All the Strange Hours

deer-mori-sosenMori Sosen  (1747 – 1821)

 

I am treading deeper and deeper into leaves and silence. I see more faces watching, non-human faces.
Ironically, I who profess no religion find the whole of my life a religious pilgrimage.

Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

 

Ours Blanc

polar ours bJacques de Sève (fl. 1742 – 1788)
from quadruped illustrations for Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière avec la description du Cabinet du Roi
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707 – 1788) French naturalistmathematiciancosmologist, and encyclopédiste

 

Chat Roux Assis

cat fLéonard Tsuguharu Foujita — 藤田 嗣治 — (1886 – 1968)

Sic Transit

goat tosini this
Michele Tosini (1503–1577)

 

 

Ginger

 

Am I the only one

                           watching
my neighbour’s
                      frolicksome goat,
Ginger,
            tied to a pecan tree?
All morning
                  it has been examining
an empty bushel basket
                                  and has lifted
one leg delicately
                            like a circus horse
as if to roll it,
                           but whether to do that
or to butt it
                     with its small horns,
that is the question.
                                 Not of great moment,
no signing of the Charter,
                                        but like air music,
quickest of the elements.
                                       Towards which I leaped!

In form
            its own grace,
appearing,
                as it passed
in retrospect, classical.
The real goat stayed,
                                 imperturbable,
the body solid
                      as a four-square loom
and delivered me
                         from abstraction.
His coloring,
                     greyish-soft shades,
their dark and light
                        passing into each other
as in an antique rubbing.

I now found myself
                            sitting so near,
my shade,
               as in the Inferno,
sensed his,
                  but he gave no sign
of my presence,
                        even when I stroked him
and my heart leaped
                              at the gentle fleece,
too fine for a hard life.
He continued nibbling
                                 on a dry bush.

I would not have believed
                                       unconcern
could bolster the man in me
                                          and be so enduring.
Sic transit, not caring
                                    whether it is recognized,
The Divine
                (from another age).
He was poking
                     into the underbush now
and reached across my head
                                        for the small spiny twigs.

At that the phase
                           changed
and a sensuous trembling
                                     hung in the air,
as when a bee is about
                                  to descend
on blossoming clover,
                                 and I
felt myself being pulled
                                     as by a line
from the invisible
                            other side
to enter goathood,

                            deeper than sight.

 

Carl Rakosi (November 6, 1903 – June 25, 2004)

 

A Beautiful Law of Nature

camouflage caterpillarAbbott Handerson Thayer (August 12, 1849 – May 29, 1921)

 

“Less Thing-Like”

Abbott Thayer was a lifelong wildlife advocate whose artistic focus never strayed far from his personal fascination with the natural world.

On 11 November 1896 he made an appearance at the Annual Meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union in Cambridge, Massachusetts arriving at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology on Oxford Street bearing a sack of sweet potatoes, oil paints, paintbrushes, a roll of wire, and two new principles of invisibility in nature that together formed his “Law Which Underlies Protective Coloration.”
In his afternoon open-air lecture, Thayer argued that every non-human animal is cloaked in an outfit that has evolved to obliterate visual signs of that animal’s presence in its typical habitat at the “crucial moment” of its utmost vulnerability.

Thayer arrived at camouflage inadvertently, in the process of pursuing art.
As a student, he had learned that any shape drawn on a flat surface can be given volume and dimension by a venerable process called shading. This is reliably achieved by rendering the shape lighter on the top and gradually darker toward the bottom.
As we know from current brain research, this takes advantage of an inborn visual tendency called the top-down lighting bias: when we look at anything, we default to the assumption that its light source is coming from overhead.

Observation then enabled him to realize why so many animals have light colored bellies with darker coloring toward the tops of their bodies. The effect is the inverse of shading.
Appropriately, it became known as countershading, because the effect counteracts the shadows resulting from cast sunlight, making an animal look less dimensional, less solid, less “thing-like.”
Though some of Thayer’s other proposals have been disregarded, countershading is a widely accepted biological principle today, and stands as the artist’s most significant contribution to the natural sciences.

By 1896, Thayer was increasingly inserting himself into what was a longstanding debate over the origins, effectiveness, and pervasiveness of protective concealment in the natural world.
After the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, animal coloration—both its origins and its role in animal behavior—had become a key locus of debate among natural historians, artists, and the lay public.
Prior to this period, naturalists had noted instances of animals’ blending in with their backgrounds. It seemed remarkable that God had “dropped” them into place just so—“nature by design.”

By contrast, in an evolutionary model, there was a gradual “fitting together” over time. Evolutionary theories, both Darwin’s and that of his colleague Alfred Russel Wallace, presented a range of explanations for animal colors. Darwin emphasized interrelations between the sexes as the cause of the showy coloration found in the male of many species; females chose the more colorful males for mating.
Wallace, studying the colors of many insects, interpreted bright hues and complex patterns alike as either warning signals to potential predators, modes for assimilation in the environment, or mimicry of other, more dangerous, species.

Meanwhile,  philosopher-psychologist William James, a friend of Thayer’s and a fellow birder, discussed the experience of bird watching in his 1890 Principles of Psychology, describing the study of illusions, or so-called “false perceptions,” as critical in efforts to understand human apprehension of depth, color, and movement.

Thayer’s New Hampshire summer home, to which he and his family relocated around 1900, was transformed into a year-round laboratory for studying protective coloration.
His communion with nature permeated the entire household. Wild animals—owls, rabbits, woodchucks, weasels—roamed the house at will. There were pet prairie dogs named Napoleon and Josephine, a red, blue and yellow macaw, and spider monkeys

Soon, his wife Emma, son Gerald, and daughters Mary and Gladys joined him as fellow investigators, technicians, and artisans.
Between 1901 and 1909, their generative theories were built up into a universe of paintings, photography (a new technology), collages, stencils, and essays. Each format addressed the enigmas of coloration and invisibility in different ways.

Thayer was simultaneously producing, witnessing, and documenting the processes of a living being’s assimilation into its habitat.

 

Richard Meryman
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-painter-of-angels-became-the-father-of-camouflage-67218866/?no-ist=&page=1
Roy R. Behrens
Hanna Rose Shell


 

A Modest Love

dragon fly blue kJan van Kessel I (1626 – 1679)
A Cockchafer, Woodlice and other Insects, with a Sprig of Auricula
Detail


A Modest Love

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
The fly her spleen, the little sparks their heat;
The slender hairs cast shadows, though but small,
And bees have stings, although they be not great;
Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs;
And love is love, in beggars as in kings.

Where rivers smoothest run, deep are the fords;
The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move;
The firmest faith is in the fewest words;
The turtles cannot sing, and yet they love:
True hearts have eyes and ears, no tongues to speak;
They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.

Sir Edward Dyer (1543 – 1607)

 

Lady with Unicorn

lady unicorn paleGiorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco (1477/8–1510)

 

Butterfly

blue butterflyThomas Say (1787-1834)
American entomology, or Descriptions of the insects of North America:
illustrated by coloured figures from original drawings executed from nature

As a boy, Thomas Say, born into a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia, often visited the family garden, Bartram’s Garden, where he could take butterfly and beetle specimens to his great-uncle William.
A self-taught naturalist, he became an apothecary, and helped found the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1812.
He served as librarian for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, curator at the American Philosophical Society, and professor of natural history at the University of Pennsylvania
In 1816, he met Charles Alexandre Lesueur, a French naturalist, malacologist, and ichthyologist who soon became a member of the Academy and served as its curator until 1824.

To collect insects, Say made expeditions to the frontier, in spite of the risk of attacks by American Indians and the hazards of traveling in wild countryside.
In 1818, Say accompanied his friend William Maclure, then the ANSP president and father of American geology; Gerhard Troost, a geologist; and other members of the Academy on a geological expedition to the off-shore islands of Georgia and Florida, then a Spanish colony.

In 1819–20, Major Stephen Harriman Long led an exploration to the Rocky Mountains and the tributaries of the Missouri River, with Say as zoologist.
Their official account of this expedition included the first descriptions of the coyote, swift fox, western kingbird, band-tailed pigeon, rock wren, Say’s phoebe, lesser goldfinch, lark sparrow, lazuli bunting, and orange-crowned warbler.

In 1823, Say served as chief zoologist in Long’s expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
He traveled on the “Boatload of Knowledge” to the New Harmony Settlement in Indiana (1826–34), a utopian society experiment founded by Robert Owen.
He was accompanied by Maclure, Lesueur, Troost, and Francis Neef, an innovative education reformer.
There he later met Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz, another naturalist.

Say married Lucy Way Sistare, whom he had met as one of the passengers to New Harmony, near the settlement.
She was an artist and illustrator of specimens, as in the book American Conchology, and was elected as the first woman member of the Academy of Natural Sciences

Say was a modest and unassuming man, who lived frugally, like a hermit, in New Harmony. He abandoned commercial activities and devoted himself to his studies.
He died, apparently from typhoid fever, when he was 47 years old.

The quality of the plates, in his book on American insects, and the clarity of Say’s description won him immediate fame abroad, and he was made a foreign member of the Linnean Society of London.
Say named some 1,500 new species – many of his discoveries (such as the American dog tick) were crucial for the future study and control of disease in humans, livestock and crops


W
http://www.abaa.org/book/844565199

 

Guinea Pig

Guinea pig UdineGiovanni Nanni (1487–1564)
(Giovanni de’ Ricamatori, Giovanni da Udine)

 

The earliest known written account of the guinea pig dates from 1547, in a description of the animal from Santo Domingo.
Based on excavations on West Indian islands, it seems that the animal must have been introduced by ceramic-making horticulturalists from South America to the Caribbean around 500 BC, and it was present in the Ostionoid period, for example, on Puerto Rico, long before the advent of the Spaniards.
The guinea pig was first described in the West in 1554 by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.

W

The Animal That Therefore I Am

young barn owl elisabeth frinkYoung Barn Owl, Dame Elisabeth Jean Frink (1930 – 1993)

 

To put all living things that aren’t human into one category is, first of all, a stupid gesture – theoretically ridiculous – and partakes in the very real violence that humans exercise towards animals.

Confined within this catch-all concept, within this vast encampment of the animal,
in this general singular, within the strict enclosure of this definite article (‘the Animal’ and not ‘animals’), as in a virgin forest, a zoo, a hunting or fishing ground, a paddock or an abattoir, a space of domestication,
are all the living things that man does not recognize as his fellows, his neighbors, or his brothers.
And that is so in spite of the infinite space that separates the lizard from the dog, the protozoon from the dolphin, the shark from the lamb, the parrot from the chimpanzee, the camel from the eagle, the squirrel from the tiger, the elephant from the cat, the ant from the silkworm, or the hedgehog from the echidna.

The confusion of all nonhuman living things within the general and common category of the animal is not simply a sin against rigorous thinking, vigilance, lucidity, or empirical authority, it is also a crime.


Jackie Élie Derrida (1930 – 2004)
(Jacques Derrida)

 


–Thanks to Kieran Suckling for bringing this work of Derrida to my attention–

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/action/alerts/