Child’s Play

From the results of the interviews recently conducted by the New York Times of Republican Trump supporters– now approaching 90%–one insidious statistic burns through: “If what he does; no matter how illegal; no matter how immoral; no matter how dishonest; no matter how incompetent; irritates the Democrats and Progressives, then we love and support it!” Given this, I would fully expect the Republican reaction to Trump deciding to create a national waste dump in Yosemite Valley to be, “Gosh darn, I used to love vacationing there, it’s such a pretty place, but, hey, this will absolutely freak out those environmental liberals so I’m all for it!”

 
Our national problem isn’t so much lack of education, it’s a lack of maturity; a lack of the ability to weigh problems and potential solutions on their merits rather than on who proposes them (remember, the Republican Congress refused to pass their own bills if Obama supported them). It’s our recently achieved demand of instant gratification. Why take time to look at the facts, review the options, weigh the consequences when it’s easier to stand there and scream “Make America Great Again!” It reminds me of two neighbors who both hate hard rock music but don’t get along otherwise. One gleefully decides that if he blasts loud electric guitar recordings all day over his stereo he’ll put up with the hated sounds because he knows how it so irritates the other. Childlike? Yes, and that’s where we are politically. Hopefully the next generation will have a bit more humility.

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We Should Have Done Something Then!

Does history repeat itself? In essence, that was the question my wife posed to me this evening as we watched the television news reports of the federally-invoked separation of mothers and babies; the tent cities housing thousands of minor children; and the terror of parents who had sought refuge in this country from chaos and potentially certain death in their own countries only to find it worse here. Mothers, forcibly separated from their infants and toddlers who were shuttled away to be placed in facilities within which no one but designated federal agents were allowed to observe. Children sobbing as they were taken by armed military strangers to hidden interment facilities. Thus, my wife’s question, “Do you think in 1936, 1937, or 1938, as a middle-class husband and wife sat in their living room in Berlin, Germany and listened on the radio to the actions of the Nazi regime, they asked each other, ‘What is happening to our country?’” seemed justified. Are we truly experiencing history repeating itself?

 
An answer of “absolutely” becomes more and more accurate with the dawn of each day and the new series of ‘Trumpian Twitters’ that appear to now be the process of which we steer the political direction of our nation. Sadly, in the eyes of other nations we are now seen to applaud dictatorial authoritarianism where the leader replicates an infallible deity. We are noted to define ‘human rights’ as any action that benefits the wealthy Caucasian minority (who control 90% of the world’s wealth). We regularly find scapegoats in those groups of limited wealth and education without power to fight back, and we pride ourselves as Biblical scholars and interpreters, misusing scripture and evangelical Christians as our shield. In essence, we are a country in rapid decline; a country, if not wrought by revolution in the future, that will become subservient to countries that better interpret history, if there ever is such a country. As our current leader has so regularly tweeted…Sad!

 

 

The Sound of Silence?

The irony of being hearing impaired is that you don’t appear physically different from anyone else. You don’t walk with a white cane, or a seeing-eye dog, or with help from others as you would if you were blind. You’re not confined to a wheel chair or use a cane or crutches or have visible deformities, scars or missing limbs. You simply can’t hear. You look like everyone else, wear bright t-shirts, tennis shoes, ball caps. You drive a car…you can even ride a bike. You smile, nod, sneeze, cough. Thus when you converse with the soft-voiced grocery store checker; the waitress with the foreign accent; or the slurred answer of the hardware store salesperson and ask them to repeat themselves (often more than once) they assume you just don’t understand them. You’re old, senile, and confused or have a low IQ. When you ask them to repeat, often for a second time, they become irritated. They treat you as if you were simply stupid.

 
Hearing aids, often hidden, don’t necessarily compensate for hearing loss and in some cases even aggravate the situation. They increase the volume but often further impair the clarity. You hear the noise but not the words. And you are never really sure just what direction the noise is coming from.

 
Hearing impaired people often have to significantly change their habits. Attending parties, meetings or other crowded events is exasperating because the confusion of a multitude of voices prevents you from being able to converse, even when someone standing in front of you. You regularly wonder if you should have nodded when you shook your head. Thus, you choose to avoid such events. Of course concerts and music festivals become a thing of the past. You remember music but no longer hear much of it without earphones, and then only partially. Sound systems in automobiles are a waste of money. So is going to the movies because no matter how much you want to see the picture, the dialog is lost. Watching television requires high volume, annoying to others in the room, or requires wearing earphones that eliminates conversation and only partially improves comprehension. You get an inkling of what’s going on but not all the specifics. Situation comedies are a thing of the past and you get most of your news by reading.

 
Thus, one reverts to spending more time in activities where verbal intercourse is not required, avoiding situations where hearing might be required. These are lonely activities; sitting at a computer, walking in the woods, crafts and art, reading. You wave to your neighbors rather than walking over and having a conversation. You smile when your grandchildren whisper “secrets” in your ear and don’t tell them that you heard nothing. Your dog accepts your problem… your spouse no so much.

 
A number of years ago I gave a nature program to a nursing home. A well-dressed man sat in a chair alone in the corner. I asked. “Why don’t you come over where you can better see the slides?” I asked. “He can’t hear you,” the nurse said, “he’d rather be alone.” Now I know why.

Children are just small animals!

Never, in my almost 80 years as a once proud American citizen would I have even considered that my country would be charged with human rights violations by the United Nations. But, as we now rip infants and toddlers away from their parents and put them in cages to await a (so far) unplanned fate, we have surpassed many of the crimes of those countries we once condemned.
I have little hope for the future of the “American Way of Life” as I know too many proud citizens who turn a blind eye to this travesty and only worry about the availability of guns and that the cost of automobiles, beer and gasoline might increase.

Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston, Oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowing…Sang Glen Campbell in 1969

On November 6, 1528, the Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on a low sandy island off the coast of Texas. Starving, dehydrated, and desperate, he is the first European to set foot on the soil of the future Lone Star state. What he found was a flat, marshy ground occupied by a native American population that survived on roots and tubers dug from the ground and seasonal catches of fish in the estuaries.

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Senor Cabeza de Vaca would not recognize the site today but if he had the gold he sought, he and his fellow sailors could survive well on McDonald’s burgers and various food stuffs supplied from the Super Wal-Mart and many restaurants now located there, and reside in luxury in the numerous resort hotels lining the beaches.

The city of Galveston is situated on Galveston Island, a barrier island off the Texas Gulf coast near the mainland coast. The domain of Jean Lafitte, the famed pirate and American hero of the War of 1812, it is now a major tourist destination for Texas and the southern states.

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On September 8, 1900, the island was struck by a devastating hurricane that holds the record as the United States’ deadliest natural disaster. The city was devastated, and an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people on the island were killed. For the most part, urban development has taken all but the most low-elevation wetlands, mudflats and tidal estuaries and homes there are built on stilts to protect from the ravages of tropical storms and hurricanes when the storm surge covers the island.

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Commercial sites are now protected by an immense sea wall that runs nearly half the length of the Island.

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The beaches are crowded with sunbathers and surf boarders skim through the normally small Atlantic waves.

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Galveston Island is the first land available for songbirds migrating north across the Gulf of Mexico from their winter haunts in Central and South America. Finding a mound supporting trees on this naturally flat barrier island ( initially created in the 1950’s by the local cattle ranchers to allow their cattle a retreat from the flooding of tropical storms and hurricanes) they land there to drink, feed and rest before moving on.

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An ornithological graduate from Florida State University, Jim Stevenson, has owned the property since 1995. In the spring of 1996, he started keeping track of the birds he’s observed in or from his yard. His yard list of 318 species holds the record in the U.S.

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Bird watchers and photographers from all over the world visit Jim’s property in the spring months to view and photograph these migrating species, many on their way to as far away as Canada.

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Birds I photographed at Stevenson Woods from May 5-9, 2018, included:

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager 3
Summer TanagerSummer Tanager 5

Yellow-billed CuckooYellow-billed Cuckoo 5

Rose-breasted GrosbeakRose-breasted Grosbeak 5

Blackburnian WarblerBlackburnian Warbler 2

Chestnut-sided WarblerChestnut-sided Warbler 1a

Bay-breasted WarblerBay-breasted Warbler 5

Yellow WarblerYellow Warbler

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia Warbler 2

American RedstartAmerican Redstart 3

Red-eyed VireoRed-eyed Vireo 3

Swainson’s ThrushSwainson's Thrush 2

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Brown ThrasherBrown Thrasher 1

Bronzed CowbirdBronzed Cowbird 3

Common NighthawkCommon Nighthawk 3

Northern CardinalCardinal 14

Gray CatbirdGray Catbird 2

And while we were watching for birds we were sometimes entertained by reptiles in the nearby bushes.

AnoleAnole 2

Speckled KingsnakeSpeckled Kingsnake 1

When the heat and humidity drove us from the sauna-like blinds, we headed to the estuaries, beaches and mudflats for a different variety of bird species.

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Birds I found in these areas included:

Black SkimmerBlack Skimmer 3

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Clapper RailClap[per Rail 4

Tri-colored HeronTri-colored Heron 7

Great Blue HeronDSC08270

Snowy EgretSnowyEgret31

Yellow-crowned HeronYellow-crowned Night Heron 2

White IbisDSC02066

Roseate SpoonbillRoseate Spoonbill a

Black-bellied Whistling DucksDSC01536(1)

Black-bellied PloverBlack-bellied Plover 2

Wilson’s PloverWilson Plover 1

SanderlingSanderling4

Least SandpiperLeast Sandpiper 1

Stilt SandpiperStilt Sandpiper 1

DunlinDunlin 1

Lesser YellowlegsLesser Yellowlegs 1

Spotted SandpiperSpotted Sandpiper 5

Semitropic CormorantNeotropic Cormorant 3

Galveston Island!  Yep…a great place for birds but I sure wouldn’t want to live there!