On Aging

I will be 78 next month. Although the advance of aging differs considerably from person to person, I now consider myself to be “old”. How does it feel to be old? For me, it’s not at all pleasant. Every day, instead of discovering new abilities and new things in the world, I discover what it is that I am no longer capable of. The world of possibilities shrinks around me.

Is it possible to reconcile oneself to this? Well … it is. But it requires that one identifies completely with the fundamental purpose of life. And what is that fundamental purpose? All living things share one and only one purpose, and that purpose is to prolong one’s life to the point that you have passed your genetic material into offspring. An ancillary purpose that one sees in some organisms (like us) is to provide support to those offspring and, if possible, their offspring. That’s it. The purpose of life is the continuation of itself. There is no “higher” purpose.

How did this come to be? In an otherwise purposeless universe, a particular organization of matter appeared that was somehow capable of maintaining itself against the forces of disorganization. It persisted. And the subsequent evolution of life is the story of how new forms of persistence (i.e. species) appeared over time, leading right up to this moment. The key innovation of evolution was, of course, reproduction – the placing of your genetic material into new vehicles.

That’s the broad view. Back to the narrow concerns of individuals. We humans, along with all other organisms, are driven to reproduce. We approach sexual maturity and become horny. We fall in love … or just have sex. Whether by choice or not, we have children. Some of us put more, and some less, effort into rearing those children. Some of us even contribute to the support of our childrens’ children. No matter how exactly one pursues the path of reproduction, reproduction remains the sole purpose of life.

I have fathered a child, which child has fathered three children, and those three children have now gained sexual maturity.  I find, therefore, that my job is almost over. My sole remaining duty is to assist my wife in contributing to the well-being of her child and grandchildren, although they are not related to me. Now, supporting my wife’s reproductive success is the greatest service I can provide to her, as she provided to me. My job will truly be done when those children make it safely to sexual maturity (well … there’s just one more thing I will need to do. I will need soon to get out of the way of my descendants, by ending the expenditure of family resources tied up in keeping me alive. I will need to die. And, of course, my dying has begun, as the aging process renders me increasingly more vulnerable to accident and disease. Aging is an invitation to dying.)

Does this way of looking at things then reconcile me to aging and the approach of death? Well … if it doesn’t, nothing else will. No worldly thing can substitute for it. And what of those who have remained childless? They have the opportunity to assist their siblings, with whom they share genes. They can be loving and loved aunts and uncles, and improve the odds in favor of their nieces and nephews. And of those childless individuals who lack relations?  They can, as a friend pointed out, be of service to the family of humanity and our only home, the Earth.

So, am I reconciled? I am reconciled and will complain no more.

 

 

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Southwest Airlines Aerial Views, 12-19-17 and 12-26-17

After visiting the West Coast earlier in the month, Kathy and I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area for the Holidays. The round-trip flights on this occasion provided lots of photographic opportunities. For the the Albuquerque to Oakland flight we took window seats on the side of the plane that would face north, knowing that the plane would pass immediately to the south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

View of Albuquerque from the west

13 volcanic necks just east of Mt. Taylor

The eastern part of the Grand Canyon, with the South Rim visible at bottom

A wider angle view of the same area as above

View further to the west than the above photos

A wider angle view

Clouds and a greater distance from the plane precluded getting photographs of the central portion of the Canyon.

The Whitmore lava flow

A little further to the west from the above photo

Parashant Wash

The Spencer Towers are a major landmark in the lower canyon

Beyond the Grand Canyon, the Cockscomb is a major landmark

The Colorado River enters Lake Mead. The river’s current ceases at the point where the brown water meets the blue water. This landmark has been moving down-lake for quite some time now, as the the surface elevation of Lake Mead continues to drop as a consequence of diminished inflow.

Over the Sierra, with Union Valley Reservoir to the left.

New Melones Reservoir, in the Sierra foothills

Tracy (CA), in the Central Valley. Rts. 580 and 205 converge on upper left.

Altamont wind turbines, and Rt. 580

Livermore

We again occupied window seats on the north-facing side of the plane for the return flight. The route of this flight is to the north of the westbound flight.

These wind turbines are found just to the north of the Sacramento River, in the area of the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta.

Lake Tahoe

Spicer Meadow Reservoir and Bear Valley Resort

Sonora and Stanislaus peaks

Looking straight down at the crest of Leavitt Pk.

On the eastern side of the Sierras – Topaz Lake, on the West Walker River.

Wheeler Mountain is located to the north of Bridgeport, CA

The East Walker River, NV, downstream of Bridgeport Reservoir. Kathy and I have fished this stretch, known as Rosachi Ranch. Our campsite is marked with an “X”.

Walker Lake and Hawthorne, NV

The Toiyabe Range

Clouds then obscured the view for the remainder of the flight.

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Albany, CA, Dec. 2017

Terrace Park

Peralta Street

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Shoreline Birds – Alameda, California, Dec. 2017

This Holiday season, Kathy and I visited our two families that reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kathy’s daughter Laina and family live in Alameda, only a few minutes walk from the bay shore. This provides a shoreline birding walk that’s hard to beat, and readers of this blog will have seen many prior posts dedicated to the birds seen on these walks. The birds seen this December were no disappointment. All the photos that follow were taken with my superzoom (83X!) Nikon Coolpix P900.

Avocets

Black Phoebe

Black-necked Stilt

Buffleheads

Coots

Cormorants

Curlews

Greater Yellowlegs

Look at that fabulous plumage on the back of the bird!

Hermit Thrush

Marbled Godwits and others

Pintail Ducks

Seen to the right of the pintails are a shoveler and widgeon, with coots behind.

Ruddy Duck

Female

Rufous-capped Sparrow

Sandpipers

Snowy Egret

Solitary Sandpiper

Western Bluebird

Whimbrel

Widgeons

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Behind the bird is seen San Francisco’s newest, highest, skyscraper – Salesforce Tower, 1,070′ tall

Alameda shoreline

The southeast Alameda shoreline, looking towards San Francisco. Bay Farm Island (left) is located across the channel that leads to San Leandro Bay.

The accompaniment in the following video was provided free of charge by a saxophonist seated a few feet behind me on the bird watching platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southwest Airlines Aerial Views, 12-8-17

On Nov. 30 of this year, Kathy and I flew from Albuquerque, NM to Reno, NV, to attend the America Outdoors Association Marketing and Management Conference, but conditions didn’t permit photography on the way there. We returned to Albuquerque on Dec. 12, being routed first from Reno to Oakland, and were on the south-facing side of the plane for that flight.

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View to the south as we flew westerly over the Sierras. Spicer Meadow Reservoir is just below, and Mono Lake is seen in the distance.

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Telephoto view to the south and east, with Mono Lake to the left. The mountain to the right may be Mt. Conness. We are passing over the northern part of Yosemite NP.

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Telephoto view to the south, showing the formations found at the head of Yosemite Valley

Our return from Oakland first went back over the Sierras, with our seats on the north-facing side of the plane.

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View to the north, of Lake Tahoe

Continuing to fly east, we pass over a section of the Pacific Crest trail

To the east of the Sierras, we pass over Wheeler Peak, which is located to the north of Bridgeport, CA

We then began the crossing of Nevada.

Walker Lake, in upper left, the town of Hawthorne and the Hawthorne Army Depot, NV

Long shadows of peaks to the west are cast over the munitions storage facilities of the Hawthorne Army Depot

Solar collector assembly and Luning, NV

Chevron hills east of Luning, NV

Round Mountain open pit gold mine

As we began to pass over Utah, the coming of dark made further photography impossible.

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Fall Along the Rio Grande – Bighorns, Beavers, Brown Trout, Birds and Beautiful Days

Fall Along the Rio Grande (2017) – Bighorns, Beavers, Brown Trout, Birds and Beautiful Days

Bighorn sheep

The Bighorn sheep herd that spent considerable time in the Orilla Verde (OV) section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument was the most notable local nature event of this fall. They came to graze the tasty roadside grass that had grown up following the monsoon rains, and their presence along the road was also connected to (or just coincided with) their annual rut.

Bighorn grazes the roadside grass. Yum!

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Ewes and young

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Opposite Petaca Campground (CG)

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Two rams in the Petaca CG

The Bighorns were not in the least bothered by the proximity of cars and people, just as their cousins in the Taos Box section of the Rio Grande Gorge are not bothered by the proximity of rafts and people.

Bighorn ram

We were also able to watch the rams head-butting and mounting ewes.

Bighorn ram guards ovulating ewe from other ram (with more rams close by)

The following clip shows a ram coming down from above for the purpose of inspecting a ewe. The inspection is to determine the ovulatory status of a ewe. As he approaches, he adopts the characteristic head down/nose up posture. This posture is seen again in the photo that follows.

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In this clip, the ewe urinates in response to the male’s inspection.

The above clip shows more of the male inspecting behavior.

What a good-looking guy!

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I took the above three photos on November 16, as a small group of bighorns strolled along the river side of the road.

Beavers

Beavers are not normally nocturnal animals, but become so when they are around people. This means that when I fish into the evening I’m likely to see them appear, and sometimes they get quite close. In the above clip, another beaver had preceded the one seen here onto the shore, and was munching on the bark of a willow cutting, which can be heard in the first few seconds of the clip. The second beaver (seen here) hesitated for a few seconds, and then headed upstream to another pull-out.

New beaver den being excavated, OV

Brown trout

Speaking of fishing, the water clarity and lower water levels of the fall season usually make for good fishing. Brown trout are my preferred quarry, and they are fall spawners. This makes the males more colorful than usual, and more aggressive on the bite.

Brown trout, OV

Brown trout caught on a very crazy grasshopper imitation, OV

Todd Emerson, OV

The fall fishing season lasted until November 17, when the water level suddenly jumped up from 425 to 625 cfs., an increase of approximately 50%. This was the result, I was told, of the seasonal end of irrigation diversions in the upstream San Luis Valley. This event definitely put the fish “off the bite”, which was confirmed by myself and Todd Emerson, when we floated the OV section on 11-20 … and both of us got skunked.

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Todd fishes a side channel

Beautiful Days

Except for an 11-day bird watching trip to Ecuador, which we took in Sept./Oct. (see prior posts), Kathy and I stuck around throughout the fall. Besides allowing me to go fishing as often as I wished (which accounted for practically every afternoon), it also allowed us to behold the full progression of the fall colors. As they say, trout live in beautiful places.

Bighorn sheep graze under a cottonwood, at Lone Juniper CG, OV

Cottonwood, Lone Juniper CG, OV

Cottonwoods, Rio Bravo CG, OV

Cottonwoods along the Bosque stretch, near our place in Embudo

same as above

Cottonwood branch, Bosque stretch at “Millers’ Landing”

Trevor’s Wave, Bosque section

Orilla Verde

Orilla Verde

Sun dog, OV

Sun dog, OV

Rio Bravo CG, OV, downstream view

Rio Bravo CG, OV, upstream view

Rio Bravo CG, OV, downstream view towards the Picuris Mountains

Cottonwood and moon, Rio Bravo CG, OV

OV evening

Riverside grass, OV

Russian olive, OV

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Poison ivy berries, OV

Upstream view in side channel, view towards Taos Junction CG, OV

Side channel, with willows and cattails, OV

Sculpted basalt boulder, Racecourse section

Birds

Canada geese, OV

Canada goose, cackling

Townsend’s Solitaire, OV

Mallards, OV

Canyon wren, OV

Downy woodpecker, Embudo

Mountain chickadee, Embudo

A pair of magpies at work on an animal carcass – maybe a Bighorn lamb, OV

The final act of fall comes with the appearance of the birds that winter on the Rio Grande. This bald eagle was photographed in a favorite perch along the Racecourse section, across the river from the well-traveled Hwy. 68, on Nov. 27.

Bald eagle, Racecourse section

Diving and other ducks also show up, which (along with fish) constitute prey for the eagles. The most common diving duck is the goldeneye, which I photographed on Nov. 28.

Goldeneyes

It’s still early, and I expect to see the arrival of a number more bald eagles, and lots more ducks – buffleheads, gadwalls, ring-necked and mergansers. Here, below, is a medley of waterfowl from last winter, so stay tuned!

Top to bottom: mallards, canada goose, goldeneyes and gadwall

 

 

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The Donald vs. Kim Jung-un. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

The Donald vs. Kim Jung-un. Stop and consider that for a moment! The world’s most powerful country vs. the world’s only nuclear-armed pariah state. The greatest megalomaniac in the recent history of the American Presidency vs. the world’s longest-standing totalitarian regime. You can’t make this stuff up (well .. maybe Saturday Night Live could). Can it get any more absurd … or dangerous?

We know, of course, that DT tweets the most alarming stuff, and then takes it back. Most recently, he trusts Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence services… and then he doesn’t. But, concerning North Korea, he seems set on the idea that he can force Kim Jung-un to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. He threatens North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

Does he really suppose that his threats will lead to that end? They, of course, will not. The Donald and his Generals will not unleash a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Since no such strike could guarantee the complete obliteration of North Korea’s capacity to respond, it would, if attempted, guarantee the destruction of Seoul, at the very least. The time is long past that a pre-emptive strike against North Korea could have been achieved without catastrophic losses. North Korea is now impregnable. North Korea has a deterrent. Yet DT delights in insulting his adversary. Are these histrionics just for show?

Nor, of course, will North Korea make an unprovoked attack against us or South Korea. Why would they? I’ve heard reference made to the use of “nuclear blackmail” by North Korea, but don’t find this at all credible. So it looks like we are stalemated, which is fine with me. I’m not losing sleep over the nuclear “threat” of North Korea, since I don’t see their nuclear capabilities (now or when they obtain an ICBM) as constituting a threat to the United States.

What does cause me concern is that, megalomaniac that he is, DT will do something stupid … something very stupid.

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