At that time, the Weed Inspector went through the yard, truly impressed with the biodiversity, all the legumes and long-lived perennial wildflowers, and asked that we post a sign that lets passers by and other civic officials recognize that the area is not overgrown from benign neglect, but is being managed as "habitat." Quickly, we posted metal signs issued from the National Wildlife Federation proclaiming our property as a "Backyard Wildlife Habitat" project. Not weeds. We didn't hear from the Weed Inspector for years. Until early August. Same routine: the Office of Neighborhood Services sent a Weed Violation to my landlady in California. She forwards her scanned letter to us two weeks later, giving us five days to "clean up" the yard or show up for a hearing. We spend three days trimming by hand, pulling the grape vines from the fencerow, deadheading the Echinacea that I had planned to leave for the wintering chickadees, and we make an appointment with the Weed Inspector two days before the hearing before City Council.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
I see the numbers of canoes and kayaks and inflatable rafts and other floatation devices, I see them issuing forth onto the river system and I wonder how wildlife manages with all of this recreational use of the river. How much of the party scene can persist before the people who are wanting to float the river for the scenic and solitary value become disengaged to the point that they don't want to return? So many stretches of Missouri rivers have been relegated to "party" status that they have been allowed to become degraded. The Gasconade, once a home to numerous rare mussel species, is now a jet-boat stream with so much sedimentation and streambank erosion, and no protection of the streambanks from cattle grazing, that the whole river is trashed ecologically. The Niangua River, once a focus area of biodiversity, has been seriously degraded in recent years with the explosion of float outfitters in the watershed with improper wastewater systems and land clearing.
Sunday, August 02, 2015
The morning cicadas drone beautifully on warm August mornings. In great hopes of normal flow patterns and clear, swift waters this week, I looked back at last August's float and recalled streambanks full of life, the pulse of late summer with katydids calling until sunrise.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Unfortunately, high quality systems where fire has been applied responsibly and carefully are rare in Missouri. Today, researchers are conducting fire effects studies in degraded systems, areas that have not been restored and never had integrity to begin with. What is disconcerting is that these flawed research projects are allowing for authoritative pronouncements proclaiming that the results of improperly applied fire in ecological trash is damaging, that all fire must be bad. But it's not. A lot of the new research is irrelevant to ecosystem management in high quality systems.
I'm sorry that there are so few areas in the Ozarks that still have the intact soil profile and herbaceous layer that supports native biodiversity on a landscape scale. Long histories of grazing, logging, and fire suppression have destroyed the opportunity for recovery, especially in today's climate that is far removed from natural. There are still thousands of acres that would benefit from carefully applied fire and ecological thinning, but there are so few land managers qualified to do it.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Sunday, June 28, 2015
When I was an undergrad, I had the wonderful chance to work with a brilliant scholar, Dr. Tom Samet. He died way too young, but his summer reading list offered up to all of us was recently uncovered. This from the man, a Fulbright Scholar, who invited his whole class to his house to watch Breaker Morant an influential film that gave us this: "The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations." It took me a few years into my thirties to break into Pynchon novels, but as a 42 year old, I'm glad I waited and remain sad that one of his followers, my favorite modern writer, David Foster Wallace (tennis player who went by Dave to all of his friends)left this world too soon. After an immensely stressful week that brought me to the cliff, I'm done. See this great reading list and escape, too, the mediocrity of people in higher paying jobs. The state's natural history is doomed.See below Dr. Samet's reading list for budding scholars. I'm pleased to know I've read most of them.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SUMMER READING Tom Samet I've listed below a handful of titles that you may want to consider reading while you bake at the beach. Naturally, the list reflects all of my personal biases, quirks, and preoccupations. Though there are exceptions to each of the following principles, I've in general been guided by these considerations: a. length: the list includes a number of very long books, on the assumption that if one doesn't read these during the summer, one doesn't read them at all; b. period: most of the volumes included are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which is where I'm most at home; c. familiarity: with few exceptions these are well known and celebrated books--classics, if you like; but I've tried to avoid those that you are most likely to encounter in the classroom.
Richard Altick, The Scholar Adventurers: as the title suggests, an account of major literary discoveries, including frauds, secret codes, and other mysteries; Victorian People and Ideas: an exceptionally useful and readable introduction to the life of nineteenth-century England W. H. Auden, Selected Poems Jane Austen, Mansfield Park: novel James Baldwin, Another Country: novel James Baldwin, Go Tell It On the Mountain: short fiction John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor: novel Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism: an enormously important study of the "disjunction" between economic structure and cultural values Saul Bellow, Herzog: novel Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers: major essays on Tolstoy, Herzen and others by one of the great British thinkers of the twentieth century Randolph Bourne, War and the Intellectuals: important essays by a central figure in American intellectual life during the first decades of the twentieth century Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth: one of the few memoirs of World War I by a woman Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: probably the best book on Freud ever written, and an indispensable introduction to psychoanalysis Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France: a major work by the central figure in English conservative thought Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote: novel--arguably the first one Joseph Conrad, Nostromo: novel--his most ambitious and possibly his greatest Malcolm Cowley, Exile's Return: the most important account of the writers of the "lost generation"--Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Cummings, etc. Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Little Dorrit: novels Morris Dickstein, Gates of Eden: a cultural history of the sixties Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov: novel George Eliot, Middlemarch: novel Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays F. Scott Fitzgerald, Selected Letters Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education Ford Madox Ford, Parade's End: a series of four novels, and arguably the finest work of fiction to emerge from the first world war E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy: essays Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: historical study by one of the most important and influential of recent French thinkers Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Totem and Taboo, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory: an award-winning study of the impact of the First World War upon the modern imagination Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, No Man's Land: major studies of women writers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd: important reflections on childhood in America at mid-century Edmund Gosse, Father and Son: a major Victorian autobiography, recording the conflict of faith with the secular pressures of the latter half of the nineteenth centuries Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That: memoir of World War I by a major modern writer Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls: novel Walter Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind: the best available account of the climate of thought and sentiment in Victorian England Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, The Princess Casamassima: novels James Joyce, Selected Letters Franz Kafka, Letter to His Father: as the title suggests, a letter from a great writer to his businessman father Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion: novel Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon: novel Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American life in the seventies by one of our major cultural historians D. H. Lawrence, The Rainbow: novel; Studies in Classic American Literature: critical essays; Phoenix: essays Norman Mailer, Armies of the Night: novel; Of a Fire on the Moon; journalism Thomas Mann, Death in Venice: short novel Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary: essays Herman Melville, Moby Dick: novel V. S. Naipaul, Guerillas, A Bend in the River: novels George Orwell, Collected Essays, Journalism, Letters (4 vols.) Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, V: novels Mordecai Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: novel David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd: a classic study of American character at midcentury Katherine Rogers, The Troublesome Helpmate: a history of misogyny in literature Philip Roth, Letting Go, The Ghost Writer: novels Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own: an important study of English women novelists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Patricia Meyer Sparks, The Female Imagination: a study of women's writing by a major American scholar Stendahl, The Red and the Black: novel Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: novel Ivan Turgenev, On the Eve, Fathers and Sons: novels Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men: major novel by a major American writer, based in part on the life of Huey Long Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall: novel Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: a profoundly important account of the emergence of capitalism from the change in religious sensibility brought about by the Reformation Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, The Long Revolution, The Country and the City: major studies by one of Britain's greatest cultural historians Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: historical studies in European socialism-- indispensable reading; Patriotic Gore: historical and biographical studies in the literature of the American Civil War Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own: an appeal for sexual equality; Three Guineas: an appeal for sexual equality; A Writer's Diary Richard Wright, Native Son: novel; Black Boy: autobiography
Sunday, June 21, 2015
The longest day of the year, the summer solstice is still underway but under cloudy skies, which is unfortunate. I thrive in sunlight, try to spend as much time as humanly possible in the sunlight and delighting in pretty days. Upcoming travel plans include Jackson Hole and the Willamette Valley, both areas that normally see rain, cloudy skies, cooler temperatures, but have switched weather patterns. Oregon is sunny! And dry! And warm but not too hot! With the flooding rivers in the Ozarks I have yet to go on a float, having seen all the gravel bars underwater on the Current and Jack's Fork. June seems to be as fleeting as spring wildflower season, which is disturbing. Before I can even catch my breath it will be time for the tennis tournament in Cincinnati. We're already approaching Wimbledon and I haven't even eaten a blackberry. Strawberries are on the menu in England, but by the grass court season in Missouri, we should be eating peaches. This year may be different having heard that the Malden peach producer has been impacted by a misapplication of herbicide, so we may not be seeing Bootheel peaches, depending instead on the north Missouri farms. Or, worse, Georgia. Raspberries showed up this weekend at the farmer's market, so summer isn't as fleeting as it seems with the solstice marking the beginning of shorter days and the coming of winter. Ach. Where is the time going?