Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Bother a Snapper Turtle

Walking in the crisp early morning I met this Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) taking a break from a small man-made pond just a few yards from LaBarque Creek. I've seen a snapper twice as large, with much more algae on its shell, submerged in the LaBarque, and admired it for a long time as it patiently allowed fish to dart around its head, waiting and waiting for just the right moment to snap--waiting so long I thought maybe it didn't want me to watch, so I didn't stick around to see it. But that encounter let me know that our gentle creek is home to "snapper turtles," and I never step into the creek's deeper pools without first thinking of them.

As I back-and-forthed and circled around getting a good photo angle in the low-beamed early-morning sunlight, the turtle turned with me, facing me at all times.

Hunters are allowed to take Common Snapping Turtles during certain seasons, or if the snapper is causing damage to property (such as eating your goslings). How do you kill a snapper? I don't want to know.  The other Missouri snapper, the "Alligator Snapping Turtle" (Macrochelys temminckii), has a crenellated shell, with spikes sticking up, and it is endangered and protected by law.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Is This the Truth?

Saw this window on the back of a pickup's cab and wondered whether its assertion was true.

Those who say doe meat tastes better reason that it's because it has less testosterone. Those arguing that doe and buck meat are indistinguishable say that flavor depends not on the gender but on the age, and especially how soon the deer is field-dressed and iced, and that deer done right should never have that gamey taste people complain about. If it tastes gamey, the hunter either wounded the deer or chased it so it got all stressed out, or its meat was not cooled quickly enough because (it was contemptuously said) the deer was dragged around all day as the hunter drove from friend to friend showing it off.

Of course every hunter prefers bucks just to say he or she took one down, but Missouri Conservation encourages people to harvest the antlerless also, limiting every firearms hunter to one buck per season. I don't hunt deer but I can see the sense in that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Labarque Butterfly Garden

Frequenting at the LaBarque Creek Conservation Area, usually during my morning walks, I saw a small portion adjacent to the parking lot roped off for no reason I could see, and then dug up, and then planted, and now with a rustic bench wood-burned with the words of Don Robinson, the late industrialist who left 800 more acres of land, soon to become Don Robinson State Park, adjacent to the Area, for a total of about 1400 acres (or more) of protected LaBarque Creek watershed. It quotes him as calling it "an island of wilderness."

The Friends of the LaBarque Creek Watershed group got all this negotiated and done in the last 15 years, starting by partnering with the area's Missouri Stream Teams (which is how I got involved) to strategize, and then joining with the conservation people to save the cleanest, sweetest creek near St. Louis from an apartment complex development with 1100 units (I recollect the day I got the developer's letter in the mail, as one of the people who'd be living within 500 yards of the development) and a proposed hog farm that'd leak its runoff into the LaBarque. And they've done so many other things, from litter cleanup to fundraisers to save the LaBarque Creek Schoolhouse, closed in 1945 and still standing. And it was saved. Thank you.

Once you know this area, you love it forever.

Monday, June 20, 2016

You, Too, Can Zentangle

The public library offered a free class on "Zentangle" drawing, and because all education is good, I attended, having not the slightest idea of what it was, nor any drawing talent, nor much interest in Zen. But that evening I made a work of art and thought it was pretty cool.
The lively woman who taught our class is a public-school art teacher named Megan, who explained that "Zentangle" is "meditative drawing," or the creation of patterns and images in a relaxed fashion, with no pressure and with no such thing as errors. She taught us to create, step by step, the most common Zentangle patterns, plus flowers, and there are more patterns we didn't get to.

"Zentangle" is as fully established as adult coloring, except the Zentangler creates the image rather than filling in somebody else's pre-made image. There are "Zentangle" (registered trademark) starter kits. Megan got us started with Pigma 01 extremely fine-point ink pens, a fine-point Sharpie, and pencils. That and a drawing surface is all a Zentangler needs. We drew on 4 x 4-inch artist's tiles, thick paper rather like the coasters taverns put beneath your beers. Megan showed us a pair of white sneakers she'd decorated with fabric ink, and a photo of a backpack; she's also done a mural on the St. Louis public flood wall; and Pinterest is rife with Zentangler wallpaper, tee shirts, gift boxes, Zentangles in colored ink and watercolored.

Megan told us Zentangle began with a monk who tried to call to lunch an artist who was busy illuminating a sacred manuscript. He called and called and she didn't hear him. She explained, "Oh, I was so into what I was doing I didn't hear you," and I suppose it takes a monk to trademark and monetize that. It was fun and I'm glad I went to get some continuing education and learned something new that anyone can learn to do. I bought my own supplies and intend to Zentangle my way across the Atlantic toward my upcoming overseas adventure.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Prairie Home Companion, Off the Air at Last

I'm in the minority of folk offended by Garrison Keillor's "The Prairie Home Companion" on public radio, and not only because it was feeble humor and 40 years of it, but because I'm a northerner (from Wisconsin) and the people there are not at all like those cracker-barrel types he made fun of.

I will even go so far as to say that Wisconsin's next-door-neighbors, Minnesotans, although of lesser distinction than Wisconsinites who ALWAYS return their shopping carts to the cart corral, are not the bumpkins Keillor portrayed. The more I listened, the more annoying it was. Keillor's humor was for urban people: Their idea of country life.

Some listeners, not very smart, believed the show was serious and that a Lake Wobegon and its "above average" populace were real. As Keillor's career progressed he read poems on the air and somehow became an authority on which poems were "good poems," editing poetry anthologies titled Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times.

Missouri, too, gets the "back country" treatment especially by East Coast newspapers which run photos of aged Missourians with their thumbs in the straps of their overalls. All that's missing is the stalk of hay between their teeth.

Bye, Garrison, whose real name is Gary, one of the three bad-luck first names (the bad-luck female name is Jean; the other bad-luck male name is Gene). Keillor said that in retirement he is going to "rediscover lunch" and "rediscover weekends." Have fun, man. Stay off my radio! It'll take us years to undo the Midwestern-stereotyping damage you've done. And Keillor is not Mark Twain; not by a long shot.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Turtles in Search of Themselves

We're at the end of the month of turtle migration when the young ones leave the nest (hard to believe these creatures are hatched from eggs) and seek territories of their own. Their armor is beautifully articulated and bright. In the wet woods I almost step on them and we stop and gaze at each other, sharers of this earth. I meet them at the bottom of the lane, and in ditches full of rainwater and grass (pictured). Of course they cross the highway, leading to some casualties, but this year not so many; roadkill so far has been mostly raccoons. Once in a while on a walk I'm able to assist. As time has passed, they seem to be braver, less shy, less likely to duck or flee. Or maybe they only reflect how I've become more comfortable in my own skin. Or maybe they look at me and my skin, and believe I'm kin to them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Good, Good, Really Good!

At a Chicago conference last week I heard in person a famous channeler of positive messages, author of millions of books and CDs. She might be fake, but I liked her message and echoed to myself, “I will accept that things are always working out for me, and any expansion is good.” Minutes after starting back home on the tollway, my left rear tire blew. I take the next exit and, by the grace of God, it's a suburban Chicagoland avenue lined for miles with car dealerships and car-repair shops.
The repair shop I pull into mounts my spare for free and sends me to a tire dealer where I'm told there's a two-hour wait. “Things are always working out for me,” I thought, and in entirely foreign Naperville, Illinois, I take an aimless walk and two blocks down find a wonderful nail salon in which to spend an hour and a half. Across the street is a Greek restaurant. They know how to cook fish, and the waitress is great and gives me a free dessert. Hours off schedule by now, I’m as happy as they make ‘em. The weather is gorgeous. As I’m finishing lunch the tire place calls; the car’s ready.

Back safely in Missouri, I find a client has paid me. Years ago Mom had given me a floral-type 1950s white-gold diamond ring with a mousy little diamond that Dad bought for their 25th; I never much liked it. She swore me not to sell it; but bravely telling myself, “I can afford this,” I went to a jeweler I didn’t know and said since he was the pro he could give the stones any new setting he liked. The little squirty trailer-park ring is now dazzling, classy and worth more than before, and in the same shopping plaza was a frozen yogurt shop. Saying, “Things are always working out for me,” I scheduled my ten-year-old Toyota for removal of its two little rust spots and it’s in the body shop right now increasing in resale value.

At the bank, the fun never stops.
During my weekend in Illinois, summer came to Missouri. The public pool opened for the year but I lacked a beach towel; I’ve never owned one. Goodwill—next block over from the jeweler—didn’t have any. Oh well. Stopping by the bank I find it's Customer Appreciation Day with delightful free hotdogs and model trains. I told the teller this should happen every day.

When my last haircutter, a sub for my usual, gave me a “Moe Howard” (bowl haircut) and I'd cried, a friend recommended a stylist 30 miles away, booked up weeks in advance. Saying, “Any expansion is good,” I called, and drove for my appointment far into the city, and for my efforts got a soft and flattering haircut. Because any expansion is good (by then I was playing the channeler’s CDs in my car), I bought that same day my very first eyeliner and some brow highlight called "Living Luminizer." The next day when I’m wearing them (plus my new haircut) a man approaches me, the first in almost a year. He’s not a contender (his dentures smelled), but any expansion is good!

I’d been thinking about buying or leasing a new car because I want updated safety features, and even phoned around and daydreamed at CarFax but said, monetarily, “I’ll just keep and fix the 2007 Toyota,” but while it’s in the shop I am driving an impressive silver 2016 luxury Nissan. The body shop worked out a specially cheap deal with the rental place. Things are always working out for me. . .

Towel and bathing suit
I got up at sunrise and outside bathed my new ring in the rising sun and thought, "Life is great. Life is always expanding. Things are always working out for me."

At the gym, Nissan in the parking lot, I attempt and ace the strength class that last year sent me to the cardiologist. Meanwhile, the bank phones: I have won one of their Customer Appreciation Day prizes: a beach bag with beach towel and a $25 gift card. When I pick up my prize (the bank takes my photo), I see the towel matches my bathing suit! And the bag is great, too.

Things are always working out for me!