Tuesday, August 30, 2005

It Feels Good Because it is Good

The best thing most of us could do for the environment is to die. So that leads us to the second best thing.

How does one consume less, pollute less and take up less space and still have a good time?
Maybe you have to redefine a good time. But you can still have fun.

You can do a lot by eliminating motors as much as possible. You can do a lot without a motor.
Sailboats can move pretty fast when the wind is right. Whitewater kayaks use natural forces to propel them through a challenging environment.

You can even skydive without using motors. Just BASE jump, using tall objects to gain your elevation.

Motorized recreation attracts people because it makes speed convenient and it makes it seem safe. But how safe is it, really?

It’s fun to drive like an asshole. I’ve been doing that for as long as I’ve had a driver’s license. But a sense of responsibility keeps me from doing it as much as I used to, and I never really went as far as I could. I still understand the compulsion.

If you push the margins of safety in motor vehicles, you might as well go into other dangerous activities and try to eliminate the motor. Jump off a cliff. Sail in a gale. Challenge yourself. Try to surf the wakes of really big ships with your kayak.

Human-powered recreation leads to physical fitness. Motorized recreation leads to physical deterioration.

If you’re not a thrill-seeker, you put even less pressure on your fun and games to stimulate adrenaline. You can walk, hike, swim, sail, paddle, row or cycle just for the pleasure and sense of accomplishment, and the feeling of vitality that always comes from physical activity.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hummingbirds, for some reason

One spring day in 1990, I noticed a hummingbird investigating the brightly-colored outdoor thermometer on the back of my house. Always a fan of the little sugar hawks, I broke out a couple of little feeders from storage. I'd hung them outside of other places I'd lived, and considered myself lucky if I'd get to see one or two a season.

Living in the piney woods, I was surprised to see a hummingbird at all. Imagine my astonishment when I soon had several at a time, day after day, all summer. Apparently, they like to nest in the shelter of the evergreens. Now my gardening wife has planted many flowers, but the breeding population showed up without any incentive I could see. They certainly seem to enjoy the feeders, if enjoy is the right word for the twittering dogfights that make up their day.

The first one, usually a male, shows up on May 12th each year as if by appointment. It may not be exactly the 12th in a given year, but it usually is. Days will pass with just the single bird, and then another. By the end of May the whole crowd has arrived. The buzzing and twittering joins the calls of phoebes and other nesting songbirds busy with the rites of spring.

They're insane. They battle constantly. Then, suddenly, peace will break out and two or more will land and sip amicably. The truce will last for minutes before everyone launches again.

They eat during the battles as well. Usually, a dominant bird will defend the feeder against all comers. You can actually hear them slam into each other. One day I came out the door to find one squirming on the ground. I thought the cat might have made a lucky pounce, but then I heard the other bird. It had simply knocked the loser out of the sky. The one on the ground gathered its wits and charged back into the air.

We just put a seed feeder out on the other side of a double hook in one of the flower beds. Chickadees and nuthatches look huge after watching hummingbirds for a couple of months.

This file photo from about ten years ago shows pretty good attendance at the feeder array I had at the time. It's nearly impossible to get a shot of the full action. Last week at breakfast time a cloud of at least half a dozen swirled around the one big feeder hanging outside the kitchen window.
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Breakfast companions on a rainy morning.
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I was using my outdoor office this afternoon, when a hummingbird flew in from my left. It hovered in front of me for many seconds, quite a long time in hummingbird time, looking up and down, back and forth, scrutinizing the details of my setup. Apparently satisfied, it leveled off and flew away to a nearby feeder. This is a file photo from last year. I'm sweltering in a blue tee shirt today. Hazy, hot and humid, as cicadas zizz in the tropical trees.
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