Tag Archives: doom

Swiftly

Everything feels like an elegy. I’ve heard, and felt, this sentiment often these past few weeks. When I think of the bears, sleeping in their dens, dreaming of spring lilies. When I walk down our road, and glimpse pheasants in the bare hedges, watch flickers puff out their spotted feathers between birch branches, pass the remains of a fallen buck, sharp ribs poking through his tattered hide. Even the river, winding along its icy banks, brings easy tears.

To be sure, recent events have rendered these feelings acute, aided too by the fact that winter is dying before spring’s first breath… but if I’m honest, I’ve always sort of felt this way about the world. Not to say I don’t feel equal measures of wonder and celebration, because I surely do, just not so prominently on this day.

Anyway, I haven’t written much poetry lately, but I just came across an old poem of mine about swift foxes that ran in High Desert Journal a decade ago, and it fit my mood. But see, there is even hope here. After years of endangerment, and considerable conservation efforts, their populations are now more stable, at least in portions of their historic range less threatened by habitat loss.
At least for now.

Swift Fox
Vulpes velox 

From knoll’s crest she watches
The prairie again, with those long
Egyptian eyes that slant just a little,
Just enough to fix nobility
In their unblinking grace.

Small as a cat and quiet too,
We call her swift, call her rare.
Vulpes velox,
A title with too many edges,
That matches only
Her forty-two pointed teeth,
And none of the softness
In her buff yellow fur, sweet
Between the bluestem,
Capped in an inky tail spot. 

On the ocean of the plains
She speeds beneath the shrieking
Night, tossing mice through the air
Like dull falling comets, breaking
Against pups’ mouths stretched wide. 

From the edge of a smooth-hole den
She is always listening
For the next howl, hungry coyote cousin,
Whose pups have bigger stomachs.
She can’t hear her prairie falling away
Beneath roads and cattle hooves,
But I think she knows
She isn’t fast enough.

— Kathleen Yale
* Published in High Desert Journal, Issue Number Three, Spring 2006

Photo by Gerald Romanchuck

 

Release the Krampus!

Happy Eve of St. Nicholas Day!

If you’re in the states, you may not know or care much about this delightful holiday, but if you’re in France I hope you’re gearing up to hear some grandmas extol the man with tales of how he once resurrected a trio of lost and hungry children who were “lured inside by a wicked butcher who killed and salted them in a large tub”.

Meanwhile I know the good people of The Netherlands are preparing for Sinterklaas by putting shoes and carrots outside their houses, and awaiting the arrival of the saint and his “six-to-eight black men”  who will leave candy and presents for the good, and pretend to beat and kidnap the bad.

Incidentally, this threatening to beat naughty children with sticks and rods, “shake a bag of ashes” in their general direction, or chase them with large, ear-piercing bells is a common theme around Europe when it comes to St. Nick. I guess everyone has a dark side. But no one seems to do it better than the German-speaking countries. Why? Because they’re not afraid to bring out the big guns — the Krampus.

Santa’s demonic antithesis, the beastly Krampus creeps out of old alpine tales, hooves and horns ablaze, ready to murder bad kids, or minimum drag them back to his lair for who-knows-what action. His sinister moniker comes from the German word krampen, or claw, of which he has many.

Seriously, it’s like Stanley Kubrick stole Christmas. I wonder if Krampus-speak sounds something not unlike this sweet caroling, which I have to imagine roughly translates into “Merry Christmas, motherfuckers.” Seriously, this guy makes the Grinch look like a sad kitten. People are weird.

 

And while we’re talking beasties in the night, check out intrepid photographer Charles Freger’s epic collection of Europe’s eccentric “wild men” who dress up in fabulous and terrifying beast-gear to celebrate various holidays and put fear into the hearts of children. They’re pretty inspirational if you ask me.

Casualities of the Road

Last week my mom and I drove from Kansas City to Glacier over a couple of days. The Midwest-Montana connection is a journey I have made more times than I can remember, but the last time Moms did it with me we (well, I should say I, because she found it morbid and perhaps a little unnerving) started a tradition.

Perhaps you have a road trip tradition. Maybe it involves playing I Spy, eating condiment sandwiches, looking for different states’ licence plates, or singing songs about washing your neck, like I used to do as a kid with my grandparents. Those are all great, but that’s not what we do.

Nope, we count animal casualties on the road. But in a non-creepy way. Yeah, I mean road kill, though I don’t like that term. Yes, it is depressing, but it does pass the time, and it does make you bear witness a little, and it does provide some vague ecological commentary about our country — heavy on the raccoon the first day, none by the last day, and so on.

road casualities

The drive is nearly 1500 miles and 22 hours, not including bi-hourly pee breaks. During our three-day journey we encountered at least 181 fallen fuzzies. The mile/kill ratio was by far the highest the first day between Kansas City and Mitchell, SD.

181 animals. It’s a number worth thinking about.

111 unidentifiable small furry creatures
23 raccoon (17 on the first day, none on the last)
15 deer
11 skunks
8 birds
4 coyote
4 squirrels
2 bunnies
2 pronghorn
1 porcupine
1 dog
and 2 black shoes

 

Attack of the Super Bugs!

I’m not talking about Shelob and her eight-legged cronies, or Capitol-engineered tracker jackers, or killer bees… I’m talking about something much more terrifying — antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Credit: Mariana Ruiz / Public Domain

Credit: Mariana Ruiz / Public Domain

I’ve recently been reading a lot about how we humans are kinda wired to fear the wrong things. I’ll save the psychology behind this for a different day, but suffice to say, we tend to worry more about being bitten in half by sharks, mauled by bears, shot by snipers, or dying in a fiery plane crash than the things that will in reality most likely kill us — car accidents (in the US, at least), poor health, cancer, and to my mind, the various and inevitable manifestations of climate change.

Super bugs are easy to put out of your fear-mongering mind because they won’t knock on your door at night or snatch you out of the woods… which is interesting, because they do have the potential to just, you know, wipe out half the humans in the world if they get a solid run, Plague-style.

Anyway, check out my latest long-form SciShow episode to add another horror to your fear bank, and hear all about how crafty bacteria can be, how we fight it, how it fights back, and how it could ultimately rock our world again and again.