Fall Leaves and Space Vehicles

The autumn leaves were beautiful today, but it’s hard to focus on trees when there are rockets and a Space Shuttle in the background.

During my college years at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, I grew accustomed to a landscape that included space vehicles. Today, standing at the foot of the original Saturn V lunar rocket, I experienced a wave of renewed awe.

(Photos taken at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.)

Another Cicada Molt

Last night, I wandered outside around nine-thirty. A thin layer of clouds framed the moon, a cool breeze stirred the leaves, and the yard smelled like fresh-cut grass. I meant only to enjoy a late night ramble with the dog. So I was unprepared for this molting cicada. No camera. No shoes. No mosquito repellent.

After a few chaotic moments of rushing from room to room, tripping over the excited dog (she didn’t understand our new game, but did her best to play along), and dropping things that are too fragile to be dropped very often, I made it back to the fence in time to catch most of the molt.

My only regret is that I couldn’t find the mosquito repellent…

Luminiferous Ether

Luminiferous Ether

They imagined a substance
Something made and measurable
That transmitted light
Bore the spectrum from shore
To shore, from planet to planet

Star to star they embraced
Aristotle’s ether, confounded
By the idea of waves
Crossing a sea of nothing
To a boundary that moves

Receding edge of confidence
Calculated into stability
Into constancy, a cosmological
Solution to infinity, dark shadow
Of mass ungrasped, cast across

Galactic coordinates and mapped
Against math, logic to simplify
The special fields of time and space
Elegant descriptions of the refuted
Ether, the vacuum tension condensed

Intelligible, static notation collapsing
Observation and paradox
Particulate light and magnetic
Matter graphed into balance
The observable universe illuminated
By luminous equations

More from Red Wing Park (and a Publication Note)

Red Wing Park is one of my favorite places to visit when I crave a short walk. Or when I’m in the mood for butterflies. Yesterday, I discovered several new attractions, including lotus blooms in an artificial pond and a skink basking on the pond’s rock border.

Butterflies were out in droves, even a few species I have never seen before. (Add these to the Snowberry Clearwing Moths in yesterday’s post…)

I caught several images of a large, unfamiliar swallowtail. I can’t tell if these are Pipevine Swallowtails or Spicebush Swallowtails. Maybe both species were present? Any ideas?

One individual had a mangled hindwing, with more than half of the wing amputated. In marked contrast to the other butterflies, this one struggled in flight. It flailed and fluttered along in short spurts, stopping to perch on flowers rather than hovering as it drank. It continued to feed and flirt with its companions, but it was decidedly less agile.

As far as wing injuries go, this was as bad as I’ve seen. I felt an uncomfortable surge of empathy, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the wound was painful. The encounter has turned me philosophical.

It’s just a butterfly. An insect. An ephemeral creature, at best. And yet, its fate affected me. I am reminded of that jaded cliche about chaos theory, the one where a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, causing an alteration in the weather pattern of another part of the world. What of this butterfly’s damaged wing? What currents of change might eddy in its wake?

Publication note:  My poem “The Road” was published at vox poetica this week. It is now posted on the poemblog. Many thanks to editor Annmarie Lockhart!

Blue Dragonfly Notes

The blue on these mature dragonflies (I believe the top image is a Blue Dasher and the next is a Great Blue Skimmer) is called “pruinescence”. Often described as a powdery accumulation of pigment, the phenomenon of pruinescence is not confined to dragonflies. (I couldn’t find a definitive resource for a link, but this Wikipedia article contains some interesting observations.)

I tend to gravitate toward pruinose dragonflies, when I’m out with my camera. I like how the pale coloration exposes seams and joints, highlighting the intricate anatomy of these amazing insects.

(This male Great Blue Skimmer was a very patient subject. Most of my dragonfly photos are taken using the zoom feature, but he let me experiment with the macro setting, which produced the next image.)

While coloration and wing patterns catch my attention first, wounds hold my attention. This female Great Blue Skimmer has a rather typical set of wing tears, but the wounds on her face are unusual. I wondered if the loss of symmetry made her less attractive, in dragonfly terms.

One final note (completely off-topic):  I’m happy to report that the summer’s first cicadas arrived this week.