The waters of San Ignacio lagoon were calm and we were calm when we returned to them after our lunch on a sunny deserted island to head back to camp. But our well-fed somnambulance was soon disturbed. “A whale! 3 o’clock, 3 o’clock,” someone cried, as for the first time a gigantic adult swam up alongside us about ten feet from the boat, her blow holes and mottled skin visible. It had taken me a while to learn the visuals of gray whale anatomy, partly because they do not have fins on their backs, but a series of knuckles, visible vertebrae which, in addition to blow holes, tell you which side is up. Their nostrils sit undaintily on the tops of their heads, ridged exposures that allow you to navigate visually forward and down to the huge jaws that open into baleen lined mouths, the baleen shorter and more bristly than I expected, looking and feeling like a cross between teeth and several layers of old tattered shower curtain.Read More
I ever return to the question of whether we can know anything about what it is like to be another kind of creature. And so, while perusing the carefully researched and oddly entertaining new book, Does it Fart?, I learned that we do not know with certainty whether or not spiders pass gas. Theoretically, they do have the digestive capacity, but no one has done the research. We do know, however, that they bite.
Little did I know when I wrote my last post that I had just been bitten by a ragno violino, the Mediterranean version of the brown recluse spider. Sure, I'd felt the pinch, and had taken off my shirt and shaken it out. It just didn't seem big deal in the context of a summer in which I've been morning and evening meal for a host of insects, mosquitoes fierce and relentless at the top of the list, ticks next—and yes, I do wear protective clothing with repellent oils.Read More
It’s been almost two months since I promised to start writing about bugs. It’s not that I haven’t been spending time with them; I have! The problem is that in my new life as an organic farmer, I don’t have time to write during May and June, and other months as well. . . because I’ve got weeds that grow shoulder high in one field during the time it takes to clear another field. This reality causes me to recall with some longing the use of herbicides: how easy, how convenient. But I’ve left that behind, along with many other easy and convenient things.
The fact that I am out weeding manually almost every day instead of spraying poison means I am also spending time with bugs. It even means I begin to notice a relationship between the weeds and the bugs and me, though I do not yet understand what I notice.Read More
Last night, to my surprise, I stepped off the front porch into the middle of the Milky Way. It’s where we live, in the Middle of the Milky Way, and last night I was able to perceive that bright band of densely packed stars encircling me. There was the black upon black of the sky, the bright blue white of individual stars, the gathered glowing band of multitudinous stars thickly bound to each other, and little me stepping off the porch into the arms of the galaxy that is home.
I have the privilege of living where there is very little light pollution, where you can step out your door into the reality that, while you are necessarily the center of your world, the world is unimaginably bigger than you, even with the baggage of all your cares weighed in.Read More