• Catalpa seed pods look like giant string beans.  Most are higher in the tree.  The sheer overabundance of everything has always amazed people, leading some like Malthus to gloomy thoughts and predictions, and eventually providing Darwin with the underpinnings to his theory.
  • I usually just walk by without noticing.  Green on green takes a little effort to make out until they darken later in the year.  Yet this tree is producing the next generation as vigorously as any hickory (whose nuts are becoming large enough to dent the hoods of cars carelessly parked under it.)


  • Hard to even get close enough to photograph the small berries of poison ivy.   That’s no real trouble, since it would be extremely nasty to eat them.  Perhaps this was the original tree of knowledge of good and evil, and it was rewarded by making its leaves and fruits toxic to people.   Animals do not, apparently, share the same allergic reaction.
  • As far as I know, there has never been an attempt to domesticate or even use poison ivy for food or medicine.  It’s one plant that by luck or careful coevolution goes its merry way everywhere without folks doing much more than swearing as the itch later develops.


  • Renaissance Christian concepts of the tree of knowledge of good and evil depicted an apple, but even a cursory scan of internet information shows how complex and universal those concepts were in many times, places, and religions.  The standard American understanding came from bible illustrations largely based on European painters.  The common apple is very much a creation of humans, aptly illustrating knowledge and, if one is into good and evil, even the dangers of meddling in genetic s.  Lately even more evils of pesticides and fungicides to create unmarked fruit, or the breeding of ever more prolific but tasteless abundance.
  • My life has been long, relatively happy, and filled with incidents I enjoy remembering.  It is difficult to resist feeling there is some divine purpose, but easy to decide most other people’s conceptions of the same thing are ridiculous.  So I enjoy bible stories as science fiction morality tales, but I prefer modern fables of the same general type.  An apple, however, still recalls Durer and Michelangelo which provide beautiful images enriching my imagination.


  • Like a long introductory oboe solo, ailanthus seeds deepening into burnt orange herald summer’s future demise.  Since these invasive trees are easily controlled and their pollen apparently does not cause allergies,  they are well tolerated and even beloved by city dwellers.  Some marketing genius gave them the common name “tree of heaven,” which didn’t hurt their cause.
  • Much summer remains.  Today is very hot, but who knows what may come.  We take comfort in averages, but averages are made of heat waves, cold spells, tremendous storms, long droughts, and calm times.  Those are what we actually experience, and even if the rest of the summer hews to average it may consist of strong contrasts.  So also the portents  of any change _ it will surely come, when and how are hardly certain.


  • Apparently in olden days a summer chore for frontier children was to go out daily with a bucket to pick the ripening wild berries.  Lovely sunlit dewy mornings, clean air, birdcall all around, a pleasant fantasy.  But any chore is work, especially daily, and although perhaps less brutal than some of the other things children back then had to do, it involves stultifying heat and humidity, vicious insects, thick brambles, and disappointment.  Any ripe fruit, like these blackberries at Coindre Hall, are also rapidly harvested by wild creatures.
  • I can imagine perhaps one pleasant morning a year doing such a thing for fun.  Then, being a child of my own age, I realize there are more interesting ways to spend my time, such as useless writing.


  • Rose hips can be made into a nice tea, but it would be hard to subsist on them.  “Paleo diet” fans claim once people left the tropics, they had to eat nothing but meat, although game is also hard to procure every day in extreme cold or drought.  Only the development of staple crops such as cereal grains, potatoes, and corn allowed seasonal famine in temperate zones to be (largely) overcome.  That also led to domesti
    cation with useful byproducts of eggs and milk.  Without agriculture, life with winters or monsoons is chancy and difficult; with it, at least the elite (and the culture it transmits) can usually survive.
  • The “natural” fruits and berries around here are products of long human development.  It is hard to find anything that could be used as a food source that has not been touched and “improved” for use by our species.  Unlike some, I have never yearned for a return to the healthy diets of the past.  For that matter, I am grateful for electricity, chemicals, fossil fuels, and all the other “horrors” of modern food supplies which allow me to eat my fill of anything anywhere at anytime of year.


  • Everything rushes towards maturation.  Goslings, cygnets, fish, crabs, and infinite varieties of seeds and fruits grow rapidly.  Farmers are overwhelmed with produce, which will continue a few more months until decreasing sunlight and eventual frost bring an end to this year’s production.  Nature accelerates its annual increasing slope towards deepest winter. 
  • People take a bit longer.  My wife and I sat on a dock last night watching the sun set.  It only takes three months to see almost a hundred sunsets, few of us will experience a hundred summers.  Of those hundred, many are when we are helpless children, or increasingly declining adults. According to 1960’s biology, I am genetically useless; according to Spencerian Darwinianism I am harming the species by holding back the most fit.  Human society _ especially civilization _ is supernatural in the sense that it upends almost all natural laws, including those that would have killed me off a long time ago. 

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