Frank Graham Jr.
Frank Graham Jr.'s blog
Pine grosbeak, by Nick Saunders.
My story—harrowingly—begins far back in time. Ada and I had driven to New York’s Adirondack Park for a quiet Christmas week, isolated in the snowscape from urban hubbub, looking forward to snowshoeing and some winter birding. On a winding road, we spotted a flock of eight or ten birds then unfamiliar to us, pecking at the gravel spread by a road crew on the recently plowed surface. I checked my Peterson Guide and confirmed that the birds were pine grosbeaks, occasional invaders from remote, underpopulated regions in Canada and “life birds” for both of us. We settled in to study them through our binoculars.!--/end tags-->
From my home in eastern Maine, I have followed with horror and dismay the travails of so many people whose lives have been torn apart by Sandy. I have never experienced the crushing sense of a personal assault delivered by “an act of God” that seems to have been so common in this disaster. But, through one long-ago encounter, I have an inkling of the impact such an event can make: the ultimate word to describe it is violence. One can never forget it.!--/end tags-->
The tree at my window looks like it’s fixin’ to die. I can’t claim that this red maple is special in botanical or cultural terms, but esthetically it stands at a critical point in the approach to our home in eastern Maine, and for many years its nearness to my second-floor office has given me an up-close view of life in the arboreal canopy.
Theodore Roosevelt. From the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
"There was once a floating wisp of glory" describes for many of us, not Camelot, but the conservation-friendly Theodore Roosevelt Administration. That special era came to mind recently when I heard the dispiriting (disgusting?) news that Congress had passed legislation permitting visitors to carry firearms into our national parks. The first President Roosevelt was not a panty-waist when it came to totin' guns, but he could be persuaded by public opinion to back off from unseemly behavior in the woods.
This early spring afternoon, as I walked past a still-fallow corner of our vegetable garden, I noticed a metallic dark-blue insect darting frenetically through the tufts of grass and weeds already growing there. It was a slender little spider wasp, maybe a half-inch long, its smoky wings ceaselessly twitching and fluttering as it ran about searching, searching, for something. Ah, found it! The wasp suddenly reappeared from behind a clump of weeds and dragged into view an abult female wolf spider.
By nature, I’m a nattering nabob of negativism. Skeptic is my middle name, and no, I’ve never believed in fairies, angels, or UFOs. But I like to think there is a cougar or two out there in the forests of the northeast, and scientists are now beginning to sort out reality from the disinformation and prop up my positive side.