Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. “The walkers trod silently; the dogs said nothing.
 The only sound was the hum of air conditioners...
Seamus Heaney


Marco Fabiano

The beauty of a woman

is not in a facial mole,but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows. 
― Audrey Hepburn

Grace and pearl

She carries a pearl
 In perfect condition.
 What once was hers,
 What once was friction,
 What left a mark,
 No longer stains,
 Because Grace makes beauty
 Out of ugly things.
U2, "Grace", on All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)


O how I feel, just as I pluck the flower
And stick it to my breast —
words can't reveal;
But there are souls that in this lovely hour
Know all I mean, and feel whate'er I feel.
John Clare
Alexander Grinberg, Russia, 1920

La Primavera (Spring) - Sandro Boticelli

Commissioned by Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, cousins of Lorenzo il Magnifico, in 1498 this painting was in their florentine residence. Probably based on a theme suggested by Poliziano, it depicts a symbolic and allegorical subject with a complex interpretation: the Realm of Venus. Zephyr chases the nymph Chloris, who turns into the goddess Flora at right. Venus is underneath a blindfolded Cupid in flight with the three Graces and Mercury at left.  Renaissance.  Large image can be found on Wiki:
It has been described as "one of the most written about, and most controversial paintings in the world", and also "one of the most popular paintings in Western art".
The painting depicts a group of figures from classical mythology in a garden, but no story has been found that brings this particular group together. Most critics agree that the painting is an allegory based on the lush growth of Spring.
The painting features six female figures and two male, along with a cupid, in an orange grove. The movement of the composition is from right to left, so following that direction the standard identification of the figures is: at far right "Zephyrus, the biting wind of March, kidnaps and possesses the nymph Chloris, whom he later marries and transforms into a deity; she becomes the goddess of Spring, eternal bearer of life, and is scattering roses on the ground." Chloris the nymph overlaps Flora, the goddess she transforms into.
Chloris was a Nymph who was associated with spring, flowers and new growth, believed to have dwelt in the Elysian Fields. Myths had it that she was abducted by Zephyrus, the god of the west wind (which, as Ovid himself points out, was a parallel to the story of his brother Boreas and Oreithyia), who transformed her into a deity known as Flora after they were married. Together, they have a son, named Karpos. She was also thought to have been responsible for the transformations of Adonis, Attis, Crocus, Hyacinthus and Narcissus into flowers.
As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: I was Chloris, who am now called Flora."

Ovid In the centre (but not exactly so) and somewhat set back from the other figures stands Venus, a red-draped woman in blue. Like the flower-gatherer, she returns the viewer's gaze. The trees behind her form a broken arch to draw the eye. In the air above her a blindfolded Cupid aims his bow to the left.

On the left of the painting the Three Graces, a group of three females also in diaphanous white, join hands in a dance. At the extreme left Mercury, clothed in red with a sword and a helmet, raises his caduceus or wooden rod towards some wispy gray clouds.
In Greek mythology, a Charis or Grace is one of three or more minor goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility, together known as the Charites or Graces. The usual list, from youngest to oldest is Aglaea ("Splendor"), Euphrosyne ("Mirth"), and Thalia ("Good Cheer"). In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae, the "Graces", all sisters.
One aspect of the painting is a depiction of the progress of the season of spring, reading from right to left. The wind of early Spring blows on the land and brings forth growth and flowers, presided over by Venus, goddess of April, with at the left Mercury, the god of the month of May in an early Roman calendar, chasing away the last clouds before summer.
As well as being part of a sequence over the season, Mercury in dispelling the clouds is acting as the guard of the garden, partly explaining his military dress and his facing out of the picture space. A passage in Virgil's Aeneid describes him clearing the skies with his caduceus.
Venus presides over the garden – an orange grove (a Medici symbol). Venus stands in front of the dark leaves of a myrtle bush. According to Hesiod, Venus had been born of the sea after the semen of Uranus had fallen upon the waters. Venus appears in this painting in her character as a goddess of marriage, clothed and with her hair modestly covered, as married women were expected to appear in public.
This large fresco of “Venus on a Seashell” and Cupid riding a dolphin are on a garden wall within a peristyle at Casa di Venus. The painting, sometimes called Venus Anadyomene, was excavated in 1960. Venus was the Roman goddess of love, fertility, seduction and sex.

One noted inspiration for the painting seems to have been the poem by Lucretius "De rerum natura", which includes the lines, "Spring-time and Venus come, and Venus' boy, / The winged harbinger, steps on before, / And hard on Zephyr's foot-prints Mother Flora, / Sprinkling the ways before them, filleth all / With colors and with odors excellent."

Agent of grace

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Grace is a word referring to elegant movement, poise or balance, and also to free and undeserved favor, especially in Christian theology, in reference to the divine grace of God. It is derived from the Latin word gratus, and is also used to refer to any of the Gratiae or Charites of Greek and Roman mythology (i.e., The Three Graces).
Other quotes about grace:
-- Let grace and goodness be the principal lodestone of thy affections. For love which hath ends, will have an end; whereas that which is founded on true virtue, will always continue.
Thomas Fuller

-- Grace has been defined, the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.
William Hazlitt

-- Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for humanity. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for me.
Eugène Ionesco, in The Hermit (1973)

The path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart. [...] If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.
Barack Obama

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer,

the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting


Difference: Naked v. nude

“To be naked is to be oneself.
To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself.” 
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Chikila with eggs

These aren't worms or even snakes. They're burrowing, limbless amphibians, and they're new to science, a new study suggests.  Below, a female guards her brood of eggs.
Native to northeastern India, this animal is one of about six potentially new species belonging to a mysterious group of animals called caecilians. What's more, the newfound critters represent an entirely new family of amphibians—family being the next major level up from genus and species in scientific naming conventions.
Christened Chikilidae ("Chikila" being a local tribal name for caecilians), the family's closest relatives live more than 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) away in tropical Africa.
The limbless, primarily soil-dwelling and tropical caecilian amphibians -Gymnophiona- comprise the least known order of tetrapods.   (The superclass Tetrapoda contains the four-limbed vertebrates known as tetrapods; it includes living and extinct amphibians, reptiles and mammals, as well as earlier extinct groups. )
On the basis of unprecedented extensive fieldwork, we report the discovery of a previously overlooked, ancient lineage and radiation of caecilians from threatened habitats in the underexplored states of northeast India. 
DNA analysis, and comparative cranial anatomy indicate an unexpected sister-group relationship with the exclusively African family Herpelidae. (Herpelidae are a family of caecilians, sometimes known as the African caecilians. They are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Like other caecilians, they superficially resemble worms or snakes. )
Sources:  Nat Geo and A blog called Species New to Science.

Fake snakes (one not fake, wearing boot)

"Amazing how many people think this is real...we breed ball pythons. This is photoshopped."

So much rain = lots of fungi!

Let's go mushroom camping?

Mr. Babies (Society 6), more psychdelia on instagram: 

Vintage postcard from the beach

"Babies on the beach,  Corpus Christi, Texas 1907" postcard

Flyfishing: 25 best flies of all time

Name: Clouser Deep Minnow
Style: Streamer
The Skinny: This lead-eyed bucktail is the world’s best pattern because it looks and acts like a small jig when stripped through the water. Its prime color combination is chartreuse over white, and it works on everything from trout and bass to stripers and redfish, in sizes 2/0 down to 10. The best retrieve is fast. It’s also the only pattern name to have become a verb. To “Clouser” your rod means to hit and probably crack your tip with the weighted fly because of your sloppy casting.
Name: Woolly Bugger
Style: Streamer
The Skinny: Although best known as a streamer fly for trout, Buggers work well for bass and myriad other species in fresh- and saltwater. The basic Bugger is all black, in sizes 2/0 to as small as 12 for panfish. Historians see this pattern as nothing more than an ancient Woolly Worm wet fly with a wiggly marabou tail. Often it is tied with strands of flashy tinsel or with a heavy metal cone head for a jiglike action, but the original unweighted version is the most versatile.
Name: Black Ghost
Style: Streamer
The Skinny: Something about the black, yellow, and white color combination in this venerable streamer pattern seems to make trout—especially big browns—want to kill it. Created by Herb Welch, the Black Ghost is one of the last remnants of the streamer tradition developed by Maine fly-tiers in the years before and shortly after World War II. I often fish sizes ranging from a big 2/0 giant-killer on down to a size 6. I’ve had browns come to this fly that were so big I had to sit on the bank afterward to stop shaking. Really.
Name: Zonker
Style: Streamer
The Skinny: This sounds like something from the menu of a Cockney restaurant, a side dish, maybe, with your bangers and mash. Such is the inelegant state of modern fly names. A formed lead-foil underbody acts as both weight and keel, keeping the fly running deep and upright. A strip of rabbit fur for a wing is what drives fish crazy. Use black, chartreuse, or white in sizes 3/0 down to 10 in fresh- and saltwater. It may be known as a trout fly, but an all-black Zonker in a larger size can be great for northern pike.
Name: Elk Hair Caddis
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: Here’s the one dry to have if you’re having only one. This pattern was the brainchild of the great Montana guide Al Troth, who knew his trout flies. In sizes 10 to 20, and in tan, gray, or black, this high-floating dry often works best when twitched, then dead-drifted. That motion imitates an emerging caddis trying to get off the water, and slashing strikes are often the response. They aren’t just for trout, either. Smallmouths and panfish love them, too.
Name: Adams
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: This Michigan pattern is the prototypical trout dry fly. Or it was until contemporary tiers got all wussy over things like hopped-up, semi­suspending emergers with foam-bubble hackle. Nuts to that. The old Adams with its looks-like-everything gray body and two-toned hackle still gets the job done. A great searching pattern, it also lends itself to scissor work. Trim away the top and bottom hackle to turn it into a spinner imitation. Trim more and you’ve got a nymph.
Name: Royal Wulff
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: Despite the name, Lee Wulff did not invent this fly. It’s based on a version of the hair-wing Royal Coachman called the Quack Coachman. It took Wulff’s renown to make his adapted Royal Wulff a huge success. In sizes 6 to 20, the Royal Wulff is a trout-stream standard not because it imitates anything in particular but because the white wings make it easy for fishermen to see. Use the larger sizes when dry-fly fishing for browns after dark in the summer. You can see it. The fish can, too.

Name: Griffith's Gnat
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: To this day there are brook trout rising in Michigan’s Au Sable River in front of George Griffith’s cabin, where Trout Unlimited was founded in the 1950s. These fish can be unbelievably picky and there, as elsewhere, this midge pattern is often what fools them. Tied with barred grizzly hackle palmered over a peacock-herl body, the fly is best in sizes 18 to 22. I can’t see it on the water, but when I see a rise where I think the fly might be, I set the hook.
Name: Muddler Minnow
Style: Streamer
The Skinny: Tied as a scruffy-looking sculpin imitation by Don Gapen in the 1930s, the Muddler in its present, trimmed form was refined by Dan Bailey in Montana and popularized by the likes of Joe Brooks and A.J. McClane. In a wide range of sizes, it’s deadly on trout, steelhead, and salmon, and it doubles as an excellent bass fly. Fran Betters first turned me onto so-called mini Muddlers 30 years ago on New York’s West Branch Ausable. To this day, that diminutive wet fly style is still one of my first choices for targeting trout in rough pocket water.

Name: Stimulator
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: Western tier Randall Kaufmann came up with this one, which is kind of a takeoff on the Elk Hair Caddis but on a longer-shanked hook with more hackle and more buoyant hair for the wing. It’s designed to be twitched hard on the surface to elicit strikes from trout; hence the name. Generally tied in sizes 6 down to 16, in various colors, the pattern imitates a variety of stoneflies. One tip: After twitching it on the surface, pull the fly underwater and fish out the retrieve twitching it as a wet fly. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Name: Sparkle Dun
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: This dry traces back to Fran Betters’s Haystack, in which a wing of splayed deer hair rather than hackle holds the fly upright on the water. Caucci and Nastasi used this concept in their Comparadun series, which was further refined by Craig Matthews as the Sparkle Dun: He included a synthetic-fiber tail as generally representative of a nymphal shuck. Sparkle Duns can be tied in various colors and sizes to match the pattern of the mayfly hatch of the moment.
Name: Rusty Spinner
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: When trout are rising but you can’t see what they’re eating, they could be dining on a spinner fall. Trout usually take the flush-floating spent mayflies with gentle sips; their rise forms can be a clue. Spinners with rusty-red bodies are the most common, in sizes 10 to 22. Smaller sizes, in particular, work well for trout that are sipping intermittently. Most commercial patterns are overdressed. Thin the wings with scissors, without changing their length, to boost your score.
Name: RS-2
Style: Emerger
The Skinny: Sure, this odd little pattern doesn’t look like much, but it’s indispensable during common small mayfly hatches. Bluewing olives, especially, emerge from spring through fall on most trout streams, and the RS-2 is the most successful olive-emerger imitation I’ve used. It was developed in the 1970s by Colorado angler Rim Chung for the trout of the South Platte (the name stands for “Rim’s semblance No. 2”). Fish it deep or near the surface, depending on the hatch.
Name: March Brown Spider
Style: Wet Fly
The Skinny: This is one of several old soft-hackled wet flies that underwent a renaissance in the 1970s. The concept of a small fur body surrounded by long, flexible hackle fibers is almost as old as flyfishing itself. Trout, however, still chomp these flies in thoroughly modern lust. Fish size 10 to 18 soft hackles upstream, and either dead-drift them or swing them down and across the current. These are also excellent subsurface patterns for bluegills.
Name: Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear
Style: Nymph
The Skinny: One of the bestselling nymph patterns worldwide, the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear is buggy-looking in the same sort of generic way as the Adams dry fly. It roughly imitates a wide array of trout-stream insects and precisely imitates nothing. The pattern is useful in sizes 20 up to 8, but sizes 14 and 16 take most of my trout most of the time. Its performance can be enhanced by roughing up its surface with a toothbrush.

Name: Copper John
Style: Nymph
The Skinny: Created by John Barr, this wire-­bodied nymph has become a trout fishing sensation over the past 10 years. The reason is simple: It sinks rapidly and stays deep, where many of the fish are. Copper wire, lead wire, and a brass bead all add weight, while the nymph’s overall shape is streamlined to aid sinking. In smaller sizes, from 16 to 22, that fast sink rate means it’s an ideal pattern to fish under a strike indicator or high-floating hopper pattern.
Name: Prince Nymph
Style: Nymph
The Skinny: A size 16 Prince Nymph with a tungsten beadhead has probably accounted for more 20-plus-inch trout for me than any other fly in recent years. One reason is because tungsten beads are heavier than brass beads of the same size, so the nymph fishes deep easily. It has the buggy look common to many successful trout flies. Smaller versions (sizes 16, 18) have always worked better for me, with or without a strike indicator.

Name: Fur Ant
Style: Terrestrial
The Skinny: Among the simplest of flies, the Fur Ant is also among the deadliest. It’s tied in sizes 12 through 20. Fish the smaller sizes dry on a 6X or 7X tippet to gently sipping trout during warm summer and early-fall afternoons. Black is usually best, although there are times when cinnamon is worth a try. In the high-tech world of modern flyfishing, basic patterns such as the Fur Ant are often neglected. The trout won’t neglect them, and neither should you.
Name: Dave's Hopper
Style: Terrestrial
The Skinny: It is the quintessential grasshopper pattern for trout, created at the vise of Dave Whitlock. Larger sizes work well for smallmouths, and sunfish love the smaller ones. Picking a size for trout is tricky—most people are inclined to go large on Western rivers. The problem is that trout in those waters see lots of hopper patterns every summer day. Smaller sizes may get you more strikes. Pay attention, because trout often sip these quietly.
Name: Egg Fly
Style: Wet Fly
The Skinny: By most accepted terms, this is not even a fly—just a ball of yarn on a short-­shanked hook. It doesn’t even imitate an insect, but a gooey fish egg. I know anglers who refuse to fish the things for that reason. I am not among them because they work so well. A California fly shop has trademarked the name Glo Bugs, so other outlets call them Egg Flies. They are tied on heavy-wire short-­shanked hooks, sizes 6 to 10, in an array of colors.
Name: Lefty's Deceiver
Style: Streamer
The Skinny: I may take heat for not ranking this streamer pattern higher in the list, so here's my reasoning. Almost all major fly retailers include the Deceiver only in their saltwater fly sections. It works perfectly well for bass, trout, and other freshwater fish, but the ties you'll find are all on saltwater hooks. And, of course, the pattern excels in saltwater for just about all big fish that eat small fish. The design, by the redoubtable Lefty Kreh, is ingenious. The long, trailing feather wing extends only from the rear of the hook, which means it won't tangle with the hook in casting and you will thereby never waste a cast. I most often use this pattern in white, chartreuse, or all black (for stripers after dark) in sizes 2/0 to 4.
Name: Sponge Spider
Style: Terrestrial
The Skinny: Though not very popular among fly anglers at large, catching bluegills and other sunfishes is some of the greatest sport, so here's a fly just for that. The sponge spider has been wiggling its rubber legs on the surfaces of ponds, lakes, and warmwater streams for years, but it still pulls big bluegills as well as ever. When the sponge body becomes waterlogged, fish it as a wet fly; or simply squeeze water from the body and keep fishing it dry. A size 12 will do for most sunfish, while a size 6 is big enough to draw strikes from bass.
Name: Deer Hair Bass Bug
Style: Popper
The Skinny: It seems that every 10 years or so a cadre of flyfishing majordomos forecasts a renaissance for bass flyfishing. For all the periodic predictions, this has yet to happen. Bass flyfishermen are still a small minority, but they're also still having lots of fun. Deerhair bugs like this one are the best of it--soft wiggly things that draw explosive surface strikes from bass and are just a hoot to fish. The only drawback is that deerhair bodies eventually become waterlogged, heavy, and hard to cast. You'll want plenty of spares in your box, sizes 2 through 10. White, yellow, and black are basic, and there are numerous multi-colored versions.
Name: Dahlberg Diver
Style: Popper
The Skinny: Larry Dahlberg is a clever guy, and this brilliantly designed bass bug proves it. The tapered deerhair head acts as a diving plate. Twitch the bug gently, and it wiggles enticingly on the surface. Pull hard, and the head and collar force the fly underwater, after which it bobs back to the surface. This drives bass nuts, and their reaction is usually violent. Notably, Dahlberg extends the concept to so-called mega-divers and rabbit-strip divers that can be 6 inches long or more and work well for both northern pike and muskies. His basic bass bug is available in sizes 2 and 6, in a variety of colors.
Name: Blue Winged Olive
Style: Dry Fly
The Skinny: This important dry fly comes fittingly at the end of my list. Although the naturals hatch at least intermittently all year, the most intense hatches seem to come at the end of the season in September or even October, when I've seen the little olive duns flying among sporadic snowflakes. The naturals are tiny, roughly a size 18 down to a miniscule 26 (depending on species). Rising trout key on them and can be maddeningly difficult to fool. Of all the common dry-fly styles I've tried, I keep coming back to this thorax-style tie as being the most effective. Hackle is trimmed away from the bottom to make the fly low-floating, and I think that helps. The pattern is not infallible, though, and I'm still looking for a better one.
Field & Stream