Thursday, June 12, 2014

the 13th story hummingbird

So there I was sitting on the roof. Terwilliger Plaza has a great space for residents on the roof, up on top of the 12th floor apartments. There's Tomato Alley off to the right as you get off the elevator (my tomato plant is growing leaves like crazy, but, as yet, no tomatoes). And off to the right is the door to the space on the roof with plants and flowers and places to sit and look out over Portland, admiring Mt. Hood to the east and Mt. St. Helens (what's left of it after the 1980 eruption) to the north, the Willamette River flowing past beneath the half dozen bridges that join the two halves of Portland, the sky tram swinging up and down to get people to and from Oregon Health Sciences University, aka Pill Hill, just south of where we are.

If you are so inclined, you can go look over the edge down to the park and the lilac gardens. My knees tend to wobble when I even think of that, so I usually don't. There's a great flat disk that hangs over the edge with arrows pointing to six or seven of the mountain peaks visible in clear weather, but once I get that close to the side, my eyes kind of go out of focus with terror. There's a barrier, of course, but it's waist-high, not nearly high enough to disguise the fact that I'm over 100 feet from the ground in a radically downward direction.

But the roof is a great place to sit and just Be, particularly now when it's usually sunny and cool and gently breezy, and you can gaze out over treetops and buildings and foothills and feel spacious.

So there I was, sitting on the roof, feeling spacious, when I happened to look over at the rooftop flowers. And there was a hummingbird dipping his beak into some pink trumpet-shaped blossoms, cool as can be. He did a leisurely tour of the plants that had that particular kind of flower, then zoomed off.

How the heck did he find those flowers? You know there's not a lot of forage for hummingbirds at the 13th floor level of the stratosphere. Sure, the West Hills rise up behind us, but you'd think, on a breezy day, any scent that might have attracted him would be entirely dispersed within feet of the flowers. Yet there he was, brazenly suspending his tiny self 13 stories up, browsing potted plants as if they had been put out specifically for his nourishment. I should ask the gardener, maybe they were.

He certainly was a high point, absolutely no pun intended, of my day. I wonder whether hummingbirds have a regular route, revisiting flowers that hospitably regenerate nectar for them on a daily or weekly basis. I think I'll go sit on the roof some more.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Elevator conversations

Yesterday, the philosophy class was scheduled to discuss Plato's views on women (amazingly advanced for a guy writing 2500 years ago), but Prof. Harcourt's discussion of the table of contents of "The Republic" got such good conversations going that we didn't get to the women discussion. (You know a guy can teach up a storm if he can make a lively class out of a table of contents.)

I shared the elevator after class with a couple fellow students.

"Where was Plato when I was fighting for women's rights?", one woman said.

"Yes, I really like his idea that women have the same capacity to be Guardians as men," said another.

And they began to talk about their experiences in the struggle for women's rights back in the 20th century.

It got to be my floor. I didn't want to get off. I did, but in future I won't. Why trade getting back to my apartment a few minutes sooner for a lively discussion of Greek philosophy and women's lib? Next time, I just ride the elevator. Not like I'm going to miss my exit eventually.

OPB has its "driveway moments", programs so good people sit in their cars in the driveway after they get home to hear the end. Terwilliger Plaza residents provide "elevator moments", casual conversations so good they make it worthwhile to ride along for another few floors.

Dang, but I like it here!

Ochi has fans

My cat, Ochi, got admiring fans this morning from two sources.

Vera, who cleans my apartment every couple weeks, brought her friend Svetlana to admire him. We spoke Russian -- well, OK, I sort of mumbled through my rusty vocabulary and fading memory of grammar, and they encouraged and corrected me, since they are both from Ukraine and speak Russian like natives. (Putin, of course, would say Ukrainians ARE Russians. Many Ukrainians would beg to differ.) Ochi was, naturally, the center of attention, and Vera and Lana let me explain in English why his fur has been shaved away while they petted and cooed and made an entirely appropriate fuss over his gorgeousness.

Then John Wittwer, who lives down on the fifth floor, called to say he had a couple hard-boiled egg yolks he thought Ochi might like. I had just filled the food dish, so I declined the offer, but I'm sure egg yolks have lots of good protein. Anybody care to comment on feeding cats hard-boiled egg yolks?