A lighthearted way to picture the world!

Humor can be something subtle or it can be found in a story that takes time to read. And then humor can take on different modes such as when we hear a joke, see a show, or find a situation that is ironic, not outwardly funny but rather it is understated. And then sometimes what we consider funny may not seem humorous to others.

But regardless of origin or style… humor is a human characteristic that can take us away from the most unpleasant day and send us happily into a different mood, even if it is for just a moment.
Today’s blog is my way of bringing perhaps a bit of humor to your day… by taking the liberty of sharing one of my pieces that I think is…well…kind of funny!

Arm chair naturalist

african print (2)
Sometimes we just can’t  physically get there, so this was the next best thing; a virtual expedition!

At first glance one would think that there was no life at the Djuma Game Preserve watering hole. Over eight thousand miles away, however, I was able to look through the lens of a camcorder and peek into the private moments of the South African wilderness. 16:39 Central African Time Zone (CAT), which is Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours had earned me a new title; I had become ‘the armchair naturalist’.

An oblong watering hole flanked by mounds of grey dirt and shrubby trees came into view. There was a slow almost deliberately lazy flow of water, which I sensed was rather shallow. Every now and again a disturbance by some water insect would set the surface in motion with the same rings that are set off by someone skipping a rock across a lake; and from the center outward small ripples ruffled the otherwise tranquil water. The background trees, some sparse of leaves while others like a full head of green hair were mixed together. I found myself being very still, as though my movement would rouse any animal or creature that might choose to make itself present. There was a constant caw of birds and the buzzing of insects; however, they knew when it was their turn to make a sound for not one seemed to interrupt the other. Crickets perhaps, and the coming and going of feathered fowl, some in flight and others taking a leisurely paddle in the grey murky water gave life to what seemed to be an uninhabited spot.

Yet, out of the background, as though the spindly tress had suddenly sprung legs, there was definite movement; not that of a bird, but yet a larger and more deliberate force that one could only assume was a mammal. Several tall and graceful beasts made their appearance, and though they were not easy to see, my knowledge of zoo animals clearly identified them as giraffes. Their colors were hazy and though these creatures came upon the screen ashen and white; apparitions they were not for the outline of slender necks reaching almost as high as the tallest branches gave way to their distinctly original features.

nyala,_maleWithin only a few moments, as if by invitation from the giraffes, a half a dozen shy nyala, appeared. Not taking any risks, they remained half hidden by the scruffy brush as they half-heartedly scurried about, only to be upstaged by a rather bold and curious water fowl that found a sumptuous meal by dining upon the very muddy banks of the shore. Its grey and white feathers blended in with its surrounding, while the only lively color on the shore was verdant green lichen attached to a rock that the water bird found flavorful; for between sips it pecked favorable at the mossy fauna with its long pale yellow beak.

And then, just as quickly as the watering hole had invited life, so did it abruptly become dormant. For suddenly the only conceivable measure of being came from a listless breeze, which carried the hum of insects and the startled cry of birds across the hemispheres while the view from my corner of the world once again became a game of hide and seek.

Here’s the site! Djuma waterhole

 

Animal crusader: Henry Bergh

llama small signed

We are all too familiar with the quotes “Dog is Man’s Best Friend”; however, despite these bits of sentimentality we also must acknowledge that not all people agree with these statements. In the underlayer of humanity, there exists a cruelty to animals. Hoofed, pawed, web footed, and winged; animals regardless of their species are often mistreated.  They are the voiceless creatures whose barks and meows, neighs, and brays are often not ever heard. Only when they are physically abused do their human counterpart sense their despair. Fortunately, there is an organization that hears their voices, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is their mission to “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” So, when you hear the idiom, “Crying crocodile tears”, it just might mean something different than you think to the crocodile.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Henry Bergh (1813-1888) aka “Angel with at Top Hat”. Philanthropist, animal crusader, founder of the ASPCA, he was born in New York into a wealthy family. His father, a highly successful shipbuilder, died when he was young leaving his son to inherit a fortune. Bergh’s notoriety grew in social circles that included the political elite of his time as well.  He supported abolitionist positions and gained appointment to Lincoln’s cabinet as an American Delegate to Russia. As a result, he traveled extensively. It was during his travels that he became greatly impacted by what he saw, cruelty to animals. In Russia he witnessed peasants beating horses and was shocked by the violence of Spanish bullfighting.

Henry bergh

Driven by this suffering and injustice of the treatment to animals around the world and in the United States he decided to devote himself to these “mute servants of mankind”. In 1866 he drafted a Declaration of the Rights of Animals, proposed a society to protect animals. these creatures and offered his proposal at Clinton Hall. On April 10, 1866, a charter incorporating the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was signed and the following week, an anti-cruelty law was passed granting ASPCA the power to enforce such laws. The ASPCA agents were often referred to as “Berghsmen”.

His work for animals did not stop with the ASPCA, he soon earned the moniker of “meddler” when he installed drinking fountains for working horses and fought to put an end to dog fighting and cock fights. He also invented the clay pigeon, to spare live birds from sport shooters and carried on a high-profile dispute with P.T. Barnum over the treatment of the animals in his menagerie.  However, Bergh’s persistence and integrity eventually turned Barnum into a friend.

Second image: photomechanical print : halftone

Esteemed thinker: Dian Fossey

gorialla baby

Popularity is not always an indicator of the best nor should we assume that the most popular were raised to the top on account of an even start. An example of what one may considered “a staked deck” is the phenomena of voting for your favorite singer or dancer via social media (which includes television). Isn’t it likely that the winner may indeed have generated their own pool of supporters who may have “turned the tide”?

So it is here where I take us to the animal kingdom where there are animals that have always been considered ‘the most popular’. The giraffe, the tiger, the lion, the elephant, the gorilla, and of course the ever-adorable panda are just among the few that lead the pack in popularity. Even the dinosaurs, which have never been seen nor heard by anyone, ranks highest in the list of “favorites”. So why is it that the tapir, a most unusual looking fellow, the mountain bongo (a fancy looking antelope), or the red river hog (who makes a pig of himself at night) haven’t been able to tip the scales in their direction of popularity.  Perhaps it just might be that they need to get a new “press agent”!

Dian fossey  Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Dian Fossey, (1932-1985) American primatologist, zoologist, and naturalist was born in San Francisco, California. She is noted for her tireless and heroic struggle to preserve, protect and study the mountain gorilla.

Fossy grew up aspiring to work with animals however, after changing her major in college, she earned a degree in occupational therapy. Working in this field for several years, her restless spirit and affinity for animals drew her to the continent of Africa. In 1963, after taking out a bank loan and spending all her savings, she traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and the Congo. In her travels she meets the renowned archeologists, Mary and Louis Leaky. It is here where Fossey learns of Jane Goodall’s research with chimps, which was at this time in its infancy stages.

Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Virungas Mountains in 1967 with a main goal in mind: to protect and study the endangered mountain gorillas. Fossey not only observed and studied, but she lived a secluded life among the mountain gorillas. She brought over thousands of hours of new information to the scientific community.

In 1983 she wrote and published her autobiography Gorillas in the Mist. Fossey’s research and conservation efforts for the endangered gorillas of the Rwandan mountain forest from the 1960s to the ’80s brought her life to a tragically early end when she was murdered presumably by poachers.

I now bring to the profound words of the late Dr. Dian Fossey; a simple lesson for all of humanity.

“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.

 

 

Esteemed thinker: Matthew A. Henson and working animals

puppies sled team Never has there been a time on earth where we have not relied upon animals to help with our work. No matter the size, large or small, nor the count of legs, two or four… no matter where we live… north, south, east, west… regardless of the climate…. cold or hot, or the location…. above or below land; there has always been the representation of some species that has helped us out or even pulled us out of a jam.

Let us take the mule, a rather interesting high-bred of an animal, the offspring of a female horse and male donkey. (Left under their own natural preferences one must wonder if either would have gotten together without a bit of coercion from humans.) Although often the butt of jokes, it is a most hardworking animal. They plowed fields, worked underground in the mines, and hauled loads through the mountains; the sturdy and reliable mule, never asking for much more than to be fed and watered.

And although we usually think of birds as flighty and not exactly the kind of animal one would rely upon (except to taste good when cooked for dinner), the rock pigeon has given its species a place in “work history”. The homing pigeon is a bird that has been domesticated to work, which includes having provided service to the armed forces. For years they were used as military messengers due to their homing ability, speed, and flying altitude. And who would think that those pesky birds we all shoo away from sitting aloft would be heroes!

As far back in time as the Roman Empire the camel too has paid its military duty; it has been saddled and ridden into battle right up into modern days. Known for their endurance, this desert dweller was first domesticated around 3,000 BC and has been working ever since; transporting people and goods in some of the world’s driest and hottest regions. Its broad flat feet enable it to walk in the sand without sinking (and without much complaining)!

Yes, there are countless animals that work for peanuts…like the elephants! So the next time we find ourselves bemoaning about work, just remember, there is some tired dog that has just come home from working at the airport having sniffed all day through luggage stuffed with dirty laundry… such a thankless job, and all it wants in reward is a gentle pat on the head.

Matthew henson_2 Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: Matthew A. Henson, the renowned African American explorer who in 1890 joined Admiral Peary’s first Arctic expedition across the northern tip of Greenland. From June 1891 to August 1902, Henson spent seven years in the Arctic with Peary, covering 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) on dogsleds across northern Greenland and Ellesmere Island, in Canada. Henson was a man that was well-liked by those who came in contact with him; being admired by the Inuit population for his hunting and sled-driving skills, as well as his ability to speak their language.

I now present to you a bit of insightful observations snipped from his autobiography, A Negro Explorer of the North Pole. Here are the words of the illustrious, Mr. Henson and his thoughts about ‘man’s best friend’, dogs!

“….I had a much livelier time with some members of the Peary Arctic Club’s expedition known as “our four-footed friends”—the dogs.

The dogs are ever interesting. They never bark, and often bite, but there is no danger from their bites. To get together a team that has not been tied down the night before is a job. You take a piece of meat, frozen as stiff as a piece of sheet-iron, in one hand, and the harness in the other, you single out the cur you are after, make proper advances, and when he comes sniffling and snuffling and all the time keeping at a safe distance, you drop the sheet-iron on the snow, the brute makes a dive, and you make a flop, you grab the nearest thing grabable—ear, leg, or bunch of hair—and do your best to catch his throat, after which, everything is easy. Slip the harness over the head, push the fore-paws through, and there you are, one dog hooked up and harnessed. After licking the bites and sucking the blood, you tie said dog to a rock and start for the next one. It is only a question of time before you have your team. When you have them, leave them alone; they must now decide who is fit to be the king of the team, and so they fight, they fight and fight; and once they have decided, the king is king. A growl from him, or only a look, is enough, all obey, except the females, and the females have their way, for, true to type, the males never harm the females, and it is always the females who start the trouble…

Next to the Esquimos, the dogs are the most interesting subjects in the Arctic regions, and I could tell lots of tales to prove their intelligence and sagacity. These animals, more wolf than dog, have associated themselves with the human beings of this country as have their kin in more congenial places of the earth. Wide head, sharp nose, and pointed ears, thick wiry hair, and, in some of the males, a heavy mane; thick bushy tail, curved up over the back; deep chest and fore legs wide apart; a typical Esquimo dog is the picture of alert attention. They are as intelligent as any dog in civilization, and a thousand times more useful. They earn their own livings and disdain any of the comforts of life. Indeed it seems that when life is made pleasant for them they get sick, lie down and die; and when out on the march, with no food for days, thin, gaunt skeletons of their former selves, they will drag at the traces of the sledges and by their uncomplaining conduct, inspire their human companions to keep on…”

First image 1900s photo of puppies bred for pulling Arctic sleds

Esteemed thinker: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

animals The animal kingdom is a curiosity and for most, regarding relationships between off spring and parents… these beasts, both domestic and wild, are often enchanting to watch. I say enchanting not to affirm these bonds are always sweet and tender, but with the notion that they are captivating. And as we contemplate these relationships, it is equally curious to acknowledge how the elders know what to do with their off-spring. After all, they have no self- help books, no pediatrician to call when their baby koala comes down with a fever … so what is it that allows such animals the wisdom to care for their brood? Some say it is instinct, a trait that they are born with…thus passing down the knowledge from generation to generation … a sort of watch me and learn method…

And as humans, we like to personify these animals making some species seemingly more like us in their delivery of affection. A mother lion is known to be quite protective of her cubs, while the male secures the territory; a mother bear too will fight to defend her children, but like many other parents, she is strict disciplinarian, holding back the soft touch so that these cubs learn to survive in the harsh world without her. The father penguin is the modern day stay- at- home dad, taking on egg-sitting duties for weeks while the mother heads out to sea to hunt fish for her soon-to-hatch offspring.

But not all the parents of the animal kingdoms take on the devotional attributes at first blush; to our dismay that sweet little rabbit we all find so cute is actually an “absentee mother” leaving the baby bunnies right after birth and only returning for a few minutes to feed them in the first twenty -five days. And though we are ready to call in the authorities, in her defense she does not want her “tasty children” to be found by predators and so to keep these fiends at bay she stays away; not calling attention to her new family and allowing the secrecy of the burrow to remain intact.

And tough as the Black Eagle mom is portrayed by not intervening during sibling fights that are often to the death…she is really planning for the bigger picture…protecting the species by shielding and conserving the limited food source for the heartiest offspring.

So it seems that the upbringing rituals in the animal kingdoms have remained the same even though the physical world, their habitats, have been defaced by a myriad of reasons; thus making us wonder if their instincts, theses inborn pattern of behaviors, will slowly evolve and their method of ‘child-rearing’ will change too.

We humans are not driven by those instinctive, automatic, irresistible, and unmodifiable actions … but rather we are motivationally driven, able to overcome situations and change willfully. Child rearing is a behavior that is as different in ideals as from neighbor to neighbor. And while the centuries have slipped by, so have the philosophy of generations of parent- child relationships taken twists and turns, summoning societal and individual retrospection.

elizabeth cady stanton Allow me now to turn our attention to the introduction of a most esteemed thinker: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902); writer, political reformer, and courageous 19th century woman. Born in Johnston, New York, she worked tirelessly throughout her life for the emancipation of slavery and the rights of women. During the American Civil War Stanton and her friend Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) created the National Woman’s Loyal League to build support for what became the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery in the United States. Once the slaves were free, Stanton and Anthony worked to ensure that women would be given the vote along with former male slaves.

I now give you the words of one of the most prominent suffragette’s and feminist in American history; from her book, Eighty Years or More, here is a parcel of thoughts from Elizabeth Cady Stanton….

“The psychical growth of a child is not influenced by days and years, but by the impressions passing events make on its mind. What may prove a sudden awakening to one, giving an impulse in a certain direction that may last for years, may make no impression on another. People wonder why the children of the same family differ so widely, though they have had the same domestic discipline, the same school and church teaching, and have grown up under the same influences and with the same environments. As well wonder why lilies and lilacs in the same latitude are not all alike in color and equally fragrant. Children differ as widely as these in the primal elements of their physical and psychical life.

Who can estimate the power of antenatal influences, or the child’s surroundings in its earliest years, the effect of some passing word or sight on one, that makes no impression on another? The unhappiness of one child under a certain home discipline is not inconsistent with the content of another under this same discipline. One, yearning for broader freedom, is in a chronic condition of rebellion; the other, more easily satisfied, quietly accepts the situation. Everything is seen from a different standpoint; everything takes its color from the mind of the beholder…”

Esteemed thinker: Charles Waterton

olinguito Oh, the horrors of a ‘mistaken identity’; we have all had an embarrassing moment when you confuse one person for another and depending upon who it is can result in a very awkward moment. Generally a quick apology can be enough to satisfy most, yet if your error is met during a business meeting, one would think you had committed the crime of the century. And then there are those times when an error in identification can become more than a social faux-pas and resulting in an injurious consequence. Let us take the example of misidentifying a suspect erroneously; such as what transpired in the classic film “12 Angry Men”… and then there was the time the poor grey cat was blamed for breaking into the neighbors screened porch, only to discover after the feline was driven away in the back of a van to an undisclosed location… it was actually a band of roving raccoons that had committed the dastardly deed!

Which brings us to a most important discovery that fringes on the tale of a “mistaken identity”… on August 15, 2013 researchers announced the discovery of the first new mammal found in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. It is a rust colored furry olinguito, which translates from Spanish to “little olingo.’ According to Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian’s curator of mammals, he and his team first saw the animal in the Andes back in 2006 and have been constructing its family history ever since. But behold… “It’s been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time….” The olinguito once lived in the National Zoo in Washington for a year; it had been mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Alas, another case of mistaken identity! In retrospect the scientists stated that they wondered how the animals could have been confused; the olinguitos are smaller, have shorter tails, a rounder face, tinier ears and darker bushier fur than the captivated olingo.

Charles Waterton And so, we all can see that even under the scrutiny of science… mistaken identity occurrences can happen ( and probably more often than one would like to admit) …which brings us to today’s blog where I shall introduce you to a more obscure name in the 21st century… the esteemed thinker: Charles Waterton, (1782-1865) English born naturalist and explorer. His adventurous expeditions brought back profound contributions; especially concerning fauna and bird life from South America. One of his more notable additions to science was the introduction into Europe of curare, now an invaluable drug in surgical operations. Considered an eccentric during his lifetime, he turned his family estate into an extensive nature reserve, long before such a concept was ever heard of. From his autobiography, Wanderings of South America, I give you some most interesting observations by nature’s champion, Mr. Waterton …

“…Here I had a fine opportunity once more of examining the three-toed sloth. He was in the house with me for a day or two. Had I taken a description of him as he lay sprawling on the floor I should have misled the world and injured natural history. On the ground he appeared really a bungled composition, and faulty at all points; awkwardness and misery were depicted on his countenance; and when I made him advance he sighed as though in pain…
After fully satisfying myself that it only leads the world into error to describe the sloth while he is on the ground or in any place except in a tree, I carried the one I had in my possession to his native haunts. As soon as he came in contact with the branch of a tree all went right with him. I could see as he climbed up into his own country that he was on the right road to happiness; and felt persuaded more than ever that the world has hitherto erred in its conjectures concerning the sloth, on account of naturalists not having given a description of him when he was in the only position in which he ought to have been described, namely, clinging to the branch of a tree…”