Go Get Dumpa!

Regrettably, we have a long distance relationship with our grand daughters. Looking back a couple of decades from now, their memories of their mother’s parents will be sporadic visits to Goose Creek or on their home turf for a long weekend now and then.

But I suppose they will have some solid recollection of the things we paid attention to: clouds, birds, flowers, and anything living.

So when Ann and Taryn came across this roadkill on their coastal Carolina neighborhood walk last weekend, the 10-yr-old immediately said “Let’s go back and get Dumpa!” And they did. And we all walked six blocks back to the dead snake.

“Can I touch it?” she asked, needing permission from the nature-outdoors “authority” in her life, now and again.

From all such interactions over the years, the grands at least know that things have names; they have stories; and they have value in the grand scheme of things. And they maybe will keep their eyes open to details that some children don’t care to attend to or see and just don’t have the curiosity to care about.

The snake, by the way, stumped me. It had the head of a rat snake, but until seeing this “yellowish rat snake” (Elaphe obsoleta) I did not know that any had longitudinal stripes. Now I know. Thanks Taryn, for teaching the old dog a new trick.

Not Exactly Bored

I am plagued or blessed—depending on the way I squint my eyes when I reflect on the things that fill my vision at various moments on any day of the week—with a lot of interests.

I guess I just don’t want to miss anything before the lights go out.

One of the current spinning plates in the Vaudeville Act of Life is a resurrected interest in playing the piano—and this after giving away our old family upright that, in this moist location with drying woodstoves, would never hold a tuning.

Shortly thereafter, I had occasion to sit down at a nicely tuned old piano and was able to resurrect just enough of my ancient muscle memory to enjoy playing again, and not have that too terribly painful to listening ears.

And so, after two weeks of dinking around with a borrowed Yamaha keyboard, I ordered one this morning. Finally! An end to the empty hours when I can’t find a single thing to occupy my idle mind and hands–the Devil’s workshop, you know!

Oh—and there is Scout, our 13 month old canine with us now two weeks tomorrow. Ann entreated me to not post anything about the dog, since, for a few days there, we were not certain we were equal to the task of training a dog who had already had a former life we knew nothing of.

I think—think—we are past that uncertainty. So Scout, the pup, is another thing to stave off boredom. And more about that new hobby, soon.

THE LAST STRAW of ONE Lifetime

I pledge: to never again use a new plastic straw.

I made that commitment—regrettably and only after decades of knowing about the Great Garbage Patch in the Sargasso Sea, and since, about the other floating islands the size of Texas that consist of all the plastic waste that washes down our local creeks and rivers.

This article contains ample support for why each of us needs to think about the cradle-to-grave lifespan of everything we buy—and mindlessly use once and toss. Think about where that toss sends the plastic sizzles, cup lids, twist-ties, “free” pens from the bank, styrofoam Happy Meal containers, coffee cups….

So on our recent trip, I had multiple opportunities to JUST SAY NO. We did stop one place that used paper straws. Paper or plastic: take TWO. I saved a straw found in the glove box and will reuse it for thoes rare times when driving and drinking—a fountain drink from Subway.

You can purchase re-usable straws, too. I’m thinking if I need that one more bit of STUFF.

April 16, 2007 and the Problem of Pain

Deep Creek near Thomas Amis House and Inn near Rogersville TN. Click image to enlarge

This is a far more weighty subject than anyone should jump into casually. So forgive me for doing just that, in a way, with a brief morning post.

For so many families, the sting of this day remains sharp and deep. And many still feel the weight of the evil that befell so many innocents at Virginia Tech at the hand of an unbalanced shooter.

I happened across this essay/sermon by Philip Yancey, who shortly after the event, addressed the students and faculty on campus after having just suffered his own near-death pain and injury in an accident.

Where is God When it Hurts?

His understanding expressed in this text of how a universe exists in which God is both good and omnipotent AND evil and pain exist might be helpful to some who make the effort to read it through.

Christians ask the same question, but like Yancey, find sufficient understanding, though “through a glass, darkly” for this life. And with that understanding, they don’t shake their fist at God (like more than a few of our friends) for creating a world where free will leads to lies and deceit, anger and vengeance, suffering and injustice.

As C S Lewis describes such a world, a knife could be used to spread butter on bread, but should it be used to threaten injury, it would turn into a blade of grass.

We live in a consequential world. And in it, perhaps the most astounding fact is that love and beauty abounds. And life is precious. And something is most definitely broken here.

 

Saved by The MetaGenomics of Dirt

Below are some annotated bits from an article in Wired that describe the early successes in the battle to find weapons against the increasingly numerous and increasingly virulent microbes that are resistant to all known antibiotics.

We worry about the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans or Dr Strangeloves in power around the world, when all along, if the human population suffers the Malthusian reduction many fear, it will most likely come from invaders far too small to see.

HOW DIRT COULD SAVE HUMANITY FROM AN INFECTIOUS APOCALYPSE

The culprit, pan-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, is not the only superbug overpowering humanity’s defenses; it is part of a family known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. The carpabenems are drugs of last resort, and the CDC considers organisms that evade these antibiotics to be nightmare bacteria.

So it’s difficult to envision a future that resembles the pre-antibiotic past—an era of untreatable staph, strep, tuberculosis, leprosy, pneumonia, cholera, diphtheria, scarlet and puerperal fevers, dysentery, typhoid, meningitis, gas gangrene, and gonorrhea.

But that’s the future we are headed for.

This is not the coming plague. It’s already upon us, and it spells the end of medicine as we know it.

That’s why Brady and others turned to metagenomics—the study of all the genetic information extracted from a given environment.

Brady came to realize that he did not need to trek to some pristine or remote ecosystem to explore the world’s biodiversity. The requisite material for building new drugs could be found much closer to home.

The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become; the more selective pressures we apply, the more likely resistant strains will emerge.

Think about this the next time you stand quietly in the park or in the forest or meadow near your house. Reach down and gather a teaspoon full of everyday soil in your palm, and realize there are likely to be some 3000 different microbes nestled in the hollow of your hand.

Here is enough genetic information to solve many of humanity’s problems–if only we ask the right questions. And move with sufficient speed to do the work in advance of the inevitable and urgent need.

Snows of Narnia

If every snowflake is different, then every snowfall must be too.

This one was unique. It was the last snow to fall before my personal odometer turns to a new zero.

And so I am trying to pay attention to the details. And the details of this snow were worth attending.

I confess I used PixelBender oil paint filter to attenuate the branching snow shapes just a little; it impressed me as a scene out of a fairy tale–maybe Chronicles of Narnia, and so I rendered the image to bring that out a bit. [click to enlarge image ]

SomeWhere

From Bethlehem Church Road, Floyd County Virginia. Click image to enlarge.

And SomeWhen.

Finding the pot of gold means a bit of good luck. And keeping your eyes open. And having a camera in your pocket 24/7. And stopping in the rain to step out of your car in the middle of a county road to save the moment.

I once reflected on the place of photographs in my life:

“Film became a way to preserve present moments in a clear resin of recall. Every photograph set a benchmark in time, held a unique instant in the emulsion of memory, captured in perfect synchrony that vertical line of precise moment that intersects the coordinates of particular place.”

It may be maudlin and saccharine, but Kodak moments anchor us in person, place, space and time. And I am thankful to have had more than my share of them.

And a bit more of the reflection on time (from What We Hold in Our Hands):

“No two photographic markers were the same, and there was no going back. With my lens, I fished from the moving stream of time as days flowed through the faces I knew, past the places I loved, leaving the lived, the known moments bobbing on its glassy surfaceÑdeeper down, farther back, receding Doppler-like across a realm that I could photograph, could know just once, just now.

I have spent decades more behind the camera, no longer wishing I were older, happy for the past, but savoring photographic instants in the present when one face or one flower, one sunset, yet another family pet or one more grandchild’s candle-covered birthday cake fills the viewfinder and moves on downstream.”