Guard Against Throat-Scratch

Full pack of Pall Mall cigarettes on rock near Irondequoit Bay
Full pack of Pall Mall cigarettes on rock near Irondequoit Bay

There was a lot of smoking in Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood and some in Being John Malkovich. We watched both again recently and we were happy to find they are both still great. Really great in fact. You can see why directors want to use these things. The mood, the pause, the period, the smoke, the prop for the actor. We found this pack of Pall Malls on a rock along the shore of Irondequoit Bay this morning.

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Hawks circling the marsh on Hoffman Road
Hawks circling the marsh on Hoffman Road

I was playing horseshoes out front with Rick when I got the news prompt on my watch that Biden had picked Kamala as his running mate. I ran in to tell Peggi. came back out and found my neighbor walking by with her tiny dog, Bigs, and her nephew and his wife. I told them Biden had picked Kamala and quickly remembered our neighbor, a former prison supply saleswomen who has an African-American husband, was not all that crazy about the former prosecutor. Her nephew, a black man in late twenties, asked, “Who’s Kamala?”

On our walk this morning we ran into a neighbor on Hoffman who told us how happy he was, thinking Trump will be gone in November and 2021 will so much better. Hadn’t heard such optimism in quite a while. We stopped at our garden on the way home and found Jared tearing his strawberry plants out. He too was excited, convinced Kamala would rattle the orange guy.

At dinner I tried to imagine how we will look back on the dream state that is this year. A dream state that is overdue to crash once reasonable people get fed up quarantining for so long while the bikers party.

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Time Of Pestilence

Anne Havens book cover for her"“Prayers in a Time of Pestilence.”
Anne Havens book cover for her”“Prayers in a Time of Pestilence.”

At Trump’s campaign speech in Ohio the other day he accused Biden of trying to “hurt” the Bible and “hurt” God. “He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.” 

What he says doesn’t have to make any kind of sense to work. He uses this theatrical magic to great effect. And while a pandemic of biblical proportions is sweeping the globe you don’t want to piss off god by “hurting” her or her book. God created Trump so maybe it will work for him.

Two new pieces of art entered our home on the same day. Pete Monacelli gave us a Casin/collage/pen and ink piece entitled “Untitled Miniature #14”. It consists of a reconstructed reproduction of Titian’s “The Fall of Man,” a painting from the Prado. 

Anne Havens, who coincidentally was born on the same day in the same year as Pete, mailed us a copy of her recent book, “Prayers in a Time of Pestilence.” In the accompanying notes she describes the art as “telephone doodles.” Of course they are rich, sub-conscience expressions of this dark and scary time. Anne reminds us that Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Newton discovered gravity while guaranteed from the plague. And she sprinkles her spreads with G. K. Chesterton, Chaucer, Thomas Aquinas and Shelly – “If winter comes,, can spring be far behind?” 


Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp

Chicken Mushroom on the ridge trail through Durand Eastman
Chicken Mushroom on the ridge trail through Durand Eastman

I had to tear myself away from the live feed from Sturgis, South Dakota. The camera is positioned over Sturgis Liquor across the street from the “Knuckle Saloon.” There’s a flashing sign sign out front reading “Jack Daniels Apparel Sold Here” and a van, parked under the sign, advertises “Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey.” Its no wonder the people on the street walk so funny.

We watched an HP Lovecraft documentary last night. I’m not recommending it but it did color our encounter this afternoon with an Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp. Peggi identified the creature with her iNaturalist app and we were relieved to learn the “Killer Wasp” part is not where the emphasis should be. The huge, black and white striped wasp is not particularly dangerous to humans. It is the “Cicada Killer” part of the name that telles the Lovecraftian story. What we were looking at, a creature darting around on our driveway, was the wasp trying to kill the Cicada.

NYT featured an article about how readers were coping with the pandemic blues. A Milwaukee reader said, “I’ve been painting rocks and leaving them on paths at parks for a happy little surprise for someone.” Here in Rochester we too have come across those damn things and I can’t tell how annoying they are out in nature. More annoying than those stone piles that people make on beaches.

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Garden Of Eden

Olive oil, Basil, basil in a plastic bag tent and carrots from the garden
Olive oil, tomatoes, basil, basil in a plastic bag tent and carrots from the gardenOlive oil, tomatoes, basil, basil in a plastic bag tent and carrots from the garden

We spent some time down in the garden today. Some weeding, some planting (a new row of cilantro), some watering. I tied up the new growth on our tomato plants. Some of them would be eight foot tall if they hadn’t run out of stake. And of course we picked stuff (beets, basil, cilantro, arugula and kale). 

It was especially nice down there because Michael Burritt, the percussion teacher at the Eastman School of Music, had his windows open and he was playing one of his melodious mallet instruments. He has a signature brand of vibes. Either that or xylophone. I always get those mixed up. And he has a particularly loud air conditioner which is usually on in the summer but it wasn’t today. So it was a treat to hear him play.

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This Is Why

Warren Philips in his gallery withAntonio Tapies print on the wall.
Warren Philips in his gallery withAntonio Tapies print on the wall.

Driving down Culver, a route we used to take almost daily pre-pandemic, I had a creepy feeling come over me. I didn’t miss the short ride to downtown, not at all. I wondered aloud if we were disengaging with the world. A gold, early seventies, Chevy pick-up was waiting at the Norton Street intersection with Culver Road. I couldn’t wait to get a better look at it and when we did I was delighted to see a young couple in the front seat, he driving and she beaming, while sitting right next to him in the middle of the passenger seat. This is why we go out in the world. This is why we must put this pandemic behind us.

We made an appointment to to see Warren Philips new show at his gallery in the Hungerford building. We expected to find Warren framing in his shop but he sat down and held court while we browsed. The wall behind him features an Antonio Tapies etching flanked by two Manolo Millaries prints. Further down the same wall was a Lucio Muñoz serigraph. These are all giants of the Spanish abstract movement. All were featured in the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca when we were there last year.

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All Net

Green swirl in Durand Lake
Green swirl in Durand Lake

Early August is peak green in upstate NewYork. The woods are at their fullest, the trails are overgrown, the cattails are at their tallest. The Black Swallow Wort is going to seed. The garlic mustard and mayapples are starting to die back. We’re peaking.

Our canopy of oaks, though, is thinner than usual. The leaves are spindly, half eaten by the caterpillar/gypsy moth plague, so there is more sun on our lot. We took notice of the stray Autumn Olive trees that we have, an invasive species that has popped up on all four sides of our house.

Our neighbor called our attention to one that was hanging over the road. He said he was afraid one the thorns on its branches would reach in his truck window and scratch him. He offered to prune our bush, an offer that struck us as rude but one that was, true to form, only blunt.

Instead of pruning the tree we decided to take it out, it and twenty or so others. Some were fifteen feet high. All were gangly. Weed trees. And the thorns were “crown of thorns” size. We cut the tees down with a saw and then dug the root balls out, a task that took us the better part of three days.

In our down time we’ve been watching the high school senior across the street shoot baskets in her driveway. It was exactly a year ago today when I surprised her with a new net. She has gotten really good. So good that she now has a coach who who stops by and feeds her shots. When she shoots it is all net.

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Thou Shalt Not Wear A Mask

Worshipers at Durand Eastman during the pandemic.
Worshipers at Durand Eastman during the pandemic.

The parking lot at Durand Eastman Beach was packed this morning, as crowded as it is on a hot summer day. And this was one but it was still early. And these people were not dressed for the beach. They had their Sunday finest on. Many of of the women looked as if they had made their own, the long skirts and head coverings. You’d think they would have made some masks for their families.

Celestial music was playing from a sound system and the hillside which slopes down to the beach was crowded. A row of men dressed in all white were dunking parishioners in the water. The crowd was entirely white and no one was wearing a mask.


He Speaks For Himself

Corky doll at garage sale during the pandemic
Corky doll at garage sale during the pandemic

We walked by this garage sale this morning. We looked at the wares from across the street and decided it wasn’t worth risking our lives for. I moved close enough to get a picture the disturbing doll, Corky.

I had a disturbing Covid dream last night, the kind where I must have forgotten that the pandemic was still going on and then found myself surrounded by people in a busy marketplace without a mask. The dream followed the cocktail hour party we threw for our neighbors last night. I put 5 -6 pm on the last minute invite but the three couples stayed until 8:30. We sat around our patio. Four people were out on the lawn and we filled a bucket with beer, four different IPAs. I brought my turntable out and played Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane.. I could see how the distancing thing can fall apart with beer.

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Dollar A Minute

Statues with rosaries on Culver Road near former Saint Salome's Church.
Statues with rosaries on Culver Road near former Saint Salome’s Church.

A bunch of us on our dead end street split the cost of the swimming pool that sits on an empty lot. The arrangement predates our arrival by decades. The pool was put in in 1960. One of the neighbors has been mowing the lawn there for years but his tractor has bitten the dust. I’ve mowed it by hand before but it takes forever and it is boring. I’ve only mowed our lawn once this year and I’m hoping I won’t have to mow it again. We are surrounded by trees. I use the mower in the fall to chew up the leaves.

The presidency of the pool corp rotates and Peggi and I are stuck with it for two years. It was up to us to find someone to mow the lawn. Jeddy and Helena live across from the pool and they have a guy that mows their lawn. We’ve heard them talk about the guy. Not unreliable but, “He said he would come today . . .” And he doesn’t just come like clockwork during a drought. He waits for there to be a need. He’s our guy.

I called him this afternoon. He said he would come tomorrow, mow the lawn and then tell us how much it will be. He said he charges one dollar a minute. I asked, “How fast does your tractor go?”

We brought back our fort three tomatoes from the garden and had them with some basil and Manchego theses. And then we vacuumed the screen on our porch. The tree debris, catkins, cotton wood seed and the gypsy moths, have finally subsided. We are deep into summer now.

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Yellow Lilly iIn Jared's Pond
Yellow Lilly iIn Jared’s Pond

Our tomato plants are now taller than I am. And more importantly they are taller than our stakes. Peggi reminded me that other years we strapped extensions onto the existing stakes so that may be tomorrow’s project. We have more plants than ever this year, two different kinds, all started from Fruition seed. We don’t get full sun, maybe four hours a day, so they are probably reaching for as much light as they can get.

Peggi got stung by a ground bee on walk yesterday. Her second bee experience in her long life. Last time it got infected and compounded the hurt so her doctor started her on antibiotics. In line at Wegmans to pick up the subscription she noticed the woman next to her, speaking loudly, was not wearing a mask. Peggi asked the pharmacist how the woman got in without wearing a mask and pharmacist said they can’t force people to wear masks.

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A Santiago

Observation point at Sodus lighthouse on Lake Ontario.
Observation point at Sodus lighthouse on Lake Ontario.

Today is the feast day of Santiago, Saint James the Major, one of the twelve apostles and the patron saint of Spain and Portugal. We celebrated with a Spanish Rioja and muddled lime on ice. The two pilgrimages we did in Spain and the one we canceled when Covid hit all finished in the Galician city named after Santiago.

We picnicked with good friends in Sodus at the old lighthouse yesterday and it was idyllic. I guess I wasn’t sure if that was still possible. We picked up food at El Rincon and took the back roads to the lake, by Christian Holler and along Mud Lane. God’s country.

We looked for a rest stop on our way home. We were traveling along the lake on the Seaway Trail and we found a spot next to a historical marker for a house that was once owned by an abolitionist. It was thought to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

We parked next to two cars in what looked like a small parking lot. Every fence pole surrounding the lot had an American flag on it. After reading the historical marker we ducked down the road next door, one that led to a State fishing sight, and we found a place to go to the bathroom. When we got back to the car we found a couple in the lot yelling at us, “Is that your car?” I thought it had acted up or something. “This is private property. This is private property. This is private property,” the woman kept screaming. OK,” I said. “We surrender.” and I put my hands in the air. She yells, “Didn’t you see the signs?” I said, “We saw the American flags but we didn’t see the signs.” “They’re right here.” And she ran over to point them out out to us.

The couple was selling their house and the lakefront property. There was a Sotheby’s sign out front. Everything was in order but they had a design problem. Those damn flags took up all the visual space.

Back in town we went down to the pool with a beer. Someone was yelling on the other side of the fence. And then it sounded like a woman in pain. Was she crying? I got up on the fence to see what was going on. I heard Marsha, our neighbor with the big dog named Topher, yelling, “Larry. Get it out of his mouth.” I couldn’t see what it was but I’m guessing it was some sort of animal.

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Institute For Living

Altar boys Paul Dodd, Andy Finn and Rick Switzer, alter boys eating their lunch after serving mass at Holy Trinity in Webster
Altar boys Paul Dodd, Andy Finn and Rick Switzer, alter boys eating their lunch after serving mass at Holy Trinity in Webster

My large, extended family was solidly Irish Catholic. But my parents canceled church as an obligation when they bailed on the culture of Catholicism. I was in high school and was thrilled with their decision. I had been begging them to let me attend public school where my friends were. Bishop Kearney (named after an early Rochester bishop) was run like a prison. A lot like “Orange is the New Black” but the uniforms were blue and there were a lot less Black people.

The church was changing but not fast enough for my parents. They thought priests should be allowed to marry and women should be allowed to serve, something that is still out of the question. The church is desperately hanging onto an anachronistic, dark ages script. Bishop Clark, in his recent testimony followed that script, a script that attempts to keep the clergy above the law.

“There is also to be a secret archive in the diocesan curia or at least a safe or file in the ordinary archive, completely closed and locked which cannot be removed from the place, and which documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.”

Clark claimed he never looked at the secret files when he took over as Bishop. Two of my first cousins, both near my age, were abused by priests. Bishop Clark was asked about a long list of area clergy, most of whom he acknowledged knowing about, who were accused during his time as Rochester’s bishop. A pdf of his testimony is available online but it will make you sick to read. Here are some excerpts.

Father O’Neill 
Q. Were there other complaints during your 32 years at the Diocese of Rochester that priests had sexually abused minors other than the first two Bishop Hickey told you about?
A. Oh, yes. 

Q. What position did you hold at Albany when you had that kind of responsibility?
A. I was the chairman of the Priest Personnel Board.
Q. Were you aware of any allegations prior to arriving as bishop of the Diocese of Rochester that there had been complaints that priests had had inappropriate – –
A. Oh, yes, yes.
Q. And after Father O’Neill admitted
A. Well, I sent him to — what’s the word I’m looking for?
Q. Rehabilitation center?
A. Yeah. That’s — I’m not sure that was the exact title, but, yes.
Q. Was it the Institute for Living in Connecticut?
A.  No.  It was in St. Louis.

Father Larrabee

Father Eugene Emo
Q. Did Father Emo ever admit to you that he had acted inappropriately with minors?
A. Yes.
Q. And did you meet with Father Emo on this or did he meet with somebody at your direction?
A. I met with Gene, I would say, three times.
Q. Okay. After Father Emo went for treatment, was he reassigned to a position with
the diocese?
A. He was.

Father Paul Cloonan
Brother John Walsh
Father Albert Cason

Father Ronald Frederick
Q. Was he allowed to still work at parish assignments?
A. Yes.

Father Vincent Panepinto
Father John Gormley
Father Dennis Sewar
Brother John Walderman
Father Joseph Beatini
Father James Burk
Father Thomas Burr
Father Robert Guadio
Father G. Stuart Hogan
Father Robert Meng
Father Thomas Kent
William O’Malley
Francis Pilecki, a teacher at Aquinas
Father Foster Rogers
Father John J. Seger
Father David Simon
Father Anscar Sullivan
Monsignor Joseph Vogt
Father Francis Vogt
Father Otto Vogt
Steve Ward

Father Paul Schnacky
A. I know he offended, and I know he eventually returned to ministry.

Father William Lum
Brother John Farrand
Deacon George Finch
Father Gerard Guli
Father Robert Hammond
Father Robert Klem
Father Bernard Kuchman
Father Gereon Lindsay
Father Joseph Lynch
Father Charles McCarthy
Father Neil Mille
Father Bernard Newcomb
FatherLawrence Pais?
Leonard Riforgiato
Brother Dennis Sewar
Father Dennis Shaw
Father Gary Shaw
Father Francis Taylor?
Father Zenkel
Father Gary Shaw

Many of the clergy have been profiled on the Democrat & Chronicle’s site where Steve Orr has been doing some bang-up reporting. Add to this list John Tobin, Father James Curry and Father Harry Utereiner, three McQuaid teachers who were named yesterday in sexual abuse cases involving students there.

When I was going to Kearney it was common knowledge that Brother Heathwood was chasing the girls. The Irish Christian Brothers, who ran the place, agreed to pay $16.5 million to satisfy about 420 abuse allegations. The Kearney building on Kings Highway South was put up for sale to help fund the order’s abuse settlement. Billionaire philanthropist B. Thomas Golisano purchased the building in 2014 for $3.4 million and gave it to the nonprofit that was then running the school.

I still have a deep soft spot for the iconography and rituals. And Christianity without the miracles is fine by me. But Bishop Clark’s testimony illustrates how corrupt and morally bankrupt the organization is. He comes off like a good soldier if there is such a thing.

Q. What is Exhibit 2?
A. It’s a draft of a book I was working on at the time and I have yet to complete it. Maybe I never will.  

From the book: “It is the abiding pain in these young people and their loved ones who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests in whom the young — by instinct and training — so readily place deep trust.”

“It makes it incumbent on us to learn what systemic deficiencies, what actions or omissions helped to create an environment in which such horror could even be possible.”

Q.    When you had priests go to psychologists or psychiatrists for evaluation did you usually get back a written report from the psychologist or the psychiatrist?
A. Yeah.  They would send reports. And they would be —

And with that, the three hours of allotted time for testimony was up.

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Feel Lighter

"Philosophy of Andy Warhol" with Campbell's soup can drawing and autograph.
“Philosophy of Andy Warhol” with Campbell’s soup can drawing and autograph.

Before climbing the walls in the depths of the Covid crisis the British writer, Sophie Atkinson, reread “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” and in a recent NYTs piece she recommended it as a roadmap to navigating the countless days at home. She was reminded of an obvious truth: “I don’t need to go outdoors or online to have fun. Life has started to feel a little lighter. ” I made a note to reread the book.

And yesterday I read Brigid Berlin’s obit. She was the “B” in the subtitle of “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” – “(From A to B and Back Again).” She too was an artist and she recorded most of the conversation transcribed in the book. From her obit -“Her most radical act, late in life, was to become a near replica of her mother, with a similar apartment, identical pug dogs and conservative political views.”

Because we ordered an early copy through Interview Magazine, our book is autographed with an original Campbell’s soup can drawing.

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Circle Game

Paul and Peggi in Milton Avenue house, Bloomington Indiana 1973
Paul and Peggi in Milton Avenue house, Bloomington Indiana 1973

Here we are in our first house, a small rental in Bloomington, Indiana. Peggi was finishing up school and I was working construction. From here we moved to Rochester and eventually got married. Today is our anniversary.

Bloomington was a one horse college town but we found some magic there. I rounded up some photos and a few movies from this period and posted them here. Sort of an anniversary card to the two of us and the friends we made there.

Four woodchucks on golf course.
Four woodchucks on golf course.

You would never know the world is out of balance by looking out at the golfers. I don’t think we’ve seen one with a mask. A favorite trail of ours comes up from the lake and parallels Horseshoe Road. It continues along the ridge trail until it meets the golf course. There is a green to our right and a tee to our left and this is where we observe the golfers for a brief few minutes. The encounter was especially nice this morning because there were no golfers. We got a later start than usual and we’re guessing a league had just finished. The only ones we saw on the course were maintenance workers and the four woodchucks above.

The out of balance reference is not only to the virus but the gypsy moth infestation, the invasive black swallow-wort and the divisive political situation. Its been dry as hell here all summer and today it rained like hell. Our neighbor called to say he had a technique he wanted to demonstrate for us, another way of battling the gypsy moths. In yesterdays post I talked about how we were putting a small dent in the male population by constructing clear plastic whore houses (we have six) with pheromones inside and a pool of a water to drown in. We went out the Garden Factory to buy more bait and the cashier was wearing a mask that covered her mouth but not her nose.

Our neighbor showed us how he had tied his garden hose to a long pole in order to blast the white female gypsy moths (they don’t fly) off the underside of branches. They each lay a few thousand eggs for next year’s caterpillars.

Our movie selection, Spaceship Earth, about the Biosphere experiment, interweaved perfectly with this whole balance theme. I was blown away by productive the people involved were. And by the fact that were still friends after those two years.

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Death Penalty Is Back

It is revenge time. The gypsy moth caterpillars, that have been particularly bad this year, are in their next stage. It almost happened overnight. It doesn’t rain caterpillar pellets of shit anymore. Pieces of green leaves no longer cover our driveway. Instead the air is full of sex hungry, male moths.

The female moths have hunkered down in some sort of nest and the males are out looking for them. They use their sense of smell as a tracking device and we and many of our neighbors are playing a dirty trick on them. We bought artificial female gypsy moth “pheromones ” at a garden store. One of the tiny strips is stuck to the underside of this Jasmati rice container. The moths find their way into the container through the holes I cut in the sides and once inside they flap around until their wings hit the water and they drown.

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 Mushroom on trail through Durand Eastman Park
Mushroom on trail through Durand Eastman Park

The Swollen Monkeys song, “On Vacation,” has stayed with us for almost forty years now. And it, like so many other things, has taken on new relevance during the pandemic. the Monkeys were label mates of our at Cachalot Records. They played at our record release party at Danceteria. Ralph Carney, the sax player. went on to play with Tom Waits, the B-52’s, Marc Ribot, Jim White, Jonathan Richman and our buddy, David Greenberger.

Last time I played horseshoes with my neighbor he asked, “Who cut your hair?” I said “I did.” And that was all there was to that conversation. A guy thing. I used the clippers we bought at Sears and pretty much buzzed the whole thing. The front, top portion was done with sizers and there’s an inch or so there.

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Spice Of Life

Airstream trailer in driveway on the walk up to Aman's Farm Market
Airstream trailer in driveway on the walk up to Aman’s Farm Market

If I am not mistaken this is same driveway that we spotted a turquoise Metropolitan in about ten years ago..

I love the hot humid period we get in the the northeast as much as I love the bitter cold period in the dead of winter. Variety is the spice of life.

We typically get a reprieve from the leaf blower racket once summer rolls around. But this year, in the middle of summer, we are experiencing a fall of pieces of green leaves. The gypsy moth poop pellets cover the ground. Even we have taken to leaf blowing.

Ours is electric and once I turn it on I don’t turn it off until I am done. We have some neighbors who strap on the gas powered blowers and throttle them up and down every few minutes. In an ideal world this should be against a town ordinance. You can tune out a lot if it is a constant but on and off . . .

With our canopy being eaten we are getting more sun and the house is hot. We don’t have or want air conditioning so Peggi fashioned a poor man’s AC unit by filling a Guinness glass with ice and placing it in front of the fan.

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Aerial Sex

Two Monarch butterflies mating
Two Monarch butterflies mating

Of course Monarch butterflies mate in the air. I just had never seen it before. These two flew just above our heads while we were playing horseshoes in the front of the house. It looks like one does all the flapping and the other goes along for the ride. They landed in our pine tree which is being decimated by the gypsy moths who are currently in their caterpillar stage.

The caterpillars are eating the leaves on most of the trees in our canopy and their droppings, about the size of a BB, cover every surface. According to the neighbors the gypsy moths were last this bad in the eighties. We are surrounded by oaks and they love those. The distinctive red and white oak leaves look completely different this year. There are huge holes in them and only half half of each leaf is still hanging on. I picture the caterpillars on the end of the leaves eating the leaf they are on and then falling to the ground with the leaf piece just like in the cartoons.

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