Tag Archives: nature

A stop-motion walk across the Appalachian Trail

Those who have read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America Along the Appalachian Trail (it’s one of my favourite books, though when I read it the subtitle was slightly different) might appreciate the following video. It’s the Appalachian Trail (which Bryson hikes in the book) in 4 minutes:

(via BoingBoing)

Perhaps it’s time for me to read that book again. Or perhaps it’s time for me to hike the Appalachian trail.

It’s spider season in southern Manitoba

A couple of school girls fundraising in our neighbourhood spotted this spider on the side of our trailer:

Spider on our trailer

I measure its body to be about 5/8-3/4″, but note that its legs are retracted (it’s cold and rainy outside), so it’s actually bigger.

I really don’t want to find one of these guys inside the trailer. I can’t stand spiders. Last autumn I avoided dealing with a spider living in our entrance window and as the weeks went by, it grew significantly larger, to the point that when I finally realized I need to get rid of this thing, I was unwilling to even kill it with several layers of paper towel in hand. I’m not sure if it’s the thought of the thing crawling up my arm and into my shirt that gives me the heebie-jeebies, or if its the thought of hearing and feeling the crackle and squish as I squash it.

My solution? Suck it up with the vacuum cleaner and then empty the container into the garbage (and then take the garbage out).

(I fully expect you, Scott, to comment on this post with scientific accuracy and warmth, and quite possibly incredulity with my phobia. Perhaps you can identify the spider?)

For the birds.

Well, the trees are in full bloom ’round these parts, abuzz with bees and their ilk, and I, whilst a pork tenderloin cooked in indirect heat on the barbecue, went out bird watching for the first time.  Dixie bought me binoculars for my birthday, along with The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, and I was putting them to use.

I discovered, first of all, that Otterburne may fall into the Eastern region of the continent, at least in terms of bird-books.  The dividing line seems to travel through Manitoba.  We are, at best, in a transition region.

My first sightings were difficult. A jay of one kind or another might be a better find for a rookie, but I spotted some kind of blackbird.  It looks to me like we have quite a large flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds in the tree line across the field from us. This is not entirely a confident assertion, because judging by the pictures and details in both Sibley’s and my older copy of the Stokes Field Guide to Birds (Western Region), male Brewer’s Blackbirds and Rusty Blackbirds are nearly indistinguishable. Subtle differences–e.g. slightly longer beak, slightly shorter tail–are not helpful when both birds are not standing side-by-side.

It doesn’t help, either, that the two guides seem to differ on their descriptions.  Where one describes a bird as “drab in colour”, the other pictures the same bird as having quite deep, shiny colour.  And what, pray tell, is the difference between “check” and “chick” in terms of bird calls?

Having said this, the Brewer’s Blackbird is common (the Rusty is uncommon) and its habitat seems to fit our surroundings here.  So I’ll say it’s a Brewer’s Blackbird until someone corrects me.

There’s a third party involved: the Brown-headed Cowbird, which is often found among blackbirds. Unfortunately (again), the Brown-headed Cowbird looks a lot like the female Brewer’s Blackbird, though the latter is slightly lighter than the former.

What I’m really interested in figuring out is which of the two birds occasionally makes a sound akin to a soft sneeze.  The Blackbirds’ “chick” or “check” could sound like this, but so could the cowbirds’ “ch’ch’ch’ch”.

It seems that bird identification is, like translation, an art as much as a science.

Incidentally, the legend of the painted pigeons was repeated to me on the weekend, as an explanation of the campus mystery bird.  I haven’t spotted that flock since before the snow melted (Dixie thinks she may have hit one with the van), but I hope to get a closer look. I don’t have good lens to get a picture, but my binoculars are quite powerful.

This is Our Father’s World.

I haven’t written anything about creation/evolution in a while.  I’m not really going to in this post, either. At least not in terms of theories or possibilities. However, the BioLogos Foundation has been posting a series of short video clips on YouTube, in which a variety of Biblical scholars talk about various aspects of creation/evolution, theology and Genesis 1. The videos featuring N.T. Wright were interesting, but this one with Bruce Waltke (conservative OT scholar, connected with the NASB, NIV/TNIV translations) sparked some new thoughts in my mind:

Initially I had some reservations with his concern about church becoming a cult (or at least looking like one), because that seems like a poor reason to accept a different view. But I think that what he says in this context (as well as his specific definition of “cult”–a “group which does not interact with the real world”) is important.

I think that if the data is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution, then to deny that reality will make us a cult–some kind of group that is not interacting with the real world…To deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death.

The implication of the creation story is that this world is God’s world and it his creation. To deny or ignore the evidence* in creation of the method or process of creation is in essence to deny the message of the creation story. It would be to “deny the truth of God in the world”–to deny what God has done.

In other words, to deny the evidence for evolution found in God’s creation is potentially more dangerous to our view of God than to affirm it. “It would be,” says Waltke, “our spiritual death.”

If God created the world, and the evidence within the world he created points to an evolutionary process, then we must conclude that God may well have used an evolutionary process to create the world.

God and evolution are not mutually exclusive.** For some reason this isn’t self-evident to many Christians. In fact, many Christians, at least by implication, would say that they are mutually exclusive, and so to preserve the one, we deny the other (some scientists will do this as well, except vice versa). So, for some Christians, the evidence must be either non-existent, faulty, or misinterpreted.

The comments on blog posts about this video show a certain lack of self-awareness on the part of the Christians commenting with unequivocal rejections of evolution. The general response of the Christian skeptic is generally that scientists are reading the evidence however they want to or that they are imposing their views on the evidence. However, Christians have to have the humility to recognize and accept that we are often no different when it comes to interpreting the “evidence” of scripture. We are often imposing our view on scripture rather than letting scripture be what it is.

Another comment might go something like this: scientists are making the evidence say more than it can. This is normally in reference to coming to naturalist/materialist view of the universe based on the evidence–i.e. the suggestion that the evidence proves that God doesn’t exist. This is a legitimate concern, but not reason to deny evolution or the evidence for it altogether (evolution and evolutionism/materialism/naturalism are different things**). But, once again, are we able to recognize that same tendency within our own views? Particularly as concerns the question of creation/evolution, are we making the Bible say more than it can or was meant to say?

_________________________________

*the “if” in “if the data” is important. It’s important for two reasons: 1) most people discussing this issue in this kind of forum are not scientists. So we are dealing with what we think we know about the issue, which is probably not very much. 2) the “if” is not an implied denial of the evidence, but actually an affirmation of what is accepted by scientists generally (but, again, I need to be careful here, because I don’t know for sure), including scientists who are also Christians.

** it’s important to make the distinction between evolution and evolutionism–which is basically a distinction between science and worldview. When I say “evolution” I am referring to the scientific theory relating to the evolution of biological organisms. I am not referring to “evolutionism” or any of its worldview relatives. Unfortunately, many Christians conflate the two, making evolution a denial of God’s existence, which I think does a disservice to the scientific community as well as this whole conversation.

Some sabbath poems

Came across these during some morning “fun” (i.e. non-assignment) reading this morning.

II

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

* * *

IV

What consolation it is, after
the explanations and the predictions
of further explanations still
to come, to return unpersuaded
to the woods, entering again
the presence of the blessed trees.
A tree forms itself in answer
to its place and to the light.
Explain it how you will, the only
thing explainable will be
your explanation. There is
in the woods on a summer’s
morning, birdsong all around
from guess where, nowhere
that rigid measure which predicts
only humankind’s demise.

(Both from “Sabbaths 1999” in Wendell Berry’s Given: Poems)

Hickory, dickory, dock…

…I killed two mice with the classic Victor mouse trap-ock.

Well, I’ve lost two valuable working evenings cleaning up this shit.  And I mean that literally.

Caught one mouse in the lazy-susan 4 a.m. Sunday morning.  Caught another in our bedroom closet 1 a.m. Monday morning.  On Sunday I set up five traps throughout the trailer and have had them set since, but have only caught the one other mouse.  It *appears* as if the mouse situation isn’t as bad as the amount of poop liberally sprinkled throughout our kitchen implied.

As it is, it appears as if we had a couple of juvenile mice up to no good.

“Hank, I’m bored. Think of something fun to do.”

“Let’s go shit up the Vandertrailer!”

“Yessssss!”

Honestly, within a 24 hour period these two mice (fingers crossed) managed to drop vast numbers of turds IN EVERY SINGLE DRAWER IN THE KITCHEN! I suspect that they had been under the influence of small doses of Warfarin during their hijinx, because there were turds in the following drawers:

  • the cutlery drawer, including a significant deposit in the tray which holds the apple slicer.
  • the baking drawer (spatulas, cookie cutters, measuring spoons, etc.
  • the children’s cutlery and serving cutlery drawer
  • the drawer with Saran wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil.
  • the drawer with the myriad Tupperware and Rubbermaid trinkets.
  • the towel drawer
  • the drawer with the oven mits
  • the drawer with an expensive tablecloth imported from India among other things.

It was in that last drawer that I found the nest. Thankfully there were no baby mice in there. It was just a mass of hair and bits of Swiffer cloth.  There was also a pile of rice and popcorn kernels in that drawer.  All the contents of that drawer went to the garbage.

Curiously, while there was lots of poop in the lazy-susan (on almost every lid), the mice did not chew through any of the bags of oats, chocolate chips, sugar or flour.  They just pooped everywhere.  (High, I’m telling you!)

There is also poop in the pot-drawer underneath the oven. Nature!

There are a couple of other shelves to look through for further turds, but we’re slowly getting through this.  Last night I emptied our bedroom closet with fear and trembling. There were lots of clothes on the floor–the perfect place for a mouse to settle down and have a family.  But there was nothing in there, nary a turd.  Thank goodness.

I’m just making my way through our pantry.  It’s not as bad as I had expected. We’ll get through this.  I’m just annoyed that this has forced me to compress my homework time so much.  Alas…

Nature!

(I’m a fan of simple stats–hit counts, sports stats, etc.–and I’ve just noticed that in June I did not break the 10 post mark for the first time since February 2004.  What an unproductive month.  I don’t even really think what I’m about to post is worth posting.  I’m hoping inspiration will hit on our 3-week Western Canadian Tour of Glory or perhaps once we’ve moved in August.)

We have a virginia creeper (or, apparently, Parthenocissus quinquefolia) growing on the back of our house.  The vine covers all of Olivia’s bedroom window and part of Madeline and Luke’s window.  It’s a beautiful plant and a great feature of the back yard.

In July of every year we’ve lived here, however, the creeper gets infested with some kind of bug.  If you walk near the plant when it’s infested, thousands of little tiny bugs jump out and rattle the leaves.  The infestation causes all the leaves to whither prematurely (but it doesn’t kill the plant), leaving us with a dead-looking plant hanging on the back of our house for much of the summer.  After our first summer, I got some pesticide options from a local person-in-the-know, possibly a horticulturalist, but I’ve never followed up on my plan to defeat the infestation.

This year, however, since we’re trying to sell, I don’t want to show the house with a withered vine, so I’m determined to deal with these bugs before they kill all the leaves.  So it’s a good thing that Dixie spotted a bird’s nest, including a mother and a couple of babies, inside the vine.

The nest is wedged between the virginia creeper and the screen on Olivia’s window, so we can get a pretty good view  from inside Olivia’s room.  I caught a bit of the action on video, but the nest is built quite high up in the window, so there isn’t a good angle to see the chicks.  But it’s still interesting.  Let’s watch:

I haven’t determined what sort of bird this is.

Unfortunately, this also puts a snag in my pesticiding plans.  How long do chicks take to fly-the-coop, as it were?  Is it safe to spray the area around the nest?

Today Yesterday

Things went well today yesterday, I think, other than a few mishaps and distractions.

I was inspired by the Wendell Berry-inspired workshop at last week’s conference to speak about the implications for creation care that arise out of scripture.  The Bible does not have a green agenda; if it has any agenda, it’s a redemptive one, and there are implications for our view of creation in that.  My main points:

1.  Genesis 1: God looked at everything he created and saw that it was “very good”.  He never took that back.  The natural world isn’t just incidental to our creation, but is good in and of itself.

At the fall human relationship with the rest of creation was broken, which may well be why we find ourselves where we are environmentally.

2.  The created world is in some sense the voice of God (see Romans 1:18-20–“general revelation”).  I wondered if our current abusive approach to nature isn’t a new way of “suppressing the truth” about God.

3.  The redemptive work of the cross of Christ is for all of creation (Colossians 1:19-20; Ephesians 1:10; Romans 8:19-23)–if we expect to come out of the future resurrection with transformed bodies and yet still be ourselves, it’s reasonable, I think, to expect the same for creation.

It didn’t take long to realize that this was a HUGE subject and a couple of hours of preparation wasn’t giving it nearly enough and it was probably too much to cram into one sermon (especially when I had less time than usual).  It deserves a series, but that’s difficult to do when I only speak twice a month and in the very near future I will start to be bumped from the schedule for candidating pastors.

Oh well.  Live and learn.

I was thinking this week and again after this sermon about what pastors do if they realize they have spoken in error in a sermon.  I made a modern-day analogy a couple of weeks ago when speaking on 1 Corinthians 8 (the “strong”, the “weak” and meat sacrificed to idols) and it occurred to me this week that perhaps my analogous example was a poor one (I’ve decided it wasn’t).  After Sunday’s service I was talking to Phil and realized that perhaps I had made some lazy word choices that might have negative implications (it didn’t help that I was trimming the sermon as I spoke).

Now both of those instances are minor.  But what about a more serious error?  Do you just ignore it?  Bring it up next Sunday?  Issue a retraction?  Fix the error with the following sermons?  An interesting question.  (It is for me, anyway.)  Of course, I’m learning that not everything can be said in one sermon (or even a couple of sermons), so perhaps it’s possible to develop a progression of thought that deals with whatever has gone before.

(Have I ever posted about a sermon before?  I’ve been reluctant to do so.  Still am.  But I felt like posting something.)