No. 3 – The Dawn Chorus.

rooster The Dawn Chorus is a phenomenon where many species of birds start their morning singing at the first light of dawn.  Maybe it’s for the defense of breeding territories, or an attempt to find a mate;  no one truly knows why.

Roosters and mockingbirds are probably the most familiar of the morning singers, but go outside in the early hours and listen closely – you’ll hear  a variety of species greeting the day simultaneously.  (In some places you don’t need to listen closely – the  chorus  in Stratford-upon- Avon, England was loud enough to wake me.)  It begins tentatively with one or two birds, but soon is in full throat.

There is also an electromagnetic phenomenon which occurs at dawn  and is caused by the same energy that drives the auroras borealis and australis.  Related to birdsong?  Unknown.  What is known is that the earth wakes up singing.


No. 2 – Trillium.

Mottled Trillium (Trillium maculatum)

I grew up on the West Coast, which despite what you may have heard does have seasons other than summer.  The thing is, the seasonal changes are more subtle than in the rest of the country, and you need to be sensitive to the way the wind is shifting, or a particular angle of light.

I used to read with perplexity my mom’s women’s magazines, which spoke of fall leaves and snow and the rituals observed to celebrate them.  In elementary school I had a teacher who must have been from “not around here”, for she sent us out to collect fall leaves.  I think she expected us to bring back colorful maples and sycamores.  We brought back eucalyptus and bottlebrush.

So I’ve had a deep-seated quest to see certain plants that were rumored to exist, but certainly not in Southern California.  Sea Oats.  Forsythia.  Maples.  But above all, Trillium.

I got my wish this past weekend, when a good friend took me to see one in South Carolina (or maybe Georgia – it was near the border and the dominion was muddled to me).  It’s a strange mental disconnect sometimes to see in reality what you’ve seen for a lifetime only in photographs.  I’ve had the same feeling with works of art.

Anyway, entered into the Wunderkammer with awe and appreciation, I present – the trillium.  They rely on ants to propagate.   A white species is the official flower of Ohio and of Ontario.    Should you in turn be lucky enough to come across one, don’t pick it, please – they are not numerous, and some are endangered.

No. 1 – The Jackalope.

Long a staple of Western myth, the Jackalope was “discovered” in Douglas, Wyoming.   In the early 1930’s, two brothers named Herrick put together the first specimen, using taxidermy skills learned in a mail-order course.  The rest is Douglas (and the greater Southwest) history. Douglas celebrates “Jackalope Day” every year, usually on the first weekend in June.  For a time the Chamber of Commerce sold Jackalope Hunting Licenses, and the State of Wyoming trademarked the term “jackalope” in 1965.  But the jackalope belongs to all of the West, and it is unusual not to find a jackalope postcard on a rack west of the Mississippi.

They apparently can get quite large.

Welcome! Come in, come in…

Welcome to my Cabinet of Curiousities!

If I were wealthy, and/or if I had unlimited space,  I would undoubtably create a “wunderkammer”, or “Cabinet of Curiousities” in real life, like some merchant-prince from the 17th century.   In some ways this is better – fewer things to dust, and a much, much wider range to explore.  I hope you will share my curiousity, enthusiasm, amusement, awe, perplexity and more as we consider together the exhibits in this collection.  Suggestions for new exhibits are always welcome.