Sunday, August 23, 2015

Everlasting War

"The violence of raving thirst has no parallel in the catalogue of human calamities." ~ Owen Chase, First Mate and survivor of the Essex shipwreck

After their ship was stove by a massive sperm whale on November 20, 1820, the twenty sailors who were left with three small whaleboats were afraid to steer towards the Marquesas.  Rumors of ritualized homosexuality, warfare and cannibalism inspired them to attempt to reach South America instead, a much longer voyage that led to the deaths of all but eight and, ironically, murder and cannibalism among themselves.

Still, contemporary reports reveal their fears were not unfounded.  From the Nantucket Whaling Museum:
Marquesan war club ('i'u), early 19th century - Heavily ornamented ironwood clubs served as weapons and as symbols of prestige for chiefs and warriors in the Marquesas Islands
Above, Marquesan chief's staff (tokotoko pio'l), early 19th century; and below,
This ironwood staff supports a pom-pom of human hair, reputedly obtained from a slain enemy
The industry of which those sailers were a part decimated whale populations.  Indeed, much life in the sea was historically overfished, with vast ecological consequences.  It remains to be seen if this long-standing problem is being usurped by pollution, climate change, and acidification.
This fin whale is one of 23 carcasses that have washed up on Alaska beaches in the last month. Before anyone freaks out about Fukushima radiation, it's worth looking at NOAA's Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event (UME) chart, which indicates most UMEs occur not in the Pacific, but in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico - and that of the causes that were determined, they include infections, human interactions, malnutrition and, increasingly, the biotoxins demoic acid and brevetoxin (red tide), which are known to increase with pollution and thrive in warming waters.

Updates on the Alaska UME event can be found at NOAA's website.

Following is the transcript from the 10th Dispatch from the Endocene, the episode for Sunday, August 23.  You can listen to the entire broadcast on Extinction Radio here.  The illustrations are from an exhibit in the Whaling Museum, of embroidery depicting scenes and quotes from Moby Dick.
Thanks Mike and welcome listeners, to the 10th Dispatch from the Endocene.

You might think I should be reporting on trees again, since the current issue of the journal Science has compiled recent research indicating that all the world’s forests are in deep trouble - an alarm bell I have been ringing for many years.

However, I didn’t have time this week to really do it justice, because my youngest daughter came from the west coast where she is studying sea otters, for an ecology conference in Baltimore - and then wanted me to bring her to visit her grandparents on Cape Cod.  So, I was busy…and besides, I’ve got a couple of more obscure - one brand-new and one decrepit but viable - terrific papers to share.
By way of introducing them, let’s start with a quote from Herman Melville’s epic novel, “Moby Dick”- because while we were on the Cape, I took her on the ferry to Nantucket where we toured the Whaling Museum.  Here’s the quote:

“And still another inquiry remains...whether leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; or whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe, and then himself evaporate in the final puff.
I have only been to Nantucket once before and loved its historic architecture and cobblestone streets, its lack of even a single traffic light, and the pervasive fresh smell of salt water.  This is probably because I grew up in a house which was built in 1720 in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a sleepy seaside town on the far side of Cape Anne about an hour north of Boston.  In the 1600’s, Ipswich was expected to be what Boston became.  A harbor that silted in left the town in economic decline for the subsequent three centuries, so the impoverished citizens had no money to tear down the houses and replace them with newer fancier versions.

Consequently Ipswich, though small, has more preserved 17th Century homes than any other town in the United States.  I still miss the ancient mystique conveyed by those mute rows of clapboard houses, with their leaded bubbly diamond-paned windows - and the worn graveyard stones spattered with lichens.  The stubborn survival of such artifacts testifies to longevity through adversity, which is a comforting notion.  But back to our day trip.
Herman Melville wrote, in “Moby Dick” - “Nantucket! …It stands there, away off shore…a mere hillock, an elbow of sand…what wonder…that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take to the sea for a livelihood! …launching a navy of great ships on the sea…and in all seasons and all oceans declared everlasting war with the mightiest animated mass that has survived the flood…” 

He referred, of course, to the whales that sailers from the island pursued and relentlessly exterminated - at first easily plucked from the adjacent migratory route just off the shores, then from down the Atlantic to South America, around Cape Horn and finally chased all the way up to Japan.  The whalers’ journeys began as day excursions, and then, as the whale populations were wiped out, grew into weeks, and finally searching as much as 3 years long at sea.
Nantucket was the original epicenter of the whaling industry that began in the 1600’s and flourished, with only a setback or two from international wars, into the 1800’s.  It’s difficult to convey just how enormous the slaughter of whales became, and how ruthlessly and swiftly it expanded, and how essential the oil was for lamps, soaps, and lubricants in the burgeoning industrial age.

“Moby Dick”, the novel and the real-life tale upon which it was based, is a chronicle of hubris, slaughter, greed, and obsession.  These themes are explored through desperation, disaster, terror and cannibalism.  It’s also a cautionary tale about the retribution of Mother Nature, which makes it a quintessential story for our own time, when human exploitation and ruination of ecosystems has spread to every habitat on earth - and so many sleeping dragons have been poked and awakened that it’s almost impossible to keep track of the consequences.  We are witnessing rampant deforestation, over hunting and fishing species to extinction, pollution, dwindling freshwater aquifers, depletion of essential mineral and energy resources, the melting glaciers and polar ice, sea level rise, acidifying oceans, transport of invasive species, the burning forests, violent storms, heat waves, and extreme weather bringing floods and droughts.  Did I leave anything out?  How about increased seismic activity from the isostatic rebound of the great ice sheets.  Earthquakes, volcanic explosions, and tsunamis anyone?
With the transcript of this episode on the Extinction Radio website, I will leave links to some previous articles I have written on my blog, Wit’s End, that look in greater detail at the scale of this truly epic annihilation.  The title of the first is taken from the quote that began this Dispatch, “The Final Puff”, which features original paintings from the era, plus a fascinating review by Emily Witt published in the London Review of Books called “Properly Disposed”.  She discusses Eric Carle’s book “Moby-Duck:  The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea” which traces the travels of plastic in a most amusing and enlightening way, slightly more sinister than his famous “Hungry Caterpillar” child’s book.  Another post, “Merely Players” contrasts the profound parallels between Melville’s masterpiece and the brilliant book and movie “Life of Pi”, which also examines the savagery of man against animals, and himself.  There are pictures of items in the museum and buildings and luxury shops in neighborhoods around the town, in “Torches of Freedom”.
“Moby Dick” is Melville’s dramatization of the true story of the shipwreck of the “Essex” - the first whaling ship, but not the last, to be attacked by its prey.  In the fictionalized version, he called the ship the “Pequod”, which also sank after the assault.  As with the “Essex”, most of its crew perished immediately, and the few who remained were condemned to drift on the water, exposed to the elements, starving and dying of thirst.

Until very recently on Nantucket, there was deep shame and general aversion to acknowledging the fate of the crew of the Essex.  The incident was not discussed in polite company, and the inhabitants tried to expunge any association, and distance themselves from the well-known disaster.  Recently however they seem to have decided to embrace it - at least at the Museum, which has installed an extensive exhibit since the last time I toured. It seems to have become a macabre draw, which probably is related to the popularity of zombie movies.
A whimsical and oddly delightful gallery, called “The Mighty Misty Monster”, features the fantastic, minutely precise embroidery of Susan Boardman.  She has illustrated narratives from the book with exquisite raised panels, delicately stitched and embellished with tiny beads and pearls.  I took photos of them, which you can find on my blog for this Dispatch.

It also includes props, such as costumes and weapons, lent by the producers of a movie to be released in January of this year.  It is a dramatization of a book of eponymous title, “In the Heart of the Sea” which is a big Hollywood updated version of the last voyage of the “Essex”.  I can’t wait to see it!
Far from ignoring the sordid details of the Essex survivors, the new exhibit unabashedly expounds on the cannibalism of the crew that remained.

Worse even than that, according to one of the plaques in the exhibit, “Cannibalism among shipwrecked sailors was openly acknowledged in the days of soil, and castaways often admitted to drawing lots to decide who would live and who die.  Yet it is clear that these lotteries were rarely fair, and the strong typically ate the weak.  In disaster after disaster, passengers perished before sailors, boys before men, and blacks before whites.  So, too, perhaps, among the men of the Essex.  Is it a coincidence that only Nantucketers remained in the boats at the end, or that only white men survived, or that only non-Nantucketers elected to remain on Henderson Island?”

So the formidably bleak picture of human nature presented by Captain Ahab turns out to be the perfect fictional representative for what new research now presents as indisputable.
In a blow to the fantasies of the WooWoo (which they will probably never admit) this conclusion is being described in newly published research by scientists as, finally, a virtual certainty beyond any doubt:

A headline from the university release says:

“Humans responsible for demise of gigantic ancient mammals
~ Early humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of a variety of species of giant beasts…”

Although it was not within the scope of the study to distinguish between which human activities were to blame in particular extinctions, whether directly hunting for food or other commodities, or indirect impacts such as habitat destruction or trophic cascades or bottom-up forcing from other extinctions, it did establish with mathematic precision that the correlation in all cases is to the arrival and activities of humans, and only tangentially to the natural influence of climate conditions.  The case of Asia is considered somewhat murky still, calling for further investigation.
The article reads:

“…Scientists at the universities of Exeter and Cambridge claim their research settles a prolonged debate over whether mankind or climate change was the dominant cause of the demise of massive creatures in the time of the sabretooth tiger, the woolly mammoth, the woolly rhino and the giant armadillo.

“”Known collectively as megafauna, most of the largest mammals ever to roam the earth were wiped out over the last 80,000 years, and were all extinct by 10,000 years ago.

“Lewis Bartlett, of the University of Exeter, led the research, which also involved the universities of Reading and Bristol and is published in the journal Ecography. He said cutting-edge statistical analysis had helped solve the mystery almost beyond dispute, concluding that man was the dominant force in wiping out the creatures, although climate change could also have played a lesser role.”
“The researchers ran thousands of scenarios which mapped the windows of time in which each species is known to have become extinct, and humans are known to have arrived on different continents or islands. This was compared against climate reconstructions for the last 90,000 years.”

“Examining different regions of the world across these scenarios, they found coincidences of human spread and species extinction which illustrate that man was the main agent causing the demise, with climate change exacerbating the number of extinctions…”
Lewis Bartlett was quoted: “As far as we are concerned, this research is the nail in the coffin of this 50-year debate - humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of megafauna. What we don’t know is what it was about these early settlers that caused this demise. Were they killing them for food, was it early use of fire or were they driven out of their habitats? Our analysis doesn’t differentiate, but we can say that it was caused by human activity more than by climate change.”

He added, most significantly, that “It debunks the myth of early humans living in harmony with nature”.
This is precisely why the WooWoo dread this final nail in the coffin, one which has been obvious for some time and certainly to anyone who read George Monbiot’s monumental article, “Destroyer of Worlds”.  The correlation of humans driving dozens upon dozens of species to extinction in prehistoric times is as strong as the shape of continents fitting Pangea, or smoking causes cancer, or burning billions of tons of fossil fuels adds to greenhouse gases and warms the earth…or spewing toxins into the air poisons trees.

The WooWoo are loathe to concede that humans caused the extinction of the megafauna because it fundamentally interferes with their cherished belief that humans are capable of, indeed prefer, living sustainably and peacefully within natural constraints.  Their hope for survival - or if not survival, then salvation - resides in the conviction that, absent some evil influence, humans are predisposed to respect and cherish nature without despoiling it.  This runs counter to basic biology.  Their supposition that humans are uniquely special is actually arrogant, and requires the existence of some “outside” force that perverted our spiritual inclination towards perpetual harmony - forces such as patriarchy, organized religion, agriculture, or capitalism that are to blame for wealth inequality, racism, sexism, slavery - as if those are “outside” forces!
For most people it seems too threatening to simply admit that we have NEVER cherished nature enough to safeguard it from our exploitation and expansion, even though it’s just humans doing what any organism does - grow as much as we can, as fast as we can.  We like to think our consciousness or souls or whatever sets us apart from other species of life, but it doesn’t.  It actually just enables us to grow uncontrollably like mindless bacteria, and PRETEND to ourselves that isn’t what we are doing.

An earlier report says much the same thing, but about life in the ocean instead of on land, AND, it’s from 2001.  It was co-authored by several scientists, including Jeremy Jackson, and also my daughter’s thesis advisor, James Estes (which is how I came across it) titled “Cover story in Science reveals historical overkill of marine Megafauna triggered current ocean crises”.
These leading marine biologists called for restoration of the ocean, claiming that the most pernicious problem is overfishing.  Of course, no such restoration has occurred, in fact the opposite has transpired.  Humans have continued extracting life from the sea - and polluting it, and acidifying it - at a horrendously accelerating rate.

This completely ineffectual report, written 15 years ago, makes it quite clear that trends towards ecosystem collapse are impervious to scientific warnings.  Just listen to what they said:

“While recent reports suggest Stone Age hunters drove dozens of species of huge land creatures to extinction, the cover story of the July 27 edition of Science describes the ecological extinctions of marine megafauna--vast populations of whales, manatees, dugongs, monk seals, sea turtles, swordfish, sharks, giant codfish and rays--from overfishing at a global scale never before realized.”

“Drawing on paleoecological, archeological and historical data, the scientists uncovered past evidence of seas teeming with large animals as well as abundances of oysters and shellfish so vast they posed hazards to navigation. The new data also show that historical overkill of this marine life triggered current ecological collapses - many of which have been mistakenly attributed to pollution.”
"We started out to study everything that people had ever done to oceans historically and were astounded to discover that in each case we examined, overfishing was the primary driver of ecosystem collapse," states Jackson.

“The data demonstrate that overfishing triggered changes in ecosystem structure and function as early as the late aboriginal and early colonial stages. Even more chilling, the scientists show that grinding down marine food webs is responsible for many of the problems we face today. Removal of key predators and entire layers of the food chain set off sequences of events that are now culminating in toxic algal blooms, dead zones, outbreaks of diseases and other symptoms of ecological instability.”

* Chesapeake Bay, the ocean birthplace of the U.S.A. is a bacterially dominated, impoverished ecosystem. Historically oysters filtered the entire water column every three days. Records describe a lost cannon, "clearly visible in over 30 feet of water." Eutrophication commonly ascribed to increased run-off and nutrient loading began instead with the mechanized extraction of the vast oyster reefs. Overfishing the oysters removed the top down control of phytoplankton. Grey whales, (now extinct in the Atlantic), dolphins, manatees, river otters, sea turtles, alligators, giant sturgeon, and hammerhead sharks were all once abundant inhabitants of Chesapeake Bay but are now virtually eliminated.
* Overfishing of large fish has led to overgrowth of algae on coral reefs, which has smothered the reefs and jeopardized the approximately 3 million species they harbor.

* The recent die-off of turtlegrass beds in Florida Bay can be attributed to the ecological extinction of green sea turtles. Overkill of the green sea turtle and other seagrass grazers such as dugongs and manatees has contributed to outbreaks of disease and die-offs in seagrasses. This has undermined the habitat's ability to serve as a food source, breeding and nursery ground, erosion protector and more.

* Many scientists have long suspected that overfishing has caused the well-publicized collapse of sea lion and sea otter populations in the Bering Sea. But new work related to this study by Alan Springer (University of Alaska) and co-author James Estes at UC Santa Cruz and several others, suggests that vast depletion of the great whales by humans has contributed to this collapse in a heretofore unrecognized manner. Whaling and overfishing forced killer whales to switch prey from the great whales to sea lions and most recently to sea otters - ultimately causing sea urchin barrens and the loss of kelp forests.

“Responding only to current events on a case-by-case basis cannot solve the ocean's problems because impacts of human disturbance are synergistic and have deep historical roots. Ecological extinctions make ecosystems more vulnerable to other natural and human disturbances such as nutrient loading, eutrophication, anoxia, disease, and climate change. Meanwhile various forms of human disturbance have increased and accelerated.”
One of the plaques in the Whaling Museum that highlight quotes from contemporaneous writings about the sinking of the “Essex”, described the depravity and insanity among the shipwrecked sailors.  Commodore Charles Ridgely, of the USS Constellation, described their condition on March 9, 1821 - “They were ninety two days in the boat & were in a most wretched state, they were unable to move when found sucking the bones of their dead Mess mates, which they were loth to part with.”

I just have to love that vision of the crazed sailors, quavering in their battered boats and terrified by the prospect of rescue, wondering if they would rather roll on the swales of the ocean, blubbering and clinging and sucking old dry bones, than rejoin the inescapable brutality that is human society.

Thanks for listening to this Dispatch from the Endocene.  Guaranteed, next week will be even worse, so I hope you tune in again.

Update:  The Worldwatch Institute has just released a reportThe Oceans: Resilience at Risk.  The usual warnings which, as we have just seen, date back decades and have been to no avail, are repeated.

“Our sense of the oceans’ power and omnipotence—combined with scientific ignorance—contributed to an assumption that nothing we did could ever possibly impact it,” writes [contributing author] Auth. “Over the years, scientists and environmental leaders have worked tirelessly to demonstrate and communicate the fallacy of such arrogance.”

...Yet Auth believes that there is still hope. “Conservation efforts aimed at improving system resiliency have proven effective in addressing the nexus between fishing and climate change,” she writes. Changes in fishing policies, equipment, and techniques that result in less damage to ocean-bottom habitats and that reduce bycatch also would diminish fishing stresses. Finally, revamping the global energy system away from fossil fuels would curtail the rise in ocean temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.

“It is time for homo sapiens sapiens to live up to its somewhat presumptuous Latin name, and grow up.”


  1. Do radio shows go extinct if no one listens to them? I listened a few weeks ago, but since then I have not been able to find the show archived anywhere. Frustrating.

    1. There was a shake-up in management recently, perhaps that is why you can no longer find Extinction Radio at the earlier link. Try this one, for all and future podcasts:

    2. I was there. It is confusing because were last weeks should be comes up as 6-16 on the embed from soundcloud. This weeks is now on the soundcloud page.

  2. "Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! All the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed the sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules."

    1. to put it in context...

      It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with several others, I sat down before a large Constantine's bath of it, I found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty! no wonder that in old times this sperm was such a favorite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a softener! such a delicious mollifier! After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralize.

      As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma, - literally and truly, like the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger: while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulence, or malice, of any sort whatsoever.

      Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, - Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

      Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country; now that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eternally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.

      And then there was...

      Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture of this post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh the windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the wondrous cistern in the whale’s huge head; not the prodigy of his unhinged lower jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail; none of these would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable cone, – longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at the base, and jet-black as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an idol, indeed, it is; or, rather, in old times, its likeness was.


    3. Thank you - Moby Dick is such a rich chronicle, it is endlessly fascinating, on infinite levels. I will check that link out!

  3. Have you seen this blog, Gail? Might be a good add to your blogroll.

    1. Ha, if you scroll down and look at the blogroll, COIC is on it. XRay Mike has pretty well banned me from commenting and I rarely read it anymore. He is a good writer, and a good assimilator of catastrophic information, but he stops short of real doom. He blames everything on capitalism and is a dyed-in-the-wool believer in the idea that earlier tribal forms of culture were sustainable. He cannot be budged from that unsubstantiated hopium by any number of facts.

    2. My prior comment disappeared, delete if this is a duplicate. I read The Voyage of the Essex at 11, Moby Dick at 15, Typee a little later, my personal adventure trilogy. I still remember the description of human flesh being dried on lines "like bacon" on the Essex lifeboat, the kind of image that sticks with a kid. The cannibals in Typee were personable, but behaved little better. We are truly a vicious and thoughtless species, which makes me treasure people like you, Gail, that much more.

  4. hi Gail,
    news from Cape Cod (nothing that you do not know)

  5. Just back from 5 days in CA, Gail. The state of the trees there is positively gruesome. If they aren't dead already, those that remain are in extremely sorry states. Few say anything about this and just continue going about their business of "enjoying their lives" - oblivious that the demise of the ecology that sustains us all is being decimated by this very activity. Though the agricultural sector continues its profligate water usage (pumping it out of the ground until it's all used up - in the meantime causing the ground to sink), no one questions anything about the system that sustains them presently, though the signs that it will no longer be there "sometime in the future" are abundant, no one is willing to do anything other than what we're doing.

    Great post here Gail, thanks!


  6. Gail, what does one when hopium no longer works and one must find and substitute attainable felicity instead? What works for you? Visions of sucking on the bones of the recently departed are not working for me. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Well, I got a puppy and named him Camus.

      "In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean "logically impossible", but rather "humanly impossible".[1] The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously."

      ...Accordingly, absurdism is a philosophical school of thought stating that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd) because the sheer amount of information as well as the vast realm of the unknown make total certainty impossible. As a philosophy, absurdism furthermore explores the fundamental nature of the Absurd and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the Absurd, should respond to it. The absurdist philosopher Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence while also defiantly continuing to explore and search for meaning."

  7. Replies

    2. Thank you Gail. I watched that video a couple of months back when you first posted it and had forgotten its wisdom and soothing affect for me. At the time it helped me to sort out and temporarily get some existential relief. Watching it again deepened that initial reaction. Serendipitously a link immediately took me to a short 3 minute primer on the efficacy of melancholy.

      Both videos had the affect of a shot of whisky followed up with a cold beer; I feel better.

      Thank you.

    3. You are welcome - I need to frequently revisit pearls of wisdom, that are easy to forget in the daily hue and cry...and thank you for the melancholy video, it's wonderful. I like to visit old graveyards (since I have very little extended family history) because they remind me that it is only recently that we have come to expect perfect health, longevity, children who survive us, and extraordinary comfort - everything from light at night to bug-free hair. We are such tiny, greedy, self-centered creatures. It helps to remember that and laugh a little.

  8. eldest son just flew back to vancouver last night...


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