Monday, March 20, 2006

Last week this is all I found:

These were not herps, but they were pretty cute. This might be my greatest flaw as someone who loves snakes: that I am almost as enamored of their prey.

To be fair, I also found centipedes, beetles, roaches, and worms. I saw many robins, vultures, English sparrows, and even a red-tailed hawk. All these, though, are so common that to say that I “found” them would be like saying I found a telephone pole outside my apartment building on Spruce Street.

These mice, by contrast, are a special find. I lifted up this discarded base of something, and there they were, quivering and staring at me with those huge, liquid eyes.

I found them behind a hotel in State College where I was staying this week for a meeting. I had checked out the area on my Google Earth (my new best friend) and noticed some green space around the hotel, much of which turned out to be a few acres of marsh with a stream winding through. Unfortunately the weather had been dry and cold, and I was out poking around as the sun was going down and the temperature was falling.

I also went out scouting Saturday morning. Google Earth revealed to me just how over-grown the cemetery is south of Baltimore Ave. along Cobbs Creek, and that the creek would be worth exploring down there as well as around the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center, where I spend most of my time along the creek. Sure enough, this area looks like fun.

There are logs and trash galore, and I would expect the usual suspects there in the Spring.

I was, though, quite unsettled by the cemetery. I usually love cemeteries. In my senior year of college I lived next to the gorgeous Indian Hill cemetery, in Atlanta I spent a lot of time in the Oakland cemetery, and here in West Philly I have fallen in love with the Woodlands, the cemetery just south of where the trolleys go underground on Baltimore Ave. I have enjoyed these cemeteries' open grass shaded by well-spaced trees, many of them huge, majestic centenarians that radiate peace and calm. Few other people seem to like hanging out in cemeteries, making them fine places to jog, stroll, or bask without cars whizzing by or kids shouting. I like people, of course, but sometimes it’s nice if they all lie quietly and stay out of sight.

This Southwest Philly cemetery, however, was a mess. Many markers were off their bases, several sections have been taken over by weeds and tall grass, and people have even been dumping their trash in the cemetery. This took me quite aback. It’s one thing to dump trash in a vacant lot or out in the woods. That’s illegal, lazy, and gross. Dumping your old mattress or piles of boards on top of someone’s grandmother’s eternal resting place, however, strikes is a disgusting insult to the dead and those who remember them.

The problem with this cemetery, I guess, is that few people are remembered there. I will return there to look for critters and perhaps to jog, but I have made a decision to try to clean up a little each time I go back, to pull the trash from the graves and pile it neatly on the edges of the paths, if nothing else.

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