It’s difficult to think of winter – the topic of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge — when the temperature’s nearly 80 degrees and I’m looking at the sea. I’m glad that I had these photos in my collection.
Lately, with changes in weather patterns, winters are not as severe as they used to be. Sometimes, weeks pass without snow and we get spoiled by so -called ‘good’ weather. We experienced a period like this in March. Then towards the end of the month, we woke up one morning to some ‘white stuff’ — a dusting, really. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. It was still winter.
Now this is winter!
The third snow fall on January 27, 2011 brought total amount to 36″ and made it the second snowiest month in New York City.
Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Until you have to go out in it. Especially when it starts to melt.
Every Friday evening at 9:00 p.m. in the summer, there’s a 30 minute fireworks display at Coney Island. I just love standing on the beach and watching the fireworks rise above my head and then fade into the night sky. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.
According to some statistics, we spend about an hour a day waiting. We wait for traffic lights and in line at the grocery store, the movie, the airport and at the doctor’s office. We wait for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Easter and other holidays. We wait for vacations and for our children to grow up. Some of us wait for retirement.
We spend so much time waiting, some of us have developed ways to manage our wait times. We read, talk on the phone, do crossword puzzles, take naps or eat.
In countries that are less bureaucratic, wait times can stretch for hours and force people to think of creative ways to avoid waiting or lessen the time they have to wait.
Recently, I went to the utility company to order new service. The number I took when I arrived was ’02’ but the number being served was in the 70s. An hour or more later when my number was called, I walked over to the representative I was directed to but someone else was there. He claimed to be #02 as well. I told the representative that I also had #02 and that I’d been there for more than an hour waiting patiently to be called.
Luckily for me, the fake #02 wasn’t too swift. When the representative asked, he replied that he’d been there earlier, gotten his number and left to run an errand.
We might not think about it but animals wait as well. Here, my neighbor’s dog waits patiently for her to come home.
What is a family? According to the dictionary, family for humans, is a group of people who are affiliated by blood, affinity or co-residence.
Some years ago, as I walked to the subway, a guy began walking beside me. He plied me with the usual questions then asked if I had a family. Of course, I said. I forget now what else I said only his response, which was something to the effect that my parents weren’t my family, they were my relatives. A husband and children were family. I remember feeling taken aback, jolted. If what he said were true, I thought, it meant that all along, I was wrong. I didn’t have a family. It was unsettling, to say the least.
In considering the concept of family, I also thought of same-sex families, blended families, single parent families, families headed by young adults, and families with adopted children.
After seeing wild animals up close last year and watching the way elephants and lions protect and nurture their young, I knew for this challenge that I had to include a few animal families as well.
Elephant herds provide an interesting study of animal families. Read more about them here –
Elephants have a matriarchal head. The family will consist of an older matriarch, her daughters (usually about 3 or 4 of them) and their calves. A typical elephant family usually comprises 6 to 12 individual elephants, but can expand to a larger group of 20. These females will assist each other with the birth and care of their young. This ‘babysitting’ is a very important part of the young elephant’s development as it prepares her for when she is a first-time mother. The matriarch is replaced by one of her daughters (usually the oldest) when she dies.
The family will eventually split, depending on the size of the herd. The decision to split also depends on the amount of food available in the area, as it may not be sufficient to sustain them all. This means that, in a large area, there will be several inter-related families. These families remain united to a certain extent and meet at watering holes and favourite feeding spots with much joy and celebration at seeing one another. Sometimes, herds combine to form larger clans. These clans are identified by observing the mannerisms of the members of each herd as they interact with those of another.
When travelling vast areas in search for food, the herd is led by the matriarch. The others follow her footsteps in single file. In this formation, they search for food and water. Calves hold on to the tails of their mothers with their trunks. The other females of the herd ensure that the calves are protected from outside dangers at all times by surrounding them as much as possible.
The fact that elephant herds are matriarch-led is most evident in the manner in which elephants mate. Bulls stick to a bachelor (all-male) pod in which they live and travel. When one of the bulls desires to mate, he will search out a herd of elephant cows. He will select a desirable cow and pursue her until she is ready to mount. She has the final say regarding whether or not she accepts the bull’s advances. Once he has mated with her, he returns to his bachelor herd, having nothing to do with the rearing or caring of the young.
Likewise, when the male calves in the herd mature into adolescence, they will also break away from the herd, gradually at first, and form bachelor pods with their peers. Adolescent females stick to their main herd until adulthood and, sometimes, even until death, depending of the resources available and the size of the herd.
Like humans, elephants are capable of forming very special bonds with their friends and family members. These relationships start at the core of the herd, i.e. mother and calf. But, they radiate out, and there have been astounding reports of lifelong bonds between elephants that have transcended time and even distance apart.
Elephants value their family structure, perhaps more so than many other animals. They are naturally outgoing, sociable animals and, as such, enjoy the interaction with fellow family- and herd members. Although structured, the herd is fluid enough to compensate for unforeseen circumstances (such as the death of one of the mothers, where other mothers allow the orphaned calf to suckle). Such ties are rare, and the empathetic and insightful nature of these magnificent animals continues to lure researchers deeper and deeper into the elephant psyche.
A Jamaican breakfast is usually a pretty substantial meal. It can consist of any of the following: boiled green banana, fried plantain, dumplings, Johnny Cakes, roasted breadfruit (when in season), Festival (a Johnny Cake made of flour and cornmeal), avocado (when in season) and yam with either steamed fish, ackee and saltfish, callaloo or callaloo and saltfish, corned beef, sardines, etc. Sometimes, there might be porridge made from oats, cornmeal, banana, plantain, peanut, etc.
I took the photo of a breakfast I had a few weeks ago at Max, a Jamaican restaurant in Hackensack, New Jersey. I went there specifically for the ackee and saltfish, a true treat, and No. 2 on National Geographic’s Top 1o National Dishes. I had it with Festival, fried roasted breadfruit, boiled dumplings, a slice of yam and a slice of avocado. Needless to say, I couldn’t finish it!