Songbird smarts

Thanks again to Steph of Partial Ellipsis of the Sun for another fascinating post! Here she writes and posts lovely and informative pictures on songbirds, their songs, and the brains behind it all:
https://wordwomanpartialellipsisofthesun.blogspot.com/2017/05/birdsong-and-creativity-songbirds-name.html
At the moment, we have a robin’s nest resting in the crook of the downspout near our back door. No eggs yet, but we’ll see.

seeing the unseen

As some readers will recall, older daughter E is currently living with us while her spouse L, a British citizen, is in London with his family. He will be arriving soon for a three month stay to encompass the final weeks of E’s pregnancy, the arrival of Baby, and the early weeks of cuddling, bonding, and diaper/nappy changing. (Have I mentioned lately how dysfunctional and/or in flux the immigration policies of both the US and the UK are?)

In L’s absence, one of my happy duties is to accompany E to the obstetrician’s office. Fortunately, the pregnancy has been progressing smoothly and Baby seems to be thriving and growing according to schedule.

I was pregnant thirty-one and twenty-seven years ago, so a lot has changed in prenatal care. Fetal heart monitors have gotten a lot more compact and easier to use. There is a lot less belly prodding and measuring than when I was expecting. There are more blood tests and standard glucose testing. My daughter received a booster for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis so that Baby will have stronger resistance at birth to help prevent whooping cough until the infant vaccines can kick in.

The biggest change, though, is the use of ultrasound. I never had an ultrasound when I was pregnant. While they were available, they were not yet routine and there was no diagnostic reason to order one. As women had for millennia, I relied on hope and faith that all was well, bolstered by the experienced hands and measuring tape of my health providers.

It has been a revelation to be there for E’s ultrasound exams. Most of the time, we have been able to have L join us via skype, which has been nice. E and I have been able to watch as the technician measures the length of Baby’s femur and the circumference of the head. I have been amazed to see the the entire backbone, tiny fingers and toes, all the chambers of the heart beating over 150 times a minutes, the stomach, the bladder, and other organs. From the last ultrasound, we know that Baby weighs about 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.65 kg) at 31 weeks. We could even seen some fringe of hair atop Baby’s head, not surprising given that both E and L were born with thick heads of hair.

This last detail was particularly poignant for me, because the first detail we knew about baby E was that she had hair on her head, a fact conveyed to us by the maternity nurse who first examined me at the hospital after I arrived late on a Friday night in April with ruptured membranes at 36 weeks. I was only a centimeter dilated, but she could feel the hair on E’s head as it nestled down, getting ready to enter the world. It wasn’t until the early hours of Sunday morning that we would know the hair was strawberry blonde and belonged to our little girl.

We didn’t know that morning, as we welcomed our first child into the world, how wonderful, complicated, heart-warming, and heart-rending parenting would be. We didn’t know the depths of fear, joy, and love we would experience.

And we didn’t know that, thirty-one years later, we would be on hand to witness that cycle of family begin anew for her and her husband as parents, for B and me as grandparents, and for Nana and Paco as great-grandparents.

Even though it is the most common story in the world, its power isn’t diminished. Love makes the ordinary extraordinary.

Beatrix Potter, mushrooms, and more

Blogger-friend and fellow Smith alumna Steph has an interesting new post, blending Beatrix Potter, poetry, mushrooms, and more. Check it out!

https://wordwomanpartialellipsisofthesun.blogspot.com/2017/04/gaiman-fun-guy-on-beatrix-potter.html

SoCS: on our yard and climate

Unlike many people in our area, we keep our yard as natural as we can. No pesticides or herbicides. Big shade trees on the south side of the house – maple, oak, cherry, and ash. a few bushes – lilac, rhododendron, forsythia. We do have a mowed lawn; going full meadow wouldn’t be allowed by our town, but along with the grasses, there are wild strawberries, violets, daisies, and, of course, dandelions. There are animals – squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and the occasional skunk – and lots of birds – chickadees, nuthatches, bluejays, mourning doves, several kinds of finches and woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, and, this time of year, robins. At the moment, a robin is building a nest on the bend of the downspout near the back door.

This has been a good year for our forsythia. It is usually a bit anemic. We inherited it when we bought the house and have a suspicion that it was actually a variety that was more suited to a warmer zone. Lately, it seems to have more good years for blossoms than bad. It’s probably not a coincidence, as the climate is warming and growing zones shift.
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Of course, this is a particularly appropriate day to talk about climate change, as there are many climate change awareness marches happening today, here in the US and around the world. I wish that I were able to be in Washington DC for the main US march. There are people from my area who boarded a bus at 3ish in the morning to get there to participate.

I will be joining them in spirit. I have been writing, studying, protesting, lobbying, etc. on phasing out fossil fuels, banning fracking, increasing renewable energy quickly, and combating climate change and greenhouse gases’astronomical rise for many years now. With the current administration, we are redoubling, tripling, quadrupling, or exponentially raising our efforts.

If we are wrong on climate policy and the effects of climate change roll on out of control, people will die unnecessarily. Coastal populations and those living in poverty are most vulnerable. There are already climate refugees. Some island nations are under threat of losing their land entirely. Even in the US, there are already some people needing to be relocated due to rising sea levels.

We are all in this together. Every single person throughout the world. The heaviest burdens financially in the cleanup efforts, and mitigation, and relocation, and all the other effects of climate change, should be borne by the countries and companies who were enriched by exploiting fossil fuels beyond what the environment and climate could absorb. Developing economies don’t need to follow the fossil fuel pattern of the industrialized countries. They can build up their communities using renewable and energy-efficient technologies and the wealthier countries must help them to do that.

When Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, he addressed all people and called for an integral ecology that would aid the natural world and human communities, with special emphasis on aiding the most vulnerable people and environments. Many people of all spiritual traditions and those who do not follow any faith path have joined together in this endeavor. One-hundred ninety-five countries signed onto the Paris climate accord. Each pledged to all the others to implement goals to combat climate change, help the environment, and support people, especially those most at risk. Progress is being made and many places are reaching beyond their stated goals to effect further greenhouse gas reductions.

We are already feeling the effects of climate change in increased severe weather, droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, and species extinctions. Even if the US government unwisely abandoned its promises in Paris, many of our states and localities, our companies, and our citizens and residents will keep going, moving forward with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and preparing our towns and cities for emergencies.

We will continue to march on, literally and figuratively.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “yard.”  Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/04/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-apr-2917/

 

Earth Day and Science March

Happy Earth Day! Sending out good thoughts to all those working in the environmental movement, to the earth itself, and to all its inhabitants. Earth Day this year was chosen as the day for the March for Science, with the main march being in Washington DC, with satellite marches around the country and the world.

It’s sad that we need marches to remind us of the importance of science and of protecting our environment, but there are definitely some people who need reminding. The science march emphasizes the importance of scientific research and advances and of scientific education and literacy in the general public, while celebrating the contributions of science to our world, particularly the contributions of those who have been traditionally underrepresented among scientists, such as women, indigenous people, African-Americans, and Latino/as.

In that spirit, I want to honor two scientists in my family.

First, my older sister who has just retired from decades of work as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s and doctorate from Indiana University.  After post-doctoral work at the Cleveland Clinic, she came to NIH for the remainder of her career, where she worked on projects to add to our knowledge of how to fight disease and promote wellness. Today, she participates in the Science March in Washington, DC.

Second, my younger daughter T. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and last year completed a Master’s of Professional Studies in conservation biology of plants at State University of New York – Environmental Science and Forestry. She is passionate about plants and hopes to build her career around restoration ecology. Nothing makes her happier than pulling out invasive species so that native plants can thrive! Right now, she is working in Missouri for their Department of Conservation with a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants. She is marching for science in Springfield, Missouri.

I am proud to have these two women scientists in my immediate family! I appreciate their contributions and that of their colleagues across all scientific fields.

I think today is a good day to reflect on how important science is to our lives. Medical science and biology are important in decisions I make every day. I am especially drawn to environmental science and geology and often use that knowledge in my advocacy on environmental and climate change policy and renewable energy. Computer science makes B’s job possible. The list could go on and on…

There is a Sci/Cli March today in Binghamton, a local mash-up of this weekend’s science march with next weekend’s climate march. I had hoped to attend, but I don’t think I will be able to make it. I’ll be marching with them in spirit, as well as with my sister in DC.

Science rules!

SoCS: March On!

Here in the United States, we are doing a lot of marching these days.

I participated in a sister march for the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. These marches took place throughout the United States and around the world, even Antarctica! We had about 3,000 participants in Binghamton, although we had expected only a few hundred.

There have since been other major marches, including one for indigenous rights.

April will see two major marches on Washington with satellite marches elsewhere, one for Science on April 22, which is Earth Day,  and a Climate March on April 29. I wish I could be in Washington for both of those, but will probably have to settle for a local combined march.

The marches themselves are energizing, but the larger point is that people use them as educational tools to raise awareness of important issues and then continue their advocacy through follow-up actions. That has been an encouraging thing that we are seeing in the US this year, that so many people are getting involved in civic life at a new level, so…

March On!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “march.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/03/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-mar-2517/

 

Mount Etna and more!

Check out spectacular geologic images from Steph at this link:  http://wordwomanpartialellipsisofthesun.blogspot.com/2017/03/smoking-smoke-rings-mount-etna-sicily.html  I especially appreciate the Mount Etna photos because I visited there when the Smith College Alumnae Chorus toured Sicily.  Be sure to check out the bonus images in the first comment from Steph, aka Word Woman.  Enjoy!