You’re such a derbid. That’s not actually an insult, but it so sounds like it could be, right? I love it. A grad student in the last lab I worked in introduced me to this cool family of insects, the Derbidae, and I think the name is hilarious (because I’m six years old, apparently). That grad student is a fantastic insect photographer, but he never posts anything online, so I can’t share his work with you, unfortunately.*

Derbids are in the order of True Bugs (Hemiptera). This species is probably Anotia bonnetii, which is very common. These are terrible photos, but you get the idea.

Cute, right??

I like the WIPs (Wing Interference Patterns)

*He’s also hilarious. My favourite memory of him was when a mutual friend said, “He’s only friends with you because you help him with his field work!” and I turned to him and said, with faux hurt in my eyes, “Is that true?” and, without missing a beat, he quipped “Who said we were friends??!” I was rolling with laughter.

Part 2 of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I was obsessed with albatrosses for a time in college, I even used Diomedeida (the family of albatrosses) as a log-in name at the time. I loved albatrosses ever since I heard that an albatross can stay aloft for over a year, never landing, that they have an almost 12 ft wing span, and that they have to run into a headwind to take off (and sometimes they have to work so hard to fly that they make themselves throw up, poor dears). I identified with them, as someone who never seems to be able to keep their feet on the ground, who is always drifting on the wind without a home or a companion.

I’ve never seen an albatross, myself, though I’ve been in places where they are sometimes seen and strained my eyes for hours on the endless horizon of the ocean looking for them. One day, albatross, one day.

I also just learned that the urban dictionary definition of Diomedeida is “a traveling guy who comes defenitely [sic] back to his girlfriend”. Kind of an ironic definition, don’t you think?

For today, I was thinking about what albatrosses mean to an average human…their identity inextricably tied to this poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Maybe I still identify with these birds after all.

I had a friend once who memorized this whole poem; can you believe it? My favourite part is part two, with its hauntingly famous line “water water everywhere nor any drop to drink”.

The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious Sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

And some in dreams assurèd were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

More photos from Leipzig, Germany

Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig, Germany
The pose says “Kiss my butt”, but the feathers say <3!

Germany! I *technically* have been to Germany before, but last time it was just because I was in Luxembourg and I went for a morning jog and ran to Germany, and I saw some giant snails, it was awesome. Anyway, I actually got a German stamp in my passport this time, so it counts for sure, even if it was a REALLY short trip! After some significant travel stress, I’ve decided that I should not travel to countries where I don’t speak the language unless I gain some basic mastery first (it would have saved some significant stress to know the word for airport was “flughaven”).

Leipzig, Germany
Pretty Rhododendron
Leipzig, Germany
You gotta get used to photographing humans if you want to photograph wildlife in Europe
Leipzig, Germany
At least there are a lot of bikes around
Leipzig, Germany
Hello, House Sparrow friend, I see you there

Anyway, Leipzig is a pretty little city in Germany, and I wish I’d had time to stay longer, because it reportedly has the best zoo in all of Europe. Drat! I had very little free time here, but I mostly spent it wandering around this pretty little park, taking pictures of birds (are you shocked?).

Leipzig, Germany
The son of the scientist I was visiting found a FIVE-LEAF clover. I said, “Hey that belongs to Ireland!!”
Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig, Germany
Lots of humans out on this pleasant afternoon. Shockingly, I was able to wander comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt (this has not yet happened in Ireland)
Leipzig, Germany
Thank you for the beautiful trip, Germany!

Where in the world is SOIMF*?

I will be shocked if anyone figures out the city, but I’m pretty sure you can guess the country of where I was earlier this week (and you’ll definitely figure out the continent). There are some pretty big clues! The name of the city is even in one of these photos, but you’ll have to look closely because it is very well camouflaged…

*SOIMF stands for StandingOutInMyField!

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

You guys! I woke up in the middle of the night realizing I NEVER posted my photos from la Sagrada Familia from Barcelona last year. Wow, what an oversight! What if I get hit by a car while cycling to all my field sites and you never get to see them?! Well, I’m here to correct my mistake and post photos of the most beautiful building I have ever been in. (Sorry, not sorry, for the pile of photos)

La Sagrada Familia

I’ve been obsessed with Gaudi since college…he was brilliant, way ahead of his time, and he died tragically (apparently the three items that are enough to make me obsessed with a historical icon, read: MARIE CURIE). Gaudi was also an incredibly humble and pious man and I respect his dedication and work ethic. La Sagrada Familia was a project he spent more than 40 years of his life on, never to see it completed. Many of the plans he designed were burned in the Spanish Revolution, but the Spanish government is working hard to complete the cathedral.

La Sagrada Familia

After being obsessed with it for so many years, I was a little worried that I’d be disappointed. Was I? I was not. Go see it, it is the most beautiful building you will ever see.

La Sagrada Familia
A deeply religious man, Gaudi intended for it to be a pilgrimage just to walk through this cathedral

La Sagrada Familia
Under construction for over a hundred years…

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada was certainly not built in a day!

La Sagrada Familia
Every bit intricate
La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia
He was a master of colour and light.

La Sagrada Familia
No disrespect, but I can’t help but giggle at the way the donkey is photobombing (statue-bombing??) this lovely family image. He looks kind of goofy relative to the other sculptures.

La Sagrada Familia
A tiny detail that caught my attention…bees foraging on the ornate metal flowers blooming around the main doors to the cathedral.

La Sagrada Familia
A blue wizard, master of light and shadow*

La Sagrada Familia
The pillars are meant to imitate the organic forms of trees. Gaudi thought nature was the ultimate expression of God’s will…a thought process I can get behind!

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
Geometry yeah!

La Sagrada Familia
Normally, I try to avoid photos with tourists in them, but I kinda love this woman’s expression. Accidental renaissance?

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

*I’ll be shocked if anyone knows this reference to an obscure podcast, haha

Cut Lilies, by Noah Warren

Just had to find the perfect poem from my folder

Cut Lilies

More than a hundred dollars of them.

It was pure folly. I had to find more glass things to stuff them in.

Now a white and purple cloud is breathing in each corner

of the room I love. Now a mass of flowers spills down my dining table—

each fresh-faced, extending its delicately veined leaves

into the crush. Didn’t I watch

children shuffle strictly in line, cradle

candles that dribbled hot white on their fingers,

chanting Latin—just to fashion Sevilla’s Easter? Wasn’t I sad? Didn’t I use to

go mucking through streambeds with the skunk cabbage raising

bursting violet spears? —Look, the afternoon dies

as night begins in the heart of the lilies and smokes up

their fluted throats until it fills the room

and my lights have to be not switched on.

And in close darkness the aroma grows so sweet,

so strong, that it could slice me open. It does.

I know I’m not the only one whose life is a conditional clause

hanging from something to do with spring and one tall room and the

tremble of my phone.

I’m not the only one that love makes feel like a dozen

flapping bedsheets being ripped to prayer flags by the wind.

When I stand in full sun I feel I have been falling headfirst for decades.

God, I am so transparent.

So light.

– Noah Warren