Dark Wings, Dark Words

Things that have been getting me down, in order of least importance to most importance:

1.) It has been raining a lot.  Like, A LOT.

2.) Game of Thrones is over.

3.) I haven’t seen Owlbertson in weeks and I’m starting to accept that something has happened to him.

Yes, I know. We need the rain. Shows come to an end. And it is never a good idea to name a wild animal. One must accept these physical laws or face certain heartbreak. But… still.

I have one of those constitutions that is susceptible to influence of dark weather. The winter ended some time ago and tomorrow is the first day of June, which I consider “real summer,” not just the technical summer that starts after the equinox. And yet, you wouldn’t know it.  Here is a photo I took of a parking lot a few days ago:

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I’m not kidding.  Those ducks are floating in parking spaces. It’s been intense. And I live in a desert, so… not what I signed up for. But I heard a report on NPR yesterday that our reservoirs are full for the first time in years and that’s good for both urban and wild ecosystems, and so I’m dealing.

As for the Game of Thrones thing,  I won’t give spoilers or bore you with my assessment. There is nothing original left to say. And it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Let’s say that I loved the last season and the finale, and it gave me everything I was hoping for. It’s still a bummer.  Remember the last time you turned a page on the last Harry Potter novel and you knew that was it? There was no more? It’s like that. There are no new twists or reveals coming from that world; it’s done. And I’m mourning it like the loss of a long followed but never known personally celebrity. You didn’t care about me, but I cared about you, and I’m sad that you are gone.

The owl is a completely different matter.  The owl is someone that I knew personally, if not intimately. In fact, I’m pretty sure he or she didn’t like me very much. But once I spotted that owl the first time about a year ago, I became obsessed.  It was the highlight of my walks and I looked for it every time I went passed that tree. It was so exotic and amazing to be able to see an owl in the light of day! And it was something that I looked forward to during the sometimes very lonely hours of working from home.

It is fortunate, therefore, that – after many years – I was sent in to my company’s headquarters in New Jersey for a few days this month. I had a chance to interact with my real co-workers face to face and I underestimated just how much I miss that, working from home. I was delighted to see that, coincidentally, my coworkers have their own wild companions attached to their wing of the corporate office.  They call it the raven’s nest.

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This is the story that I heard while I was visiting.

Our company’s CEO, who doesn’t have a name (weird, right?), but let’s call him Maximilian Von Richypants for the story, also has an office in this building. One day, he came to work after months of jet-setting and big-deal-making, and discovered that two besotted ravens had begun to build their honeymoon home outside the window of his office.  The nest is one thing… the poop which accompany’s it is quite another. There is also a considerable amount of noise. Maximilian snapped his fingers and a butler in a tuxedo appeared (I don’t actually know what happens at my company). The butler was instructed to “deal vis zees birts!” (My CEO is actually not a German commandant.) The butler clapped his hands twice, causing a flurry of activity, and then used the pristine white cloth draped over his arm to blot the sweat of Maximilian’s brow, telling him that everything would be alright, “sir.”

Some version of this happened. Then, the following Monday, my lowly co-workers came to work to discover that the birds, reacting to the destruction of their nest, had decided to rebuild on the other side of the building.  They rebuilt quickly and soon there were eggs.  I had heard about the ravens and the “baby watch” on a few of our conference calls. There was quite a celebratory mood on the line when the two hatch-lings made their first appearance. Any yet, seeing it for myself was special.

By the time I arrived the “babies” were four weeks old and indistinguishable from the parents, each of which was larger than my Yorkshire terrier. Ravens are quite intelligent and one of my coworkers demonstrated this by tapping on the glass, spurring the “baby” (seen above) to tap back in imitation.

In fairness to my CEO, the poop streaks are no small distraction. And there is more than just poop. You can make out parts of rats and mice, for instance. There is nothing sterile about it. And in pharmaceuticals, sterile is the name of the game. Imagine having the owner of a startup company over to your office to discuss a buyout and having that mess behind you while you try to convince her that her brain child and labor of decades of love will be in good hands here.  There’s comedy value there, but it’s not very practical in this world.

Except imagine the delightful Forbes article about the CEO who actually loves science and biology, to the extent of keeping a rookery outside his office! I would read the shit out of that.

I went for a walk in the park yesterday and enjoyed a few minutes with the new Canada goslings. They are ridiculously cute.

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I hope that Owlbertson migrated or found a better tree without a mega-fan watching his every move. But it is good to be reminded that life goes on. The rain gives life and there is also death, and it is all they way that it is supposed to be.  I’ll find new wonders in my environment and remember the importance of keeping those human connections alive, also.

Now, let us all join hands and sing “The Circle of Life” together.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I just got a new computer for work. It is the first update I have had in many years, so I’m working my way through my files to make sure I remove any personal stuff before I surrender it to the Smithsonian. Mostly I’m just deleting notes for blog posts that I never finished (and don’t intend to). Then I found this great video that I almost forgot about.

Matt and I went hiking last fall.  He suggested a trail that I hadn’t done in a small mountain range that is just over the Nevada border.  He told me that Hawkwatch International, an organization dedicated to preserving birds (raptors in particular), had a camp set up at the top of the ridge.  They have a number of biologists and students that stay up there through the migration season to count the birds that they see and to band the ones that they can catch in their traps (designed to be as harmless to the birds as possible).

What he didn’t tell me was that there was a chance that I would get to release a bird back into the wild after it was banded. He had been before and he saw that they let visitors to the camp come and help count birds (which I tried to do, but I’m not very good at identifying a bird from more than 100 yards away, so I wasn’t very useful) and he got to release a raptor on his first visit. He probably didn’t want to tell me so that I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Which would have happened. And they only caught one bird while we were in camp, so it almost didn’t happen.  But it did! And the surprise of it just made it that more exciting.

That might not sound romantic to most folk, but to me, being led up a mountain only to learn that I would be holding and releasing a bird of prey back into the wild? It just doesn’t get any more swoon-worthy than that.

This little guy is a sharp-shinned hawk. Isn’t he gorgeous? He doesn’t seem too excited about his new jewelry, unfortunately.  In these photos the biologist is showing me how to hold him without hurting him.  Then in the video I get to send him back on his migratory path.

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Allergy Season?

I had a tough time of it last week. Each morning I woke up feeling like a forced recipient of collagen injections. But it wasn’t just my swollen lips. The inside of my mouth was raw and itchy. Brushing my teeth was agony, and I skipped it a few mornings, thanking The Universe for the fact I work at home.

This was Monday:

As luck would have it, I had just started this online diet thing and I made a lot of little changes in my diet over the past month. Trying to pinpoint exactly which one was causing the problem was tricky. I tried to revert back to my old diet without returning to ALL the calories, but by Wednesday my face was swollen, too.

I was miserable. My sister reminded me of the time this happened when I was a kid. That time, the culprit was Sunny Delight. I pulled up the website and looked at the ingredients and noticed grapefruit. I just finished off a 12 pack of generic grapefruit seltzer and purchased a second box. The have zero calories and I had been drinking 4 a day.

I stopped drinking those right away. I also cut out all citrus fruit, and now I’m mostly back to normal. My gums are still a little sensitive but my head is it’s normal deflated size.

I am bummed, though. I love grapefruit. I love all citrus fruit! I love the smell, I love the taste. I love cooking with citrus. I named my blog after lemons, for one thing. I really don’t want to cut it out of my diet.

I’m hoping that it was a reaction to the fake flavoring in the seltzer that did it. Or even that it was just a result of an overdose. Maybe I can have the real thing in small amounts? Moderation is the key, they say. Meanwhile, I have a grapefruit in my fruit basket but I’m afraid to try my luck and eat it to test the theory.

The really annoying thing is that I was trying to get healthier and find alternatives to… say… vodka. Or wine. So I drink a bunch of fruit seltzer and I get punished for good behavior. Thanks a lot, Universe. You are an asshole.

Things are nearly back to normal now. I haven’t binged on booze as a reaction, though it has certainly crossed my mind. I’ve made some ice tea and I’ve drank a lot of plain old tap water (without so much as a damn lemon slice, like a goddamned savage). I’m trying to keep it all in perspective. Two steps forward, one step back…

But if cutting out citrus completely gives me a case of scurvy I’m buying vodka and making myself a screwdriver. I’m only human, even if it looks like my lips are made of polyurethane.