Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Full Year

Before we get started with today’s post, make sure to check out the latest edition of Berry-Go-Round. Mary over at Neotropical Savanna has put together a great edition- I think it might actually be the best one yet*.

*What? Better than mine? Say it isn’t so! Well, it is so, and I’d probably be a bit crestfallen to admit it if Mary’s edition just wasn’t so darn great.

Speaking of Mary, check out her blog while you’re over there. She lives- get this- in Panama. Panama, from what I understand (haven’t been there yet, but plan to sometime… could sure use a plant-savvy guide. Mary, are you listening??), is like an undiscovered Costa Rica. It’s Costa Rica minus the condo developments, zip-lines, timeshare-compounds and “fusion” restaurants. It’s got lowland jungles, 11,000 foot volcanoes, cloud forests, beaches and similarly amazing plant and animal life as CR, with just a tiny fraction of the tourists. I am so there.

Side Note: For you non-plant-oriented readers, I listed some great reasons why you should check out Berry-Go-Round here. Plus, she lives in Panama. Panama!

One Year

Last Wednesday marked a year of doing this blog. Globe Willow on Creek Rd 3 27 08I was reminded not only by the date, but by seeing/hearing some of the same things I blogged about in the very first posts last Spring. While I was away in Costa Rica the Globe Willows (subject of my 2nd post) bloomed, and their bright green leaflets line the street to my office once again. And Saturday I heard Western Meadowlarks while road-biking out West (subject of my 5th post.)

greek_flag Tangent: And yes, last Wednesday was also Greek Independence Day. Which means I feel the urge to share another odd little story about being raised in the Greek church. The Greek church serves Greek-Americans not just as a church, but as sort of an ethnic vehicle, a place to get together with other Greek-Americans and celebrate various things Greek.

Foremost among those things was Greek Independence Day. I mentioned that we sang the national anthem, and I think we had a little pageant or something, and maybe some special cookies or what-not afterwards. But what I remember most was Mr. Papadopoulos*.

*Not his real name. I can’t remember his real name, and neither could either of my siblings, when I pinged them. But every Greek church has some guy named Papadopoulos, usually some older guy with a dark bushy beard and permanent scowl on his face, probably because he’s still pissed off about Constantinople falling to the Turks. Seriously, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Go to any Greek Church on Sunday, start asking around, and you will find at least a dozen middle-aged-to- old guys who are still pissed off about it. Just don’t call it “Istanbul”, or they will go ballistic...

25-03-08_greek_independence Every year on Greek Independence Day, Mr. Papadopoulos would stand in front of the congregation and speak about Greek Independence day. He would tell us how the Turks ruled Greece for 400 years, how Greek mothers would dress their little boys as girls so that the Ottomans wouldn’t draft them into the Janissaries, and how the brave, out-numbered Greek resistance fighters finally overthrew their Turkish masters.

The interesting thing about this was that Mr. Papadopoulos wasn’t a priest or a deacon or anything; he didn’t hold an ecclesiastical position of any sort. So far as I could tell, he established himself as the church’s designated Independence Day speaker through sheer, determined, jingoistic enthusiasm.

st. nicholas church Mr. P. came to church every Sunday. He showed up late and he never wore a tie. (Every other male over the age of 5 wore a tie.) He walked up to the front, took a seat in one of the 1st 3 pews, and then spent the next 15 minutes turning around, waving and smiling at various friends in the pews behind him.

This behavior pissed off the “good mothers” of the church (my mom included.) Mr. P. would be the subject of all manner of coffee-hour gossip and complaints. (“He’s always late!” “He makes such a fuss!” “He never listens to Father’s sermon!”) But once a year, on Greek Independence Day- and only on Greek Independence Day- Mr. P. wore a tie*.

*In the early years, this drove the church-ladies completely apeshit (“He wears a tie for Greece but not for Jesus??”)

Over the years, the tie-thing became sort of a running joke, and although people chuckled about it, it became apparent that no one was more enthusiastic or passionate about Greek Independence than Mr. P., and so he gradually evolved into the quasi-official Greek Independence Day Speaker, and a sort of a minor celebrity of the congregation.

Watcher on JEM[5] I think of Mr. P. every year around this time, and in a weird way I identify with him, because I see myself as enthusiastic, passionate and excited about the living world as Mr. P. was about Greek nationalism. And although like Mr. P. I don’t have any qualifications beyond enthusiasm, interest, and sheer passion for the subject, I like to think that I have evolved into the quasi-official Utah-Mountain-Biker-Amateur-Botanist.

Enough Reminiscing, Back To The Point Already

In one of the recent Blue Piñon posts I tried to express the satisfaction of realizing that something you really wanted and worked real hard for turned out better than you hoped, and I guess that’s how I feel about this project. IMG_5559 When I started the blog last year, I had a real clear goal: I was getting older, and I realized I’d never paid very close attention to the change of seasons, and specifically the onset and development of Spring. Without question this last year I’ve changed that. I’ve paid closer attention to the change of seasons, and the living things around me than I have in any previous year of my life, and quite possibly even all of them put together. I’ve learned more about how the living world works than in any previous year, and with my eyes finally opened, I’ve worked diligently to see, learn about and understand the living world as I’ve traveled outside of Utah as well.

The experience has brought me wonder, delight, satisfaction and an appreciation of the Beauty of the World that I can’t hope to describe in a sentence or two, but which I’ve tried hard to convey throughout this blog over the past year.

The project has also had some unexpected side-benefits. One of them is that for the first time in my life, I’ve kept a journal (of sorts.) As I look back over the past year, I now have a good record of what I did, where I went and what I saw/experienced.

JT 6 9 01 I never intended for the project to continue this long. My original plan was to blog from the Spring Equinox to the Summer Solstice. But when I got to the Solstice there were so many exciting things happening all around that I decided to continue through the Summer, and wrap it up when Fall came around. Rudy and Chuck But when Fall came around I got all wrapped up in the whole hybrid oak project with Professor Chuck and Rudy Drobnik, and by the time that was done for the season I was wrapped up in St. George biking/botany, and by that time I was committed to host Berry-Go-Round and …. Well, before I knew it, another Spring is on the doorstep and I certainly can’t quit now… In other words, the project always seems to be about 90 days away from completion…

Search Slope Another thing that has probably extended the life of this project is you- readers. For the first 6 months or so, no one read this blog- I mean no one. (I have one of those little counter-things set up.) And though I often felt a bit silly going to all this effort and doing all these crazy-detailed posts that no one read, I justified the time spent mainly through the fun I was having learning about all this stuff, and reminding myself of the overall goal of the project, which was to open up my eyes and make me watch the world wake up.

Today, thanks largely to some kind links from far more popular blogs, a couple hundred people a day read this one. Some of those visitors are first-timers searching for Selma Hayek photos* or a Ricardo Montalban biography or some other topic I’ve referenced in a tangent over the last year, but a surprising number appear to be returning, regular readers, a number of whom I’ve come to consider friends. I’m both flattered and grateful that anyone finds this strange blog interesting enough to read regularly, and your visits, comments, corrections and kind words have been an additional, unexpected and wonderful side-benefit of this project. I hope that I’ve been able to share with you at least something of the wonder and beauty I’ve seen in the natural world over this last year, and that your time spent reading my deep-dives, stories, tangents and lame graphics has been – on the balance- enjoyable and worthwhile.

*This post continues to be one of the most-visited posts by first-time visitors, due to searches for Selma Hayek photos. I am telling you, if you want to increase your blog-traffic, put in some Selma Hayek pics.

So with Spring around the corner, the project is continuing forward, and a reasonable question for me to ask myself is: What will I do differently this year? First and foremost, I hope to take more days off to explore places and things I plan to blog about. Between racing, family commitments, and social/group events, my summer weekends fill up quickly, yet I always finish the year with unused vacation days. IMG_5321 I’m going to try real hard this year to do more one-day, weekday, trips: leave work, drive somewhere, camp, get up, bike, hike, climb or otherwise explore someplace new, then return home that night. Such 1-nighters are a bit easier logistically for me- less time away from the family, easier to carve out than a weekend- but it won’t be easy. The economy is giving my company a rough ride as it is so many others, and since my day job is bringing in the money to pay the 150-some-odd people who work with me, there’s a very practical limit to how often I can take days off.

IMG_0755 I also hope to do a better job with both birds and insects this year (How is it that I’ve been at this for a year and still haven’t blogged about either Magpies or Box Elder Bugs??), and as I didn’t really understand moss and lichens until this past Fall/Winter, I’m looking forward to returning to the high country when the snows melt with an eye as to what they’re doing as well.

Lastly, I did a miserable job last year getting up above timberline, something I’ve actually been quite good at in previous years, and which I hope to do again this coming year. Oh, and I hope to kick ass in a few more races.

Anyway, what an awesome year. Thanks for tagging along. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.


Christopher Taylor said...

Seriously, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Go to any Greek Church on Sunday, start asking around, and you will find at least a dozen middle-aged-to- old guys who are still pissed off about it.

Mind you, Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians about three thousand years ago, and there's still some people out there who've never gotten over that.

WheelDancer said...

I wasn't sure, did you say that Mary is from Panama?

Oh and you say you work with 150 people some of whom are odd. If enough of them are odd, I just might fit in so if you are looking for a Strategic Data Architect who won't be moving from MN to UT, drop me a note...

Congrats on making it a year and I'll look forward to the final 90 days of your blog, it should be good!

KanyonKris said...

I came late to this party, but I'm enjoying the company and conversation (and the food - the azul pine nut dip is delicious!). As long as you keep this blog going I'll keep reading. I'd be stupid not to - you do all the hard work (research, etc.) and distill it into a fun 5-10 minute read. Many people get paid to do this. (I better keep my mouth shut or you'll get wise and start charging.)

I've had to scale back my adventures to mostly one-day events for the same reasons. Perhaps we can collaborate on one. I was into canyoneering for a few years and could lead a canyon trip.

Mary said...

Not to burst your balloon or anything, but Panama has become a lot more touristy than it was 5-10 years ago. Nevertheless, it still has lots of the good things, and - hey - you're more than welcome to visit. Some people around here even bike on no-shoulder, curvy, hilly roads. They're crazy.

Oh, and thanks, but you're way to kind about the Berry Go Round edition. It's a great carnival and I haven't seen an edition yet that I haven't liked very much.

Chris said...

Keep blogging and I will keep reading. I enjoy every entry.

Chris in Portland

mjuner said...

I'm looking forward to another "full year." This is one of the few blogs I look forward to reading each day. You've inspired me to look around on my rides, see what's there in my neck of the woods, and sometimes even look some stuff up, too.

Watcher said...

Thanks all!

KKris- I'm hoping that this Stalker-Winter will back off enough by the end of next week to let us get in our inaugural mtb ride/meet-up. When we do I want to talk more about canyoneering- I'd be very interested in working in a quick canyon trip this spring.

Lucy said...

Keep on bloggin'! I really enjoy your take on this ecosystem we live.

Sally said...

Dear Watcher, I envy you this next year, with the thrill of familiarity for your second round of observations, but, we trust, a few surprises as well! Now you know what to expect, what to look for and (roughly) when—a whole new world of friends!

Which you will, of course, continue to share with us! Thanks for a great time...