Archive for the ‘quote’ category

Quote – John Muir on “Nature”

7 January 2011





John Muir (1838-1914)

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.

John Muir, Naturalist and explorer


Image Credits: Click on image to reach source.

  • Building… – US National Parks Service, Public domain.
  • Creating… – Edward Crateau, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain.
  • Destroying… – Christian Revival Network on Flickr. CC Attribution 3.0 Unported.


Quote – Thoreau on “Hunting”

6 April 2010

You seek the bird...

but get only the body!

A gun gives you the body, not the bird.

Henry David Thoreau

"The Hunters at rest" by Vasily Grigorevich Perov (1871)

Credits: Wikimedia Commons.


25 February 2010

– a poem by Ashok Mahajan

Two purple-white rose blossoms shown one above the other amongst mint-green leaves.

I missed the chance to nose... a pure damask rose

A pile of brown manure to front and right in a meadow with a chestnut coloured horse in the background slightly out of focus

..merely with animal or human waste.

Bred among odours of ordure
I missed the chance to nose
A pure damask rose.
Now fully grown I realize
We were only taught to use
Green fields as lavatories,
And therefore I have come to associate
All kinds of hues
Merely with animal or human waste.

Pericrocotus flammeus

A tinge of minivet-scarlet
Is no reminiscence of that bird,
But of betel-spittle stains
Left by movie fans
On walls of cinema halls,
And by pimps and harlots
In red-light lanes.

Red betel nut spit stains on a tarmac road.

....but of betel-spittle stains left by...pimps and harlots in red-light lanes.

Siris leaves possess
An autumn flavescence immeasurably less

Than expectorations of asthmatic old men
Coughing doubled-up on loose
Squeaky string cots whose
Rans of twine
Are bro-
Ken as their thoughts.

A golden yellow bovine with blue-grey horns curved back and head lowered to eat grass. The fence of a zoo enclosure is seen in the background.

A takin-gold evokes... memories of some rare beast.

A takin-gold evokes
Not in the least
Memories of dawn or some rare beast,

But scats of stray dogs
Like pagoda heaps

Among scattered slippers
Of scores of worshippers
At a Vashnoi temple-feast.

Tourists note
in Ajanta art
I know this pigment from
pools of bovine piss
at any vegetable mart.

Fresco-amber from Ajanta art...

...than pools of bovine piss in a vegetable mart.

Ashok Mahajan, is an Indian poet whose “Goan Vignettes and other poems” provide a peep into the quaint, idyllic and sometimes  anachronistic Goan life-style. This poem, the first poem of the first section – ‘Eclectic sketches” – is one of the ‘other poems’.

Though the compilation is considered light-hearted by some critics, Mahajan’s poems are of more value to the common man who would better appreciate his short true-to-life vignettes of life in Goa as well as in other parts of India. May I add that I am biased towards him as he is a retired army officer, my father’s good friend and he fueled my interest in poetry, though I’m sure that he thought it was to no avail.

In ‘Culture’, he shows us how colours associated conventionally with poetic and literary motifs are equally well served by less salubrious examples in human life. Though the poet chooses his words carefully to avoid repugnance, his craftsmanship and choice of examples evokes graphic images.

The poet attempts to show us colours through Alice’s  looking glass – a new way of imagining colour. At the same time he gives us many ways to interpret this poem.

Is he indicating that  ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are two sides of the same coin as in Kipling’s infamous line :

“For the colonel’s lady an’ Judy O’Grady, Are sisters under their skins”?

Or that good and evil are interlinked as in old English proverb:

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Perhaps he mocks the futility of objects that people desire and upon which they bestow high epithets, echoing Daniel Webster’s words:

“One may live as a conqueror, a king, or a magistrate; but he must die as a man.”

I prefer to look at it from the earthy viewpoint of nature-watching. That the commonplace and unremarkable things in nature are as valuable or fascinating or worthwhile to watch as the rare, the unusual and bizarre.

The poem also obliquely draws my thought to a dialogue between the protagonist(s) in “The Last Samurai” – Tom Cruise (as Nathan Allgren a  disenchanted ex-United States Army captain) and Ken Watanabe, the samurai warlord Katsumoto. They talk about finding perfection in life and its virtues, symbolised by the cherry blossom : –

Katsumoto: The perfect (cherry) blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.
Katsumoto: I also. It happens to men who have seen what we have seen. But then I come to this place of my ancestors, and I remember. Like these blossoms, we are all dying. To know life in every breath, every cup of tea, every life we take. The way of the warrior….
Nathan Algren: Life in every breath…
Katsumoto: That is Bushido.

A swathe of white cherry blossoms with carmine stamens hang from a branxch highlighted agaist a blue sky.

The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.


  • All files from Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise specified.
  • Click images to reach source page on Commons or elsewhere.
  • Cherry Blossoms – Sakura CC3.0.
  • Takin – ‘stevehdc’ ( on Flickr) CC2.0.
  • Chestnut horse & manure – Malene Thyssen, CC2.5SA.
  • Rose – Ulf Eliasson, CC 2.5.
  • Cow & vegetable mart – ‘brotherscarface’ in webshots (unlicensed).
  • Ajanta fresco – Jonathan A. White (public domain).
  • Betelnut spit – Scott Zona on Flickr (CC 2.0).
  • Scarlet Minivet – JM Garg, CC 3.0.

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!

10 January 2010

Chief Seattle, whose letter warns us of the need to hold nature dear in our hearts.

At a time when the people of the world cannot agree what to do about climate change and when England is completely covered with snow as if replaying the events of the 2004 film  “The Day After Tomorrow“, it is pertinent to remember the words of a very famous Native American, Chief Si’ahl (anglicised as Seattle).

Chief Si’ahl (c. 1780 – June 7, 1866) , the leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes in what is now the American state of Washington, allegedly wrote the letter in the 1800s to the United States Government.

It is less important to know whether he wrote it or not, than to know what is said in it.

Chief Seattle’s Letter

“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land?

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

A minimal footprint on nature – Native American girls gathering berries.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.”

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.

This letter, a famous speech and many quotations (including the title of this post) are alleged to have been quoted by Chief Si’ahl.

Read more about Chief Si’ahl here and his quotations here.

Credits Clouds over hills image (author : vsz/Victor Szalvay, CC-BY-SA 2.0), Palouse fields (author : Dsdugan, public domain)- all these images are of Washington State where Chief Si’ahl lived with his tribe. The image Native American girls picking berries (author : Edward S. Curtis, 1868-1952, public domain) as well as the other images, are from Wikimedia Commons. Chief Seattle’s image though public domain and available in Wikimedia Commons was selected from a website using Google Images.

Quote – William Henry Hudson on ‘Lawns’

11 December 2009

I am not a lover of lawns. Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn.

William Henry Hudson,

author and naturalist (1841-1922).

Author of  ‘Green Mansions‘ downloadable here.

Ground Ivy (Glecoma hederacea), an aromatic perennial creeper, growing wild in the Polish countryside, just as Hudson would have loved it.

Quote – Jimbo Wales on ‘Wikipedia’

26 August 2009
Get the world's knowledge from your laptop!

Get the world's knowledge from your laptop!

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”

–    Jimmy Donal “Jimbo” Wales, Co-founder of   Wikipedia

Quoted in Robin “Roblimo” Miller, “Wikimedia Founder Jimmy Wales Responds,” Slashdot (2004-07-28)

Also by Wales..

We help the internet not suck.”


Thanks to Keith, Roger, Arif, Vijay and others we have an interesting picture developing of an
Indian Burnet moth called

Cyclosia midama,  Herrich-Schäffer, 1853    Family Zygaenidae or the BURNET MOTHS (Subfamily


Burnet moths are poisonous in all stages of life! That is because, unlike most other butterflies
and moths which assimiliate the poison from the food plants as larvae, burnet moths actually
prepare HYDROGEN CYANIDE in their body as part of the normal chemistry.

Hence they are well protected right throughout. They consequently evolved to have bright colouring
and prominent markings both as adults and caterpillars. See :-

These are dangerous, the larva of Chalcosinae can even excrete out and store Hydrogen Cyanide as

Good Lord! And I was so cavalier in handling the beautiful creature without gloves. Thank God I
didnt find and handle the caterpillar. This is a very important point that all of us forget. There
are dangerous things out there in the jungle – and many times we dont even recognise them.
Zygaenids or burnet moths are very common in the tropics. Its a good idea to avoid bright,
prominent insects if you are a predator – as this is nature’s way of indicating, stand off –
approach at your own peril!

The most interesting thing is that it appears inedible danaid butterflies such as the Blue Crow
(Euploea mulciber) have evolved to take advantage of this resemblance. This is called Mullerian
mimicry (to differentiatiate it from Batesian mimicry where a palatable butterfly resembles an
unpalatable butterfly to take advantage of its protection by fooling the predator). For an
explanation of how Mullerian mimicry works, please  see :-

It also appears that the larvae of certain Papilionidae such as the Chinese Windmill
”Atrophaneura alcinous”, a species found in Manipur/Mizoram has also evolved to resemble that of
this deadly moth, Cyclosia midama. The moth is mimicked in every stage by one creature or the

Th moth is relatively common having been reported by Vijay & Arif from Arunachal Pradesh and self
in Dooars and is really really beautiful!

It deserves a common name. What should we call it ?

I suggest the

Blue Beauty

The Blue Beauty is the name given to photos of Earth from space, a delicate-blue water lily and
many works of art/jewelry etc.

The moth is blue, beautiful, brings to mind images of a beautiful woman blue in colour by poison
(shades of Neelkanth).


Beautiful Blue Burnet

Comments please, otherwise I’m going ahead.

With regards from one in love with the Blue Beauty,

Ashwin Baindur

It had just stopped raining in the  forests southwest of Binnaguri. The sky was overcast. Slowly, the ground absorbed the water which had not flowed away. Under the protective branches of a bush trying to reach high in the shady alcove of the forest, a flash of dark blue caught my attention.

Ah, a lovely butterfly, I thought as it  flashed its way to another such bunch of leaves. When I reached near, the wings opened and a gorgeous pattern of blue wings spotted with blue emerged. I rejoiced for I had finally come across the most gaudy and colourful members of the Danaids or Crow family – the Blue Crows. Amazing buttterflies, they…

The Crows, like other Danaids are inedible, fly slowly and leisurely flaunting their prominent markigs which shout to all creatures of their poisonousness and inedibility. Once i had the butterfly cupped in my arms, I looked very carefully. i realised that something was wrong but i couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Suddenly realisation dawned. The antennas looked strange because they were straight and had no clubs. What I had in my hands was a female moth! Gingerly so as not to harm it, I held it one hand and photographed it with another.

It was really, really beautiful. It mimicked the Blue Crows to perfection; it looked like one. It flew like one. It behaved like one – slow clumsy flight, not difficult to catch, with body constriction just like that made by a crow, right down to the yellow tendrils waving from the tip of the abdomen. It was uit uncanny.

After a while, I released it and after a full day’s outing went back to my room.

Indian moths are hard to identify. There is a tremendous amount of work yet to be one. The only really comprehensive work Fauna of British India, (Moths) volumes appeared in the last decade of the nineteenth century and were authored by G. F. Hampson. But I did not have it at that time. Today it is freely downloadable at

So I did the next best thing! I  requested identification on Indian Moths. It turned out to be a most interesting query and the moth turned out to be deadly. Beautiiful, but deadly.

Arif Siddiqui in Southeast Arunachal responded first. He said that he had spotted the moth just about then and was thinking of  postng for its id when he saw my post.  From Binnaguri to Jairampur, thats 694 kilometers apart! A very goodly range indeed!

We soon got an id from Roger Kendrick, the guy in charge of all the Moths of Hong Kong (seriously ;-)). He was apoplectic. After he recovered, he told us that  –

“This looks like the nominate subspecies of a burnet moth (family Zygaenidae, subfamily Chalcosiinae) that goes by the name of Cyclosia midamia, if Endo & Kishida (1999; Day-flying Moths: Chalcosiinae, Epicopeia; Endless Science Information, Tokyo) is anything to go by.

I wonder why people consider burnets as mimics. They are a more primitive group than most larger moths and butterflies – so it would seem logical that they are the original distasteful models that more recently eveloved taxa (especially Danainae) have evolved to mimic (in Müllerian mimicry rings).”

Moth-ers consider butterfly guys to be ignorant, self-important snoots! And with good reason too! I thought that this moth mimicked a butterfly! As per Roger, it was the other way round. This whole family of moths, the Chalcosiinae, is far older than the Danainae subfamily commonly called Crows and Tigers.

Roger mentioned the Chalcosiinae as ‘primitive’. That’s a politically incorrect term now, as I was rudely told on Wikipedia by an irate editor; one should use the term ‘basal’.

An interesting emailversation followed between Roger and Krushnamegh Kunte about whether the butterflies or the moths were the ‘model’.  The argument was put that the moths had evolved first. The point was then made that it was not known as to which which group evolved aposematic  colouration first. It was submitted that Crows being the more populous ‘drove’ the mimicry, to be countered by the assertion that the moth could have been  more poulous in the past. This was met with a repartee that the butterflies being far more numerous today were driving ‘mimicry’ and that the past situation could not e acertained.

With a lot of goodwill, these two experts argued, watched by me with gaping mouth, marvelling at the erudition and knowledge on display.

For those who have been lost so far – a instructive interlude.

Suppose a butterfly eats inedible plants as a larva and ‘sequesters’ those toxins within itself – that’s called being inedible.

At this point, no bird or lizard or whatever knows about this, so it samples this butterfly. The butterfly tastes disgusting and distasteful, so the predator spits it out and vows never to eat this filthy stuff again.

In order to make it easier for the bird/lizard to ‘remember’, the butterfly develops distinctive patterns with bright colours so that once sample, the predator remembers the disctinct markings and avoids it. This develomnt of warning advertisement is called ‘aposematism’.



double mimicry


Such a beautiful

Quote – Holmes on ‘Entomology’

22 August 2009
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

” I suppose you are an entomologist ? ”

” Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name.

No man can be truly called an entomologist,
sir;  the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

The Poet at the Breakfast Table.

Image credit : Wikimedia Commons.