Bird on a Rail

Breeders’ Challenge

As Summer morphs into Autumn, the Sonoma County calendar fills with events; most of which revolve around the wine industry. However, October 27th. belongs to the Breeders’ Challenge when after months of training, the racing pigeons come home to roost.

Pigeon Training

Somewhere in the rolling hills of Sonoma County is a long, low building known as “the loft” where pigeons are training to compete in the year’s longest race.

Since mid-July, breeders have mailed their birds to “the loft” for training. Like marathon runners,  racing pigeons must gain the strength and endurance to fly 350 miles without stopping. While gaining strength, the bird brains build  the latitude and longitude their built in  GPS will use for navigating back to the loft.

The Challenge Race

The evening of October 26, the birds, each in their special crate, will be loaded on a truck then driven across the California border to a location 350 miles from home. They will chow down on a carb-loaded dinner and wait for dawn.  As the sun rises on October 27, the birds will be released.

Immediately, they will head for home. The digital bar code on their leg band records each bird’s time of departure. The pigeons rise high to clear mountain passes then drop following the valleys. For approximately ten hours they will be in the air, battling wind and weather.  Some will fall prey to hawks patrolling the air currents above them. A few will lose their bearing, wandering of course.  As each bird arrives home, the bar code records the minute and second of its arrival. A computer program calculates each bird’s flight speed.  The fasted bird wins the challenge, and a $150,000 prize.

graphic
Bird on a Rail

Bird on a Rail

I learned about this because I opened the back door to find a beautiful pigeon sitting on the porch railing. Instead of flying away, she merely cocked her head and sidled off a step. Its feet were banded: a green band on the right, a pink one on the left. She was obviously used to being around people.

After spending time with google, I found a contact for the Sonoma County Racing Pigeon Club. Mike (the contact) told me that pigeons don’t fly at night. If the bird was still perched on my porch railing when it grew dark, I could catch it simply by shining a flashlight in its eye. The bright light would paralyze the flight response long enough for me to catch the bird and zip it safely into a cat carrier.

Mike arrived early the following morning with a bird box and his laptop. From the green band on the right foot, he identified the owner, and was able to return the bird to it’s home in Sebastapol.  A bird story that ended well

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Through the Front Door Week of June 24

An appreciation of poets William Blake, and T. S. E.iot

My Post (2)

From Jelly Beans to William Blake

My last post began with a quotation from William Blake. Week of June 17

Chances are, you don’t know anything about him. In a nutshell, he is a dead poet with a metaphysical point of view that breathed of scandal during his lifetime. I might consider him the father of free sex. Scholars consider him the most unread poet with the greatest impact on English poetry.

Two Bits About Blake

Literary boffins consider “Songs of Innocence” his masterwork. Nobody but boffins reads Blake these days, but those of us born before 1957 (in other words, those of us required to read in school) probably encountered “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” during a high school English class.

Anyway while I was looking for the quotation that I used in last week’s post, I discovered treasure after treasure of William Blake quotations. They have inspired me to sit down and read some Blake-finally.

Two Bits About Poetry in General

When I was struggling through an English degree at UCLA, poetry was an obstacle to climb over in order to get a grade.  It required considerable more exertion of mind than prose. Over the decades, however, it is the poetry that has stayed with me.  Lines and phrases bounce inside my head.

Two Bits About T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot whose work showed up in every single class except Medieval Lit., was the bane of my existence.  Finishing a term paper assigned to his “Four Quartets” and it’s relation to Bergson’s theory of time  was two weeks in purgatory. Funny, it was the “Four Quartets” to which I turned to find words for my mother’s memorial: “in the end is our beginning.”  If I could go back in time, I’d do a better job on that term paper.

A Blake Quotation or Three

Returning to the original subject of Blake, I’ve listed some of the quotes that caught my attention.

“In the Universe there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between there are the doors.”

“What is now proved, was once only imagined.”

“We are not meant to resolve all contradictions, but to live with them and rise above them.”

That old chestnut “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright” has something going for it.  It’s out there on the ‘net.’ Take a look at it for yourself.

 

 

Through the Front Door for the Week of June 17

Graphic with jelly beans
I adore jelly beans

Joy of jelly Beans

William Blake wrote “you never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.”

So it is thus with jelly beans!

Discovery! Amazon is selling five pounds of Brach’s jelly beans for about the same price as one pound of same in the local market-on the rare occasions you can find them at all.

I adore jelly beans. I rhapsodize jelly beans. A jelly bean dream would be one of the dreams of a lifetime. Forget about those high-end gourmet jelly beans manufactured in Fairfield, California! It’s Brach’s jelly beans for me: all sugar and water and gelatin, and colorful edible food dyes.

For reasons that passeth understanding, the local markets only carry Brach’s jelly beans at Easter and Halloween. Between times, the shelves are bare. Surely you can imagine my delight that Amazon, emporium to the world, carries them.

Five pounds of jelly beans arrived in a bright blue cardboard carton, with the Brach’s label emblazoned across the top. The jelly beans inside were all the colors of the rainbow and they were so fresh it was if they had been manufactured the day before.

I ordered the jelly beans at the beginning of June, and they are gone, gone, gone before the end of June. Don’t tell anyone, it’s my secret: I am going to order another five pounds next month. Because I still don’t’ know what is more than enough!

What Came Through the Door Fourth Week of January

Cornerstone Sonoma

For a year, I’ve passed by a place called “Cornerstone” idly wondering what it was.  Last Saturday, I finally went on a fact finding expedition.  Basically, it is a tourist destination: a restaurant, four wine tasting rooms, and two high end gift stores.

It’s the gardens that make Cornerstone a worthwhile place to spend an afternoon. There are twenty plots; each the size of a triple office cubicle. Every plot contains a garden designed by famous landscape architects from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Naturally, I didn’t have my pocket Nikon Coolpix with me.  I had to make do with the camera on my cell phone.

Graphic Cornerstone, Sonoma
Daisy Windmill Farm
Graphic of Cornerstone Garden Mini Vinyard
Cornerstone Garden: Mini Vineyard
Graphic of Cornerstone garden with rosemary and century plants
Circular Garden featuring rosemary and century plants
Graphic of Cornerstone Garden
Cornerstone: Century Plant Forest
Graphic
Cornerstone Garden Tunnel Walk

 

What Came Through the Door First Week of January

Joy and Sadness

This week two strangers received joyous news. A match was found for a new kidney. Their struggle to live under the shadow of renal failure is over. The donor was my cousin Penny, who passed from this life January 4th when her life support was disconnected. One door closing opened two others. Life passes to life. Like water, life takes many forms and shapes that are beyond our ability to see. Penny lives in our memory, and in the lives of others as well.

Quentin, Who is Two

Quentin blew through the door (accompanied by his parents). They traveled from  Canada to visit his great-grandmother Genivieve Duffin. He turned two in December, and is a full-fledged member of the tribe known the world over as “the Terrible Twos.” Watching this little guy chasing the cat, running back and forth around the living room, and grabbing for everything interesting that he saw, I found myself thinking “it is the terrible twos” because it is terrible to be two. Here are these little tykes, waking up to a bright and shiny world full of wonderful things to explore, and all they encounter are people yelling “NO” and “DON”T TOUCH, and “YOU KNOW THE RULES!” When you are two it’s only natural to explore and grab and touch and climb. How else does one learn to negotiate the world? Of course one doesn’t know the rules. Big people tell them something that makes no sense in their world, then expect them to both understand and obey immediately. At two, you are so small that people can pick you up out of the blue and carry you away right in the middle of something interesting. It takes a lot of grit to survive being two.