Bumble Bee on Ceanosis, Filistatid on Sequoia

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ever since Vicki had to work the day I took the newly-weds to see the General Grant Tree in the snow, she has yearned for her own trip to Kings Canyon. We went today, hoping to get above smoke from the 800 lightening-sparked fires that have been burning in California. Although we got above most of it, there was still enough to obscure the tops of the tall Sequoias.

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With the grand vistas muddied, I turned my attention to the small delights, like Bumble Bees in the Ceanosis. . .
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and wild Iris, hiding in the shade.
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This section of Redwood bark had the Filistatid web around the knot hole, and Agelenid webs in the rift.
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Great bouquets of Western Azalea dotted the hillside.

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Later, we walked in the meadow at Grant's Grove Village. I found this Misumena on wild strawberry.
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Great patches of Shooting Stars carpeted the field, but each is a jewel in itself.
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On higher ground, there were Columbine . . .
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And Leopard Lilies to take your breath away.
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Not bad for a day that was too smoky for sightseeing.

Sawdust in a Uloborid Web

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spiders in the family Uloboridae make some of the most delicate of all spider webs, so delicate in fact that an automatic camera usually looks past the spider, through the web, and focuses on something unimportant in the background. Today, however, cutting plywood left a dusting of fine particles on this female's (probably Uloborus diversus) artwork. That is her, just above and to the right of center, hanging upside down, long front legs bent at the joints but held together to make her look like a sliver of bark. She is among the most harmless of all spiders, a finely-crafted work of art, obvious only in those moments when dust has just fallen and the light finds her from a perfect angle.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

There are times in life when one must put down whatever may be the task at hand and help a neighbor in need. For example, when an elderly neighbor laments that her apricot crop has become a burden; she doesn’t eat them any more; they fall to the ground and become buggy; how could any caring person go on about regular business and not help out?

I suppose the sweet apricot nectar dripping down my chin is just part of the call of duty.
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Posted by Brian at 9:17 AM 1 comments  

Danilo Report

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, there he is, two weeks after his birth, but still a few days shy of his due date. At least in my presence, he's been pretty mild mannered. One of his first accomplishments, of course, is making Natu look much older than he was even a few days ago. At twenty-one months, Natu is mostly interested in cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and bicycles, but the word this evening is that Natu has added 'Nilo' to his vocabulary.
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An update on Monday’s post: I also have word this evening on Angel, my five-year-old friend in the Pediatric ICU. Doctors have now kept him stable since Sunday, with his temperature and swelling less than they had feared. There has been none of the organ failure they had anticipated. He's still a very ill little boy, but at least the news is encouraging.

Two Children, Two ICU's

Monday, June 09, 2008

These past two weeks I have been following the progress of two different children, in separate ICU’s, and with opposite prognoses.

Since his birth twelve days ago, my grandson Danilo has been in the Neonate ICU at a hospital about three hours south of us. Every day he’s gotten stronger. For several days he has been breathing on his own, without supplemental oxygen, and his parents were able to take him home today.

Over the same period, Angel, the five-year-old son of friends, has been in first our local hospital, and now the Pediatric ICU of a hospital about an hour north of us. Some of what I’ve heard came from his father, in a Spanish I couldn’t completely understand, but for some reason, Angel’s was not a routine appendectomy. As we watched him, it was obviously not a routine recovery. After twelve days, they moved him to the second hospital, for a second surgery and care under a team of specialists. Not only is he on oxygen, but there is a tube for each of the other substances that need to enter or leave his body, and electrodes monitoring at least seventeen separate conditions. After seventeen, I lost count. I was with the mother yesterday when the doctor explained that—for the moment—they had Angel stabilized. However, they fully anticipated that as 24, 48, or 72 hours passed, a series of crises would come. After Angel’s second surgery, the toxins are so widespread in his body that the doctors expect his blood vessels to begin leaking and his organs to begin failing. When that happens, they will do everything in their power to get him through it, but they can only promise skill and effort, not outcome.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, says the Psalmist (139:14). Perhaps the best demonstration of both the fear and the wonder comes simply from the list of things that can go wrong. I am sitting here with a swollen jaw from an abscessed tooth. By weight, it is a very small amount of infection, but it makes it too painful to chew even soft banana. Fighting the infection has caused swelling in the glands in my neck, so much so that I don’t feel like doing much besides writing this post and wondering how the human race survived the millennia it took to stumble upon antibiotics. It misses the point to argue over whether life could begin without God’s intervention. In a world prone to accident, earthquake, and infection, I do not believe that life could have continued without God’s constant benevolence. In the natural world, there are simply too many things to go wrong, and too many ways to snuff out life.

Yet life in these circumstances goes on more-or-less smoothly and moves from generation to generation with such ease that as humans we are prone to take that for granted, and to consider such survival an immutable law of nature. It is therefore the purpose of the accidents, earthquakes, and infections to remind us how flimsy is our hold on life, and where our dependence lies.


PS. Angel’s mother reports he has made it past the 24 hour mark without any crisis. He is sedated, and on a respirator, but there has been no organ failure. We covet your prayers.

Bees visiting artichoke blossoms

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yesterday, I did exactly what the bees are doing. I stuck my nose right down unto the center of the blossom and took away everything I could gather.
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Posted by Brian at 3:18 PM 3 comments  

Bo Diddley is Gone (but his riff lives on)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bo Diddley died yesterday, at 79.

These days, I think of Bo Diddley most often because at church we occasionally sing a worship chorus that starts with a classic Bo Diddley rhythm. BUM-pa BUM-pa…pa-pa-pa-pa-pa BUMP. I'm not sure our young drummer even knows the riff's source.

But in the late 1960's, while I was in high school and community college, Bo Diddley’s music was a staple on the L.A. Top 40 station I listened to. Diddley himself lived about half-way between my house and Granada Hills High School. It was only about a block off the route I walked every day to classes. In late ’68 or early ‘69, a girl I knew told me she was taking guitar lessons from Diddley, and invited me to go with her to one of his concerts.

At the time, Bo Diddley was one of the most famous people (see also: Rockefeller) this eighteen-year-old had ever chatted up. (A year-or-so earlier, I had been within a few feet of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, when he spoke at UCLA. However, the Emperor didn't exactly exude approachability.) My friend and I knocked on Diddley’s door, and he opened it, dressed only in his underwear. It didn’t seem to faze the young lady, so I figured I could play along. Diddley welcomed us and invited us in. Now THAT’s approachability.

We made small talk while he finished dressing and fixed himself a sandwich. Then we rode in his limousine, through an incredibly foggy night, to the concert hall. I remember being told it was in Torrance, but in that fog, it could have been anywhere on the North American continent. It was a cavernous building, with no furniture. In a previous life, it might have been a warehouse. The crowd was mostly seated on the floor, with just a few people dancing in the far corners.

We sat back stage and chatted during the opening acts. Then we went out to watch during Diddley’s set. The crowd loved every song. I loved every song. It was probably a 45 minute performance. Afterwards, we were back in his limo, and home. The young lady and I never dated again. She’d given me a peek into the world she longed to conquer, and though it was a marvelous peek, it wasn’t the world in which I wanted to live my life.

But sometimes, even today, I catch myself singing BUM-pa BUM-pa…pa-pa-pa-pa-pa BUMP. Bo Diddley may be dead, but his riff lives on.