Monday, February 28, 2011

Beneath the Radar

Life  is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans.
                            -John Lennon

Finches in the Summer

During our recent blizzard (Snow Days and Other Miracles) I picked up a book called "The Birdfeeder's Bible" which is just chock full of practical tips for the care and feeding of backyard birds. I am not sure why I picked up this book after it spent a over a decade dormant on my bookshelf, but I did, and was reminded that during these cold winter months, it is very important to provide high fat food sources for our avian friends.  So, I decided to hang a basic suet feeder.  This took just one trip to Home Depot, and cost under $5.  Within a day or two, my meager efforts were rewarded with the appearance of nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and best of all, the misnamed red-bellied woodpeckers, which may indeed have rubicund abs, but more obvious are their beautiful ruby-red heads.  All that for only $5!

Anyway, I am sure those newcomers have actually been in our backyard all along; I had just never seen them out and about.  It was the suet feeder that made them visible to me.  I started thinking about this and it occurred to me that there are lots of things that are just there all along, but go largely unnoticed.

For example, every second, about 250 billion solar neutrinos per square inch hit your body and everything else, for that matter.  Similarly, your skin is bombarded by billions of gas molecules every second,  each one traveling in excess of 1000 mph.  We remain blissfully unaware of this onslaught-- the gas molecules just sort of bounce off, and since they are so light, you never even know it.  The neutrinos are also exceedingly light, much lighter than individual atoms, and don't interact with matter much at all.  In fact, so weak are the interactions between neutrinos and matter that they pass right through you and you never even know it.  Neutrinos pass through everything- rocks, metals, even kryponite.  In fact, the big challenge in studying neutrinos is detection.  They are and always have been all around us, but since they don't interact with anything, it is nearly impossible to find them.

Woodpeckers are a lot easier.  It turns out that you just need some suet.

What else lies hidden?  Do you ever wonder what else is happening right under our noses, unbeknownst to us?


Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about our beloved dog, Pippi.  At that time, we were celebrating her 100th birthday with cupcakes, her favorite treat.  I wrote a lot about her, but did not even think to mention a slight limp that she'd had for a couple of days.  We assumed that she had slipped on the ice and snow and that her gimpy leg was insignificant.  But just one week later, she could hardly stand up and we had to carry her up and down the stairs.  She was pretty lethargic and seemed to be in a great deal of pain.  A trip to the vet confirmed our worst fears.  While we were blissfully unaware, her bone cells were mutating and multiplying madly.  Pippi had developed bone cancer.    

This is very bad news.  At her age, there is not much to do for the cancer.   All we can really do is to keep her happy and comfortable, so she now takes a couple of medications. To make them more palatable, I embed the pills in cupcake frosting, a small joy for her.  For now, she seems much better.  The painkillers and anti-inflammatories have relieved the pain and she has regained a remarkable amount of energy.  She has been running and playing like the jubilant doggie she has always been.  But we all  know it won't last for long, which saddens us deeply.  I don't know how much longer she will be with us, but I do know that it is time to slow down, to pay attention and to make the most of her remaining days.

Today I am grateful for the medications that have made my furry friend so much more comfortable.

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