Tag Archives: nature

Up On McDonald Creek

A couple of rainy weekends ago, Vin and Nate and I went for a swim.


Well, to be honest, even for a cold water aficionado such as myself, it’s hard to actually swim in Glacier, even in the heat of summer. Our water is really, really cold. So by swim, I mean snorkel in a head-to-toe dry suit (well, semi-dry, as it turns out), and by “heat of summer” I mean drizzly, gray, 60 degree August day.

We were searching to see what fish we mind find, for no particular reason but to say hello. I watched some cutthroat darting around a deep pool below some falls, and caught a brief look at a small sculpin, tucked between two rocks, but other than that, the locals stayed hidden.


Still, it was glorious to spend a few hours exploring the underwater, current-carved rock sculptures, the two hundred colors of smooth river stones, the industrious caddisflies carting around their funny little tubular homes, tiny tinkers, clinging to the rocks . . . and to hook an arm around a crooked, rain-slick branch, just float, and gently wimple in the flow of the river, as if flying with a steady speed.

If you’re not afraid of a chill, I highly recommend it.



An Ant’s Life

When  I was little, probably in second or third grade, my brothers and I would ride our bikes around and around and around our Madison city block, counting laps and presumably burning off summer energy. Being an ardent, near-obsessed animal lover even then, I would keep my eyes on the sidewalk and swerve around, trying to avoid the dusty caramel ant mounds that popped up in between the pavement cracks. At least one time I let my young sense of, what … guilt? obligation? melancholy? mortality? take over and I walked around the block, picking up the dead ants we’d accidentally run over. Being dramatic, the process wasn’t complete until I’d personally apologized to each tiny corpse, and then buried then in mass in the back garden. I am sure I even put flowers on their little grave.

File:Mier by Kieriebosblomme, Roodeplaat NR, a.jpg

Photo credit: JMK

When I hear other people talking about burning ants as kids, or shooting squirrels, or experimenting with their new-found god-like human powers in other violent ways, I think about little me and the ants. Maybe I was a weirdo, but at least I was a compassionate one. In the end, those ants kick-started my young grave-digging career — I laid many more cat- or road- or dog-killed animals  to rest with a violet or dandelion bouquet. It also started at least half of my actual career — studying and working to protect and conserve and understand various wild animals and their ecosystems.

Why I am wistfully talking about ants? Well, because I just watched yet another example of stellar, creative science storytelling — Stanford biologist Deborah M. Gordon’s animated explanation of how ant colonies work. Check it out:


Back in my kid days, we had Zoo Books, class field trips to local marshes, and a little zoo down the street I spend countless afternoons wandering. Today the depth and diversity of interesting, free science education mediums is dizzying, and I’m proud to be part of that community.

I want to believe if we take the time to notice things — if we understand them better — if we teach our children how incredible say, ants and their complex kingdoms are, maybe they won’t be temped to burn or squash or hunt them down for no reason. I’m not saying anyone needs to be burying dead bugs in the backyard, but it would awesome if everyone looked down more, forgave their watermelon-thieving ways, and at least tried to step more gently.

Photo credit: Rakesh K. Dogra


Your Daily Refreshment

Deirdre Remembers a Scottish Glen

(Irish, unknown, possibly fourteenth century)

 Glen of my body’s feeding:

crested breast of loveliest wheat,

glen of the thrusting long-horned cattle,

firm among the trysting bees.

Wild with cuckoo, thrush, and blackbird,

and the frisky hind below the oak thick ridge.

Green roof that covered a thousand foxes,

glen of wild garlic and watercress, and scarlet-berried rowan.

And badgers, delirious with sleep, heaped fat in dens

next to their burrowed young.

Glen sentried with blue-eyed hawks,

greenwood laced with sloe, apple, blackberry,

tight-crammed between the ridge and pointed peaks.

My glen of the star-tangled yews,

where hares would lope in the easy dew.

To remember is a ringing pain of brightness.

– Translated by Martin Shaw and Tony Hoagland (Badasses)

A Snail’s Spring

We don’t get many signs of early spring here in the land of lodgepole, so, inspired by Vyacheslav Mishchenko’s magical photographs, I’ve been drawing my own spring — through the eyes of curious gastropods, for whom I am developing a great affection.

snail fern snail mushroom snail acorn snail flower

If you’re feeling the snail love, but can’t find any of your own to observe, I also recommend checking out Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s book The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, which I reviewed in Orion some time ago.