Against Winter, by Charles Simic

I was trying to decide if I like this poem or not. Every time I read it, I like it at first, then I think “It’s too dark” and then the resolution makes me like it again. Maybe something about it speaks to me and will speak to you too! How many times have people told me I’m crazier than the weather…

Against Winter

The truth is dark under your eyelids.

What are you going to do about it?

The birds are silent; there’s no one to ask.

All day long you’ll squint at the gray sky.

When the wind blows you’ll shiver like straw.

A meek little lamb you grew your wool

Till they came after you with huge shears.

Flies hovered over open mouth,

Then they, too, flew off like the leaves,

The bare branches reached after them in vain.

Winter coming. Like the last heroic soldier

Of a defeated army, you’ll stay at your post,

Head bared to the first snow flake.

Till a neighbor comes to yell at you,

You’re crazier than the weather, Charlie.

– Charles Simic


Coping strategies for when the neighbour has a screaming baby

Around mid-October of last year, my next door neighbours brought home a pink, screaming baby. And it’s been screaming ever since.

This particular situation would not normally be my business, but it just so happens that the baby’s nursery shares a thin, uninsulated wall with my bedroom.

You can see where this is going, I’m sure. For the first couple months of the baby’s arrival, I responded to this screaming with a good-natured empathy for the parents. Poor new parents, I thought, that’s rough that the baby screams all night every night, which I know because I lie awake next door listening to it scream all night every night.

I mentioned it casually to my landlord after a couple of weeks and he murmured something about what great parents they were and what a shame it was that the baby had colic. I did some reading about colic and saw that this generally resolves itself after three months, and tolerated the screaming.

But now it is mid-March and the baby is five months old and still screams and screams and my empathy for the parents has eroded as my sleep deprivation has accumulated. I started grumpily complaining about the baby to friends and family, all of whom instantly responded with empathy for the parents.

The parents! I thought grumpily. They CHOSE to bring that screaming demon baby into the world. It needs an exorcism, I thought more than once, lying awake at night as it screamed over and over. I did not choose to bring a baby into the world and yet here I am. Moreover, I reasoned with fraying mental capacities, the parents could leave the room, shut the door, and walk away from the screaming. They could comfort the baby to stop the screaming. I have nowhere to go and no way to stop the screaming.

As a renter, I have only this one room in all of Dublin to myself. Before this baby came into my life, my room was my safe haven from the hustle and bustle of this busy city. But a baby’s screams are designed to upset and unsettle and, sure enough, every time the baby starts screaming, I find my jaw clenching and my nails digging into my palms. Here are some of my coping strategies:

While the baby is screaming in the evenings, I go for long walks and listen to LeVar Burton Reads. The dulcet tones of Burton’s voice soothe my frayed nerves and he starts each short story by taking slow, deep breaths. Designed to calm and soothe, plus I was a huge fan of Reading Rainbow when I was a kid, and Star Trek TNG as a teenage; perfection in a podcast.

I’ve never been one to blast music (I’m extremely averse to loud noises), but if I’ve exhausted myself, I find the Fleet Foxes an ideal way to drown out the screaming. I’m recently obsessed with them, especially:
Fool’s Errand

Helplessness Blues (perfect)

White Winter Hymnal


And of course the angelic voices of the Staves

In the long run

And of course, Tired As (language warning!!!)

I hope this helps anyone in a similar position to me!

Links to Share

This blog post on depression is so good…maintaining mental health is a constant process not a switch, you can’t magically just “be better.” If you’re suffering from depression, you’re not alone! Seek help…things can get better. And read this: Mental health — it is important

I’ve been very curious about the Travellers in Ireland…they are a topic much mentioned and rarely (if ever) discussed. Here’s one photographer’s life with the Travellers: Life With the Irish Travellers Reveals a Bygone World

Butterflies generally have very different patterns on the top and bottom of their wings, two separate canvasses: How Butterflies Pattern Top and Bottom Wing Surfaces Differently

This week in the world of insane plants I never knew existed…a mycoheterotrophic plant is rediscovered after 151 years after it was thought to be extinct. If mycoheterotrophy sounds unfamiliar to you, I posted about it before with these Indian Pipes. Essentially, they are plants that steal food from other plants* via mycorrhizal interactions (plant root/fungus). They’re fascinating, unusual, weird, and somewhat difficult to study…the blog linked to here is all about them!: Plants go extinct, but sometimes species are rediscovered. This one after 151 years.

I always adore UV light photography of flowers, and this series is really gorgeous: Pictures Capture the Invisible Glow of Flowers

A haunting RadioLab episode about a town that has been on fire for forty years…and what happens when you light natural coal fissures on fire: Dying Embers

An essay by our own ecological celebrity, E.O. Wilson. I have met him twice, but I guarantee he could not pick my face out of a line up haha! Anyway, another plea to better understand the species here on Earth before we lose them all: The 8 Million Species We Don’t Know

An article about the need to protect Kenya’s precious ecology: We must act now to save Kenya from ecological collapse

Fairy wrens are ridiculously adorable Australian birds…this photographer followed them around and shared some images of their lives: Photographing the secret lives of WA’s splendid fairy-wrens

I’ve already gone on at length about the dangers of dicamba…here’s how it threatens monarchs: Dicamba: A Menace to Monarchs, Majestic Butterflies At Risk From Widespread Spraying of Plant-killing Pesticide

International Women’s Day was last week…here is a photo series from that day: PHOTOS: Dispatches From International Women’s Day Demonstrations Around The Globe

*Most plants are autotrophic, meaning they make their own food from sunlight using photosynthesis.

Cute Irish birds (paintings)

I painted this card for my sister’s birthday (even though she’s more into lipstick than birds). Ireland has a disproportionate number of adorable birds and I just love them. I can’t help it! I think these paintings are pretty cute too ;). It’s kind of hard to tell from the scan, but I include their Irish names next to them. Also, sorry about the upside down wood pigeon, but that’s kind of how I think of them…goofy!

Birds Card

From top left to bottom right: Wood pigeon, long-tailed tit, blue tit, goldcrest, European goldfinch, European robin, great tit, magpie.

Bonus Jackdaw on the back of the card.


Day Three of the Beast from the East

More snowy photos…on the third day of the storm, I decided I would walk into work. Cycling was virtually impossible, and there was no public transit running: no trains, buses, trams, or even airplanes.

Walking along the Grand Canal
A bunch of swans
Clearly showing off
Many, many people in Dublin took this opportunity to build igloos
Out of curiosity, I explored around the Poddle again, comparing it with just a couple of weeks ago
The roads are nasty when they’re not plowed!
On a lot of back streets, few dared to try to drive
Poddle all dressed up
A lot of people walk down the street because the paths are so difficult to navigate
No one had even tried to clear any snow or drive in the neighborhood where I live

I had the following baffling conversation with my landlord. (He and his girlfriend just ate junk food, drank wine and rum, and watched movies for the duration of the storm.)
Me: Do we have any kind of shovel I can use?
Him: What do you want to shovel?
Me: Uhhh…the snow.
Him: Why would you do that?
Me: To…clear the path??
Him: No one else is doing it.
Me: Oh…kay…

But they did build igloos!

Bull finches

Most of my Irish friends (feathered and human) spent most of this snowmaggedon stuffing their faces haha…bull finches like this one prefer to eat buds on fruit trees. My landlord and his girlfriend prefer black pudding, white pudding, rashers, fried potatoes, beans, and toast.

Bull finch
Bull finch
Bull finch
Bull finch
Bull finch
This is either a juvenile or a female, as the males are bright red as adults.

More Mistle Thrush photos

I’ve seen the mistle thrushes out in force lately, for whatever reason. I like their spotty chests…they remind me of the lovely wood thrush back in the States, though I haven’t heard them sing yet.

Mistle thrush
Mistle thrush
Mistle thrush
Mistle thrush
Mistle thrush
Mistle thrush
This is where I see them most often when it’s not snowing…searching for food on the cricket field.