Bird’s nest

birds nest a

There is a bird’s nest in the dogwood tree just outside our courtyard door.

I first noticed it not long ago, because all of a sudden there was a big puddle of birdsplat on our walkway, in front of our door. I looked up, and –

There it was!

Stupid mama bird. She built her nest no more than seven or eight feet off the ground, in the branches of that silly tree. Did she think her kids would be safe there? Some scheming badger or cat or raccoon will surely see it and pull it down sooner or later.

Then I looked up the other morning and saw this:

birds nest

I hope these children live to see adulthood.

I hope they don’t die of the heat.

I hope their mamma brings them something.

I hope they learn to fly.

(Postscript: a few days after I took the above photo, the kids weren’t there anymore. Either they’ve been eaten by a predator, or they’ve flown away.

(I hope it’s the latter.)

Mister Ed

mister ed

There is a current TV series called “Wilfrid,” in which a man (played by Elijah Wood) owns a dog whom he sees as a person. The dog, Wilfrid (played by the Australian Jason Gann) is willful, and angry, and tricky. Wilfrid pretends to be Elijah’s friend, but he’s not. Wilfrid tricks Elijah repeatedly, and plots against him.

It makes me long for Mister Ed.

Mister Ed was the title character of a TV show back in the 1960s. He was a very charming horse who lived in a stable belonging to Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young), who’d bought the house / stable / horse from a previous owner. Wilbur was shocked when Mister Ed spoke to him. But Mister Ed said: “I only speak when I’m with someone I feel like speaking to.”

Mister Ed could dial an old rotary telephone (with a pencil in his mouth). When he read, he wore giant glasses! (Where did he get them, do you suppose? The Secret Talking Horse Optometrist?)

Mister Ed wasn’t stupid. He knew about most things. He did (in one episode) fall in love with another horse he’d seen in the park, but who hasn’t had that experience?

Mister Ed was a very entertaining horse.

Of course, of course.

Geese gone wild

geese gone wild

When it rains, the geese take over the greenspace near the Providence River. There are usually at least a couple dozen of them – big fat waddlers, with beautiful light-and-dark markings. I took this photo yesterday morning:






Lots of good eatin’ there! But wild geese are tough. My sister and brother-in-law had some wild geese fly over their farm back in the 1970s, and shot a few, and Susan prepared one for Thanksgiving, and – well, we couldn’t even chew it. Wild geese get a lot of exercise.



And geese are rumored to be foul-tempered. I’m always a little timid when they’re standing in front of me on the sidewalk; I never know when I’m gonna get stampeded and squawked at. They’re smaller than me, individually, but they outnumber me. They could swarm me.



And then there are the poops. Kids, there is nothing in the world quite so vile-looking as a goose poop. It’s a big green slimy-looking thing about the size of a small cigar. And geese poop a lot. (My mother always used the expression “go like a goose.” Evidently she knew what she was talking about.)



But I like to watch them. The other day, I saw two of them pecking at one another, running around aimlessly in a circle and honking.



Get it? Wild goose chase.



Ha ha.


I am a squid

i am a squid jpg

“What’s your spirit animal?” Apollonia asked me recently. (You have to understand that these kinds of queries are common, and even natural, between us.)

I considered briefly. “What’s yours?” I asked, to gain time.

“Wolf,” she said.

“She-wolf,” I said. “Appropriate.”

She shook her head. “Alpha wolf. Leader of the pack.”

I nodded. “I can see it. Okay. I’ve got mine. Squid.”

She grimaced, then nodded. “Okay. Reasons?”

“One,” I said. “It can swim, and I can’t. I’d like to be able to swim. Two: it can squirt ink at people with whom it’s pissed off. Three: it’s supposed to be very intelligent. Four: it’s delicious when fried with jalapenos.”

A few days later, I discovered why Apollonia asked this question: she was sending me an Amazon gift card for my birthday, and was trying to find an appropriate design (they offer quite a few). They don’t do squid, but they have a very cute octopus.

I still like squid better. They taste better, at any rate. Click here to see a video with Isabella Rosselini on the sex-life of the squid.

Except, maybe, after you see it, calamari won’t be so delicious anymore.

Skunk hour

skunk hour

The Providence area is full of wildlife. I wrote about fisher cats not long ago, nasty weaselly things prowling down by the riverside. Foxes are being seen this summer all over the East Side (though I haven’t seen one yet, and I would love to, because I think they’re cute). Bunnies are everywhere. Ditto big ugly garbage-eating raccoons. Ditto possums, one of which hissed at me a few years ago when I passed it on the street.



And then there are skunks.



They’re always smaller than I think they’re going to be, like kittens. Their colors are lovely. But they’re alarming, for obvious reasons, or maybe just for one very obvious reason.



I can usually smell them when they’re in the neighborhood. Either I’m especially sensitive to their scent, or my rural upbringing makes me more aware of them. (Our old family dog back in the 1960s got sprayed more than once, and I can still hear him whining and crying in my mind.)



I was coming out of the local market one recent evening. It’s only about two blocks away from our apartment, and I have my choice of two routes home: a dull route that goes straight down the avenue, and another much more interesting sidewalk that winds up the hillside and is surrounded by shrubbery. I usually choose the winding sidewalk for the sake of aesthetics (even though I know that robbers and muggers are probably waiting among the shrubs to jump me), and so I did the other night.



But a young skinny guy was coming down the walk toward me, jabbering at me. I thought (charitably) that he was speaking on his Bluetooth, but then he approached me with an earnest look on his face. “There’s a skunk up there!” he exclaimed. “At the top of the path! He’s looking very – territorial!”



“Which way was he facing?” I said. “Toward you, or away from you?”



“Toward me,” he said. “But he wasn’t moving, and he had a determined look on his face.”



That was enough for me. I thanked Mr. Skinny Bicycle for saving me from a fate worse than death, and went home via the dull safe route.



Here are the last four stanzas of Robert Lowell’s great poem, “Skunk Hour”:



One dark night,
my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull;
I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down,
they lay together, hull to hull,
where the graveyard shelves on the town. . . .
My mind’s not right.


A car radio bleats,
“Love, O careless Love. . . .” I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat. . . .
I myself am hell;
nobody’s here–


only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.


I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air–
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail.
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.


Bears of the USA


Bears are back in New England!



A bear was sighted in North Kingstown, Rhode Island only a few days ago. And there have been bears sighted on Cape Cod too. (Which is interesting, because they’d either have to clamber over one of the two bridges to the Cape, or ride on top of a vehicle to get there. Or swim. Or ride a floating log across the Cape Cod Canal. Or commandeer someone’s Humvee. But nothing’s impossible.)



Well, it’s like the Middle Ages around here.  The bear here in Rhode Island knocked over a chicken coop and made off with one of the chickens!



Our stuffed polar bear, Carbuncle, has his own thoughts on the subject. (Carbuncle, you might recall, won the Financial Times crossword puzzle contest about a year ago. This is a picture of him wandering the neighborhood last winter):



carbuncle winter


First of all: Carbuncle is glad that the bears are back. He’s less lonely now.



Second: Carbuncle wonders what kind of bears are back. Polar bears? Probably not. Ah well. Less competition for those tasty seals:


bear and seal



Also: will this mean less pick-a-nick baskets for Carbuncle to steal from friends and neighbors?



I direct you to the following cartoon for more information:





turkey buzzard

I walk to work most days – well, part of the way, anyway.  On the way, I cross the Point Street Bridge, which crosses the Providence River just as it flows out into Narragansett Bay.

A few weeks ago, I was walking across the bridge, observing the usual bird population: seagulls, ducks, cormorants.

Then, out of a bush in front of me, a huge bird rose. It flapped its wings lazily and flew away, its ass toward me, obviously unconcerned about me.

It was much bigger than a gull or a duck or a goose. Maybe a heron or a stork? They’re not uncommon here, except you don’t see them much in the winter.

But the mystery bird glanced back at me as it soared away, and its long beak was crooked.

Aha. A vulture, or a buzzard.

They also are not unknown here. There are communities that are plagued by them: they’re noisy and messy, and they eat garbage, and they crap garbage.

And in our neighborhood!

What is this, a Warner Brothers cartoon?

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