Brer Fox

I’ve only had the time for two fall photo shoots, though I hope to get out a little more in the next few weeks. I’ve included some photos from the Botanical Gardens in this post.

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When at Botanical this week I noticed out of the corner of my eye a small, orange animal running across the sidewalk. I thought it was a cat at first but when I looked over, it was a red fox, not five feet away. I later found out that she is the resident fox and that she recently had five new babies. I hope to return in a few weeks and gets some photos of fox kits.

Considering that Missouri Botanical Gardens is in the middle of the city, one wouldn’t necessarily expect to see fox. However, she’s encouraged because she makes a terrific, natural rabbit control officer.

Botanical Gardens Japanese Lake with colorful fall foliage

Seeing her reminded me of Brer Fox, which reminded me, again, of the Disney movie, Song of the South. Rumor has it that Disney may release the movie on DVD this November in honor of the 60th anniversary of the original release of the movie. Disney is still concerned about the reprecussions about black stereotypes in the movie, as well as the sugar-coating of the post-slavery south. However, I think the movie would provide a terrific point of discussion about the history of the south and the interaction and attitudes about and between blacks and whites, as compared to fictional representations of same. It is these latter day fictional representations that influenced the majority of us who did not live in the south.

Missouri Botanical Garden: Burning Bush

Seeing this movie when I was young, probably more than any other event, is what sparked my early interest in the south: the culture, the people, and the history. It may have presented a view that wasn’t real, but it was intriging to young eyes, nonethless. I would list it in my top five movies that have had the most impact on me (right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, which just added to my interest in all things southern).

Spider Mum in Fall hues

Returning to the Botanical trip, when the fox appeared, I had already put away my camera. I kicked myself for having done so and missed a photo opportunity; however, I spent the entire time frozen with mouth open in surprised, so doubt I would have gotten much of a photo. Doesn’t lessen the moment not having ‘proof’ of the event.

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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

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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.

Flitter

I visited the Butterfly House at Faust Park yesterday for the first time. I wasn’t expecting much when I arrived; I’ve been to other butterfly houses, and the number of visitors seemed to be disproportionately larger than the number of butterflies. However, when I entered the Butterfly House’s glass dome, within a few seconds a Dead Leaf butterfly landed on the shoulder of the man in front of me—a occurrence that would happen frequently to most visitors as you wonder the paths amid the seemingly thousands of delicate, flying creatures.

(I would have taken a photo but the hot and humid room had fogged all my lenses. It would take close to half an hour for the lenses to come unfogged; just about the time when I was getting red faced and drenched in sweat, having foolishly dressed for winter. )

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Even with the sunlight the conservatory was too dark to really get photos of the butterflies so I had to use my flash. This flattened many of the photos, washing out some of the color and detail. Still, the butterflies seemed to like the flash, and each time it went off, a few would fly toward me, and dance about my camera–too fast to photograph, barely slow enough for my limited senses.

I started wondering aimlessly around, being careful where to walk because the butterflies were on the ground as well as the camera bag, the trees, the flowers, the feeding dishes, the sides of the conservatory, and other people. It wasn’t crowded, which made photography easier. Two women had brought their two young children, and had some difficulty keeping them under control. The kids weren’t being destructive–just young and absolutely fascinated by the butterflies. The mothers apologized to me for the noise, and I said I didn’t mind at all. How can one get upset at the sound of such joy?

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Still, when they left, and everyone else had left, I had the place to myself except for one of the workers pruning some of the bushes. I went through the place once more, and this time, perhaps because I was the only one there, I was surrounded by butterflies every where I went. Not just butterflies: exquisite moths, too. I had to use flash, and harshly, to be able to get photos of the Cobra Moths, but I didn’t care–I had to show you these creatures. The moths are larger than my hand, and beautifully colored, as well as camouflaged with the cobra ‘heads’ at each wing tip.

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I forget at times that butterfly wing colors and patterns are a defense mechanism; orange and reds are the bright colors of poison; dots and swirls resemble owl eyes, or snakes; speckled greens and yellows allow the insects to blend into jungle greens, and meadow yellows.

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One of my favorite of the butterflies was the Owl Butterfly. I discovered its name from another photographer I chatted with earlier, when I had first arrived. He was a younger man, big, with blond hair, face pink from the heat. He had been there since early morning (wisely, I noticed, dressed in a light t-shirt). He was kind enough to give me some lens tissue to clean my lenses and then spent about an hour showing me butterflies, which he photographed with a film camera using a macro lens and natural light. He mentioned that the Butterfly House is a second home to him–that and the Botanical Gardens.

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At first I took him to be a simple person; then I realized that he was, instead, a man of simple pleasures–not unlike the Butterfly Man in Sebald’s book, The Emigrants. I don’t have this book in my limited library, but a search returned the following:

The air was coming in from outside and we were looking over the almost motionless trees towards a meadow that reminded me of the Altach marsh when a middle-aged man appeared, holding a white net on a pole in front of him and occasionally taking curious jumps. Uncle Adelwarth stared straight ahead, but he registered my bewilderment all the same, and said: It’s the butterfly man, you know. He comes round here quite often.

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Further reading suggested that Sebald’s Butterfly Man is an allegorical reference to one of his favorite authors, Vladimir Nabokov, author of the acclaimed, albeit infamous, Lolita. Like Sebald, Nabokov was a man passionately in love with words. In a review of Lolita at Amazon, Simon Leake wrote:

Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov’s 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author’s delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the “frail honey-hued shoulders … the silky supple bare back” of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion.

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Nabokov once said, My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting. It is this man, and this passion, which is threaded throughout Sebald’s Emigrants, as a review from a reader at Amazon describes:

Sebald is never without his playful, even absurd, side, and it is present in this book as well. Running through his narratives, and culminating in the memoir of Max Ferber’s mother, Luisa, are allusions to “the butterfly man.” In Ferber’s section, “the butterfly man” is a boy of about 10 who chases butterflies in the German resort town of Bad Kissingen. This man is clearly Vladimir Nabokov, for the scene described is exactly the same as one described in Nabokov’s own memoir, “Speak, Memory.” Whether muse or mentor, “the butterfly man” holds great significance for each of Sebald’s characters. And, who but Sebald would have had the imagination and creativity to braid, like a silken thread, the spirit of the most celebrated of all literary emigrees throughout this book?

As in all of Sebald’s books, photographs are an integral part of the work and, once again, rather than adding clarity, they seem to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction instead. What is real? What is not? With Sebald, we never really know.

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Just before the exit at the Butterfly House is the Miracle of Metamorphosis display. Here, chrysalids from throughout the world are carefully hung and nurtured. No matter what time of day, there is always at least one butterfly being born in this display. When I was there, several owl butterflies were getting ready to take wing. One could see the entire life of a butterfly, from larva to chrysalis to butterfly if one wanted to visit over a week at the Butterfly House. But not the death, though. I imagine that workers scour the plants nightly for butterflies that have died, removing them for mounting, study, or disposal. It wouldn’t do, you see, to have the walks littered with the fragile wings of dessicated butterflies; or corpses of moths hanging from the trees.

Before I left, a Blue Morpho butterfly I had been trying to photograph with its wings open, trailed by three Paper Kites and several Red Lacewings suddenly flew around me in a spiral that started at my knees, circling round and round until above my head–vanishing joyfully into the dark depths of the bushes above and around me. I didn’t get a photo of their flight. I didn’t even try.

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Making Our Mark

Today was going to be the last sunny day until midweek, and it would have been a shame to waste it inside. I remembered a hike I had intended to take once in the summer, Bluff View at Meramec State park, but didn’t because of the spider webs across the path. Today seemed an ideal day to try it again.

And it was an ideal day–in the 50’s, with a gentle cool breeze, and not a web in sight. Like the earlier hike, Bluff View is also a moderately difficult hike, with very rocky ground and steep hills, and narrow paths that border a cliff overlooking the Meramec River. Unlike earlier, though, the terrain was more familiar. And dry. In fact, other than having to use caution with footing, today’s hike ended up being more of a enjoyable walk than a challenging hike.

There are a couple of shelters made by the old CCC (Conservation Corp) back during the depression, along the way. Kids had spray painted messages over the one I visited. In particular, “Leslie + Jeff” featured prominantly, along with various exclamation of people ‘rulz’ and ‘Jesus Savs’.

I usually get annoyed by graffiti, but wasn’t very annoyed at the marking, primarily because the shelter itself is a marking as such: a shelter that really wasn’t needed, funded by a society that was both crafy and benevolent; built by men desperate to feed their families during one of our darkest times. The trail that led to the decision to create such a shelter is one that grew over time, rather than developed naturally–the markings of thousands of hikers like me who saw the hill and had to climb it, just to see what was at the top. And it was these same hills that provided home to ancient Indian people, who used to carve pictures of animals and gods into the rocks to celebrate a hunt or protect a new child. At the most, Leslie and Jeff were just leaving this generation’s scent on stone long claimed by humanity.

The rest of the trail was without much to remark, other than the casual mention of the quiet only broken by my footsteps and the beautiful weather and how wonderful it is to stand at the top of a tall bluff and see for miles around. But Missouri in Winter tends to exist in shades of rust and brown and gray, with an occasional slash of blue or green — I’m not sure I can continue to remark on this tree or that rock without resorting to, ‘There was a tree’ and ‘there was a rock’; or variations such as ‘there is a tree on the rock’.

The best part of the hike was getting back to the car and feeling like I hadn’t walked enough. Say now, this is progress! Especially after my dismal showing in the earlier hike. So I treated myself to a gentle walk along the road that parallels the Meramec by the campgrounds.

There were a few hearty souls out camping, friendly as always when in the back woods–nodding their heads and saying hello, or stopping to chat. Yes the same inbred ignoramuses who threw aside the chance to toss Bush out will smile at you, and tip a finger to their hats in greeting as you pass. Those savages.

I noticed a group of large, predator like birds flying in circles overhead and a man and his wife passing told me they were turkey vultures. I was surprised, because I know what an ugly bird this can be, but they were beautiful and graceful in the air as they circled. I continued walking, trying to take a photo of the birds, but without a telephoto, this would be impossible. As they flew, they overlapped each other and dove and circled, but never made a sound, quiet as death itself.

(I shamefully confess to feeling no small amount of relief when the birds suddenly found something to land on across the river because it did seem as if they were uncannily matching my steps for the longest time. I know these creatures sense of smell is keen; were they trying to tell me I needed a shower after my hike?)