Category Archives: Animal psychology
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.
A Christmas tale with a Pacific Northwest theme…
There was a chill in the air, and the pathway around the lake had patches of ice wherever a small rivulet ran out of the field on its way down to the water to eventually join with the sea, a few miles away. If you watched closely on some patches you could see water drops moving under the ice soundlessly as if they were sneaking downhill for a secret reason.
In the bushes a small fluffy furred vole scurried across a blanket of decaying brown leaves and jumped up onto a dead branch that crossed over a pile of more deadwood. There it sat, with its tiny pointed nose that resembled nothing more than a small raisin, flanked by two tiny dark dots that were its eyes. Then the vole turned and slowly, deliberately shuffled off to do whatever business it was doing before it was observed. Like a puff of air two tiny wrens flitted out from the bush on the left and disappeared into the bush on the right, making no sound. No matter how hard one looked in the bushes, nothing could be seen, so blended into the sticks and dead leaves were the wrens.
In the sky several gulls meandered, unmistakable with their light coloured feathers and pointed wingtips. Then came a noise like a voice, but not words – a raven moved slowly overhead, circled and landed in a tall tree, then gave another cackle. Across the fields in the far distance were low hills, covered in a dusting of snow, not yet entirely white but soon to be, as foggy clouds moved over the land just waiting for seeds of what would soon be snowflakes.
On the edges of the lake and in the flooded fields on either side of the shore, or whatever fluctuation of brush, bush and swamp you might call it, swam ducks three by three, brothers and sisters, father and mother and son, or perhaps complete strangers who preferred the company of other ducks. Whatever the reason it seemed that one duck was always following another one, until such time as they switched places and the leader began to follow another.
A man with a red and white trimmed Santa hat strode along the path and muttered hello to others who passed by. Merry Christmas said one. A child with a stick poked at some thin ice, breaking it into small, sharp, clean, clear pieces. Nothing was happening in any sort of hurry, and yet it seemed that the world was waiting as if there was some sort of agreement that everything would soon be resolved in its own time, at its own pace.
Before the path ended at the pavement, where one left the woods and clomped up the hard grey road, high on the top of a tall fir tree, gazing over the scene below like a sentry sat the eagle, holding the world in its merciless glare, just as it held its prey in its razor sharp talons. But this day there would be no death from above for voles or hapless gulls that ventured too close to the white head with yellow eyes and a pirate hooked beak. No, this night the eagle was on duty.
The eagle watched for signs of danger, ever ready to take to wing and patrol its territory as it did every Christmas Eve, ensuring that the sky was safe for flying reindeer. After it had surveyed the land from its treetop perch the eagle spread its wings and leapt from the branch into the air, dipping slightly then with one flapping motion of its mighty wings it went soaring aloft and sailed away over the water into the distance.
The eagle with its unerring vision saw a tasty fish swimming just beneath the water, but even the promise of a fresh meal did not deter the eagle from its mission. One mile it soared and then turned and soared back in a wide arc over the lake. Then, when it determined that all was well, the eagle gave a powerful flap of its wings and gained speed until it was whistling through the cold air, flying due north as fast as an eagle could fly.
It wasn’t long before the eagle saw another of its kind in the distance coming to meet it. At top speed the pair of eagles closed quickly and then spun around each other for one brief turn before they parted, each to their own home territory. This eagle flight was soon repeated, again and again until the eagle from the lake had passed the signal of all-clear, eagle to eagle to eagle, all the way to the North Pole, where Santa Claus was ready to board his sleigh.
The last of Santa’s eagles came swooping down from the clouds as if Santa was a tasty fish, but at the final moment before the eagle had to pull up or land with a crash, it spread its wings out full six feet wide and with a whoosh it settled on the front rail of the big red sleigh. The eagle looked Santa Claus in the eye, and by that look Santa knew all he needed to know about the part of the world where eagles reigned in tall trees.
The eagle dallied but a few moments before it jumped into the air and climbed back to the sky. Ho, said Santa Claus, raising his long leather whip. The whip flew back and forth like a fly on the end of a fisherman’s line and gave a shot like a firecracker. The reindeer began to pull and within seconds were racing across the snowy field, throwing up a storm of snowflakes in their wake as if the wind itself was made of snow. Then with another crack of the whip, the lead reindeer took to the air and the team made one upward tilt and were off before the snow settled back onto the moonlit ground that sparkled under the clear, black, starry sky.
One by one, the eagles slowly made their way back to their homes, where they all settled down in tall trees, firmly grasped their perches with razor sharp talons, and stood guard until morning, when they knew Santa’s mission was done. Then, like eagles do, they all took to the skies, to find Christmas dinner.
My birdhouses are empty now, so today I emptied their contents. We watched several sparrow families use the 1st house this summer, but we didn’t see any birds using the 2nd one. However, there were nests in both houses. House 1 has a 1-1/2″ diameter hole, while house 2 has a 1-1/8″ hole. The nests I removed were very different from each other, the first being very deep, from the bottom up to the hole, and rudely constructed of sticks and straws. The 2nd nest was entirely different, made of small soft threadlike bits and the top surface lined with fluff, that looked like fine cotton wool.
We live in a strange age. The middle class is dissolving like snowmen in April. Our new government was elected on a promise to borrow huge sums that will be spent on infrastructure, as a way to get the economy going. This weekend I read in the paper about what the major cities hope to build, and most of it seems to be focused on mass transit. Great, but I ask you this; the workers are going to get more transit so they can travel to their jobs from further and further away, but is their pay going up? We know the answer to that. Give the workers more transit; it will distract them from the fact that their standard of living is declining, and their commuting time is increasing.
Some cities are hoping to build new arenas and indoor stadiums with the money. Who can afford to go to the insanely expensive events that will happen there? I never attend concerts or sports events anymore, can’t afford it. I saw the Rolling Stones for $12 back in the day. It was fun, although they sucked on stage even then. NHL hockey tickets were $5 for standing room when I was at university. I watched the Montreal Canadiens battle the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup, for five bucks!! Today a cup of pop costs more than that. The Canadiens moved from the Forum, one of the best arenas in the world, to a new arena which has hardly more seats. Why? Because they could build private boxes for wealthy business clients, boxes that sell for astronomical sums, which they need to pay the players their insane salaries. But in the end who pays? The fans, of course, through the nose. But not me. I don’t even watch anymore. I can’t stand all the damned advertising that’s plastered all over the boards and even on the ice. It distracts me from the game.
I heard a story from an elementary school teacher the other day. She can’t teach her class because the students are unable to pay attention for more than five seconds. Meanwhile, every one in the world will soon have a smartphone. Great, but if the ultimate result is kids who can’t think straight, thanks a lot Steve Jobs… I’m sure you never thought that far ahead, and I really don’t blame you, but now what? I was told a similar story about writing skills at universities – kids can’t write anymore. But no one fails either. The professors are intimidated by the power of the students. Everyone loses here however. There are too many distractions for students to pay attention and learn. Maybe they see what’s waiting for them when they get out of school?
But I have distractions too, like fooling around with pictures. But if you’re supposed to be doing your homework, you better quit looking at this right now and get back to work!
Some days I just want to make some marks with a typewriter, if only to justify the collection. Typing is like therapy in a strange way, you press the keys and a physical reaction occurs, leaving you with a mark on paper. It is a feedback loop of sorts, direct, simple, immediate. And it has the added benefit of being quite capable of creating something you can read, criticize, laugh at, enjoy, loath and keep for along long time (almost forever). Typing is like Polaroid photography! My old Professor of Architectural History wrote a book in which he proposed a number of different analogies as ways to interpret the history of architecture. Polaroids didn’t come into that, but had they done so I’m sure my father would have understood; he was a big Polaroid fan and had a number of Polaroid cameras, starting with the original, and ending with the SX 70. His pictures, which were many, were all of what I mention here; laughable, pitifully bad sometimes, yet a reminder of a day or an event that would last and last. Unfortunately all those photos seem to have vanished! So much for posterity. But still, the possibility exists, and that itself makes Polaroids, and typewritten pages different from other ways of recording moments in time…
A blog is like typing and like Polaroids, is it not? You can just sit down and post something, and there it is as a record of a moment in time. How long it might endure is anyone’s guess however. But I do have a shoe box full of the typewritten bits I’ve posted here over the past years, should some future person wish to read them and be amused, or bored..
SOME PHOTOS, C/W THOUGHTS: