Monday, March 29, 2010

South Florida Night Sounds

Some highlights that I need to keep, as I leave the vehicular madness of the freeway, coming out of Corkscrew and onto the interstate and reflecting on a few notable sonic--and some visual-- memories. In the last evenings of the South Florida redolence, the most prominent and haunting sounds are the nightjars. The Chuck-will's-Widow, and the Whip-poor-will, carry on wonderfully repetitive, somewhat haunting, and distinctively unknowable sonic offerings from the edges of the dense, wild, wall of vegetation that threatens the very notion of civilization. Fitting that we only heard these sounds toward the end of our time, as the sounds of children and laughter began to fade, leaving the birds to repeat and repeat as long as they liked, haunting us, giving warning that our time is only a heartbeat, Chuck-will's widow, Chuck-will's widow, and then, the Whip-poor-Will, Whip-poor-will...For me, these sounds have an additional reverence, as my mother was enamored of these birds, with their rolling gait and lively repetitiveness, calling in their mysterious night sound, only losing their voice toward dawn. I am blessed to live on this great green ball.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Preparing for Corkscrew NWR

So, it's come to this. We've gorged on wonderful food. We've given our bodies to Sol. We have weathered the myriad logistics involved with grown and teen children (some ours, some the children's entourages.) The airport personnel now know us by first name. Funds are running low. The condo pantry is nearly depleted. The Sanibel "Bean" purchases are slowing. The first wave of defectors is over. We are winding down to the nucleus. We start to think about the drive back home. Re-entry. School. College. Work. The imposition of external reality. Yes, it is coming to a close. BUT: not so fast. The spring migration has begun. And our last act is the Corkscrew day. The day we shift into the final delight that is the pristine swamp. I will acknowledge that not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about this; but my family knows that I need that fix, and they humor me for the few hours that we spend in the eerily silent (albeit punctuated from time to time in some very odd ways)...such as the groaning roar of a twenty foot gator bellowing, or the slapping report of its massive tail. We don't expect to run into any bears, but some ten years ago I ran into one on the boardwalk trail! Mostly, we marvel at how close we can get to the twenty or so species of birds that we will encounter. For me, it's like a place apart, one that I can summon in my mind's eye throughout the year, offering me a solace and the comfort of knowing that there is wonder, beauty, and the potential, always, to call the natural, to be reassured in the constantly evolving universe, to participate, fully, in the majesty of the Green Fuse, the source and comfort from within and without. Let it shine. Hic finis est.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snowy Plover Sanibel

Last year, the birders were beside themselves over the notion of seeing the Piping Plover, on the flimsy reed of hope that finally broke their hearts, once the few but adamant voices were silenced by the near certainty that the bird was not to be seen. Genetically very similar, but far more common than the Piping Plover, scientists began to re-engage in the study of the more common Snowy plover. As with last year's enthusiasm, the hope was that the study of the close cousin might be found to have enough similarity to breed a "clone" if you will, using the understanding that has come with the interest in the bird. As an unabashed voyeur, where birds are concerned, I was able today, to observe and nearly to find a spot in the boudoir, as it were, as I watched the courtship and carnal union of a banded snowy plover from last year (as judged by the bands on the male) and a new individual. The carnal event took seven minutes, standing on the back of the male, and seemed to my eye to be a success. Time will tell.

Alz and ADD (attn deficit disorder)

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, nor have I been diagnosed as ADD impaired; but Alz and ADD (attn deficit disorder) have some pretty similar traits. In my case, the difficulty arises most clearly when the devil of "multi-tasking" rears its ugly head. My mother always said, "one thing at a time!" In the current level of cultural consciousness, however, that advice is anathema--if you're not multi-tasking, you're not working! I won't go into a diatribe about work and efficient productivity, but the promise of juggling balls in the air just hasn't panned out for many. The ethic of doing a good job the first time seems to have lost ground in the culture, where good enough is a big wow, and any sort of real attention or creativity seems almost embarrassing. In our company, Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc., we have actually built into our service the notion of "Bonus Tracks," where we plan for ways to add a meaningful and unexpected additional service or benefit, completely without additional cost. There is a cost to our company, but our experience has proven that a little unexpected initiative sets the stage for greater receptivity to our ideas, while building confidence and collaboration between us and our clients. We think it is a win/win.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sanibel Island

The natural world is where I live. Even when I am staring out of my office on the 17th floor of my work-a-day office building, I am always attentive to the ever changing environment in the sky, on the street, and on the horizon. It's the habit of those who can't let go of the beauty and wonder of creation. Here in Sanibel Island, the variety of natural phenomena starts to produce nature overload (NATLOAD) for short. This phenomenon is not limited to "nature nuts", as some of my uninitiated colleagues like to caricature me, as there is no shortage of the content that we humans create around the natural. This is not a new phenomenon. It is the fundamentally primitive survival function at work. The skills of the cave man are still with us, as we hopefully evolve in the grand scheme unfolding.
So why do we play at the water's edge and stare vacantly smiling at the continuous gift of the sea-thrown bric-a-brac, searching for...what? a meditation on the marvel of evolution, the symmetry and iconoclasm of tiny shells, the reason for it all? Or is it just the desire for physical reminder of a place, of a life most of us can only enjoy in these times away from labor and strife, the expectation of solace, the clearing of the mind in the shimmering sound of the tiny waves, softly clattering, always replenishing, and yes, the raucous cacophony of the shore birds, the caspian and the royal, the peeps, the improbable gorge of the pelican (even when you think it's a pelican't), so voracious a maw, mining for protein, and a wish to steer clear of the fouling net, the human inconsiderate, and the jocular feast of the dolphin. We are not so far from you, our kin, nor are we so generous as to eschew the heavenly feast of the grouper, the meat of the tuna, the delights that we obtain, and hopefully, protect. Hic finis est.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sanibel Island Send-off

Tomorrow we ride! I have packed my bag. It is capable of containing virtually all of the clothes I own. I am not an efficient packer, but I always have what I need. Just for grins, here are the top ten reasons why I am excited to go:
1. I like driving long distances.
2. I like birds...and Sanibel (like all of South Florida) is a birdwatchers's paradise)
3. I like being in a place where the most common mode of transport is the bicycle.
4. I get to spend time with my children (rarer than the birds!)
5. We get to re-acquaint ourselves with our friends who live there.
6. Snowy Plovers (a species that is common, remarkably subtle (you could step on the slight indentation in the sand that passes for a nest...) and if you are a freak like me, a subject to be fascinated with for hours on end (yes, I know I am weird).
7. The Bean (the best place to snack, breakfast, lunch,...AND good coffee!
8. Corkscrew Swamp NWR
9. Bobcats
10. Crossing the causeway.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The pride of the peacock (Blake II)

The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
As one might expect, Blake, ever the contrarian, goes straight for the only position he could endure: to be true to the unvarnished, sanctimonious, lurid, truth, or reflection of truth in the proletarian eyes of the mannered falsehood he may have despised, or perhaps reveled in, with the twit of a nose...of course the peacock, a strange guinea hen created by some sort of genetic malfunction, bred no doubt for the amusement of the barnyard and the incandescence that so marvels us, a cheap trick of the breeder, a lurid freak, there is much to be ironical, although there happens, in this image, to be, a not too subtle suggestion that no freak can be responsible for the tinkerings of men. No matter how fantastical, the eyes always have the peacock in mind, just as many times a fleck of light may sparkle in the light of fire in the company of a beautiful woman.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

One of the most eclectic, or perhaps just downright strange, poets in the history of English literature is the work of William Blake. I will not go into his biography, but suffice it to say, his branch on the family tree of poets writing in English, is an odd off-shoot that has fascinated me, and many others since its composition and dissemination into the world of poets and readers writing in English. He is a certified visionary, and as most visionaries wind up doing, he created an entire world fully understood only to himself, and to those who study his works and ideas.
The most accessible work, ( and most often taught) is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Within this piece, is probably the best known, and for my money, the most insightful and memorable content that he wrote. The Proverbs of Hell provide a blossoming of perspectives and a sort of alternative to the Commandments that can provide a source of self-examination administered by anyone with an introspective and generous imagination.
If you will, I would like to spend some of your time in what I think might be an amusing, unusual, and sometimes flat-out bone jarring full stop and wonder at some of the ideas promulgated here-in. Let's look at these Proverbs.
Proverb #1. Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of religion.
Our own incarcerations create the limits that we assume. Outright behavior cannot hold a candle to what goes on in man's own imagination. As an aside, this "proverb" could describe the tedious sniping among those whose moralities need to spill over into turf battles and hair-splitting (perhaps in denial that many who claim righteousness produce discord.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Soup

Do you have a Superfresh® grocery store near-by? I am certainly not affiliated in any way with the Superfresh grocery chain, but I gotta say, the soup they offer at lunch in their Charles and Saratoga Street location is awesome. There are two excellent choices. If you want to put on a little cushion, go for the cream-based seafood Bisque--plenty of scallops and flavor enough for the galloping gourmet. It's almost always hot and delicious. Best to get there toward the noon to 1PM rush, while there are still plenty of significant chunks of crabmeat, be they in the Bisque or the MD crab. You just about cannot go wrong, unless you get there late. The Maryland crab is classic, with not too much Old Bay,and not too little, either. They bring in the tureens probably just before 11:15 AM, or so, and when you get there @ 12:15 or 12:30 or so, you will follow your nose back to the nether regions of the store, past the Triscuits® and some very nice cheeses, perhaps a blueberry yogurt, excellent, if not waistline approved, and surreptitiously, but confidently, the heavy-dark chocolate Lindt brand of almost excellent full-on cacao...but not quite up to a Scharfenberger chocolate where with all my cajoling I have still not been able to convince the store that they would improve margins if they went all the way to the darkest and most euphoric level of the game...but hey, even without some spotty inventory, you've still got a shot at a fine, nutritious and somewhat decadent mid-day repast. Bon apetit'

Painful Miscommunication

Apparently, it's all about me. Self-centeredness can cause male pattern baldness, shingles, bad breath and extraordinary stupidity. I've always been self centered, and usually I can mask it when necessary, but in this case, I will have to throw myself on the mercy of the court. When people become aware of my Alz diagnosis, they are saddened, and often write or call to express support and sympathy with my new-found difficulty. I am always grateful and I take to heart these expressions of support.
So imagine my chagrin when I realized that I had horribly mis-read an expression of support from a dear colleague. She had somehow become aware of my relatively new-found status as an Alz diagnosed person, and of course I assumed that she was referring to her diagnosis, and not mine. AWKWARD!!! She has no diagnosis, and does not plan on acquiring one!
She set me straight, thankfully, and clarified the situation in the most generous way...the only real damage is the usual problem with communication when sensitive subjects arise...but as an ALZ person, I have gotten beyond that. I am completely "out" with this, although I am respectful of those who have not made that decision or those who think it unseemly.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I am a man. I grew up with a brother. I went to a private boy's school. My wife, on the other hand, is not a man. Let's not kid ourselves. Men are inferior in almost every way. Let's look at brain function. Multi-task? Huh? What did he say? Point and shoot. Repeat with me, repeat with me, wait, look at that bird! Is that a kinglet?! Where did that hawk go...did you remember the binoculars? Oh, shit, I think I left them in the car--where is the bird book? I know I put it in the pack but it doesn't seem to be here...oh, wait maybe that's it, no that is the notebook I threw in the car...oh, damn, here wait, I'll go back up and get's not here! Oh, wait, yes it is, whoa, did you see that hummingbird? reminds me of the time I went to Costa Rica, and...Hey! would you stop talking and start looking for the...what was I looking for...if this keeps up at this pace I'm gonna need a nap, sooner than later...
There is another side to this song, however. Bored with repetition? How about a bit of the old ultra-violence? Rolling boulders from the peaks of the Rockies to the raging river home, a gravity fed plummet and a couple of lift-offs from a precipice overlooking the river and voila! Uncontrollable mania incomprehensible to most. The effects of the prodigious snow that would not die, have earned a place in the annals of repetitive motion sickness and the sure pleasure of an iceberg crumpling into the sea.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The dark before the dawn

This sounds like a whiner, but I think there is some redeeming quality in recognizing neural pathways that get good and well-worn strolling around the frontal lobe. In the ALZ world, the difference between a pleasant evening among friends and getting stuck in a rabbit warren of knotted yarn can come down to the level of distraction in a multi-stream conversation, where ends rarely meet and ideas prop themselves up until the whole cacophony either implodes or emerges glistening with sparkle and grandeur. In the past few days, I have been treated to the verbal ripostes and pun-a-rific tom-foolery in a Harry Potter-eseque setting of somber, massive stone walls to ceilings soaring almost too distant to find in the dramatic gloom of the jesuitical edifice, holding both God and man at bay, as the novitiates and the ancients slap softly down the corridors and through curious doorways, padding into libraries of arcane import, the heads of pins softly echoing their dances, and beyond the walls, through the thick and myopic, astigmatic, panes leaving question marks and suggestions of hints and nuance, to help with the task at hand, the revelation of futures, the peril inherent in anyone's step. Today,emerging once again into the world of transaction and consumption,there is little echo left, but if one listens closely, hints and possibilities abound, engage, and softly court another love, another gloom, awaiting the confirmation of Spring.