All posts by Rebecca Nolen

I blog about many things.

Social Me

The La Salle Hotel located at 30.6730° -96.373...
Image via Wikipedia

Today I’m just back from a long weekend in Bryan, Texas. Such a great old hotel on Main street. A night’s stay at the La Salle includes a glass of wine, cookies and milk, and breakfast. The beds are quite comfortable, the sheets just the right sort of “smooth”. I love cool, smooth sheets. They feel rich. I was there for a novel revisions conference with Darcy Pattison who wrote a book called “Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise After the First Draft”. I’m on draft twenty-seven but who is counting, right? I found the conference incorporated just the right amount of work, social interaction, and food.

One subject outside of the subject of revision was social media. It’s a huge topic at writing conferences, it seems. Building the writer’s platform is something I’m hearing now and I wonder just how long I have been out of touch. It feels like a new subject. It’s not. A writer’s platform is not just about social media. Social media is all things internet such as Facebook, blogs and twitter. Add to this now the idea of “platform”. Michael Larsen in his book “How to Write a Book Proposal” states that “Your platform is what you have done and are doing to give your ideas and yourself continuing visibility around the country in the media or through talks — ideally both.”

Apparently it used to be that publishers created an author’s platform with scheduled book tours, book signings, and even school visits. It was an invisible and unspoken agreement. That hasn’t been the case for a long time. Even I, the out of touch one, knew that. Hence the huge surge in self-published books especially in recent years. After all, why wait for a publisher to publish your book when you can do it now? Especially if  the book’s author will ultimately be in control of the book’s market and advertising buzz anyway.

I understand the frustration of going the traditional route because it can take years of rejections for a manuscript to find its publisher. I will not be self-publishing, though because despite recent upgraded avenues of self-publishing where the book is expertly edited, there are still self-published books which have not been. It’s hard to tell which are which at first glance. This is not an indictment of self-published books. There are excellent ones. I’ve read a few. I’ll still be working my way through more and more manuscript revisions so that the product I send to an editor is the best I can make it. So I plow forward for what it’s worth.

I’m at that waiting in hopes space now with one manuscript getting tighter and another nudging an agent. This is that glorious space between high hopes and getting dashed to terrible bits by a rejection.

Here’s looking at ya.

Acadia National Park

English: Rocky coastline on mount desert Islan...
English: Rocky coastline on mount desert Island, Maine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are some places around America that inspire with their tremendous beauty. One of those places I visited when I was fifteen. I remember discovering wild blueberries, eating them by the fist-full, and hearing the huffed warning of a bear. Running away with our pails of berries back to momma at the camper. She made pancake syrup, which we ate right away with campfire hotcakes.

Ankle deep in freezing clear water, I stood until I could no longer feel my feet to watch a starfish moving along lichen-covered boulders in a tidal pool. The evergreen trees were close to shore and sort of leaned toward the sea. Morning mists swirled and  twisted between the thick deep brown tree trunks.

Huge gray-brown rock cliffs worn by weather and waves jut unevenly into surf, the colors of everything piercingly bright in the gray dawn. I haven’t been back but …

Let me fly away,

toward that eastern shore to

face sunrise, while waves roll and

fold across my feet.

To stand again in clear water

cold,

between slate gray sea and Hiawatha forest

tufted along the beach.

Reclamation of lost

pieces of the heart means

more than anything rediscovering

the fine earth rhythms of life.

Chasing Dreams

Breakwater and fishing boat near the harbour o...
Breakwater and fishing boat near the harbour of Boscastle, Cornwall, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d always wanted to write a novel. Who doesn’t, right? I’d written a few children’s stories done some illustrating for friends, done some professional illustrating and artwork. Okay. But I wanted to write something like a novel. And my favorite pass-time reading is murder mysteries.

The first time I determined to write a novel, I began to write. I hand wrote, filling a lot of composition spirals, did my research, hand-wrote more or less a plot. But I didn’t like it. It wasn’t good enough.

The morning after a bad dream I wrote it down. The story, I wrote in a logical beginning, middle and end which real dreams rarely have, turned into six neat pages. There was conflict. It was fairly interesting. I took it to my critique group at Houston Writer’s Guild and Tony told me “there’s way too much you’re not telling us. This needs to be a novel.”

Great, I thought, how do I start? I thought about it for a few days. The first chapter has to have an eye-opening, cut-to-the-quick scene. Do I open with the murder? Do I open with the victim confronting the killer? Do I open after the deed has been done? AND most importantly was this really a murder?  I wasn’t sure. It was bad but was it murder bad?

In early versions I opened with the deed done. In later versions this morphed into the killer confronting the victim. Then later, the victim’s point of view was included. And still later, the victim became not a dead girl but a kidnapped girl.

But the kidnapper was still a killer. His inaction was not weakness. One victim at a time, please.

Now the setting was a matter that needed serious thought. The terrain or setting is extremely important in any story. In this one there had to be a beach, a lot of fields, a storm of great magnitude, a cave, an ancient house with secret passages. Hmmm. Where could that be?

I’ve always. ALWAYS been a fan of British Murder Mysteries. I think because in the place of guts, gratuitous sex, and unnecessary language there is the best hook of all – suspense. Alfred Hitchcock hook ’em with shadows suspense. PLUS I happen to adhere to the school of “write what you LOVE” not “write what you know.” Because if you love something truly, you will know it through the research you will do to write it.

So naturally the setting had to be in Britain – but where? Should I choose my own ancestral home of Scotland? I’ve grandparents from both Glasgow or Edinburgh? Or can I manipulate my Texas-born heroine to consider the warmer climes of Cornwall?

The answer came after I viewed the mood-setting “Coming Home”, “Wuthering Heights (the newer one), and of course the best of all – “Rebecca” (the old one). Creepy stuff. Love it.

It took me a year to write the entire story, taking the chapters one at a time to critique group and writing and re-writing everything a ga-zillion times. I researched Cornwall and established friendships with an inspector with the London Metropolitan Police, a nurse in Devon, and the owners of the best little Bed and Breakfast in Cornwall (more on that later, if you want more info on that- ask). With lots of questions and making myself a real nuisance with queries about titles, and names, and the way things are pronounced. This was before all the flood of books on the subject which are now on the market.

It is amazing that a country so close to ours in culture and language is soooooo different! There are as many colloquial sayings, different accents and different cultures within England as we have here in America. It is an endless fascination for me.

In all this I researched the material I needed through the internet. A wondrous thing. This was before September 11, 2001 and the open government policies on police procedures and the available brochures from the Home Office were beneficial.

But I didn’t have a FEEl for the place still. I knew that in order for my novel to have any kind of honesty about it I needed to go to England. I needed to taste and smell the place. Something, thankfully the internet can’t provide yet. So I set my plans in motion.

My family didn’t have any desire to travel clear across the “great pond” to stare at grass in Cornwall. My neighbor Elizabeth was more than thrilled to accompany me.

Meanwhile, I invited the Met Inspector to lunch via email to pay him back for all the putting up with repeated questions and endless emails. He had also agreed to read the clumsy tome itself which was an added bonus for me.

Elizabeth and I set out for England. A grand adventure for both of us. She would see relatives she hadn’t seen in years and I would see … what? The place my forefather’s left. The place that had always been in my blood. Why I read and watched anything and everything English.  That was where I was going. I was going home.

The plane touched down and I looked out on a gray morning like all the gray English mornings in London I had ever read about. The drizzle inching down the plane windows and the cold hitting me as I disembarked. So unlike Houston. I was thrilled. My heart sang. Here it was … England, at last!

It was a week of amazement and wonder. The first thing Elizabeth and I did was visit her cousin whom she called “Auntie”. Auntie offered us kippers and eggs. I had never had kippers and eggs. I can truly say now that I won’t ever again have kippers and eggs. I happen to love smoked herring which is what kippers are. But our canned smoked herring is a far cry from the vacuum packaged smoked herring I had that morning. I got it down and it stayed, but I didn’t feel like eating the rest of that day.

My kind, generous, wonderful hosts at “The Old Rectory” Bed and Breakfast just outside Boscastle, Cornwall drove me everywhere. They wouldn’t ask but I offered money for their gas. I don’t think I gave them enough, I just have that sinking feeling, because petrol (gas) there is so much more there than it is here. It’s the VAT. Drat the VAT!

Back in London it was time to meet and take the inspector out to lunch. I didn’t realize it but he was nervous because before lunch he wanted to meet at a Starbucks. And he brought a colleague.  After all, it was an email friendship. I could have been anyone or anything!! We met. I passed because we had a great time. After a full lunch at “The American Cafe” he took me to meet his family and his wife served “high tea” which is usually served at about four but they were so nice to give me tea and finger sandwiches and desserts at ten at night.Thank you, Anne for serving high tea out-of-place.

That’s one thing I wasn’t used to. Here in America we tend to go to bed early. Maybe it is the old Ben Franklin early-to-bed-early-to-rise thing but in England they eat later and hit the hay later. So I think I got back to the London Bed and Breakfast around twelve. Elizabeth had been worried. We didn’t have cell phones back then. I apologize again, Elizabeth. It was thoughtless.

The next day it was time to go and I cried and I sobbed and I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay forever. I don’t know. Maybe because Elizabeth and I were so well-treated. We felt like stars at every turn. Maybe it was the Foot and Mouth that had kept all the other tourist away so that E and I were just about the only foreigners in Cornwall that week … I don’t know. It was a wonderful trip where words can’t quite convey how great it was.

I met a good friend Jamie on the train between London and Cornwall. (Hi Jamie, told you I’d include you here.) I met Sharon and found a soul-mate. I met lots of wonderful people who brought alive that England which I had stored up as a dream.

I got the book researched. Smells and tastes included.

It was a good place to go. There aren’t so many murders, really. That’s the point isn’t it? The quiet, peaceful village and then the piercing scream? Ha! It’s fiction. England is everything it was ever chalked up to be in all the books. I recommend it.

Years passed while I DIDN’T work on the novel because I wanted to write a children’s fantasy novel that had me intrigued. Then my father passed away and I couldn’t write or think of anything but trying to work out the logistics of getting my invalid mother to a safe environment. They lived out in the countryside.

When I went to rewrite the novel, it took a different course. It isn’t so much mystery as suspense now. So let’s see what happens soon with this.

Cheers.

My Bladder’s IQ

Portrait of Jan de Doot and the kidney stone h...
Portrait of Jan de Doot and the kidney stone he removed with his own knife from his own kidney with the help of his brother in the 17th century. This story is described in the book Observationes Medicae by Nicolaes Tulp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now I’m not given to posting disgusting anythings but a funny thing happened on the way to Saturday. It was Friday and time to get my bladder tested. Lately, I’ve had some routine-if-you’re-over-fifty tests and I don’t know but if that isn’t the weirdest test out there I don’t know what is. I felt like a pin-cushion and science experiment all at the same time.

Except for the antibiotic shot, it didn’t hurt. Not in the traditional sense of pain but let’s just say, it weren’t comfortable. Yeah, bad-grammar squirming uncomfortable. It wasn’t a test to sit and read a book during either. Wish it had been.

After many tubes were hooked up, attached, and added the nurse told me she had five questions for me. The test started out like that. Nice, you know, pleasant, apart from the discomfort. I thought – Oh, questions. That’s nice. I like questions.

But after the first question, “When you feel your bladder fill about how long before you think you need to find a toilet?” it was all downhill. Let’s just say, not the pleasant conversation I had thought it might be. Plus the fact that I am totally, completely, and constantly aware that I’m sitting on a padded chair with a hole in it and a pee bucket underneath. Never-mind.

Because of a routine CAT scan done before my colon-scope, a kidney stone made itself evident to the doctors. It was news to me. I saw the scans, the thing was a bright white dot. Yep, there’s a kidney stone. That wasn’t all I saw. Wow, the clip the surgeon left where my gall-bladder used to be thirty years ago is not unlike one of those pincher-like devices I used to use in my hair. I searched but didn’t see the spot on the lung that the radiologist noted on the written report. I won’t know about that until further tests after the kidney stone removal in two weeks.

After all these tests I hope I’m more educated and more informed. I think I’m smarter for it already. On this one I won’t get the test results until Tuesday. I hope my bladder passed. Heh. Heh.

Durn Politikin’

Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past Tuesday morning a lady came to the door and asked for me by name, so I said “This is Me.”

“You’re voting straight Democrat in this election, right?”

“Nope.”

“You mean you’re voting for the Republicans?”  She sounded aghast.

“Yep.”

“Well, go blow it then,” she said in disgust, walking away.

I had to laugh.

Edmund Burke (1729-1792) once wrote about conciliation with America, “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”

Thing is, we gave ’em a chance. We would have given ’em a couple of more, except the last two years have been close to devastating for too many people. All those bail-outs. Banks didn’t go under but they certainly weren’t giving out any loans where people needed them either. The banks were bailed out of desperate times, but turned a deaf ear to people who were living the desperate times.

If Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae had been allowed to break … then and only then could there have been a possibility of fixing something. Because they are still floundering (yes, that’s a flat fish flapping around on the dock before it dies from lack of water). I’ve checked with the Houston Housing Authority, the Harris County Housing Authority, and several others, the waiting list for available housing paid with government assistance is closed with no possibility of filling out paperwork, getting in line, nothing. What happens to people who lose their house to foreclosure?

Now, I’m not sold on the Republicans doing anything amazing. Call me a skeptic, I’m not thrilled about this election. From where I stand what I see of Democrat or Republican is – they’re like two sides of the same plug nickel. They get up there to Washington and pass a bill or two, maybe three, and they get fat, either in the wallet or literally. Seems to me very few actually communicate well with their constituents. Maybe I’m wrong. But I watched the town meetings where the state representatives tried to sell the health-care agenda. I don’t think any of them knew what the bill was about. Few could address specifics, and those didn’t know much of what the bill included. Made most people furious is what I saw.

Here’s what I would say, if I could.

First. What we want is for our roads to be re-poured, for crumbling bridges to be rebuilt, for those who can’t find work to be able to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. This would be a good job for our military service people coming home to NO jobs and facing homelessness. Shame on us. Those who volunteered to go over and fight a war or to keep peace to no avail and then come home to – what? No wonder so many recruiters are committing suicide. Shame on us.

Second. What we want is the same insurance that you have. That’s right. It’s real simple. We want your medical insurance.

Third. We want you to finally do something about term limitations. We think six years is plenty of time to change the world. You have a lot of power at your fingertips. Show up to vote, for every bill. And vote for term limitations.

Here’s another quote from Edmund Burke. “Society is indeed a contract …l it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born.”

I usually try to stay out of the political discussion. I’m just not that serious about party politics. I don’t mind others being serious about it. All this has impact on how we live and function daily. When politics collide with everyone around me is when I have to speak up. Even if I don’t really want to.

Edmund Burke is attributed with saying, “It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph.”

Letting Go Again

Side mirror with warning legend
Side mirror with warning legend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished a heated exchange with my daughter. We’ve been over this ground before. It isn’t easy to let go of a child at any time, but it is worse to say goodbye after an argument.

The same child who would copy everything I ever did, from reading her books with me at night, to having tea with me in the morning (she had her own teacup), to checking with me about where I was and what I was doing, this same child wants me to stop putting up roadblocks every time she wants to go away. She’s an adult.

So let her go.

This morning’s heated exchange began after my daughter declared her intention to drive across Texas for a job interview at a distant city’s school district for a temporary position. I spent some years working in a public school district and know from experience that they are always desperate for warm bodies who know how to read and write, and more so for a body with a college degree in a biology and chemistry.

My thoughts out-loud, which is always a mistake, was “why are you driving clear across Texas on a rainy day to interview with someone desperate to have you in the first place?”

Never speak to the girl-child without a well-thought-out, well-rehearsed, written dissertation beforehand should be posted all over the house for me and me alone. She listens to her father.

This morning she didn’t explode right off. No. It was more of a quick boil and spill-over into – “You don’t want me to ever leave! You want to keep me here in this prison (meaning our house) forever!”

“No,” I said. “I do want you to leave. I’m looking forward to you moving out. We’ll have more room …”

“You want me to go! You don’t want me here?” Tears.

How did that happen?

Ten minutes after she left she called and said something fell off a freeway sign and sheared off her side view mirror. She pulled off the road and examined the spot the mirror had been. Only a chip out of a rubber seal besides the blank spot where the mirror had been. I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. A few inches to the right and whatever took off her mirror would have landed where she was seated.

She made there. Her interview is tomorrow. I have no doubt she will be asked back.

The whole idea of letting a child go, whether the first five steps across the living room at ten months old, the first day of kindergarten, the first solo drive at sixteen, or the first  time you drive away leaving your child at college, it doesn’t get easier. It never gets easier.

I’m sorry she and I parted with tears and words we probably didn’t mean to say in such and such a way. But I’m thankful she made it there fine.

A wise woman once told me that worrying has its place but don’t count on the children doing what you expect them to do all of the time. God’s plan for my children will not necessarily be the same as my plan for my children.

And as much as it hurts to say it, I’m thankful my daughter doesn’t need me.  I’m thankful that she is a great young lady with a fine brain and a rocking sense of humor. It’s just that I have to keep telling myself to stand back, hands off, let her make her own mistakes, let her fall a few times. She’ll always be my daughter and I’ll always be her mother. That’s all that really matters now, I guess.

And I must be reminded to let go, again.

Book Friends

English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s funny how some books feel like old friends. It seems I have a lot of them. Madeleine L’Engle‘s first book of her Crosswicks Journal, A Circle of Quiet, is such a book. In it the author reveals so much of herself, both good and bad, that I felt I had met someone I could have spent a lovely afternoon with, walking in the woods, sitting by the stream, retracing foible life in the quiet stillness of the sun-kissed woods.

While I’ve been known to throw a book in the waste bin if, in my opinion, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, most books I purchase stay in my house a short while and then are moved on to other homes. The best ones are given away. I have been known to sell some good ones to the half-price shop. But that isn’t often, and only because I don’t know who to give them to. The best of the best of what I read remain on my shelf. Those are my friends, the ones I plan to read again and again.

Thing is, I can’t keep a copy of A Circle of Quiet. It keeps slipping off into a friend’s hands and more often than not, time goes by and I know I must buy it again. They are becoming thin on the ground, these good little books. The last one was part of the set but I might be able to find it on Amazon again. They’ve been out of print for so many years.

Another lovely read is Rosamund Pilchner’s The Blue Room. I’ve got my copy back again after lending it out. The stories are sweet but not too. A good book of short stories. None of them end in violence or death. Despite the author’s best-sellers, I wonder if such a book would have ever found a publisher these days. It’s so nice, no death, no violent or shocking endings. It’s got two marks against it. The niceness and it’s short stories. I doubt it would be published today. I really do.

My mother had many book friends. She had been collecting all her books for so many years because there was no library near enough for her to be able to use. Her house was impacted with books. Unfortunately when my father passed away suddenly three years ago, she had to be uprooted and she lost many of her books. It was a completely tragic time for her.

I had to move her from her five-bedroom house to a small one bedroom apartment. She was able to squeeze in many of her cherished things but not many of her books made that transition. To assuage her book-friend loss I now take her to the library every two weeks. At eighty-five my mother reads everything. Her two favorite authors at this moment are Deborah Crombie and John Gresham. I only wish those two had more books at my mother’s library.

Her love of books rubbed off. I hope when I’m her age I have as many beloved book friends as she has.

Odd bits of Texas History: The Last of the Karankawans

English: Historical Marker for a Karankawa ind...
English: Historical Marker for a Karankawa indian campsite and burial ground located in Jamaica Beach, Texas on Galveston Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1819, Jane Long followed her husband James to the wild frontier of Texas. Her husband was always on some mission of one kind or another. He kept leaving Jane behind, first he left her in Mississippi to go to Texas to fight the Spanish, then left her to go to Galveston to recruit the pirate Lafitte, and then he went to Mexico to fight the Mexicans. The Mexicans caught and killed him.

 

I don’t know which is worse the part about James’ propensity for leaving his wife or the part about Jane following him. I think when he went to Mexico the only reason she didn’t follow him is because she was so pregnant. It would be one thing if he left her in a nice, cozy place but no, he left her in a mud “fort” on Bolivar Peninsula which is across the bay from Galveston.  There are no trees there hence the mud.

 

That would have been where I drew the line and would have gone home to mama, but not Jane. This woman was plucky, gotta hand it to her.

 

The Karankawan Indians were the true natives of South Texas. Supposedly they used smeared shark liver oil or alligator fat to ward off mosquitoes. So not only did they smell bad, but they were reputed cannibals.  The important thing to note they didn’t just snack on just anybody. They only ate parts of their conquered enemy. In so doing they were conquering them on the outside and the inside. Something to think about.

 

Their blood-thirsty reputation didn’t win them any awards with the neighbors. So in the winter of 1821 when Jane Long was cast alone on the narrow strip of land called Bolivar with crashing waves on one side and Karankawa Indians on the other side, she didn’t know what to do. The one time she saw the Indians crossing the bay in canoes coming towards them, she strung up her red underwear as a flag and loaded her only cannon ball in their canon and shot it. The Karankawans turned back.

 

The weather grew more dire. Jane, her children and Kian (her maid or servant or slave, history is unclear) had nothing. They were starving. Cold weather gave way to freezing weather. Kian gathered the fish as they froze and rose to the top and floated ashore. They ate what they could.

 

Winter grew even more frigid until the bay froze over. They just knew the Karankawa would cross the water, on foot, and eat them. But they didn’t. Probably because the Karankawa were probably freezing, too. Some passing immigrants saw Jane’s fort, came to investigate and found the women and children. They were rescued.

 

The Karankawa’s reputation continued to spiral downward with more and more immigrants crossing into Texas. By 1850 the Karankawa were almost non-existent. But because of their reputation Stephen F. Austin decided they needed to be annihilated. In 1858 a band of Texans led by Juan Cortino killed the last one. Or did he?

 

Another theory is that there was one Karankawa left from that expedition and he disappeared but a Texas Ranger chased him down and killed him a few years later.

 

Jane Long went on to buy an Inn and then a plantation where she lived during the civil war. She is called the “Mother of Texas” and Stephen F. Austin is called the “Father of Texas”. Both didn’t like the Karankawa.

 

About Language

Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L’Engle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Madeleine L’Engle wrote in Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art, that “We cannot Name or be Named without language. If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles – we cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than ‘the way things are’.”

My stints as long-term English high school substitute would last a semester at a time. I had been doing this since my own children began high school. When my youngest child graduated, and I was contemplating my return the following fall, and the other English department teachers were begging me please, I realized I couldn’t. I had to say enough was enough.

I had a hundred and fifty-six students. The majority were great. But my last class of the day got to me. Too many times the police would come for one or two and take them out in handcuffs, because they had been reported abusing drugs on campus or worse. I called them my “Welcome Back Kotter” class and they didn’t know what I was talking about. (Look it up!)

What struck me the most, I think, was their lack of language. These students grew up in affluent neighborhoods, had all they needed, never went hungry but when anger got the best of them they couldn’t come up with better adjectives than the over-used oldies everyone knows. These unacceptable words punctuated their every other sentence. It’s all they had for adjectives.

I even gave them lists of alternatives.

I handed my students tools on how to memorize grammar rules or spelling rules in order to get by with a wider range of vocabulary, but so many still couldn’t define the difference between an adverb or an adjective. I have to admit I didn’t like grammar in school either. So my attempts at making it fun fell short. Very few showed serious interest, which is normal for high-school kids. School being the waste of space between getting up and partying.

That was six years ago. Recently I saw one of the boys who was one of those removed from school. He delivered my pizza. He didn’t recognize me, and I didn’t set him straight. He was probably too high in class to be able to remember what I looked like.

I see signs in shops all over town with incorrect spelling and incorrect usage of apostrophes.

Men haircuts

We have best wing and shrimps

The English language is a morphing language. It changes. It grows. It is alive. Since educating the care-less teens is like pushing a barrow of bricks uphill. My hope is that we can better educate the adults who make signs to strive to be better. Because at least they are trying. I fully support Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson in the quest to change America’s typos. (The Great Typo Hunt) Good for them. While not quite walking on water, they are making waves.

New Things in the Yard

Male Carolina Anole with partially expanded de...
Male Carolina Anole with partially expanded dewlap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

It isn’t news that the Mexican White Wing dove has flown its Mexican coup, probably because of the violence, and is now setting up huge colonies in the Houston area. I have just discovered an astounding fact. The white-wing dove eats the seeds of the Chinese Tallow Tree!

 

Now, it has been my contention all these years that the Tallow tree is totally worthless. Okay, save for the fact that it might be the only tree in Houston that truly turns into colors in the fall. So for all those of us native Houstonians who have bemoaned the lack of fall color in our landscape – look around at the Tallows. I just saw a purple one yesterday. They do turn purple, red, orange and yellow sometimes all at once, and on one tree. Other than that bit of something, the Tallow being a non-native to America has never contributed to the wildlife food chain. Nothing will nest in it, except a perhaps a newbie crow or some such bird who learns soon enough not to ever do that again. Brittle Sticks! But now, these new big doves eat the seeds. Nothing else eats the seeds, nothing else uses the tree, for anything.

 

It’s like a huge deal. This is big news. Big.

 

The other new thing is the brown lizards. I don’t even think they have a name. I’ve been researching them. Can’t find them. They are too new for a name, I suppose. They must have a name somewhere but not in Houston. Here in Houston we have green Anoles, we used to call them chameleons because they change color. You know the lizard they magnified in the old movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth? That’s what the Green Anole looks like. They’re cute. We have horny toads, too, though rare. Don’t laugh. They are stickery. Then we have the relatively new Japanese House Gecko, which looks nothing like the Geico gecko. These have clear skin over their stomach and you can see their insides. They chirp. They run really fast, like a roach. And the fact that they come out at night and crawl across the porch ceiling doesn’t help their image. They came over on cargo ships like many of our non-natives species come, whether intentionally or not. Obviously lizards were not an intentional shipment.

 

The new brown lizards are small, fast and hang out in the heat of the day like a desert creature might. Their colors range from dark to light and they have some light markings. The distinguishable coloration is the light strip down a bony ridge of a backbone. Unlike the Green Anole, their mouth is blunt tipped. I haven’t seen any leave part of their tail behind when chased like the Green Anole does.

 

I wonder what the brown lizard’s impact will be on the biodiversity of my yard. Is it a predator of insects like the other lizards or is it a predator of other lizards? I have seen a decline in the Anole population but that can be due to the hugely wet summer and then the long dry spell we are experiencing now. Will the brown lizard wreak havoc on the toad population? I haven’t seen many toads at all. Will the brown lizard ever receive a name? Has anyone else seen them?

 

And will the abundant and voracious white-wing dove eat the brown lizard? I’ll just have to watch to find out.