Monday, August 26, 2013

Spiders Have Their Place

Spiders Have Their Place

Spiders are not my favorite creatures. Perhaps this is because I was bitten by one long ago and never forgot the experience. Having admitted that, I have to go on to say that every creature has its place on earth and spiders are no exception.

One of the great things about spiders is that they eat mosquitoes. Considering how the mosquito population has exploded in recent years, this is a reason to celebrate the hairy/speckled/crawly species. Spiders actually eat thousands of insects that can plague your garden and/or home. They are much greener than chemical sprays as an insect repellent.

Even though spotting a spider makes me nervous, spiders, themselves, tend to be shy. If you don’t bother them, chances are they will leave you alone. They usually won’t bite unless they feel threatened. They keep a low profile and keep away from confrontation if possible. So it’s a good thing I tend to keep out of their way. But sometimes a spider will be visible, as this one was. It was spinning a web between the buddleia and hydrangea bushes right outside my dining room window. It was fascinating to watch. The silk thread was so fine that the spider seemed suspended in mid-air. Back and forth the arachnid went, creating a geometric grid so delicate it was hardly noticeable.

I think the spider I saw was an orb spider but I can’t be sure (anyone know?) because there are so many variations. Perhaps the diversity is one reason that spiders have been mythologized. Creation stories and folktales abound; Charlotte and her web are classic. I believe that variety is something to be appreciated. Perhaps I need to broaden my belief to include spiders.

So much to know about spiders:

Just as much to disregard about spiders:

How to tell an arachnid from an insect:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Remembering Eloise, Again

Remembering Eloise, Again

I was cleaning out the kitchen pantry and came across a bag of gravel tucked down in the corner on the floor behind the bottles of water. I used to put them in my cockatiel Eloise’s cage to help her digest better. It’s been over two years since she died at the advanced age of twenty-two; most cockatiels live 12-15 years, occasionally to 20, so we had the pleasure of her company for a little longer than most.

I have to say that seeing the gravel gave me a heart-twinge. It took me many months not to expect the hello chirp she offered whenever I entered the house. And the place her cage once occupied is still bare. She was a great companion bird.

Some people claim that companion birds don’t qualify as natural because they aren’t free in the wild to hunt for their food, establish nests, mate. True, they aren’t. But nature has a way of expressing itself anyway. They have particular food preferences as they would in the wild. They choose those they prefer as their main companions. And they certainly have their own, distinctive personalities. Are they shaped by their genes or by their surroundings – or both? The nature vs. nurture question arises with humans, too.

Our neighbor’s grown daughter was visiting and we started talking about birds. She had the job as a teen of caring for our cockatiel when we were away. She remembered Eloise fondly and spoke of her very definitive character. I was happy to hear that Eloise had made such a lasting impression on others who had contact with her.  I thought about how every living thing reflects its own, individual nature whether out in the wild or not and leaves part of its energy within its realm of existence.

Today I was remembering Eloise again, grateful that she spent some of her natural life with us.

Different birds have different life spans:
Cockatiels respond to their surroundings:

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Trenton City Museum

The Trenton City Museum

Don’t you love discovering something new and enriching? This weekend we found The Trenton City Museum in Trenton, NJ. It is a little gem situated within Cadwalader Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape designer of Central Park in New York City. The site consists of 100 acres of urban parkland with a variety of trees and shrubs, curving nature paths and roadways, and lots of places for picnics. 

The museum is housed in the Ellarslie Mansion, built in 1848 for Henry McCall Sr. of Philadelphia, as a summer residence. The mansion had a varied history of use over the years but was renovated in 1971 as the museum it is today.

The museum currently has a wonderful Crafts exhibition on the first floor. The second floor galleries focus on Trenton’s famous ceramic industry and house a collection of ceramicware, decorative arts, industrial memorabilia and historical objects. A photography exhibit is opening August 9th and will run until September 22nd.

Sometimes a surprise is what we need to awaken our senses and remind us of the treasures around us. Flowers do that for me each Spring, when the buds hint of their imminent blossoming. But that’s the nature of discovery, the unknowing that gives way to delight. It seems to come out of the blue yet, often, was there all the time. Like a park and a museum that is only a car ride away.

A lovely place to discover: