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26 August, 2012

Nice Round Numbers

Somewhere between 1500 and 1600 days since I started this blog, I got my 10,000th pageview. I have reason to doubt--having sporadically focused intently on the metrics--that this number can claim any accuracy; nonetheless, it's a milestone, in the shifty/figurative sense that most people use the term. 

At around the same time, my work truck hit 100,000 miles. This number is more accurate, although I have reason to believe that there is an error on the order of .01% or more due to the fact that guys driving on logging roads and even more minor tracks must back up from time to time, sometimes for uncomfortably long stretches. 

As has been the case since Dad's '65 Fury III hit 100k sometime in the 70's, I missed the exact moment. As usual, I could see the milestone at a distance, but missed it when it passed me by at close range. When the work rig hit 100 kilo-miles, I was probably staring at a cloud formation. When the 10 kilo-pageview turned (by some Russian bot interested in heatilators, most likely), I was riding bikes with the kids, or maybe in the bathroom. 

As a kid, missing the turning-over of the 100,000 mile mark was a huge event, and missing it must have hurt. Or, I did see it, but the nearly-50-year-old me cannot care enough to recall. Even numbers just don't fascinate anymore. Not even big ones (the blogger in me recognizes: 10,000 pageviews in 4+ years is nothing to brag about). Maybe this is why I insist, whenever asked to estimate a distance, or the time, or whatever, on providing a decidedly un-round number: It's about 4.27 miles. It must be nearly 9:39. When, by dumb luck or conniving knowledge, I am correct, people are astounded and impressed, far more than they would be had I said 4 miles or 9:30.

So farewell and f-off, milestones. I will wind and wend forward and sideways, looping and halting, enjoying the corkscrew cloud at mile 99,992 or the hit from Trinidad and Tobago more than the nice round numbers.

06 August, 2012

Pollen Ate 'er

Lip-ticklin' the nectivory
One of the pleasures of my work is to be high up in the Cascades, in a little meadow, baby I don't wanna come down. This episode of MT comes to you from yon mt. Back in the golden days of summer (right at the beginning, before it gets all parched).

The flying insects queue upon a faint aroma, or a UV signal, or maybe even some color so obvious that even us humans can sense it, and dive into a flower. There they stick in mouth-parts, suck to heart's content, and move on to find some other content (they are never full til the sun sets, in near opposition to us humans). Accidentally (they would say), they transport pollen, the DNA transfer proof of their slavery to the supposedly more primitive plants they serve. 

Suckin da bugga dry
Other times, the insects just settle in. From the Bible to the Exorcist, canonical wisdom tells us of the locust swarms arriving and marauding til nothing is left for us bipedal apes. More often, the leeching suckage bypasses us, especially in our modern dependance on the few crops agribidness allows us to eat. As in the aphid dairy pictured above, tended by ants on a lupine. They will not stop sucking vital bodily fluids (salutations, doc strangelove) until the weather turns or the host is dead. 

Is the pollinator a hero, and the parasite a villain? Evolution thinks they're both heroes. Perpetuation and selection both have their place. High up in the Cascades, nature turns on and tunes in, but will never drop out or give up.


02 August, 2012


Eye-stalks Pointed at You.
I'm blessed with a child eyed to nature, backed up by her heart. She catches creatures sometimes, especially as she walks tidelands, and immediately feels compelled to treat her temp-prey as best she can. Maybe just letting it go back to its nook after a look. Or, if her guest is invited for the day, a bucket of sand and rocks, seaweed in water that she aerates regularly, attempts at feed. Nurturing while finding out: What does it eat? What's it do? What many other creatures can coexist with it?

This week, she scouted up crabs and grabbed a sculpin on a broad south Salish sandflat. Sampled sea lettuce and found worms haplessly headed makai toward salty death, as well as other worms  dug in an awaiting filterage, and then still others capable of search and destroy missions in molluscan-land. She saw sea-shells galore before the naturalist pointed them out, and I could see that in addition to her scarcely suppressed eye-rolling at bio-geekery and volunteerism in general was a recognition (and more durable and sensible catologue-ing than I can muster) of knowledge that the guy had to offer. Even though it's a pretty safe bet that this guy has not held a barracuda, wolf-eel, deer-mouse or any other vicious predator in his hand (as she has, of course) the kid absorbs. Someone who can both find and learn, trudge the tideflat anew and keep an ear out for previous learnings, can make an osum scientist, if that's what she wants to do. 

And maybe she will. Meanwhile, she can find certain crabs cute and others creepy, and refrain from eating any of them. She can guide her youngerling, the sister seven years newer, the next capturer of creatures. She can eye things I may (and do) miss: that seaweed-colored-fish, the best combination of container-sediment-flora-fauna-detritus-light for a temporary habitat, or her own direction in life.

01 August, 2012

Footstep Echoes

Not Nisqually, or even near Olympia, but you get the idea.

The girls and I have been enjoying Olympia on foot lately. We covered 4 miles on the Nisqually delta board walk, cold and windy, but rewarded with wildlife and a hot meal afterward. We ambled downtown (yes, humans can get places without cars), exploring neighborhoods and urban wildlife along the way to the farmers market, followed by a bus ride back (no, humans don't have to let the feet carry the load all the time). Forays through the neighborhood (sometimes with feet pushing pedals instead of pounding pavement) with no particular goal in mind. Motor-free missions to scope out firework viewing spots, or just to pick up a few things at the grocery. Walking down to the port to greet canoe-loads of tribal paddlers (ready to set foot on land after crossing Salish seas), and then trudging back uphill. Yesterday, we walked out on a beach as far as a very low tide would allow, our feet in water that does not hit new land til Asia.

We're exploring, finding where the cute puppies live and where the sweet fruit grows. We're getting places or going nowhere in particular. We're experiencing city grit and natural beauty. We're finding short cuts and long vistas. We're discovering secret gardens and re-discovering public places that exist only as blurs to the car-bound.

We're spending lots of time together with no screens, with no walls. Feet keep moving, and conversation flows. I was never a hiker, but this is familiar to me; it's in my blood. I remember walking through university woods with my family in search of blueberries and a Greek theater. I recall walking what seemed like a long way through the little town where my grandparents lived, visiting neighbors, the firehouse, and ending up at a soda fountain where we would watch our milkshakes take form. These things happened with lifelong teachers who appreciated the value of leaving classrooms and letting places teach at the pace of foot-falls.

As we walk, the earth is pressing memories into our feet. The kids may not remember any one sight, or a particular conversation that passed between us, but the ground was walked on by us, together, our feet shared places and soaked them up. (I enjoy walking solo, too, but moving as a small pack adds something.) Memories are being implanted in our soles, imprinted on our souls, nevermind whether our brains take note yet.