Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The milkweed is taking over the red raspberry patch.  

Red and black milkweed beetles chew the leaves.  

Monica says it's a good year for milkweed everywhere, so maybe it's a temporary ascendancy.  
Honeybees and bumblebees buzz the globish blossoms. 

No signs of monarch or tussock moth caterpillars, yet.  
A cicada-killing wasp weighted down the flowers of one, but flew off angrily when I looked too close.  
Nico and I waded in after red raspberries. 


A pair of housewrens complained from the quince.  The berries weren't very sweet.  Not as sweet as the black raspberries that grow all around the property.  

Maybe they need a few more hot days.  We'll see how many the catbirds leave us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

The thermometer crested at 87 degrees today -- the hottest day so far here in our woods.  Drawing the blinds wasn't much of a defense.  By 10 am I was driven out of the upstairs office and into the old-fashioned air conditioning of the granite basement.  There I worked on my laptop, clearing up all the tasks I'd neglected in the last two weeks of data gathering and analysis.

The family was scattered into the summer.  Nico was off at Dean's house, catching wood frogs, trampolining, wrestling, and generally rampaging.  Monica was leading her intrepid camp troops to Stepstone Falls in Arcadia.  Alberto, his Colombian blood completely untroubled by the heat, was upstairs vainly trying to rally the Brazilians over the Chileans in their World Cup match.  Porter is furthest off, in the Bahamas searching for dolphins and manta rays.

At 5 o'clock there was thunder and wind and cool air to settle the temperatures back down into the 70's -- and I could come back up from the cave.

Update:  an earlier version mistakenly depicted Alberto rooting for Chile instead of Brazil.  Anubis Bard regrets the error.  :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Euan Mearns posting at the Oil Drum put up a couple of sobering graphs showing the scale of the problem we're going to have getting off fossil fuels.

First, the good-looking news:

Then the sobering news:

The thin little line at the top (reddish if you can see it) is our current capacity for renewable energy.

It's possible that if we'd started a generation ago and we'd taken vast amounts of these fossil fuels and used them to build windmills and solar panels and tidal generators and cities that were energy efficient; and if we had created local, less energy intensive foodways and so on; and if we'd kept populations at a level that our ecosystems could support sustainably -- then we would be able to transition to an energy-sustainable system without our civilization collapsing.  But we didn't, and now there are a pair of locomotives coming down the tracks -- the first is the fact that oil production has reached its peak and is about to go into serious decline and the second is that if we don't figure out a way to leave some of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground, starting right now, we are almost certainly going to send the planet's climate into a dangerous, and probably fatal, tailspin.

But we are doing nothing at all to the scale we would need to.   Denial, delusion and magical thinking reign.  There is zero political will to even acknowledge the problem, much less do anything about it.  Even leaving the active denialists aside, none of the rosy scenarios seem based in reality at all -- not those rooted in alternative energies, nor conservation, nor technological solutions, nor blind faith that we humans are up to this task and will inevitably figure something out.

Humans have an ability to concoct visionary futures, a profound power that has enabled humans to expand the realm of possibilities beyond what other animals could possibly manage.  Ironically, with that skill of imaginizing running up against the hard physical constraints of an energy economy, it is only enabling us to fantasize our way off a very real cliff.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An old friend, Marysia, came to visit early this week.  I met her my first day in San Diego 20 years ago.  She overheard me in the off-campus housing office telling a potential landlord that I was a first-year grad student in anthropology.  And we were housemates that year -- five of us in a big old house on Fort Stockton Avenue.  There was good food, and Elise's sunflowers, and every night a funny story of Susan's ESL students.   And Elise and Jordan making art in the garage.  I weathered my studies, Marysia did the same, while also grieving through the death of her brother.  The next year she was off to Poland to start her fieldwork, and we wouldn't live in the same city again until I returned from my own fieldwork in Central Asia at the beginning of 1997.  She was there by Monica at Porter's birth, and I have memories all jumbled up of many dinners and easy friendship with her and Axel.  But it was only a year and a half until she handed off her Chula Vista classes to me and moved to Tuscaloosa to be a potter and professor.

In tallying that up we were a little shocked to realize out that our friendship, which is one we both take for granite,  is based on only 2 and a half years of proximity.  But such is friendship.  Somehow those were times that let us know one another and every visit confirms it.

I was talking with other friends about time and its elasticity (it is midsummer, and the New England days have all been stretching lengthwise).   We think we have time or don't have time for the things we want to do -- and it's true to an extent.  (I still haven't gotten around to re-caulking the shower -- despite visualizing mold and rot inside the wall each time I take a shower -- because I haven't set aside the time.)   But when it comes to the important things -- the experiences and relationships that really enrich a day or week or year -- we have this ability to bring the passage of time to a snail's pace by simply being in the moment.  And in that way, the moment, minute, year, becomes almost infinitely dense.  And so there is time -- if only I am wise enough to occupy it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The girl was part of the night
 except for eye whites
and smile teeth
and she said to my son softly,
"Porter, for you."

Green glowing on her hand,
a lightning bug, firefly.
He gently touched
his knuckle to hers,
and the bug crossed.
An insect frisson.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Porter was in a thoughtful mood the other  night
 and wrote a poem he called 
yin yang:

A sign of peace?
A sign of love?
The white a fluttering dove?

But what is the black?
The side that attacks?

What about the opposite color in each?
Is it just like the words of the preach
There is good in all evil.
There is evil in all good.

(All of this is under my hood.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

As the cultural anthropologist in a consulting team that works for non-profit clients, I find myself rambling across a mind-boggling array of different issue areas.  It's true that in one sense our work is very consistent:  nearly always looking into the cultural and cognitive models that people use to understand policy issues -- and using those insights to help advocates communicate better with their audiences.

But the particular issue areas that we're working within on any given week can run from racial health disparities in Kentucky, to progressive taxation in Alabama, sustainability of food systems in the US, France and Belgium, climate change, building support for arts programs in Ohio, youth programs in New York City, unionization among retail workers or meat-packers, changing national security discourse in DC, or building momentum for democracy and good governance around the country.

I'm grateful to put food on the table with what amounts to do-goodery.  For most of these projects, it's pretty low stress.  I enjoy solving the puzzles that we design and solve with our research.  I enjoy translating our insights into words that can reach and teach people new and more constructive ways of understanding things.

But when the work deals with the environment -- and particular with sustainability -- I begin to take the topic deadly serious and find the work more stressful and the challenges more distressing.  (I wrote recently about my anxieties about not preparing for what I see as a coming breakdown -- and partly that's a reaction to once again working with the Union of Concerned Scientists to educate policy makers about some of the ways we are destroying those underlying foundations that our survival depends on.)

I know from personal experience how little I like truly acknowledging the repercussions of our current rampage of unsustainable consumption and extraction.  It's hard to imagine how we convince the larger public to wrap their minds around it.  Upton Sinclair observed that:

“If is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”

How much more difficult is it to get an entire society to understand something when their entire way of life depends on them not understanding it?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nico sculpted a wood frog

The living ones,
we hear chuckling in the trees.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A crack-flash of lightning in the woods early this morning made Monica yelp, wrung a curse of out Porter, and brought Nico pattering down the stairs upset by a nightmare.  The strike had punctuated his dream -- there were two bombs in our house, and though no one was hurt in the first explosion,  his classmate's Mom went back for the cupcakes -- and she was blown up.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This man, like all other men, and women too,
(at least the ones not lunatic nor dying)
needed a future to take with him
into his Tuesday morning
(like his grandfather with gray felt fedora,
or grandmother with clayish armor
of red, red lips). 

And this man’s future
was bright and geometric and excellent,
like the images that come
if you press your thumbs long enough
onto clench-closed eyes.

After every Tuesday, a Wednesday and then Thursdays 
all ways
after that. 

“Wednesday,” says the lunatic,
“or more precisely Wotan’s Day –
or if you like, Odin’s Day
is a dead-end day
for the Tree-hugging, one-eye god,
who, you know, gets et finally
by hairy Fenrir pups
or an en’dragon
or some such monsters of the God-Dusk.”

This man laughs, with his
bright and geometric and excellent
This man in his Tuesday morning.
This man.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Porter says he wants to be an engineer – especially if engineering students don’t have to take as many English classes.  As I was writing yesterday’s blog post about (not) preparing ourselves for this civilization to hit the rocks, I was joking with Monica that we should set Porter up as a blacksmith, too --  (and that Nico’d make the better goatherd.)

Meanwhile, Porter was disassembling the robosapien that his grandmother gave him a couple of Christmases ago.  He seems to be planning a more elaborate and monstrous robot from it.

I set him and Jake loose with a handsaw trimming one of the maples.  It had some large limbs that were shading out the mulberry sapling and causing the cedar, elderberries and dogwoods to strain further and further out into the yard.  (They’ve swallowed up a portion of the clothesline.)  When the limb finally fell without injuring anyone, they were soon at it with hatchets. 

I couldn't find my ax.  I suspect the boys, but they insist that I never owned an ax otherwise they certainly would have remembered that.  Probably, they’re right.  I certainly never used it here.