Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Back to Nature



An afternoon at the park found us looking at a baby owl just learning to fly.

He's big but still has baby fluff.

Then there was the eagle who enjoys standing on the world's tallest totem pole..

Let's hope they meet as friends.. and so may all of us.

Happy Springtime ☀️ ʕ•́ᴥ•̀ʔっ☀️

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Thripdipple - Anthony's story - 10 years later

Once, a while ago, so long ago that my Grampa recalls it vaguely, everything was pretty much the same as it is now. Except for a few things. Some of these things that were different were the turtles. They weren't so different. They still had noses and ate bugs and moved slowly just like now. The only difference really was that they didn't have shells. So they looked something like this, I guess. 

And this turtle here, his name is Anthony. He's the turtle this story is about. All the other turtles have stories about themselves, of course, but it would take me five years to tell you even half of them, and thirteen years more to tell you all the endings. Besides that, you should probably go to sleep soon. So I will tell you just about Anthony tonight. 

Anthony lived with his brothers and sisters in a place called Turtletown, which is about 27 miles east of Schenectedy. But you won't find Turtletown on any map. Many maps don't even have Schenectedy on them. Turtletown was a pleasant and beautiful place with many colorful flowers and cool clear ponds. Just as now the turtles passed their moments quite happily.

Well, not all their moments. Sometimes a hungry fox or two would come by. And sometimes it would rain and become cold. Worst of all, sometimes a hungry fox or two would come by and it would rain and become cold, all at once! But there seemed to be nothing that could change these things. 

And not being the type that dwells upon misfortune, Anthony, and all his brothers and sisters, lived in their happy moments - even though they had sore throats and so on sometimes.

Well now, Anthony was out walking one day, searching up some munchies and humming, and what do you think? Well, it almost goes without saying that suddenly a long, pointed rocket swooped out of the sky and landed very near by. 

Anthony's little red eyes blinked a few times. He was surprised and said, "Holy Smokes!" He forgot all about hunting for munchies, but did keep on humming. And he walked over to the rocket. When he got there a big purple man with three eyes, three ears, three noses, three mouths, three arms, and three legs came out from the rocket. 

He bent down and picked Anthony up. Anthony said, "What's happenin', man?" The purple man laughed heartily. He laughed so much that Anthony laughed too. When they stopped laughing, the purple man said, "Thripdipple!" They started to laugh again. Then Anthony's new friend took Anthony into the rocket.

Anthony's friend went to a chair and sat down. He put Anthony on one of his shoulders. There were many buttons on the walls. Anthony's friend pushed a button. Then he said, "Thripdipple!" Then he pushed another button and said, "Thripdipple!" He pushed seventeen more buttons. Anthony helped his friend. They said "Thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple thripdipple!" 

Then the rocket shook and roared up through the cosmos. And in no time at all it seemed (and in actuality was) the rocket became still. Anthony knew they had landed. His friend stood up. Anthony was still on his shoulder. They went to the door.

What a sight! Anthony's friend put his hands out and said, Thripdipple!" Anthony began to hum. They walked to the corner. There were other men and women at the corner, and they were standing in a queue. Anthony guessed that it was a bus stop. And as sure as your Aunt Matilda wears tennis shoes in the bathtub, he was right. 

 Anthony and his friend got on a bus. His friend said 'Thripdipple!" to the bus driver and they both chuckled. Then Anthony stuck out his tongue and everyone on the bus laughed at that. Anthony and his friend went to a seat.

Now they traveled on the bus for some time. Anthony stopped humming and listened to two women who were sitting in front of him. This is what they were saying: 

"Well, anyway, thripdipple, thripdipple thripdipples over thripdipple. They thripdippled last thripdipple." 

 "Oh, I didn't thripdipple that. I thripdippled thripdipple thripdipple, and she didn't thripdipple me." 

"Well, you thripdipple, thripdipple is so busy thripdippling thripdipple, she doesn't have a thripdipple to thripdipple." 

"Oh, how thripdippling!"

Soon enough, however, Anthony's friend got up. The bus stopped and they got out. They were in front of a glorious house. They went to the door and Anthony's friend knocked. A voice from inside called, "Thripdipple!" Then Anthony's friend opened the door and they went in.

Such a splendid room! A wise looking old man with three fluffy pink beards was sitting on a pillow in a corner. Anthony's friend bowed to the man and said, "Thripdippleness!" Anthony said, "Hey, hey, hey!" They all laughed. 

"I am Thripdippleness', said the old man, 'and this place you have come to is called Thripdipple. It is a planet far in the skies in the cluster of stars named Alpha Schenectedy. We folk are called thripdipples, and we all speak the language called thripdipple. But I can also speak turtle." 

"When's lunch?" said Anthony. 

 "We thripdipples have a favorite thing we like to do", said Thripdippleness. "More than anything, we like to thripdipple. I can't explain to you what it means because only thripdipples can understand. Anyway, I decided today to thripdipple you turtle folk. Now listen to my story:

 "Many years ago when I was your age, thripdipples didn't have the kind of rockets we have now. We used to have round ones. And children, you know, like to have toys and smaller things to play with. So we thripdipples gave our children small, round rockets, like this one." Thripdippleness reached in one of his ears and pulled something out. 

 It was green, It was round on the top, and flat on the bottom. It had one window in the front and one window in the back. And two on one side and two on the other. How many is that? 

"But you see," said Thripdippleness, "after about five thousand billion years, the thripdipples decided to have long pointed rockets for a change. Then the children wanted small, long pointed rockets. So now we have a big pile of small round rockets that the thripdipple children don't play with anymore. So I would like to thripdipple you turtles with them." 

"Righteous! said Anthony. Anthony's friend took Anthony in his hand. He gave him to Thripdippleness. The Thripdippleness put Anthony inside the small round rocket. "All dressed up and nowhere to go," said Anthony. 

Well, the rest of the story is plain to see. Thripdippleness and Anthony's friend filled up 46 big bags with all the small round rockets the thripdipple children didn't play with any more. They put the bags in the long pointed rocket then Anthony and his friend went in. Anthony's friend sat in his chair. This time he only pushed one-half of one button. They both said, "Thrip!" Then the rocket shook and roared through the cosmos.

When they arrived back in Turtletown, Anthony called all his brothers and sisters. Then Anthony's friend put each and every one inside a small round rocket. And now, even if a hungry fox or two comes by, and even if it rains and becomes cold all at once, the turtle folk don't mind. They are safe and sound inside their thripdipples. 

the end 

written by my co-conspirator Numb - pictures by me

Happy Christmas and a Better New Year to all 

ps: "In our civilization, and under our form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office."
~Ambrose Bierce

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Heron in September

Does this mean I'm now a nature photographer?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

letter to Tom, cc'd to old friends

Hi Tom,

Thanks to your note yesterday I finally got around to solving the problem I'd run into in not being able to comment on your blog posts. Yes, I did notice you'd come back a few weeks ago but since I haven't been to blogger very often these days I just thought you'd changed your settings on your return. I'd tried several times to leave you a note and every time was blocked by not having an 'account'. Also, phantsythat was behaving oddly and I knew I hadn't made any changes. So I got in touch with the help desk forum where I eventually discovered an anti-tracking program (Ghostery) I'd loaded a few months ago had identified a number of blogs (including my own) as sites to be constrained. The solution was very simple in that all I had to do was to mark Gwynt (and phantsythat) as 'trusted' sites. I left a couple of comments on your more recent but older posts and I see one of the people from the forum had dropped by your place too to see if all was well (he's the one who deleted his comment).

Anyhow, that's that. As for me (and Crow) it's true we kind of slipped away from blogging last March and who'd know better than you just how difficult it can be to pick up the traces again? Somehow I'd made a commitment to posting a new illustration of some kind to every piece I posted on the blog and I'd pretty much run out of steam. When I paint or attempt any artistic endeavor the results are invariably based on how much time I've taken. By that point I'd been taking less than the necessary time for a good while and I felt it showed. Added to that was feeling like if I had to write about something important to me I must try to do so in a way that wouldn't offend anyone else. Talk about a conundrum, eh? You can never make everybody happy and sometimes you can't make anybody happy and that's just the way things go.

Lastly, and to not make this too long, although the circumstance described certainly too long enough, we packed up our Halifax, NS life and moved four thousand miles to Victoria, BC late last summer. If you're a Canadian who wants to live in a milder climate but not leave the country this is the place to be. Getting here and becoming established has taken much time and energy.

So far I haven't even attempted to draw anything since last winter. That may change. What also may change is our possible return to phantsythat. After all, you were gone for two years and for us it's only been ten months. We'll see what happens next.

Take care and keep well.
Susan and Crow


Saturday, March 31, 2018

mirage or no from Crow

Dear Friends,

You may be curious about where I've disappeared to these past long months. I hope you'll accept my apologies with the understanding my new found companions and I have been making great efforts on behalf of all the animals and good people in the world. What could that be, do you wonder? I will explain.

During my late winter sojourn to ancient Aegypt I came upon a cartouche of profound antiquity which took me many long nights to decipher. It told of a path that leads to lands of unimaginable wonder where all can live in peace and harmony. I'm aware you may be skeptical that such a path exists but remember it wasn't that long ago most humans agreed the world was flat, that Earth was the center of the Universe, and man was the pinnacle of creation. We all know what became of those assumptions and who knows but there may be others that will be overturned as wisdom grows.

As we search for signs of our route across this mighty desert I've taken this moment to send you fond greetings. There are trails to mystery and beauty in unexpected places, some of which you may have found yourselves. Always remember the journey itself is what brings meaning to the destination. In other words, enjoy yourselves and why not try something new (like a piece of fruitcake)?

I will send further dispatches as space, time and shifting sands allow.

Meanwhile, salutations to all,


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

not fade away

It's been a while since I've written about the train journeys I enjoyed when I lived in England in the mid-1960s. In those days the railway was still the most convenient and relaxing way of traveling around the countryside and one of my primary reasons for doing so at the time was that I had become interested in brass rubbing - similar to coin rubbing but on a larger scale. Commemorative plaques installed on stone floors of churches between the 1300s and the 1700s, the brasses are elegant and detailed portrayals of people in the medieval period - important people, that is. By the the time I got interested in making some reproductions of my own many of the churches that housed the monuments had stopped allowing people to make the rubbings at all because brass, being a fairly soft metal, is easily damaged or simply worn away.

So while many churches in the south of England had banned the practice ministers outside large urban areas were frequently more amenable. Since it wasn't a good idea to simply walk in carrying the rolls of paper, wax and weights (to hold the paper down) I wrote letters to request permission and to determine an acceptable date. Once that was done I'd plan my trip.

Probably the most interesting of my expeditions was the day I arrived at a tiny village that was home to a very old Gothic church. A young minister met me at the entrance and showed me into the nave where shafts of light from the arched windows created patterns of light and shade. The brass I'd come to reproduce, a knight in full armour with a greyhound at his feet,  was to the left of the altar. After dusting the piece carefully I positioned the paper and set to work transferring the image under the fascinated gaze of the minister. A little later while he related the history of the church he paused for a moment and asked if I'd like to see something special. Naturally, I said yes. He asked me to help him move a couple of wooden pews to one side and then he rolled back a carpet. There I gazed upon one of the most beautiful and intricate of the monumental brass memorials ever made.

Not this, but something like:

and no, I didn't even ask of I could make a rubbing. Seeing it was enough and having seen it was a very special moment for me. I think many people have accepted a very unfair description of the medieval period by calling it the Dark Ages. There was much in that time that was worthwhile - such artistry as the old churches attest both in their building and decoration required time and peace of mind in their creation.

“I don't suppose there has been a moment in the world's history where more people felt themselves to be artists, or when less art was produced."
~ Auberon Waugh

Friday, February 9, 2018

new picture old poem

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

~ John Masefield

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

history and mystery

 One thing the internet is very good for is the fact you can look things up. There's no waiting, no trekking to the library and no wondering where you packed away your most recent compendium of the encyclopedia. In recent years having the ability to make random investigations has proved to be very beneficial when it comes to enhancing my enjoyment of novels. In fact sometimes I'll put a particular book aside while I follow electronic trails through the ether. While these rambles won't lead to a degree, never mind augment my future earning potential, the things I learn enlarge my understanding of many subjects I'd otherwise miss entirely.

For instance, although The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons provided more than enough entertainment by seamlessly combining melodrama and metaphysical speculation with a brilliantly detailed portrait of Gilded Age America, it also made me curious about an event that occurred in Chicago at the end of the 19th century - the Columbian Exposition World's Fair of 1893. This exhibition, also known as the White City, was built in honour of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America and was itself a major character in the latter part of the book. Other than having vague knowledge of the event I was unfamiliar with its extent and its importance. When I looked it up I was quite amazed by the pictures of the extravaganza that can be found on the web of a marvel that came and went six months after it opened to the public.

Pictured above is a close-up view of George Washington Ferris's wheel of steel, 250 feet in diameter. It carried 36 cars, each about the size of a Pullman train car, equipped with a lunch counter and with an overall capacity of 2,160. It propelled riders 300 feet in the sky over Jackson Park - a bit higher than the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

Considering the fact that most cities in those days were dark and dingy places the White City was a marvel to all the millions who visited the Fair that summer. The wikipedia link will tell you far more than I can - and besides, research is fun.

But I began this by mentioning The Fifth Heart, didn't I? Dan Simmons has written several very good historical novels * and this one begins in Paris early in 1893 when Henry James, the distinguished American author, is about to kill himself by plunging into the Seine, overcome by crippling depression. Just before stepping off le pont Neuf, he notices a man with an aquiline profile standing nearby; he quickly ascertains that the man is actually Sherlock Holmes, believed to have perished with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls two years earlier. James is shocked to learn that Holmes was himself on the verge of taking his own life - because the detective has discovered that he’s merely a “literary construct.” His evidence? The same inconsistencies in the original Conan Doyle stories that have entertained readers for a century.        

Much against his will but unable to thwart Holmes's assumption they are now partners, James joins Holmes on a mission in America, where the Baker Street sleuth hopes to prove that historian Henry Adams’s emotionally fragile wife, Clover, was not a suicide but a murder victim in 1885 - and to thwart an international conspiracy involving an attempt to assassinate President Grover Cleveland at the opening of Chicago’s Columbian Exhibition.

For both Holmes and his unlikely partner, the path to personal redemption leads through these two very different mysteries.

note: At one point in the book James and Mark Twain discuss whether they’re characters in a novel and, if so, who might be the author. Twain says to James: “It’s almost certainly some lesser mind, lesser talent, than you, than me, even lesser than Arthur Conan Doyle, which is saying a lot. And it might be written thirty years hence, or fifty, or a hundred.” It was a wonderfully self-deprecating statement by Simmons.

* This one is good but even better is Drood and, according to a good friend, is The Terror. Since the latter is about the fate of the crews of two wooden sailing ships attempting to navigate the NW Passage in winter I shall wait for better weather before reading.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


A year or so ago on a grey winter's day (not unlike this one) something reminded me of a book my mother had told me she'd loved as a girl. Considering the fact that if my mother were still with us she'd be one hundred and two, you can surmise the book alluded to is an old one. I remembered its title but no more so my search wasn't an especially hopeful one. It turned out I couldn't have been more wrong - even more than a hundred years since it was first published 'Girl of the Limberlost' is still a favourite among many people. What I found that day, though, was that there are two Limberlost books, the first one called 'Freckles', both written by the self-trained naturalist, photographer and writer, Gene Stratton Porter.

Once there was an Eden in the Midwest of the United States, Indiana to be exact, called the Limberlost Swamp. Yes, it was a wetlands region with streams that flowed into the Wabash River that originally covered 13,000 acres of land. After being drained 1888-1910 by a steam-powered dredge, the area was cultivated as farmland for 80 years. In 1991 local citizen Ken Brunswick established "Limberlost Swamp Remembered," a group organized to restore some of the wetlands, because of their importance as habitat. The work has included removing or blocking drainage tiles, allowing water back on the land, and planting native species of trees, bushes and flowers. But 428 acres is nothing like 13,000 acres. Since photographs of the Limberlost as it is now can't portray the beauty of its primeval past, I chose a painting by William T. Richards (of the Hudson River School) to indicate the mystical quality of the region as it was in the late 1800s. The author's greatest goal in these and her other books was to persuade the public to care about nature.

'Freckles',  a sentimental tale set in the early 20th century, offers contrasting characters, from vicious brutes to folks almost too-good-to-be-true. Decent people recognize the innate goodness and ingenuous soul of this love-starved youth. The Boss considers him a son; the kindly Duncans offer maternal love and warm respect; the Bird Woman appreciates his knowledge of Limberlost animals for her wildlife photographs. And then there is the Angel, a 16-year-old Irish-American girl of stunning beauty, quick wit, gritty determination and the ability to charm all she meets. Freckles frankly idolizes this princess-goddess, who delights in his private creation of a room in the forest 'Cathedral' and encourages him to develop his voice. But he is painfully aware that he is beneath her in every way (low birth, maimed body). He has no right to hope - he may only worship from afar..

You can think of 'Girl of the Limberlost' as an American Cinderella story, but with no glass slipper and plenty of moths. Gene Stratton Porter was at the peak of her skills when she wrote the novel, which starts off as a young girl's struggle against her mother's virulent hatred - and soon evolves into an enchanting little romance. Elnora Comstock has barely signed up for college when she discovers that she can't afford it - tuition and textbooks cost too much, and her shabby clothes are mocked by her classmates. Even worse, her half-crazy, malicious mother refuses to cough up any money. But she soon finds that she can pay another way - a strange lady called the Bird Woman is willing to pay money for moths, butterflies, caterpillars and chrysalids, which Elnora can easily find in a vast dangerous swamp called the Limberlost. And her friends Margaret and Wesley are happy to help her in any way they can - clothes, a violin - until the day when Mrs. Comstock comes to a shocking realization about her daughter.

Gene Stratton Porter's stories are full of hope, promise and goodness. Of course there are the usual bad elements as well that create enough angst to give dimension to her stories. I think her books reinforce that part of us which makes us better beings. They may well not be for you, but if dismal winter (this is Halifax where winters can be dark, wet, and very cold) has a grip on your mood, do yourself a favour and read one of her books and be transported into a different world, one where goals were clearer.

“We are only the trustees for those who come after us.”
- William Morris

'The Well at World's End' is next on my list.

Monday, January 15, 2018

some are left unfinished

It's kind of funny to consider the fact that our species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, is roughly three hundred thousand years old, and possibly even older if recent discoveries are true. Yet for all but the last three centuries of that span, predicting the future was fairly easy: other than natural disasters, everyday life in fifty years time would resemble everyday life fifty years ago. For 99% of human existence, the future was static (or so we're told). Then something happened, and the future began to change, increasingly rapidly, until we get to the present day when things are moving so fast that it's barely possible to anticipate trends from month to month.

Of course it's easy to romanticize the past - largely because many of us are able to remember our own. Life was perfect when I was a child even though I know I recall it imperfectly and the same goes for those more recent past decades. When I was young I romanticized the future.  Now it frightens me - not so much for the fact that there's only just so much time allowed to me personally, but because our race in recent history has caused and continues to cause such damage to our biosphere. The planet will continue, no doubt of that, but so much of what makes our lives beautiful is at risk.

I like to imagine a more equitable future for us and all the other species with whom we share the world. Yet I dare not envision some particular utopia - a word that translates from the Greek as 'no place' - but simply to hope for a larger world less driven by greed. I know things were different once and perhaps they can be again.

The fact that there is a highway to Hell and only a stairway to Heaven says a lot about the anticipated traffic numbers.
~ Anon