There’s a philosophy that says there are foxes, who know many things, and hedgehogs, which know one “big thing.” Meaning that a fox is clever and adaptable, but that can lead to its demise, and a hedgehog is really good at its one thing—protecting itself. You can specialize or be a jack of all trades. I have a fox tattoo, so that was my choice, but me being me, I always ask, “why not both?”
My mother is into astrology and told me early on that I am a Gemini; my name, inherited in the Irish fashion from my grandfather, also means “twins.” I can also be a bit of a Doubting Thomas, because my curiosity demands that I see things for myself. Sadly, my name has no etymological connection to the Mesopotamian god Tammuz, the consort of Astarte, but I did used to fool around with someone who called herself Ashtoreth, in a former life. All this is prologue to why I always order a chocolate-vanilla twist cone at the soft serve and refuse to choose one or the other. I contain multitudes, like Walt Whitman. Whose tomb in Camden I must visit! He spent a fortune on it, and it’s a little impressive:
Maybe this weekend; I’ve been wanting to bike around the trails at Batsto village, but not in the rain, and we’re supposed to get rain. I am one of those bicyclists who will ride in the rain (on trails, not roads; this is New Jersey and I like living) but I don’t want to explore what’s supposedly a beautiful trail for the first time on a gray and gloomy day. There’s also the “1808 Trail” for hiking, that hits a lot of unique areas, and same thing. I have been talking with my friend Drew about orchids—and I swear, she just texted me as I typed her name—and I have the blooming schedule for orchids in the Pine Barrens.
Except most of them are incredibly small. Not the easiest to spot as I fly by on a bike, not wearing my glasses because of rain. So the orchids will have to wait for better weather. I’m tempted to get a microscopic lens attachment for my phone to take pictures of a Southern Twayblade or Lace-Lipped Lady’s Tresses, but that sounds pornographic. Speaking of which, I spotted a white-breasted nuthatch in my backyard the other day, and goodness was she cold. Bird names make the best insults. (If you disagree, you’re a dark-eyed junco or a yellow-billed oxpecker.)
My friend Lynn gave me a Bird Buddy, a bird feeder with a built-in camera, because her HOA doesn’t allow feeders. So I’ve been having a good time feeding the grackles in my yard, and anything that can tolerate their bullying. So far, the house finches, blue jays, and cardinals put up with their bullshit. The grackles keep the starlings away, which works for me. I’ve never liked starlings; noisy, they shit all over the place, and they just look like greasy turds with streaks of corn and peanuts, in my revolting opinion. (Sorry to go scatalogical, but I have strong feelings about them.)
Speaking of, did you know the medical term for testicles is “orchid”? If you only have one, you’re monorchid. I learned that in Generation X by Douglas Coupland, which is still a good read in the vein of Jesus’s Son with less drug use. I’m still reading Blood Meridian in short bursts, and I started reading the graphic novel March by Representative John Lewis, about his life in Georgia and how he became a nonviolent activist and politician. It’s in three books, and I read the first in one sitting. I hope there’s a movie in development about his life. I don’t swoon for many politicians, but he’s one who walked the walk and deserves the respect.
Science culture is finally acknowledging that animals have personalities. The taboo against anthropomorphizing animals has tripped up some studies, and they are correcting their methods to account for animals having different personalities. For example, if you are studying animals that come to a feeder… you are missing animals too wary to come to a feeder. So you need to expand your study group. Scientists have imposed human gender roles on animals in the past, but one egregious example of using a biased group for a study is the one that gave us “alphas” and “pack hierarchy.”
I remember when L. David Mech’s book about wolves came out in the ‘90s, and all it inspired. Around that time, I was going out with an ecology major who was big into Mech, volunteered at a wildlife rescue, and who later introduced me to Jane Goodall. Pop culture isn’t big on nuance, and other than three wolf shirts, it took the “alpha” terminology and ran with it. The problem was, the alpha wolf is a myth; the study was based on captive wolves from different packs thrown together in a small zoo enclosure, so it is like studying human behavior at a maximum security prison. In reality, packs are families, and the leaders are parents or elders. That link to the story goes in more depth, but animal groups led by elders tend to do better. A very interesting read. We’re seeing a lack of this in American culture because elders often can’t retire to an advisory role. They keep working, taking positions that will give younger people experience, and a chance for growth.
Speaking of workplace horrors, I knew about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, but I had no idea that Frances Perkins was inspired by that tragedy to fight for worker protections. She eventually lead the Department of Labor in the FDR administration, and was the tip of the spear in pushing the President to fight for “unemployment insurance, health insurance, old-age insurance, a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, and abolition of child labor.” Stuff we now take for granted. I read about it here in Heather Cox’s newsletter:
Coming on Sunday, a bike tour of the abandoned airport in the Pines, and a visit to a little-known Revolutionary War battle monument in South Jersey.
The grackle in your pic is the most grackle pic ever. I don't have them here, though there are plenty of starlings.