Tuesday, April 28, 2009

life and love

A fur seal pup in the Galapagos Islands. The mom leaves the pup alone while she feeds at sea, and comes back to shore and must to find the pup by its cries and scent. Sometimes I feel like the helpless alone pup like this - am I the only one?!
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I have to admit, as I mentioned in a recent blog post, that I had been feeling pretty down lately - really a lot worse last week. It has been a lot of up and down over the past few months. This really is not all that new. We all have ups and downs, right, at least that's pretty standard for me. But I started feeling a real sadness in my soul and I couldn't quite identify where it came from. I also realize it's been a while since I have been very raw and honest on this blog, which is sort of my trademark. I decided when I started it that I would be open and honest about my feelings and about life. As I like to say, I want a life of radical honesty and transparency.

It becomes challenging to do so, though, when other people are involved. I can't write about my present feelings and emotions without mentioning the people who are intertwined in my life and who affect my moods. I don't want to do that to people who may not want to be talked about. I try not to talk about my children too much, to protect their privacy, and the same goes for those closest to me. I may tell stories about things that happen to me, but it's not obvious in any way who that story happened with. I do that on purpose. But when you're dating someone, as I am, it's kind of obvious who you're talking about! Right? After my break-up with the man from Australia I dated, I decided that although I may put photos and the like up, I wouldn't really talk extensively the personal nature of my relationship.

However it feels like it's time to say a little something. I am realizing that my downs have mostly been related to confusion and communication issues in this relationship. There's no doubt that they can have a real toll on the heart and soul and mood. I am someone who didn't really date much before I met my ex-husband, who I met at age 20 (and oh don't we think we are so old and worldy wise at 20?). My ex and I had a whirlwind romance, and were engaged after 6 months. We got married two years later but we lived together for nearly all those two years. And we were married for 10 years. The intensity of that closeness happening all so quickly had long-lasting effects on our relationship - not good ones. We didn't have a chance to learn one another's idiosyncracies slowly. Today, we are great friends and I'm so grateful for that. But we also shared a lot of communication breakdowns from the start.

During the marriage, we went to counseling and read books and I learned so much about communicating tools and techniques, and about the differences between men and women, and about prayer and about growing in spiritual maturity and understanding of my faith. And I learned, post-divorce, that a lot of what I may have once "blamed" on him turns out to have been a lot me all along. True there are always two people involved in every relationship. But it's also a good and illuminating thing to truly shine the light on oneself. However, it can also be very painful. And it is a lot easier to understand with one's mind than to implement them when it counts - in the heat of the moment.

Since my divorce I've really only dated a couple of people. And the relationships didn't last long, and the two more 'serious' ones were both long distance. So here I am, 5 years after my divorce with someone who lives here near me, and feeling like a teenager who doesn't really know how to date. And similarly to my relationship with my ex, D & I have gotten very close very quickly. I love that man, he is such a good soul. He is warm and loving and kind and gentle and sexy and sweet. And we sometimes frustrate the hell out of one another. And when that happens, it makes me want to run for the hills. But I really don't want to. The more I know him, the more I love him. I see so much beauty in his character.

In the deepest part of me, I want to stay put, and learn to implement all the tools and techniques - including praying and seeking God's will - in real time. Oh God it can be challenging! I'm so blessed by his patience with me. Because I tell ya, sometimes I feel like a big huge loser with all of this. Shouldn't I be more mature by now? Shouldn't I be more secure? Shouldn't I be able to make myself happy and not allow someone else to affect the state of my emotions? Would that it were so simple. I can do that, I can make myself happy when I'm sad, but it feels like the only way involves moving on and clearing the plate of a relationship, and that isn't something I want to do. So my mind goes into self-torture mode... Sometimes I think I want that, but in the deepest part of me, I don't. I don't. I don't!!!

And day by day I'm learning that through his loyalty, and through my own. I'm learning about myself, and about what I believe true love to be - selfless giving to another person and seeking their own best, and loving them despite flaws, and forgiving. And through that, we bring joy and acceptance and peace into one another's lives and souls. D&I do that for each other, at least I can speak for myself anyway, and despite some turbulence at times, it truly is beautiful and lovely. I don't know the future. I don't even know tomorrow. I am only just learning to understand the geography of my own heart.

Here are a few photos from the past few weeks.

Hugs rule. Doesn't my face look kinda like the lost little seal pup? LOL.
Being dorks!
Grilling chicken at my house the other week. I call this is my "I don't need a man grill." :) I put it together from like a zillion pieces out of the box, with no help!

Doug made me dinner! It's usually me who makes him dinner so this was an awesome surprise - what a sweetheart. Then we watched HEROES Season 1 episodes.

Kisses rule too!

It was a beautiful day the other day and we went to his apartment's pool for the first time this year. This photo cracks me up! (And after the sun, came the rain... it totally flooded last night!)

I love this photo. A bit out of focus but cute.

Animals in the News!

I am proud to say I'm now Animal Planet's news blogger! Five days a week I'll post articles or blog posts rather about various issues related to wildlife and pets. Check it out!

My first two posts are "The Great Turtle Race is on!" and "Resurrection spiders." Stay tuned for tomorrow's story! Also check out my official bio "Meet Wendee Holtcamp."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saving Big Bird- cassowaries!

Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia - where the rainforest meets the reef, and where the cassowaries hang out... I loved this place!
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

My latest article - on cassowaries in Australia - is out! It's my first article published in Wildlife Conservation Magazine, and sadly it will be my last. May 2009 is the magazine's final issue. It was a fantastic magazine, and I am sad to see it go, another victim of the sorry state of our economy. The article is not found on the WCS website linked above but I did reprint a PDF of the article below. Check it out!

Saving Big Bird: A cyclone forced endangered cassowaries out of the rainforest and into the danger zone. Wildlife Conservation Magazine. May 2009.

I gave a talk recently at my son's private school called The Tree Huggers Revenge: Why People Need Trees. I created a PDF of the Powerpoint but unfortunately it turned sideways... so I haven't bothered to upload it. It was all about the studies showing the many benefits trees and forests provide, but in it I also talked about the tropical rainforests specifically and my visits to both the Australian rainforest and the Amazon rainforests. I showed the kids photos of the cassowaries I saw and the awesome Aussie rainforests which look like a sort of magical wonderland with all the tree ferns and fan palms. I just love that place.

The three visits I made to Australia last year made me feel so alive, and made me think, "Pinch me, is this really my life?!" I think that perhaps my lack of adventure and travel lately is part of the problem contributing to my poor mood. I really crave the ocean, and the forest and adventure!! The only adventure I had recently, to Oregon and Washington, ended up with me snowed in... I will have to ponder how I can make a grand adventure a part of my near future. Here are a few more photos from my trip to the rainforests near Mission Beach. More are at my August 2008 blog archive.

Oh and don't forget to listen to my live podcast I did for Discovery Channel Earth Live while I was over there!! It's not long - just 4 minute or so long segments!

Fan palms in the Australian rainforest.
Another view of the fan palms, looking toward the sky.
Verdant ferns in the Aussie rainforest.
Beautiful sunrise over the ocean in Mission Beach.
Beautiful pink water lilies in what one naturalist called the "cassowary love spa"
Close-up of a rainforest fern.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Bumblebee on lavender, Green Gulch Organic Farm, near San Fran CA
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I'm listening to the audio version of Brooke Shields' book Down Came the Rain: My journey through postpartum depression. I picked it up at the library the other day, along with 2 other audiobooks and wasn't even sure why. I figured I'd pop it in and if it was boring I'd stop and listen to one of the others. But the truth is, I've been transfixed. It's a good story, and she narrates it herself. I remember watching Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon. I was only 10 years old back then when it first came out. I loved that movie. It's funny I did a bit of googling about the movie to refresh my memory and I read that there was "Christian opposition" to it. I didn't grow up in an overtly Christian home so I didn't experience any of that. I never even heard of such a thing - opposition to movies or books or various ideas or anything.

Even though it's now rated R (I don't think movies were rated back then, though) I was allowed to watch it, and saw it as a very natural love story of how something like that perhaps could happen without the cultural rules and mores. And of course people that young definitely did those kinda things back long long ago. (OK I just reread that and I do not mean people today do not have sex at age 14 or 15... obviously. I meant sorta thinking that back in, say, cave people time, there were surely very different cultural norms...)

Anyway, I am more concerned about the effects of kids' exposure to violence and also the type of incessant negativity and criticism and tone of voice that takes place on many sitcoms than I am of sexuality. I think that most of these natural type things can be watched with the appropriate discussions. I don't actually watch actual TV myself, pretty much ever, but do rent TV shows on DVD, the latest being HEROES which I'm loving!

Anyway, I am enjoying the book. It talks about her struggles with depression after a long journey with infertility and In-vitro fertilization. Her baby was born just 3 weeks after her father died, and a couple years after a close friend had committed suicide. Yet she never thought she'd be prone to it, because depression wasn't something she'd ever dealt with in the past.

I never suffered from postpartum depression. But I have had bouts of depression at other times, most notably in high school after the date rape and after my divorce. And the truth is, the last few weeks I've felt very low, and very overwhelmed. It's bodily in nature and also heavy on my soul. There's not any acute reason. It's just a general feeling of overwhelm - my book deadline approaching, deadlines for so many things, financial stress, relationship dealings, life-in-general. But it's really getting me down. It's affecting my motivation. I am doing my best. I'll get through it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

teabagging and thunderstorms

Thunderstorm near Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

"Don't you wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work."
- Gallagher

It's thundering here in Houston right now, and we've got a tornado watch going on. I must say that I am a bit scared of thunder and intense weather like storms. I think it's just the massive scale and total helplessness one feels in the face of such intense power. Yes I'm inside a nice, supposedly safe brick house and for that I am eternally grateful. But in the most intense of storms I've been known to hide in my closet... I just do not like the really super loud thunder. It's pretty black and dark out there at the moment and it's not going to abate anytime soon, according to the weather peeps. Give me snakes and spiders any day!!

I have spent the day playing catch up. I have found that since I've spent more time twittering and facebooking, my email tends to get neglected. I am one of those people who likes to stay on top of my email and keep my inbox to a manageable level - less than 100 emails in there is a good number. I like to give everyone a personal response who emails me. It's not always easy to stay on top of email! It's a great thing to catch up with while watching a movie.

Yes, I'm the Queen of Multitasking. It brings to mind something I heard from I think, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, about doing one task at a time and focusing on it. Enjoy it. Be present. He said something like if you are eating but you are thinking about baseball, you are eating....baseball. It was funny especially because I was listening to it on audio-CD but.... the point has stuck in my mind, though I have not yet incorporated that too much into my life. I do sometimes. But not often. An interesting thing to ponder...

At any rate my favorite items in the news that I've been ranting about on Facebook include the teabagging protests (ha ha) and the fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry said at a "tea party" protest bagging event - go get an urban dictionary Fox News- lol) that Texas could secede from the Union.

Say what?! I was FLOORED when I read that he said this. This is not just some random nutjob saying this. This is the governor of the 2nd largest state in the United States!!! He also said that it was not just right-wing extremists protesting, but if it was, he was right alongside with them. Ahem. Yea. Okay. First of all, although Texas original Constution said we could secede from the Union, we lost that little privilege after the Civil War. Second, a Supreme Court case ruled secession illegal.

I must say that one of the funniest things I have read in a very long time (add her to Black Hockey Jesus - and it was he who recommended her to me) The Bloggess had a freaking laugh out loud funny blog post on the teabagging issue. Without further adieu, please visit: The time I got verbally assaulted at HEB. Bwa ha ha ha!! Here's an excerpt:

Then when I was checking out the bagger asked me if I was “going to any teabagging parties today”. Like, WTF? And the cashier was just looking at me waiting for my response and I was all “Uh…no” because I was too shocked to say anything else and then I got home and thought maybe teabagging means something else now but no, I googled it and it still totally means the same thing.

As always Jon Stewart's Daily Show has some outstanding and humorous coverage The British actor John Oliver interviewed some protestors who had really no clue of the ridiculously outlandish and inappropriate comparison they were making to what happened with British Rule compared to American taxes. God Bless America!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Tea Party Tyranny
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shall the Fundamentalists Win?

Stained glass window depicting the empty tomb the Church of Angels in L.A. - Inscription says - "He is not here, he is risen!"
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I just stumbled on this 1922 sermon, later published as a booklet, written by Presbyterian Minister Harry Emerson Fosdick, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?: Defending Liberal Protestantism in the 1920s," while researching my book (on making peace between evolution and Christianity, which by the way is due very soon - agghhhh!!!) All I have to say is wow, wow, wow!! What a powerful and profound message, and also very interesting given that this took place nearly a century ago. It outlines some of the same controversies of fundamentalism vs progressive/liberal thought, and science versus religion.

Fosdick was investigated and later resigned from the Presbyterian Church after publishing this, but soon became a minister at a Baptist church, and then founded Manhattan's Riverside church. This was just three years before the Scopes Monkey Trial, and one of the Presbyterians promoting the opposing view of fundamentalism was the attorney in that trial – William Jennings Bryan.

Here are some quotes from the sermon that resonated with me:

"Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, “Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.” Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, “Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results."

"...the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen."

"...there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is."

"...there are multitudes of reverent Christians who have been unable to keep this new knowledge in one compartment of their minds and the Christian faith in another. They have been sure that all truth comes from the one God and is His revelation"

"...for the sake of intellectual and spiritual integrity, that they might really love the Lord their God, not only with all their heart and soul and strength but with all their mind, they have been trying to see this new knowledge in terms of the Christian faith and to see the Christian faith in terms of this new knowledge."

This was written just 3 years before the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and during a time at which there existed a huge controversy between "modernists" and "fundamentalists" within the Presbyterian Church, which made up around 25% of Christians at that time. The split affected many other denominations as well, and led to the decline of Presbyterianism in the U.S. I was actually researching the history of the term fundamentalist, which is when I learned about this whole history - fascinating!! Fundamentalism arose at the Niagara Bible Conferences which were held annually from 1876-1897 where a fourteen-point creed was developed, and later distilled at the 1910 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to 5 fundamentals of the Christian faith:

  • Inerrancy of the Scriptures
  • The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14)
  • The doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God's grace and through human faith (Hebrews 9)
  • The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)
  • The authenticity of Christ's miracles (or, alternatively, his pre-millennial second coming)

I actually hold to a fairly conservative ("fundamental") belief in all of these things other than the pre-millennial second coming (I believe that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod which I attend does not hold that belief either and they're a fairly conservative church). I don't necessarily agree with inerrancy of Scripture. Well, that all depends on how you define it, as there's a whole history around the use of that term, and it didn't even arise until this conference in 1910!!! Yet so many churches use that as "fundamental" to faith. I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and is useful for teaching... and so much more. Its history in coming together is very interesting. I think that some things will always remain holy mysteries this side of heaven. It's also pretty ironic that the Presbyterian Church today is definitely not fundamentalist!

Regardless, the fact that the controversy between science and religion, and conservative/fundamental versus progressive/liberal thought has occurred for so long is just fascinating....Now besides merely defining the fundamentals of the faith, the fundamentalists of that era did more, as they do today. They mixed in political and anti-science thought with the religious ideals. They opposed evolution, and (in effect) opposed educational learning about things like Biblical scholarship as they believed it led people away from the faith. Just think, demanding and requesting people not learn so their faith would not be weakened or lost. What kind of religion or faith can be lost by learning? That is a weak faith indeed, not much worthy of following. I believe Christianity holds up to scrutiny and I say to education of all manner - whether Biblical history, science, or any such thing -bring it on! We need Christians to be more educated about their own religion. We need society more educated about this faith that has so influenced America, Europe, and the world.

I leave with the question: have the fundamentalists win? Shall we let them?

Cross-posted at The Fish Wars blog

PS Hope you had a blessed Easter!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Maundy Thursday and what love is

~ Hugs are beautiful ~
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

Yesterday I attended my church's Maundy Thursday service. One of the associate pastors gave the sermon and he's a very animated character and I always get a laugh or two during his sermons. I must admit I had never even heard of Maundy Thursday until I moved to Houston over a decade ago. For those who don't know it is the day Christians celebrate four things: the last supper at which Jesus started what would become Holy Communion, Jesus washing his disciples feet, Jesus' private agony in the Garden of Gethsemene because he knew he was about to be crucified, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot.

Most of the Maundy Thursday services I've attended have always focused on the last supper and the washing of feet. The time before Jesus' crucifixion was Passover and he took his disciples to a private room where he shared the Passover meal. The beautiful messages that follow in the gospel of John are known as the Upper Room Discourse. I absolutely love this part of the Bible, as it's very comforting to read Jesus words. He is so wise and kind.

Anyway, so you may have heard that Jesus washed his disciples feet. Well that was something that slaves did in that day, and Jesus was a teacher and it was unheard of for him to do something like that. So most of the disciples allowed him to, but when he got to Peter, who is very passionate and got out of line quite a bit, he said something like "No Jesus you will not wash my feet!" And Jesus replies, "If you don't let me wash your feet, you have no part in me." To which Peter then replies, in a complete reversal, "Then wash all of me, my head and hands too!"

You gotta laugh. He thinks he's being humble by turning down the offer of Jesus to wash his feet, but Jesus puts him in his place. Then he goes overboard the other way, ok Jesus wash all of me, thinking he's just the most dedicated disciple ever. But Jesus puts him in his place once again, saying that once you're clean, you only need to wash the feet.

I don't think I've ever heard my pastors preach on this what I'm about to say but I read it somewhere, or maybe I just discovered it on my own, I don't honestly remember. But the washing of feet and the conversation with Peter is so clearly talking about forgiveness within Christianity. Once we've accepted the way of Christ, as we understand it, our "whole soul" is clean. Our sins are forgiven, past present and future. Yet when we go walking around the streets, living our daily lives, we get "dirt" in our lives, and on our feet. We say things in passion, that we regret. We judge. We are not patient. We curse. We yell. We leave things unsaid, or undone. We sin. We may need forgiveness, but it's not the all-encompassing grace, because we've already received that. It's just a daily dose of foot washing type forgiveness by turning to our God and asking Him to clean us, to forgive us. But all we need on our continuing journey of faith is to wash our feet, to daily come to have Jesus wash our feet clean and return to the way of love.

I asked my friends what love meant to them and here are some things they shared.

  • "Love is friendship set on fire." - Jeremy Taylor

  • God (1 John 4:8)

  • Caring more about their growth than your, or their, happiness. Not caring about them more than caring about ourselves. fine distinction.

  • Love in marriage is both sides giving 100%, Love in relationships of friends & family means .... well it really is 1 cor. 13 but also in Psalm 139 we are told how wonderfully God made us we never put ourselves down but we hope the best for that person. Check Philippians 4:4 ....only God can change a person and only God can fulfill everything. I think I cannot put it into one sentence.

  • I think we can't love anyone else until we love ourselves 1st. An incomplete person doesn't know how to love in a healthy way, and we can't look to others to complete us. Loving ourselves means accepting our God-given beauty & intelligence, our spirit & ability to experience joy. Then to love another is to want to make that person Feel our love & commitment to them & our acceptance of them - to give them the gift of a life-partner who will always be there for them. I think that's what God intended for us.

  • "Only love is" - A Course in Miracles

  • Allowing your partner complete freedom, which means not being possessive. Fostering a relationship that allows a state of egolessness. Being supportive but not smothering.

  • love, n. a confluence of neurochemical imbalances affecting the primitive "reptilian" areas of the brain and creating irrational and sometimes embarrassing behavior

  • Love backwards evolve?

  • The Meaning of Love~

    Both light and shadow are the dance of Love. Love has no cause; it is the astrolabe of God’s secrets. Lover and Loving are inseparableand timeless. Although I may try to describe Love when I experience it I am speechless. Although I may try to write about Love I am rendered helpless; my pen breaks and the paper slips away at the ineffable place where Lover, Loving and Loved are one. Every moment is made glorious by the light of Love. ~Rumi

  • Love is indefinable. :)

  • What is love according to kids 4-8 years old.

  • Love is a feeling. Feelings are fleeting. Yet love can be a commitment. I know I'm a better person when I love. I wonder if it has everything to do with grace. Even though none of us deserve the love we get or want...Love is forgiveness, acceptance, awareness of the "us" in all things, enlightenment, the ah ha moment, and definitely worth opening ourselves to and giving to others. Its late, I'm rambling but I might be on to something.

  • Honesty, trust, and it's okay to be totally yourself. I haven't found true love, but these are the things I've found are true, at least with friends and family. I am guessing that romantic love is similar...

  • Love is effortless, love is being able to be fully who you are, love is playful, love is giving the other person the freedom to be who they are, non-judgement,allowing them to have their own experience even if it might not be your cup of tea.

  • Love is God

  • For me, something my mom said to me when I was with her before she died REALLY strikes me as what love really is. I asked her about the 'wives submit to the husband' thing & she said to me that she AND my dad submitted TO EACH OTHER....& that is REALLY how it is meant to me. .....If u think on that, love IS akin to rowing a boat....If you BOTH row forward, that IS where you will go.If only one 'rower' is in charge, you just go in circles.....So I believe that love IS MUTUAL SUBMISSION,non?

  • Putting someone's needs before your own.

  • I realize I don't have an easy definition. The closest I can come is, Love is commitment, ie giving your all and your best to a relationship, as consistently as humanly possible.

  • I don't know what the heck love is ... the only kind I truly understand is the love I have for my daughter, which like Charlotte says, is effortless and playful. But this is my favorite love-related quote, and one I keep close by.

    Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see each other whole against the sky. - Rainer Maria Rilke

  • My personal favorite and my own choice for defining love:

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Elusive Ringtail

Dried out basketflowers in Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

My latest article is out! "The Elusive Ringtail: A new study sheds light on a little-known mammal in Palo Duro Canyon" appears in the April issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. It is also available online (ie the link above)! And here is a PDF reproduction of the article.

It starts out:

I’m walking through a field of basketflowers — robust, pale stalks that grow to my waist, evidence of a flush season long past, but now they’re brittle as straw. A few mesquite bushes green up an otherwise pale sea of grasses. Pocket
gopher mounds pock the reddish brown earth and tumbleweeds blow periodically across the roadside as if a tumbleweed factory churned them out, just beyond sight. In the midst of this quintessentially Texan landscape typical of the panhandle plains, a massive gash of a canyon slashes its way across the land — 120 miles long, 6 to 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep.

Carved by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, the ruggedly beautiful Palo Duro Canyon arises where it seems it shouldn’t. Its striated rock layers tell history as the Grand Canyon does — covering four major geological periods spanning more than 240 million years. The canyon forms part of the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado, the largest plateau in the United States, which stretches westward into New Mexico. Water has worn caves, pillars, hoodoos, buttes and mesas in the rock, creating an enticing landscape for exploration. But the rocky escarpment and cliff ledges also create ideal habitat for one of Texas’ lesser known but most endearing species — the agile, rock-face-loving ringtail.

I brought Sam & Savannah on this trip which is always fun. We actually flew into Denver, Colorado and then drove to Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, Texas which is about 5 hours away if I recall (then we drove back, for Easter last year with the Epperson family and we also went skiing!). We went out in the field with West Texas A&M University Professor Ray Matlack and his grad student Naima Montacer trapping mesocarnivores (meso=middle sized), which include ringtails, foxes and raccoons. Sadly I did not get to see a ringtail, because they are absolutely adorable!! However we did catch a raccoon, which they weighed and measured and Savannah even got to hold (it was anesthetized for that part). I blogged about it all with some other pics last March.

Naima just finished her PhD - yea for her!

During that trip, we also visited with the Epperson family, who were involved in the landmark Epperson v Arkansas court case, and my visit will be a chapter in my book. That is one that is already written! And as soon as I finish this piece on sharks, it's back to the grindstone on the book chapters.

And I'll leave you with this prayer that my pastor offered in church a few weeks ago. It is a modification of a prayer by John Baille from A Diary of Private Prayer which was written in the early 1900s.

God, You are from eternity to eternity, and are not at one time in one place because all times and places are in You; I would now seek to understand my destiny as Your child.

Here I am, weak and mortal, amid the immensities of this world. But blessed are You, Lord God, that You have made me in Your own likeness and breathed into me the breath of Your own life. You have given me your Holy Spirit that I am a new creation in Jesus Christ. So from this place I can lift up my mind beyond all time and space to You, the uncreated One, for the light of Your countenance illumines all my life.

Let me keep in mind that my mortal body is but the servant of my immortal soul;
Let me keep in mind how uncertain is my hold on my bodily life;
Let me remember that here I have no continuing city, but only a place of sojourn and a time of testing and training;
Let me use this world but not abuse it;
Let me be in this world but not of it;

Let me be as one who has nothing yet possesses all things;
Let me understand the vanity of the temporal and the glory of the eternal;
Let my world be centered not in myself but in You. Whatever I myself can do, give me grace this day to begin; through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I love Black Hockey Jesus!

Juvenile green sea turtle in a facility in Florida that I visited while a participant in the Scripps Howard Institute on the Environment for journalists.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I think I am in love. With Black Hockey Jesus.

OK no it's not romantic love. Certainly not erotic love - much as he he might like to think or wish or hope from his latest blog post - that his blog title Wind in Your Vagina might inspire erotic thoughts... but it's love nonetheless. And in writing this, I can not even hope to be half or even a quarter or a duotrigintillionth as witty and random and strange and poetically charming and moving as his blog is, but I can be inspired. (I also have to admit my boyfriend, on me reading the post to him, said, "Is he married? He seems like a perfect match for you.") Ha! I thought that was quite humorous. Was he jealous? Trying to pawn me off to someone more writerly than he? I had to wonder.

I must admit vainglory to having him write a whole blog post about me - Science. OK that is an exaggeration. It's not ALL about me. It's really about him writing about me writing about him. But he mentioned being wedged in between cyanobacteria and parthenogenesis and how cool that was (amidst a bunch of other
mildly insane random thoughts - I say this in the kindest of ways). When I read it I laughed out loud and had a grin you couldn't wipe off my face. Call it my own vanity, I admit it! Because he's just brilliant.

Anyway, if you get a chance, and I hope you do, read this completely gorgeous essay he wrote about his daughter on her 5th birthday. It will bring you to tears. Just reminds me of that amazing beauty of being a parent that you experience when kids are so young and innocent and wise and alive all at the same time. As he writes in the sidebar describing the title of his blog:

I took Jackson (9) to soccer practice, put Lucy (4) on a swing, and sat on a bench to read. Lucy screamed, “The wind, Daddy! The wind! It feels so nice. It’s nice in my vagina!” I looked at my daughter. She appeared to me in this context as the radical opposite of all dead things.

Profound! So here's his essay, 5, about his daughter. It is worth your time! Here's a snippet:

When I was 18-years-old I was not so happy. One time I stood on a dock that stretched way out onto a frozen lake. I cried icicles, clenched my fists, and screamed until my throat hurt. I screamed at the dark and dared it to come get me. I said Well come get me then! I am not so afraid of you! I wanted to run as fast as I could to the end of the dock and leap right into the dark. I was not so happy.

But many years later, when you were born, when you were no more than a couple handfuls of raging pink littleness, the very first thing you did was change everything. When I saw you I shuddered with my whole body. The room rippled. I gasped. The future filtered through your open eyes. Your wail rewrote the past. That shuddering ripple changed everyone I ever was. You ran all the way back to that dock and whispered in my ear Don’t you jump into the dark just yet, mister. You will one day be my Daddy.

WOW!!!!! It was reprinted in a magazine, even. And his commenters are so funny too! I guess witty writers attract witty readers. And some of them have even migrated and checked out my blog - hello Black Hockey Jesus fans! Oops, I just wrote Black Hokey Jesus. Hey BHJ, maybe you should add that to your Google alerts? (By the way my new love, BHJ, you gave me a great idea, to add my name to Google Alerts. I do admit to vainly Googling my name now and then...why not have them come to me?)

But speaking of science (and math) and Google, did you know that 'Googol' is the term for 1^100? It is also the word that the company Google meant to call their company but apparently someone there (or many people) couldn't spell. It was also a winning answer on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the UK. And other names for it are ten duotrigintillion, ten thousand sexdecillion, or ten sexdecilliard. Who even knew such words existed?! I learned these factoids when science writer Carl Zimmer's daughter recently wrote it out and it took 5 minutes to write all those zeros, and he posted this to his Facebook status updates. And I didn't know what the heck a Googol was, so I .... Googled it. Then I read the entry in Wikipedia. So there ya go. God Bless the internet! Back to shark parthenogenesis I go...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

sharks and weiners

Left to right clockwise - Richard Fitzpatrick, Dean Miller, Mike DeGruy and M. Sanjayan on board the Undersea Explorer holding down a whitetip reef shark as they prepare to take data and film the documentary Mysteries of the Shark Coast at Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

I am not quite sure why I'm not blogging so much lately. The more time that goes by the more it seems overwhelming to begin to blog, so I better just do it. I've been insanely busy - but then again when am I not? I am struggling with the thought of my book needing to be completed by June 1. I got a whole lot done in the early months of this year and then sort of stalled due to other deadlines. I had that article on cyanobacteria due, and then Tuesday I gave a talk at my son's school called the Tree Huggers Revenge: Why People Need Trees. I am trying to put a copy of my Powerpoint from my tree/forest talk online but the PDF I made using Adobe Converter turned everything sideways. Harumph. Any ideas on how to turn a PPT file into a PDF without it turning weird like that?

Oh. My. God. I just laughed so hard at this essay about a dad and his young daughter's obsession with weiners on the blog Wind In Your Vagina by Black Hockey Jesus (don't ask, just read...). It will make you laugh!! Weiners.. The comments are especially hilarious too!! Such as, "She does have a point. It is considered polite to keep your weiner in your pants. Especially at a restaurant."

Speaking of weiners, I'm working on an article on shark virgin birth - aka parthenogenesis - and why sex evolved in the first place. There are costs and benefits, evolutionarily speaking, to sex as opposed to asexual reproduction. My article will discuss several recent cases of virgin birth in various species. The two that have been genetically confirmed are a hammerhead (bonnethead specifically) and blacktip shark but they've now found suspected and probable cases with white bamboo sharks and a whitetip reef shark - the same species I saw in Australia when I wrote the Discovery Channel Expedition Shark blog. That means that sharks that give live birth and that lay eggs can reproduce asexually. So why do they have sex? Why did sex evolve? That's the question of the hour...

One kind of cool thing that happened was one of the scientists that I interviewed for my article said that Mysteries of the Shark Coast was one of the best documentaries he'd ever seen (that's the documentary I was blogging about the filming of in the Expedition Shark blog), and thought it was cool I was there during part of the filming. This scientist is actually doing a similar project to what Fitzpatrick and colleagues are doing on Osprey Reef but on the Eastern Shore Board of the U.S. and he - and another shark scientist - invited me along with their research. Hell ya!!! Now I just have to find a magazine to give me the budget...