Warm company

Yesterday I took a walk around our largest pasture, a space that is half woods and half prairie.  My primary mission was to look for a fallen tree in case it landed on the fence (something I heard around 2:30 AM that morning but couldn’t definitively locate by sound).  My secondary mission, of course, was to take pictures and enjoy nature.

Unfortunately for me, the jaunt came after heavy rain and on a moderately cool day and on a very windy day.  I had little hope of seeing much other than flowers and fungi, perhaps even the occasional arthropod, the latter being mostly comatose given the temperature.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09848)

To my surprise, I had a good deal of warm company no matter where I looked.  That company came in the guise of Texas spiny lizards (Sceloporus olivaceus).  Mostly males, these reptiles seemed to be out in force occupying every sunny spot available.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09865)

They didn’t welcome my company, of course, but they likewise didn’t rush away just because I appeared.  After all, scampering about served only to remove them from open spots in sunlight.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09881)

A few butterflies[1] and a few caterpillars couldn’t fill the long walk, and the flowers and fungi are ubiquitous and thus things I have seen and photographed on a regular basis[2].  Thus it was with great pleasure that I welcomed the warm company of these lizards, even if they weren’t exactly thrilled with my invasion of their sunbathing moments.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09889)

Despite my lack of activity of late[3], herein lies a bit of what’s to come.  Or at least a bit of the warm company I enjoyed yesterday.

Oh, and the fallen tree was beyond the pasture.  The only thing I found on the fence was a sapling about 15 feet/5 meters tall.  And I removed it without difficulty.  Apparently the big tree I heard fall was one well beyond our property.

— — — — — — — — — —

Notes:

  1. We have been mindful of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).  Given the precarious situation they’re in—likely to be wiped out in the next decade at most—we’ve allowed all manner of milkweed to grow around the farm.  And we’ve been watchful for their presence.  Yesterday I saw two across the expanse of a multi-acre pasture.  Sad, yes, but still hopeful.
  2. For the other tidbits I saw and photographed and didn’t present here, you can expect to see them in an upcoming post.
  3. I’ve been busy of late with tasks about the family farm, not to mention the rebuild of my laptop—going from Windows to Linux.  I’ll share a bit later about my experience on the Linux upgrade.

Pareidolia

For those who have followed the news recently—or, in fact, for the past thirteen years—relevance has been granted to a group of steel beams found “amidst the debris of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,” steel beams which, to the religiously inclined, obviously resemble a Christian cross.  Never mind that such constructs exist in every structure built with crosswise supports, like the transverse beams of a sailing ship built centuries ago.  This one, by golly, is a sign!  Despite being nothing more meaningful than two crossed structural steel beams, it’s obviously a Christian cross.  Right?

And so you see a face on Mars.  And an elephant in a cloud.  And Jesus in a piece of toast.  All because you see meaning where none exists.

Unfortunately for atheists, they also see a cross where none exists, and so they spin their wheels and rage against the machine and battle to keep a religious symbol out of public life—a religious symbol that does not exist.

Why doesn’t it exist?  Because it’s just a pair of crossed steel beams, the same kind of crossed beams found around the globe in any structure built with the same specifications, whether built of wood or concrete or steel or whatever.  In the end, transverse structural support is just that—crosswise bracing.  It’s nothing more complicated than that.

Nevertheless, people want to find meaning in it, and those people are Christian and atheist and any number of other groups.

What all these people suffer from is a form of apophenia called pareidolia: the ability of the human mind to find meaning in random stimuli.  If you see patterns in clouds or see a face on the moon or hear meaning in records played in reverse, you’re suffering from pareidolia.  And if a structure falls and you see a cross in two steel beams, you’re suffering from pareidolia as well.

How do I know?  Let me show you the dragon I found.

A dragon via pareidolia

There it lurked in the woods, staring at me even as I stared at it.  A dragon.  A monster.  A mythological beast as real as I am.

I saw it, I photographed it, I experienced it.

A dragon via pareidolia

Camouflaged to look like so much debris, evolved to seem as innocent as a fallen tree in the forest, the dragon never flinched as I looked at it.  And I never flinched as I photographed it.

For it gave me proof that such creatures exist, pictures of a demon heretofore considered a whimsical thing, an unreal thing, an imaginary thing.  Yet there it was.

A dragon via pareidolia

While others might see only a rough wood felled by nature itself, I know better.  Just as others see a cross in the steel beams of a fallen building, I see a dragon in the fallen remnants of a tree.

If they’re right about the cross, then I’m right about the dragon.

Blog reboot

I’m rebooting xenogere.

Today.

Mating pair of syrphid flies (a.k.a. hover flies; Toxomerus marginatus)

Since I last changed my blog theme, I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with blogging.

That is to say I’ve hated the idea.

But no more.

Close-up of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and various other diversions will no longer distract me.

I will, however, continue to focus on my novels.

Because I have more important things to do.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) mobbing a feeder

And I’ll focus on photography.

Because I can make money with that, let alone use it to expand my horizons.

A male eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) crawling on my hand

And I’ll focus on technology work since that has put many a coin in my pockets.

I mean, hey, come on already.

A female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with her fawn

I started blogging more than eleven years ago.

It’s time to either shut down and move on or restart and move forward.

I choose to move forward.

A Striped bark scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) eating a cricket--which has been decapitated

As you can see, I’ve made significant changes to the site. These changes aren’t done yet. In fact, not only are they a work in progress, they’re a work in need of focus.

There are problems I must fix, changes I must make, enhancements I must address.

So the site’s incomplete. But trust me when I say I’ll take care of it.

a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) crawling along a storage barrel

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to get back on the horse so to speak.

And I intend to do just that.

The bayou

There’s a housing project there now, a line of multi-million-dollar homes and Mercedes and Lexus weighting down driveways along the bayou where I remember walking with Christy as we strolled the woods, my parents still at home, the cold pinching us as we crammed hands into pockets and curled toes in shoes, all the while walking, always walking, enjoying nature and the frigidity of the day and the rawness of winter and the comfort of beloved friends strolling, always strolling, comfortable and casual and cold.

They’ve built houses there now, many of them—most of them gaudy and audacious and terribly offensive—or at least too expensive and too showy for this dense thicket of second-growth woods where wildlife teems and cars once were few but now are many and the world was as it should be but is now as it should have been.

But it’s not that way now, at least as it should be, at least as it was—no, not at all, not with the weekenders and their expensive cars and their uncaring attitudes and their money and their homes, all so diligently destroying what once was beautiful but now is barren, used, abused, a world where nature once reigned but where now even the residents care less about how it should be and more about how they want it to be, a place where decades ago I romped and played and hunted, where fewer decades ago I walked and talked and enjoyed, and where now the invaders live—or at least they pretend to live, for they don’t truly live but instead they exist, reside in meaningless lives and expensive homes as they ignore the beauty they destroyed just so they can have a home for the weekends and have a house to brag about and have an expensive construct to smear in the faces of others.

Few remember because so few survive, but I remember, and my parents remember, and I know Christy remembers—among others.  We know what it was like, with the bobcats and cougars and bears, with the raccoons and skunks and opossums, with the quail and doves and hawks and eagles, with the snakes and alligators, none of which these new residents want, none of which the weekenders will tolerate, all of which our current invaders want to destroy and eradicate and subjugate and extirpate, the nature of the place violated and manipulated and manhandled and changed.

I’ve made it my mission to exterminate these foul fiends, to buy back the land they stole from nature, to make their pathetic little suburb a memory in favor of what was and what should be and what will be again, to wipe out this offense so the world can be as it should be, and I will give up all I have and all I will have and all I hope to have in order to make that real, so I can reclaim what’s been stolen, so I can take back what should never have been taken, so I can make the world the place it should always have been, the place it once was, the place it will be again.

I love the bayou.  I love the way it used to be.  I love the way it should be.  I love the way it will be again.

Yes, I love the bayou.  And I intend to make the bayou what it was, what it should have been, what it will be.

Yes, I love the bayou.  And I’ll make it glorious once again, even if it kills me.

Those warm wrinkled hands

[A brief excerpt from a fictional story I'm writing]

Snow fell heavily around the house that day.  It blanketed the world in loud quiet that my nine-year-old mind could barely grasp.  Silence like that is hard to come by, and it was a new experience for me.

I could see Grandpa standing at the window watching as I played in the snowdrifts that grew like wildflowers all over the landscape.  I could barely see his wrinkled hands clutching the cold windowsill.  Even if I couldn’t see them at all, I knew they were there.  I loved his hands.  They were always warm, gentle yet firmly reassuring, always ready to catch me when my latest endeavor to climb that enormous tree in the back yard ended like all the attempts before it—with me falling, although sometimes it was less a fall and more a skidding down the rough bark.

I stopped my play for just a moment when I saw him standing there.  I waved and he waved back.  Even through the heavy curtain of white air that separated us, I could see his loving gaze and the smile he offered in return for my own.

For just a brief moment, that picture of him mesmerized me.  The fireplace behind him offered a reassuring glow that seemed to silhouette him against the windowpane with warm amber tones behind his dimly lit countenance glowing from the snow’s reflection.  I was struck by the sight of his white hair and how it seemed to be a halo made of whispers and dreams sketched with gray sunlight.  Even from where I stood I could feel his love for me.  The watchful gaze was nothing more than a gentle reminder of it.

So I turned back to the snow and romped through the powdery wonderland completely oblivious to the fact that it would be his last winter.  I’d never again be stricken by that view of him in the big window, safely cloaked in warmth as I dared the cold to stop me from having fun.  I’d never again be comforted by knowing he would be there in case I fell.  I’d never again relish the embrace of those warm wrinkled hands, those living promises of safety that wouldn’t survive the day.

a life in progress