Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Domestic cats have developed a reputation for being “difficult” to live with. For starters, most cats are fairly reserved in expressing emotions. This sometimes makes interpreting their moods and desires perplexing. Cats are resistant to changes in their living spaces and daily routines. Most cats do not appreciate water for much beyond drinking. Cats may readily challenge your attempts to establish authority.
While, at times, cats might be demanding, the rewards of their affection and their playfulness are great. If you learn to indulge your cats just a little, they are lovely roommates.
Following are a few practical “relationship” tips to help anyone new to cohabitating with a feline:
1. Never attempt to wash your cat in the sink unless you have first duct-taped its legs together and duct-taped shut its mouth.
2. Stand by the exterior door as often as possible so that you can let your cat in or out repeatedly.
3. Every cat has a part of their body that they do not like to have touched. Some cats do not like their belly touched. Others do not like anyone near their baby-making junk. When you first move in with a cat, you may want to don a pair of well-padded mittens, grab the cat, and feel around a bit until you find the forbidden cat-spot. Once you find the forbidden spot, avoid that spot in the future.
4. Never attempt to apply duct tape to your cat.
5. Never attempt to establish “a balance” between your behaviors and a cat’s behaviors if your behaviors annoy the cat. The cat must establish all baselines.
6. Your cat will likely refuse to eat all but a difficult to find and expensive canned variety of food. Be prepared to spend a great deal of money and time procuring cat food.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
In the calm of an early morning such as this, dust lingers in the air above my country road and catches like gray scarves in the nearby long-needle pines. In the calm of an early morning, you can hear your own thoughts as they tumble from synapse to synapse. In the calm, babies sleep late and soldiers return home from war.
On a morning like this, I remember how my wife and I once ate saffron flowers and dandelion rosettes for breakfast.
In the calm of early morning, I am what I am.
I am calm.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Sunday, July 27, 2014
For most species, making love to any sort of bottle is, at best, a bad idea and a bit suspect. For the males of one particular insect, however, making love to discarded beer bottles often leads to prolonged frustration followed by an untimely death.
While trying to identify a beetle that dive-bombed my head the other day, I chanced upon a thought-provoking article at newsdiscovery.com. The article, Beetles Die During Sex With Beer Bottles, written by Jennifer Viegas, explores the odd and somewhat tragic tale of the Australian jewel beetle.
The male beetles readily fall in love with discarded beer bottles they find along the roads of Australia. As bad luck would have it, certain beer bottles—those that are orange/brown in color, have a slightly dimpled surface at the bottom (for better grip while drinking), and are reflective of light—are strikingly similar to the sexy wing covers of the female Australian jewel beetle.
The beer bottles are, in short, babes: beautiful, gargantuan babes that show no signs of rejection.
Upon finding the sexy beer bottles, the male jewel beetles mount the bottles and then begin making love. According to the article: “The male beetles are so captivated by the bottles that they will gird their loins and go through the expected motions, refusing to leave until they fry to death (under the searing Australian sun), are consumed by hungry ants, or are physically removed by researchers.”
Honestly, this stuff strikes far too close to home as far as our own species is concerned.
PHOTO: University of Toronto Mississauga
Saturday, July 26, 2014
While whacking the hell out of a few rogue knapweed plants with my trusty weed-whacker on the road out from my cabin, a rather large bug zipped directly into my head and got entangled in my hair.
There is a saying: “It is never too early to panic.”
Guided by this sentiment, I danced a bit madly along the roadway while trying to free the insect from my hair. Once I located the bug, I flicked the thing to the ground.
The bug was decidedly pretty, if not outright metallic in appearance. I scooped the bug into my fingers, admiring its otherworldly iridescence in full sun. The underside of the bug looked just like highly polished copper. The appearance of the thing so impressed me, I snapped some photographs.
When I arrived home from my trip to the cabin, I did some research. The insect that crashed into me is a “metallic wood borer.” They are sometimes called “jewel” beetles. Most species of jewel beetles are uncommon and valued by insect collectors. Unlike many wood boring insects, only a few species of the metallic wood borers are considered a pest. Most types of the metallic wood borer attack only dead or dying trees.
Friday, July 25, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Above the sink in my kitchen is one of several windows I open at night so that I can establish a cooling breeze that will circulate throughout my house. Near my bedtime last night, I ambled to the sink thinking I would have a glass of water and then open the window. Once I arrived at the sink, I held a glass under the faucet, flicked the window lock, and then cranked the window opening handle. Geez, I thought, what is the deal with the water? Why is the glass not filling?
I cranked the window open a little more.
Several more seconds passed before I realized I was cranking the window instead of operating the faucet.
Multitasking is not for the weak of mind.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Arrived at dusk, evening last, a sky unlike any other—calm but heavy as iron and occasionally lightning-struck. All around my house, the vesper sparrows laced patterns in the green sage, but refused to lift higher. The grass stood at perfect attention.
The orange sky appeared at once, just where sprays of rain blossomed above the western rim of the mountains. The orange flourished within a mist of new rain. The orange expanded. The orange enveloped me.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Monday, July 21, 2014
Yesterday, while hiking into a high mountain bowl filled with wildflowers and scattered pine trees, my friend Chris spotted a rabbit’s foot on a patch of open ground. “Hey,” he said, pointing at the furry foot, “there is a lucky rabbit’s foot.”
Glancing at the rabbit’s foot, I surmised that a predator of some sort had mauled and eaten the rest of the rabbit.
“That foot might be lucky,” I said, “but I don’t think the rest of the rabbit was very lucky.”
According to Wikipedia, a rabbit’s foot is considered a good luck charm in many places around the world and has been considered so for centuries. In most variations of this superstition, the foot is good luck only if the rabbit is killed in a certain way or killed by a person with specific attributes (such as a cross-eyed man). In the North American version of this mythology, only the left hind foot of the rabbit is considered lucky. Additionally, the rabbit must have been captured or shot in a cemetery on a rainy Friday during a full moon.
My standards for luck are not nearly so exacting. I think not peeing all over the bathroom floor when I get up late in the night is pretty lucky. And nobody gets hurt.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Saturday, July 19, 2014
If you happen to be driving through Montana and you chance upon a pair of men half-submerged in the engine compartment of a pickup on the front driveway of a modest home, or you whisk by a woman riding her horse near a long line of unbroken fence, or you must stop to allow a group of young boys with fishing rods to bike across the road, or you see an old woman hand-watering a vegetable garden, please wave a friendly “hello.” These people are my friends.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Evening last, Mission Mountain Wood Band performed at Centennial Park in Helena as part of the weekly Alive @ Five series. The concerts are free to the public. Mission Mountain Wood Band (having achieved legendary status here in Montana) drew in several thousand people. While I was standing amid a jostling crowd near the beer tent with my friend Kevin, an attractive young woman in a white summer dress bumped into me in what might only be described as a “fully-frontal” manner.
Had both of us been holding drinks, we would have inadvertently mixed a Long Island iced tea.
Had either of us been wearing one less article of clothing, a shotgun wedding might have followed.
The young woman, somewhat flustered, excused herself and was immediately absorbed back into the ever-shifting crowd. Smiling to myself, I watched her fade into a sea of men wearing baseball caps and the smartly dressed women who either mistrust or love the men wearing baseball caps.
I spent the rest of the concert wondering if I enjoyed bumping into the woman a bit more than I should have.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Yesterday, a mule deer buck pranced into my yard and began systematically plucking the seedy fruits from the tall stalks of my yucca. The deer seemed pretty happy about the feast and did not bound away when I stepped outside to watch. The fruits are no small morsel—each is the size of a toddler’s clenched fist.
I snapped a couple photographs as the deer munched away.
Watching the deer gobble down the fruits made me curious. I wondered if I could eat a fruit without either having colorful visions of fuzzy space invaders or capsizing and sinking from lethal poisoning. A while back, my friend Clay asked me what sort of yucca I had growing.
The kind that hurts you when you get poked by a leaf? The sword kind?
Yesterday, I consulted my plant books and discovered that the plant in my yard is called a “narrow-leaved” yucca. The fruit, thank you, is edible (as are the flowers) and the seed pods were often roasted in ashes before being eaten.
I cut into one of the pods and took a nibble of the raw interior.
Not bad. Really…not bad.
Following that, I barbecued a fruit on my grill.
A little bitter, but edible.
Posted below is a photograph of what the fruits look like when sliced. I have altered the contrast of this photograph.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
My favorite artist is the surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Though, at a younger age, I rejected the work of Pablo Picasso, I later found some of his work wholly captivating. I now consider his paintings among the greatest ever. Both men were somewhat curious and boastful in life, but each of them seized upon an entirely new (if not twisted) form of expression in their works of art. They made uncommon studies of common subjects.
I appreciate that.
Mind you, the speculative explanations and studies of their works leave me cold. My view of art is more simplistic than that. I like what I like and don’t like what I don’t like. Back in the days of film photography, a friend and I used to click through my slides once they were developed and critique them with a very simple format.
“Pitch it,” (as in into the trash) we blurted within a second of seeing one that we did not like for reasons of poor color or poor composition.
“That sends me,” we would say of a photograph we liked.
I should mention…in later years we amended the saying “pitch it” to “pig shit.” The slides we did not like were popped from the projector and flung across the room.
Boys will be boys.
The photographs I am posting today are, in a way, related to the work of Dali and Picasso. They are unadorned studies of color and light. I like photographs that play with color, or point-of-view, or anything else. I “painted” one photograph by swinging my camera over the embers of a campfire at my cabin. The other photograph is that of a storm crossing the lake below my house at dusk.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
False hellebore (sometimes called corn-lily) is conspicuous in size. The hellebore can attain a height of six feet in our short, high-mountain growing season and the large drooping leaves call for attention wherever the plant grows. This plant prefers moist locations and will even tolerate having its feet wet. False hellebore is a robust perennial, willing to emerge along the first exposed shoulders of earth below snowbanks.
The flower is not spectacular, but I consider the false hellebore to be among the most handsome plants found in the Rocky Mountains. I admire the broad, bright-green leaves and find the spiraling symmetry of growth attractive. The plants often grow in partially shaded swales and along the edge of flouncing waters.
But this plant holds one of the darkest secrets of all the plants found in the high mountains.
Plants of the Rocky Mountains, one of the field guides I often use to identify flowers and plants, said of this plant: “False Hellebores are violently poisonous.”
False hellebore contains a mix of toxic alkaloids that are potent enough to kill. Eating only a little of the plant might cause death. The toxins, under some conditions, may even make the water in which the plant grows toxic enough to cause sickness. Native Americans used the toxins from false hellebore to poison their arrows and to commit suicide.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
I am sitting here not listening to music and feeling generally tired. Late last night, the wind nearly tore the open windows from my house. My 40 pounds of cat woke me early just so I would open the back door and allow them to sniff at the air once. I spilled my first cup of coffee all over the counter.
This might be a good day to go back to bed.--Mitchell Hegman
Thursday, July 10, 2014
While watching Investigation ID on my television the other night, I heard one of the investigators use the word “victimology.”
“Geez,” I said to myself, “what a cool-sounding word! What does it mean?”
I did some investigation.
Over the years, enough people have been forced to write thesis papers in order to escape academia that a theory for over-explaining pretty much everything has emerged and then been further expounded upon. “Victimology” theories are a prime example of that.
Yes, I did use the plural. Several theories now exist.
Lifestyle-Exposure Theory (offered by Michael Hindenlang, Michael Gottfredson, and James Garofalo) proposes that certain sub-groups of people run a greater risk of victimization than other groups. For example, a woman who moves into a neighborhood where an ax-murder is committed nightly may be at higher risk than, say, a woman who lives in a high-rise filled with dedicated marshmallow makers. In another extension of this theory, hanging out with bad people in bad places is thought to increase the likelihood of victimization.
I submit this now: Who saw that before this theory came to light in 1978?
Routine Activity Theory:
Routine Activity Theory (proffered by Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson) suggests that crime increases where both unsupervised people and unprotected people regularly mix.
I just don’t know how I can possible add to that. I would like to say, in conclusion, that I may have shortened this theory in gross fashion and would never have managed to escape the halls of academia with my sixteen word thesis.
Several offshoot theories based on the aforementioned have appeared in the time since the publication of the original theories. I had intended to explain some offshoot theories here, but just as I started to write, 20 pounds of housecat with hairballs strolled past me. I decided that the cat might be a good hair-brushing victim.
I went with brushing my cat.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Yesterday, while driving a back road, I came upon two ravens perched high in the tops of two dead-standing trees amid a thick stand of live ash trees. A bit later, I chanced upon a single turkey vulture standing alongside the road. The vulture was feasting on the carcass of a dead rabbit.
I think my problem is in seeking meaning in such events.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
My cabin is tucked into a narrow mountain valley within hiking distance of Continental Divide. This is a land that holds you within sharp inclines, exposed walls of natural stone, and endless colonnades created by lodgepole pine forests. Spending a full day there is like living within a palace painted by mountain light. This time of year, the colors and natural riches often verge on overwhelming.
With neither shadow nor blade, the first light pours into my valley like a kind of gold-colored liquid from the far side of the mountains. If I rise early in the bird-song hours, I can step out into the forest and briefly capture the gold in the palms of my hands. That is also when the deer slowly migrate through the meadow, nibbling at some of the wildflowers and brush.
By late morning, the light has become bright and directional. Tall pines scissor and clip the light, crafting green shreds that span from tree to tree and drape across the forest floor. Small birds fly from tree to tree seemingly blinking on and off in the strobes of light and shadow. Reaching the full intensity across the swaggering waters of Hogum Creek, the sunlight mints quicksilver coins on the surface of the creek. The coins rise and fall and then sink away in the dark shaded holes.
The last of full light is best. The day flowers have come fully alive. Bees and butterflies swirl up and down within the final piers of white light. The deer wander back through the meadow. The sun, while slicing down against the western mountains, reaches back to touch the flowers one last time and makes them precious. This light is my favorite for photography.
Posted are a few photos taken outside my cabin a couple days ago.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Gayle saw a water snake. She saw the snake as we were poking around the banks of Hogum Creek where the water strokes back and forth between the cut banks and willows in the meadow just below my cabin.
The snake was not big.
Fortunately, Gayle is from Butte, America. People from Butte, America tend to be tougher than most (think Evel Knievel here) and are therefore not afraid of much, or, as they typically proffer in Butte: “Ain’t afraid of shit.”
Gayle did not so much as squeak upon sighting the snake. She calmly said something to the effect of: “Hey, there is a snake.” She continued toeing about along the edge of the creek looking at pretty rocks and being tough at the same time.
Later in the day, Gayle shared the story of seeing the snake to Ginny, my cousin’s wife.
Ginny was not impressed. “What kind of snake?” she asked with a grimace.
“Just a water snake,” Gayle assured.
“There is no such thing as just a water snake,” Ginny said. “Snake is the key word. They are called snakes, not bunnies that slither.”
Ginny is fearful of any sort of snake.
Ginny and my cousin spent the weekend camping along the creek near my cabin. For the rest of the weekend if we saw a deer, or a bird, or pretty much anything, we claimed to have seen a bunny that slithers. As some folks say in my hometown of East Helena, Montana: “Them bastards were turning up everywhere!”
Friday, July 4, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
At 9:10 yesterday morning, as I exited the side door of a house I was visiting, I came under sudden attack from a pair of American robins. The robins swooped in and mobbed me from places unseen. While one robin circled around, the other one flew in from behind and smacked the top of my head with its wings and feet.
I will admit, I was a bit startled, but unhurt.
As I ducked away, the pair of robins lighted in the branches of some nearby aspen trees and glared at me. Both birds had their feathers puffed-up so they appeared to be the size of softballs. They watched every move I made as I slunk away. Once I was a few steps beyond the door, one of the birds flapped back to a nest I had not noticed on a trim ledge just above the door.
They had mobbed me to protect their nest.
I snapped a quick photograph with my twice-as-smarter-than-me phone (which I am posting today) and left the birds to their nest.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
At a certain level, our brains are equal part sensory receptor and equal part filter. At a given moment, we are being inundated with sensory inputs. We may, for example, hear the sound of a television, or a song on the radio, while at the same time picking up the whistle of wind at the nearest open window and the voices of people around us. Concurrently, we might find ourselves rubbing at a persistent pain in our back and feeling a light breeze silking across our cheeks. The breeze may carry the delicate fragrance of freshly-mown grass mixed with light smoke from a nearby barbeque. Finally, our eyes might be continually adjusting to light that is rapidly modulating in intensity as clouds roll across the face of the sun.
These are the inputs we capture and process.
But what about the other inputs?
What about the light reaching us at wavelengths, such as infrared, that we cannot perceive? What about the motions of an insect’s wing beats that occur so rapidly we see nothing as the insect streaks by? What about the sounds beyond the range of our hearing—the sounds that send our cats scampering to hide but leave us calmly sipping our wine in what we consider perfect silence? What is the dog sniffing at when he first puts his nose to our shoe when we first greet?
Simply put, we cannot process all of the sensory inputs provided to us at a given instant or even those spread over a long period of time. Our brain and sensory receptors must, by design, filter out the sensory feeds we do not critically require. We must glean through the entire heap to gather only that which matters to us—this, to avoid overload and confusion.
Truly, we see only part of the second to second and day to day world in which we reside. We do not perceive some of the gears that are turning directly in front of us.
Consider our vision as compared to the humble butterfly. Where we see a plain red flower of a single color, a butterfly may (with a wider range of the light spectrum available to them) see multiple colors and a striking pattern that is imperceptible to us on the petals.
Compare our sense of smell to that of a bloodhound. A bloodhound is capable of following the scantest trail of scent where a person did no more that walk away.
All of this leads me to one simple question: are we defined by the inputs we perceive or are we more aptly defined by all that we exclude? If that sounds silly, stop and think about how the social inputs we exclude define us.