Enjoy this time lapse video of the sky at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai:
As you may know, I have been raising Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria) for several years now. I have mentioned them before in “Spring Arrives Slowly.” An online store where I have bought supplies for this garden-friendly hobby is Crown Bees, which specializes in different species of native pollinators. Check them out; they are a treasury of information. The folks at Crown Bees do not see the company simply as a commercial venture but rather as a horticultural and agricultural crusader in the eco-conscious sustainability revolution. To spread the word, I am posting their bee-awareness campaign picture:
If you have the proper habitat for native bees in your neighborhood, consider becoming a bee farmer! It is fun, educational, beneficial to nature, and beautiful.
Matt Miller in Cool Green Science showcases some gorgeous photographs by camara trap photographer Jonny Armstrong: “Camera Trap Meets Studio Lighting: Stunning Images and the Story Behind Them.” Awesome.
Happy springtime—de ephemeride if not yet fully de facto. I hope that you are having a fruitful Lent. I do not have much to write; the events of the day repel me so much that I do not have the desire to write about them. I find myself longing for some terrible catastrophe qui écrasera l’Infâme! So, I turn to distractions—or, rather, toward reality in the midst of this age’s delusions.
One such refuge for me is gardening, and there are sure signs of spring hereabouts. The lawn and the beds are full of hundreds of crocus, squill, and aconite flowers. The dwarf iris, primrose, and hellebores have proudly displayed their riches to spite winter’s greed. The hyacinthoides, Byzantine gladiolus, and daffodils are announcing their imminent arrival. This week, I have spotted some wild mason bees beginning to use my reed stations (in my mason bee “homes”). I have not yet put out my harvested bee cocoons from last year—it looks like the fruit trees will not blossom for a few weeks, and it might be a late release this year.
Speaking of Osmia lignaria, Crown Bees has created a new native bee online “community,” Bee with Me. If you are interested in raising bees but do not have the time or resources to look after honey bee colonies, you should consider mason bees. They are easy and rewarding—and rather charming with their gentle dispositions, industrious habits, and beautiful metallic blue bodies. Different regions have different native mason bees, and there are suppliers that will sell you the appropriate cocoons for your area if there is no longer a significant wild population near your home. I started raising mason bees four years ago, and their numbers increase each year. The downside is that they are active for only a short spell—less than two months. In addition to my little masons, I would like to begin honey bee keeping, but I keep deferring the project. Maybe next spring . . .
The other treat that I have to share is “What Plants Talk About” from Nature. You may watch the entire episode on PBS. I found it informative, surprising, and delightful, and I wonder what Aristotle would have said about the vegetative soul had he known.
As a festive offering, here is some lovely footage of the Aurora Borealis in Sweden’s Abisko National Park from Lights over Lapland:
The other videos are likewise spectacular.
I hope that you have a blessed day on this favorite American holiday. As a first course, I present this video from The Nantucket Project—“Gratitude” with Louie Schwartzberg:
The commentary is worth hearing, but the footage of this world’s mighty spectacle will delight you.
In yesterday’s Trinity Forum newsletter, Cherie Harder quotes a fitting passage from C.S. Lewis:
The most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me… I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed… This is so even when our expressions are inadequate, as of course they usually are. But how if one could really and fully praise even such things to perfection – utterly “get out” in poetry or music or paint the upsurge of appreciation which almost bursts you? Then indeed the object would be fully appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object the more intense this delight would be… The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
As Lewis notes, the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first point is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Even Scottish Calvinists can come up with beautiful insights now and then.
I wish everyone on the old calendar a blessed feast of the Protection of the Theotokos.
My father sent me the following video about the trophic cascade that resulted from the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. The program is short but fascinating:
I hope that you are enjoying the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The athletes and their performances are so impressive—especially given the pressure of the competition. Even the games’ moments of “failure” inspire the viewer as the Olympians manifest such sound-mindedness, courage, and determination when they get back up and keep going after they make costly, sometimes ruinous mistakes. The athletes are beautiful—they reveal the splendor and majesty of our race in a particularly vivid manner.
In the gospel of Saint Luke, the Lord says, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Be mindful that Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, was surely a looker in addition to being healthy, wealthy, and wise. So, we have scriptural evidence that at least some other creatures surpass man in beauty—at least in a way. In Greek-speak, we might say that each kind of creature reflects a certain perfection of God that other species do not reflect. So, marvel as we might at the strength, speed, agility, intelligence, creativity, virtue, humor, and comeliness of our race, we do not exhaust the glories of the world. And we are perceptive enough to realize this truth. Hence, human beings—from Lascaux to today—have appreciated the form of the flora and fauna that surround us as worthy of our attention—perhaps even of our veneration.
As I am such a human being, I like to showcase the Nature Conservancy’s annual photography contest. It is worth your time to review the photographs, and you may see previous years’ images in “A Glimpse of Pan,” “Mundus Pulcher,” and “Glorious Handiwork.” For the current winners and notable mentions, visit “8th Annual Photo Contest Winners” on the Nature Conservancy’s site. The grand prize winner—a perfectly timed photograph of a heron and a red-winged blackbird in flight—is stunning, though I believe that I voted for the picture of Elk Lake in Adirondacks State Park by Gary Paige:
The vista makes my soul sing.
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There is a web site that tracks the route of the International Space Station: I.S.S. Tracker. The site moreover features a tool whereby you may find the location of the station at any point in time since its launch in A.D. 1998. Enjoy!
We should be grateful at all times, but Lent seems to remind us more emphatically of God’s goodness and provision. One constant source of wonder and delight is the beauty of creation. Each year, the Nature Conservancy sponsors a photography contest and then publishes the winners and the honorable mentions. I have written of past years’ pictures in “A Glimpse of Pan” and “Mundus Pulcher.” The photographs offered in the contest are stunning to behold, as they are doxologies on celluloid. You may look at last year’s winning selection.
I remarked to a few friends that the penultimate photograph by Terry Ogden of the oak woodland in the Sierra Nevada foothills actually made me laugh when I first saw it, as there isn’t even any subtlety to it. It is simply a visual capture of a heavenly “Hello there.” Instead of a bush, we get some trees. I am more than content with that. Thank you, Lord.