September 21, 2010

Sept 21: Tiger Tales

I'm heading to India this fall.
I've been reading books about India: culture, architecture, wildlife etc.
I've taken special interest in reading about Tigers. (It is the year of the tiger, you know.)

A recent passage gripped me.

As the twentieth century draws to a close, an impressively large percentage of the world's most familiar wild animals are facing extinction. The creatures that we introduce our children to at bedtime as part of their initiation into the world -- lion, leopard, rhinoceros, tiger -- will soon exist only in zoos and in the wilderness of the imagination.
No human being will know when the last wild tiger meets its death. Perhaps in some remaining bit of hill forest in northern Burma a hunter will level his sights on the animal he has been seeking for months. Or perhaps in what was once a national park in the heart of Sumatra that last tiger, driven by hunger, will come to the poisoned bait hopefully set out for it. Or in northern India or Nepal that last remaining wild tiger, emaciated and starving, will be hacked to death by a group of local villagers. All that can be said with a minimum of certainty is that this last wild tiger is no mere hypothesis. Though perhaps not yet born, it will exist. And in all likelihood, it will die within the next twenty-five to thirty years.
For those human beings possessing the courage to look unflinchingly, the fate overtaking the world's wild animals presents itself with irresistible clarity. When, within the lifetime of many children living today, the last remnants of these creatures are trapped and gathered together for their own safekeeping and "the good of all humanity," that great nineteenth-century innovation, the zoo, will come into its own at last. In these hugely funded, highly polished institutions, veritable temples, where the ambient environment and physiological functions of the "living treasures" are monitored as carefully as rising and falling shares on the stock exchange, the zoo will become what it was destined to be from its inception -- a place of pilgrimage where human beings gawk in awed stupefaction at the irreplaceable, literally, priceless, living curiosities.
But that era will pass soon enough. Within a certain number of generations the descendants of these last wild animals, weakened, robbed of the riches of their genetic ancestry, will, in spite of every known technological intervention, every genetic advance and development, perish.
But it will be a strangely inconclusive death.
In that not so distant era, on a day like today, a tiger will roam free, stalking its prey with infinite patience through a pristine habitat in which the colors, sights, smells, and sounds are hyper-real and literally perfect. It will crouch, claws set to earth, and charge in a burst of speed, closing in with murderous swiftness for the kill... ... ...
The most perfect of three-dimensional illusions.
A blur of dancing electrons and shifting shadows.
In the awed silence of a darkened room.

Richard Ives. Of Tigers and Men: Entering the Age of Extinction

If you have an empty feeling, like I do, after reading that, please continue reading another section.

"So I take it," I say, "that you consider the situation in regard to tiger, the situation in Asia as a whole, as rather hopeless."
"You might say that."
"Do people you know agree with you?"
"I think they do."
"Then why don't people just say it? Why does everyone keep beating around the bush?"
He gives me a long thoughtful look and says, "Hope is something that people are very reluctant to give up -- even those who ought to know better. ... In regard to the forests of Asia, in regard to forests everywhere, we are now entering a sort of threshold era. Once the final threshold has been crossed, everything will be different."
"Meaning, simply, that when the last tree is felled, when the last wild place is finally conquered, it will become obvious for the first time in the history of our planet what the human species really amounts to."
"And what is that?"
Looking away, he says, "Something sadder, something infinitely more pathetic, than almost anyone has ever imagined."
I stare at him for a moment.

Additional recommendations.
Sy Montgomery. Spell of the Tiger.
Hemanta Mishra / Jim Ottaway Jr. Soul of the Rhino.
Hemanta Mishra. Bones of the Tiger.
Peter Matthiessen. The Snow Leopard.
Joy Adamson. Born Free.
Farley Mowat. Never Cry Wolf.
Craig Childs. The Animal Dialogues.
Dick Pitman. A Wild Life.
Jack Hannah. Jungle Jack.
Benjamin Mee. We Bought a Zoo.

September 20, 2010

Sept 20: Peach Jam

If you haven't seen last year's peach-week photos, check them out here. There's more of a story in that set, as well as some nice images.

Below are some snapshots from this season's harvest.

Just jam this year.

160 mini jars. 1.5oz
5 dozen small jars. 4oz
22 medium jars. 8oz

650oz total.

For those who like to count, here's your chance*. (*see note at end)

Aren't the little ones cute?
We're designing labels too.

All fancy with some lighting, balancing ambient (fluorescent) with one remote speedlight.

There are still some peaches left for immediate enjoyment.
As my mom said earlier this weekend, 'Something about making jam is just... love & happiness.'
*contented sigh*

Time to go peel a few more for dessert.

Not all of the cans were photo'd. Some were packed for shipment before the photo. I apologize for this number-crunching disappointment.