A Globally Warmed Fall

One impact of global warming could be seen easily this week in the stands of trees around St. Louis. At Powder, most of the forest was badly hurt by the recent high temperatures, which ended up cutting short what should have been a colorful scene. The forest had few birds and the deer were gone as the natural pond had dried up–the first time I’ve seen that happen in six years. If we do get rain this week and these temperatures finally fall, we still might have a chance for the week following to have one good, last burst of color.

I was inspired by my outing to attempt to capture what is, in essence, a tangible view of global warming, but still produce interesting photos. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded, you’ll have to be the judge (or not).

Once I reassured him that I rarely take pictures of people, he was quite friendly. His reaction did leave me deeply curious.

Global Warming Leaf A

global warming in New Hampshire

Global Warming Leaf One

global warming will hit Vermont hard

Global Warming Leaf Two

Global Warming Leaf Three

EPA Global Warming impacts: forests

Global Warming Leaf Four

impacts of climate change in the US

Poison Ivy makes a pretty leaf

Missouri Fall Color report

Dead Leaf

Earth Day 2006

This Earth Day I’m featuring photos from the Show Me Mobile Aquarium; the large semi-truck size fishtank filled with native Missouri fishies currently on display as part of the Earth Day offerings at Powder Valley Conservation Center.

There’s a new self-portrait at the end of the post.

This year the tank had something different: an inner tank with goldfish. I figured that the goldfish might be food for the other fishies. The longnose gar were particularly interested in them.

I was interested in the longnose gar; fascinating creatures, who would follow me as I moved around. It could be they hoped for food, but I think it might have been the camera lens. It did look something like their own eyes. Perhaps they thought I was the Great Gar–god supreme of long nosed fishes.

After all, did I not make little fishies fall out of frustrating see through cave?

The corner of the goldfish tank had an aerator, which the goldfish would swim into and through. As I was looking about, I noticed that one goldfish was on the other side of the goldfish enclosure, frantically trying to get back into the enclosure. There was a bit of water weed next to the inner tank, and in it I noticed two other goldfish hiding. The poor fish were getting caught up in the aerator and then pushed over and out of the inner tank into the outer.

The Great Gar provides.

The gas prices are rising and rumor has it they’ll top out over 3.00 a gallon and not go back down. I wouldn’t mind–perhaps now people will give up their monster trucks and tank-size gas guzzling SUVs. But the money forms an almost obscene amount of profit for oil companies, and I do tire of this.

If the money went into cleaning up the air and water, I would be more positive.

Last week I pulled up next to this huge, shiny and chromed black truck at the light. Two guys were in it, looking cool. I was so tempted to lean out and ask them if they’ve had to haul any pigs to market lately, but didn’t. Someday I won’t have to say it, and the guys won’t look cool in a truck too big for most people’s needs.

It’s not a reference book; I leave that to O’Reilly’s excellent Definitive books. It’s how you (yes, you) can quickly and comfortably get up to speed with JavaScript/ECMAScript.

I’ve returned to the same writing style and format that I used with Developing ASP Components, and that book did very well, so I’m confident this one should do nicely.

My Earth Day, 2006 story. Unfortunately, not everyone is in the spirit. This story is based on missing statistics, overinflated biased recordings, self serving data in order to promote you all buying more more more, so that companies in the world can make profits off your eventual misery. Supposedly the reason for all the scientific concern being expressed now about global warming is because those who speak ‘truth’ (i.e. against the concern) are intimidated into silence. I have only one thing to say to the author: may your children and your grandchildren grow to adulthood and live long in just the kind of life you want to give them.

Do you all realize that if we make one change in our lives, we can make a significant impact on the environment? Yes, if we drive a car with better gas mileage, walk more, take a bike more, recycle, and use environmentally friendly products, we can make a difference.

Did you know one of the most romantic dates you can go on is go for a walk? Take along a basket with a little bread, cheese, wine, and fresh apples. Cloth napkins, and real plates say ‘class’.

Sure you have time. Don’t tell me you don’t have time. It only takes 10 minutes to make an egg sandwich for breakfast–you don’t have to throw another piece of plastic (and the container it comes in) into the microwave.

Sexy isn’t clothes, you don’t need 100 pairs of shoes, and the woman or man that can get by wearing last year’s clothes this year and next and and next and next and maybe even the next is the woman or man who has learned how to spit downwind instead of up.

The economy won’t go belly up if you don’t overspend this year.

Apple will recycle your old Apple products safely. Many schools and non-profits will take your old computer equipment (as long as it works). Linux will run on PCs that are years and years old.

If you download music, there’s less plastic used for CDs. If you buy a new computer every 4 years, instead of the average of 3, you save money and there’s less motherboards and old casings in landfills.

Buying produce in larger containers and re-packaging into your own reusable containers at home is cheaper and more earth-friendly than buying in small containers.

If you buy that, you’ll have to dust it. If you buy that, it will break. If you buy that, you’ll have payments. If you buy that, no one will fall in love with you.

Except if you buy my book when it comes out. If you buy it, I’ll love you. And you’ll be able to get it digitally. Digital books are pro-environment.

Digital photography is pro-environment.

And no tree was harmed–or acts of cannibalism committed–in the making of this weblog.

Thank You JohnnyB

I received a new comment today to my post, Confluence. The post was based on a trip I took last year to Cairo, Illinois, and the comment was from a man who signed himself JohnnyB:

I grew up in Illinois in the 1960s and remember the race riots in Cairo in 1967 and 1969 and the white flight that followed. The town went from a bustling community of 11,000, about 70% white, to a bombed-out, burned-out, shuttered, near ghost town of about 3,600, about 70 percent black. They have a great high school basketball team, despite the fact that the school is nearly bankrupt, they don’t have weight or training rooms and seldom hold home games because teams from other towns are afraid to enter Cairo. Amazing that such decline could take place in an incredible location at the confluence of two of America’s great waterways and along a major North-South Interstate highway.

Confluence is one of the few posts I have that I keep in moderation rather than closed to comments. There isn’t anything in it to attract the spammers, and from time to time, someone drops in and writes something that just stops me. Like today.

City Street

JohnnyB came to my site when he searched on the term “race riots Cairo Illinois”. My post is about half way down in the first page of the returned search results. Among the entries higher up was one for an NPR article related to a CD that released last year: Stace England’s Greetings from Cairo, Illinois.

This album is a collection of songs that reflect a variety of genres: ranging from old blues to modern folk rock. In it, England seeks to re-tell the history and story of Cairo, Illinois–the town that the artist refers to as the most fascinating town in America. I can agree with England, having been through it on a hot summer day, with the hot, white light of the sun reflecting off of broken brick and cracked cement; with a hand lettered sign pointing to cat city–an old office building taken over by wild cats. There’s something about Cairo. Something that both pulls you in, and then pushes you away when you get too close.

Mansion Two

Having grown up in Cairo, NPR journalist Rachael Jones writes about her initial reluctance to listen to England’s album.

The last thing I expected to feel listening to Greetings From Cairo, Illinois was pride. Before hearing the first song, I almost dismissed musician Stace England as a well-meaning but clueless interloper who thought he had figured out all of Cairo’s problems over a few beers.

But England wasn’t just some fly by night troubadour trying to profit from Cairo’s woes. With the help of 50 other local musicians and singers, England had employed an impressive musical range to try and explain the puzzle that is Cairo.

Robert Baird of of the now defunct Harp Magazine, wrote of the CD:

It’s best to run from CD booklets whose notes begin with declarations like, “Cairo, Illinois, is the most fascinating town in America.” But here, Illinois native and former House Afire member Stace England takes Americana to its most literal extreme and paints a song-history of former full-throttle river town Cairo (pronounced Kay-Ro). It swings from massed-chorus gospel (the traditional “Goin’ Down to Cairo”) and blues (Henry Spaulding’s “Cairo Blues”) to originals like the guitar-scratching funk of “Jesse’s Comin’ to Town” (for Jesse Jackson) and finally the rocked-up alt-country of “Prosperity Train,” which is definitely not stopping in Cairo anytime soon. The latter tune, the one best able to stand by itself outside the album’s concept, is enlivened by the voice and attitude of Jason Ringenberg of Scorchers fame. Along the way we meet General U.S. Grant, an “equal opportunity lynch mob” and the Committee of Ten Million, a racist organization called “White Hats” thanks to the pale hard hats they wore. Fascinating.

After a visit to England’s site and weblog, I checked and sure enough, the album was listed in both iTunes and eMusic. I downloaded it from eMusic and spent the last few hours listening to it; more than once with several songs, such as Grant Slept Here:

Ullyses S. Grant slept here.
He was a hard chargin’, hard drinkin’, smoking civil war stud.
Marching his troops in the Mississippi mud.

And White Hats, with a chorus of:

White hats and minds full of hate,
equality is going to have to wait.
We live by the gun, and that’s the way you might die, boy.

White Hats is about the 1967 race riot that left the town gasping its dying breath. It’s these riots that JohnnyB references in his comment. Hearing White Hats and the other music on the album was like listening to the song that ran through my head when I walked through Cairo that summer afternoon. It combines both a hope and a despair, because for all the surreal destruction of the town, there is something there. Something…fascinating.

Gem Theater

From my comments, another traveler through the town, Dawn, wrote:

Thank you for sharing your visit of Cairo, Illinois. My boyfriend and I got off Interstate 57 late last night and ended up in Cairo, and have been so terribly haunted by it, and discussed it all the way home to Milwaukee. It was like a Twilight Zone episode, and we were truly frightened and disturbed by what we saw, but mostly saddened and wanting to learn more about the fate of this town. If you have any more photos, I’d love if you would share them with us. I’ve written a lengthy journal entry about Cairo, and would like to revisit it again soon… it has really captured my heart.

The photos I took were going to be the start of my Song of the South collection. I started these with enthusiasm that soon crumbled in the face of disinterest in both the photos and Cairo, and to be honest the lands that border the Mississippi. For a brief moment, the Sip and this part of the country was hip, but it took the devastation of New Orleans to create this interest. However, I don’t think I can count on the destruction of a major city happening on a regular basis.

For the most part, the lands along the lower Mississippi destruct slowly–like an old man sinking under the waters of the Sip when it breaks through the levees; one work roughened old brown hand reaching out to grasp at the muddy bank,but you can’t tell whether it’s to pull himself out or push himself further under.

This, though, is the true beauty, the true song of of the south. This is what Walker Evans saw with his camera. This is what I have always felt, luring me in to its history and stories and unforgiving waters and broken towns. This is what England captures in his music, and I want to capture in my own pictures. Someday.

Thanks for stopping by, JohnnyB. Thanks for the reminder.

Once the Trolly is gone, all that remains are the tracks

Opportunity

An archive of this page, with comments, is available at Wayback Machine

Saturday was the Artica event downtown, which promised many photographic opportunities. I wasn’t up for the crowds, though, and headed towards the Botanical Gardens to look at leaves turning color.

The leaves were still green except for a sugar maple here and there. The other colors of fall are soft and muted, but the sugar maple screams defiance at the winter. That and the poison ivy, of course, but catch me trying to capture its red color against the blue of the sky.

Sugar maple in glorious reds

There’s a fountain at the Gardens that the children play in. It’s red brick, with water spigots spaced equal distanced in a curving line on either side of a cement sitting platform. The water rises up slowly into the air, and falls just as slowly back. No one was at the fountain on Saturday; I put my macro lens on and spent 45 minutes taking pictures of the water. My pants were soaked by the time I finished, none of the photographs came out, but it doesn’t matter.

The Victorian waterlily came through, though, champ that it is. Thank goodness for the Victorian waterlily.

There was music in the air on Saturday, which I followed. A new section of the Garden had been opened—marked off by curly vined fences and centered by a lovely reflective pool. By coincidence, it was the grand opening of the George Washington Carver Garden. Several dignitaries were there for the unveiling of the statue. One such was an older, distinguished gentleman, sitting in a chair, cane handle between his hands. He wore glasses, and he looked oddly familiar, but it was hard to see his face–so many people kept coming over to greet him.

Various people spoke at the dedication, each with their own favorite story of Carver.

Carver was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri, and is one of this state’s favorite sons. Orphaned at birth and born a slave, he still managed to obtain an education. He wanted to study art but was convinced by a teacher that his strengths were in botany. His Garden will introduce young people to botany and, hopefully, open a door to the black community who have, for over a hundred years, refused to enter the Botanical Garden’s gates. As Shaudra McNeal said at one event held here last year, You know Shaw owned slaves. That’s why some people won’t come here.

Three of Shaw’s slaves, a woman named Esther and her two children, tried to run away in 1855. They and several others boarded a small boat pulled up to the levee along the Mississippi to escape to Illinois, a free state. However, they were met by local police on the other side and returned. The place where they attempted to cross has now been designated as part of the historical Underground Railroad.

Shaw kept the children but paid a slave dealer to sell Esther down river in  Vicksburg, Mississippi. I’ve always wondered what happened to her. I looked into the faces at the ceremony and wondered if any were her children’s children’s children. In four years of going to Shaw, Saturday was the first time I’d seen black people in the Gardens.

Before the ceremonies, an older woman came to sit on the bench next to where I stood. After a few minutes, she spotted two women she knew who were sitting in reserved seating close to the reflective pool. She walked over and they greeted her warmly. They were black, she was white. They had an empty seat near them and invited her to join them. She hesitated because it was marked ‘reserved’, but one lady patted her arm and said, “…that’s alright, we can sit here. We’re privileged.” One of the seated ladies moved over to make a spot for her, and she sat down between them, her hand on the arm of one, while the other hugged her closely. And that’s how they sat during the ceremony: three old women, two black, one white, arm and arm.

The master of ceremonies began introducing the different speakers, including a local historian and expert on Carver, a minister, the director of the Gardens, and finally introducing the older man I had noticed earlier: he was the actor and opera singer, Robert Guillaume. He had been invited to read a poem in honor of the occasion.

Guillaume made his way to the podium in slow, stiff steps, leaning on his cane. His voice was soft and his words halting at times, but still beautiful to hear. He mentioned growing up in St. Louis and how happy he was to have been invited to attend the dedication. Then that lovely, wonderful voice, unimpeded by the stroke that halted his footsteps, came over the speakers; reading Carver’s favorite poem, Equipment by Edgar Guest:

Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You’ve all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say, “I can.”

Look them over, the wise and great
They take their food from a common plate,
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes.
The world considers them brave and smart,
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.

You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if you only will.
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.

You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be.

Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win.
So figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You were born with all that the great have had,
With your equipment they all began,
Get hold of yourself and say: “I can.”

There wasn’t a large group of people attending the ceremony and after the statue was unveiled, we were invited to view it more closely and meet the speakers. Standing on the platform, I finally turned away from looking at the statue to realize that Guillaume was, for the moment, not surrounded by people. I hesitantly approached him, and gibbered something along the lines of, “Sir babble babble honor gibber gibber Phantom babble gibber wonderful.” Luckily he spoke Fan and could decipher what I was saying. He was incredibly gracious.

My favorite picture of him was when he signed an autograph for the television cameraman.


You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.

I don’t care much for Guest as a poet — too manly man for me. But such complex truth in so many simple words. If I had gone to Artica, I never would have heard Guillaume say these words. I guess the luck was with me, though I’ve not been a believer in luck. Loren Webster wrote something on luck recently when he discussed the Elizabeth Bishop poem, One Art, which starts with:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

It’s a wonderful poem; resigned but not defeated. Loren speaks of loss and luck, writing, I still remember that period in my life when I repeatedly played Ray Charles’ version of “If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck,” I wouldn’t have any luck at all, and ironically referred to it as my theme song.

I sometimes think we see bad or good luck when what we’re given is opportunity. Being invited to a special event with many movers and shakers is opportunity, but so is not being invited. Spending the rest of our lives with the perfect love is opportunity, but so is being alone. In the end, as George Washington Carver would most likely say, it’s not what we have, or what we’ve given but what we choose to do that matters. Some people prefer to hack life; others prefer to just live it.

Loren also wrote:

Things often have a way of righting themselves, though it certainly doesn’t seem that way when you’re in the middle of a losing streak. Unfortunately, for some people things never do quite right themselves, and who can blame them if they’re left feeling lost and alienated?

Feeling lost and alienated can also be an opportunity.

bunch of colorful mums

A Shoulder to Steady On

I decided to visit a park in Illinois yesterday and walk the trails while my roommate rode a bike path that connected with the park. The weather was perfect: cool but sunny, and the trees just starting to turn. Most of the road to the park was by the Mississippi and it looked beautiful and blue rather than dangerous and dark.

The park had many miles of trails, most ‘moderately difficult’. I was loaded down with camera equipment, but felt I wouldn’t have a problem with ‘moderately difficult’.

The trail started up sharply, and then just continued. Up and up. It was difficult footing, though I’ve had worse. But I, soft and overweight from a summer made up of hot, sedentary days, began to have troubles. I would pass folks on the way and chat with each of them, holding on to their presence. At one lookout point, I talked with a younger couple, taking their photo for them; admiring their GPS device. I, who normally eschew humanity during my hikes, felt the need for contact.

I have no sense; I continued. I was passed by a couple and their two kids. The man gave me a friendly pat on the arm as he passed, as if to assure me that I will not die. As they made their way, I noticed that they would stop along the way so that I was always just a bit behind them. Eventually, at one point where the way was sharply steep, he had stopped to wait for me to give me a hand. I’ve not yet met a trail that was so much for me that I needed help, but I did yesterday. I was grateful for his help; I was grateful for the fact that they slowed their steps because of concern for me.

At the top, where the trails divided, we talked. Their names were Jan and Les and they had just moved from Florida to Missouri. I told them of many of the places to hike and walk; they told me how life was like in Florida. I told them I was going to continue with the trail marked ‘easy’, to the road for a safe trip down. They continued on the ‘moderately difficult’.

But I am stubborn. To go the easy route would take me over two miles out of my way, and I wanted to finish the walk. Half way, it connected with a quicker route down that was labeled ‘moderately difficult’. It was only 1/4 mile and I felt I could handle it.

It was a nightmare. There was no path, it had been eroded by water and was steep and uneven and difficult footing. For most of it, I walked sideways, leaning heavily on my walking stick.

I met another family on the way; again a mother, father, and two kids though these children were much younger. They seemed strained, so I knew I wasn’t the only one having problems. Oddly enough, there was a very sharp step down where I met them (most likely why they had stopped). This time, I asked for help–just a shoulder to steady on, as I made the step. I then continued down, as they continued up. Eventually the trail gave way to road and road to car and little has felt so good than the seat of that car.

Note to self: easy trails for the next two months. I can’t always depend on a handy shoulder being nearby.

I don’t really have many pictures from the trip. On the way, there was a cave system that we stopped at, and was able to get one photo I liked.

Perspective