Tag Archives: nature

Little Windows on the Whole Wide World

It’s said that Winston Churchill, in his dotage, lamented to his personal physician that modernity had shrunk the world beyond recognition. The destruction of vast distances by fuel, speed, and determination removed a great deal of the mystery and romance from travel and imagination, Churchill said.

Strictly speaking, he was right. And consider Winston’s point of view: as a former soldier and adventurer, he was exactly the kind of daring spirit designed to best profit from exuberant imperialism. And he did.

Katmai's brown bears getting ready to do their salmon dance, courtesy of a well-placed webcam in the wild

Katmai’s brown bears getting ready to do their salmon dance, courtesy of a well-placed webcam in the wild

But even Churchill would have been amazed at what technology enables us to do today — if only just visually. As much as we’d like to go to many places, time and expense cross too many destinations off the list. But — we can still see, and marvel.

A friend put me onto a fascinating webcam, one of thousands in the world by now. This one spies openly on brown bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska. At any given daylight moment, you can link up and see the ursine population of Katmai standing in  the rushing stream below the falls, waiting for a hapless salmon to jump upstream. Occasionally, a bear snaps out of his lugubrious stupor long enough to grab a flying salmon and chow down.

It’s a simple thing, and no different than the technology that enables us  to see Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, a lakeside beach in Chicago, or puffins in a nest in northeastern Maine. Really happening, confirming imagination, putting edges and colors on things once only dreamed of. And why did Churchill and his peers work so hard to travel to these places and see these things, if not to get us to a world where we could bring these curiosities to everyone?

Look. Learn. Enjoy.

© 2014 Adam Barr

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Turns Out That Backyard Thing Was True

Remember when we were kids, and adventure/runaway tales always ended with the lesson that one need never search for excitement farther away than one’s own back yard? Even Dorothy said it, after her reunion with Toto, the rest of her family, and that farmhand unaccountably named Hunk, or some such thing. (Hunk of what? Did the guy have no self-esteem just because he worked with pigs?)

But I regress. At age 8, we all knew that the in-you-own-back-yard thing was an adult canard, a veiled scare tactic to keep us from running away to join the circus or find the buried treasure. We knew nothing worthwhile could be buried beneath the caky soil of our boring back yards. You had to travel far, confront evildoers, and overcome unspecified but exciting dangers to really prosper.

Once we went off and joined the adult circus, we learned a thing or two. Traveling far is all well and good, but 100 trips to the grocery store also add up. Evildoers tend to have a direct line to human resources, who cannot see their innate evil. And dangers become even less specific as time goes on. Being the undaunted hero of one’s own story takes more and more energy.

So the occasional respite in one’s own back yard takes on a new attraction. And if, like me, you’re lucky enough to have a back yard full of nice things to look at while the dog trots around happily, so much the better. Tarry ho. — Adam Barr

Copyright 2012 Adam Barr

Pretty colors outside the guest room window

Mexican heather, a reliable butterfly attractant, in mid-rejuvenation

A visit from one of our many friends in the local reptile community. A knowledgeable friend of mine calls them enoles. The throat-puff is for my benefit, although I am not interested in mating. With him.

Garden play. Angus chases the lizards, or enoles, but they are too quick for him, so he has fun without hurting them.


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