Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Elliot’s Photographic Scavenger Hunt

Went out to see the Perseids last night. Set the alarm for 2:00 and took blankets out to the grass behind the corn crib, now Steve Martin's (the family rooster's) home. It's not like we lived in the big city before, but we certainly have a much better view of the stars out here. We laid on our backs and watched silvery flashes race through the infinite black. My wife has often made it out for this, and last night I finally got my bottom up.

Technology gets blamed for a supposed "nature deficit disorder," but technology can also get kids out. Two examples: we bought a new bird book that plays songs and calls of Eastern birds. On our trip to Maine, Sam had yellow warblers flocking to the shrubs nearby. He had a robin fly right at him the other day, checking to see about this intruder (he also had Steve Martin come at him when he imitated a rooster's call).

Example #2: my daughter is in much right now with a broken wrist (bad fall from rope swing). Yesterday I sent her on a photographic scavenger hunt. I wanted a picture of a preying mantis (we've seen a lot), a spider that lives near here that we don't know and have never seen before, part arachnid and part triceratops, and any other insect or bird life. She didn't get the preying mantis. But here's what she did came back with (sorry--gonna be easier if I take you to another webpage--and this in a post about the benefits of technology):

That is supposed to be the spider.

Some kind of butterfly. (Hey, photography not yet our strong suit).

Ebony jewelwing. (Yeah. Hard to see I know. Deal with it).

Our very own indigo bunting, very upset by some hummingbirds, ruby throated, we think.


Bee on thistle.


Yellow jacket on apple.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Soccer Coach / English Teacher

Found another kindred spirit in the blogosphere: another parent trying to get his kids outside. He's also a soccer coach so maybe he can help. And as a fellow English teacher: he wonders why he stresses the "disinction between a tercet and a quatrain when they know nothing about tanagers and cardinals." I hear ya loud and clear Clark.

Soccer Parent

My son is attending soccer camp this week in our annual, early-August heat. I watched him finish from the little shade provided by the aluminum bleachers. After it was over, he told me nothing of the drills they did, skills they worked on, or the games they played, but, as this field overlooks the New River (and the only place to find shade on the banks that once provided no shade—another story), he told me that he saw five or six rises in the stretch of river between the Dedmon Center field at Radford University and the little island across from it. Though his feet were tired, he wanted to know if we could put canoe in and maybe “troll the ledges on the other side.” As of yet, he’s still not too much of a soccer player, but he does like to fish.

I played when I was young and loved when all eleven players came together. I liked to run and I guess I had excess energy to burn. Played up until and into college. But, I don’t much like this soccer culture anymore. Sam played on a travel team last year and I saw some benefits: the discipline of practice, the listening to your coach, the working with your teammates. But our team, though talented and made of 10 year-olds, wasn’t always the best of sports (and our parents came in last in the sportsmanship ratings). And for some people, soccer seems like their whole life.

But there we were at camp this morning, with the other soccer moms and dads, dropping off kids in specialty soccer flip flops, the kind with nubbins to message your feet (it is so not cool to wear your cleats until the very last minute). Why do we--collective we--do it (by it, I mean the practices and camps, the travel to games)? There are benefits of exercise, yes—soccer is a very aerobic sport. But why specialize so much? Would his summer days be better filled with the kind of camp where they play outdoor camps, canoe and kayak, swing on rope swings? Can somewhat smarter than me help? Is there a sociological explanation? Is it bragging rights? Part of our economic system? Playing soccer provides some kind of economic capital. That can’t be it—you can’t make money in soccer in the US, but it seems symbolic of something. The suburban parents dropping off kids, in their Suburbans, are mostly doing alright economically.

Balance. I guess that’s what I’m after when it comes to these organized sports. A little soccer here. Some baseball there. Maybe a game of tennis. Or Frisbee. A good hike. Lots of walks on the new place. And tomorrow, after soccer, we’ll see what kind of small-mouthed bass are lurking beneath the rock ledges beyond the pitch. Wonder what will be more exhilarating, offer more reward: the ball in the back of the net, or fish at the bottom of one?

Postscript: caught a beautiful bass on the first cast of the day. It jumped out of the water to throw the hook, but Sam kept him on. A beautiful fish too: golden yellow, a little green, hard brown spots in a stripe up the side, hard lower lip to grab and take the hook out, and to kiss upon release. So there’s a question for readers. Do you kiss your fish?

Monday, August 4, 2008

The One That (Almost) Got Away

Haven't put much up lately. This picture sort of shows the reason. We moved. To readers who are familiar with the book, the "one that got away" came available again, and then we made an offer that they accepted, and after that our house sold (in the first day), and it was hard to stop this ball once she started rolling. But here we are, and though the chore list is long, the boxes still unpacked, I can step outside off the upstairs porch in this picture and watch the sun set on some 10 acres, watch great blue heron in the creek that flows through, see our two dogs play (it's a great place to be a dog), or listen to the newest member of the family, a rooster named Steve Martin. Our feet had gotten nearly cold right around the move, but I think the place is growing on us, and we're glad we're here.
This weekend we went to a nursery down the street, now closed for the season (we didn't know), and they practically gave us what was left: a few pepper plants, some annuals, but also a gingko and a pear tree. Elliot has always wanted a flower garden and the woman who runs the place was so pleased to hear that the plants would be going in the ground rather than shriveling up in their plastic containers that she kept piling them on. Good neighbors. Childress Garden Center (not the kind of place to have a website, or I'd link it).
Tomorrow night, 8/5: speaking at the Radford Public Library at 7.
A blogger, Nels, reviewing the book for something, commented that NSW would "make a good pair with Kingsolver."
In other news, will be giving a keynote at the Virginia Environmental Education Conference, September 17.