Animals

Sex Unashamed

This morning on my windshield I found the first lovebug of the season: Plecia nearctica, a member of the family of march flies. It is also known as the honeymoon fly, telephonebug, kissybug, or double-headedbug.

This was a lone male, one of the few times I have seen a lovebug without its partner. Usually they are seen locked in connubial bliss, flying lazily through the air or being splattered on one’s car.

Lovebug flights can number in the hundreds of thousands. The slow, drifting movement of the insects is almost reminiscent of snowfall. Two major flights occur each year, first in late spring, then again in late summer. The spring flight occurs during late April and May, the summer during late August and September. This year, their flight was delayed by the long drought. Flights extend over periods of four to five weeks.

Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence of the females. Adult females live only three to four days, poor things.

I’ve written before about squirrels copulating on the screen enclosure of my back porch. I’ve seen two Southern Black Racers, the oh-so-appropriately named Coluber constrictor priapus, coiled in writhing embrace.

Tonight, while at a stop light, I noticed two Green Anoles—the gentle little chameleonlike lizards who so valiantly tackle the insect population around our homes—mating by the side of the road, their skin now brown, trying hard to blend in with the branch on they were perched. They didn’t seem to care that I was staring at their public canoodling.

Of course, it’s likely they don’t notice us. We are unimportant unless we are threatening them or pushing them out of our way. We are environmental noise, worthy of no special attention, just as humans coupling out of doors would generally ignore the birds or other creatures who might catch sight of them.

On the other hand, I like to believe that Nature thinks sex—whether it be the product of love and affection, or instinctual urge, or conscious choice—is good and blessed and worthy of celebration, or is at the very least nothing deserving shame or judgment. It would be nice if humans could, at least once in a while, embrace Nature’s perspective on such matters.

Postscript: Adam just sent me this photo he took last year at Castaway Point Park of some manatees caught in flagrante delicto. Lovely!

manateecastawaypointpark

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Categories: Animals, Sex and Sexuality | 3 Comments

The Edge of a Storm

I am not a particularly heavy sleeper. You could say I sleep like a dog, or a wolf; that is, with one ear nearly always awake, ready to pull the rest of me to alertness should the need arise. That came in handy, of course, during the years Mom was sick. We had a baby monitor in her room so I could hear her calls (or falls) in the night. But even before I became her caregiver, I would wake frequently in the night to turn over or occasionally pee (the curse of middle age), usually falling back to sleep quickly.

But this habit also means I tend to remember my dreams more easily than other people, because I, like others whose brains are similarly hardwired, go through life with a brain wave pattern significantly slower than most people (Alpha rather than the normal Beta); I’m closer to the dream state when I’m waking, and I slip into the trance or deeply meditative state (Theta) more easily. I assume that I sleep closer to Theta, whereas most people go from Delta (complete unconsciousness) to Beta (which is found in both normal REM sleep, when dreaming usually occurs, and states of extreme alertness) and back again, making dream recollection a bit more problematic.

Two nights ago I went through a rather bad patch. I encountered some familial stressors—something to do with Mom’s will and probate—and I was suddenly a young boy unable to cope. It was not so much the specter of death, or the anxiety and sadness over loss, but rather that all the months and years of exhaustion came rushing back. I found myself, once I had gotten off the phone, weeping uncontrollably, making animal noises and wailing like a professional mourner in the Middle East. When there were words, it was “Leave me ’lone!” and “Go ’way!” as if I were a battered child afraid of more abuse. It was the strangest bit of grieving I have ever experienced. I went to bed utterly spent, and woke up much saner.

Then last night, a very odd little dream. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Brain, Death, Dreams, Family | 1 Comment

Day Two

Yesterday was Day One in several significant ways. The Great Funeral Trip is done, and Mom is resting with Dad in Maryland. Now I have an empty house with all the chaos from the previous weeks still in evidence, and little time to make any sense of it since I have a bunch of work deadlines this week, not to mention Mom’s famous rum cake and my infamous CraigNog to make for the family Thanksgiving gathering.

I’m still at that stage where everything reminds me of Mom, or I say, “Mom would really love that,” or I turn to talk to her but see only a vacant chair or bed. I’m not sad or lonely, exactly, but I’m keenly feeling the lack of her physical presence.

At the same time, I feel a sudden push forward, the motivation and power to make some changes in my life that I have wished for or even attempted (and failed at) in the past. One, as I mentioned recently, is my trying to excise bread and other things made with flour from my diet. It ain’t easy. Wheat has opioids — opium-like substances that influence the brain’s endorphin receptors. These opioid peptides are physically addictive and cause asthma, obesity, and (as might be expected from a substance chemically similar to morphine) apathy.

It turns out that plants use different tactics to scare off attackers. Some plants contain poison; others just anesthetize their attackers, as wheat does with opioid peptides. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Body and Mind, Death, Food and Diet, Shamanism | 7 Comments

Lights out? Experts fear fireflies are dwindling

When I was a kid, summer was all about lightning bugs. Well, that and playing outside until 9:30 p.m. Summer days in the Washington, D.C. area was mostly miserable—one writer compared summer in Washington like stepping into the breath of a very large, very hot, dog—but summer nights were really delightful. Little lights blinking on and off, the bugs themselves just trying to find dates for the evening . . . it was rather magical.

I started noticing their decline in the early 1980s, but the ’90s made me start despairing. Was it pollution? Overuse of pesticides? It didn’t matter; one by one, the tiny stars were going out.

MSNBC published the following story today: Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Environment | 2 Comments

Poor Bears

The news is depressing, I’m afraid. A twelve-year-old girl was out walking her dog on a farm near the town of Sauðárkrókur, on the Skaga fjord in Iceland, when she spotted a polar bear.

There are, however, no polar bears in Iceland. The only place the bear could have come from was Greenland, about 300 miles away. And the only way it could have arrived was atop an ice floe.

The girl alerted the authorities. A group of journalists gathered. And last Tuesday, police were “forced” to shoot the bear, saying that it was “threatening the public.” They said the bear charged a group of reporters “in a panic,” that they had “no other choice” but to kill it.

I don’t mean to be snarky with the quotation marks. It’s just that this was the second polar bear to be shot and killed in Iceland in as many weeks. With the first bear, an officer said no drugs were available to sedate it, so he consulted with the minister of the environment, who gave permission for police marksmen to kill the bear. But a veterinarian says that he himself had the drugs available in his car. He also criticized police for not closing a mountain road where people congregated after hearing news of the polar bear.

After many protests from environmentalists and animal rights groups, authorities had vowed to capture the second bear and have it shipped in a cage back to Greenland or give it to a zoo. The chief veterinarian from the Copenhagen zoo had been flown in late Tuesday to help. He named the bear Ofeig, whose name translates roughly as “he who should not die.” Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Environment, Nature | 1 Comment

Dogs in the Basement, Revisited

Just when I thought my nightmares were under control, I find this: a woman in Glen Burnie, Maryland, named Kelly Schreck (her last name, appropriately, is the German word for “terror,” akin to the Yiddish word שרעק, meaning “fear”), who last Thursday was sentenced in one of the most horrific cases of animal abuse I’ve ever read about.

I have no doubt whatsoever that she was clinically depressed, as she claimed. She suffered two miscarriages, and while she was in jail (I don’t know how she ended up there), her husband served her divorce papers. So she probably flipped out a bit. I know a thing or two about depression, and how devastating it can be, how you can shut down emotionally.

But when you read the details of the case, I think you’ll agree that the punishment—three years in prison plus three years of probation—is more than reasonable. The authorities had intervened with Schreck several times previously for animal regulation infractions, but the scene that greeted an officer last June 13, responding to an anonymous tip, was beyond gut-wrenching. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Depression | 6 Comments

This Guy Has Been Singing All Night Long

No, this isn’t my video, but this fellow’s song is remarkably similar to the one my little friend has been singing outside my window since 2 a.m.

And he’s still singing, eight hours later!

One of the few real joys of living in Florida.

Categories: Animals, Life in Florida, Nature | 2 Comments

I’ll Be Seeing You

Anyone care for a lovely little duet?

Categories: Animals, Humor | 3 Comments

There Are Not Enough Words

“Green Porno” is a series of very short films conceived, written, co-directed by and featuring Isabella Rossellini. Inspired by the amazing and often bizarre sexual practices of insects and other creatures, these eight films are both comical and insightful studies of the curious ways a variety of earth’s tiny critters “make love.”

Green Porno” premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. View it now on the Sundance Channel website.

Categories: Animals, Humor, Sex and Sexuality | 1 Comment

Dogs in the Basement

One of my recurring nightmares involves a scenario in which there are several dogs in my care, usually one large and several smaller ones, which are kept in my basement. I suddenly realize with horror that I have forgotten to feed or let them out for days and days. (My house doesn’t have a basement in real life, and I currently don’t have any dogs.)

They have never barked or done anything to remind me they’re there; the realization just dawns on me suddenly, and I rush down to find them in various states of neglect. Sometimes they’re just really hungry and anxious (and messy); sometimes they’re doing rather poorly and need medical help; once, I remember, I found a skeleton wearing a dog collar.

Now, I am not a neglectful pet owner. The dogs I’ve had have been very well cared for, very much a part of my daily life. All would have liked go on longer and more frequent walks, but otherwise they were healthy, happy, and loved very much.

I suspect I have these dreams when I’m behind in my client work, or am feeling there are things I’m not paying proper attention to in my life; the basement symbolizes the unconscious. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Dreams, Psychology | 11 Comments

Eight Reasons Not to Take the Kids to the Zoo

Categories: Animals, Humor | 2 Comments

What’s for Dinner?

You say “central Florida” to most people, and they think of Orlando. Say “Orlando” and people think “Disney.” Fair enough. But most of the fun happens on the two coasts. Well, not that much fun. It’s generally the cultural equivalent of Wal-Mart around here.

I take solace in the abundant bird life. Northern Mockingbirds sing almost year-round, even at night. Black Vultures, those amazingly graceful fliers, soar on warm thermals. A Red-shouldered Hawk comes to visit fairly often. Water birds are everywhere: White Ibis, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Great Blue Heron, Sandhill Crane, Anhinga, Wood Stork. I’ve even seen a Red-footed Booby or two. They make the nine-month long summer a tad more bearable.

Not all of the wildlife is as much fun, however. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Life in Florida | 3 Comments

BOOM!

Last night I put Mom to bed, and went off to my office to watch the season finale of Torchwood, a sci-fi TV series I’ve been following. Essentially, Torchwood is about a pseudo-governmental agency dealing with an interstellar rift or wormhole, one end of which is in Cardiff Bay, Wales, while the other end floats freely through timespace and attracts all sorts of unsavory creatures and items. It’s rather like the Hellmouth idea in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In this rather silly episode, the rift has been fully opened, and a gigantic demonic creature has emerged and is wreaking havoc on the populace, as gigantic demonic creatures are wont to do, so the series hero decides to sacrifice himself by zapping the monster with bioelectric energy. The energy is building and building, the hero is getting weaker and weaker, the monster is screaming and flailing, and just as the electricity reaches its peak—

BOOM! The house shakes, the windows rattle, the lights go out, the smoke detectors go off, the computer’s UPS starts beeping, and Mom’s oxygen concentrator starts sounding its high-pitched alarm to indicate a loss of power. Something has exploded outside, very close by.

Clearly all that electrical zapping on television had rather far-reaching effects. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Fun | 9 Comments

“It’s Raining Cows Out Here, Man”

By now, you probably know that I have a thing for cows. I don’t know why I find them so endearing, or funny, or amazing, but I do. I love cow mythology. I love cow photos. I especially love cow jokes.

My favorite cow joke, from my friend Tim (at right, in all his glory):

A man is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call. “I can talk!” shouts the voice on the other end of the line.

“How nice for you,” says the man. “It’s three o’clock in the morning, you jerk,” and slams down the receiver.

Five minutes later, the phone rings again. “I can talk!” says the gleeful voice.

“Seriously, I’m exhausted, I just want to sleep,” the man says. “Please don’t call back here again.” Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Humor | 9 Comments

Existential Wonder

A couple of weeks ago, Adamus told me he had gotten a dog at the pound, a Lab mix named Dusty. He said I should definitely meet her. Cool with me, I adore dogs.

Yesterday he brought her over. I gasped when she walked through the front door. It was my Goldie (that’s her in the picture).

Yes, my dog who died last year.

This is Goldie in a new body. Slightly smaller, but very similar build. Identical face and smile. Darker coat. Same tail.

OK, I can cope with outward similarities and chalk it up to the breed, though Lab-Whippet mixes are surely not too common.

But when she got in, she immediately jumped up and started kissing me insistently on the mouth. Then she stopped and rolled at my feet, the way Goldie did. Then, when I was sitting down, she stood and put her paws on my shoulders and kept staring into my eyes, then nuzzled me and kissed me more. As if to say, “You remember me, don’t you?” Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Buddhism, Death, Time and Space | 9 Comments

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