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Friday, January 25, 2019

Ten Truths about Hijab: Let's Expand Our Definition of "Diversity" to Include Rebellious Muslimas

Ten Truths about Hijab
Let's Expand Our Definition of "Diversity" to Include Rebellious Muslimas

In a city I cannot name, on a date I cannot specify, an anonymous woman and I embarked on a risky drive to an institution whose address I cannot disclose. "Aisha" and I had eaten, gabbed, laughed, worked and dreamed together. I had met her family. They were lovely people. They planned to kill her. She had violated their Islamic expectations. Thus our drive to a remote safe house. In the United States. In the twentieth century.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Single Species Birding: The Wily, Elusive Snow Bunting

Photo source All about Birds 

There are as many ways to birdwatch as there are birdwatchers.

In the Bharatpur wildlife refuge in India, I met an American man who regularly traveled thousands of miles in search of a creeper.

In North America, we have the brown creeper. I used to see brown creepers every time I birdwatched. Nowadays, with our decline in species, not so much. In any case, it's not all that hard to see a brown creeper in North America

But this guy, an American, traveled thousands of miles to see the Indian spotted creeper.

I can't really relate to that form of birdwatching.

For me, birding is double duty. As a teacher and writer, I spend a lot of my work day sitting. I chafe. i want to be outside. I want to be moving. And I crave beauty and knowledge of a natural place. I want a relationship with a natural place as much as i want a relationship with a person.

I share that intimacy with Garret. I know it. I'm there in every weather. And I move. I walk. I don't sit in one spot.

I don't go after one species. I see whatever I can see while walking through the park.

Except. When it comes to the wily, elusive snow bunting.

I've been wanting to see one for years. And, in winter, I become a single species seeker.

I spent most of today on the hunt. I went to a rather blasted, post-industrial landscape in search of snow buntings. An expert birder recommended this spot to me. And I saw bufflehead, red-breasted merganser, horned grebe, all good birds.

But no snow bunting.

The snow bunting is a metaphor for life itself.

And life sucks.

I got back to civilization, although where I'd been birding was a weird combination of post-apocalyptic piles of trash, marshes full of plastic garbage, and water that supported fish eating birds, so my return to civilization was along a crooked path. Civilization as shopping malls and new, anonymous, depressing condominiums eating up the last bits of wild New Jersey.

Wilderness a land where beautiful birds eek out their lives amidst our waste.

A friend phoned. I mentioned to him my ever thwarted quest for an encounter with a snow bunting.

He said, "I'd always made fun of birdwatching. It always struck me as a rather silly, eccentric activity. And then I was in a Florida swamp with some friends who are birdwatchers.

So close to us I could count its feathers, I saw a bird that was every color" -- at that he broke off to ask his wife the name of the bird. Painted bunting.

"Yes, i saw a painted bunting, and it was so beautiful and captivating, and it was special that I saw it.

We went on birding that day in the Florida swamp, and around every turn I saw bird after bird, and I realized how special it is. "

Call me Ishmael.

How Long Does It Take for the Sun to Rise?

Jessie Eastland source: Wikipedia 

How long does it take for the sun to rise?

I'm not in Paterson this morning. I'm somewhere from which one can watch the sun rise, cleanly. 

First, at a time when in Paterson it is still night, the horizon is ringed with red and light. About forty minutes later, a rose glow washes every tree and rock.  Then, maybe fifteen minutes after that, the crest of a gold platter breaches the line of the mountain against the sky and filters through the silhouettes of bare winter trees. 

I like sleep and bed. I have always known that slumber's escape is my drug of choice. And i've always fought their allure, tooth and nail. i wrench myself out of bed. 

I don't drink coffee so I turn my body into the jaws of life. Morning exercises, every morning. Drinking lots of juice. Much time spent in the smallest room in the house, getting dirty and scrubbing to scrupulously clean. 

I wanted to spend my few remaining pennies, my few remaining minutes on earth, working robotically and blinded through my morning routine, something  I do every morning in a Paterson apartment-without-a-view.  Not devote time to watching a timeless miracle, while I am lucky enough to be somewhere where I can see it with no man-made obstructions. 

We humans always seem so good and focusing on the mundane and ignoring the miraculous. 

I actually googled, "how long does it take the sun to rise?"

And then of course the inevitable questions concatenated. Does a sun rise last as long as a moonrise? Does it matter if it is summer or winter, distant from  or near the equator? 

I had no idea of the answers to any of these questions. 

Google helpfully completed the question for me. How long does it take to get to Mars? For SAT results? To boil an egg ? 

In the end, I abandoned the question ... and I watched the sun rise. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Times of Israel Blogger Van Wallach: "God through Binoculars" Offers "Keen Insights" and is "Brutally Honest."

Grateful for Van Wallach's positive review of "God through Binoculars" at the Times of Israel blogs. You can read Van's entire review here. "God through Binoculars" is at Amazon here