Backyard Brief: Harvest, Daddy, Soldier, Fly

Canada has invaded. The soldiers are legion. They are large. They are serious. Or . . . at least I thought so. Canadian soldiers, I now learn, are evidently synonymous with mayflies. Mayflies do frequent the Cleveland area, coming off Lake Erie to menace the streets and beaches only to die 3 days later. They show up on radar as if they’re rain. More aptly referred to as northern invaders, then, would be those mayflies.

What I’ve been seeing take over our neighborhood and flit their delicate ways into our house to hang out on the wall are called crane flies. These look a bit like daddy longlegs (those aren’t spiders, by the way), a bit like huge mosquitoes (which apparently I think is spelled without the “e” like Tostitos), and, I guess to me, something like Canadian soldiers.

20171009_052804_crane-fly-folded wings

Encyclopaedia Britannica indicates that in English-speaking countries other than the U.S., crane flies are known as daddy longlegs, but we Americans commonly know daddy longlegs to be a kind of spider. Both have long legs, so I guess we can’t fault non-Americans for the nickname. So, in a roundabout way, Canada has invaded after all.

The plot thickens, though, because the U.S. daddy longlegs are also known as harvestmen. Harvestmen are actually an order of arachnids called opiliones. Also unbeknownst to me, not all arachnids are spiders. “Spiders are the largest order in the class, which also includes scorpions, ticks, mites, harvestmen, and solifuges.[2]” (I thought scorpions were in a separate class of arthropod.) So, although they’re arachnids, not even U.S. daddy longlegs are spiders.

True insects, crane flies by contrast are wiry aerial dancers that do not bite as mosquitoes do. Leggier than winged, in the style of powder billowing out when disturbed, they emerge from the lawn at dusk as we walk among and stir them up. The dog, already prone to chasing bugs, will perk up and pounce toward20171009_052928_crane-fly-wings-extended one or two when he notices.

What’s my point? The point is that I’ve never seen so many of these what I would normally call Canadian soldiers, and never any so huge. One we found on the wall in the family room the other day—they seem to linger in wall corners—appeared to be at least four inches in diameter from front toe to back toe, or top to bottom. Normally, they seem to max out at about two inches. This is novelty in our little corner of the animal kingdom, albeit in a slender, wispy, monochrome form.

They’ve been around for a couple of weeks now. While relatively harmless, crane flies still bother this homeowner, who likes to keep the bugs out and the human and canine animals in. Then again, our neighborhood was built on one vast universe of pavement ants, so keeping out some species of insects has been a losing battle. In that respect, I think I prefer the crane flies.

I also don’t particularly enjoy being tickled by insects while walking the dog, especially at night. Despite their not being spiders, the effect of the crane flies’ legs is to make one think for a moment that one has stepped across a spider thread, which I often do when passing trees along the sidewalk during otherwise pleasant evenings. Typically, those threads drape perfectly across my face and neck so that I’m scrambling to wipe them away. But, again, if the tickling must happen, I’d prefer the non-sticky variety. Crane flies will do.

Welcome home, Canada.


Sources

Insect Identification for the casual observer:

https://www.insectidentification.org/insects-by-state.asp?thisState=Ohio

https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Cranefly

Encyclopaedia Britannica:

https://www.britannica.com/animal/crane-fly

https://www.britannica.com/animal/daddy-longlegs

Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crane_fly

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opiliones

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arachnid

Backyard Brief: Ethan’s Playground

New dog, new world

 

Maple Street

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All images copyright C.L. Tangenberg

Clubbers Become Neighbors for a Week Each Year

The World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational happens essentially in our backyard this weekend, August 6-9. All of the golfers likely have arrived by now, and the weather looks as though it will be sunny, or at least manageable, until Monday or Tuesday, when rain is forecast.

We do need that rain; the usual lush greenness of the Ohio landscape has browned a bit these past couple of weeks. But fickle weather always makes an outdoor sports tournament more interesting. The high winds at St. Andrews were evidence of that during The Open Championship, of which I caught a few snippets on TV.

The Firestone Country Club hosts this week’s event every year. Although we cannot see the course from the house, my husband says the water tower is visible from the roof when he strings up the Christmas lights. And hints of the golfers’ presence come in several forms: heavy traffic, stuffed hotels, signs for volunteer parking and VIP shuttles, and the faint hum of activity and music just down the road, over a hill or two. A different sound for once competes with the usual flushing white noise of the highway not far in the opposite direction.

Great blue herons, ducks, and Canada geese frequent the ponds throughout the course and go fishing, as some local humans do, in the reservoir between the metro park and the country club. They’ve got the bank by the water cordoned off to prevent such ventures this week, though the crowds farther up the road should keep all but the most stubborn geese away and perhaps more likely to replace the usual fishermen in that spot.

Incidentally, I fish only figuratively. It seems as though millennia (well, one, anyway) have passed since my last fishing experience. I think it must have been with my maternal grandfather, gone for nearly a decade now.

Both of my grandfathers were golfers, as are my father-in-law, my parents, and my husband. I’m the usual arm-chair observer, yet I can see how being a spectator at the invitational in person would be more exciting than watching it on TV. My husband’s been to it a few times and found the experience rather enjoyable.

As I have been dwelling on many things Scottish lately–including the Gaelic language (I’m actually learning it), Scots English, learning about Scotch whiskey (and trying some here and there), the prospect of visiting Scotland, some of its politics with respect to the UK (all thanks, of course, to my obsessive love of all things Outlander this year)–I gravitate to thoughts about the game Scotland invented on this annual occasion in my home town.

The origin of the word “golf,” like the sport itself, comes from early medieval times, based on the word “club.” This is “club” in the sense of the instrument used to strike the ball, as opposed to clubs of the country variety where the sport is usually played. But the players themselves are clubbers in both senses. Further tidbits about the word’s origin can be found at ScottishGolfHistory.org.

Every time I hear or say the word “golf,” even in my head, I can’t help thinking of two things: (1) Randy Quaid’s line as Peter Blunt in Caddyshack II (I know, sacrilege not to put Caddyshack on a higher pedestal than the sequel; couldn’t be helped): “Golf, golf… what kinda name is “golf” anyway? Sounds like a sound you make when you’ve got something caught in your throat.” And (2) Robin Williams, who lampooned the sport in his stand-up act until his death almost a year ago now:

“The commentary is electrifying,” he mocks, and proceeds to demonstrate the hushed tones of the usual commentators reporting from the course as the player in view is about to take a stroke at the ball. Be forewarned, if you don’t know about Robin Williams’ stand-up habits, explicit language is par for the course (sorry) and at the end of this link (hey, that’s what it’s called): The best part of Williams’ golf sketch tackles the sport’s invention in Scotland as he portrays a drunken Scotsman describing the idea and emphasizing the game’s extreme difficulty.

Without my husband’s sports mania, I probably wouldn’t be aware of the golf world much at all. His usual TV programming is either soccer, rugby, Aussie rules football, golf, tennis, volleyball, track & field, Top Gear, or a political talk show such as Kennedy. (The last two are very entertaining, actually.) Although I am more inclined to pay attention to the soccer games or track & field, I, too, have come to appreciate golf’s dramatic shots, bated-breath putts (scintillating commentary or not), impossible angles, sand traps, play-offs, and the progress of great, fan-friendly golfers like Phil Mickelson.

Firestone Metro Park, also nearby, is even closer to our neighborhood than the country club is. I’ve taken none of my usual nature walks this summer despite my emphasis on such things through this blog. I’ve been more home-bound out of concern for my dog Elyse’s low blood sugar patterns. So, I’m gardening mostly, and taking pictures of the results, between dosing the dog, reading, writing, and tutoring.

This week would not be the time to go, anyway. The more crowded the area, the less unspoiled nature there is to enjoy. It’s a relatively popular park without a major event happening nearby, but I theoretically have the luxury of going during the typical working hours of most folks. Fall is one of the best times to visit the parks. It’s less humid, less busy, and more colorful.

Bridgestone is for champions only, so that heightens the prestige compared to other golf tournaments. Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, who won The Open Championship (St. Andrews), and Phil, among dozens of others, will participate. I understand the legendary Jack Nicklaus attended the banquet during the event in recent years, so there are bound to be all sorts of celebrities besides. Last year’s champion Rory McIlroy will miss the tournament this time, though, due to an ankle injury. If you’re curious, you can find past Bridgestone records and highlights of the 2015 competitors on the preview page of the PGA Tour’s website.

Honestly, I don’t care all that much about such details. My primary concern is to avoid the main entrance of our neighborhood between now and Monday so I don’t get stuck in a traffic jam. But I’m sure I’ll catch some of the competition on TV if my husband has anything to say about it.

This otherwise exciting golf competition reminds me of the fun I’m missing as summer wanes, the activities I can’t do, and people I have loved who have passed on–family and, yes, Robin Williams. It’s a good thing my husband took me on a date tonight! It’s also good to laugh at Williams’ video clips and to unwrap the two poetry collections I just bought online by beloved poets Elizabeth Bishop and Judith Wright.

Weighing the pros and cons of such a large event, though, I can’t help feeling a pride of place, knowing that celebrities and elite athletes are just a few golf strokes away. I also feel a sense of connection with Scotland and the world, through this very old tradition and its yearly spectacle in my own Akron, Ohio.

Winner of the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational, Rory McIlroy. Image credit Getty Images via Golf.com

Rory McIlroy, winner, 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Image credit: Getty Images via Golf.com

Sense of place in the real world

View from our upstairs foyer window

View from our upstairs foyer window

My husband and I recently attended an information session about his company’s relocation of several employees to the Orlando, Florida, area. As native and long-time Ohioans, we are reluctant to move. Part of this has to do with inertia. We’re here, we’ve pretty much always been here, we’ve bought a home, our parents are here, we know this place and its surrounding spaces, and we’ve grown to like much of it, to love some things, and to be proud of its being ours. Besides, we’re great ones for progressing at a glacial pace when we do set our hearts on a goal, and the company demands precipitous action.

But there are many other reasons why this specific destination does not appeal, the details of which matter less than the overall effect–the prevailing feeling our thoughts of Orlando create.

Beyond this fact, I have realized that there is something particularly important about staying put in a place you enjoy as the world increasingly expands in the virtual direction. The physical space one occupies seems to become less important the more we imbed ourselves in online cultures and communities, but I would argue the opposite. The more one “lives” online, the more important an enjoyable, comfortable, and vibrant off-line residence becomes.

It has to do with time limits. With the preponderance of time devoted to Web- and computer-based pursuits, those few spare moments interacting with nature’s tangible elements and the earth beneath one’s feet are made more precious for their scarcity. It’s now less about fear of leaving the comfort zone and more about using the physical realm as a stabilizing force for the balance of life.

Considering this, the average reader may think it’s a no-brainer to move to a warmer climate where more time can be spent outdoors easily for a greater portion of the year than in Ohio. Not everyone is a warm-weather person. Some of us need variety and certainly cooler temperatures for more of the year than occur in the subtropical south.

During and after the presentation, I carried myself through all the attractions and detractors of a life in central Florida. For every appealing aspect there was an equally unappealing factor. The attractions are rather obvious with a little thought and tourism research, and it is not my purpose here to flex my vacation-spot promoting muscles. Perhaps the greater curiosity, or puzzle to some of you, are the downside elements. Without further ado:

  • too high of average temperatures
  • too high humidity during warmer months
  • no hills, hillside meadows, or mountains—I need a dynamic topography
  • too much sun—I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’m not a sun seeker; I’d prefer not to start looking my age or older
  • no familiar temperate zone trees—I dislike palm and other southern trees
  • floods
  • hurricanes
  • sink holes
  • no basements—it’s just wrong
  • no snow . . . very sad
  • noseeums, other biting midges, and a high count of mosquitoes
  • large cockroaches
  • no land access to northern states—I’m a Yankee snob, what can I say? While I’m at it, country music and southern accents
  • the thought of Disney World annoys me
  • no familiar wildlife, especially back yard and park birds—see 2013 inventory post for the importance of this to me
  • few placid, swimmable lakes and streams; I’d rather not swim with alligators and large snakes, and I’m not an ocean person
  • a smaller house for a higher price
  • our parents live here—actually a significant problem for our sweet but high-maintenance dog; we would probably have to give her up or put her down (not happening for something like this!)
  • most of my husband’s extended family live in Ohio
  • I would miss my new writer/artistic friends and old friends in the area; I don’t make new ones quickly
  • all our other extended family and friends live much farther away from Florida than from Ohio

It seems like a substantial, compelling list, but that’s only half of the story. The other half concerns all we’d be saying good-bye to. However long the list of cons, however significant the individual negatives, it boils down to the attitude of not wanting to budge just so my husband can keep a certain job with a familiar company. We’re doing alright; we need not feel beholden to the corporation and this opportunity. But I’d much rather revel in the things I love about living in Ohio.

There is still so much to see and do, so much to discover, and so many enjoyable things we already do.

As much as we complain about Ohio’s weather, it is quite preferable to the constantly either freezing or sweltering northern plains, the rain-soaked northwest, the ice-storm laden mid-south, the tornado-plagued central plains, the horribly hot and miserable deep south, including Texas, and the excessively dry parts of the southwest, especially where forest fires and juniper pollen abound. We’re allergic to the juniper, and I need green deciduousness around me from spring to fall. The plants and trees are so pale and dark out west.

I wouldn’t mind Virginia and its surrounding areas so much, but the only other place I would enjoy living would be the New England and New York region. I lived in Massachusetts during college, and I have visited New York City several times. I have also been to Virginia and Florida.

But Ohio is home. I didn’t know how good I had it as a child when I would go biking around and beyond our neighborhood, playing soccer on lush green fields, camping and exploring as a Girl Scout, and boating with my family on the Ohio River, Berlin Lake, West Branch Reservoir, and Salt Fork State Park. By high school, I grew restless to escape my small town, and I am glad I went away for college. During college, my resistance to the place of my upbringing grew, but eventually I made my way back.

I have found by turns satisfaction, delight, annoyance, and depression in my area of residence. Whether northeast Ohio has changed in the wrong ways or not changed enough, I know I have changed. I take fewer things for granted these days. But it’s the people I live among that make this place home.

I communicate with many of them online to some extent, but the chances to see them in person are what I seek and relish most.