I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

Posting late today, because I couldn't find an image I liked. This one is worth the wait I think -- the gorgeous wisps of color in the Carina nebula. I needed this beauty today.

Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

A couple of weeks ago (which I believe counts as a year in the new COVID time scale we're living with) I went out for a walk in the evening.

I didn't stay out long; during the day, the streets in my neighborhood are less busy than normal, but it turns out that after dark they're now completely deserted. One of the things I love about living in Manhattan is that I always feel safe on the streets because there are people -- usually lots of people -- around. And finding myself on dark streets, alone except for a a few restaurant delivery bikes and a crazy man yelling into an empty playground, was more than I could stand in these anxious times.

Before I skedaddled home I did take a few pictures of the empty bars and restaurants.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

Not a great photograph, but I'm always thrilled to see a bald eagle (this one from Newfoundland last summer.) They were on the brink of extinction due to hunting and the effects of pesticides on their eggs -- at one point there were only 400 nesting pairs in the United States -- but after DDT was banned in the 1970's they rebounded.

So each one I see feels like a little miracle: things can get better, you can come back from the brink of disaster.

It's unnerving how silent millions of people can be. I hear birds, wind rustling in the trees, the occasional siren. Otherwise, nothing.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday reflections

A car reflection from this week.

In theory, I could still be photographing cars as much as I want -- I remember when I was recovering from my Rwanda illness how much pleasure that gave me when I was finally able to totter around the block, how beautiful the familiar streets suddenly seemed -- a house sparrow hopping off the curb, the pattern of raindrops on a windshield.

But I don't linger outside these days. When I go out for a walk, I listen to music or an audiobook and enjoy the fresh air on my face, but I get my exercise and then I scurry home.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Urban poetry

No one is going anywhere, so of course all the taxis are out of commission for the duration. Last week, I saw a few cabs trolling the empty avenues and I wanted to hail one and go somewhere, anywhere, just so the driver would have a fare and I could pretend things were normal.

Except of course that I wouldn't actually sit in the back of a taxi right now unless I absolutely had to, and even then, only if I could wipe it down thoroughly before getting in. So really what I wanted to do was just hail random cabs and hand them 20 dollar bills without making them take me anywhere.

This morning I could see a startlingly lovely patch of blue sky dotted with cloud from my bedroom, and a long-tailed bird that might have been a mockingbird lighted briefly on a chimney on the other side of the yard. These are the moments of grace and beauty that I try to hang on to in these scary times.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

Greetings from the epicenter, the eerily empty city of New York.

I've always loved the reflections on the Javits Convention Center, and the geometries of all those grids and catwalks. Now it's being converted into a hospital; they're setting up 2000 beds to act as an overflow facility for patients who don't require ICU care.

I found a book of Sudoku puzzles when I was cleaning out a closet, and I've been doing puzzles before I fall asleep at night. I've always found Sudoku calming, and the routine of writing rows of numbers on paper pages instead of playing an electronic version keeps me from obsessively checking the news. Which is not going to give any of us sweet dreams these days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

That's comet ATLAS C, glowing an eerie green in the upper left corner of this image. It was discovered by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System in late 2019, and will reach its closest approach to the sun on May 31.

In the lower right corner are two galaxies, M81 and M82, who have been engaged in gravitational warfare for the last billion years or so -- each pass takes them a hundred million years, so the battle is as slow-motion as you can get.

I especially love the colors in this image -- all those stars and galaxies and nebulae in red and blue and yellow and white, like a celestial Christmas tree. It's a beautiful spring morning in New York and I'd love to go look for birds, but the Governor has not-so-politely told us to stay out of the parks so I'll be a good citizen and stay in my neighborhood. At least I can hear them singing.

Image Credit and Copyright: Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A white-throated sparrow taking a carefree bath in the park last year.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday reflections

A window in Greenwich Village, taken in a hurry a few weeks ago when I was running late to meet Jayne for breakfast.

And how long ago that feels already. It's turned into a Before -- before the lockdowns and stay at home orders and travel bans and business closings. Before. Though we were already being careful because of the virus -- I wiped down the table and utensils with a Clorox wipe when I sat down -- we still thought we were going to California. We still thought we could go about our lives, maybe short some hand sanitizer and toilet paper, but otherwise more or less doing what we usually do.

I read The New Yorker before I fell asleep last night and had to put it aside because all of the ads and articles -- for shows and movies and exhibits and restaurants -- broke my heart a little. Everything is cancelled or closed, of course, and many of them will never reopen now. It's maybe a small grief in a world where so many people are dying every day and health care workers don't have the protective equipment they need and we're going to run out of beds and ventilators, but I couldn't help thinking about all the hope and hard work behind each one of those ads and it hurt.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Urban poetry

Times Square is mostly empty, but I'm relieved to see that the Naked Cowboy is taking appropriate precautions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Life in the time of coronavirus

I've added to my litany of morning blessings: Sunshine. Coffee. Birds singing. Not sick.

This is the pasta aisle in the Food Emporium yesterday. I stocked up a few weeks ago, and have enough of everything to last me a couple of weeks if necessary, but I'm still going to the market every couple of days to replenish on a rolling basis.

I'm very very lucky, in that there's nowhere I have to be, and financially, I'll be fine. But so many people are going to be crushed by this, even if they never actually get sick. And there's nothing I can do about it. At this point, not much anyone can do about it. And that's the scariest thing of all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This nebula is catalogued as NGC 2264, but several of its components have more fanciful names. That's the Fox Fur nebula in the lower right, the Cone Nebula (the small Greater Than symbol) in the center left, and a sideways Christmas Tree Cluster just to the right of the cone.

The blue light is a reflection nebula from young hot stars being formed in the region.

Image Credit and Copyright: Greg Gurdak

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

Robins stay here all winter, but I still think of them as a sign of spring.

And spring is coming, whether the robins are heralding it or not. In these scary times, any excuse for optimism is welcome.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saturday reflections

I find this image reassuring in these crazy days: a simple arrangement of three buildings in my beautiful city, a few clouds, a few reflections.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Urban poetry

It's really stretching the definition of “urban” to apply it to Hawkes Bay, Newfoundland, but this empty road, construction ditch, and lunch buffet sign feels too appropriate today.

We are all sheltering in place as much as possible while COVID-19 rages through the world. People who can work from home are doing that; those who can't, or can't afford to, are doing the best they can. New York isn't exactly a ghost town. The streets in my neighborhood don't seem any less crowded than they are on the average weekday; it may be quite different in the business districts.

I had to go to the post office yesterday though, and that was scarily empty. No one in line, and only one other customer, in the middle of the day when there would usually be a line of 10-15 people ahead of me.

I'd forgotten a few things at the grocery store, so stopped in yesterday evening, and found all the people who were missing at the post office. I've seen pre-hurricane panic buying several times there, but I had never seen lines like this: easily a hundred people and maybe twice that, their carts piled high with a month's worth of food. I wisely decided that they weren't likely to run out of vinegar and I could come back today. It was still unusually crowded this morning, but I was able to buy bread and milk -- and vinegar! -- and now I don't have to leave the apartment for a week if I don't want to.

I was supposed to be going to a retreat in Santa Cruz, leaving Wednesday. It was cancelled yesterday, but we'd already decided not to go, and had cancelled our flights and hotels. Today it's incredible to me that at the beginning of this week we were still planning to go. Everything has changed so dramatically, so fast.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

These two galaxies aren't colliding, but they are engaged in a slow gravitational dance that has them circling slowly, very very slowly, around each other.

NGC 5394/5395 is sometimes referred to as the Heron Galaxy, and if you turn this image sideways, you can definitely see the resemblance.

Image Credit: Gemini, NSF, OIR Lab, AURA; Text: Ryan Tanner (NASA/USRA)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A white-breasted nuthatch in Central Park.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Saturday reflections

The Dana Discovery Center, as reflected in Harlem Meer in the north end of Central Park.

Although it looks Victorian, it was actually built in 1993. On the other hand, there are still gun emplacements around the lake that date to the War of 1812.

As far as the mourning doves are concerned, Damn the calendar! Spring is here! I have what sounds like a hundred of them moaning outside my windows this morning. I've only seen one pair actually mating on my fire escape, but I suspect dozens more are thinking about it.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Urban poetry

One of those scenes that could be almost any city, anywhere: a restaurant at the end of a not very promising alley.

Given that this particular alley was in Quebec City, I'm pretty confident that the restaurant is far better than its scruffy entryway would suggest.

I have a sudden craving for a maple butter crepe.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Astronomy Tuesday

This filmy bubble of icy blue is called the Dolphin Nebula. It's enormous -- about 60 light years in diameter -- especially when you consider that it's the result of a single star (the bright star in the center of the nebula.)

Smaller stars create planetary nebulae as they age, but the star that produced this nebula is what's called a Wolf-Rayet star, at least twenty times the mass of our sun. It's probably in a pre-supernova phase, where hydrogen has been depleted and the core is burning helium.

Image Credit and Copyright: Chilesope 2, Pleaides Astrophotography Team (Peking U.)

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sunday bird blogging

A great blue heron surveying the scene from the Pond in Central Park.

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