We’ve added another animal into our family, and now four or so weeks on, we’re all finally settling into some kind of rhythm of normalcy. Clover is still full of surprises, to be sure, but we know each other much better at this point. We know that if she’s chewing on something she’s not supposed to, it’s usually enough just to give her something designated for chewing. But every now and then, the rhythm skips a beat, we are less than vigilant, and Clover gets a hold on something she’s not supposed to have, like an inflatable rubber ball.

Which she promptly pops with her pin-sharp puppy teeth. And so she has a new chew toy.

Our new openness to new animals might get carried away if we’re not careful, though. We’ve had a black stray cat wandering around our house lately, undoubtedly drawn by our compost. We’ve made friends, then determined that the poor thing is pregnant.

What else can you do but temporarily — “Temporarily, kids!” K and I have both reiterated — adopt the animal. We’ve been feeding her while we confirm that she is indeed a stray. Monday, we take her to the Humane Society. In the meantime, we argue about what to call her for the next couple of days: Midnight or Nightmare.

Lucanus elaphus

I found it floating in a bucket out back that had a couple of inches of water from the last storm. It was still squirming, trying to escape, doomed to drown. I pulled it out and took it to the Boy to show him. He put on gloves and was eager to hold it.

Lucanus elaphus

Fear of such animals I supposed is learned, or more importantly taught. Tell a kid constantly that such creatures are out to get him, and he’ll likely believe it. Tell a girl that the only good snake is a dead snake, and she’s likely to hold that opinion for decades. But kids are naturally curious — it’s what gets the hurt. With the Boy and the Girl, we’ve tried to strike a happy medium: such insects might, like roaches, carry certain bacteria on their bodies that are not particularly helpful, but in and of themselves, they’re harmless. Certain snakes are deadly, so we should never approach a snake and try to make a plaything out of it, but an enormous black snake slithering through the grass (as happened here five years ago) does much more good than harm.

Atypical Saturday (Lent 2012: Day 32)

With people, there’s the whole additional possibility of deceptiveness. If only it were so simple with humans.

Columbia Zoo

Being at a zoo can teach one many things.

It can show you how close we are to the great apes. This great gorilla sat watching us as much as we watched him. His eyes darted from face to face, and occasionally he would furrow his brow. Proof of thought? Certainly not. It was humbling to look at him, though, thinking how closely related we are. Granted, we’re more closely related to chimps, genetically speaking, but I looked at the gorilla and saw shadows of us.


It was not so clear who was watching whom.


The elephants have better things to do. They’re more concerned with covering themselves with dust and looking old and wise.


The alligators were looking sly, as if they knew how long they’d survived. “We walked with the dinosaurs,” they seem to say. “We’ll wait you out.”


The goats, of course, were hungry. There’s not much to learn from goats, except how to deal with trolls under bridges.


Trains come without tracks — the definition of “train” has become very flexible in the twenty-first century, but a ride on one is just as fun.


“Helmets are for bicycles,” declares the Girl.

“And for pony rides,” K explains patiently.


And pony rides are for those who are big enough to venture out on their own, sort of.


In many ways, giraffe rides are more fun: they last longer, anyway. And they do a more thorough job of getting one dizzy.


Some birds, growing so accustomed to regular feeding from visitors, take matters into their own claws.


And it’s only with deliberate effort that visitors keep the greedy beasts from ripping the feeding cup out of one’s hand.


Feeding birds is a great way to make friends and giggle constantly.


Birds will hang upside down to get food.


Zookeepers can take the grizzly out of the wild but, well, you know the rest of the cliche.


A quick swim when we got back to the hotel and everyone was ready for bed.

Tomorrow: a trip to Angel Oak, the oldest living thing this side of the Rockies (reportedly a 1,600 year old tree), then the final destination: Edisto Island.

From here on out, internet access is a big question mark. And that’s a good thing — we’re on vacation!


We have a large hunter that moves through the forested area behind our house with increasing regularity. Actually, there are a couple of them — certainly mates. I’ve tried several times to get pictures of our guests, but to no avail. Yesterday, I finally got a shot.


These birds sail among the trees almost effortlessly, and their cry immediately confirms the identity: hawks. But they never came close enough or stayed long enough to get a good picture.

Until today.


She (I think it’s a she — but my ornithology skills are not what they used to be) landed on our neighbors’ fence and I managed to creep close enough to get a decent shot. Soon enough, she flew away,


but only to another part of the fence. Nearer and nearer — shocked at how close I was getting. The other day, we saw one of them land in our back yard; it appeared to have a limp. “Maybe that is the hurt one,” K said as I moved ever close.


To be able to get a shot like this of a wild bird — quite a rush.

She flew away just as I began to wax philosophical with my silly thoughts,


gliding only a few feet above the ground, telling me the session was over.


But what kind of bird?

A quick check in our National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds–Eastern Region gives some hints, but it’s not until we ask the Internet that we get any kind of confirmation: a Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and I’m fairly sure it’s a a juvenile.

Yet we’re not convinced. Any ideas?

Farm on the Hill

A visit to the Asheville area is not complete without a visit with Mike and Pia, our friends from the farm on the hill.


Their farm has grown considerably since our last visit. Their chickens have grown, they have a goat, and they added two bunnies to the fold.


For the days preceding our visit, L continually talked about going to see Mike and Pia “and the goat, and the chickens, and the dogs, and the bunny rabbits.” When she finally met the goat (whose name is Little Bit or Leadbelly, depending on whether you’re talking to Pia or Mike, respectively), L was a little apprehensive. It’s her usual modus operendi:be terrified for a few moments, then strike that and reverse it.


The chickens, all grown, have their own house now. The Girl was not at all interested in going inside, which is to say she would have been had we given her enough time.


The sight of all those chickens, scurrying about, clucking and flapping was too unpredictable for L to handle, so she simply waited outside.


Once a chicken was isolated, though, the L was eager to pet and giggle, giggle and pet.


The sun finally set, and with L in bed, we sat around the porch, then around the kitchen, talking, laughing, imbibing this and that, until after midnight.


One of the negatives about moving out of Asheville was leaving behind friends. Yet there is a sweet note to the bitterness: the semi-yearly visits become all the more precious. We all bounce out of the house crying, “We’re going to Asheville!” It’s the classic dilemma/blessing.

Back to the Zoo

It had been some months since we went to the zoo, so this Sunday, we packed up the Girl, some snacks, and something to drink and went to visit the animals.

Such a difference between this visit and our first visit. The Girl has developed a sense of independence, learned to walk, and begun communicating verbally.


She decided when she’d had enough, calmly telling us “dosc” (“enough”) when she was tired of the elephants,


the giraffes, the reptiles,


and the leopard.


She has an opinion and preferences and she can express them.

It’s the beginning of the end…

Cats in a Canal

Several times over the last few days I’ve come out of the apartment to find a congregation crowding around a water drainage grate at the corner of our parking lot. It seems that a pregnant cat crawled into the drainage system that runs through our complex and gave birth to her kittens there. Except for times of rain, I can’t imagine a safer place.

Recently, an industrious woman decided that she would try to get one of the cats. So with some difficulty (I would imagine — I wasn’t there and didn’t see this part), they pulled the heavy iron grating off and the lady got down into the dry drainage inlet.


But she couldn’t get a single kitten. Imagine that. And so, finding no success, it was time to get out, with the help of K and others.


And once out, it was necessary to put the grate back. (It’s from seeing this from the balcony that I made the reasonable assumption that the ladies got the grate off in the first place with “some difficulty.”)


Apparently, the Humane Society has been notified and they were unable to do anything; the neighbors are obviously unable to do anything; and I’m left wonder what all the fuss is about. Wild cats have survived throughout millennia. These kittens seem to be getting resourceful genes — they’ll fare just fine, I’m sure.