The Good Shuzzit*

I’ve been in a foul mood for the last few days.

Doom and gloom…the bad shuzzit has gone exponential and time is very short, coupled with rain and gloom and sad scary novels.

Thanks to the small band of doomours, thanks to one little thing, I’ve perked up.

It’s always the little things….volunteer morning glories, frogs, toads, turtles, flowers, hummingbirds, a good book, knitting….that can turn around a bad mood, at least for awhile.


I really love sharing things I love with people I love.  For some reason, I’m remembering lying in bed with Mr. Nobody, asking him for his reaction to a book I had recommended by Richard Russo called Straight Man.  He starts to tell me about it, but can’t, because he starts to laugh, and the more he tries to talk, the more he laughs.  I’m laughing too, because I’m so happy that he likes what I like.  Because Richard Russo wrote a funny book.  Because it’s such a little thing.


I took a picture this morning of a leopard frog on our frog log (a device that helps frogs and toads get out of the pool).  The frog is lovely all by herself.  But I got to share the frog log and the critter skimmer (another device for critters caught in the pool) with someone else who cares.  That’s a double double in the good shuzzit column.

DSCN2583 (Not a leopard frog…different picture)

Hummingbirds are migrating and hitting the feeders en masse. I love the noises they make, especially when they break the hummer sound barrier as they fly. DSCN2558

The good shuzzit itself is in the good shuzzit column.  I’m convinced that daily weed has kept me from murder.  My current fantasy is that we have a nationally televised trial of marijuana – introduce all of the evidence about this weed and then have a vote on legalization.  If people really knew the facts about marijuana and the history behind the prohibition on it, it would be legalized in a heartbeat.  The only thing wrong with the good shuzzit is that too many powerful industries are threatened by it.

The Chippet’s happy dance is definitely in the good shuzzit column.  Every time she does it, or wags her teeny tiny little tail, my heart sings.

We seem to be having a banner year for squirrels.  Three of them were flying around in one of the hickory trees this morning, harvesting.  We are into our third year here at the Missouri Compromise, and this is the first we have seen of so many squirrels.  These are different from the red ground squirrels of Michigan – these are grey tree squirrels.  Noisy little things and they look like monkeys up in the trees.  Cheap entertainment.

There are no medals or glory associated with any of this.  Just day to day reality, tinged with the awareness that nothing lasts.




*Louis Armstrong’s term for good marijuana, per Martin A. Lee in Smoke Signals (another thing in the good shuzzit column). Tip of the hat to Anne.




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Odds and Ends

Last Friday evening was a hot one.  I had some things to put away in the barn before getting cleaned up and thinking about dinner.

When I slid open the big metal door, I heard a noise.  It stopped and I did too.  Then it started.  Squeaking?  I thought, oh no, not mice, please not mice.  The sound was coming from the far horse stall, where I’ve got some old furniture that I want to refinish, someday.

At the entrance of the stall, I didn’t see anything moving.  I stepped in, looking around the space, trying to locate the noise that stopped and started.  I saw some feathers scattered lightly around one side of the stall, but that didn’t concern me as birds fly into the barn every once in awhile and I shoo them out again.  We keep the barn door closed, mostly, to discourage birds and other critters.

Squeaking continues and I step further into the stall, cursing the lack of light from a burned out bulb.  Having to wrestle with a big ladder to change the light-bulb in 100 degree heat did not appeal to me.  Finally, I look up, way up and see a nest.  Jeez, that can’t be a birds nest, can it?  How on earth did a bird have time to build that thing?

Now I can hear scratching on the ground, which is dirt with wood shavings, covered with cardboard….scritch and squab and squeak.  It’s a freaking bird, a tiny baby, eyes not open, pink flesh on all parts but wings and head.  Then, another.

Inside my head is the word “fuck” is being flung out and elongated.

Ok, where is mom?  I poke around some more and spot a feathered corpse.  It’s up against some furniture and under some other stuff and not easy to see up close.

From two past encounters with baby birds, I know that the first thing to do is locate the nest and parents and put the baby back.  But some of the nest is sitting on the top shelf of my house paint equipment and inventory, and some of it is still up on the barn rafter.  And we have a dead bird.

Second option is to let nature take its course, which is another way of saying, let them die.  Unfortunate accident, too bad, but nothing to be done about it.  Walk out the door and forget what I saw.

Third option is to keep the babies warm and going until you can get them to people who know about wildlife rehabilitation.  And yes, this is a first world problem.  In many other countries, these babies would have been dinner.

I really wanted to go with option one.  I considered option two.  As I was considering option two, I was wondering how long these two had been on the floor.  I let Buddy out of the barn around 6:30 that morning.  He had taken a look toward that stall before coming out, but I didn’t hear anything that alerted me….I just picked up his dish, turned off the fan, and closed the door behind us.

What happened in that barn and when did it happen?  I don’t know.  One of life’s mysteries.

So as I was considering option two, I was also thinking about what I would need for option three.  I was considering option two because I knew what a pain in the ass option three would be.

Baby birds need to be kept warm and dry.  I’ve fed two wild birds before.  One, a robin, was a fledgling.  What I knew was that it was lawn care day, and the lawn care assholes do not care about wildlife.  I was terrified that I would find that baby in chunks if I left him there.  So I learned a little about birds from Chirp and then, the wild life rehab woman I took him to the next day.  This had happened on a week day, and I was able to connect with the woman before I could take him in.

The next one was a nestling.  Bubbles found it on one of our walks and I left it where it was, took Bubbles back home, then went back to search for the nest to put the baby back.  I knew it was a mourning dove and I looked for any nest but couldn’t find one.  So I learned a little more about baby birds on the Eigit.  For reasons I can’t remember, I kept him awhile before taking him to the wildlife rehab place.  That’s when I learned that they have to be kept clean or their feathers fall out.

Each time, the woman corrected me about something I had done or failed to do.  But each time, she seemed impressed that I kept the birds going somehow.

I’ve kept little plastic tubs from margarine or shaved cheese…..because they come in handy for lots of things.  Birds nests, for one. Lined with untreated plain tissues or paper towels because slippery floors aren’t good for bird feet and bird feet can get caught in washcloth fibers.  This is the nest I used for Chirp and Eigit, so that is what I grabbed from the barn, along with the two babies.  I was, of course, going with option three.

Then I had to get them situated on a hot pad, set low.  I put their nest in a small animal crate, to protect it from the three animals living in our house.

I also returned to the barn, twice, to listen carefully for any other survivors.  None but the two.  I should have picked up the dead bird, but I didn’t.

I did look at the portion of the nest that was sitting on some paint cans.  It seemed like a phoebes nest.  Maybe a robin?  I wasn’t positive on the bird variety and looking at the dead bird would have helped.  I didn’t do it.

Then I went online for some help.  I found a wild life rehab place near the St. Louis airport, which is over an hour away.  And they aren’t open on a weekend.  And it’s after 5 pm.

So, I started looking around in my animal drawer for syringes or eye droppers, pulled out the mortar and pestle, went looking through the pantry and settled on beef canned cat food, mixed with a little water, fed through a syringe.  I’m not recommending this, but I was pretty sure these birds eat insects, which is protein, which is why I selected the beef canned cat food.  I had looked online for help, and found some, but I don’t happen to have forceps or a scale, meal worms or grasshoppers in my pantry.  Nearest store is 15 minutes away.  I make do and try to listen.

Every 15 to 20 minutes, from sunup to sundown, I fed the babies.  The bigger one I was calling Malcolm, and the little one was Phoebe.  I made mistakes, probably handled them too much, trying to keep their nest clean. Many, many times over the course of the weekend, I was convinced one or both were going to die.  But they were scrappy little guys.  They survived, but I can’t say they thrived.

By Sunday night, I had learned that they are wrens and that the wild life rehab place is different from the wild bird rehab place.  By Monday morning, I learned that the wild bird rehab place was open over the weekend, and I could have dropped them off on Saturday.  I strongly suggested to the receptionist that they post that on their website.

The Chippet and Trotsky were scheduled for grooming on Monday morning, so I planned to make the trip with the birds after dropping those two off.  To my surprise and relief, Mr. Nobody offered to do the driving.  I had been worrying about how I was going to keep them fed while driving, not to mention my hatred of city driving.  When I thanked him for his help and commented that many would consider me crazy for going to so much trouble for a couple of wrens,  he said, “it’s not just about wrens.  It’s about keeping your sanity in a crazy world.”

Which is why I married him over 25 years ago.

I liked this rehab place.  I’m not so crazy about their written material.  They gave me info so that I can check on my chicks in a couple of weeks, to find out how they fare.  I already miss hearing their cheeping, but I am so relieved they are in capable hands.  And so grateful that those capable hands exist.

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Worst? Really?

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Group Dynamics

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Culture Shock

"It takes world class stupidity to foul the entire planet."
Derrick Jensen

After watching Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, and knowing it had all been predicted, sometime after that, I stumbled onto Endgame. One lone copy sat on a table at the bookstore, in the environmental section.

It rocked my world.  Entirely.

Suddenly, everything coalesced.

Here was a person describing the loss, the theft, of the world in the big numbers (topsoil, forests, ocean life…..going, going……) and saying “we’re fucked.”

“No population can support infinite demand.  No population can survive a global economy.  The problem is inherent, not soluble by any amount of tinkering.” (Endgame)

Wait, an environmentalist who isn’t telling me I just need to recycle, use cloth bags at the grocery store and buy a Prius?!  (I dutifully did all of those things.  This is the same guy who told me the Prius is actually even worse than regular cars, because of the rare earth mining that must be done, and the manufacturing process uses even more fossil fuels.)

Well, he’s written a new book, called The Myth of Human Supremacy.  It’s very good.

One of the things I love about Derrick (and yes, I’m calling him that since we have actually met once and he’s two years younger than me, and I don’t think he’d mind) is that he doesn’t sugar coat much.  In this new book, he calls both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking what they probably are: Sociopaths.  Both of these men are big on colonizing space because they are correct in thinking that the human race, the wise ape, is headed for extinction.  Instead of using their big brains to suggest we find a different way to live, you know, one that won’t kill the planet, we need to colonize a new one.

“Gosh, the real tragedy of the murder of the planet is that if the planet is dead, it will no longer be able to support our way of life.” 

“Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture.  A central unquestioned belief of this culture is that humans are superior to and separate from everyone else.”

The vast majority of the book is demonstrating how other life here on the blue marble is intelligent, how other life communicates, how other life deals with problems.  It’s fascinating reading.

“The Great Chain of Being has long been used to rationalize whatever hierarchies those in power wish to rationalize.  It has been and is central to the notion of the Divine Right of Kings, to racism, to patriarchy, to empire.  It is a very versatile tool.

The Great Chain of Being also underlies modern belief that the world consists of resources to be exploited by humans.

Our perception of evolution is infected with this belief in the Great Chain of Being, as so often other people, including scientists, think and write and act as though all of evolution was about creating more and more perfect creatures, leading eventually to that most perfect creature yet: us.”

“It’s much more convenient to live in a world where your morality is based on a clearly defined hierarchy, with you at the top.”

Isn’t it, though?  It explains practically every corporate action, every land grab, every resource grab, every genocide.  And if what you exterminate isn’t human, why, it’s not genocide at all, now is it?  Good thing, because the list of “things” that the human race has exterminated is pretty fucking long and getting longer every single day.

(I wish I believed in karma or some life after death retribution.  It would be so satisfying to know that Rex Tillerson, Dick Cheney et al, will get what they have earned.)

Derrick believes that civilization, and specifically, industrial civilization is the central problem and that we must dismantle it now, by any means necessary.  He also knows that it’s going to crash of its own volition eventually.  But he wants to speed the crash up to save other species (200 go extinct every day).  As you might expect, he has lots of critics.  Some expect him to blow up dams himself.  Others say that violence is never acceptable.  Thomas Paine took a lot of shit for his writing, too.  People don’t change much over the centuries.

I am not a big brain.  I think Derrick might be a little too generous, though.  People created civilization, people created agriculture, people created all of the things wrong with our world.  The problem, in my very humble opinion, is with people.  From our earliest beginnings, we wanted more.  We walked out of Africa and hunted and gathered our way around the world.  This is a level of living that is sustainable, if human population is kept in check.  The proof is in the time frame; people lived on the earth for thousands of years and it sustained them.

Which is not to say that we didn’t alter the world.  We did.  Other hominids walked out of Africa before and after us and they are no longer here.  We used fire and made tools to cut trees down.  Large creatures like the wooly mammoth and the cave bear became rarer and rarer until they no longer existed.

There are those who believe that Homo sapiens killed them all.  I don’t know.  The climate was changing, Toba had erupted, I tend to think Homo sapiens was one of several factors.  However much I might not like to admit it, though, people have been violent since our very beginnings.  I think it’s in our DNA.  And our technology has been an essential part of our lives from the start.  I think our end can be seen from our beginnings.

Which has huge implications for the whole notion of free will, doesn’t it?

These are fun things to debate on the Internet, but I can’t, I won’t  dismiss Derrick’s work because of what are, essentially, details.

“Such is the poverty of our discourse that mere mention of the biggest problem the world has ever faced can be enough to make me, well, happy isn’t the right word…..perhaps grateful, like a starving dog thrown the tiniest crust of bread.” 

Oh yes!  Pathetically grateful, even. It’s so incredibly lonely to see what we see and not be able to even talk about it.  Because few will see.

From The Culture of Make Believe….”One of the curses of being remotely aware of the effects and trajectory of our civilization is that it’s increasingly difficult, especially for those who maintain touch with their capacity to spontaneously free associate, to feel unalloyed happiness, even in the presence of great beauty.”

Dang, dude.  I love that he appreciates the ability to free associate!  I love that he acknowledges the pain involved in being a bit more alive on the planet as we watch it die.

“If your experience of the world is at variance with what this culture inculcates you into believing should be your experience of the world, what do you do?  Many people respond by denying their own experience.

Of course.  That’s the point of a supremacist philosophy.”

He affirms the rest of us.  We very very few people who, not only acknowledge that the world is being killed, but feel some kind of duty to bear witness to it.  To feel the guilt (holy schmoley, the guilt!), to feel the pain of loss, to try to do whatever we can to mitigate our presence, to live with the knowledge that there is no future.  I can count on one finger the person I can actually talk to about all of this in person.  One.  My husband.  Otherwise, it’s all cyberspace.  Which is killing the planet.

“In short, people protect what’s important to them, and human supremacists have shown time and time again that their sense of superiority and the tangible benefits they receive because of their refusal to perceive others as anything other than inferiors or resources to be exploited is more important to them than not destroying the capacity of this planet to support life, including, ironically, their own.”

The destruction continues.



(All quotes are from The Myth of Human Supremacy unless otherwise noted.)

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I call my husband the human jukebox.  He’s always humming, whistling, or occasionally bursting into song.  Unfortunately, the musical selection runs to advertising jingles, children’s songs, or hymns.  None of which appeals to me.

But the woods around us provide plenty of music we both like.  Wood thrush are my current favorite, with Orioles chiming in.  I hear robins, cardinals, chickadees, red belly woodies, blue jays, crows, Hawks, a barred owl, white breasted nuthatches, whip-poor-wills and several  unidentified birds.  Last spring, we had some construction projects going on around the house, so I think this year, we are hearing the more normal soundtrack.

One bird reminds me of the merry go round at the playground of the elementary school I went to…sounds rusty.

There might be a pair of Northern Flickers nesting nearby.  I’ve heard that bird before, but only just recently saw a couple close enough to identify.  Lovely birds, and the only woodie that eats off the ground.

Bluebirds seem more plentiful this year.  One female has declared war on the house, flinging herself at two windows in particular.  The Cornell Lab suggests soaping them, to protect the birds from injuring themselves.  Feeling kinda like a teenager again, I grabbed some Ivory and stood in front of the window.  Do I cover the whole window?  I ended up soaping a hashtag with NO Bluebirds written.  That oughta do the trick.

A few butterflies have been seen.  We are in turtle season, when they cross roads and move around, and I’ve seen a couple on the property. I am hearing frogs and toads at night.  I have seen bees.  Always happy to see bees, and I’ve seen them around the fruit trees in the orchard.  I’m planting more and more nectar producers, all around the property.  Azaleas are in full bloom and the bumblebees have responded.

I am savoring these days of sun and warmth.  Planning the various beds and planting is so much fun.  I know these days are numbered.  The trees are dying, species like bats, butterflies and bees are being extirpated.  The loss of birdsong will be particularly painful.  So I enjoy it now, as much as I can, even as I wonder how long a dying forest can support life.

We took our bird feeders down recently, after I read about pine siskins dying of salmonella poisoning caught at feeders.  When Buddy showed up, I knew the feeders should come down, but couldn’t bring myself to do it until this article showed up.  I’m still making nectar for the hummers, and it seems like we have more this year than last.  The Baltimore Orioles have been interested in it, so I put some grape jelly out for them.

Listening to the woods while knitting, with the Chippet by my side, are moments I savor.

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Anguished but determined

“I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can still do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.” 

                                                                                        Helen Keller


One nice day in March, I decided to walk into our woods and liberate some girdled trees from vines.  I think I did 10 or so trees before I got so depressed, I quit.

The trees look so awful.  I’ve written about dead and dying trees in Michigan and Kentucky.  My sense when we moved here is that the trees looked better here than there.
We live in an oak and hickory forest, or what used to be a forest.  There are dogwoods, redbuds and red cedars too.  People have planted white pines, the dreaded Bradford pear, maples and other trees.

The arborist who came out said it was the worst infestation of bark beetle he’d ever seen.  He’s not wrong, we definitely have bark beetles, but trees all over the state look like this;  hell, trees all over look like this.



I try, now, to look at our trees and not see them.  Sometimes that works.  Most of the time, it doesn’t.


I will plant anyway.  Trees, shrubs, vines, any native plant at all.  If they help birds or bees or butterflies or amphibians or any species besides humans, I will plant it.  Though the future is writ, we cannot know the particulars.

It is what I can do.

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