The last day

Kazon lying on the bed blanketed by the warm light of sunset (20080927_12918)

Yesterday evening as Kazon lay on the bed blanketed by the warm light of sunset, I watched him bathe for a short time before he curled up for a nap, and I realized then that today marks the end of his two-week regimen of medication.  His last steroids and antibiotics will be taken today, and I hope this defines his last struggle with the upset stomach they cause.

Our next course of action stems entirely from the results of more tests, more blood taken to see if his immune system has calmed down enough for him to be safe.  There’s also the question of his needed dental surgery, which of course can’t be addressed if we’re unable to reign in his immune system.

His weight stabilized after the first week, but it never recovered to its previous level and he now maintains a lightness that frightens me each time I pick him up.

Only time will tell where we go from here.

I’ve been asked why I subject myself to this variety of high-maintenance animals, many of whom have chronic health conditions.  That heralds entirely from rescuing unwanted and abandoned animals instead of seeking out kitten-mill produce and designer breeds.

Navel-gazing notwithstanding, saving a life to me is more important than effortless companionship by way of taking the safe route.

I would rather have a few short years of profound love with a sickly animal than many long years with a healthy one that I took in trade for knowing the loneliness and pain I left others to endure.

Had I not rescued Kazon when he was so young and so sick and so feeble, would anyone else have come along and provided him a good home with plenty of care and affection, provided him with safety and family without worrying for the cost his troubled childhood would bring later?

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

Only my compassion drives me in these matters.

And when I am showered with such unbridled adoration and cared for with such heartfelt desire…  Well, to me that’s repayment well above and beyond whatever tribulations and trials we may face together.

The destructon of White Rock Lake

White Rock Lake in Dallas.  That’s where I live, right on the edge of this wildlife refuge, right on the edge of this oasis in the middle of urban hell.

It’s full of resident and migratory birds, such as ducks, herons and egrets, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, finches, sparrows, swallows, flycatchers, blackbirds, martins, and many, many more; so many turtles, snakes and fish that you scarcely comprehend their numbers even though you see them all over the place; all sorts of diurnal and nocturnal mammals, like coyotes, foxes, raccoons, armadillos, minks, skunks and opossums; an unimaginable variety of insects and arthropods that outnumber us in a few short steps to the tune of hundreds to one, and when measured in our field of vision, they outnumber us millions to one; fields of wildflowers and grasses, dense woodlands thriving with innumerable kinds of trees, and waterways, marshes and shallows overflowing with aquatic plants and freshwater neighbors; and the list goes on.

This lake provides sanctuary to creatures great and small, and to flora so diverse that it boggles the mind.

All of this depends on the lake, on its delicate ecosystem made up of various types of environments, from inlets and confluences, to marshes and creeks, to shallow bays just right for wading, and to the depths of the lake itself.

But the city of Dallas has decided to annihilate all of this.

First comes an atrocious plan pushed through by a lighting company to illuminate the entire shoreline at night as a “proactive measure” to prevent crime after dark.


Almost all crime at the lake occurs during the day.  That’s statistically proven and indisputable.

What has happened is that a slick salesman for this devilish lighting company shafted the public by sneaking through a plan at taxpayer expense to put lights up all over the lake, to essentially destroy the nighttime environment by taking a lack of light pollution and turning it into one of the worst sources of light pollution one can imagine.

Doing so will draw crime into the park at night.  I mean, now that criminals can see and people will be lulled into a false sense of security by all the light, it will become a haven for robbers and rapists searching for easy prey—prey that’s easy to see and easy to assault, I mean.

And what happens to all the wildlife that relies on the dark for sustenance, for sleep, for safety?

It will be forced away from the lake and into surrounding neighborhoods.  People should start bringing their children, dogs and cats inside right now, because roving bands of coyotes and raccoons can bring death and destruction to anything that gets in their way.

But not wanting to stop the destruction at installing unnecessary, overly-expensive lights that will degrade the nighttime scenery and destroy the ecosystem, Dallas also came up with a plan to fix the spillway that will leave carnage and emptiness in its wake.

For two years they plan to lower the lake level by almost three feet (a meter) so constructions workers don’t get their feet wet while repairing the damaged retaining walls at the spillway.  They also intend to fell a vast swath of trees around the spillway.

These two acts will put the final nail in the lake’s coffin.  Oh, and all of this is being done with no environmental impact studies to quantify how the lake and its inhabitants will respond to these grotesqueries.

Abominations that reek of mishandling stewardship of White Rock Lake and its unique ecology, Dallas has foregone all sanity and humanity in the name of ignorance and avarice.

Sunset Bay will be left a dry, parched flatland where wading birds, ducks, geese and all manner of wildlife currently flourish.

The tributaries that feed the lake will be drained too low to sustain the thriving life that now fills them.

The diverse rookery surrounding the spillway will be emptied of its nests as trees are destroyed and humans bring heavy machinery and disruption right through the heart of new life that lives there.

Winter migrants, some of whom are already starting to arrive, will suddenly find the lake unable to support them until next spring—if it can even get them through the first month of winter.

The lack of food will cause year-round residents to flee, and that includes the hawks, egrets, herons, coyotes, foxes, snakes, turtles, ducks, geese, and all manner of beasts.

Essentially, both of these projects will make the lake uninhabitable to wildlife and uninviting to people.  This spectacular balance between nature and city will be destroyed, and what will be left will be a disgusting example of human greed and obliteration of that which stands in the way: nature.

Sans environmental impact studies, sans listening to residents of the lake and surrounding areas, sans forethought and care, sans comprehension of the beauty they are about to destroy, the city of Dallas should be ashamed of itself for even considering these plans, let alone allowing them to move forward.

And let me add to the list of shame the lighting company that kept residents and neighbors in the dark while pushing their illuminating hell on the city.  Hossley Lighting should be boycotted, derided, insulted, ignored, and put out of business.  They actually got the lighting plan put into motion without notice, so the first inkling we had of this horrific idea was the sudden appearance of lights along the west shore of the lake.  Mind you, the city won’t even repair the existing lights at piers and in parking lots, but by golly they’ll add more lights at an unbelievably high cost without any electrical infrastructure in place to support them.  And all at Hossley’s behest.  I wonder who’s getting paid to sell off our park to this reprehensible company…

Let us also put blame on the White Rock Lake Foundation and members of this injurious organization such as board member Susan Falvo.  She proffers her bought-and-paid-for vocal diarrhea as though it matters, as though anyone wants to hear the political rambles of someone who explains away this violation of trust and obliteration of our beautiful lake with phrases such as “proactive on security” and “before there is a problem.”  She herself said, “The lake is very safe.”  Why then does she think demolishing its grandeur and beauty will keep it that way?  The answer is simple: She’s a waste of skin and a bag of hot air with her pockets lined by someone who stands to make money from the deal.

Counting birds alone, more than 217 species will be impacted by these miscarriages of lake management, and that doesn’t include the innumerable and vast legion of other life that lives here alongside we the people.  What these two projects portend for the lake is a complete destruction of all that is, a violation of our shared trust of and habitation alongside this urban wildlife preserve.

Standing upon this precipice, this edifice of what is as it slowly gives way to what will be, I feel all of my photographs from this lake have become a memorial to canonize the once stunning White Rock Lake as it falls from grace and becomes the commercial example of how money is the root of all evil, the driving force behind man’s wanton destruction of nature in an attempt to make it better.

I’m ashamed of my city, disappointed with Dallas and its lack of oversight for the wonders that abound within its borders, and I’m horrified by the White Rock Lake Foundation, Recon Inc. and Hossley Lighting.  They deserve nothing less than our most profound contempt.  I can only hope they eventually reap the devilish rewards deserved for these violations of the lake.

A little unwell

The morning brought with it a sense of dread, a feeling of inescapable doom cloaked in pangs of agony.  And it went downhill from there.

Some ghoulish specter visited me during the night and deposited a sour stomach where my docile tummy had been the day before.

Stress, I think, or at least nerves and stress and fatigue exacerbating what should have been a minor upset stomach.  Though I do feel I’m getting a good ab workout…

Rushing slowly from minute to minute as the day zooms effortlessly by me in a race to bring the weekend to my doorstep, a weekend for being on call and lacking any rest or ability to relax looms just beyond the horizon of night, just over that midnight hill up ahead.

How I deplore being sick, and only slightly less than I deplore my job.  Pulling me under until I can no longer breathe, this employment embodies the scourge of plagues and the death of hope.

But I dare not dwell on it, not today at least.  If I’m to feel better, I must be calm and tranquil.

Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia) with the shadows of dew beneath the petals (20080920_12165)
Close-up of a female muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) as she sits beside the pier (20080920_12151)
A male regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius) perched on a twig as he watches me watch him (20080920_12216)
A dark-form female eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) grabbing a sip of nectar (20080921_12561)
An abandoned spider web from an unidentified orb weaver (20080921_12695)
A male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched high in a treetop (20080921_12709)
A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) resting atop a log waiting for sunlight (20080921_12832)
A fallen leaf reduced to the lace outline of its veins (20080921_12722)

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia)

[2] Female muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)

[3] Male regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius)

[4] Dark-form female eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

[5] Abandoned spider web from unidentified orb weaver

[6] Male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

[7] Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

[8] Fallen leaf reduced to the lace outline of its veins

A sense of scale

Nothing humbles us quite as powerfully as those moments wherein the vastness of the universe unfolds as a reminder of how small we are in relation to the cosmos.

We scarcely comprehend the distance between our sun and the nearest star, let alone the unimaginable spaces that separate whole galaxies from one another.

And when our minds grapple with the incomprehensible enormity of a universe that holds countless galaxies in its grasp…  Well, is it any wonder so many refuse to even try?

During brief jaunts at White Rock Lake this past weekend I found myself confronted with a different sense of scale, one comparable to our own infinitesimally insignificant size when rested beside the whole of that which contains our planet, our star, our solar system and our galaxy—along with many billions of similar planets and stars and galaxies.

The ground wet with dew and the last tears of a thin veil of fog that still lingered in the air, I stepped carefully as I traversed fields of clover and grass that sparkled in the morning sun.  Always mindful of the life filling the shadows beneath each blade, of the marvels scampering about a veritable rain forest that I might consider nothing more than ground cover, I measured each step carefully, each footfall preceded with a sweeping of my shoe before me as warning to those in my path.

Those watching me no doubt believed me mad, what with the slow, cumbersome movement that carried me forward like a gnat through cold molasses.  They surely felt I would never make it out of the park before starvation and stagnation claimed me for their own.

Yet I can survive hours in this manner, hours of life carefully paid to the tills of observation and care.  Only in this way am I capable of seeing that worth seeing, experiencing the fullness of life that fills every moment whilst going unnoticed by almost all humans.

Katydids and grasshoppers leaping from leaf to leaf…  Crickets singing until I came too close for comfort…  Mockingbirds winging their way on air washed white with moisture fighting the rising sun for one more moment…  Spiders jumping and chasing and running…  Dragonflies and damselflies filling every void with the hunt and perch and hunt and perch…  Ducks and geese and herons and pelicans rushing from bath to swim to meal to nap…  Armadillos racing off to bed while snakes awoke to a new day…

So much life can overwhelm the senses, make one feel too unable to see that which matters.  It is precisely at that moment when the importance of scale presents itself.

A juvenile toad in the palm of my hand (20080921_12536)

No larger than my own thumbnail, this juvenile toad leapt before my lumbering form, each landing a dive beneath some smidgen of grass or cluster of clover; nevertheless, its first jump caught my attention and drew me in for a closer look.

Several minutes it took for me to capture it, and several times it escaped my gentle grasp before I lifted it more than a heartbeat above the ground.  I smiled in that careful frustration that defines such experiences, that captures the essence of wanting a picture of that which does not share the interest.

Even as I held my subject with the utmost care, I witnessed a myriad of its brothers and sisters making their escapes while my attention focused elsewhere.  The ground writhed amidst the carryings on of an amphibian swarm defined by children.  I gasped at the profound presence of so many toads and frogs, not one of them larger than the one I held in my hand…and many of them much smaller.

Then my mind wandered to the previous day, to an experience not too dissimilar from the magic I felt then, to an even smaller creature with whom I shared the briefest of experiences.

A tiny juvenile toad in the palm of my hand (20080920_12198)

I watched the ground carefully in an effort to avoid needlessly ending a life.  My wet shoes scuffled along like heavy weights tethered to weak legs.  Too many innocents fled my approach for me to be careless.

Then a spot of movement caught my eye, a glimmer of spirit racing along at minuscule speeds beneath my lumbering approach.  I knelt down for a closer look.

How long it took me to capture the child I cannot say.  So small that I feared even my gentlest touch might crush it, I worked diligently to coax it into my palm with tender movements made too large and cumbersome by the disparity of scale that defined our existences.

Only one photo could be taken, one moment captured in digital form.  Too much chasing and too much handling, I feared, would lead to some cataclysmic disaster wherein I would take a life through no intent save that of snapping a picture.  Such would be unforgivable.

And again my mind wandered, soared from thought to though, from memory to memory…

A sense of scale began to take shape, one defined by an enormity made of my own smallness and characterized by the tiniest of life so placidly held in my grasp.  Even as I began to weep from the mystic power revealed to me, I turned away so as not to frighten the creature with the disastrous onslaught of something as small as a tear.

We as individuals feel so small in the face of the universe.  We feel so threatened, so challenged by a vastness that questions our long-held sense of superiority, of being the center of the cosmos.

In those moments when I held two lives indescribably small within the confines of my enormous hand, that sense of scale came into focus, made itself manifest in a truth too many ignore and too many revile.

We are small because we think we are small.  We are giants because we think we are giants.  The truth lies somewhere in between, somewhere along a path of enlightenment that few travel and many renounce.

True strength rests in the peace of gentleness, and real tenderness demands a strength of spirit all but a few lack.

I hope this sense of scale never escapes me, never leaves me questioning, leaves me wondering that, even if I can do a thing, does that mean I must do that thing?  Just because I can inflict my superiority upon others in the form of death, does it necessarily follow that I should?

A sense of scale.  A sense of humanity.

— — — — — — — — — —


Both are of a toad, probably Bufo valliceps or Bufo nebulifer.  Neither example was old enough to tell for certain (and both species are so similar that even adults are hard to tell apart).  As they grow, as they age, both—assuming they survive—will show the traits more describable by their respective species.

I at first thought I might crop these images to focus more intently on the toads.  Further review while writing this post made clear such an approach not only felt hollow, but it would diminish the fierceness of what I experienced.  The measure relative to my hand pronounces what matters; emphasis on secondary considerations employs a deception unworthy of the impact.

A few rules

With the U.S. government looking to spend $700 billion to save companies that acted stupidly, let me present some recommendations from “we the people” who ultimately will foot the bill.  Oh, and this should include all companies already saved from their own mismanagement…

  1. We the taxpayers should gain ownership in any company saved to the tune of whatever investment it takes to salvage said entities from the ignorance that put them in jeopardy.  That means the federal government should gain stock in the amount of all moneys spent to purchase the bad investments these companies made; that ownership should then be passed on to the citizens who find themselves carrying this debt.
  2. All executives (any CxO) in companies saved at the taxpayers’ expense should have their salaries halted until the public debt is paid.  I mean all executives should receive absolutely no compensation until the little people are paid back the totality of funds necessary to keep their organizations from going under.  Call it a learning experience for those bigwigs who expect us average folk to lose our tax investments on their behalf.
  3. Mortgages acquired by the government should fall under different foreclosure rules than those still owned by the financial companies involved.  And any organization which sells mortgage-backed investments to the government should lose any and all claims to those loans.
  4. The American people who pay for this bailout should be the first and only people in line for recompense once the market stabilizes and funds become available to the government.  No company or executive should have any claim whatsoever to any refunds or disbursements made available by the government as this charity is paid off.
  5. Vigorous and demanding oversight should be included for the entire financial services sector.  Call it “square-headlights-required regulation” if you will, but it goes without saying that Wall Street acts with contemptuous disregard for Main Street, and then it pretends Main Street owes it something when the cards are on the table.  So be it, but let that include Main Street having final say in what Wall Street does.
  6. All boards involved should be summarily terminated and replaced by a majority-controlled public board, which consists of those paying this unbelievably enormous bill.  Controlling interests in all companies involved failed to act early or late, yet now they look for a handout from the tax-payinig public.  To me that means they don’t deserve the stewardship with which they were charged.
  7. The entire program should last no more than twelve months.  It should also have a cap placed on all investments made prior to the enactment of the bill and including nothing thereafter.  This would stop the selfish ignorance that got us into this mess by ensuring no one tries to slip in a little illegal profit moving forward.