Saturday, September 27, 2008

Foggy Morn Avec Spider Web

The ONLY benefit to getting up at 8am every day (far, far too early for me), is feeling the cool morning air, and finding such treasures as fog in the fall garden--fog you could see sliding through the air and collecting on several spider webs. The droplets on the largest web mimicked the 'Prairie Jewel' eupatorium in the background, and the virgin's bower (native sweet autumn clematis) in its first season on the arbor. I strongly suggest clicking on pics to expand. I love it when a plan comes together (I miss the A-Team). Bonus: don't skip the hummingbird moth (white-lined sphinx) at the bottom, I almost did.

Mantis Eating Bee

These are R rated photos, so click away now if you don't like seeing nature doing its thing. The mantis was hanging from a culver's root, 'Erin,' and has the bumblebee torn in two. At first the mantis had both halves in its clutches, but dropped the head--which was still very much alive, arms flailing, wings moving, and responsive to my breath. This does NOT make me morbid, it simply makes me interested in the affairs of the garden. Right? Click on pic to expand, if yee dare.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lincoln, Nebraska Hates Flowers--A Rant

I drive Rosa Parks Way every day, twice--no, it's not Rosa Parks Parkway, which makes more sense to me. It used to be called Capital Parkway, which also made sense because it leads straight to the penis of the prairie, uh, capital building. I don't want to get in to too much trouble, so let me move along.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of sunflowers lining this four lane, 50mph, 3 mile stretch of road.

They are all gone now.

The city crews brought their big mowing tractors in and that's that. No more gorgeous yellow blooms in the twilight of summer. No more pollinator heaven. No more nature. I mean, who doesn't like flat, browning expanse? Oh, the migrating geese do like this spot....

These plants were far from the road, in fields and gullies, nowhere near sight lines or such that might imperil drivers. This just really @^^&**$^!~@#$$^ pisses me off. It's like the trees they cut down on campus to make room for building new dorms / unions, trees that stand at the FRONT of where these new buildings will be, not in the MIDDLE. Will they replace the trees? Hell yes. Will they be small and marooned in concrete planters like the union plaza? Indeed. Will they drop leaves early, stressed because their feeder roots are under 10,000 square feet of concrete sidewalks, like the many maples in front of the union? Hmm.

Anyway, back to the sunflowers that used to make my drive in to teach at 9am and my zombie like drive home at 2 delightfully bookended and uplifting--here's to you, helianthusized, euthanized, pulverized. May the sunflowers along Highway 77 remain untouched and find their seeds blown your way. Damn Lincoln.

It's Autumn, and I Just Made It Under Deadline

Today I'm headed to the post office to mail 19 envelopes--submissions to literary journals, some of which like me, but not enough yet. (Fall is the time to submit along with all the other lemmings, and hoepfully you get rejected in enough time to submit again in early spring.) 18 envelopes are essays, as I'm behind on poetry, and frankly because I've been doing 99% nonfiction for a while now. See, I've got this dissertation thing coming up, and I had an epiphany about it, which to other grad schoolees won't seem like one, but 'twas for me.

The only time anyone on my committee will read any meaningful, sizable chunk of it--and offer some comments--will be when I turn it in. And what I imagine will happen will be I'll get some praise, some minor suggestions, a slap on the back, and a degree. But I hope not. I really want to go through the gauntlet on this one. I want it to be as perfect as a first book of prose can be. But it's up to me, as it will be come May and until I die.

I think at this stage in the game--6th year of my PhD, after 3 in the MFA--it's assumed I have SOME idea I know what I'm doing (ha ha ha choke). I do, I think. I mean, yes, I do. I suppose. It's trial by fire--it's the only way a person can ever really be a writer, by diving in, doing it, failing and not. I know this, but never has it been on such a grand scale with so much seemingly at risk.

I can not tell you, whoever you are reading this, how hard it is to keep a whole 260 page manuscript in your head at once, to keep going back in and editing, making things less redundant, trying to make the essays and chapters flow together, to work as a whole, and trying to remember what you add so it isn't saying the same thing again, but knowing you sometimes have to say the same things again (if at least in a different way) to remind the reader (and yourself) what the heart of the narrative is, how it all connects--I learned when I first started teaching some call this sign posting.

Anyway, blog posts are less, and less meaningful as of late, and I predict this will be the case for a while. I've got some committee work coming up this fall--my first in 9 years of grad school, I almost made it--which will also be pulling at me.

I will say it helps to have things ground you in life, and right now it's the monarchs. We've got 7 pupating, and 4 cats left, one about to J it up. It's enthralling to watch them shed skin, to emerge, and to fly off. And my garden--is--so--wonderful right now. Sweet autumn clematis, eupatorium, helianthus, penstemon, agastache, sedum, buddleia, aster, turtlehead, goldenrod, milkweeed seed floating about, so much going on even with the first trees turning now.

Just as I turn back toward myself, relieved the first heavy batch of grading is done, and I now have a three week reprieve to write--oh to write, that divine miracle that burns, actually burns, in my arms and eyes and spine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More on the Drugs You're Drinking in City Water

U.S. hospitals and long-term care facilities annually flush millions of pounds of unused pharmaceuticals down the drain, pumping contaminants into America's drinking water, according to an ongoing Associated Press investigation.

These discarded medications are expired, spoiled, over-prescribed or unneeded. Some are simply unused because patients refuse to take them, can't tolerate them or die with nearly full 90-day supplies of multiple prescriptions on their nightstands.

Few of the country's 5,700 hospitals and 45,000 long-term care homes keep data on the pharmaceutical waste they generate. Based on a small sample, though, the AP was able to project an annual national estimate of at least 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging, with no way to separate out the drug volume.

One thing is clear: The massive amount of pharmaceuticals being flushed by the health services industry is aggravating an emerging problem documented by a series of AP investigative stories — the commonplace presence of minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the nation's drinking water supplies, affecting at least 46 million Americans.

Researchers are finding evidence that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species in the wild. Also, researchers report that human cells fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs....

Hospital waste is particularly laden with both germs and antibiotics, says microbiologist Thomas Schwartz at Karlsruhe Research Center in Germany.

The mix is a scary one.

In tests of wastewater retrieved near other European hospitals and one in Davis County, Utah, scientists were able to link drug dumping to virulent antibiotic-resistant germs and genetic mutations that may promote cancers, according to scientific studies reviewed by the AP.

Researchers have focused on cell-poisoning anticancer drugs and fluoroquinolone class antibiotics, like anthrax fighter ciprofloxacin.

Keep reading Tons of drugs dumped into wastewater: Discarded medications end up in drinking water, ongoing report finds.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Smurfy Garden, As of Whatever Today Is

Fourth school week is coming up and I feel like my head's an irrigation pivot. I imagine this blog will soon become partially neglected, so I'm front loading it now with two posts.

But the garden looks--interesting. I'm liking the wild way it looks, because it's starting to fill out and / or it's late in the season. I really have no idea what I'm doing this first full year. Plants which were supposed to be medium are huge, plants that should've bloomed haven't yet (but are working on it), and with 2.5" of rain Thursday and Friday, and cloudier days, everything is putting on tons of new growth. The monarda are on steroids, the filipendula rubra on half doses of steroids, and the helianthus is like a proton collider (see, I work in current events). BTW--pinch back your balloon flowers in July, they actually bloom again (first time this has ever worked for me).

Pinching back the geranium (behind the coreopsis) also produced a 2nd flush of blooms. Who knew this actually worked.

I LOVE my Eupatorium altissimum ‘Prairie Jewel.’ In the spring they emerge with golden foliage, which turns a mottled white and green, then these lovely white blooms come along which attract 2,437 bees, wasps, butterflies and other insects each minute. Only problem is all three are 4-5' tall by 4' wide, and the rain and wind have bowed them over to a 45 degree angle. Don't know what to do next year short of staking. I hate staking.

And do you see that Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' back there? It's three times as big as the 7' bald cypress behind it. Somebody's getting moved, but is it better to move the helianthus now, or in early spring, in order to ensure this massive flourish of blooms for next fall?

The copper rain chain seems to be doing its thing. Maybe not my dry stream bed.

We get many blue jays at a time here. One morning a few were perched atop some corn I'm stubbornly growing in a place it shouldn't be growing.

I found some smurfs. They were calling to me....

Monarchs, Monarchs, Monarchs

Come and get yer chrysalides, pupae, cats, eggs, and tachnid fly maggots. Get your monarch on, yo.

We've given birth to 3 males and one female, and at least four maggots. Come aboard, we're expecting you.... (You DID make a reservation, didn't you?)

The first six shots below show three fellows, two who've made it. Watch as one is in the "J", the other emerges and while still unfurling his wings, the "J" becomes a chrysalis. (Then we have tachnid fly maggot pics, and today's emergence of our first female (outside) and beneath the deck--look at her disproportionate wing / abdomen size only seconds after emerging.)

I love it when cats share a leaf. It's like those two cartoon dogs sharing spaghetti. Disney has ruined me. That's the best simile I could come up with?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reginald Shepherd

A fascinating critic / theorist of poetry, and of course poet himself, passed away yesterday after a barrage of illnesses. I've so enjoyed reading his posts on the Poetry Foundation's blog Harriet and his own (both linked here). Deep, cerebral, enlightening, honest, and direct conversations of all things poetry. A horrible way to sum them up, but I've found so few poet critics who can walk the walk and talk the talk, or, more accurately, be able to deliver complex ideas about the nature of poetry lucidly. It's a great shame that we've lost this voice--not only for the few who actively read poetry in general, but for the fewer who are nerds and really really get into it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

EPA (and Bush) Don't "Blow" For Once

Tipped by the women at Garden Rant, the EPA has mandated a 35% reduction in emissions from personal landscape tools with gas engines (leaf blowers, weed eaters, lawn mowers), and other engines of boats and such under 25hp, by 2011. Here's an excerpt to show you just how WONDERFUL this is to our health (people and earth):

"The new regulations will take effect in 2010 and 2011. Once fully implemented, they will annually eliminate emissions totaling 600,000 tons of hydrocarbons, 130,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 1.5 million tons of carbon monoxide. Both hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, which is linked to respiratory illnesses as well as premature deaths.

Ground-level ozone also contributes to global warming, ranking as the third-biggest greenhouse gas generated by human activity, behind carbon dioxide and methane.

The EPA -- which concluded that it is "safe and feasible" to install catalytic converters in small engines -- estimates the rule's public health benefits will outweigh its costs by a ratio of at least 8 to 1, producing public health benefits valued at between $1.6 billion and $4.4 billion annually by 2030. The reduced emissions are estimated to prevent more than 300 premature deaths, 1,700 hospitalizations and 23,000 lost workdays each year.

Environmentalists, who noted that one riding lawn mower emits as much pollution in an hour as 34 cars, said the move would protect the environment and promote energy efficiency. Because spark-ignition engines release as much as 25 percent of their gas unburned in their exhaust, the EPA also estimates that the regulations, when fully implemented, will lead to a more efficient combustion process that will save about 190 million gallons of gasoline each year."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Morning Glory--A Book Title

In moments of exhaustion and the inability to focus on my writing, I've at least tried to keep thinking about my prose manuscript by coming up with a title. As a poet of 17 years, I know the importance of a title--it's not simply something that sells books or grabs your attention, but it must also pull its own weight thematically, metaphorically, descriptively. Sometimes the title gives vital information to understand the layered meaning of the text.

So when I think about my now 260 page manuscript, a memoir / nature / history of garden and religion / who knows what else book, I go in as I would a poem and try to find a re-occuring image, something that resonates, something that keeps popping up. And I find morning glories.

But I'm wary about the history of the plant, something I'd like to include in the book, but even if I don't, check it out:

"Morning glories are poisonous if injested. Certain varieties are a hallucinogen. The Chinese used it as laxative. Meso-American civilations used it to convert latex, via sulfur in the seeds, to rubber 3,000 years before Goodyear did.

Besides being both food crop and garden ornament, some notorious Ipomoea species have been used for their hallucinogenic properties. The Aztecs ingested the seeds of I. tricolor—which contain a lysergic acid alkaloid—during rituals to commune with their gods. It was risky business, as who knew whether the gods wanted to communicate or not, and it's certain the seeds are toxic and potentially lethal."

Someone who picks up the book might know this history, but most probably won't. Still, as I use research and work hard to make sure facts are indeed facts, I wonder if fact is only a matter of degree, or even if it's a matter of personal perspective. Like memory. Or love.

I am falling in love with my book and I know this is a dangerous proposition. I don't want it sullied or harangued from any angle as if it were a politican's pregnant daughter. Some day, lord willing, it will go out on its own as a message in a bottle, or a fledgling, or these monarchs I keep sending off. The more I edit in prose, the more I appreciate the emotional investment a lifetime of words have, and the more I understand why so many of us are silent or so easily hurt, or why even a touch or smile or laugh can save us.

As my open window lets in a cool early autumn breeze that's sliding through distant elms and maples--and as the crickets and frogs echo this wind--I remember that these words are not the only ones that give us life, and that they are as necessarily fleeting.

And so, for now, it is Morning Glory: A Memoir of Place and Family in the Garden.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Announcing the Birth of a Monarch, With Photos

This is our first raised-in-captivity monarch (and first successful one period from inside or out--so far the record on making it from chrysalis to butterfly is 1-4). You should have seen the wife and I vying for position to watch him emerge--not pretty. It took him, yes him, 10 days from chrysalis to butterfly. Within about 2-3 hours he was ready to go, wings fully inflated. Before leaving the garden he rested on a red chokeberry and partook of some baby joe eupatorium. Good luck, dear sir, it's been a pleasure.

The last image is the red milkweed--see any leaves? Three dozen caterpillars will do that. Only six left outside, five inside. Summer is almost over, a fact made more potent by 90 degrees today, 72 tomorrow.

And as always, click on an image to expand the view. If only real objects worked like this.