How Does Our Garden Grow

I tried to create a garden of flowering plants in our front yard when we first moved to Maryland many years ago. Shrubs, seeds, and bulbs, made their way to our home from the local store. Many of these plants actually survived for at least a little while. We had beautiful flowers of different colors in our yard that drew in the bees and the butterflies. It was actually pretty. It was a time when I actually tried to remember the names of the plants we had in our garden! The plants needed care, and some of them died because I was not very good at it. But, generally, things were going well. Then came the deer.

The deer in our neighborhood are absolutely fearless.  They walk around on our streets as if the whole place belongs to them.  They sometimes do not move even an inch when you try to shoo them away. They also eat everything up in the yard.  It is worse in winter when they get really hungry.  I had tried to find plants that they are not supposed to like, but that did not stop them.

I gave up trying to create a garden a long time ago.  I would not get much sympathy when I ranted on about the deer immediately after they ate up a bunch of stuff.  I was told that deer also needed to live.  Served me right for trying to live in a green and wooded place similar to the place I grew up in in India, where there were a lot of deer!

But, now, the attempt to create a garden has been revived once again! The motivating force for this effort came from elsewhere, but I had no objection to it. I knew enough to not set my expectations too high. We planted a bunch of supposedly deer-resistant plants.  I also made sure to spray this product on the plants every once in a while to try to deter the deer.

Unfortunately, it has not been working out that well. The deer have been munching regularly on some of the plants we bought. Deer-resistant, my foot! They also try out the other deer-resistant plants we bought, but stop before getting too far. A few of these plants seem to recover after being eaten, with new leaves reappearing, only for them to be chewed up once again. The “deer-resistant” ground cover that we had planted must have been particularly enjoyable since they actually seem to have dug deeper into the soil with the mouths to get access to any succulent leaves that they might have missed. (It would be amazing if that plant comes back to life.) I came back from a bike ride this morning and saw that the deer had made a meal of another plant that seemed to have been recovering.

The previous owner of the house had planted hostas on the side.  They used to come out beautifully every year – until the deer found them.  They love the leaves and the flowers.  They either jump over, or get around, the plastic fence I put in place. In spite of being eaten regularly, the plants come back every year in Spring – only to be eaten once again.  This year things were a little different for a while.  I had changed up the fence a little bit and that seemed to keep them out for a little bit longer than usual.  The hostas were growing really nicely, and I was looking forward to seeing the flowers.  And then the deer found a way in one night!

I am not as upset about this kind of stuff these days as I used to be!

One aspect of taking care of the garden, regardless of the losing battle with deer, is the process of pulling the weeds and the wild grass that appear with regularity among the plants that we are trying to grow. It takes the right set of circumstances for me to actually get down to the job of weeding, but once started, I can keep going on and on. There is actually something peaceful, meditative, and zen-like, about the experience of weeding. There is also the feeling of satisfaction when getting the weeds out by the roots (even though you know that your effort is ultimately futile, and that you are going to be repeating the operation some time in the future – again and again).

There is also something interesting about the way in which the weeds seem to get themselves entangled in the plants that we are actually trying to grow, to the extent that you have to pull up some of the “legitimate” plants along with the weeds in order to be successful in the weeding operation. Is this a natural process that is meant to increase the chances of survival for the weed? Order and organization, and separation, seem to be the enemy of the existence and survival of some weeds. Order and organization are not always the way in which natural processes work on Planet Earth. Maybe things are meant to be messy. Human beings messed with the overall equilibrium of the planet when we started creating our own ordered processes and our civilizations. Today, we are doing this to a greater extent than we ever did in our history – primarily looking out for ourselves, not paying enough attention to the rest of the planet. All that stuff is in the weeds! Can this be a good thing? How does our garden grow?

Going Around In Circles

An alternative title for the blog could have been “Teaching an old dog new tricks!”

We went down to Prince William County in Virginia for the July 4th weekend. The young ones wanted to spend some time kayaking on the Occoquan river while we were there. The older ones agreed. I had to confront some trauma left behind from an incident in the mid-eighties (at the end of my graduate school days) in doing so. The boat that I had been on in a lake in Upstate New York had overturned thanks to some youthful hijinks. My glasses had fallen off, and I lost them in the muddy and, fortunately, shallow water I ended up standing in. I had to manage without any glasses for the rest of the stay, and also had to figure a way to get back home without them, having to travel from Utica to the New York City area without them! I cannot remember today if I had to drive.

It was a more mature group in the kayaks this time. I ended up in a supporting role in the whole process. I proceeded to inflict my damage regardless of my status and duties on the captain and rower-in-chief of our double kayak, not managing to maintain a good rhythm in the whole process of rowing, stopping my rowing far too frequently to take pictures,and, stranger still, causing the boat to turn to the right constantly and consistently in spite of my lame efforts to correct this tendency. I tried to blame what was happening on the twisted oar that I was using. But I also have a history of not being able to move in a straight line! There was an incident that happened when I was younger that comes to mind. I had been swimming near a beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. I had been swimming parallel to the shore, and ended up swimming straight towards the gulf itself because I could not see where I was going and ended up turning in that general direction in the water. There was no good excuse for that incident other than a complete loss of directional sense in the water. (I prefer to swim in swimming pools where the lanes are clearly marked.) I could blame my behavior this time on my separated shoulder.😛

In any case, we had a good time on the water. We rented the kayaks at the quaint little town of Occoquan.

We rowed a few miles out on the Occoquan river that day. In one direction, we rowed out to a point upstream where we could proceed no further due to the presence of rocks and what looked like some rapids further upstream.In the other direction, we rowed towards the meeting point of the Occoquan and Potomac rivers. In the end, we still had a way to go before reaching the Occoquan Bay, where the Occoquan river terminates at the Potomac, but we did reach the highways and the railroad bridge over the river not too far from the entrance to Belmont Bay.On the way to the Potomac river, we drifted past marshlands and the verdant greenery of the river bank. We saw Pond Lilies and Pickerelweed.

We explored a creek that we discovered just after we rowed past the Interstate-95 bridge over the river.

We did get too close on one occasion to a nesting Osprey in the middle of the river.

Kayaking is something that I can see myself doing once again in the future – provided that the water we are on is calm, and also not flowing too swiftly. I think you can teach an old dog new tricks! But no whitewater kayaking for this dude.

Hope folks had a relaxing 4th of July weekend.

The People vs. Agent Orange: PBS

I saw this documentary a few days ago using the App for the PBS Passport streaming service on my Roku device. Depending on where you live, you might be able to stream this on to your computer from their website for free.

What many people already know about this subject is that Agent Orange was employed by Americans during the Vietnam war as a weapon of mass destruction. Perhaps the only worse weapon that has been used during war in the earth’s history for the purposes of mass destruction is the nuclear bomb. (One has to admit that the Germans and the Allies did also do a very effective job of mass destruction with their bombing campaigns of London and Dresden during WWII.) In all of these efforts, people did not care who was killed, soldiers or civilians, adults or children.

The use of Agent Orange is quite possibly the worst ever case of the use of chemical warfare on our planet since the use of poison gas during World War I. We efficiently destroyed both the land and the people of the country. They are suffering even today. We also poisoned our own soldiers, even though the people in charge knew what the chemical could do to them. (The Veterans are still fighting for government support and acceptance of responsibility in this regard.) It was quite a shameful episode from history.

What I did not know was what happened in the USA after the Vietnam war with regards to Agent Orange, with the continued use of the chemicals as a herbicide, and the many lives that were destroyed because of this. The air and the drinking water sources for many people living near the forests where the chemicals were being used – the forests that were being cleared by the big logging companies – were being polluted by chemicals that have the ability to damage and destroy the genetic make-up of people, causing illness and disease not only in the people exposed to the poison, but also in their offspring. It appears that the people and organizations responsible for all of this are still escaping their full responsibilities. This includes even the federal government. The facts about the impact of this chemical are still being covered up – even to this day! The documentary indicates that evidence has even been destroyed along the way. It is a very, very, shady story. This is an American Horror story!

The Heat of Summer – Once Again!

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city…
…………..The Lovin’ Spoonful

The temperatures began its rise into the 90s last weekend. Knowing that it was going to get very hot, we started our walk earlier than usual on Sunday. We were on the trail at Swains Lock before 8 O’clock! In spite of the early start, it did not take too long before we began to feel the sweat collecting on our necks and back. It was going to be one of those days!

We walked towards Great Falls. Here is a picture of the tavern at Great Falls.

We continue to see flowers for the first time this year along the towpath. The numbers I am recording are staggering. These include Tall Meadow Rue,

Yarrow,


Trumpet Flower,


Pickerelweed,


Mullein,Thistle,what I believe is Bindweed of some kind,


Black Cohosh,


Day Lily,Basil Bee Balm,

and a couple of flowers that I could not identify.

We also found raspberryand pawpaw fruitalong the trail.

The heat of the summer also brings out the dragonflies and the butterflies. We saw a few skimmers, a zebra swallowtail, and even a Red Admiral and a Crescent butterfly. (I will post some of these and other pictures in my Pbase photo galleries.)

We took a detour on to the River Trail just north of Great Falls on our way back to Swains Lock. It was a delightful experience! We ended up walking on a narrow trail along the side of the river. There were very few people on the trail and we saw a lot of birds. There were so many herons on the other side of the river, with many of them standing on their own individual rocks!I have to believe that there is a park on the other side of the river that is attracting the herons.

We also saw a Indigo Bunting.At first I was not sure about the identity of this bird, being confused by a shaft of light falling on its breast, but I now feel more confident of my conclusion. (Of course, I am not an expert on this matter, and my process for identifying a bird is always subject to verification/confirmation by any knowledgeable birder or ornithologist who happens to come this way!)

Here is the video of the song that I mentioned at the beginning of the blog.

The Taste of Raw Onions (11/11/2008)

This is another oldie from the days when my work used to take me to Los Angeles regularly. The last time I posted something like this was earlier this year.
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“This is K-EARTH 101.1” said the voice of the announcer on the radio. I was in the process of turning my super-efficient Toyota Prius Hybrid car from Century Boulevard on to Aviation Boulevard, just before Century went under the railroad bridge on its way to LAX airport. It was around 7:00 am on a nice sunny Thursday morning, and I was joining the other Angelenos heading off to work. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” started playing on the radio as I drove out towards the end of the airport runways on Aviation Boulevard. All of a sudden it hit me! This felt like a scene from some movie made in the 70s. I must be dreaming. This cannot be real! What am I doing here?

I worked somewhat late that day in the office in El Segundo and finished around 6:00pm. I decided to treat myself to a good dinner in a decent restaurant, but also decided to order a salad along with my beer so that I would be eating something healthy. My destination was Cozymels Restaurant that evening. The black and white Ahi Tuna salad that was shown on the menu sounded just right. When the food arrived I was in for a shock. The sliced pieces of tuna were all pink. It was basically a lot of raw fish with some kind of decoration of white and black spots on the surface of the tuna – with lettuce, mango pieces, raw pink onions and a few other things. I could not finish the food. The mango pieces were tasteless and I still had the taste of onions in my mouth the next morning. Yuk! This was my great treat during my last night in LA last week.

I also traveled to LA the week before. That was a longer trip that lasted the whole week, and I spent the days in Hollywood at a conference. The area around Hollywood Boulevard is a very strange place. The conference that I went to was in an upscale hotel next to the famous Chinese Theater and the Kodak Auditorium. From an open verandah on the fifth floor just next to the conference rooms one could see the famous Hollywood sign up on the hill, and if you looked down you saw all the high-end stores and restaurants located beside the hotel. But things were different away from the hotel. I took a walk along the street at lunchtime one day and noticed that, outside of where the conference was being held, it was a very rough and tough place. It looked really run down and the buildings looked their age. There were lots of cheap stores around – T-shirts for tourists, cheap electronics, smoke shops, cheap luggage, cheap food, etc.. There was the smell of urine in the air, there were people loitering around on the street that it seemed wise to avoid, and you came across the occasional homeless person sitting on the side-walk talking to himself. One person was looking into all the garbage cans trying to find stuff. It occurred to me that although I was a little uncomfortable during my walk this was home for a lot of people. Would I still have been uncomfortable if circumstances had been different, and I had to spend more time in that place. We develop our comfort zones, and our own limited sense of reality that we can deal with. That may not be the real world.

The trips back from LA the last two times have worn me out. It is not the flights that have done me in, but it is the drive back home from the airport. I leave LA early in the morning, and by the time I get on the highway at Dulles airport to go back home, it is already dark. I join the long lines of red tail-lights of barely moving traffic on the Washington Beltway and one wants to get stop the car, get out, and scream. It is then that one actually feels the complete sense of futility. You know, I have been in a situation for many years where I have wished that I could stop what I was doing, take an extended break, and try to do something more interesting and fulfilling. It looks like I am not going to get there for a number of reasons. But I still persist with what I am doing, and I wonder if there is a choice. Is this a trap? It is only when you are stuck on the highway of life behind the red tail-lights, with little sign of progress, that it all hits you like a ton of bricks.

Well, the trip back from Hollywood ended in a bad way. I was not in a good mood when I arrived at home and I declined to go for the Halloween party at a friend’s place. I stayed at home by myself and went to sleep, and promptly woke up the next day feeling sick. My throat felt like sandpaper and it was on fire. I recovered after a sleepless Saturday night, and a Sunday of high temperatures, only to have to head back to LA once again last Wednesday. Fortunately, this last trip ended in a better manner. I did not fall sick, and I was able to head out to the towpath on Sunday morning to recover.

What a beautiful day it was last Sunday! The colorful leaves of Autumn have almost all fallen by this time, but some of the sections of the park were still really quite pretty. The woods in the area near Carderock were a strange combination of yellow and orange. Dried leaves covered the towpath in most parts and lay on the waters of the canal like a carpet. Where most of the leaves have fallen off the taller trees, there were still some short trees left behind that were a very bright shade of yellow. Looked great! When the wind blew, you could see the leaves that were left of the trees come loose and fly away over the canal. There was this one large dried leaf that kept floating over the canal and refused to come down. There were beautiful reflections of some of the colorful trees in the waters of the canal. In a certain section, there was a deer that was running along beside me in the woods next to the river, behind the thinned out foliage. It looked like it was keeping me company. It was sunny out there and the temperature was just right. There were many folks enjoying a Sunday morning outing. Kids were on bikes. Kids were in little carriages that were being pushed along by the jogging adults. There was this young couple who were just thrilled about seeing a great blue heron for the first time. The guy had to tell me about it. I just smiled. I am now a veteran. I just kept going, in no hurry to get to the end of this outing. It was the perfect day. But I did tire out at the end….

By the next weekend there will be nothing left to see on the trees. Another cycle of life would have completed. One will have to await the rebirth in Spring.
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Quantum Computers, Explained With Quantum Physics : Quanta Magazine

I am not sure I will ever understand the concepts of Quantum Computing completely, but I still a kick when I get a feeling that I have gotten a somewhat intuitive sense for what is going on. For me to get beyond this state of understanding, I have to put in a far greater level of effort than I am capable of doing at this time. For now, this will suffice.

Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet | Netflix

I highly recommend watching this documentary if you have a Netflix account. The whole show was very effective and moving. Human beings on Planet Earth are ultimately doomed unless we change our behaviors as a species. According to the documentary, it may still be possible to change course.

This documentary addresses a few of the factors that define the health of Planet Earth, and talks about “tipping points” when it comes to the state all of these factors.

The Visit to Astoria, Queens, NYC

Last weekend took us to Astoria, Queens, in New York City. We were transported from the quiet and somewhat pastoral suburbs of Maryland to the concrete noisy jungle of the big city within a matter of hours. There is no blog this week about the canal and the river, and of the flowers and the animals of the wild, because of this trip. Instead, during the events of this weekend, the mind was transported to a state of alertness and hyper-sensitivity of a different kind, a period of time during which the neurons in the brain seemed to be firing every single minute of the weekend, whether it be day or night. For a newcomer, NYC can offer you an experience that is dynamic and stimulating – perhaps even over-stimulating. It works well for the young of body and mind. It takes more of a mental adjustment for people like me who are older and who have been away from this kind of a scene for a while. In a way, it was good to be back to spend a short time here, but it did also require an additional effort and expenditure of energy to keep up.

New York city hits you immediately with the richness and fullness of its experience the moment you arrive. That having been said, it is fair to also state that not all of this experience may be looked at in a positive light. After all, this is an old city with a very high population density, and a diversity of people of all economic backgrounds. It is indeed a jungle of concrete and steel that can tend to overwhelm the senses. I actually used to spend a lot of time in the city when I was young, and I used to thrive in the seeming chaos and diversity of Gotham. I am not sure that would be the case for me any more.

The experience of navigating our way into New York City, and that of driving on the highways within the city itself into Astoria, was my first exposure to what was to come. The confusing roadways – including the nature of the road signs, and the sudden appearance of entrance and exit ramps, and the aggressive driving that one has to become a part of – all of it might want some people to close their eyes. One should not be surprised when driving across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan to find out that one has to drift across two or three lanes of very heavy traffic within a very short distance to get to where one needs to be in order to exit on to another highway. It helped that I have driven these roads in these kinds of conditions before. It all came back rather quickly, even though my mind might not have been very receptive to how it all felt at that point! One has to be hyper-alert!

Once off the highway, the city driving in Astoria itself turned out to be somewhat easier, although one still had to adjust ones senses to the rules of driving in the city – including the fast changing and frequent traffic lights, the one-way streets, the fact that right turns are only allowed in NYC when your light is green, the existence of pedestrian crossings at every intersection, the behavior of pedestrians in the city, and the general sense of chaos. Drivers start honking at vehicles in front of them almost immediately when a light changes to green regardless of how how far behind they are in the queue. And you really do not want to hit somebody or something at a crosswalk in NYC! Additionally, you have to be on your toes looking out for other drivers (or even jaywalkers) making a move or two that was surely not lawful and allowed by the authorities. And then you might even be cursed at by people who simply seem to like the feeling of releasing some some of their built-in stress (a result of living in a state of hyper-alertness) by yelling or gesticulating at other more mild-mannered folks. Sometimes both parties involved in such an interaction on the street are similarly worked up. People may not appreciate the sense of caution of a newcomer, one who is normally a mild-mannered individual, but one who is now going to be transformed into a fire-breathing Godzilla himself!

Rules of the road are broken with great regularity, and the aggression that the mindset of the city can bring out in some people on the street is amazing. There was the one occasion when I was walking across the road on a sidewalk at an intersection (after the “Walk” sign turned on), when a driver of a sporty convertible with its top down made a turn from a side road behind me and accelerated on to the road I was on, passing dangerously close to my backside, while giving me some kind of a nasty look. He revved the engine and raced away even while he was passing me. Why do that?!

It is not possible to survive with a cruise control mindset if you are an outsider driving in NYC – regardless of circumstances. When driving under the elevated N and W lines of the subway system (that runs up to Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria), one has to be even more cautious. There are two lanes of roadway available in each direction, one under the supporting pillars of the elevated line and one beside it. You have to look out for traffic entering (sometimes darting) on to the main lane under the railroad lines from beside the pillars, and you have also to make turns carefully to avoid the metal supports for the elevated line at intersections.

The more commercial streets of Astoria are filled with a diversity of small mom-and-pop establishments. While it might be disconcerting to some who are used to shopping at the big-box stores and supermarkets that dominate the suburban spaces, I actually appreciate their presence. These neighborhoods were in existence well before the big chains even came into being (which also says something about how the nature of the economy has changed in this context over the years). There are the local grocery stores, the fresh fruit and vegetable markets, stores for all things organic if you are so inclined, the bodegas, cafes and coffee shops, the restaurants, beauty shops, home goods stores, flower markets, barbershops, laundromats, etc.., to give a few examples. There seems to be enough business for these establishments to survive – by catering to the needs of the locals. Even the development of the online shopping experience, and the presence of the ubiquitous Amazon delivery vans, does not seem to have affected these places that badly. It makes sense when you think about the density of the population of the city.

These days there also seem to be a large number of food trucks present at street corners. I do not remember these from my youth. The street food in those days used to be served from smaller food carts that were pulled into place by other vehicles. They used to primarily serve food like hotdogs and pretzels – low cost foods that could be consumed in a hurry while standing around the cart. The food trucks of today are much bigger and much more sophisticated. King Souvlaki, at one of its established locations at the corner of 30th Street and 31st Avenue in Astoria,comes highly recommended. I had a craving for one of those old-fashioned souvlakis (something that I cannot include as a part of my regular diet these days!) that I remembered from my youth. Mission accomplished!

You find people from all parts of the world with a wide range of backgrounds on the streets of Astoria. People come from many different social and religious backgrounds. NYC is a true melting pot. You can actually hear different languages spoken on the street. Astoria has a significant Greek immigrant population. You can see the commercial storefronts with Greek names. The landlord for the apartment that we helping Angela to move into was Greek. I think I was even hearing Greek spoken at Madame Sou Sou Cafe and Bakery between the person behind the counter and a customer. You tend to think that people speaking other languages are doing so because they are not comfortable with speaking English. That is not necessarily the case in NYC.

The parking situation in NYC seems to have not changed significantly from what I remember it to have been during my youth. The residential areas are lined with cars, and one might have to drive around in circles for a while hoping for a parking spot to open up before being able to park and get out of your car. You will sometimes be fooled by what looks like an open spot from a distance, but which turns out to the area near a fire hydrant, a location where you cannot park legally. You might even find your parking spot on a different street somewhat far away from your intended destination, and then have to walk. The streets we visited were packed with apartment complexes with the distinctive fire-escapes (still functional!), and with single family homes with very small yards, all packed tightly next to each other. There may be just enough place for the owner of a home to drive a car into the private space in front of the house, to park it behind a gate that can barely be closed shut! We were not fortunate to find street parking close to where we wanted to be when we arrived, and ended up getting a parking ticket from the city for parking in the place I found instead nearer to the a commercial area. (I had, unfortunately, not spent enough time fully understanding the parking sign attached to the street lamp close by.) Fortunately, the amount involved on the ticket was tolerable.

These days, most of the restaurants in Astoria (and probably all of NYC) have a place in front of the establishment where customers can sit in the open and enjoy their meals. This space is created in what formerly must have been a parking area for the restaurant. I suspect that this development is a result of the COVID pandemic. This can actually be a very nice experience if the weather is cooperative, but you might have to put up with some aggressive behavior of drivers on the road beside you in some areas. There are some who tend to rev up their engines and accelerate when they get on a empty roadway just after crossing an intersection. There are vehicles whose silencers seem to be non-existent, or modified to creative impressive sound effects. We did get somewhat used to the sound while having dinner one evening at the Shady Lady. Truth be told, even though I was only driving a fuel efficient hybrid car, I was tempted to play the acceleration game myself the more I got used to the driving tendencies and habits of the city.

I had the opportunity to sit on a bench at the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 30th Street and observe the pedestrian traffic while others were shopping. This a somewhat busy location because it is a commercial section of town. There were other people also hanging out there by the benches, either by themselves or with friends. I had nothing to do but to simply observe people going by. Folks come in all shapes and sizes. There are families out for the evening; there are young people who are hanging out and chilling; there are people who are conservatively dressed and there are those who are letting it all hang out; there are people who seem to be lost in their thoughts and seem serious and focused – walking with a purpose, there are others that are enjoying the weather and the setting. There are the children and the babies in strollers. There are the people with their electric bikes and mopeds gliding by silently. There are the dogs. I feel sorry for the dogs because they are in an environment that is so far removed from what one would consider natural for animals (but then, one could also sincerely and honestly consider the human beings around me to be living this kind of a existential experience!). Many dog-owners also seem to deal in halfhearted ways with the problem of cleaning up after their animals in a situation where the concrete is the only surface available for peeing or pooping. Some do not even bother. Any open area that is not maintained becomes fair game. It is funny when people in countries like the US sneer at the behaviors of folks in other places with regard to the sophistication of their public behavior. The truth is that you try to get away with what you can regardless of where you live.

I need to emphasize that my impressions of this part of New York City by no means represent the entirety of of the character of New York City, and the experience of all of what it has to offer. Each borough of the city has its own character. When one thinks of New York City, one typically thinks of the great borough of Manhattan, and more specifically the areas closer to downtown and midtown Manhattan, including perhaps its gleaming skyscrapers, stores, and centers for the financial industry. One thinks of things like the entertainment of Times Square, and the glorious expanse (at least in my eyes) of Olmsted’s Central Park. Astoria in Queens is far removed from all of this. It is a more residential part of town. We did drive past a more industrial part of Queens in Sunnyside – close to the railroad yards, junkyards, and the auto dealerships; and also to the parks and newer developments on the east bank of the East River at Long Island City. And, of course, I did lose my way during this drive on our way back to Astoria!

I did not get to take many pictures during this trip because the primary reason for the visit was to help with a move into an apartment. I was exhausted at the end from all the driving, the repeated lifting and carrying of heavy stuff up two flights of stairs to a third-floor apartment, and from the shopping and the extended walking we did around town in order to get the things needed to make the apartment livable in! But all is good! I did manage to get the pictures below early one Sunday morning (before most people had gotten out of their beds). I made it a point to take my camera with me when I went to Madame Sou Sou for my morning coffee. Hopefully, these pictures serve to illustrate the little bit of what a particular section of Astoria looks and feels like.

The Cicadas In Full Force

The Cicadas seem to have ramped up their numbers and activity these days. It got so loud one afternoon that we could not even follow the conversations on the TV show that we were watching in the living room with the patio door open. We had to close the door! The trees in the backyard and in the front are full of these creatures. This is how it sounded one afternoon from the deck.

If you look at a capture of the volume levels for the above audio recording (processed using an app called Audacity), it looks like this!There is a real pattern here. They are actually communicating in their own way.

There are dead cicadas all over the ground in the outdoors these days, anywhere you walk. It is difficult to avoid stepping on them. The birds must be having a feast. You can hear the cicadas buzzing in the air, and watch them flying all over the place. You may even get hit by a cicada every once in a while if you are outside for a long time. While there can be a somewhat panicky reaction when this happens, with some frenzied flapping of the hand(s) where you thought the insect made contact with you, they are actually quite harmless!

We continued to experience the presence of the cicadas during for our walk from Edwards Ferry last weekend. Here is a picture of one of them.This is also the time for dragonflies and butterflies. Here are some pictures. We saw a few different kinds of dragonflies, but I had a difficult time getting them in a position where they could be photographed properly. I was successful with this Common Whitetail male.

You can see two Cabbage White butterflies in the picture below.

This is a a Question Mark butterfly. As you can see, I had to be happy with getting a picture from a significant distance away.

The picture below is of a Northern Pearly Eye butterfly on the trail. It might be sitting on the remains of a dead field mouse. That was the conclusion I drew when looking at the rest of what lay around it. Interestingly enough, we saw a couple of dead frogs on on the trail. The sight was surprising enough for me to give a yelp and leap into the air on one occasion to avoid stepping on it.

Here are a few of the newer flowers this year.

This is the flower of what seems to be a somewhat common weed. It is easy to miss because the plant is very small, and I did not realize how common it was until looked around more carefully this year. I have seen it in other, very different, locations. I have also seen it in the past years but have been unsuccessful in identifying it so far. The flower looks like a sombrero to me.This one is called Deptford Pink. It is a real tiny plant.

And this is Chicory. We will be seeing much more of this all around us from now on – as the weather heats up.

I thought these mushrooms on the trail were quite pretty. They were tiny. You may be able to make the size out from the size of the stones around them.

Another week passes by as we quickly head towards the Summer Solstice and the official start of summer in these parts. Outdoor activities, including the barbecues, the lazing around swimming pools, the visits to the beaches, etc.., have already begun since Memorial day. The increased vaccination rates have made it possible for people to gather together in a safer manner than was possible last year.

Unfortunately, there are still many who do not want to be vaccinated in our country. Some do not “believe” in the vaccines. Some talk about their “freedoms”. Perhaps there are also some who still even refuse to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic. It is a pity that people do not understand the concept of living in a society where we all need to pull together and look out for each other. It is also a pity that there are people living in an “advanced nation” who do not even recognize that the science and the technology that was responsible for providing us these vaccines is the same thing that is allowing us to exist and also enjoy our current lifestyles at the current moment in time in the earth’s history. It is especially a pity when people in our country do not realize how fortunate they are to have vaccines freely available. They still do not want the vaccines, even while other countries are suffering because they do not have enough, or any.