Tag Archives: Nature

The Song of Hotter Water

Lake Superior, the coldest of the Great Lakes, is warmer right now than many old timers can remember at the end of July. And it may set a record for high surface temperature yet this year.

Which turns tradition on its head.

But one thing remains the same. Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” is still the easiest poem on Earth to parody.

By the shores of Gitchee Gummi
By the boiling big sea water
Wrapped in towels there stood the bathers
Wrapped so not to moon the neighbors

There to feel the heat of sauna
There to feel the water bubble
In the Summer of the hotness
Came they there to sweat together

Watched they as the waves came crashing
Crashing on the rocks of Tofte
Black rocks baking in the sunlight
Water turns to steam at contact

Clouds of steam like in a sauna
Ancient steamy wood enclosure
by the lake it sits, neglected
With an A/C in the window

Father Nature pours his waters
on the rocks and steam arises
Now the Lake itself so hot
that bathers cannot breathe beside it

Now they’ve cooked themselves completely
Now they look for cooling waters
Waters right for skinny dipping
What the Lake once gave them freely

Gitchee Gummi, boiling cauldron
is the sauna now, a devil!
So the bathers run instead
inside where it is air conditioned

Shrieking as their skin is shocked
by air from Kenmore in the window
Shrieking as they did before
when jumping in the lake of yore.

Will this be the hottest summer ever?

Win / Win

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale, with assistance from Steve in St. Paul before he left for the long weekend.

It was a week ago today that a “Congress of Baboons” from in and around the Twin Cities showed up at Steve’s house in St. Paul, to rescue his and his neighbor’s yards from a very large branch that had fallen from a very tall tree. Here’s what we were dealing with:

It turns out quite a number of baboons know their way around a chain saw (Ben, tim, Sherrilee, Linda, just to name those present), and who could resist tim’s call to duty?

We ended up amazing ourselves with what a goodly number can accomplish in 3 or 4 hours. Limbs were downed and cut into manageable chunks …

… brush was cleared and four loads of it hauled away;

… and finally the last “threads” were severed and the biggest limb…

…hit the ground with a resounding thud. Steve said that, although he was in the house (possibly making Kool-Aid) at the time, he knew it by the way the whole house shook.

Then we rested:

There were thirteen of us including Steve, spouses, and teens.

The Crew: Catherine (mig), S&H, Lisa, tim, The Teenager, Sherrilee, Bill, Robin, Barbara, Linda, Michael (BiR’s husband), Ben

(Lisa and Robin recapped the event in more detail here
about 2/3 the way down.)

I understand how overwhelmed with gratitude is the person on the receiving end of the giving. Here is one of Steve’s “thank you”s:

In some ways it’s more fun to be on the “giving” end, and I’ve read articles to the effect that it really is easier to give than receive. Other writings cover the fact that it is natural to want to help. Even infants will become concerned when they hear another baby in distress, and toddlers will actively try to help when they see a need.

I’ve been thinking what were the motivators that got a dozen people out on a lovely July Saturday to hack down a hackberry tree. I’ve come up with these:

– we got to be outdoors, and it wasn’t 102° F., or even 95°
– those who know how to handle power tools got to hone their skill
– we got exercise
– we got Kool-Aid
– we knew at the end of the day we’d been useful
– community: we got to hang with other “baboons” – it was a party.

At the end of the day, we ALL felt good, at least mentally. It was a win for Steve, and a win for baboons.

What’s the best example you can remember of a Win-Win situation you’ve experienced or observed?

Gopher Feet Suite

Here’s a rich and surprising comment from yesterday’s conversation about animals and crime.

Vicky is right – some townships pay a bounty. At least they did as recently as 2009.
And PlainJane is also right – this is gruesome. I’m sure it has not gone unnoticed by bucktoothed bards.

The prairie’s wide and low and flat
and rich, so things may grow.
It nourishes all plants above
And critters down below.

The ones who dig feel safe at home
In tunnels that they make.
But terror runs throughout the loam
Surrounding Silver Lake.

The bucktooth Gophers rototill
Through tree roots, soft and sticky.
But when they want a secret thrill
They softly whisper “Vicky”!

She frightens everything submerged.
“A child,” they say. “Petite.”
“But watch your back when you’ve emerged.
She’ll chop off all your feet!”

A shudder shook a gopher guard
On duty by the shore.
“She killed a dozen in my yard
And then came back for more. “

Her legend, scary and profound,
among the gophers grows.
They say she’s known to carry ‘round
A bag filled up with toes!

How could a child take such delight
In sport that is so gory?
Some people say she’s not quite right.
But that’s another story.

For in the village square each day
She’s greeted with applause
They give her praise and hand her pay
When Vicky gives them paws.

What nuisance should government pay a bounty to reduce?

Mad Cat Disease

This just in from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty:

At ease, civillians!

And when I say “at ease”, I mean you should assume a state of awareness in the moderate-bordering-on-high alert range. That, to me, is the most relaxed anyone should ever be. If things get tense and alarming, we will quickly move into and through the several stages of panic. I know this much – the heat of these summer months has dulled everyone’s senses and has made us inattentive. How many of you have taken more naps recently? I know I have. That’s a good strategy for dealing with extremes.

But often when a person takes a nap, a family pet will come and nap nearby. In some cases that animal even gets into the bed with you!

I find this alarming, especially in light of recent studies about certain cat parasites that appear to slightly increase the risk of suicide in Danish women. That’s right – your cat may carry a parasite that could lead you to make a foolish decision about ending your life!

Especially if you are a Danish Woman!

Who knew? Puff could be a hazard to your mental health!

Is Puff Possessed?

Of course, some canine lovers will say it’s the other way around – that a person’s willingness to live with cats is a clear sign of a pre-existing tendency toward self-destruction. But I don’t want to get into that toxic argument. Here’s my point –

The parasite is transmitted through feces, so changing the cat litter is something that should be done every day, and by the most expendable member of the family. This is key. I realize it may be a difficult decision for any family – to choose the one member we could most easily do without – but it’s crucial that any exposure to toxoplasma gondii be limited limited.

In rats, the parasite creates lesions on the brain in the areas affecting behavior. Infected lab rats have been observed losing their fear of cats all together and even feeling an attraction to the odor of cat urine.

One theory about this clearly suicidal change in rat judgment is earth shaking!

Some researchers suppose that the parasite, which can sexually reproduce ONLY IN THE INTESTINES OF A CAT, changes the behavior of an infected animal in order to promote that animal getting eaten by kitty! If this is true it means nature is even more underhanded and nefarious than I imagined!

And it also means we must keep a careful watch on whoever in our family is responsible for feeding the cat. The repeated begging and pleading for Puff to “just take a little taste” of whatever smelly abomination has just been dumped into the bowl could quickly lead to a crazed person chopping up much more than mere fish heads at dinner time. Gruesome, I know, but it’s absolutely essential that we count their fingers before and after each meal. They won’t know why they’re doing it, so it’s up to us to remember that the fingertip is connected to the elbow, and the elbow is connected to the torso.

Yes, Puff looks hungry, but we must set limits. And although it will hurt family morale, we must make certain whoever cleans the boxes is closely watched and completely expendable. You might consider hiring someone else to do the job. But please, no Danish women!

Yours in Paranoia,


Who does the most dangerous jobs at your house?

The Tragedy of Lonesome George

When I read about the death of the Pinta Island Tortoise Lonesome George and the species unfortunate extinction, I thought “what a tragedy.”

When I saw his picture, I thought “ … by Shakespeare”.

Not only does George wind up dead at the end of the tale (a major requirement in any downer by the Bard), but he’s probably misunderstood and totally delusional. After all, wouldn’t you be?

Imagine – everyone around George hesitates to put it into words, but they look at him with a profound sense of pity. He is, after all, the last of his kind. They try to make his sad predicament more bearable by providing the company of one or more Lady Tortoises, but George feigns a lack of interest. He is actually quite randy, as old tortoises go, but he is waiting. Only another Pinta Island Tortoise can win his love.

Although there is this ONE she-tortoise, Gregarious Jane, who looks pretty good … great, in fact. But George cannot allow himself to fall in love because his responsibility is to the ages.

It breaks his heart, but he must remain available in case another Pinta Island Tortoise comes along. What are the chances? Almost nil, and yet …

Meanwhile, the Lady Jane confides to her (hilarious) Reptile-in-Waiting MeShell that she IS, in fact, a certified, pedigreed P.I.T., but she forbids anyone to mention it to George because she does not want to be loved only as a means to forestall extinction. If he can’t love her for who she is without regard for the effect it might have on posterity, well … maybe it’s better that the species disappears forever.

Lovers always think the world revolves around them!

Hmmm. Now that I consider it, there could be some silly hijinks, a bit of cross-dressing and a little mistaken identity back-and-forth with various characters hiding in their shells while other tortoises parade across the stage and talk as if no one else is in the room … and it could wind up as a comedy after all.

But George and Jane would have to realize their true identities and see that they are, in fact, right for one another.

But no. He dies. So alas, it’s a tragedy. Unless you have a better idea.

What ho! Supply a character, a line, or some story element for your version of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy (or Comedy) of Lonesome George”.

Messing Around In Boats

I have just returned from a long, lovely weekend in Northern Minnesota at a private resort called Club Lyn, where the food, company, activities, scenery and weather were beyond excellent. A calm and beautiful lake was at our disposal, and a pair of loons posed.

June is a wonderful time to be out on just about any lake, whether you are a loon or a baboon. Or a Kangaroo. Today is Bob Keeshan’s birthday, born on June 27th in the year 1927. He was a children’s television pioneer, and also something of a boating daredevil. Look at this dangerous stunt!

Kids, I think even Captain Kangaroo would tell you, don’t go out on the lake without a lifejacket, for you AND your passenger.

What’s your favorite kind of summertime lake fun?

Hospitality and Houseguests

New York is the most exciting city in the world.

That’s not just my opinion.  A lot of people say that.  The city is also very welcoming and hospitable, which is not a commonly held view among humans, but I think millions of other creatures would agree.

And by “other creatures” I mean rodents, cockroaches, ants, flies, bees, bedbugs and pigeons.

By all accounts these are some of the primary non-human beasts that thrive in the urban jungle, and New Yorkers like to talk about what they can do to keep their uninvited house guests under control.

And yet there is also an air of acceptance.  If you live in New York City this assortment of two, four, six and eight legged strangers will share it with you, whether you want to share it with them or not.  Which may come as a surprise to the owner of the city’s highest priced (and still unbuilt) piece of residential real estate.

What do you do when you see the first cockroach skitter across the kitchen floor in your 90 million dollar sky palace? Even if the creature is dressed for dinner in top hat, white tie and tails, the sight of it gives one pause. And if the intruder happens to be a rodent, the sight of it gives one paws – “How much money would it take to be totally alone?”

More than you have, apparently. Only in New York.

What else lives in your house?

Beechly Evolves

Congressman Loomis Beechly, who represents Minnesota’s 9th congressional district (all the water surface area in the state), has been forced to communicate with his constituents on a topic he finds uncomfortable.

Congressman Beechly believes in Floater ID

My Dear 9th Districters,

Some have asked, in light of President Obama’s recent evolution on gay marriage, where I stand on the issue. For years now, my position has been crystal clear – I’d rather not talk about it.

My constituents who support marriage rights for everyone have interpreted that policy as a cowardly attempt to dodge the issue. Those who oppose gay marriage, however, have seen my position as an attempt to dodge the issue that is also cowardly.

In this way I have brought together people who agree on very little else! How appropriate for a Congressman who represents only water surface area to be such a bridge builder!

But now radicals on both sides of the issue want to blow my bridge up by forcing me to choose! Fine. So be it.

Most of the living creatures in my district are, as you know, fish. Walleye don’t get married, and don’t seem to want to get married. Frankly, I don’t think they even know who the fathers or mothers are of all the fish they produce – it’s really wanton and free under the lake surface with all the things they do. The spawning environment is just like downtown on a Saturday night – anything that can happen probably will. Some parents guard their offspring. Some just swim away. Some play both mother and father. And although I don’t think I have any living in my district, let me just say you can’t apply any of these Constitutional Marriage Amendments to seahorses. They simply won’t have it. Fish sexual identity is just so variable, I don’t think any one set of rules can apply down there. And by “down there” I mean underwater. AND I also mean “down there.”

People seem to need guidelines that they can use to beat each other with, but I don’t want to alienate my most numerous constituents, even though they can’t vote. So I am going to declare myself to be predominantly aquatic on issues of affectional relationships.

Make of that what you will. Some will say that identifies me as a free thinker. Others will say I am endorsing natural law. But one thing I know – there are fish in the Bible, lots of them. Mostly they’re just being pulled out of the water and eaten by disciples and such, but I assure you that what they’re doing under the surface today they were also doing back then, so my position is kind of scriptural, if you need it to have that sort of connection.

I hope this clears things up enough so that we never have to talk about it again. Fish sex is, after all, something that is at its very best when it’s submerged.

Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

What are your plans for this weekend’s fishing opener?

A Walk In The Woods, Observed

A wayward e-mail wound up in my in-box by mistake. I’m glad I’m not in trouble for this one – lawyers make me nervous.

To: Officials of the Wildlife Conservation Society
Re: Invasion of Privacy

Dear Wildlife Conservation Society Administrators,

I’m an attorney in private practice representing a number of parties whose images were captured by your organization on a video recording, and then distributed worldwide via the Internet without the knowledge and permission of my clients.

My clients, a severely endangered band of Cross River Gorillas, are, as you know, famed for being reclusive overall and distinctive among wild animals for the many ways in which they are NOT seen. That is their lifestyle and their choice, and also a matter of logistics and math, given that there are only about 250 Cross River Gorillas left in the world.

Your wanton and widespread distribution of the video, embedded below, violates the privacy of my clients and what is more, it severely diminishes what was their expected legacy – to vanish without being seen in the wild by most people, ever.

While it may seem harmless to you, this clandestine observation, recording, and then distribution without permission of the above images is embarrassing in the extreme, both for the aimless way my clients seem to be wandering around in front of the camera (naked!), and also for the humiliating sound made by the Silverback as he makes his charge about midway in the video.

I assure you that when he started pounding his chest in an impromptu display of exuberance, he was going for something more like an awe inspiring BOOM! BOOM! rather than the cartoonish pop! pop! he was able to produce. For a dominant male, this is humiliating in the extreme. I’m sure, had you politely asked for his permission to share these impulsive antics with the world, he would have broken your arm or thrown clumps of grass in your face as a way of saying “no”. But of course you did not ask!

We will not even discuss some of the other issues that rankle, such as the unflattering camera angle taken on one client as she rested against a tree and the blatant calling of attention to the disability of another. Have you no shame? What ever happened to dignity?

While I have not yet met with my clients (they are elusive), I hope to have a conference very soon, after which I will be in touch with a list of demands that, should you wish to avoid a costly lawsuit, you would be well advised to take very, very seriously.

Though I’m sure you had the best intentions, the mere ability to place an unobtrusive camera somewhere and record someone’s casual walk through the woods does not automatically make it the right thing to do. Though it my fervent hope that you will never, ever see my clients again, I assure you that you have NOT heard the last of us!


A.P. Magilla, Attorney at Law

Where would you take a group of friends for a casual, if not private, stroll?

Herding Cats

Today’s guest post comes from Edith.

I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase “herding cats” referring to “a task that is extremely difficult or impossible to do, due to one or more variables being in flux and uncontrollable” according to Wikipedia.

Well, in my house, there lives a Sheltie aka a Shetland Sheepdog. Shelties are derived from dogs used in the Shetland Isles for herding and protecting sheep. I don’t have any sheep, but when we first got our dog, youngest daughter was still fairly young, and occasionally the puppy would try to “herd” her. Dog didn’t try to herd the larger members of the household and now that youngest daughter is well along in her teens, there isn’t anybody around here small enough to herd.

Until late February 2011, that is. That is when the dog found a CAT in our yard. Being excitable, she barked incessantly until I came out to investigate. Long story short, the cat is still here and is now a member of the family. The dog and the cat sometimes play with each other, chasing and wrestling, with both doing pretty equal amounts of chasing. But sometimes the cat is very definite that he does NOT want to play with the dog. But as he walks around the house, the dog decides he should be going somewhere else…so she herds him. Or tries to. She tries to nose him in the “right” direction, but the cat just keeps going where he wants to go and pays no attention to this bigger animal trying to push him in a different direction.

It’s quite amusing watching the dog put so much effort into something that is so futile. That is, it’s funny until I start to feel like it’s a metaphor for my life.

What have you done, or tried to do, that you could compare to herding cats?