japanese stone lantern in the yard down the street. 

The neighborhood coyote has been been caught on film as he's made his rounds. 

A doe and two fawns recently came to our yard to feast on persimmons from our curbside tree.  They paid little attention to passing cars.  After eating some fruit, the mother suddenly bolted toward the neighbor's back yard and her girls followed. 

On Monday, I raised the garage door and startled a hawk that had been roosting in our beech tree, assessing the birds at the feeders and in the birdbath as likely dinner prospects. This time he flew away, but we've seen him other times loitering under the bushes close to the feeders. 

On Tuesday, driving down Montpelier Drive, I saw a little blue heron coming in for a landing at the brook. This narrow brook, which runs behind the house on the corner, doesn't seem grand enough to be the home of such an impressive bird, so he may not be back. Still, who knows? 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Last Monarch of Summer

We raised 11 mail-order monarch butterflies this summer.  After they flew off, we were delighted to find a half-dozen wild caterpillars on our milkweeds. We waited for them to build chrysalises in our front yard, but one by one, they disappeared. We were so disappointed, and that's when we found out from some members of "The Beautiful Monarch" group on Facebook that we probably should have brought our wild caterpillars into the house to raise. 

On September 18th, I found a caterpillar on the holly bush. He was in the J-shape caterpillars assume just before they build their chrysalis. So we had a survivor after all! I had been looking for chrysalises on the milkweed plants, but learned from the Facebook group that caterpillars don't usually build their chrysalises on milkweeds. A day later, there was no sign of the J-shaped caterpillar, so I assumed we had lost him too.

Then, on September 20th, I spotted a chrysalis on our front porch, near the ceiling. If that was the holly-bush caterpillar, he'd made quite a journey. 

Ten days passed. Nothing happened. It had been cool and rainy, so we were afraid this little guy was never going to emerge. Then, two weeks after the chrysalis appeared, it began to darken, a welcome sign that a butterfly was on its way. Finally, around 7 AM on October 7th--again, it was cool and rainy--the butterfly emerged. He sat absolutely still for three hours. He was still perched motionless when I left the house after 10. When I got home around 2, the sun was shining and he was gone.

With Hurricane Matthew battering the east coast,  I hope he takes the inland route to Mexico.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Parody of a Nursery Rhyme

I went to the animal fair,

The birds and the Beast were there,

The big buffoon by the light of the moon

Was combing his windswept hair.

You ought to have seen the Trump,

He sat on the Elephant's rump,

The Elephant sneezed and fell on his knees,

And what became of the Trump, the Trump, the Trump, the Trump, the Trump?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 I read this book because many close relatives have been addicted to one substance or another. For myself, it’s sugar, and that’s been bad enough. My addicted relatives have suffered and lost much more than I. Now that our grandchildren are growing up, I want to learn as much as I can about addiction from a scientific perspective.

In 1985, I had an experience that convinced me that I know something about how people get hooked. That year, I got salmonella. I didn’t feel very sick at first, but after several weeks, my husband grew worried. I was losing weight and not eating. The mere sight of food was nauseating. He dragged me to the doctor. The doctor immediately put me in the hospital, where I was diagnosed with food poisoning. For a few days, I lived on jello. That was fine with me, because the mere thought of food was still disgusting. Then the doctor said, “They’re going to bring you breakfast tomorrow. You don’t have to eat it.”

The next morning, they left me with a cold, greasy-looking cheese omelet. I took just one bite and I can only say that my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. Pure pleasure! For the next year, I tried to recapture the “high”—if that’s what it was-- from that blissful first bite by eating lots and lots of cheese omelets, but that special moment never happened again.

Szalavitz’s book sets out to provide a “new way of understanding addiction.” It lives up to its promise. She sketches the history of addiction theory and treatment in America. For years we Americans could not make up our minds whether addiction is an illness or a moral failure or a bit of both. Svalavitz presents the case that it’s neither, but rather, a learning disorder. She challenges many of our cultural myths, including that of the “addictive personality” and the idea that you can be hooked with just one “hit.” There was so much in this remarkable book—autobiography, history, psychology, neuroscience—that I really welcomed her final chapter, “Neurodiversity and the Future of Addiciton, in which she not only summarizes the book but provides new ideas for coping with addiction.

I hope the following list of subheadings in her final chapter will make you want to read this book:

Drug exposure doesn’t cause addiction.
Set and setting matter—and can be more effectively controlled through regulation, not prohibition.
People can learn, even while addicted.
Punishment cannot solve a problem defined by its resistance to punishment.
Treatment must be reformed to be respectful.
Primary prevention should focus on coping, not drugs.
Harm reduction is the most important goal of drug policy.
Celebrating diversity—including “neurodiversity”—is critical to reform.

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