Sunday, November 21, 2010

Moving On

Some catch phrases tend to make one chafe and for me it is this notion of “moving on”. It strikes me that “moving on” is no longer what one does when a grieving period is over but what one feels obliged to do to make others feel better. People are told they should move on. People are made to feel selfish for not doing so.

I have heard a young widow say how friends and family were supportive for a short time but then lost patience with her.

I recall an extreme case of this when John F. Kennedy Junior’s plane was still missing. All things pointed to a tragedy and family members were gathering in Massachusetts. Caroline Kennedy had arrived and was seen riding a bicycle on the grounds of the Kennedy compound and this spurred one reporter to declare that this was Caroline’s way of sending the message that we must all move on. Remember – his plane had not even been found yet!

I am appalled by people’s impatience with the grieving process and the added toll that takes on those who find that they need more time to deal with a tragic loss and then feel guilty because of it.

This type of attitude was exhibited recently at the lunch table at my workplace. For the third time my lunch mates brought up the issue of another co-worker’s sister who is mourning the death of her son (a young man) from a sudden illness several months ago. This mother has been in an almost catatonic state ever since and is lost in her grief. She barely eats or functions in any way.

This is severely frowned upon by my lunch mates because, you see, there is another living son. The fact that the mother is not “looking after” this son (also a young man) is seen as outrageous and some even suggested that if she is trying to slowly commit suicide, they would gladly bring her a gun. This would be “better for the family”. One suggested she is being unfair to the remaining son and shouldn’t be “wallowing in self-pity”.

Having heard this too many times I said, “You can think of “fate” as being unfair to the other son and to the whole family, but we should not judge this woman. If she were lying in a coma due to a physical illness, no one would say that she was neglecting her son.” People still think of mental illness (including depression) as something you can snap out of it you weren’t so selfish!

My suggestion to not judge the grieving mother was met by an aggressive attack by one co-worker with rather extreme language and an accusation of being judgemental (ironic really, considering the point I was making).

When discussing this with a long-time friend whose son was killed in a plane crash many years ago, she recalled how she couldn’t talk about him for TEN years. Things take time.

Not everyone can comply with others’ timetables so we should accept the mourning period however long it takes. Sure, urge people to get help in the form of therapy or drugs and do whatever YOU can to help them but remember that there are processes that the mind and the soul need to handle in their own time frame.

Instead of criticizing those who are suffering, maybe we should all try to be more compassionate and also remember to be grateful that we are not in such a position.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Blue-spotted Salamander

I can't resist one more post on the Blue-spotted Salamander. This little creature is not only a wonder to see, but is a very interesting species.

Here is what an acquaintance wrote to me about the Salamander:

The Blue-spotted Salamander occurs in your part of the world, west into the area of the Great Lakes.
South of you, there's another species called the Jefferson Salamander, mostly to the west of here.
Where the two salamanders overlap, they can interbreed. When they do, they create yet two other species of salamanders, both hybrid ALL-FEMALE species: the Trembley's Salamander and the Silvery Salamander.
And there's even more to the story:
The male Blue-spotted Salamander breeds with the female Trembley's Salamander. The male only stimulating the female's egg development. The male's genetic material is not contributed.
I hope you are as impressed by this Salamander as I am!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A wildlife week-end

It’s interesting how things happen. On Saturday I went with a friend to the nature park in Ile Bizard and being November I figured there wouldn’t be a lot of wildlife to see but maybe a Muskrat or Beaver and possibly the Owl that is often sighted in the woods.

Well, I strolled the boardwalk for any sightings and my friend went off on another trail for a power-walk. At one point she came hurrying back to tell me that a Woodpecker was in full view and would make a good photo opportunity. I followed her but unfortunately only saw it as it flew further into the woods. I recognized it as a Pileated Woodpecker – quite the handsome bird! Well, no Owl and no Woodpecker photos for me but … just as I paused to photograph a mossy log on my way back to the boardwalk, I saw something I have never, ever seen in my life – a Salamander!!

I knew they existed and I also knew that one had to search carefully in wet areas under rocks and leaf litter to find them so I relegated that to a “probably won’t ever happen” category of life events. But this little guy was right out in the open and very nearly under my foot! Luckily I saw him in time and I think I stood for several seconds unable to believe my eyes. (I am sure you have noticed by now that these types of sightings get me very excited : -)).

So, to reiterate: no Owl, no Woodpecker but a Salamander on Saturday. By the way, this is a Blue-spotted Salamander.

Well, on Sunday I went to Mount Royal and while passing a large evergreen tree I noticed that a Crow flew around it once with a loud “caw” and then left. It made me wonder if something was in that tree. So I walked up to the tree’s trunk and looked straight up. I didn’t see anything until suddenly I noticed movement and there was a Long-eared Owl staring down at me! Yay! – an Owl – and a new species to add to my list to boot!!

A little while later I heard a “knock – knock” on a tree and there to my astonishment was a Pileated Woodpecker!

It’s almost as though the Owl and the Woodpecker were deferred to the next day so that the Salamander could have my full attention on the Saturday.

Then just to add icing to the cake, I spied this lovely and unusually marked Squirrel. Its coat was a soft blend of white and gray and he posed quite nicely against the fall foliage.

Not at all bad for a week-end in November - a time when one feels Nature is entering its dormant stage.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Supernumerary rainbows and iridescent clouds

It's interesting how one thing leads to another and before you know it, a mystery is solved. Last night on the way home from work I saw a spectacular rainbow and as I studied it I noticed narrow bands on the inside of the arc. I checked the Internet and found out that this was a supernumerary rainbow!

Then, as I was perusing the website I clicked on iridescent clouds and this solved a mystery regarding a picture I took in March of 2006 in the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

On that day I had the camera pointed up towards a Goldfinch in a tree when I noticed the strange colouring of some clouds. It was unlike anything I had seen and so I photographed it but never researched it any further. Here is the photograph with reduced brightness to show the colours better. The colours themselves have not been enhanced.