Reproduction

We all know, or should know, the danger of global warming to our futures, but most people are unaware of another very real danger. Did you know that sperm counts are dropping and women are having more problems with egg quality? There are more miscarriages today and more genital abnormalities in infant boys. Girls are reaching puberty at an earlier age. These problems are not just in humans, but also in animals, fish and amphibians. 

Shanna H. Swan, an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has sounded the alarm in her new book, “Count Down.” Swan states that from 1973 to 2011 sperm count fell by 59%. The question is why and Swan says that the problem is endocrine disruptors which are in chemicals that fool the body’s reproductive cells. This plays disaster on the sexual development of fetuses. These chemicals are in almost everything we touch, canned foods, cosmetics, even ATM receipts. Chemical companies lobby against safety testing of these endocrine disruptors and that leaves us unaware of the dangers we face.

There are those who have other theories about the reproductive changes seen over the past few years but the World Health Organization and other professional groups, such as the Endocrine Society warn about endocrine disruptors. Canada and some countries in Europe have regulated these chemicals but the United States has not. We need to let our representatives in the Congress know of our awareness and concern. 

What else can be done to protect against these chemicals? Swan suggests storing food in glass rather than plastic, not microwaving in plastic, buying organic produce and avoiding pesticides. 

Photos by Pixabay

Surprise Visitor

Recently, I was on a camping trip with my daughter. I wondered whether I’d be able to sleep in a camper since it had been many years since I had camped. I needn’t have worried. I went to sleep easily in the crisp air of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. In the middle of the night there was a crunching sound near our trailer. I thought that it must be Allison’s dog, Jackson. Allison found the flashlight and bravely opened the camper door to find our midnight visitor!

Photo by Allison Puckett

Adolescent Eagles

If you have not looked in on the Florida eagles lately, you should do so before they fly away. Although only about 2 1/2 months old they are testing their big wings. E17 and E18 won’t reside in the nest much longer. They are fledging further each day. https://swfleaglecam.com/?fbclid=IwAR36G6NPVtbd8mT_aIDtSGwzcHc7wlPf-CK6pupVCHa86zUFoAjlJBgtl5I

If you don’t know their interesting first days you can catch up here: https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/06/eagles/

E17 & E18 at the rehabilitation center 2/6/21

Tiny Shining Star by Sylvia

tiny shining star

twinkle

tiny shining star…

beyond the night

away so far…

in darkest depths 

of sunless skies…

your sparkling 

leaves me mesmerized…

even in 

the light of day…

you shine 

though millions of miles away…

oh star

that in the dark of night…

guides us

with celestial light…

your mysteries 

i’m left to ponder…

my eyes so filled

with awestruck wonder

Sylvia L. Mattingly, February 6, 2021

Photos by Pixabay

Eagles’ Nests

A few days ago I shared with you the adventures of a bald eagle family in Florida. I hope that you have checked in on the live cam awaiting their return to the nest. If not, take a look at: https://dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html

Looking at that huge nest which is home to this family got me thinking about the wonder of how nests are built. All birds build nests but none in North America as large and sturdy as those of bald eagles. I did a little research and this is what I learned.

Both males and females work together to carry the materials and design the nest but the female does more of the actual placement of the pieces that construct the home. The eagles’ nest can be as much as eight feet across, twelve feet deep and weigh over one ton! The interior of the bowl is lined with soft down from the parents and other materials such as lichen or sod. The sticks used in construction are large and can sometimes be carried in the parent’s talons for miles. It takes approximately three months to complete the huge nest and this process just precedes the female laying her eggs. Most bald eagle pairs use their nests for many years, they simply do a little renovation as necessary. This process results in the nest growing in size and weight each year and it may be used for over thirty years. It is also believed that the couple working on the nest together strengthens their bond.

Placement of the nest can be in any type tree or when unavailable even on the ground or on a cliff. The taller the tree the better so that there is the ability for the parents to observe the surroundings for danger. Nests are usually near a river or lake for foraging for fish for the babies to eat.

The source of some of this information is Journey North.org and Photos are by Pixabay

Eagles

Off and on for the past several years I have watched bald eagle families on a live cam in Florida. It is sponsored by a realty company and has four cameras active at all times. The main one is aimed into the nest and lets you watch the entire process from egg laying through hatching and then much later the young ones taking their first flights. 

The other three cameras show the surrounding area including a pond where the parents forage for fish. You can see the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam at: https://dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html 

On January 23, this year, two eaglets (E17 & E18) hatched on the same day which is unusual. For several days we watched as they were loving fed by H (Harriet) the Mom, and M the Dad. They were wonderful parents in every way. On January 29 I was devastated, as I’m sure were all watchers, when the nest was empty. There was a typed message that they had been removed by CROW. I was so sad to think that those little balls of fluff were kidnapped and no doubt killed by a crow. 

It took a while for me to learn that CROW stood for the Clinic for Rehabilitation for Wildlife! The clinic staff had noticed that E17 and E18 had an eye problem. Their eyes were partly shut and had an exudate and CROW swooped in to help. Using a cherry-picker to reach the nest they took the eaglets and moved them to the clinic for treatment. 

Although this is a good thing that they were able to help the little ones, it was still very sad to see Harriet and M sitting on the branches of the tree looking out and wondering where their babies had gone. 

An update stated that the eaglets were doing well and should be put back in the nest after two weeks of treatment. By my calculations that should be around February 12 so I stopped watching the sad empty nest and grieving parents. To my surprise on Friday, Feb. 5 a friend texted me with the exciting news that the babies were back so, of course, I started to watch the little ones all alone in the nest. It was sad and scary. Hour after hour passed and I wondered if the parents were going to return. I was so afraid that the eaglets would become weak from no food. I knew that CROW staff was watching the camera and knew more about the situation than I did, but still I worried.

Finally, in late afternoon the parents returned. They took turns with E17 and E18, brooding, feeding, fluffing the nest. Isn’t nature wonderful? You can now check in on this bald eagle family anytime you choose. Over the weeks ahead they will grow, explore and eventually take their first flight. We can enjoy the progression and look forward to H and M’s next brood.

E17 & E18 at the CROW clinic (Photo by USA Today)

Title photo by Pixabay

MY GINGKO by Sylvia

my gingko

of origins that rise

from lands of jade

with fan-shaped leaves

so fittingly displayed

a crown of yellow foliage

fills my view

so strikingly 

against a sky so blue

then suddenly they fall 

without a sound

yellow leaves now drifting 

to the ground 

a skirt of gold 

now lying at my feet

a treasure where the 

earth and heaven meet

in nakedness your winter bones laid bare

your massive furrowed trunk

left standing there

a monument of centuries gone by

this living fossil rising to the sky

by Sylvia L. Mattingly

November 12, 2020

Monarchs

Monarchs hatch on milkweed plants in North America and then spend the winter in Mexico. Twenty years ago, there were at least a billion Monarchs in North America and now there are ninety-three million thanks to herbicides*. Shame on us.

Since we as humans are responsible for this loss we need to do something about it. First, stop spraying poisons! Second, save a little space to plant milkweed, which is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat, and other native plants for nectar. If we all do a little bit it can make a big difference.

Many flowers are terrific sources of nectar for monarch butterflies. They include purple and yellow cone flowers, sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, daisies, verbena and many more. This is a good time to make definite plans for spring. My daughter, Dianne, has a butterfly garden each year that includes milkweed and native flowers.

 

* Source: “Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl, New York Times contributor

 

Photos by Pixabay

Late Migrations

Monday Book Review

“Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl

This is another book borrowed from a friend, that I would not have chosen to buy, but which I thoroughly enjoyed. I keep wanting to call this a “feel good” book, but then I recall that it contained some painful stories of disappointment and loss.  Somehow the author manages to make these comforting along with all her accounts of kids, birds, and butterflies.

“Late Migrations” is a compilation of short stories and that makes it easy to pick up and put down at leisure. I recommend this book which is filled with love.

Margaret Renkl is an opinion writer for The New York Times where her essays appear weekly.

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AUTUMN CLEMATIS

The Plant From Hell

We moved into our new condo in the spring of 2013 leaving behind a big yard and koi ponds and all kinds of trees and flowers. The condo has a small courtyard with a patio and room for a few plants. When it came to plants my husband never understood “few.” He worked all summer filling the soil with every plant he could think of and some he knew nothing about. By the time I added a few herbs the space was completely filled with hydrangea, crepe myrtles, rosebushes, honeysuckle, nandina, ferns and more.

In the summer of 2014 Raymond got to enjoy his courtyard planting, admiring his small plants showing signs of growth. In the winter Raymond died leaving me to care for his garden. I tried, I really did. I enjoyed the roses. I fought the Japanese Beetles. I mulched and watered, fed and trimmed and now all these years later I have a jungle.

I had quickly learned the nandina was invasive, but I was in for a big surprise this summer when I saw the Autumn Clematis from one end of the courtyard to the other. It was beginning to cover up most everything. My daughter, Dianne, is a Master Gardener and with a little research she informed me that this was not going to stop spreading . . . ever. As you can see from the title photo here it is nothing like an ordinary clematis but is quite pretty with delicate little blooms.

Dianne came to my rescue yesterday and dug up the plant from hell as well as the unruly honeysuckle and invasive nandina. I now have clear space in my courtyard and it looks so much better. I also have, five tall bags of trimmings and roots to dispose of and feel a little guilty for removing things that were planted with so much love.

Save the Land and its People!

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit Indigenous communities in the United States the hardest. Just weeks ago, the Navajo Nation had the highest per capita rate of cases in the entire country. Yet in the midst of this unprecedented global crisis, the current administration is seizing the opportunity to open more fracking and drilling in the Greater Chaco region in New Mexico. The Chaco area contains the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico. The park preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas in the United States per Wikipedia.

This plan could add up to around 3,000 new oil and gas wells to the area, threatening the safety of the local air and water — and pumping out exactly the kind of catastrophic pollution that makes people even more susceptible to dying from coronavirus. During this pandemic, corporate polluters have been handed free rein to move forward with dangerous fossil fuel extraction on public lands — including those around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Please let your Congressional representatives know that this would harm communities and destroy lands forever. Tell them you want them to stop this destruction!

SOURCE: Natural Resources Defense Council Environmental Advocacy Group

Chaco Ruins
Photos by Pixabay

Bird

A few days ago I heard an alarmingly loud noise and had no idea what had happened. As I walked to the front of my condo I saw that a bird had flown into my storm door. It was lying lifelessly on my porch. Remembering what my husband had done in similar circumstances years earlier, I carefully picked it up, cupped it in my hand, and gently rubbed its tiny back. Slowly one eye opened and then the other opened halfway and gradually it started to move. After several minutes I put it carefully on the ground and watched as it moved its legs and then its wings. I was not relieved for there was something badly wrong with this little one.

As the hours passed I watched it have numerous seizure-like attacks. Its head would go down into the grass or mulch where it sat and then its wings would stretch out and it would flutter around and around. It was hard to watch and I felt sure it would die from its head injury. I even considered putting it out of its misery, but couldn’t make myself do it. I was afraid something would harm it overnight, so I tried putting it in a box on a soft cloth so that I could put it into my garage but it became more frightened and agitated so I took it back out and put it under a shrub for the night. I’m am sure the birdie got no more sleep than I did.

The next morning he was a few feet from where I left him and seemed much stronger and was not having the seizures. I left it there and went for a walk. When I came back she was in the street! I guess it’s too late to make a long story short, but I’ll try. After a very long day of watching the bird and having help from the neighbors who fed and watered it with me, after many calls I reached a “bird rehabilitator”.

By now the birdie was so much better and except for one half-closed eye and the fact that it wasn’t flying it seemed in pretty good condition. Back into the box it went for the drive to the woman’s house who had agreed to help it rehabilitate. The woman, Mary, gently lifted it from the box, and confirmed that it was a female house finch. She took it into her home and I am so grateful that this little one has an adequate caregiver after two days with me as I played it by ear while following my heart.

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“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.” Victor Hugo

The Arctic Refuge

The Arctic Refuge in Alaska is home to polar bears and migrating caribou. It also promises wealth from oil. After over sixty years of protection, the current administration has just finalized plans to open the area to drilling and fracking. “I do believe there could be a lease sale by the end of the year,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.

Republicans since Ronald Reagan have worked to claim the fossil fuels in Alaska’s coastal  plains. The current Democratic presidential nominee does not favor drilling, but if it passes now, undoing it will be difficult if not impossible once the lease rights have been auctioned to energy companies.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge spans 19 million acres in northeastern Alaska. Alaskan lawmakers support drilling. Because of its likely effect on climate and wildlife environmental activists including Native Americans are strongly opposed. In this time of pandemic and civil unrest, it is easy to miss such actions that will affect our children and their children. We need to be vocal about our concerns by contacting our lawmakers whether we are for or against this and other actions.

 

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Photos by Pixabay

EPA

Please read this post from January 2019:         https://crookedcreek.live/2019/01/23/pollinators/

Here we are sixteen months later and the EPA has finally begun to acknowledge what research has shown for years: that neonic pesticides pose serious risks to bees, birds, other wildlife — and even human health. But, rather than taking sweeping measures to crack down on neonics, the EPA is pushing to continue allowing widespread neonic use all over the country, including on food crops.

Bees in particular, are necessary for successful food crops and their numbers have been reduced by over 90% in large part by the neonic products listed in the above referenced post. During the current corona virus pandemic many are worried about our food supply chain. We need to be more aware and concerned about how the lack of pollinators and neonic use will affect our agriculture in the future.

What Can We Do?

  • We can plant flowers for the pollinators
  • We can refrain from the use of insecticides
  • We can contact the EPA and complain about their lack meaningful action
  • We can call our US Representatives and Senators’ offices and express our concern about the EPA’s inaction

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Source: NRDC

 

 

The Earth Could Heal

the earth could heal

if we were gone
the earth could heal
we see the evidence
now that viral pandemonium
has herded us into seclusion
nature has begun to breathe again…
the air and water have cleared
as we have been forced
to shrink back in isolation
but even after this pandemic
has passed
will we have seen the difference
will we ever understand
that one day the earth might die
for it requires care and respect
and its resources are finite
we pillage and plunder
to make our lives more
convenient and comfortable
and we are never satisfied…
we will always want more…
we will take until
there is nothing left to give…
like Shel Silverstein’s “Giving Tree”
we have been given a level
of intelligence
that supersedes all…
and a sharp conscience
with which to hone wisdom
if only we were good stewards…
if only we could live
in balance and harmony
but just remember
that the earth could heal
the earth could heal
if we were gone
Sylvia L. Mattingly, May 8, 2020
Written during the Covid-19 pandemic that has rocked our world.
I feel passionate about how we affect our planet and Mother Nature.
We only have one home, and we’d better take care of it.
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Photo by Pixabay

Earth Day

Earth Day 2020

Earth Day began as a response to oil spills, smog, and polluted rivers. On April 22, 1970, over 20 million Americans protested the crisis and demanded changes to protect the environment. This first Earth Day launched The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other countries followed suit and eventually, the United Nations signed the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The theme for this 50th anniversary of Earth Day is climate action. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of life on planet Earth. We all can and must be involved to make a difference. Our children’s and grandchildren’s lives depend on us.

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“Earth Day 1970 was irrefutable evidence that the American people understood the environmental threat and wanted action to resolve it.” Barry Commoner

 

Photo by Pixabay

Pangolin

Ever hear of a Pangolin? Me either, until recently. We might never have known about this unusual animal had it not been for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeping China since December of 2019.

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These unusual mammals are scaly anteaters who curl into a ball when threatened. Various species live mostly in Asia and Africa. As potential transmitters of COVID-19 and because of deforestation they are gravely endangered of becoming extinct. Pangolins eat ants and termites and believe it or not people eat them! They are the most trafficked non-human mammals in the world both for their meat and their scales. While the scales have no known medical value they are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The meat is a delicacy in China and that is where the transfer of the virus comes into play.

These shy nocturnal animals are now more endangered of being killed needlessly in the wild because of the fear of COVID-19. Recently there was a Pangolin Day to recognize this danger and to inform the world of these harmless animals’ plight.

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Summer

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The writing prompt today is, “What is your idea of the perfect summer?” I will share my idea of the perfect summer first and look for your ideas in response.

The Perfect Summer

First, there would be lots of sunshine, of course, but also rains. I love to hear it raining, whether a pitter-patter or a hearty downpour. When I was little I could hear the rain so clearly on the windows at home or my grandparents’ tin roof. With our big houses today and abundant insulation it is rare to hear rain as it hits the ground or other hard surfaces. I miss that.

 

Photos by Pixabay

 

Where Would You Go?

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I love to write but once in a while, I seem to slow down to the point of having nothing to say. I’ve told other bloggers that I do not like to use writing prompts for my blog, but I’ve recently changed my mind. My Granddaughter gave me a book entitled “300 More Writing Prompts” and I’ve found some ideas to use here on Crooked Creek. I’d always seen these writing helps as places to write my private thoughts, but this book has prompts that spurred me to share some ideas with you.

The prompt I chose for today is “If you could book a flight for anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” I required no time to think about an answer: the Galapagos Islands is where I would go. If I had a bucket list this would be on it. There are animals, fish, birds, and plants there that exist in no other spot on the planet.

It is a group of islands in the Pacific around the equator. Ninety-seven percent of the islands is designated as a National Park and therefore protected. In the past, some non-native species have been introduced which upset the natural habitat, but Ecuador’s measures to protect wildlife should prevent recurrences.

Where Would You Go?

“If you could book a flight for anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?”

 

Nature photos by Pixabay

Save the Bees

The Good News

Bees have been declared the most important living being on the planet by the Earthwatch Institute. Seventy percent of the world’s agriculture depends exclusively on bees for pollination which enables plants to reproduce. A study conducted in Chili with the support of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), concluded bees are the only living being that does not carry any type of pathogen, viral, fungal or bacterial.

The Bad

Alarmingly almost 90% of the world’s bee population has disappeared in the past few years, putting bees on the endangered species list. The main reasons for the loss of these tiny helpers are the uncontrolled use of pesticides, a lack of flowers, and deforestation.

According to Greenpeace, we can restore and protect the world’s bees using ‘common sense actions’ such as banning the most dangerous pesticides, protecting pollinator health by preserving wild habitat and restoring ecological agriculture.

You can help save the BEES!  https://engage.us.greenpeace.org/onlineactions/syPysRdalUKLC5HuhjTFKA2?_ga=2.163208949.837567094.1571055076-1018024124.1571055076

Bees on Blossoms in GermanyBiene auf einer Bluete
Greenpeace Photo

Read more about dangerous pesticides and the EPA’s lack of action at https://crookedcreek.live/2019/01/23/pollinators/

A Bird Emergency

We are bombarded with data and sometimes I believe we become indifferent toward predictions and warnings. When it comes to the loss of birds in our environment we do so at our peril. “Birds are important indicator species because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people, too,” according to Brooke Bateman, a senior climate scientist for the National Audubon Society.

We learned earlier this year that North America has already lost one-third of its bird population. For bird-lovers this is tragic and the future looks grimmer. New data points toward an even more frightening future. Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records from the US, Canada, and Mexico. The results of that study revealed that by 2021 two-thirds of America’s birds will be threatened with extinction if temperatures rise by 5.4 degrees.

Birds on this planet are like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. They can only warn us. It is up to us limit greenhouse gases and to see to it that our government protects the environment before it is too late.

Photos by Pixabay

Baby Birds

Helping Baby Birds

First, it is important to know it is illegal to injure or possess an indigenous bird. There are special facilities such as Raptor Rehab licensed to rehabilitate injured birds, but most veterinarians do not have the resources nor experience to handle injured wild birds.

When birds first leave the nest they are not fully able to fly and spend two or three days on or near the ground. Pet owners need to keep cats and dogs indoors during these sensitive nesting times.

What to do if you find a baby bird out of its nest:

First of all, determine whether or not the bird is injured. If it is not, make sure there are no animals nearby that might harm the bird. If a bird is found on the ground, gently replace it in its nest. It is not true bird parents will not care for a baby once it has been touched by a human.

If the nest is unsafe, place the bird in a small basket and nail the basket to the tree near the original nest, out of direct sunlight. If a basket is unavailable, a small plastic container with holes punched in the bottom to prevent drowning will do. From a distance keep an eye on the baby to see if the parents return. If they do not return in an hour call your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for help.

If the basket idea sounds far fetched to you, let me assure you it works. I have witnessed this successfully twice when my husband and later my daughter used a basket to save baby birds.

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If the bird is injured

  • Do not give the bird any food or water!
  • Prepare a small cardboard box by punching holes in the sides and top for ventilation
  • Gently place the bird on a towel or soft cloth in the box and place the box in a dry warm spot
  • Call your nearest DNR or rehabilitation center

Source: Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc.

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”                          David Attenborough

Photos by Pixabay

The Cusp

the cusp

“a point of transition between two different states”…

i feel it in myself
along with the first falling leaves
from the sycamores and poplars…
and the desiccated brown umbels
of Queen Anne’s lace

i hear it in the shrill cicada song
as it’s tireless droning
runs through my head…
and in the plop of acorns as they begin to hit the ground

i see it in the shrunken creek beds
that lie lazy and shallow…
and in the trees and grass
that have lost all their luster

i hear it in the rustle of corn stalks
once emerald green,
now parched and thirsty across
a rain-starved land

for everything has a season…
a time to be on the cusp…
a point of transition
from one state to the next

and i felt it
as it began
with the drifting down
of that first, tired, rusted leaf…

Written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly
September 6, 2019

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Hummers

It’s September and I am sitting at my desk looking out into the courtyard where I have a hummingbird feeder. I’ve seen one hummingbird off and on all summer, but today the air seems full of the little hummers as they dart from bloom to feeder and then to another bloom. They look so fragile and gentle, but this belies their strength.

Each year about this time they migrate for thousands of miles to reach their winter feeding grounds. They notice the light levels from the sun to judge when they need to begin overeating to store energy for their long flights. They increase their weight by 25-40 percent and can often be seen fighting each other for food opportunities. They travel independently rather than in flocks as do most birds. Hummingbirds migrate during the day flying low to the ground searching for food then they rest throughout the night.

I will miss these tiny creatures when they depart, but as sure as the world is standing they will return in the spring.

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Pictures from 2018

Katie & The Bird

Katie, a seven-year-old felt maternal for the half-naked starling that fell out of the sky and into her life one Saturday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later the bond was solid. Every thirty minutes or so she cautiously poked a hamburger “worm” down his throat with a tiny stick. He chirped, Katie poked. When Katie’s parents arrived the next morning they knew church was out of the question. There was no point in going to Sunday School to learn about kindness and love if you were required to leave one of God’s helpless creatures alone and without food for hours. As Katie proudly demonstrated her ability as a surrogate everyone was impressed by her expertise, especially Aunt Dianne.

After the people lunch it was again time for Bird to eat. Katie went outside to the specially prepared box to find it empty. The whole family searched and searched the yard looking under every structure and bush. Katie, though very quiet, was picturing all the harm that could come to a weak little bird. Daddy said, “Well, it wasn’t a cat, there are no feathers around.” Pop said, “I bet Bird was adopted by a Robin. I’ve seen Robins take care of orphaned birds.” Aunt Dianne said, “You took such good care of him, Katie, he was probably strong enough to fly away.” Grandmother related a story of Mommy’s beagle which disappeared without a trace and how Grandmother had always thought pleasant thoughts of his maverick adventure.

Mommy walked silently beside Katie as they continued to search all around in the ninety-five-degree heat and all the while afraid of what they might find. Finally, all the places had been explored and the disappointed family returned inside to the chilly air-conditioned kitchen. The grown-ups went back to their places at the table to cool off with some iced tea. Katie silently walked up the stairs to her own private space in Grandmother and Pop’s house. She entered the special room with all her Beanie Babies and other favorite stuffed animals who didn’t require feeding and she lay on her bed thinking of Bird out in the hot sun. Where could he be? Just as tears began to run down her cheeks she felt someone else’s weight on the bed with her. Without opening her eyes, she knew exactly who it would be. Mommy began to rub Katie’s back with the same love and tenderness with which Katie had cared for Bird. Without many words, Mommy assured Katie she, too, felt sad for Bird and was very concerned about the real dangers the big world might hold for such a little creature. They lay quietly on the bed for a long time.

Although there was no answer to the mystery of where Bird was, Katie wanted to be brave so she and Mommy eventually went back down the stairs to rejoin Grandmother’s birthday party. Katie and Mommy went to their car together to get Grandmother’s present and walked gingerly back around the house, still very quiet. As Katie stepped onto the patio she heard “chirp, chirp, chirp!” and under the shade of one of Grandmother’s big herb pots stood Bird impatiently demanding food.

Written 6/29/98

BIRD

Butterfly

Another poem by Sylvia Mattingly 12/24/2014

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the flutter of the butterfly

my heart flutters and my soul sets sail
to drift with the yellow swallowtail
that taken by a current of air
settles upon a blossom fair
to sip of the sweetest nectar there

my eyes brim over with sheer delight
at the vision of such an effortless flight
that balancing awkwardness with grace
bobbles and flutters from place to place
to summon a smile from my curious face

my spirit lifts and my heart is at ease
floating along on a butterfly breeze
that whispering of life both new and old
tells us a story we’ve but to behold
through wings like pages that open and fold

my mind is awed and i remain still
held captive by a swallowtail thrill
that putting me in a butterfly trance
asks me to join in the butterfly dance
knowing i will whenever the chancef80d9274d3cc2fad838e4fd9e5d43af8-sticker

Photo by Pixabay

Bird Food for All

Bird Food Thieves

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Squirrel

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Chipmunk

Feed them and they will come!

Recently I was joking about how much it costs to keep my five bird feeders supplied. I told my kids that the bird food bill was more than for my groceries. Well, on my birthday the family presented me with about 70# of different kinds of birdfeed! What a great gift. There was even a bag of peanuts for the sneaky rodents who drop by regularly! 

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”                          David Attenborough

 

 

Bird Photos by Pixabay

Heat Wave

Heat Wave

It is thick and sticky and hot
Like walking around in snot.

The Ohio River Valley feels
like walking on the Devil’s hills.

I’ve heard of Hell’s front porch
and here we sit and together scorch.

We have had to learn the heat index
because it trumps the temperature’s effects.

About climate change, we don’t worry.
When it is mentioned the politicians scurry.

Ten such days this year we can bear
but what about 2050? We don’t care.

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OWLS

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the Bald Eagle which is the National Symbol of the United States of America. Today we explore other Birds of Prey, various types of Owls

Did You Know?

  • Of all the types of owls the Northern Barred Owl has to be everyone’s favorite, because it is the “Hoot Owl.”           

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  • The Great Horned Owl can carry more than three times its weight!
  • It is the fiercest, most aggressive owl in North America.
  • The Great Horned Owl has been recorded living as long as 29 years.

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  • The Barn Owl is known as the “Flying Mousetrap” because it can catch up to 21 rodents in half an hour!
  • The Barn Owl can hear the patter of a running mouse’s feet at a distance of 30 yards or more. Because of its hearing, it can hunt in total darkness.

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  • The Eastern Screech Owl is another favorite because of its screeching sound.
  • The Eastern Screech Owl is known as the “Wildcat of the Sky” due to its aggression protecting its young. It can even kill birds as large as a barnyard hen.          

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“The wailing owl Screams solitary to the mournful moon.”

David Mallet

Source: Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc.

 

Photos by Pixabay

BALD EAGLES

The Bald Eagle 

Did you know these facts about the national symbol of the United States. 

  • It is against the law to possess even one feather of a Bald Eagle.
  • Bald Eagles build the biggest nests of any bird in the world. One nest in the state of Florida was documented as weighing over two tons and measuring 9.5 feet across!

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  • Bald Eagles do not get their white heads and tails until they reach sexual maturity which is at 5 years. The one below is a juvenile.

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  • For every 60 minutes, a Bald Eagle soars it only flaps its wings for about two minutes.

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  • Bald Eagles often drown because they grab a fish that is too large and it pulls them under the water.
  • Besides the Bald Eagle, there are over 50 other eagle species and they are found on every continent except Antarctica.

     “The Eagle has landed.” Neil Armstrong

 

Watch Bald Eagles live on this camera in South Florida: https://dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html

Source: Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc.

Photos by Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Trees

Trees Reach for the Heavens

It seems that trees are abundant. There are so many kinds and sizes and they change predictably season by season. It would be easy to take them for granted and I probably did at one time. During the early 1990s, I had an experience that changed that. I now look at trees through a different lens, respecting their fight for survival against the many odds such as weather, fire, and most destructive of all, humankind. 

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While walking on a two-lane country road, I witnessed the disfigurement, the destruction of trees along that quiet little community. A few limbs needed to be trimmed to ensure drivers’ vision would not be blocked in the future. It could be done piece by piece, but the road department workers apparently thought that was too slow so they devised a way to chew off the intruding growth expediently. Using both a bulldozer and a Bush Hog in a vertical direction they sped along the road shredding, disfiguring and raping the trees. These are my notes upon my return from that walk so long ago. 

Trees, arms flailing, bones cracking, leaves gurgling under the weight of more bodies piled up. 

Giant, crashing ahead, beeping back, ahead again belching his awful breath. 

The birds cry out as Godzilla stamps through their homes. 

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“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” Martin Luther

 

 

 

 

White Sands, NM

New Mexico, one of the “Four Corners” states, is a great place to visit. The climate varies from alpine mountains in the north to arid desert in the south. Santa Fe, the capital is full of history, like stepping back in time, while Albuquerque the largest city is very metropolitan.

When we traveled the state a few years back my favorite location was White Sands. It had special meaning for my husband who had been stationed at the White Sands Missle Base there many years before. The attraction for me was the white sand the area was named for. It was beautiful with sand as white and powdery as snow. We played in it like kids. 

“The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation.” Clarence Day

 

Title photo by Pixabay

Kids 2

Kids and Grandmothers and Flowers

The other flower that I distinctly remember from time spent with Mammy  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/12/kids/   was the peony. The peony is a large bush with lush blossoms in shades of red or pink or pure white. They bloom in May and were always ready for Memorial Day, known as “Decoration Day” out in the country many years ago. It is also worth mentioning that peonies were incorrectly pronounced pee-ON-nies as opposed to PEE-on-nies back in the day. 

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I would help Mammy cut all the peonies off the bushes and then we would assemble them in bouquets to take to the cemetery at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. While we walked among the graves of my grandmother’s parents, brothers and friends she would tell me about each one. Often the details included the way they had died as well as the way they lived. We would lay a bouquet of peonies on each grave. My favorite bouquets for Decoration Day were made up of the snow white flowers.

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It never occurred to me that one day I’d walk in that same cemetery with my own granddaughter. See Kids 3 coming up.

“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers.” Thomas Tusser

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NOTE: A reader sent this photo to me via email and I wanted to share it with you. It is regarding the last post about hollyhock flower “girls” and the ones in this photo are very similar to the ones I made with my Grandmother. The main difference is that ours wore bonnets. Thank you, Gerri, for the photo that demonstrates what I was trying to convey.

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Photos by Pixabay

Kids

Kids and Grandmothers

When I was a little kid my maternal grandmother, “Mammy,” spent a lot of time with me. Not only did I learn practical lessons about life from her, I subconsciously learned what it was like to be a loving and giving person. While I haven’t always followed her example, I know she was a big influence on the adult I became. 

One of the things that I recall about Mammy is that she always offered visitors to her humble home, whether family or friends, something to eat. It might have only been a homemade biscuit and jam or perhaps a glass of iced tea, but something from the kitchen would be provided. 

She was also a good neighbor. My grandmother could be called upon to help deliver a baby or sit with a sick friend. She had no telephone but would be fetched in person by a knock on the door of her tiny little house.  

Many memories of Mammy include flowers. She raised various types and two kinds stand out in my memory. First were the hollyhocks:

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Hollyhock is an odd name for a flower, but oh the potential of these plants in Mammy’s hands. She spent hours with me making beautiful “girls” who we then used in all kinds of pretend stories and adventures. All it took was a toothpick for the backbone that held everything together and a stalk of hollyhocks. Different size blooms, inverted, made the attire and a head was fashioned from an unopened bud. Facial features could be made by piercing the bud with the toothpick. The puncture points then darkeded for eyes, nose and mouth. Each girl ended up looking like a southern belle ready for a plantation ball. I wish I had some hollyhocks so that I could create one for you, but this marked-up photo is the best I can do. I hope your imagination does the rest. 

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“I know what it is like to be brought up with unconditional love. In my life that came from my grandmother.” Andre Leon Talley

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Photos by Pixabay

Earth Day

earth

with bare hands 
i sink my fingers into the earth
and lift it from the ground

i need to feel it…

damp and crumbly
as it sucks the moisture
from my skin

i want to smell it…

thick and organic
as its rich aroma
streams into my nostrils 

i touch it to my tongue…

coarse and gritty
as the taste of minerals
washes over my taste buds

i need to see the earth
with my eyes closed 
and know through my other senses
that what i am holding in my hands
is something precious

earth
ancient and elemental
the mother of us all
reminds me
of our close kinship

for in essence
I am nothing more 
than a carbon creature

nothing more 
than the ashes and earth
from which we all rose

and in death
will be

nothing less
than the ashes and earth
to which we all return
written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly
April 8, 2019

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Today at the Park

During this time of year, the woodlands change almost by the day. As more trees give birth to leaves the view changes. Some things so obvious during the winter months are now obscure. Spring brings the same beauty each year yet it is forever new. Today there were wildflowers not seen just a couple of days ago. These are phlox and I believe mustard. 

The redbud trees dotted the hillsides and gave a party look to the usually monochromic woods. 

Daffodils I noticed today made me think of a family who had probably lived on this site many years ago. It is not unusual to spot blooming bulbs decades after their owners are gone. 

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“Love is a springtime plant that perfumes everything with its hope, even the ruins to which it clings.” Gustave Flaubert

The Parklands

Yesterday, I was on duty as a docent volunteer at the Parklands’ Visitor Center. It was a beautiful day in the 70s with lots of sunshine. That made it a great day for the school children who were spending time at Beckley Park. Two schools brought their students and it was fun seeing them exploring and playing. 

The Parklands provide not only playgrounds but miles of trails, acres, and acres of wild natural habitat to explore and a visitor center with many learning experiences. “Wednesday Wonders” class for preschoolers was taking place and the little ones were excited about each new experience. Enjoy the slideshow below that shows more random shots of the park and kids having fun!

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Lastly, meet a newcomer, Ranger Randy. This turtle was born and raised in captivity for many years. It was donated to the park for children to enjoy and learn from. The Parklands does not remove creatures from their natural habitat. 

“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” Rumi

 

https://www.theparklands.org

New Harmony 2

img_2900Retreat 

In May 2016 I felt the need to “get away” to somewhere peaceful and tranquil and I found that place in New Harmony, IN. It wasn’t so much getting away from anything, because my home with two lazy cats is pretty quiet and happy. It was more going TO someplace different. 

The quaint little town of New Harmony is about 140 miles from where I live in Louisville, KY. See short history and slide show of photos here:  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/04/05/new-harmony/

Attractions

img_2894“Attractions” may not be a good word for all the beautiful things to see and do in New Harmony because it might conjure up thoughts of crowded venues. It was actually the quiet that I first noticed. There was little traffic and most people got around on silent golf carts. I rented one and toured about leisurely from one point of interest to the next. These sites included the Roofless Church, Barn Abbey, Artists’ Guild, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Working Men’s Institute Museum, the Atheneum, and more. There was plenty to see on foot as well, walking among the historic businesses and residences. Gardens and trees surrounded everything and even covered the spaces between the sidewalks and streets. 

Meditation

Adding to the serenity of New Harmony were quiet gardens, a labyrinth, a maze and sculptures by various artists. Nature always nourishes my soul, but I found these prepared spaces enriching as well. 

 

Lodging and Food

At the time I visited there were several Bed & Breakfasts in operation. I stayed at the New Harmony Resort Inn and Conference Center which was clean and quiet. There were several dining establishments to choose from. I enjoyed eating at the Red Geranium which had a breakfast buffet.   

Nature

For me, the best part of my stay was the time I spent on hiking trails. They were scattered throughout the area, some wooded and remote, others by the Wabash River or the lake on the Conference Center grounds. 

 

New Harmony, IN

I recommend it for anyone who likes quiet, loves nature and wants to briefly experience a different way of life.    

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“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.                                                   It will never fail you.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

Back at the Park

Pope Lick Park

It’s so good to be walking in the park after what seems like a long winter. With each walk, I notice the subtle springtime changes. Buds turn to leaves or flowers, birds are chirping happily, and the peepers are peeping loudly. Below are some of the wildflowers, blooming bulbs and weeds that I saw today. Each is beautiful. 

Choosing a Path

Each time I drive the three miles to Pope Lick I realize how fortunate I am to live so close to the park. Every neighborhood should have such a place where young families, runners, bikers, and seniors can explore. 

My biggest decision each trip is which path to take, just like in life itself. 

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” Rosalia de Castro

New Harmony

The Harmonists

During the mid-eighteenth century, there was a place in Delaware known as Murdering Town. The folks who lived there were from Germany and believed strongly in the separation of church and state. They developed into a pacifist society migrating to Pennsylvania where they built the town of Harmony, which sounds like a far cry from Murdering Town. These folks couldn’t seem to stick in one place for long and in the early nineteenth century, they moved their Harmony Society again, this time to the state of Indiana.

New Harmony

In Indiana, these peace-loving people gave all their worldly possessions to the Society which in turn provided for all their needs. They developed an existence dedicated to harmony and for a few years all was good, but then they made a fatal mistake. They adopted celibacy as a way of life, and “the rest is history,” as the saying goes. Eventually, the founders became extinct and the town was re-established by Mennonites who gradually faded away and closed their church there.

Today New Harmony is a wonderful place to visit and certainly appears to be an idyllic place to live. The old town once plagued by calamities such as fire and tornadoes has been restored. While full of interesting places to visit, eat and be entertained, it remains a quiet and peaceful village. 

 

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The homes are restored and surrounded by beautiful gardens. The public spaces are verdant in every direction. To visit there is to experience going back to a time of true harmony and tranquility. 

Nearby is a 3,500 State Park, known as Harmonie. It offers hiking, horse and bike trails, campsites, fishing, and rental cabins. The park also has Interpretive Naturalist Service in the summer months as well as picnic areas and swimming in an Olympic sized pool and the Wabash River. 

 

In the next post, I’ll tell you a bit about my personal retreat in New Harmony a couple of years ago. 

 

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”  Thomas Merton

Forest Giants

If you live in this area (KY, IN, TN) you are probably familiar with Bernheim Forest.  https://bernheim.org  If not you should be. Bernheim is a wonderful place to be free in nature. There are areas cultivated and manicured but many acres of natural forest as well. It has been a favorite place for our family to explore for many years.

A few days ago we drove to Bernheim to view some new residents. A GIANT family has moved there. Mama, Loumari, and her two children Nis and Elina are truly bigger than life. Here are a few photos of the giants made from all natural materials. 

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Bernheim Forest is a place where art, nature and humans dovetail perfectly!

Grizzlies

 

There are only about 1,500 grizzly bears left in the lower 48 states. Approximately 600 of those are in the area of Yellowstone Park. In spite of serious population decline, in 2017 grizzly bears (also called the North American brown bear) were stripped from the Endangered Species Act protections. That meant that the Grizzlies in the Yellowstone area were no longer to be protected by Federal laws and further that plans were in place to allow them to be hunted for sport in Montana (800 population) and Idaho (estimated at less than 100). 

Good News – A federal judge has ruled these actions illegal! 

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These magnificent creatures hibernate five to seven months each year. In preparation for this time of inactivity, they must eat approximately 400 pounds of food. The males leave hibernation first followed by the females with young born during hibernation. 

Most Grizzlies die before maturity due to hunters and predators. Those who survive live for 20-26 years on average. We are fortunate in the United States to have over 50,000 Grizzlies in Alaska, but those in the lower forty-eight are in danger of disappearing unless we continue to protect them and their habitat. 

It is up to us to be aware of the violations and threats to laws and rules that protect these bears and other endangered species. 

“The grizzly bears that live in and around Yellowstone make up almost half the population in the lower 48 states, and now those bears are at risk.” Lydia Millet

Photos by Pixabay

Field Trip

Death

I’ve been told that I think about death a lot. This is true; for as long as I can remember I have been interested in the subject. Some have said that I think about death too much. I do not agree. I think of it just the right amount, because I am not afraid of death. I consider it one of the few mysteries still left and I enjoy learning as much as possible until the time when I experience death personally, as we all will. 

I just searched for “death” here in the blog and found that I have written on the subject many times. OK, I admit it, more than I thought. You may do a search from the Home page if you are interested in reading more on the subject. 

Field Trip

One of my daughters approached me recently about our taking a trip to Yew Dell Gardens near here. It is a lovely place that I have enjoyed in the past, but could not see going there in the middle of winter. Then she confessed her motive and I was onboard immediately! We picked up my other daughter and the three of us bundled up to visit Yew Dell Gardens in January.   https://www.yewdellgardens.org

It turns out there is a very special flower in the greenhouse at Yew Dell that only blooms once each year and the bloom only lasts about 2 days, so there is a short window of time for viewing. We were there for the “viewing” of the Corpse Flower!

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Amorphophallus

(from Ancient Greek amorphos, “without form, misshapen” + phallos, “penis“, referring to the shape of the prominent spadix) per BING

There are many interesting facts about the corpse flower (other than its name) and I recommend you read up or even better watch it go from dormant to fully bloomed to doomed on YouTube in just over two minutes of time lapsed photography.

I’ll tell you about our experience.

The moment we opened the door to the greenhouse we were greeted with a very unpleasant and overwhelming odor. The three of us had varying opinions of the smell, but I insist it was not like a decomposing body, which is what we expected.

The plant, from China, was over five feet tall and I understand they can reach ten feet. It was beautiful in an odd way in spite of its lingering odor. The colors were very dark purple or maybe wine (petals and stamen) and off white (seeds). The texture looked fibrous and tough and a bit like skin. I can best show you with this slideshow of photos we took while there. I wish there was a way to share the odor as easily!

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If you want to see it bloom on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSMKcE5XbAQ

If you want to know more:

https://www.livescience.com/51947-corpse-flower-facts-about-the-smelly-plant.html

“If smart technology can transform 3-D from a crude novelty to a genuine visual enhancement, why shouldn’t a sophisticated odor synthesizer follow a similar path?” Charles Platt

Thank you to Allison Puckett for the photos.

Pollinators

Do We Need Pollinators?

Pollinators, mainly bees, but also butterflies and other insects are necessary for our food supply. These pollinators are responsible for the sexual reproduction of plants by cross-pollination and also provide genetic diversity. Serious pollinator decline has been a worldwide problem since toward the end of the last century.

Pollinator Toxins

This decline coincides with the development of neonicotinoids (neonics for short) a chemical similar to nicotine which is used in a variety of insecticides. See the Wikipedia chart below for more information. Note that the US$ amount is from ten years ago.

Name Company Products Turnover in million US$ (2009)
Imidacloprid Bayer CropScience Confidor, Admire, Gaucho, Advocate 1,091
Thiamethoxam Syngenta Actara, Platinum, Cruiser 627
Clothianidin Sumitomo Chemical/Bayer CropScience Poncho, Dantosu, Dantop, Belay 439
Acetamiprid Nippon Soda Mospilan, Assail, ChipcoTristar 276
Thiacloprid Bayer CropScience Calypso 112
Dinotefuran Mitsui Chemicals Starkle, Safari, Venom 79
Nitenpyram Sumitomo Chemical Capstar, Guardian 8

Neonics are known to be toxic to not only pollinators but also birds, some aquatic animals, and other wildlife.  The EU and Canada, as well as other countries, have restricted the use of neonics in an effort to curb the pollinator decline. One would think that the US would have done the same, but one would be wrong. Virtually all corn grown in this country is treated with one of these insecticides. In 2014 at least one-third of all soybeans planted were treated with these products.

EPA

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has been reviewing this issue and has quietly pushed back its timetable for a decision of its own review. Knowing this I was curious as to whether the EPA’s website provided any current information. What I found was interesting.

  • There were twenty-two references found using the word “neonic” in a search. No, I did not read them.
  • Apparently, due to the monthlong government shutdown, the EPA had this notice at the top of the website:
    • Due to a lapse in appropriations, EPA websites will not be regularly updated. In the event of an environmental emergency imminently threatening the safety of human life or where necessary to protect certain property, the EPA website will be updated with appropriate information. Please note that all information on the EPA website may not be up to date, and transactions and inquiries submitted to the EPA website may not be processed or responded to until appropriations are enacted.

In spite of protests, petitions, lawsuits (NRDC) and Congressional bills (Conyers) the EPA continues its inaction while over 4,000 species of wild bees and other pollinators are destroyed.

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“When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.” Ramakrishna

Rocks

Rock & Roll       

Hard as a Rock

Rock On!

Dumb as a Rock

Rock, Paper, Scissors

As you can tell I have rocks on my mind. I’m sure some who know me might say I also have “rocks for brains.” And, today that might be appropriate.

When I went to Great Britain recently, I was so grateful and amazed to see Stonehenge for the first time.  https://crookedcreek.live/2018/10/10/stonehenge/

For good reason visitors are not able to touch the huge rocks that make up this wonder. I was very fortunate that our hosts on this trip knew where there were similar stones nearby that could be seen up close and that could be touched at will. 

Kevin and Helen Elliott took our party to Avebury where the rocks in the slideshow below were personally accessible. I loved seeing all the random rocks, so similar to those with which Stonehenge was built but not arranged in the same pattern. I felt a strange reverence when I touched these stones from so long ago. 

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Around these huge rocks were grazing sheep, burial mounds like those surrounding Stonehenge and in a few places even roads that traversed the mounds.

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On this same trip while in the home of friends in Wales, I became aware of a different type of stone called crystal. While there I was given a rose quartz crystal that I now treasure. I am not yet knowledgeable enough to say much about crystals and their possible powers, but I am beginning the process of learning. I wanted to share this with you while we are on the subject of rocks, which are not technically the same thing, but they are both contained within the earth and no doubt carry many secrets of the past. What powers they may hold, I hope to learn. 

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“In my work, and my life, I feel a desire to merge. Not in terms of losing my own identity… but there’s a feeling that life is interconnected, that there’s life in stones and rocks and trees and dirt, like there is in us.”  Bill Viola

Cow Eyes

“You Have Cow Eyes”

Have you ever been told you have cow eyes? It’s supposed to be a compliment. Cow eyes are big and dark and kind of dreamy looking. That’s one reason to give up beef or at least to not get up close and friendly before a steak dinner.

Well, I once knew a man who had cow eyes. Let me explain.

While not identical, bovine eyes are very similar to human eyes. If you are a science teacher and you want your middle school students to learn first hand about the human eye by dissection, what do you do? You obviously don’t have access to human eyes.

A teacher I knew years ago had access to a butcher and this butcher had access to cow eyes. He was especially fond of the teacher and could not say no when she requested enough for each of her students. They made plans for her to pick them up on a certain day. Imagine his family’s dismay when he came home from work that day with a bucket full of cow eyes.   

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“I absolutely adore cows. They’re the most fascinating gentle and beautiful animals. Their eyes are so amazing. I have ten that live on the land around my house. I love to talk to them.”  Mary Quant

 

Theme photo in title and graphic by Pixabay

August Walk (repost)

On my neighborhood walks even though it’s the dog days of August, I see secret signs of autumn to come.

Goldenrods, their yellow flags announcing six weeks ’till frost remain unfurled even though I see their heads peeking out from their hiding spots. 

The burning bushes green all summer long now showing signs of smoldering tips.

The leaves atop the trees dry and wait for a cool wind to transport them in flight to distant places where they decay as do all living things.

A child’s pink birthday balloon falling lower each day. It now barely moves, wet against the mailbox post. 

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Poem by Sue Baugh Mattingly – August 2013

NOTE: Sunflower photo courtesy of Gerri Nelson Aug. 2018

August Walk

On my neighborhood walks even though it’s the dog days of August, I see secret signs of autumn to come.

Goldenrods, their yellow flags announcing six weeks ’till frost remain unfurled even though I see their heads peeking out from their hiding spots. 

The burning bushes green all summer long now showing signs of smoldering tips.

The leaves atop the trees dry and wait for a cool wind to transport them in flight to distant places where they decay as do all living things.

A child’s pink birthday balloon falling lower each day. It now barely moves, wet against the mailbox post. 

by Sue Baugh Mattingly – August 2013

 

Theme graphic in title by Pixabay

Our Planet Earth

Good News

On July 9 Starbucks announced that it is phasing out plastic straws by 2020. They have already begun in some cities to use specially designed lids that eliminate the need for straws. They will roll out this design over the next two years while also offering paper straws. These alternatives, paper and other biodegradable materials for straws should be achieved more quickly if there was not a problem with supply.  See: https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/02/saving-planet-earth/

While plastic straws do not make up a big percentage of plastic that ends up in our oceans, they are a hazard to wildlife and they are unnecessary. It is a start to reducing single-use plastic items and a way to make us more conscious of the problem of plastic waste on planet earth. We can do this: https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/02/waste/

Other companies making changes to packaging include Dunkin Donuts which is phasing out all polystyrene over the next two years. Probably the largest, MacDonalds, is committed to reducing plastic materials too and has already begun in the UK and Ireland, planning to meet its zero goal over seven years. 

Some cities are outlawing plastic straws, too including Seattle and Ft. Meyers. Others are considering following suit, e.g., New York and San Francisco. This will make an immense impact. 

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We Can Do Better

Now if we could just get customers to stop idling cars in the drive-thru lanes and instead to park and walk inside, think of the air pollution that could be eliminated. A subject for another day perhaps. 

“Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill.” Stephen Hawking

 

Theme photo in title and graphic by Pixabay

P.M. Walk

The Parklands

How lucky we are who live near the Parklands.  Whether one is a biker, a runner or like me just a walker, there is a trail for you. Nature is abundant and stunning. Here are a few scenes my walk today. 

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“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, (s)he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”   George Washington Carver

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A.M. Walk

A rare lower humidity day brings a cute youngster out to play at Pope Lick Park. It was curious, but not a risk taker. This was as close as I came.  

A surprise on the walkway was this baby frog. It was definitely a day for juveniles. She/he was the perfect subject for photo taking, holding still and posing. fullsizeoutput_18e1

“You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.” Saint Bernard

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As will flowers, deer and frogs. 

Saving Planet Earth

Straws Again  

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/02/waste/

After writing Wasting Planet Earth posted earlier today, I read a comprehensive article in the Courier Journal (7/1/18) about plastic straws. The movement to eliminate these devices is picking up steam. There was even a report on broadcast news last night about the subject (NBC). 

In the CJ I learned that there is only one manufacturer of paper straws in all the United States. That company, Aardvark Straws in Fort Wayne, IN, cannot meet the demand so now many paper straws used in the US are from China. Aardvark’s natural cellulose product is both compostable and biodegradable. 

We have been using plastic straws since 1970 and they are a part of the eight billion tons of plastic we dump into the oceans each year! By 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the planet’s oceans than fish. We must do better.

Challenge

If you still are not convinced that these small cylinders of plastic that we suck on so cavalierly are a problem, I challenge you to watch all eight minutes of this YouTube video. If you are sensitive to coarse language you should watch without sound. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=4wH878t78bw

Thank You

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“Small Acts, when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world.” Howard Zinn 

 

Theme photo in title and graphic by Pixabay

Wasting Planet Earth

Do We Need It?

Plastic Straws

Plastic drinking straws are taken for granted, but they should not be. The United States uses and disposes of over 500 million of these devices per day. Straws are unnecessary, but if one does not agree with that, how about this? “Plastic” straws are unnecessary. Paper straws are less hazardous to our environment and to wildlife. Reusable straws can easily be washed and reused for a lifetime. The next time you are in a restaurant, how about saying “No straw please.”

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Thank you to “The Last Plastic Straw” for this illustration. 

Plastic, Plastic, Plastic

Starting out with straws is easy. It’s a little thing that each of us can give up without any pain. Plastic, in general, is a different challenge. Take a minute and look around where you are at the moment. How much plastic do you see? Are you touching it? I am, both the keyboard and the protective cover over the top of it are plastic. There’s my phone case, my TV remote and on and on. I know we cannot eliminate plastic completely, but that does not mean we cannot reduce it. I’ve been trying but barely making a dent. I can do better. 

First, we must care. Then it helps to be informed. I’ve done some research today and the statistics are sickening. Here are just a few provided by EcoWatch.  

  1. The average American discards 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  2. Americans throw away 35 billion water bottles per year.
  3. Worldwide, one million plastic bags are used per minute!
  4. By age six years 93% of all Americans’ blood tests positive for BPA, a plastic chemical.                                                       

Read more of these alarming statistics at https://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html

We cannot do without many things that are plastic, perhaps, but what about the things we can eliminate? What about the things that we can use over and over again before tossing?

There are many who do better than I. My cloth grocery bags are often forgotten in the back seat of my car, only to be remembered after I have filled my grocery cart. I carry a nylon bag in my purse to carry smaller purchases in other stores and forget to use it as well. Today I put the cloth grocery bags in the front seat where I can see them more easily. I plan to say, “No bag please” for more purchases in other stores. I can do better.

I know someone who has completely eliminated non-recycle materials from her life. It began during March of this year, her birthday month, when she eliminated all plastic of any kind for thirty-one days. I couldn’t believe what she was able to accomplish, buying food in bulk and placing it in paper or nylon bags, for instance. That was an inspiration to me to do better.

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Ideas? 

Are there ways that you eliminate waste and especially plastic that you’d like to share?

“Pollution is a serious one. Water pollution, air pollution, and then solid hazardous waste pollution. And then beyond that, we also have the resources issue. Not just water resources but other natural resources, the mining resources being consumed, and the destruction of our ecosystem.” Ma Jun

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Photos and graphics by Pixabay

Today’s Walk

Nothing exciting to report this morning, no deer, no trains, no Goatman, just the beauty and peace of nature. Here are a few random photos:

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I hope you too, find time to enjoy nature today, whether it is inside with your pet(s), watching birds through the window or walking outside in the sunshine. 

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Pope Lick Again

I sometimes wonder if we see what we look for. I realize that statement needs a lot of clarification. What I’m thinking about is my most recent walk at Pope Lick Park. I don’t take the same trails each day. I’m not in the same mood each day, although my mood always improves during my walks. 

Today Floyd’s Fork was high and muddy and I enjoyed it in the morning mist. Even though it was quite early, I was not alone. Bikers, walkers, runners and even one person on inline skates were out there with me. I add this for one of my readers who worries about my safety. I am one of many enjoying the Parklands and being truly alone is rare. 

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Usually when I am in nature I think of little else. Today was no exception, however there were no deer, squirrels or even birds to hold my attention. One of the first things I noticed was my least favorite living creature. You guessed it, spiders or at least their homes. https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/21/one-fear-explained/ Right away I noticed a dew covered web on the ground that reminded me of “angel hair” we used to decorate trees with at Christmas when I was a kid. The matted looking web had a hole that lead to a tunnel. The photos are not as clear as I’d like, but perhaps you can see what I’m talking about. As I walked there were many more such structures mingled in the grass. I cannot help but wonder what other sights I might have missed because I was looking for these spider homes. 

 

With the editing feature on my camera, I was able to crop one photo with the resident builder at home. I assure you that I did not get that close! I hope you can see him here. 

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It was a day for spider exploration, but a good day for a walk nevertheless. They were minding their own business and I was very careful to avoid interrupting their day. 

One more photo, but from a different type home above in the trees. 

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The next time you see a spider web, please, pause and look a little closer. You’ll be seeing one of the most high-performance materials known to man. Cheryl Hayashi

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Frogs Are Valuable

Frogs are precious and, not as dinner. Did you know that according to the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project* (Panama) between 1996 and 2006, over 100,000 tons of frog legs worth almost half a billion dollars were consumed by human diners? 

Frogs are valuable and not just as pest control. We would certainly suffer without frogs eating flying pests. Considering the diseases carried by mosquitoes I cannot imagine a world without frogs and other amphibians to keep them under control yet, since 1980, we have lost over 120 species of amphibians!

“So what?” some may say, but the value of frogs goes way beyond pest control and culinary uses. Frog skin is a virtual bonanza for medical research and treatment. Frogs have been found to carry cures and controls for some of humankind’s most threatening conditions*.  

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 It is True

Someone has said: “Frogs have it made, they get to eat what bugs them.” Anonymous and it is true. We once had a koi pond with frogs and lily pads and it was great entertainment until one very large frog became “bugged” by a bird. The bird just wanted a drink from the pond, but that hungry frog rose up and gulped the bird into its mouth! Only the tail and wing tips were not swallowed. I would never have believed it possible had I not seen it in my own backyard. And, you might not believe it either except in addition to a couple of (frightened) witnesses I have pictures.

Warning, it is not pleasant. 

 

Like people, they may not all be sociable but we need frogs and they need us to preserve them for the value they add to our world. 

Part 2 of 2

Frogs

I Love Frogs

All my life I have been fascinated by frogs. Sometimes I wish they were not so slimy and there are poisonous ones I would not want to encounter, but overall frogs are intriguing creatures. Once as a child, I was climbing a tree and put my hand on a big piece of bark to steady myself and that bark scurried away from my hand! It was a perfectly camouflaged tree frog. 

Have you heard a tree frog’s voice? They are amazing. If you think all frogs make the same sound, you are so wrong. Only the male bullfrog can “croak” using his throat pouch that enlarges and vibrates to make that familiar sound. Other frogs have individual sounds and you can experience some of them, including American and Canadian frogs here: http://www.naturenorth.com/spring/sound/shfrsnd.html There are several other sites on the internet which present the sounds that various frogs make and a favorite of mine is: http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/general/songs.html

I cannot help but smile as I listen to the recorded frog sounds. I hope that you enjoy them too. Frogs whistle, peep, grunt, ribbit, and bark to name just a few of their distinctive sounds. Please tune in to the links above and listen to their serenades. Even as a frog lover, I was not aware of spring peeps until my daughter pointed them out a few years ago. 

Frogs Are Vital

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Frogs are more than fun. They are sentinels that warn us of crucial information regarding our environment. Amphibians, including salamanders and toads as well as frogs,  are sensitive to gases like oxygen because of their very porous and sensitive skin.  This means they are also very sensitive to pollution even from their egg stage because the shell is soft, unlike eggs of birds and snakes. 

Amphibians have been declining with some species disappearing completely. Other signs of environmental compromise include extra or missing legs on frogs. They are compared by many scientists to the canary in the coal mine. We must respect and pay attention to frogs and their cousins. 

“Don’t be a fish; be a frog. Swim in the water and jump when you hit ground.”                    Kim Young-ha

 

Part 1 of 2

Life is Short

There are things in life that just don’t seem worth it, especially when you consider that life is short. The older I get the more things I find not worth the effort, time or discomfort. I realize that this is in part due to simply being a senior, but I want more credit than that. Much of what I’ve decided life is too short for is due to experience and wisdom. 

Life’s Too Short

  • To wear a bra
  • To eat (or drink) kale
  • To not see the ocean as often as the opportunity presents itself

  • To not dig in the dirt
  • To not pause for nature

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  • To not “look up at the stars” as Stephen Hawking said
  • To spend it worrying about the past

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  • To waste time on Facebook
  • To not spend time with loved ones including friends at every opportunity 
  • To not laugh
  • Did I mention wearing a bra?

How about you? Are there things you would list?

 

“I find it delightful that the optimal way I can live my life from moment-to-moment is also the optimal way I can prepare for my death, and equally delightful that acknowledging our future death is a prerequisite for living a truly joyful life now.”  Ram Dass

 

Photos by Pixabay

Pope Lick Park 2

Goatman?

Today while walking I thought I had spotted the Pope Lick Monster, https://crookedcreek.live/2018/05/23/pope-lick-park/  but it turned out to be just another tree. I wanted to share it with you regardless. 

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Friendly Deer

She wasn’t shy. I talked with her a while and didn’t want to disturb her by getting out my phone to photograph her. After a friendly conversation, I realized she wasn’t in a hurry nor was she worried about this human. Here she is for you to enjoy. 

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Pope Lick Park

After an unusually busy spring burdened with lack of energy, this morning I returned, yet again, to my favorite park. Pope Lick didn’t disappoint, so I will be there again tomorrow. https://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Pope-Lick-Park 

The honeysuckle was blooming abundantly and generously unleashing its heavenly fragrance. I wish there was a way to share that lovely scent with you here. 

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The landscape was lush with green . . . the hills, the meadows and even the occasional swamp. There were a few wildflowers and wild things. Cardinal couples were on the scene and I gave up counting after five or six. 

Blackberries are in full bloom. In fact, they look well into the season and I do not recall the usual “blackberry winter” that we expect to experience before the berries appear. 

 

Pope Lick Monster

Everything was there except the Pope Lick Monster! I don’t always look for him/it but today I heard the train whistle and even though I was not yet at that infamous trestle, I wondered if the Goatman was lurking there. If you live in this area I’m sure you are familiar with this creature. If you are not, you should take a look at what he’s been up to for generations. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/pope-lick-trestle-bridge

or

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Lick_Monster

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When I eventually spot the monster you may be assured that I will tell you and hopefully with photos, too!

Heroes need monsters to establish their heroic credentials. You need something scary to overcome.  Margaret Atwood

 

Kim, the Spider

The Jumper

National Geographic has announced that the University of Manchester has taught a spider named “Kim” to jump six times “her” (how do they know?) body length on demand. 

https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/180508-spider-jumps-on-demand-animals-vin-spd

Why? Do you ask?

Yeah, me too. It seems to be in preparation for tiny robot training. OK, fine. If they had to do this fine, but did they have to post that grisly video of almost two minutes of Kim showing off her acrobatics? 

https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/21/one-fear-explained/

 

Theme graphic in title by Pixabay

 

Springtime Walk

Back to the Park

For various reasons, some more important than others, I have not been to the Parklands to walk for a long time. Mostly it’s just that during the winter months I’m a wimp about the cold temperatures and it seems that spring has been a long time coming here in Kentucky. Finally this past weekend the temperature was just right and I returned to Pope Lick Park, my favorite along Floyd’s Fork. Other areas of the Parklands are more elaborate and have very interesting features, but Pope Lick is more wild in places and more intimate, except for the soccer fields, but the walk around them illustrates kids and adults interacting in the most positive ways. Whether a team or family event, the atmosphere is competition at its best. 

The Walk

As I began my walk I eagerly looked forward to the signs of spring, but they were not as abundant as expected. Most trees had tiny tender leaves springing forth. There were signs of wildlife, but I saw only a few birds. I did document the extensive work of the resident woodpecker population.  The grass was mostly green, but there were dried grasses all along the trails. 

The further I ventured, the more interesting finds, including some of my favorites. There were cattails shedding like cats, mushrooms living well on dead trees and a sure sign of springtime, May apples. 

The 1.5 mile walk revealed very few wild flowers, or perhaps they are weeds, but they bloomed nevertheless. I wasn’t disappointed, but a little letdown that springtime was not waiting there for me as I had anticipated. 

The Encounter

Then I spotted a tree that was apparently very glad to see me!

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Soul 7

I Believe

I believe my Mother’s essence is in many objects that I have in my home. Not so much in the antique dishes or her personal jewelry, but in the things she infused with her love. I believe that her soul speaks to me through the stitches she loving put into place over the years of her life. I feel her love in the baby quilt she embroidered for her children, the ring pillow she made for my wedding, in the yarn she transformed into beautiful pieces of art and the scraps of material from the clothes she made for her granddaughters and their dolls, later quilted together.

I believe that my Aunt Thelma’s essence is strong in items she left behind and that she must be happy we find both uses and joy in them today. They are things that were dear to her and I have the privilege now of calling them mine. I love them not for themselves but because I loved her so much and I feel her presence when I see them.

She was taught by her church that it was a duty to bear children and it was probably her greatest disappointment in life that she did not conceive. She loved me and other nieces and nephews, she loved my daughters, too. How sweet her smile must be as she watches my granddaughter, who Aunt Thelma never met, sew pieces of lace from her 91 year old wedding dress into the wedding dress that Kate will wear next month. I know her soul is happy today. 

I believe my husband’s essence is the flowers that grow in our courtyard where he planted them. In caring for them, I continue to learn from him about the effort it takes to give beauty its fullest potential. His soul lives on nourishing the plants, keeping me company and giving me purpose. 

I believe that my maternal Grandparents’ essences are present when I pick up one of their Bibles. I know how important these books were to them and not just as a place to record family records of births, marriages, and deaths. They also recorded other important information such as their Social Security Numbers and the date of their last tetanus shots!

Seriously, the Bible was holy to them. They each read from it daily and they carried it with them to their little country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, twice each Sunday and usually at least once in the middle of the week. Their souls are close by those worn and precious books.