Archive for February, 2021

This week we’ll look animals, both domestic and wild, in the eye to get a sense of what they see.

Newy, the stray cat we’ve taken in and who has been mentioned here before, can have an intense gaze when she’s looking off at something. It’s noticeable enough that it prompted me to look into, so to speak, the eyes of not only cats but other animals as well. A cat’s vision is not as all-powerful as it appears. A cat is most sensitive to blues and yellows and does not see colors like red, orange, or brown.

A blacktail doe looks up from grazing outside our bedroom window. The pupils in a deer’s eyes are horizontal, not round, and a flash camera makes them look blue.

A coyote displays his predatory nature as he stares into a field. As it happens, just now as I type this, coyotes are howling outside Mitchell cabin. (Photo by neighbor Dan Huntsman)

The no-nonsense look of a bobcat in the field below Mitchell cabin.

Foxes too are predatory, but their gaze makes them appear more curious than vicious.

Possums have good night vision but don’t distinguish between colors very well. Overall, their vision is so weak they must depend on smell and touch to find food.

Skunks, like possums, have very poor vision and navigate largely via their senses of smell and hearing.

Wild turkeys, on the other hand, see in color and “have an excellent daytime vision that is three times better than a human’s eyesight and covers 270 degrees,” according to ‘Facts about Wild Turkeys.’ “They have poor vision at night, however, and generally become warier as it grows darker.”

‘Livingbird Magazine’ reports that “Great Blue Herons can hunt day and night thanks to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors in their eyes that improve their night vision.” Near Mitchell cabin, a gopher with the baleful stare of death hangs from the heron’s beak.

Buzzards have such “keen eyesight,” Seaworld claims, that “it is believed they are able to spot a three-foot carcass from four miles away on the open plains.”

A stern stare. Coopers Hawks are skillful hunters and like other hawks have excellent vision.

The smirk of a Western Fence Lizard (also known as a Blue Belly for obvious reasons). It’s one of the most common lizards around Mitchell cabin. As for their vision, most lizards have excellent eyesight, and some can see into the UV spectrum. 

Somehow my work glove hand ended up on the persimmon, and my bare hand on the barbed-wire fence. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

This moment became a test of my vision — and not in looking at the persimmons growing between the fields of Mitchell cabin and Arabian Horse Adventures. After some staring, I concluded that the Arabian waiting patiently for a persimmon is, in fact, a female mule. Nonetheless, I eventually gave her some fruit.  Later I found out the mule had arrived in the pasture not long ago after its owner died. So far I’ve never seen any of the stable’s trail riders on it. Arabian Mule Adventures? 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Canada Geese at Mitchell cabin.

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The behavior of a crazed loser did not originate with Donald Trump, as this 1982 New Yorker cartoons illustrates.

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Formal debate had already begun replacing aggressive prosecution in another 1982 New Yorker cartoon. I had considered the gladiators-versus-lions in the Roman Coliseum the ultimate high-stakes event. It never occurred to me a lion might have to to impeach a histrionic gladiator who had overindulged his sense of entitlement.

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As noted here before, my obligation to encourage wildlife a few years back led me to teach this possum dining etiquette. You could safely invite him in for your Valentine’s Day dinner. He’s certainly no Covid-19 carrier.

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Is this a Senate committee hearing or just another hungry-and-thirsty American in search of sustenance?

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From a 1958 New Yorker

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As part of my program to refine wildlife, I once mentored a bodhisattva possum on its path to enlightenment.

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What was Édouard Manet picturing in Le Déjeuner sur l’herb’? Lunch on the grass.

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And a hearty “Happy Valentine’s Day!” from the raccoon I’ve trained to work as a flower vendor and who, I might add, would be only too happy to provide the bouquet for your celebration.

I hope all this provided a ray of sunshine in these semi-dark times.

 

With Covid-19 regulations forcing me to stay home much of the time in recent months, I haven’t been able to roam the world and have been reduced to roaming Mitchell cabin. In doing so, I’ve been looking through my lifetime collection of music on 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records, tape cassettes, and CDs. With a number of notable exceptions, most of them had sat largely undisturbed for many years.

Before the pandemic, I indulged my taste in music every Friday night by going to hear live jazz at Sausalito’s No Name Bar. No more.

Based on what I’ve been pulling out of Mitchell cabin’s music collection, I’ve noticed something about myself. Much of what I’ve been listening to these past few months has to do with World War II and the years around it. I was a “war baby,” born in 1943, and that may influence what I find particularly interesting now even though I don’t remember hearing the music then.

One particular CD album of World War II music has reminded me what a moving soprano voice the English singer Vera Lynn possessed. Her song promising an eventual end to the war, White Cliffs of Dover (click to hear), epitomizes the sort of music I’ve been listening to recently.

Bing Crosby was one of the most popular performers of the era. His post-war song Now Is the Hour (click to hear) was one of many sad farewells sung for soldiers. Crosby, as it happened, was often shown smoking a pipe. 

Douglas MacArthur, a five-star general in the US Army, was also field marshal of the Philippine Army. He as befit the time frequently posed smoking a pipe

Filipinos speak more than 180 languages and dialects, so many Filipino troops couldn’t understand each other, let alone their English-speaking officers. The result was that orders would sometimes have to be translated from one group to another to another to another. Nonetheless, the Filipino forces under MacArthur were impressive in battle.

I took up pipe smoking in the summer of 1963 when I bought a briar from a sidewalk vendor in Paris. Perhaps because I was impressed by MacArthur’s demeanor I later tried switching to a corncob pipe like his. I could hold it with a firm bite, but the pipe could be a bit unbalanced — like MacArthur himself. In 1951, MacArthur lost his command when he had his troops invade North Korea despite President Harry Truman ordering him not to do so.

If one is going to smoke a long-stemmed pipe, I eventually decided, a churchwarden is much easier to handle although it can’t easily be held in one’s teeth with a firm bite like MacArthur’s. And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.