That Secret From the River

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

I have written about it, here, many times before – All my live I have always wanted to live on a creek lot. For the last decade or so I do, sort of… it is more of a ditch lot – the creek is tamed into a straight line in the middle of the block, exactly between property lines. No natural watercourse flows in a straight line.

It is tamed in terms of location and direction… but not in terms of flow. Usually a quiet narrow strip of water barely moving, when it rains the water rises and becomes violent.

The last storm (not the big one, a couple days later) I took some photos from the Yale Street Bridge right when the rain ended and again, the next morning.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, upstream, under normal conditions.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, upstream, after a rain.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, downstream, under normal conditions.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, downstream, after a rain.

The crazy thing how fast this transformation occurs. Despite the buffering of the flood control ponds upstream during a thunder-boomer the water will come down in a wall and the creek will rise in seconds. When it ends the water drops almost as fast, leaving only a line of detritus as a reminder of the violence that was there minutes before.

These are by no means photographs taken under extreme conditions. That little bit of water visible in the before photos will almost completely dry up in July and August, evaporated under the deadly Dallas Texas summer sun and inevitable drought. This was only an ordinary spring thunderstorm, I’ve seen the water significantly higher (over the bike trail, for instance). I simply can’t get a photograph of that because of darkness and/or fear.

 

Spider Update

“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”
“Easy,” said the cat. “Think of somebody walking around the world. You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.”
“Small world,” said Coraline.
“It’s big enough for her,” said the cat. “Spider’s webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Trinity River Levee
Dallas, Texas

Only two days ago I wrote about the spider that lives in the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car.

He has been there every morning. Today, watching his behavior closely, I realized what he is doing.

When I came to my car he was nowhere to be seen, but his web was stretched out from the mirror capsule to the door. It was oval, complex, symmetrical, and beautiful shining gossamer in the rising sun.

As I drove down the road, suddenly he emerged, fighting the wind, moving over his web as best as he could.

Why didn’t he stay put? Why did he come out of the safety of the mirror housing to flap around in the speeding air?

I watched him (as best as I could… I had to drive) and suddenly realized what he was doing – what he was doing every morning out there.

He was eating his web. First, he gathered all the disparate strands into one, thick, sturdy rope and once that was accomplished, he devoured the strand surprisingly quickly. Only then did he return to the safety of the mirror housing.

I wasn’t sure if I saw it right, so I looked up “Do spiders eat their old webs?” on the internet. Sure enough, they do.

From Indiana Public Media:

Look around many homes and businesses today, and you’ll see recycling bins full of paper, metal cans, and plastic.

In a world of limited resources, it makes sense to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. That’s why humans aren’t the first to try to conserve natural resources by recycling. Spiders have their own program to recycle valuable protein.

Tangled Prey

The spiders we’re talking about are the orb-weavers, the ones that make those rounded, intricate webs you see shimmering between branches in a garden or forest. To increase their chances of capturing prey, orb-weavers’ webs are often located in high traffic areas. This makes damage to the web more likely, either when a scrumptious morsel gets tangled in it or when a bumbling human gets hung up for a few seconds!

Some orb-weavers remake their webs every day, whether it’s damaged or not. Since spider’s silk is made of protein, all this web-weaving requires considerable amounts of protein. What if a nice, protein-rich insect doesn’t get trapped in the web every day? What’s a hungry orb-weaver to do?

Recycling

That’s where the spider’s genius for recycling comes in. When the orb-weaver takes apart an old web, it actually eats the silk. The protein from the old silk is never wasted, from the spider’s digestive system, it goes to the silk glands to be made into a new web. Even if a spider misses a few meals, it can still go on spinning webs. This is thanks to the efficient recycling program that lets spiders conserve protein by eating old webs.

You learn something new every day.

Spider In the Darkness

“If there is a God he’s a great loathsome spider in the darkness.”
John Fowles, The Collector

Louise Bourgeois, Spider

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art

spide_w
(Click for full size version on Flickr)

There is a spider living inside the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car. It’s a modern, streamlined plastic capsule that holds, in addition to the mirror, the mechanism for remote adjusting of the view, so there’s plenty of room. Since the mirror moves, there’s a gap around it, so the spider can easily slip in and out. It is pretty much ideal for a spider to live in.

When I say he lives there, I mean he spends the day there. At night he spins a web between the mirror and my driver’s side window. He must catch plenty to eat, because when I first noticed him, he was a tiny little arachnid-ette but now he’s a big fat Shelob-ish thing. I don’t see the spider every day, but it isn’t rare.

You see, the problem is, being a spider, he hasn’t figured out the whole car thing. I notice the spider when I drive to work – he is next to my face, after all, on the other side of the glass but right there. I guess some days, maybe the days I’m running late to work (usually) he takes down his insect-trap and retreats inside the mirror assembly before I come out and start the car. But if I’m early or he’s late he gets caught out there, on his web, while I drive down the road. These are residential streets so I don’t go much faster than forty – but that’s a lot of wind for a spider in a web. He swings and flails and hangs on for dear life.

Does a spider feel pain? Does a spider get dizzy? He must not because he was caught in a certain configuration this morning such that he started to spin in the wind hanging on a strand of web behind the mirror. When I say spin I mean spin. Like a tiny top on a string round and round extremely fast. A little pea sized arachnid blur – his legs held together, disappearing with the speed. But when I came to a stop sign he calmly set about his business of tidying up his web until I took off again – then he spun some more.

That’s the funny thing, during my ragged commute he alternates between swinging or spinning wildly in the wind when I’m moving to working his web remnants at stop signs or red lights. He has a mysterious spider purpose in arranging what’s left of his nightly web. I don’t know why he can’t simply let it go… he’s going to make a new one each night anyway. At any rate – usually about halfway to my work – I’ll stop for a minute and he’ll calmly move up the web and disappear behind the mirror to do spider things the rest of the day.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t really rescue him – and I’m a little afraid of him. But one day soon I won’t be going to work, but will have to drive somewhere on the highway. There’s a difference in the spider world between a forty mile per hour wind and one going, say, eighty.

A Cloud Flower

“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world, because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.”

― Margaret Atwood,  The Year of the Flood

Mushrooms along the creek in back of my house.

When I was a little kid, my parents had a friend that knew what eatable mushrooms looked like, in contrast with poisonous ones. We lived next to a golf course and I remember him coming over with some others, they woke me up at four in the morning and we headed out to the golf course with flashlights and little plastic buckets. I’m not sure why (or even if I remember this accurately) but there were mushrooms everywhere. I didn’t even need my flashlight – it was if they glowed in the moonlight. We filled up our buckets and headed home. The expert examined the pile… one by one, to insure we all had “good” mushrooms.

What an odd memory. Maybe it never even happened… but I hope it did. I don’t remember eating the mushrooms… but back in those days the adults kept the delicacies for themselves.

Stump

Curvewarped reflections of stars flowing across, down the full length of, round and round in meridians exact as the meridians of acupuncture. What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Stump I dug up from the backyard.

It’s funny, you buy a little plant that’s on sale – ten cents on the dollar – somewhere and think “What the hell” and put it into a bed in the backyard without much thought, maybe in one under a window. The thing is in a tiny plastic pot – it doesn’t really deserve much thought.  A-and you don’t really like the thing… don’t like it at all – but still it grows. It grows and grows. It covers the window with odd-colored leaves and even more oddly colored blossoms. It grows until you forget what it was called and it doesn’t match any of the pictures in your gardening books. No wonder it was on sale.

It’s neglected and cut down and gets no water. But it still grows. Year after year it comes back. It always comes back.

Finally, this year, we decide we’ve had enough. It’s the plant, or us. Candy started… I came home from work and she had cut the plant off (again) and was trying to dig the stump and roots out. She wasn’t making much progress. I was too tired to help for very long – but I hunted around in the garage and found my sharpshooter. A sharpshooter is a kind of long and rectangular, small, but heavy shovel. It has a sharpened front edge and is used to cut underground roots – sometimes by literally throwing the thing down into a hole you’ve dug…. I was able to hack through a couple smallish ones before I had to give up.

The next day, Nick came over and between watching basketball games (for this is truly a great time of year… March Madness and all) we went out in the back yard and took turns digging and chopping with the sharpshooter, a big shovel, and a pry bar.

Finally, I decided there were some serious roots running down deep that needed more power to defeat. I brought out a small chain saw and started shoving the blade down into the spaces we dug out. That did the trick. There was one deep tap root and once the chain saw chewed through that – the whole thing came out. I lifted it up and heaved it over the fence, across the alley, and down to the creek.

No wonder the damn thing had been on sale.

Outside the Lab

But then Pointsman laughs the well-known laugh that’s done him yeoman service in a profession where too often it’s hedge or hang. “I’m always being told to take animals.” He means that years ago a colleague – gone now – told him he’d be more human, warmer, if he kept a dog of his own, outside the lab. Pointsman tried – God knows he did – it was a springer spaniel named Gloucester, pleasant enough animal, he supposed, but the try lasted less than a month. What finally irritated him out of all tolerance was that the dog didn’t know how to reverse its behavior. It could open doors to the rain and the spring insects, but not close them … knock over garbage, vomit on the floor, but not clean it up – how could anyone live with such a creature?

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Isaak as a puppy, when we first picked him a year ago.

Isaak in the pond at NorthBark Park, Dallas, Texas

My son’s dog, Champ

We have had Isaak, our dog, our rescue, for a year now. We don’t know exactly how old he is, but he was a young puppy when he came to us, so he is a bit over a year old. He’s pretty much as big as he’s going to get, but still has a lot of puppy spirit, for good and bad, in him. Other than excitement over tennis balls and the squirrels in our backyard trees that taunt him – he’s a well behaved and relatively calm dog.

We also have my son’s black lab with us – he and Isaak get along great. It isn’t unusual for us to have other people’s dogs too – kept as a favor for friends while they are on vacation or foster dogs (especially ones that need some socializing) or people pay us to watch their pooches.

The other day, we had another black lab mix staying, a little smaller than my son’s dog. So we had three… if not big, then good-sized dogs at the house.

I was having some trouble sleeping, and it was work the next day, so I was laying in bed, awake, trying to relax and get some rest before having to go back into the breach the next morning. A little after midnight… the guest dog wasn’t too comfortable with the doggie door, so Candy got up and let the three of them out the back door.

I’m not sure why she did this, but as the dogs ran by she reached out and flipped on the light switch for the back yard (I mean… the dogs can pee in the dark, can’t they?) and there, right in the middle of the yard, illuminated by a circle of spotlights, sat a rabbit.

The dogs went nuts – all three bolted for the bunny – and the rabbit made a mistake. The rabbit ran to the east side of the house, where the fence runs along the wall, a few feet away, until it ends near the front. The rabbit hit that dead end and had nowhere to go but to turn around. The three dogs were on him.

Our dog, Isaak, like most dogs rescued from the Dallas pound, is a pit bull mix. He doesn’t really look like a pit (he has long legs and a long snout) but is, according to his DNA scan, one quarter American Staffordshire Terrier – which is a polite term for Pit Bull. The poor rabbit didn’t have a chance. He was dead in a few seconds.

Candy, of course, went crazy. You see, to her the dogs are like people. They live in the house, most of the time, eat the food you give them, and chase tennis balls around. But right under that domesticated surface is a wild animal… and seeing a big fat rabbit standing there right in the middle of their territory, the back yard, is enough to bring that wild animal boiling out in a split second.

I jumped out of bed, chased the dogs back inside and, with more than a little trepidation walked around to the side of the house (at this time, I didn’t know what had happened); I only knew that the dogs had run down something. There was the rabbit, a big one, freshly dead with a big hunk missing from its side.

Isaak was walking around, coughing.

“We need to take him to the emergency room,” Candy said.

“Naw, he’ll be alright, though you’d better keep an eye on him, he’ll probably yakk up a big ball of rabbit fur any minute,” I said.

So it fell to me to go out and pick up the poor dead rabbit and throw him over the fence. We live on a creek lot so I went around and took the body down by the water, so the coyotes will have a snack sometime later that night.

I feel bad about the bunny, but not too bad. There are hundreds of rabbits along that creek after all. I wonder why the rabbit ventured into our yard. Surely they have some survival instincts and our yard smells of dog as much as any – it’s like the rabbit tried to sneak into a kennel.

I didn’t get much sleep – Candy and my son’s dog were freaked out by the whole thing. Isaak was just excited.

He’s a city domesticated pit bull mix – this was probably the high point of his entire life.

Back From the Shadows

Back from the Shadows again !
Out where an In-jun’s your friend!
Where the veg’tables are green,
And you can pee into the stream!
Yes, we’re back from the Shadows again!

—-Firesign Theater,I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus

 

Every year, in the brief interlude between Christmas and New Year’s, I get sick. Really sick. Like clockwork.

For a long time, I didn’t understand. Then I realized it was the Cedar Flu. You see there are these cedar trees in the hill country and south Texas and in the winter they give off pollen – a lot of pollen.

Amazing. Sickening. One certain days the air itself feels like it is full of razor blades.

The last two years were particularly hellish. The congestion spread to my lungs and led to pulmonary and sinus infections. That isn’t good for anybody. The worst every year is the lack of sleep. If you start coughing uncontrollably every fifteen minutes it’s impossible to get a decent amount of rest. As I get older it all seem to be getting worse. Where I could just tough through it before… it lays me out now.

I looked all over the internet and found one women that suffered like I do and had found a solution. In January every year she went to the Bahamas for a month and a half. That sounded good, but I didn’t think I would be able to pull it off.

So this year, I decided to fight the thing. Starting at Christmas I:

  • Claritin and Ibuprofen every day
  • Stayed out of the cold
  • Extra Sleep
  • Neti pot twice a day
  • Humidifier by my bed and by my desk (this was new this year – worked great – don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier)

And hardest of all – no bike riding. That was tough, but that’s a lot of exposure to the pollen and the cold.

So January felt like a lost month. Basically going to work and going to sleep and not much else. But it worked. It’s February and I’ve been doing pretty well. The last few days I’ve felt almost human. I went for a long bike ride today and felt my lack of fitness, but otherwise it was glorious.

So February is the start of my new year. When I wrap this up I’m heading down to Deep Ellum for the annual For the Love of Kettle competitive shopping event with fifty dollars of Christmas money clutched in my fist, ready to get a piece of art.

Back from the shadows again.

Flock in Space, Ruben Ochoa
Trinity River Audubon Center, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)