The industrial-size cries of the young heron reminded me of scenes from Jurassic Park. Their loud squawking can be heard long before you can see them.  The activity in the nest is so aggressive and loud you would think an eagle was attacking. The huge nests balance on the tops of alder trees.  This active rookery of about 50 nests is situated at c. 48°44’21.80″N, 123°37’38.78″W.  On June 17, 2007 the young were visible with the naked eye. They are awkward and seem to be over-sized for their nests which sway as they fight over food that the adult heron bring.

As we chatted we could see a steady stream of herons flying back and forth between the food sources at low tide on the Cowichan Bay estuary and the rookery at the edge of the ravine that cuts deeply behind Pritchard Road. Dell Bumstead’s mature, magical garden is at the end of Pritchard just on the edge of the ravine. Dell remembers when one flock of seventy heron flew over her garden c. 1997.

Louise was breathless with excitement and it didn’t help that Reba was pulling at the leash. As usual I was on my knees pulling out Swamp grass and clover from around the heather. She was so proud of her beautiful Labrador Retriever who had just found a trail hidden among the overgrown bushes at the end of an empty lot off Wilmot Road. It was just a few minutes from our hill-side homes overlooking Cowichan Bay. The lot was not really empty as it was completely overgrown with clover, daisies, Swamp grass, wild blackberries and dozens of other plants many of which I had been battling as weeds for the last 18 months in the garden. Here they flourished and were stunningly beautiful swaying in the breeze.

Suddenly the quiet was broken with industrial size squawking. It reminded me of the sound of raptors in Jurassic Park. As we zigzagged through patches of thorny plants we could see huge heron nests that seemed to be balanced precariously atop Alder trees that were too thin and fragile for this weight and responsibility. The loud squawking seemed to increase and decrease in lulls which I thought at first was due to our arrival or maybe even an attack of an eagle. But as I stood silently watching I could see the adult herons incessantly leaving the nests and returning with food for their offspring. The young were rowdy and ungainly and the branches thrashed as they competed for food. One graceless young heron perched precariously on a branch that bent and swayed under his weight.

All around us underfoot were trunks of trees cut long ago to clear the land to the edge of this ravine tucked in behind Pritchard. The ravine meanders with branches leading into Cowichan Bay estuary somewhere near Wessex Inn.

Roger Tory Peterson1 reminded us that the majority of flowers that grow in vacant lots and along roads in North America are aliens. Hundreds of wayside plants came from Europe. Some came from gardens but most came unseen as seeds mixed in with shipments from across the sea. The first known station for a foreign plant is often at seaports or along a railroad track. In the prairies certain flowers came at first to airfields. In 1968 Peterson had already noticed that the best place to find remnants of the disappearing prairie flowers was along the railroad right-of-way. Roadsides are relatively poor because of mowing and plant-spraying operations. Even coastal marshes have lost their flowers through ditching and draining (1986:x11).

Flowers are rooted to earth, often separated by broad barriers of unsuitable environment from other ‘stations’ of their own species. “Therefore over the centuries, subtle differences have often developed with strains that are so marked that botanists have given them varietal names. Others are ignored because they would overburden an already complex taxonomy. Or a flower, from the same seed, may be depauperate in a sterile soil or where lack of competition has favoured it in some way. Familiar flowers than can look unfamiliar. Some hybridize (Peterson 1968:xii).”

“What of the future of rare native wildflowers? Because of the attrition of habitat, some are in a precarious position. Bogs along the southern margins of glaciated country are becoming fewer and orchids requiring bog conditions are harder to find. When a forest has been cut, its shade-loving orchids may also disappear, and half a century or more may pass before succession makes the forest suitable again for them. How can they return? [...] Can seeds remain viable in the soil for half a century or more, until succession renders their habitat suitable again? We know little about this (Peterson 1968:xii).”

We entered the trail that Reba had shown us and there was a third space of semi-tropical rain forest. This hidden treasure is tucked away in the village of Cowichan Bay. A small stream, that dries up in the summer, winds through this hidden ravine. It is a corridor of towering douglas fir, cedar trees and arbutus trees with dense foliage that is tucked in between developed areas on either side. Sword and maiden-hair ferns and a wide diversity of wildflowers grow in the cool, moist mini-ecosystem. A few villagers have maintained a trail with an almost invisible entrance at the end of a clearing on Wilmot. I am not sure that it is precisely located on the Flickr map but the coordinates are (48°44’23.86″N, 123°37’39.45″ W).

This is linked to my Flickr and to my Google Earth Community and will be linked to Youtube, Facebook and Google Video.

1. I usually try to separate my own phrasing from that of an author whose works I am citing. In this case these words are a blend of direct quotations from Peterson’s Introduction and my own editing to shorten and summarize. His phrases and wording are so exact, poetic and appropriate that I wanted to enhance their metaphorical quality by keeping them intact. If I included all the “” the result would be too cumbersome.


Peterson, Roger Tory. 1968. “Introduction.” in Peterson, Roger Tory, McKenny, Margaret. 1968. A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America: A Visual Approach. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Peterson, Roger Tory. 1968. “Survival.” in Peterson, Roger Tory, McKenny, Margaret. 1968. A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America: A Visual Approach. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
p. xii.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Taxonomy, empty lots, roadsides.” >> Speechless. June 18.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Taxonomy, empty lots, roadsides.” June 18.

In my ongoing investigation of connectivity innovations in Web 2.0 I have uploaded shaky (longtake) videos to a YouTube oceanflynn account using the Canon PowerShot A550′s basic video clip capacity. As YouTube background I used a Flickr image adapting Escher’s rippled reflections and Davidhazy’s macro shots of water drops. Flickr images cannot be used directly with YouTube so I used the .jpg url of that image from my Speechless @ WordPress uploads. YouTube seems to limit uploads to one a day? The tags are limited and so are categories. I use travel. Uploading is very fast and easy. There may be fewer views of my slow world videos than on Google Videos. There is more room for descriptions on Google Video. I think the full upload time is longer. Both are seamlessly integrated with WordPress through a simple html-like code using [] brackets instead of <> youtube = and googlevideo =

I am using Google docs as a space for note-taking related to my YouTube and Google Videos. It allows me to add images seamlessly with no problems formatting. I appreciate the ‘remove coding’ icon so I can keep coding as plain as vanilla. It helps me keep track of bibliographies and webliographies although these are also on delicious. Google docs also allows for lots of tags (folksonomy is the key to connectivity). Although these docs are often a mess of collaged text, urls and images, they help me keep track of information such as First Nations preferred names for places, evidence of benign colonialism, etc.

I uploaded some digital images from our two excursions this weekend to oceanflynn @ the Google Earth community.

I have bookmarked the YouTube videos on the social bookmarking site, ocean.flynn delicious

I’ve also subscribed to this at my Google Reader as .rss feed.

The things we do with words . . .

For awhile after I had noticed my speechless blog stats reached 10, 000 (whatever that means) I couldn’t write anymore. Weeks later when I started again the stats graph revived. I have no idea how that works.

Since October 2006 I have been able to connect Flickr, Google Docs, iGoogle homepage, Google Video,, Digg, My Swicki, Facebook, wikipedia through my WordPress blog while living on an Island off the West Coast.

The widget counter on my iGoogle reminds me each day that we will be packing again soon. Somehow I hope that Speechless will provide a virtual space that even mountains can’t block.

From Rembrandt to Spinoza, the Golden Age of the Netherlands casts its long shadow into the 21st century. Candle light flickered and the sand in the timer flowed silently but he barely noticed, he was so engrossed in his reading. With his left hand he held unto the globe while all around him in the darkness others slept deeply. The work of these candle-light-scientists continues to be honoured today. Indeed their century, the 17th century is now recognised as one that was crowded with genius.

I would like to have this review in Amapedia, another pioneering moment on Web 2.0 brought to me through ReadWriteWeb but I am not an Amazon member since I have not purchased online so I am excluded.

Flynn-Burhoe. 2007. Review of Damasio, Antonio. 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. New York: Harcourt.

Damasio chose a reproduction of this painting by Dutch artist and Rembrandt (16061669) student from 1627 to 1628, Gerrit Dou (1613 – 1675) entitled Astronomer by Candlelight (c.1665) for the cover of his splendid, insightful book in which he combines his own research as head of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center with the writings of Spinoza, a contemporary of Rembrandt.

Among the renowned Dutch artists, scientists and merchants who were part of the Golden Age in Holland were the philosopher Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Nicolaes Tulp (1593-1674) Doctor, Magistrate, and Mayor of Amsterdam, wrote a book on diseases and human & animal anatomy,Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) laid the foundations for international law, René Descartes French philosopher lived in Leiden from 1628 till 1649 and Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), a famous mathematician, physicist and astronomer. See wikipedia.
In Chapter 6, “A Visit to Spinoza,” Damasio revisited the historical period which he calls a century of genius in which Spinoza’s life unfolded. He noted that it was in the Netherlands in the 17th century that the makings of contemporary justice through such enlightened minds as that of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) who introduced modern concepts of international law (1625). It was also during this period that modern capitalism emerged in the Netherlands (2003:231).
While he lived in the most tolerant country of the 17th century Spinoza’s iconoclastic ideas regarding truth claims and legitimization of truth were too radical even for Holland.

Spinoza was born into a prosperous family of Sephardic Jewish merchants who had fled Portugal during the Inquisition shortly before Spinoza was born. Their acquired wealth from trade in sugar, spices, dried fruit and Brazilian wood was Spinoza’s inheritance. But he valued his intellectual independence more than money and learned to live frugally even refusing professorial positions so as not to have his time or thinking compromised. He never owned his own home preferring to occupy only a bedroom and study. In that bedroom was the one object upon which Spinoza fixated. This was the four-poster, canopied and curtained bed where he was conceived, birthed and in which he finally died. It is called a ledikant and contrasted sharply with the armoire or cupboard bed that was more common in Amsterdam homes of the 17th century (to be continued p.229). Other than that he only needed paper, ink, glass, tobacco and money for room and board. He reminds me in some ways of our contemporary Russian mathematician Perelman who learned to live on $100 a month to devote himself solely to the elevated apolitical study of pure mathematics.

Please note that permission for use of this image on this blog under the Creative Commons is pending.



List of those labeled as a 17th century genius:

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) laid the foundations for international law. Publications mentioned 1604, 1605, 1632.
Nicolaes Tulp (1593-1674) Doctor, Magistrate, and Mayor of Amsterdam, wrote a book on diseases and human & animal anatomy.
Rembrandt (16061669)

Gerrit Dou (1613 – 1675)

Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677),

René Descartes French philosopher lived in Leiden from 1628 till 1649

Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), a famous mathematician, physicist and astronomer

Selected bibliography and webliography

Damasio, Antonio. 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. New York: Harcourt.

Flynn-Burhoe. 2007. Review of Damasio, Antonio. 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. New York: Harcourt.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. A Social History Timeline Related to Damasio’s Looking for Spinoza (2003).

Grotius, Hugo. 1604-5. 1950. De Jure Praedae (Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty) Original Publishing: 1868 (actually written in the end of 1604 and the beginning of 1605); English Translation: Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950.

Grotius, Hugo. 1623 [1971] True Religion Explained and Defended against the Archenemies Thereof in the Times (The Truth of the Christian Religion) Original Publishing: 1632; English Translation: New York: DaCapo, 1971.

Grotius, Hugo. 1625. [1975] Prolegomena to the Law of War and Peace. Original publishing: 1625 English Translation: Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril, 1975.

Uzgalis, Bill. 1997-2003. “Hugo Grotius“. in “Great Voyages: the History of Western Philosophy from 1492-1776″. Oregon.

Grotius, Hugo. 1625. [1853] De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace) Original Publishing: 1625; English Translation: Cambridge: John W. Parker, 1853.


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