A Backyard Naturalist

The spider is at the center of this intricate web with its zig-zag design.

My backyard in west-central Florida is littered with spider webs right now. Things are getting out of control and community pressure will soon rain down on me to remove “those icky things.”  If I don’t do it the association will have the maintenance crew take care of it.  I can assure you the spiders will prefer my methodology as opposed to the take-no-prisoners tactics of the yard crew.

It’s not that I like spiders all that much but they do have a purpose.  They eat all those other insects that I really don’t like — specifically roaches and mosquitos.  So, I tolerate their unsightly webs and they help me out.
Besides, the webs are fascinating.  So many different styles.  Some are simple threads of silky rope seemingly strung with no rhyme or reason.  And, of course, there is the “traditional” web that we have all seen on the cover of Charlotte’s Web.  Some are dense cups silk that trap the poor insects who wander by.  But the prize for artistic impression in a spider’s web  must go to the Argiope family of spiders.  And, while we are at it, they should also get the best costume design award.

Argiope spiders are common in gardens throughout the world and they are quite easy to spot due to their fantastic orb-web with its complex ziz-zag pattern.   This web (above) was easy to spot in my backyard.  From a distance it seemed as if a bit of paper had become lodged in the plants.  It measured about 2″  long and about 1.5″ wide.  The inhabitant was likely a female.  All the reference sources claim the female is larger and this was a large spider.

Argiope spider and nest

She was very tolerant as I fussed around getting the camera set.  The web was low to the ground, maybe six inches up.  This meant getting the tripod in squatting mode and then inching it forward.  I expected her to bolt at any moment but she tolerated me very well. And the detail of spider and web just kept getting better and better.  Her black and white markings were lovely.  There were touches of yellow that was almost iridescent.

The argiope appears to have a fierce face but her eyes are the four small dots at the base of her body.

She was such a poser that I had time to get my Tamron 90mm macro lens and that’s when she really came to life.  Turns out she a face that only a mother could love.  She’s a hairy little thing.  But the face is a trick.  Those two “eyes” are not eyes at all.  She actually has four eyes (no, not glasses) and they are just beneath her furry “face” right above her pincers.

As I got closer she would start a bouncing motion that would vibrate the web and was, no doubt, an alarm directed at this weird beast that was moving towards her.  After all, who knows what she seeing.

Backyards are great places for nature photography.  There will be more accounts about my backyard in this blog. I hope you enjoy them.

Hospice – It’s What I Do

Tell someone you work for hospice and you’re likely to get one of two responses.  The most frequent is, “You people are angels!  I don’t know how you do what you do but God bless you for doing it.”  This is normally followed by “My mother (father, husband, brother, friend) was in hospice and the care they got was wonderful….”

The second reaction is, “Wow!” followed by a slight but perceptible shift in the room temperature to a cooler setting and a discomfort that generally stems from a reluctance to discuss any aspect of death or a bad experience with hospice.  It is normally the former but it can be the latter.  People do have bad experiences with hospice which is truly a sad thing to say because death, I have learned, is a wondrous thing and to participate in the passing of someone from this world to the next can be a beautiful and positive thing.

Part of the reason I have started this blog is to share some of my hospice experiences.When I share them verbally with family and friends there is always a sense of wonder and amazement at the work that I do.  More than one person has said, “you should write a book”.  Perhaps, one day.  For the present time we’ll start with a blog.

I presently work as a grief specialist — a counselor of sorts.  I’ve had this job with hospice for about one year.  Prior to that I was a hospice house nurse for four years.  I truly  loved that job but as I start cruising through my 60s I find that 12-hour nursing shifts are harder and harder.  My current job allows for the same satisfaction of helping without the physical demands of nursing.  Win, win.

Day 2 with WordPress – Don’t try hard, try easy.

It’s Day 2 with my new WordPress account and, as the saying goes, there is a learning curve. I’ve been struggling with efforts to load WordPress on to my Mac in order to work offline with developing pages, posting pictures, etc.  But the fact of the matter is that I don’t need to do that.  Obviously I can write and post from within WordPress online.  So, the goal is to follow some advice that I learned a long time ago while working on a children’s play, “Don’t try hard, try easy.”

It’s good advice.  Humans very often try too hard when easy will do just as well.  Obsessive to a fault we simply lose sight of the objective and become very entangled with details.  So, stepping back for a moment, I asked myself “What is the objective?”  Am I trying to learn Apache and MySql? Do I need to revisit the world of HTML and FTP?  I’ve been there before and it is all very fascinating.  But what is my objective now?

The answer is to learn a bit about WordPress and see where it will take me.  For years I have posted on my iWeb account.  After struggling in the early days of web site construction (late 1980s and early 1990s) I was delighted as programs emerged that simplified the process of posting a page on the Web.  Microsoft’s Publisher was a huge advance at the time and allowed me to construct a relatively complex website for the non-profit organization that my husband and I founded in the early 1980s — Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT).  More on that story another time.

After my husband’s death in 2001, I switched to the Mac and the wonderful world of iLife and its various components. iWeb was (and is) a wonderfully easy web page development program.  But over time I became disillusioned with its limitations, especially with respect to photographic pages.  I wanted something that I could post to easily and quickly.  I wanted something that will allow me to combine my two loves — writing and photography.  I’ve heard that WordPress might be the place.

Time will tell.  For the next few days (and maybe weeks) my plan is to “play” with this site.  Get some folks to follow the postings and let me know what they think.

It is a work in progress….