In the Merry, Merry Month of May

This week and next are the last two stay at home weeks left for me.  After that I’ll be half time in the office.  And since Monday is Memorial Day I’m feeling very lazy and am looking for an excuse to think about non-political subjects.  So today I made a point to take a little time and be at play in the fields of the Lord.  I noted that the birds of the air were quite active.  In particular I noted that some swallows have appropriated the bluebird house.

This accords with the low opinion I have developed toward the bluebirds.  To borrow a phrase from the President they’re low-energy losers.  But we have had some indigo buntings around this week.  They are even bluer than the bluebirds and I think much more heroic.  I noted a number of hawks flying above the fields and saw how this disturbed some of the smaller birds.  I assume they were worried about the hawks attacking their nests.  A couple of rabbits were spotted frolicking outside the former goat pen.  What with the circling hawks I thought this surprisingly bold.  Possibly they read Watership Down and took it to heart.

I noted a goodly number of frogs and salamanders drowned in the swimming pool which we opened last Friday.

The idea of amphibians drowning in water also leads me to a low opinion of their fitness to survive in the highly competitive future that we know is over the horizon.  A number of years ago we had some blue spotted salamanders around the property.  They’re good sized and I’d love to see them again sometime.

A very large snapping turtle was cruising around the pond and I was wondering if the mallard family might be at risk of losing a duckling if they weren’t careful.

The painted turtles were all hanging out on a fallen tree and looking fairly useless.  I wondered if maybe they were afraid of the snapping turtle too.  But more certainly the bull frogs and small fish were likely on the menu for grandpa snapper.  I went to inspect the remains of the beaver dam that was abandoned when that buck toothed rodent disappeared last year.  Well, it’s all gone now.  And the pond is at a low ebb.  More like a puddle than a pond.

There were a goodly number of deer travelling through the woods in the last week or so.  They were grazing on the stringy weeds that cover the shallows of the pond but none of them were around today.  Neither did any of the turkeys wander by as they have been lately.

After that black bear or Lovecraftian monster or whatever it was flattened our bird feeders last week I’ve been using the game camera to see what’s going on at night.  The only thing unusual was a red fox.  Last year we had grey foxes but this is the first red one I’ve seen.

Southern New England Gray Fox w/ Sony A7 III w/ Sigma 150 – 600 mm Contemporary lens on Sigma MC-11 converter, at 150mm focal length

After finding that hatchling milk snake I moved my tin to another location in hopes of finding some snakes near the rock wall.

Eastern milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum

The garter snakes I’ve been seeing near the retaining wall have disappeared.

The warmer weather must have allowed them to disperse from their winter hibernaculum in the wall.  There was a northern water snake near a vernal pool last year but he wasn’t around today.  I’ll hope to find him again this year.  What I’d really like to find are some larger snakes, a black racer or even a black ratsnake.  But we’ll see.

Insect-wise we have plenty of bees around.

There are the usual honey bees and bumble bees but also the always annoying carpenter bees.  Because of the very extensive wood work on the structures on the property I am at perpetual war with these bees.  We have had our first butterflies.  There have been a number of painted ladies and today we had our first tiger swallowtail.

Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens on Sony A7 III

I noted with pleasure that the three small Giant Sequoias got through the winter well.  They join their older and larger cousin in the southwest corner of the property.  My own personal grove.  The two metasequoias have also grown tall in the last five years.

Minolta 200mm f\4 macro

The bristlecone pine tree I planted last fall unfortunately hasn’t done as well.  It looks dead and I’ll have to replace it soon.

The Compound Attacked by One of the Great Old Ones

Last night abysmal horror stalked the home base.  A Lovecraftian abomination was on the move unleashing its mind shattering power on my corner of New England.  It was Cthulhu or maybe one of the Deep Ones.  The horror, the horror.

Just see the damage caused by its irresistible strength and titanic weight.  Behold!

 

UPDATE!!!!

We cowered in fear during the night time attack.  Finally this morning I gathered my shattered sanity and my courage and I ventured out to assess the damage.

I found this massive print

And finally I found this titanic creature lurking in the near by swamp.

Do not be fooled.  Those green growths are actually massive pine trees that the monster crushed with it’s cyclopean bulk.  What you are seeing is Ralsa Whateley, the hybrid spawn of a human woman and one of the batrachian Deep Ones.  Grown tremendously large from ingesting all of Camera Girl’s bird seed he now rests before once again attacking humanity with the ferocity only capable by one of the Great Old Ones.

 

Man and God – Part 1 – The Existence of God

I want to preface this by saying that I have no formal training in theology, church doctrine or divinity other than twelve years of Roman Catholic schooling and the associated doctrinal education that entails.  Nothing I say can be construed to be orthodox doctrine within any sect of Christianity.  I’m sure that several of my beliefs would be considered heretical by some Christian theologists so don’t assume anything I say is dogma for any church you might belong to.  But it is what I believe and I think it’s time people start connecting the dots with what their scriptures say, what they understand it to mean and what the clerics in their churches say and do.

For all of recorded history and as far back as we can discover, man has tried to understand his place in the universe.  Earth Mother, Sky Father, elemental forces, spirits of animals, ancestors, natural objects like mountains, rivers, stars, planets, the sun and moon, all figured into the speculations and rituals of the humans who have inhabited Earth for countless generations.  Even our predecessors, the Neanderthals had burial customs that may have had a religious meaning.

But since the Age of Enlightenment the elite of our civilization has told us that God is dead.  But by that they mean that he never existed in the first place.  And within our lifetimes organized efforts have been put in place to stamp out belief in God.  The Soviets did everything they could to enforce atheism throughout the Soviet Union and the satellite nations that they controlled.  The modern academy inculcates a hatred of Christianity that borders on the monomaniacal.  And the LGBTQ mafia and their government allies confront and persecute any traces of orthodox Christianity wherever they can.

So, it is no wonder that church attendance is plummeting and surveys polling religious belief show a growing trend toward atheism among the young.  Sensing their ascendancy, the Left now asserts that religion and specifically Christianity has been discredited and will soon disappear, being completely displaced by the godless social justice cult that they adhere to.  And as if to prove their mastery of religion they now claim to be able to observe on brain scans the phenomenon which believers experience when communing with God in prayer.  From this scientific result they deduce that humans are confusing a natural neurological phenomenon with a supernatural experience.

This is the attack on the faithful from without.  At the same time, forces within the religious community are also wreaking havoc on the position of religion.  The monstrous horror that is the Catholic Priest Pedophile outrage has done more to discredit the Church than anything its enemies could have ever hoped to do.  I include in this of course the cover up of this horror by the complicit Church hierarchy which only serves to hammer home that the Roman Catholic Church has ceased to represent the traditional religious views of its hundreds of millions of adherents.  And the other Christian denominations to a greater or lesser extent have also lost much of their legitimacy through advocating almost exclusively a message of social justice and adopting a spirit of “tolerance” that effectively eliminates the tenets of their faiths.

I don’t paint a rosy picture.  And I don’t intend to.  Because I don’t have to.  Belief in God is not a delicate thing that has to be nurtured.  The need for God is one of the fundamental psychological needs of the human mind.  What has to be done is eliminate the mistaken information that confuses the minds of people.

As an example, the problem of pain.  Countless people have wrestled with the idea that somehow God could eliminate pain and suffering but chooses not to.  When confronted by the reality of innocent children suffering and dying from agonizing medical conditions or through brutal cruelty, they deny the reality of a loving God who would allow such things.

I have thought about this often myself.  The paradox is that of pure goodness and omnipotence juxtaposed with unjust suffering.  As an answer I’ve heard that free will prevents God from stopping evil men from inflicting pain on the innocent.  Of course, this doesn’t explain why natural disasters are allowed to occur.  So, we are stuck with a paradox.  But the answer is simpler.  How do we know the limits of what God can and can’t do?  If you read doctrine of the various churches, they state that God is omnipotent.  Well, what does that mean?  Human beings have no experience of any absolute.  We live in a world that we interpret with our senses and our very limited brain.  God may be so powerful that we cannot even fathom what he is capable of but that doesn’t mean he can control every drop of rain and every quake of the Earth.  It is my belief that the concept of omnipotence is the major stumbling block to belief in God.  Omnipotence sets up this idea of a game that’s rigged against us for no reason.  That is the problem that I think needs to be removed.

But what do we know about God?  What is clear from scripture is that God loves us.  That he says over and over again.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

So, if God loves us, he does not want us to suffer.  If nevertheless we do suffer innocently then it’s because it can’t be prevented.  To me that’s clear.  Whether that means there is a malevolence like the devil or a cold lifeless random universe outside of God’s purview then that’s what there is.  But I don’t have to understand everything.  I just need to know that I’ve got someone out there who cares for me and mine.  And who has interceded to provide help and knowledge and maybe even tip the scales a little in our favor whenever he can.

To me that’s the nature of a personal God.  He is a father to us and we have some of His spirit in us too.  And that’s not all that different from feeling the influence of the parents and grandparents that raised us and taught us and gave us understanding when we needed it.  And that is like the ancestors who passed along the laws that we live by.  God’s spirit allowed them to see how his people must live and so they wrote down these laws and provided the leadership needed to teach the people how to live.

Today many people will say that all of this can occur without God existing, that a tribe will coalesce around a leader whose mind naturally resonates to the needs of his people and will formulate the laws they need to thrive.  I know no way to prove otherwise.  But that is unimportant to me.  I do not seek to convince anyone.  I believe that there is a force in this world that impels us to do good.  And what seems like a proof of its existence is that it works against the flow of the world, the flow of which, if it does not actually work to achieve evil at the very least is completely unaffected by the suffering of humanity.  Countless stories exist of individuals laying down their lives to save a stranger from harm.  This impulse is a direct contradiction of animal nature which except in the case of parental love would put self-preservation ahead of any other consideration.

God’s exact nature can only be inferred by His effect on those that experience Him.  But I think that where genuine communion is experienced the effect is remarkably positive on the individual involved and even for the surrounding community.

The problem we are experiencing today is the lack of actual Christians in the churches.  Many of the leaders of the churches are not Christians.  They do not actually believe in God and their congregants sense this and are confused and angered by the hypocrisy.  And for the young this is amplified by the atheists that they meet up with in school and elsewhere that ridicule faith and accuse it of bigotry.  These young people are under enormous pressure to denounce Christian morality in order to avoid condemnation by the LGBTQ gatekeepers in school and the workplace.

But the first step is to re-establish the existence of God.  That takes two things.  First, convince yourself that there is no logical reason that precludes His existence.  That I’ve tried to provide above.  Then find belief in God within yourself.  That you have to find yourself.  But it’s definitely something that should be explored.  As I stated earlier there is a strong urge in humans to find the force in the universe that resonates with our happiness.  If you find a quiet spot and look inside yourself you might be surprised what you find.  Start out by not calling it God.  Start out by looking inside yourself to see what’s there.  Then take it from there.

 

Images from Camera Girl’s Annual Christmas Cookie Project

Christmas cookies account for a full 30% of my annual weight gain.  Oatmeal, chocolate chip and Grandma cookies (or white cookies as one of my brothers calls them) are sinfully good with a mug of coffee.

 

Christmas Cooking, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

 

Christmas Cooking, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

 

The only ones that don’t tempt me are the sugar cookies.  With their sweetness and the colored sugar crystals adorning them I think of them as a snack for young children who haven’t yet developed a more discerning palate (to each his own).

 

Christmas Cooking, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

 

Camera Girl is revered by all who can get their greedy hands on any of these treasures and the short time that they last is one of the high points of the culinary calendar.

That Damn Beaver’s Dam (and Lodge)

Since absconding with my game camera the Rodent of Unusual Size has been unobserved.  He probably sold it on ebay and used the proceeds to fund a vacation in Cancun.  Well, partially funded anyway.  But the puddle has remained at its elevated level so I decided to venture into the swamp and see what I could see.

There was no sign of the waterlogged rat anywhere but his handiwork was all around.

Here are some photos of his tree chopping abilities.

Beaver chewed branches, Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens

 

Beaver chopped sapling, Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens

And here is a mess he left while chewing the bark of sticks.  I should turn him into the Staties for littering.

Branches stripped of bark by beaver, Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens

 

Branches stripped of bark by beaver, Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens

 

Branches stripped of bark by beaver, Sony A7 III, Sony 50mm f\1.8 lens

And here is his Lodge (what a dump).

Beaver lodge, Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens

 

Beaver lodge, view from above, Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens

And here is the much vaunted dam.  Well, as a fellow engineer I can only say he’ll have to do a lot better than this if he expects to get his P.E stamp.

Downstream view of beaver dam, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

 

Downstream view of beaver dam, Sony 35mm f\1.4 macro lens

 

Downstream view of beaver dam, Sony 35mm f\1.4 macro lens

And here’s a close-up of his handiwork.

Downstream view of beaver dam, Sony 35mm f\1.4 macro lens

 

Disappearing like this leads me to believe either he has been eaten by one of his woodland brothers (coyote would be my guess).  Or he’s gone completely nocturnal.  I could test this theory out if I still had a game camera.  Oh well, maybe Santa will come through.

Fungus Among Us

Camera Girl is a great naturalist.  She likes being called Hawkeye because of her sharp and discerning vision.  She uses this keen sense mostly to see what it says on the speedometer in order to tell me I’m driving too fast.  But she also is adept at spotting interesting flora and fauna in the great wide world of our back yard.  She spots monarch butterfly caterpillars and hungry foxes and great blue herons and all kinds of birds around her feeders.  She discovers muskrats and minks and turkeys and turkey vultures, hawks and deer and coyotes and all kinds of flowers wild and garden.  Last year at about this time she spotted some unusual white plants sprouting underneath a conifer on the edge of a heavily wooded area of the property.  I thanked her for her find and proceeded to acquire a nice collection of mosquito bites crawling around on my belly trying to get a shot.  Here is the plant.

 

I thought it a very interesting plant and assumed it was white only because it was in a darkly shaded area.  I thought no more about it until this year.  In the last few weeks we have had some extremely hot and also some extremely rainy weather.  So even though it is August my “lawn” is a verdant carpet of crab grass.  And at the same time a great variety of different species of mushrooms have appeared in the yard, especially close to some wooded areas of the property.  Camera Girl knows I like to use mushrooms as subjects for close-up and macro photography and so she provides me with info on the best new mushroom sightings.  This year was no exception so I have managed to photograph a goodly number of interesting fungi.  But what was different was her discovery of additional specimens of the sprouting white plants.  I was able to use the superb magnified focus of my new Sony A7 III to very good advantage on these plants.

Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

And because the places I found the plants was not as dark as last year’s location I decided that their coloration was not a fluke of location.  They really were white.  Using all the resources of the interwebs I was able to identify these unusual plants.  It is known systematically as Monotropa uniflora but commonly it is called Indian pipe, ghost plant and corpse plant.  It has no chlorophyll to allow it to produce sugar from carbon dioxide and water.  Instead it steals its food from underground fungi of the family Russulaceae.

Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f4 Macro lens
mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

 

mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

 

mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

This condition of lacking chlorophyll and living parasitically off fungi makes the Indian pipe what is known in botany as an obligate myco-heterotroph.  And it gets even more complicated than that.  The fungus that Indian pipe is mooching off is simultaneously in a symbiotic existence with underground tree roots of beech and other woodland trees.  The tree roots allow the fungus access to sugar and the fungus breaks down decaying material in the soil so that the trees can absorb the nutrients it could not obtain on its own.  In fact, the tree roots and the fungi form an interface called a mycorrhizal network in which the cells of the roots and the fungus interpenetrate each other to allow nutrient materials to flow in both directions to the mutual benefit of both.  So it was no coincidence that Camera Girl discovered the Indian pipe while scouting out new mushrooms.  The torrential rain and torrid heat of the last few weeks is what triggered the sprouting mushrooms and the Indian pipe bloom.  And now I see the even closer relation between these two life forms.  The mushroom is the victim of the Indian pipe thief.

So, this is the kind of weird stuff that I am interested in.  This doesn’t really belong solely in photography or current events and definitely not in science fiction or reviews.  That is why photog’s Corner was made, for this kind of weird stuff.  Caveat lector, let the reader beware.

A photog and His Corner

Old people and literary types will have heard of Thomas Mann.  He was a German author born in 1875.  He won the Nobel Prize in literature in the 1920s and he belonged to the Modernist school.  Back in the 1970s if you had a high school English teacher who was especially perverse he would assign a book of Mann’s called “Death in Venice and Other Stories.”  Now the title story “Death in Venice,” is vile.  It’s the story of an old German writer who has a premonition of death and goes to Venice to feel young again.  He has an infatuation verging on pedophilia for an adolescent boy that mercifully goes unfulfilled and then to the reader’s great relief the protagonist dies.  The only legitimate reason to read this story is for law enforcement profilers to gain a better understanding of pedophile motivation.

One of the other stories in the book is called “A Man and His Dog.”  It is autobiographical and describes Mann’s life in a suburban/rural area of Germany.  He chronicles the walks he takes with his approximately German Shorthaired Pointer dog Bashan.  We hear about the landscape, the flora and fauna and the farmland occupants of his little world.  It is without a doubt, the best thing in the story collection and I’ve always envied his opportunity to share a slice of his world and life in such a congenial narrative.  It really is a pleasure to read.

So, even though I keep German Short Haired Pointers, I can’t do what Mann did.  I don’t have his facility for felicitous phrasing.  But I’m a lot funnier than he was.  So, from time to time, I’ll address things in a post that have very little to do with politics, photography or science fiction.  When that happens, I’ll assign them to the category “photog’s Corner” and that will be a warning sign of irrelevance to the primary foci of this blog.  Caveat emptor.

 

photog