If you are a pedestrian so slow, in the old-fashioned sense of slow on the uptake, that you need a sign to tell you not to stop here, please just do us a favor and stop anyway:

Railroad crossing, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Spiny palms

Plants have evolved many different defensive strategies over the millenia to enable them to compete for space. Some plants use chemical defenses like poison, sometimes signaled by bright colors, sometimes not. Other plants choose physical defenses against herbivory, like spines: The spines on the frond of this Cuban petticoat palm (Copernicia macroglossa) are pretty subtle, but presumably effective. To protect its trunk, the tree just covers it completely in a coat of these fronds: It would be pretty hard for an arboreal browser to get through that armor! Taking the arms race one step further, this palm (Aiphanes sp.?, based on the sharp, light gray to black spines, flattened at the base) sets up a pretty daunting display of long spines on the trunk: Those things look sharp! But that's a fairly amateur strategy. Here's a spine that'll really make you think twice about getting up close and personal with this tree: I'm not sure what species this tree is, or even that it's a palm at all. There are many palmlike trees, and the "fronds" don't look all that palmesque to me. If anyone recognizes this tree, I'd love to find out what it is... All of these trees are on the Riverwalk at Las Olas waterfront in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

You get to know things better when they go by slow

There's a line in an old Poi Dog Pondering song ("The Ancient Egyptians") that always sticks with me; the singer, Frank Orrall, is explaining to his friends, who keep asking him why they can't just take a bus or a car, the reason he prefers not to: "No, no, no, didn't you know, you get to know things better when they go by slow..." Right on, Frank! In this anonymous world of air conditioning and motor cars it can be hard to get a good sense of just how the world around us works, and we need to be able to slow down from time to time to remain sane. Well, I say we. I can only speak for myself, I suppose. In this slow-things-down vein, our family unit went on a couple of walks this weekend, for the first time in a while. All three of us were present for Saturday morning's stroll; this meant that when we saw something fun, we were able to snap a picture: It's amazing what you can see when you just take the time; things come right up to you. We always take as much time as we can just to look at things on these strolls. Well, as much time as Eric lets us: He and his bus sometimes get impatient: But even under the time constraints of an almost-two-year-old's attention span, it's possible to see things you haven't noticed before. For instance, there's a seagrape tree along our route; Saturday morning Mom was fascinated by the different colors of the leaves: some shiny green, some mottled with rust. It appeared that the newest leaves were shimmery red, then bright green as they got older, and then when they were really old (or just damaged by the cold snap in January?) they get "rusty": I'm not sure that's how Coccoloba uvifera actually behave, here, but it's something to keep in mind as we walk around, and to keep an eye on for future reference. When we go on these strolls, we never go very far, and we never go very fast, but these walks aren't about physical fitness. They're more about renewing our connection with the neighborhood, trying to establish a sense of place in this all-too-anonymous world. Getting to know things better... Sunday morning's stroll was just the lad and me, and his buggy made three. We went around the familiar neighborhood, but without Mom, I couldn't take pictures. And, of course, when you can't do something, you really wish you could. For the first time in years, it seems, the Spot-breasted Oriole that lives down the street was in a fairly open tree, with the light just about right for photography. If only Mom had been with us, Dad might could have been able to get a picture. Oh, well. And a little later on, I saw something I hadn't seen before in the neighborhood: two hummingbirds, high in a flowering tree. They weren't thrilled to be together; one of them chased the other one off with an angry buzz, but I was happy just to see the two of them, even though I didn't have my binoculars and was unable to identify them to species. They're rarer than I'd have thought here in la Florida, at least in my neck of the woods. Take it easy!

Saturday Stroll-with rain

This morning's stroll, according to the radar, should have been safe. It had been raining off and on all night, but the radar images clearly showed that the rain bands that had been coming on shore all morning were petering out, and the last ones had already moved through our area. Heh. So much for technology. If you want to know whether it's going to rain: look outside! Unfortunately, I neglected to do that, so our morning stroll was quite a bit wetter than I'd expected. We spent most of the walk huddled under a palm tree at the new park up the street from us; our umbrella was able to cover Eric and about half of one of us... Read more

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Did Dr. Seuss take a walk in Boca?

About a year after we redid the landscape at our house, Florida native style, the landscaper we worked with sent Eric the classic book on environmental thinking for the young: Dr. Seuss's The Lorax. You remember it, I'm sure: truffula trees, brown bar-ba-loots, swomee-swans, all cavorting in a pre-development paradise. Well, one of the things I've always sort of enjoyed about south Florida is how Seussian the landscape is. Even more than southern California with its joshua trees (although those are native), the flora here in Florida seems to have come straight from the pages of Dr. Seuss. Read more

Saturday stroll

On the weekends I get to spend a lot more time with my son than I can during the week. There's no rush to get out the door; no meeting to prepare for; no freeway traffic to fret about. The morning stroll can last quite a bit longer; we can take more than one, if the fancy strikes us, as it did today. Even during the week, though, when time is at a premium, Eric and I always find the time to go for a morning stroll, unless it's pouring down rain. It's usually just down to the corner and back, but we have to do it. I'm not sure why I'm so rigorous about getting the boy outside whenever I can; maybe I hope that some of my love of nature will rub off on him. Maybe it's just to give his stomach time to settle in and take care of the medication (his GER is getting better, but we're still dosing just to be sure). Maybe I just want to be outside myself, and since I'm in charge of the lad, he gets to come along, will he, nill he. This morning, though, as we went out for our predawn (yes, daylight saving time lasts into November now, so dawn comes late to south Florida) stroll, I saw something that, after the typical fruitless attempts to get the boy to look at something so far away (he might have seen it, he might not have...), made me run back into the house and set the boy up in his pack and play:  Read more

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