31 October 2011

Friend to Animals Retires from Baseball

Tony La Russa, who managed the St. Louis Cardinals for 16 years, including this year's amazing World Series run, has retired. In 33 years of managing, he also led the Oakland Athletics and the Chicago White Sox.

La Russa leaves with the third most wins of any manager in Major League Baseball history. I have been a fan of his teams for about 20 years, but my respect for his work in the game would not be as strong if it were not for his efforts on behalf of animals.

He co-founded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), which is a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats. Recently, La Russa also supported a campaign to shut down puppy mills in Missouri.

Thank you, Mr. La Russa, for all the sports memories and especially for the work you do to protect animals.

29 October 2011

Of Cardinals and Squirrels

Three weeks ago, I blogged about my favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and their squirrelly experience in the playoffs.

Last night, less than 24 hours after completing a World Series Game 6 comeback that served as a microcosm for the team's season and provided an ultimate example of perseverance, the Cardinals prevailed in Game 7 to win their 11th world championship.

The victory capped an incomparable run to first get into and then progress through the playoffs. In two months of work that seemed more like play, the team created something special; and right in the middle of that special experience, you'll find a real-life squirrel, name Rally Squirrel by the St. Louis fans.

Even after the real squirrel was caught in a live trap and relocated to a wooded area away from the ballpark, St. Louis embraced it: Fans dressed up as squirrels, relief pitcher Octavio Dotel carried a toy squirrel with him, and a squirrel mascot was hired to accompany the Cardinals' usual mascot, Fredbird. Major League Baseball even created a commercial that tied the playoff theme "Legends are Born in October" to the squirrel's runs around the field.

Sports aren't always all they're cracked up to be, but I'll treasure the experiences the Cardinals and Rally Squirrel gave me this fall. It was something more than playing a game and winning. For just this once, it was the stuff of life.

What an autumn this has become.

22 October 2011

The Height of Fall

No season makes me happier than fall, and this fall has been an awfully fine one. This evening, it achieved perfection.

For the last two weeks, I have been enjoying the coolness in the air, the glowing reds, oranges, and yellows in the trees, and the occasional whiff of wood smoke on the wind. It's getting dark earlier, the rain is coming more often, and Halloween draws near. I love it all.

Today, I was feeling particularly fallish, so after I finished an important piece of work, which left me quite satisfied, I decided to go for a walk. The wind was blowing, but it wasn't nasty. In fact, it's been a pleasant wind all fall. It was great to look around and appreciate all the trees and plants showing off their autumnal attire.

I decided to walk up by a small stand of pine trees because I have always thought they looked perfect for a fall scene. On the outside edge of the stand, the limbs are green and full all the way to the ground, giving the place a closed-in feel, and on the inside, the limbs are dead and boney, so it's both dark and a little eerie. The floor of the small forest is carpeted with pine needles, which lend a slight touch of their perfume to the ambiance.

As I walked past, I suddenly decided to follow one of the trails inside. Concealed in the trees, I found fall everywhere. The forest stood on the edge of some grassland, which ended at a barbed-wire fence. The fence was old and the grass dry and blond. It was as if the forest were a keeper of fall. I stayed and soaked in the coziness.

While I looked out over the field, I heard something behind me. I turned my head and saw a great horned owl flapping its wings in a tree. Owls are silent fliers, so I was fortunate that the bird had hit a branch with its wing. Otherwise, I might never have had the experience that ensued. Slowly and quietly, I turned around to get a better look. On occasion it looked right at me, but it seemed unconcerned about my presence. I watched it listen to every little sound and walk carefully along the limbs as if it were testing a tub of hot water with its toes. After some time, it flew to another tree, and a few minutes later, it hooted. That brought a smile. It listened some more, bobbed its head, and remained in that tree for a while longer. Then, it hooted again and flew to another tree farther way, giving me a chance to leave without driving it from the forest.

An owl hooting at night in a dimly lit stand of pines. Surely, that is fall in its most concentrated form.

Perfection is possible in certain moments. Those moments are a mixture of hope, decisions, and the right circumstances. When they happen and you let them touch you, you realize that you are experiencing something special--the pinnacle of life. I had one of those moments tonight. Other experiences may equal it by achieving perfection in their own right, but for what it is, nothing can ever improve or top my time in that grove of pines on this fall evening.

Note: The owl in this entry's picture is not the one I saw tonight.

19 October 2011

Black Day

Today's news from Ohio disgusts me. As a quick summary, law enforcement agents in Ohio have killed at least 25 48 exotic animals that were kept as pets and then released by their owner.

The event and the system that has allowed this to happen make me sick. I condemn those individuals who selfishly try to own animals that should be left wild; a legal system that has not bothered to check this selfishness; anyone who makes money by selling exotic species; the law enforcement agents for whom the use of lethal force seems to be becoming the first and only reaction to so many things; and the society's general lack of concern for animal welfare.

An unhealthy culture indeed.

08 October 2011

Life Partner

When I think about nature's impact on me, I realize it has given me quite a lot. What it has shared includes a piece of my life perspective, a place to find and compose myself, and, to some extent, my health.

These are not minor things, and they have helped lead me to where I am. Perhaps this is why I feel a partnership with nature and a need to give back to it.

The following video also talks about a partnership with nature and how the natural world has given us both resources and the inspiration to use them. Check it out:

I found the video on an entry from Round Robin, which is the blog of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

06 October 2011

Nature at the Park

I'm a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, so this fall has been pretty exciting. The team had a special run just to make the playoffs, and it's been a lot of fun to watch.

Then, on Tuesday, the Cardinals played Game 3 of their National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. That's when things got really interesting: A squirrel ran on the field at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and momentarily delayed the game.

Yesterday, a squirrel (perhaps the same one) ran across home plate right after a pitch, and an inning later, the Cardinals scored two runs to solidify a lead that gave them a win, letting them tie the series at two games apiece. Watch a video of yesterday's squirrelly events below:

The squirrel has been named Rally Squirrel by Cardinal fans, and it now has a Wikipedia page, two Facebook pages, and a Twitter account. Without doubt, this has been an interesting mixing of human and nature, and now, people seem to be speaking for the squirrel.

In 2006, the Cardinals won the World Series. That was pretty neat, but regardless of what happens for the rest of this season's playoffs, the September comeback by the team combined with the adventures of Rally Squirrel have really made 2011 memorable.