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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Wren In the Pen

Bow asked to go outside for the second time this morning. I think he already knew what I did not yet know -- that there was a small bird, a Carolina wren -- trapped inside the outer pen. I went in to get a container to trap it in, grabbing the closest thing handy, a trash can with a plastic bag for a liner. When I went back out to the pen, I kept the door to the airlock open, so the wren could fly in to safety. Bow had such an intelligent look on his face, as he held the door open for me and the wren.

We closed the door on the wren once it got into the airlock, with Bow staying in the outer pen, but with me indoors. However, the wren favored the space between the sliding glass door and the iron grated door. Bow watched me deal with the issue of how to catch it, and he remembered the trash can that was still in the outer pen with him. He went to get the trash can, though I already had gotten a tupperware container from inside.

Even though he was on the other side of the grid from me, Bow was very involved in the process of catching the wren. He had gone back to fetch the trash can and was holding it and seemed eager to use it to help catch the wren. Meanwhile, I was trying to get the wren to move out of the small space between the glass door and the grid and to move into the inner recesses of the airlock, so I could close the glass door.

I got the glass door closed and was getting ready to trap it in the tupperware container, but it flew up again.

Eventually I was able to catch the wren. I showed Bow that I had the wren trapped in the container, but he was too busy pretending that he had caught a bird in his trash can.

I released the wren in the front yard, and it flew away.

After I had set the Carolina Wren free in the front yard,  I came back to let Bow in from the outer pen.

He came in cradling the trash can, as if it were the most precious thing in the world to him! You can watch all the clips together as a single sequence in the video below.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bow Gives Back

Every week, Bow's friend comes by to deliver his bananas. She always phones before she comes over, and she always asks: "Is Bow ready for his bananas?' And Bow is always ready.
Bow holding an orange pipe cleaner

Over time, Bow and his friend have gotten to be very close, although always the grid of the pens separates them. Bow's friend asks him about his day, and she tells him about hers. Sometimes she shows him pictures and videos of her grandchildren. Bow watches with great interest.

Our Collection of Pipe Cleaners by the Bananas

 Even though Bow's friend is never on the same side of the grid with him, she has gotten to tickle and groom him using pipe cleaners that can fit through the holes in the grid. In this way, their relationship is not just verbal but also tactile

Bow reading the Missouri Conservationist

Bow's friends has brought him many gifts over the years, including issues of the Missouri Conservationist to read and his favorite treat: Pickle Ice.  These gifts have mostly been one-sided. Bow was always the recipient, never the giver.

Bow Enjoying the Gift of Pickle Ice

Last week, that changed. Bow found a way to give back. As Bow's friend was tickling him with the pipe cleaner, the little fuzzy thing fell into Bow's side of the pen.

The Pipe Cleaner in Motion

Bow started playing with it, winding it tightly around his finger, so tightly that his friend was a little concerned that he might never get it off. But he did get it off eventually, and when he saw that his friend wanted it, he found a way to pass it back to her. She was so happy to have this gift from Bow, that now it hangs on her banana magnet at home.

The Pipe Cleaner in its New Home

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Secret Shame of Butterflies

Bow and I are terrestrial beings. As such, we breathe air, drink water, and take in nutrients from dead plants and dead animals. We breathe, we eat, we sleep, we exercise and express ourselves, sometimes loudly and sometimes softly, and we get rid of waste. We are not angels. We don't walk on air or take our nourishment without harming another living soul. But we are also not hypocrites.

Bow is not fooled by the Butterfly

Our dogs are the same. They play together. They eat. They defecate, And they are so innocent and alive and natural that they feel no shame concerning any of these functions.

And yes, I do have dogs. I own them. And they own me. And that's nothing to be ashamed of, either.

We eat. We breathe. We exploit nature for nutrients. And we give back a waste product, which in turn can be someone else's food. Everybody does that, right? It's nothing to boast about, but also nothing to be ashamed of.

And then there are the butterflies. They flit in and out of our lives, beautiful, resplendent beings, and we tend to put them on a pedestal, as if they alone did nothing awkward in order to gain their livelihood.  The black swallowtail flew right past me to land on a yellow bidens flower, but when I drew closer it flitted away.

This is how we like to think of butterflies -- as beautiful and independent, incorruptible and feeding on nectar and drew drops and moonbeams. But butterflies have feet of clay, too, not unlike spiders.

 The spider has an ugly reputation, because it captures and feeds on other insects.

But did you know that butterflies are not the innocent vegans we sometimes take them to be? One day, I saw a Common Buckeye sitting on something on my private road. From a distance, I could not tell what it was.

But as I drew closer, I could clearly see that the Buckeye had been perched on a dead frog. It rains every day, sometimes almost flooding the road, but as soon as the rain retreats, then we get sunshine, and things dry up very fast. Earthworms are not the only victims in this rapid change of environment, and sometimes frogs wash out of local ponds and end up drying to death on our road. Then the butterflies come out and feast on dead flesh.

You can't really blame the Common Buckeye for what it does for a living. As it gets older, later on in the butterfly season, it loses its ability to fly long distances, and sometimes you can just see it walking along down the road, looking for carrion.

There is no shame in eating what is available when it is available, unless, of course, you have been pretending to be something you are not. The coquettish orange-spotted purple in our backyard gives itself airs, as if it were far above us, and as if we were far beneath it. But we are on to it. Yesterday, we caught it on film eating dung!

The Orange-spotted Purple Caught in the Act
There it was in all its glory, and I, not wanting to disturb it, let the dogs into the house, so that the orange-spotted purple and I would have the backyard all to ourselves. Bow, in the outer pen, was the only other witness. So absorbed was the butterfly in what it was doing that it let me creep up on it and film its every move. But Bow was not fooled! You can hear him displaying at the butterfly in the background.

The butterfly had been boastful and imperious before, suggesting that it was low and base of me to take time out of my research to try to earn a living by getting paid for my time. The butterfly had acted as if it never stooped so low as to be motivated by money or nutrients. It was above all that. It only did things for art and beauty and science and the good of all mankind.  Don't you believe it!

People who utilize nonprofits to make a living hide their profit motive, But the motive is still there. And in odd, unguarded moments, they slip up and let you see what they are really like.

At a meeting of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), the nonprofit's executive director, Kellie Heckman,  stated:
Most of us came into the animal welfare business, you know,  for one reason: It's because we love money. 
Then she realized she had slipped up, and she put her hand to her mouth and made an inarticulate shameful noise. Believe me, that is the one moment of truth in the entire video. Later, that part was edited out for public consumption, in the same way that dung could be edited out of my beautiful portraits of the orange-spotted purple butterfly. I was almost complicit in doing that, because I felt maybe my readers do not really want to know the truth about butterflies. But I decided to be brave.

The butterfly has been preaching to me that I should not ask for payment for my time and Bow's or for money to feed my dogs or to make repairs to my research facility or to put food on the table for my family, which includes Bow and my daughter, and the dogs and the birds who depend on us. The butterfly has accused me of selling out when I do things for a living, such as write for certain papers "which as everybody know, is worse the serving in a shop or scaring of the crows."

But I do good work when I write for the Libertarian Papers. I expose, for instance, how nonprofits are being used by the powerful and the wealthy.

I do good work for all of us, when I write about what the Federal government has been doing to break up the family.

I do good work in covering the FDA's attempts to corner the market on pain relievers.

I am not a sell out because I want to be paid for my time, and because I don't pretend that I don't like money. Money is not the root of all evil. People pretending not to want money while they line their pockets at other people's expense are the problem.

So the next time a butterfly or a nonprofit tells you that it is above earthly concerns, don't you fall for that. Even butterflies need to eat. And they will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How We Live Now

Almost every day it rains. When it does rain, Bow sometimes acts as if it is the end of the world. It pours and pours and the sky is dark, and everyone has to take cover, even the butterflies.

But Bow manages to stay high and dry, even when the ground is wet outside.

Sometimes, he achieves this goal by perching high on his bench. At other times he uses the swing to keep his feet out of the puddles.

Higher and higher he swings. 

Sometimes a rainbow appears in the sky when I go shopping for groceries in Licking.

After the rains we are often visited by the coquettish orange-spotted purple butterfly. "Catch me if you can!" she cries and leads me on a merry chase. I finally decided to put her dance to the music of the Habanera.

The orange-spotted purple sticks so close to us that one time Leo was actually able to sniff at it.

Apparently, it did not smell all that interesting, as Leo let it go on with its business undeterred after a a single sniff. Other butterflies seem to want to get close to us. One day I found an eastern Tiger Swallowtail trapped in the garage.

It kept looking  longingly out at the green back yard, until I finally let it out. 

So what are these butterflies trying to tell Bow and me? I compiled a video of all my recent EasternTiger Swallowtail encounters into a video. Can you see Bow in the outerpen at the very end, when the butterfly flies out?

Are the butterflies trying to trap me?  Or do they think that I am trying to trap them?  Or are we all free spirits, striving to maintain our own independence, while engaging in fulfilling interactions?

Hard to say!