Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Our Elders and Betters

Herewith the following splendid photo. It comes from my oldest friend, Philip Cavanaugh. The letter that brought it explains what is shown here.

Dear Arsen: 

Early this month we participated in the annual “Texas T Party”—about 80 Model T’s from the entire production period 1909 to 1927. This may be our last trip; doing 100 miles per day for four days is more fatiguing than it used to be. Anyway I am sending a picture of what could be called “the last and the first”: my green 1926 next to my red 1911.

Hope all is well with you and family; we soldier on.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Honor and Honorarium

I’ve never earned a penny for making a public speech—but presumably they weren’t altogether free. I spoke as a representative of institutions that thought they benefited from any kind of positive “exposure” to the public; I was merely the instrument of delivering that exposure. There was also the personal “honorarium” consisting of basking in the attention of mostly strangers for twenty minutes or so; and there was, of course, the intangible value of that sometimes rather perfunctory applause.

We live in a world of intangible concepts. What is “exposure,” for instance. It isn’t something one can deposit. How does one “profit” from “publicity”? The profit isn’t measurable; it’s in the same category as the weight of my soul. And what exactly does “honor” mean? Since honor also belongs to an immaterial category, the “honorarium” should be in the same class; it should be praise, never a check. Too rudely physical that. Praise is just words—not deeds. And when crass words turn into crass deeds, or when honor turns into fungible honoraria, we’ve crossed some kind of invisible barrier between order and disorder—whatever those intangible concepts mean.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Brigitte named our presumably last Black Swallowtail this season Terpsichore—quite intuitively, I might add, because she’d forgotten how to tell a female from a male of this species, Papilio polyxenes. But she’d picked right. Terpsichore is a lady. The distinctive markings here are the white, indeed almost yellow, spots on the wings, tails, and the rear of the body and the distinctive and rather large blue markings on the tail reading up to the “eyes.”

The males, by contrast, shown on the left, have much more pronounced and more yellow markings; the blue spots, however, are quite small.

We found Terpsichore on some parsley we’d grown. The parsley was right next to a veritable forest of dill, which Black Swallowtails evidently prefer; but they like parsley as well. Brigitte had asked for a bunch for cooking. She had it in a glass jar on the windowsill awaiting the time for its use. And there, reaching for them, she noticed with delight that a caterpillar had grown large enough to detect. This was about the end of September—in a way quite late. We wondered if the butterfly would develop this season or whether, as we’d experienced at the old house with another late batch, it would wait until Spring to emerge from its pupa once she had formed it.

We’d had an earlier batch of Swallowtail this summer, but what with my deepening laziness, and its consequence of avoiding the LABORS of blogging, no note of those creature came to be written. Two of their names were Castor and Pollux; the third one, perhaps disliking “foreign” names, managed to crawl out of the box and disappeared before it was time to curl up for transformation.

Mind you, we now have a quite respectable stand of milkweed plants. But no Monarchs deigned to leave offspring at our new Butterfly Ranch. Good thing too. Distinguishing between male and female Monarch is much, much more difficult. Someday, perhaps, I’ll have a chance to address the subject…