Sunday, June 28, 2020

Poetry Sunday: Tattoo by Ted Kooser

I'll be honest. I've never really understood the attraction of tattoos. Maybe it's a generational thing. Certainly, the younger generation seems much more enamored of them than the old fogey generation of which I'm a part. But Ted Kooser puts his finger on one of the problems with tattoos; a tattoo that might look okay on taut young skin could have a different aspect altogether as that skin gets older and...ah...softer and looser. What do you think?


by Ted Kooser
What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

This week in birds - #406

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:

A Double-crested Cormorant rests on a post in the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast.


A new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the federal government should act more aggressively to combat climate change.


Did you ever think you would live to see a time when temperatures reached 100 degrees F in the Arctic Circle? That is the situation in which we find ourselves in 2020. In the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, last Saturday the temperature topped out at 100.4 F.


Here are some tips about making your garden a more welcoming place for birds.


What lies off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea? A recent expedition to the inky depths of those waters revealed an unknown world of creatures and geologic features.


While people in this country are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, the cratering economy, the fight against systemic racism and police brutality, and the lack of leadership at the federal level, the Bureau of Land Management is churning out rapacious public lands projects at breakneck speed. Deforestation and sagebrush removal seem to be their priorities in response to requests from ranchers and oil drillers. Damn any vulnerable plant or animal species that may be affected!


Zoonotic diseases (those that can jump from animals to humans) happen most often at the edges of the world's tropical forests, so cutting down those forests may bring humans more in contact with such diseases and make transmission more likely.


Here's a hint that maybe scientists shouldn't be quick to declare a species extinct: A flowering tree species, known only as Wendlandia angustifolia, was declared extinct back in the 1990s, but in fact, some of the trees have been found alive and well and living in India’s Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. 


Yellow-billed Cuckoo, colloquially known as Rain Crow.

Protecting birds like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo may have the added benefit of protecting western rivers.


Two new studies find an increasing likelihood of wildfires becoming more common in California and the Northwest, but the studies also offer some solutions to the problem.


A coalition of Native American tribes and conservation groups is working together to try to save and protect the cougars in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.


The endangered seabirds of Hawaii are facing extinction unless nonnative invasive predators such as feral cats can be controlled.


Stuck at home during the pandemic lockdown, two entomologists have discovered nine new insect species from specimens collected by citizen scientists. 


Wind farms can provide clean, renewable energy, but they can also be devastating to bird and flying mammal populations unless they are correctly located. This is the problem currently facing the Icebreaker Wind project on Lake Erie. 


Grassland birds are rapidly losing their habitat and gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as the current administration in Washington is trying to do, will make the problem much, much worse. 


A North Atlantic right whale has been found dead off the New Jersey coast. There are only about 400 of the whales left on the planet. 


The National Park Service stopped staging pyrotechnics at Mount Rushmore in 2010 out of concern that it could ignite wildfires under drought conditions. But when Donald Trump wants fireworks on the site on the Fourth of July, it seems no concerns will stop him - not the prospect of wildfires or of spreading the deadly coronavirus.


Oystercatchers sleep with one eye open when there is human activity around, so it's likely they have been sleeping much more soundly during the pandemic lockdown!


Three Southeast Asian leaf monkeys have now been determined to be three separate species whereas they had previously been lumped together as one.


Piping Plover

A new scheme for mining in The Bahamas would threaten the winter home of vulnerable migratory shorebird species like the Piping Plover and Red Knot.


In the future, California will require that trucks sold in the state be zero-emissions. The first stage will require half of them to meet this standard by 2035 and all must meet it by 2045.


Margaret Renkl has an appreciation of the shy, often misunderstood, and maligned rattlesnake.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly: A review

Michael Connelly employs the same writing technique he has used so successfully in his police procedurals, private detective mysteries, and "Lincoln lawyer" stories in his latest book featuring investigative journalist Jack McEvoy. We follow the reporter step by step as he works to cover a complicated story involving the misuse of DNA data and a possible serial killer. McEvoy has investigated and helped to take down a couple of serial killers in the past, so one might say this is his wheelhouse. He has written a couple of popular books about his experiences with those cases, but he's now employed as a reporter for a website called Fair Warning that champions consumer rights so he first approaches his story as it pertains to the violation of consumer rights.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story begins when McEvoy is visited by two detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department who are investigating the murder of a woman named Tina Portrero. Portrero is someone whom McEvoy had had a one-night stand with several months earlier, but he had had no further contact with her and hadn't seen her since. The method by which the woman was killed was surprising; her neck had been twisted so hard that her spine was severed, a method called Atlanto-Occipital Dislocation (AOD). As McEvoy researches that technique, he finds other cases of women across the country who have been killed in this way and he begins to wonder if he may have another serial killer in his sights.

His initial problem is to figure out what those women might have had in common that could have brought them to the attention of their killer. He finds that connection in a DNA testing company called GT23. He learns that the company had openly sold the DNA analysis of some of their clients, ostensibly anonymously, to different entities for "research purposes." But the anonymity of their clients was not 100% guaranteed and it appears that a clever hacker was able to identify the DNA donors and pull out those with genes that indicated a propensity for "risky behavior." And thus McEvoy has his hook for a story about abuse of consumer rights.

To help him find the information he needs, McEvoy reaches out to a former FBI agent who he has worked with in the past and with whom he had once had a romantic relationship. Her name is Rachel Walling and she has featured in several Connelly books. After her last interaction with McEvoy, she had lost the job that she loved and was so good at with the FBI. These days she is a private investigator, but McEvoy needs her skills as a profiler to help him find a murderer. The two start working together and soon the romantic spark is reignited, but we can sense that McEvoy is going to sabotage it as he has before. 

As McEvoy and a female reporter from Fair Warning, along with Rachel Walling, begin following their leads, they find a cesspool of misogyny in the tech world, most starkly exemplified by the hateful Incel groups that cyberstalk and harass women, denigrating and abusing them online and sometimes acting out violently toward women in the real world. If such groups were able to identify women who might be vulnerable to their attacks through analysis of the women's DNA, they would have a virtually unlimited source of victims for their bullying. And that, the investigators find to their horror, seems to be just what has happened.

Connelly is at his best in delineating intricate plots and leading the reader along with a riveting storyline to a satisfying conclusion. He hasn't lost his touch. I was completely invested in this story right from the beginning, and, though I am far from a tech genius, I had no difficulty following along with his explanations of how things played out in this complex story. Perhaps we will be getting more investigative reporter procedurals from the master in the future and that could be a very good thing.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars   

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Throwback Thursday: The new Know-Nothings

Earlier this week, I read a column in The New York Times by Paul Krugman titled "A Plague of Willful Ignorance" and later the same day a Washingon Post column titled "The U.S. is falling behind its peers. Americans - if not their leaders - are starting to notice." The columns pricked my memory. Hadn't I written something along those same lines a few years ago? A search through the blog archives revealed that my memory was correct. Almost eight years ago in 2012, I had written this post about "The new Know-Nothings." Little could I have guessed at the time to what levels these Know-Nothings would sink. They have left their nineteenth-century forbears in the dust when it comes to willful ignorance.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The new Know-Nothings

I was reading a story about Bill Nye, the Science Guy, a couple of days ago when I came across a sentence that literally made me groan out loud. It said, "In June, a Gallup poll revealed that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago." So much for science and the fossil record. So much for critical thinking. These people prefer to accept the Bible as their scientific and historical text and not worry their little heads about any more complicated explanations. Oh, well, I guess we should just be relieved that the percentage wasn't even higher.

As the story pointed out, the United States stands alone among modern industrialized states in this Know-Nothingism. It's only in the most backward and theocratic places on earth that you would find such a high percentage of people who refuse to acknowledge evolution as settled science.

The same disheartening assessment can be made regarding human-caused global warming. The United States is the center, the hotbed of denialism.

Indeed, a denial of evolution and a denial of global climate change seem to go hand-in-hand. Both refusals to accept the facts established by science involve a kind of magical thinking. Dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time and Noah carried two of them onto the Ark! God is looking out for us and will not allow the earth's systems to be destroyed by human negligence; therefore, global warming cannot be happening. Both thought processes, of course, absolve humans of any responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

In this march back to the Dark Ages, Texas Republicans proudly lead the way. Earlier this year, they came up with a party platform that sought to ban the teaching of critical thinking skills in schools! Their reason was that critical thinking causes people to focus on behavior modification and, according to them, it has "the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." Heaven forbid that a fifteen-year-old should be forced to reexamine his/her "fixed beliefs" or that s/he should question whether father really knows best. 

This refusal of a large percentage of Americans to think critically and rationally about issues facing them and the country certainly goes a long way toward explaining many of the problems which our society has. It truly is enough to make one despair of the future. In fact, Bill Nye himself seems to despair of the adults whose brains are already ossified, but, in a video that is making its way around the Internet, he asks them please not to impose their beliefs on their children.

It seems a reasonable argument to me. Let the kids think for themselves and make up their own minds. Somehow, though, I doubt it will be persuasive to that 46 percent that the Gallup pollsters counted.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke: A review

I read Attica Locke's acclaimed book, Bluebird, Bluebird, in 2017 and promised myself that I would read more. Finally, with Black Water Rising, I'm beginning to fulfill that promise to myself.

This book is actually Locke's first published novel. It came out in 2009 and was nominated for all sorts of awards including the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. The book is set in Locke's hometown of Houston, Texas in 1981. We moved here a few years later and I can attest that her references to places in the city and to the culture and attitudes of the place in the 1980s ring true.

Houston in 1981 was growing fast. Too fast. The city was built on a base of oil and the oil "barons" had virtually free rein in it. It was a city where a lot of people were trying to make a new start in their lives. Among them was Jay Porter.

Porter was an African-American lawyer with a fledgling practice that he ran out of a dingy strip mall. His clients are mostly poor and barely able to pay him, if at all. His most promising case at the moment involves a prostitute who is suing her john.

It's not exactly the legal practice Porter had dreamed of in his college days as a civil rights activist, but now he's married, with a wife almost ready to deliver their first child. He's made his peace for the moment with his dreams of glory and is just trying to get by and support and protect his family.

Porter had been born in an East Texas town called Nigton where he had learned a valuable lesson:
“Keep your head down, speak only when spoken to. A warning drilled into him every day of his life growing up in Nigton, Texas, née Nig Town, née Nigger Town (its true birth name when it sprang up a hundred years ago in the piney woods of East Texas).”
He had abandoned that strategy somewhat as a college student at the University of Houston, where he had been active in the civil rights movement and had rubbed shoulders with people like Stokely Carmichael and Huey Newton. But as a lawyer, he had other priorities:
“Practicing law, he would soon find out, is like running any other small business. Most days he’s just trying to make his overhead: insurance and filing fees, Eddie Mae’s meager salary, plus $500 a month to lease the furnished office space on West Gray. He, quite frankly, can’t afford his principles.”
While at the University of Houston, he had also rubbed shoulders and other parts of the body with another UH student named Cynthia Maddox. When Jay was arrested and charged with a felony, it had ruptured their relationship. He was acquitted, but Cynthia had abandoned him. Now she is the mayor of Houston, the first woman to hold that position. (Kathy Whitmire was, in fact, the first woman to be elected to that position and that was in the 1980s.) 

Jay wants to do something special for his wife for her birthday and he settles on a (he hopes) romantic nighttime barge trip on Buffalo Bayou. The plan goes reasonably well until on the way back they hear two gunshots and a woman's scream and then a splash as something large hits the waters of the bayou. They can hear someone struggling in the muck and Bernie, the wife, insists that Jay go into the black waters to help. He can't say no so he strips off and jumps in, finds a woman struggling in the water, and brings her to the barge. She is a White woman who is clearly uneasy as she views the three Black people, including the captain, on the barge, but they get her to shore and again Bernie insists that they take her to the police station. They leave her there on the steps of the station as Jay drives very slowly and carefully away, making sure he obeys all traffic laws.

Meantime, there is tension brewing between the Black Brotherhood of Longshoremen and the White International Longshoremen's Association over whether to strike for equality of pay and treatment. The tension bursts into flame when a teenage member of the Black group is brutally beaten by three White men. Jay's father-in-law, Reverend Boykins, requests his help. He wants him to reach out to the mayor to try to bring peace between the two groups. Jay is reluctant but it is impossible to refuse the man who is the closest thing to a father that he has.

The author skillfully develops these parallel tracks of her plot until we finally are able to see connections. Those connections all lead back to the power structure, the real power structure, of the city.

Attica Locke had me from the first paragraph of this book. She made palpable for me the fear and anxiety that are an integral part of the Black male's (or female's, for that matter) interactions with the police. We know only too well that those interactions in American society are fraught with inequality and, too often, a lack of respect on the part of the police. And too often they end in tragedy.

And how do we reach that Utopia of equality? I give you the Reverend Boykins:
“Rev says, “pretending people aren’t black is not the way to equality. It’s not even possible, first of all. Any more than I can pretend you aren’t who you are.”
Maybe we just have to accept each other as we are, realizing that we all bleed the same color red, and start from there. 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Poetry Sunday: The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

This poem was suggested to me by my younger daughter. It seems perfect for celebrating this the first full day of summer 2020. It has been a year full of trauma and yet we are still here. And what do you plan to do with the rest of "your one wild and precious life?"

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Friday, June 19, 2020

This week in birds - #405

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:

Here's a Rock Wren that I photographed on a trip to Big Bend National Park a few years ago. Big Bend just happens to be one of my favorite places on Earth and a birding hotspot.


Scientists are reporting that after a drastic decline this spring as the pandemic hit worldwide, global greenhouse gas emissions are now rebounding sharply as countries relax their coronavirus lockdowns and traffic surges back onto roads.


One of the until now unreported effects of climate change is on pregnant women. Women exposed to high temperatures and/or air pollution are more likely to have premature, underweight, or stillborn babies. Moreover, based on the study of American women, African-American women and babies are harmed at a much higher rate than the population at large.


The Appalachian region of the United States is one of the most biodiverse parts of the country and it has been identified as an "extinction hotspot" for plants, emphasizing the need to protect that biodiversity before some plants disappear forever.


The permafrost of the Arctic is melting and is releasing trapped carbon and methane into the atmosphere. The question is can this process be reversed or have we already reached the point of no return?


The Northern Bobwhite Quail is attracted to a habitat area based on whether other bobwhites are present there. Hoping to help restore the bobwhite to areas where it has disappeared, a cranberry producer in New Jersey has been approved to be a part of the USDA funded Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat Restoration Program.


A landslide has blocked the way for wild salmon in British Columbia to spawn in the Fraser River. Conservationists are clearing debris and constructing a concrete fish ladder to try to help the fish over the obstruction.


Every bird has its day and today belongs to the albatrosses. It is the first World Albatross Day and New Zealand is the world's albatross capital with seventeen species found there, eleven of which breed in that country.  


Ecotourism has been a boost to conservation around the world in recent years, but now, with the pandemic raging, ecotourism has been seriously impacted and that is a threat to conservation efforts.


Humans have three types of color-sensitive cones in their eyes—attuned to red, green, and blue light—but birds have a fourth type, sensitive to ultraviolet light. A research team has been working with wild Broad-tailed Hummingbirds to investigate how birds perceive their colorful world.


A study published in Insect Science states that butterfly diversity in tropical rainforests and savannahs is threatened by human-modified habitat loss and climate change. This is a particular concern because butterflies are considered bioindicators of environmental change.


Feeding birds is a good way to get into the hobby of birding especially now that we are staying close to home. Here are some tips about how to feed birds safely and responsibly.


It is possible that the iconic saguaro cactus may disappear from the Sonoran Desert as the area heats up. The climate may become too hot for the cactus to reproduce.


Platypuses rescued from Australia's wildfires have been rehabilitated and are being returned to the wild and to an uncertain future.


The Supreme Court has ruled against environmentalists and cleared the way for a natural gas pipeline to be built under the Appalachian Trail in rural Virginia.


British Columbia seems poised to give the okay to a coal mine that is planned for the heart of the critical habitat for an endangered caribou herd.


China has banned the use of pangolin scales in traditional Chinese medicine and has elevated the animal to a level one protected species in the country.


Florida is a rich avian landscape, home to more than 500 species, but its breeding birds need protection in order to coexist with the state's growing human population.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Ex by Alafair Burke: A review

This book was my introduction to Alafair Burke, another writer that I had long intended to read but hadn't gotten around to. It was an impressive introduction. I think Burke must have learned a thing or two about plotting and character development from her father, James Lee Burke. But her voice is absolutely original and fresh; consequently, this was an enjoyable summer read.

This psychological thriller presents Olivia Randall as the protagonist. Olivia is a criminal defense attorney of some renown in New York City. Twenty years before, as a law student, she was engaged to Jack Harris, but she cheated on him repeatedly and eventually when he could no longer deny it, they had a big bust-up and Jack rushed away from their argument and called his brother Owen to commiserate and get drunk with him. When his brother, a police officer, was driving home later he had an automobile accident in which he was killed. The shock of everything drove Jack into a psychotic break and he ended up in a mental hospital for months. Olivia was consumed with a guilt of which, in twenty years, she has never been able to rid herself.

Olivia continued having serial affairs as she rose in the ranks of the community of lawyers and Jack went on to become a successful author and to marry and have a daughter named Buckley, now fifteen. Three years ago Jack's and Buckley's world came crashing down when Jack's wife and Buckley's mother was murdered by a teenage boy in a mass killing of thirteen people. The murderer then committed suicide.

Jack blamed the boy's father who had refused to recognize the signs of mental illness and to get help for the boy. And now that man, too, has been killed in a mass shooting and Jack, who had a civil suit against the man, was in the area at the time. He is arrested on suspicion of the killing. Buckley calls Olivia to help her father. At last, Olivia has a chance to possibly save Jack and to finally expunge her load of guilt over the way that she treated him all those years ago. 

The Jack that Olivia knew was a mild-mannered man and she is thoroughly convinced that he could never have committed murder. She throws herself into the battle to defend him against the charges. But if he didn't kill those people, why do all the clues lead so neatly to him? Is this a frame? If so, it seems to be a very tightly fitting one. And who would want to frame him?

I thought the plot was well-paced; it kept things moving and kept the reader interested. All of the main characters have flaws and are not necessarily exactly as they seem on the surface. I felt that Olivia's guilt about Jack was a bit overplayed. I mean it was twenty years ago and obviously, Jack was able to move on, but she still seems to be wallowing in it in spite of her successful career and comfortable life. 

I actually figured out "whodunit" pretty early on, using Sherlock Holmes' dictum that when you eliminate the impossible whatever is left, however improbable it may be, is the truth. It was fun to follow along with the author as she developed the story and brought it to a conclusion. It made for a fast read.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: A review

The horrific story told by Colson Whitehead in his 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Nickel Boys, is made more horrific by the knowledge that it is based on a true story. In 2014, Whitehead learned of the project of archaeology students at the University of South Florida who were digging up remains of boys who had been tortured, raped, mutilated, and killed at a state-run school called Dozier School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle town of Marianna. The bodies were then deposited in a secret graveyard. The Dozier School was in business for a century and only closed in 2011. The graves of its victims were still being discovered even after Whitehead's book was published. It's unlikely that there will ever be a full accounting of the number of boys who were buried in all those hidden graves, but what is known is gruesome and nightmarish enough.

Whitehead recreates Dozier as the Nickel Academy of Eleanor, Florida. It's a place where "delinquent" boys are sent by the courts. White, black, and Hispanic boys are sent there, but conditions are slightly better for the white boys. The lash literally falls most heavily on the black boys whose stories are told through the experiences of a teenager named Elwood Curtis. 

Elwood's parents had abandoned him at age six to the care of his grandmother while they headed to California. The grandmother, Harriet, was a cleaner in a Tallahassee hotel. Her family history is a litany of tragedies that would not be unfamiliar to many families whose ancestors were victims of America's original sin of slavery. She was a tenacious and strong woman who was determined that her grandson would have a better life. She raised Elwood to be a diligent student and to strive to improve his lot by going to college. It is the 1960s and she gives him a record of Dr. Martin Luther King's sermons. It's the only record he owns and he listens to it over and over and is inspired. He also has the good luck to have a teacher who recognizes his intelligence and his striving and who informs him of advanced classes he might take at a nearby technical college. But then his luck runs out.

He wants to visit that technical college and he tries hitchhiking to get there. He is picked up by a black man who, it turns out, has stolen the car he is driving. When the police stop the car, they arrest not only the driver but Elwood as well, even though he had no knowledge of the crime. He is convicted, of course, and the judge sends him to Florida Industrial School for Boys, an institution for nonviolent offenders that calls itself a reform school and its inmates students. As Elwood soon learns, all the violent offenders were on the school's staff.

More informally the Florida Industrial School for Boys is known as Nickel for Trevor Nickel who was the school's director during the World War II era, and so inmates became "Nickel Boys." Nickel got the job of director by impressing the local Ku Klux Klan with speeches about moral improvement and the value of work, and as director, he liked to watch the boys shower allegedly in order to monitor their fitness and the progress of their physical education. This was the cesspool into which poor Elwood had been dropped.

Once dropped in the cesspool, there were essentially five possible ways out:
  1. A boy could age out. Once he turned eighteen, the school washed its hands of him and sent him out into the world. 
  2. He could keep his head down, try to obey all the rules, and serve out his time.
  3. Very occasionally, if he had a family and lawyer to plead his case, a judge might be persuaded to order his release.
  4. Death, of course, was the ultimate release.
  5. There were rare occasions when a boy was able to successfully escape from Nickel. 
Elwood's time at Nickel is a monstrous litany of almost incomprehensible suffering. It makes for harrowing reading, even as Whitehead relates the story in the straightforward, unembellished voice of someone just stating the facts. The only saving grace for me was that the book was short, just over 200 pages. I'm not sure how much more I could have stood. And yet all I had to do was read about it; the boys of Dozier (Nickel) actually had to endure it. Until they couldn't.

Whitehead is a brilliant writer and his book deserves all the accolades it has received. Moreover, it deserves to be even more widely read by those who may still harbor illusions about the benevolence of our society's treatment of children, particularly black children, in institutional care. Or, for that matter, even if they are not in institutional care. The wages of our original sin continue to be paid. We hear about it in the news every day.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2020

Happy June Bloom Day to all! I hope the day finds you well and your garden flourishing.

Here in Southeast Texas, the combination of hot, humid days and little or no rain has done a number on my garden. Parts of it are parched, possibly beyond recall, but the more stalwart of my plants continue to bloom in spite of all hardship.

 The yellow cannas have been especially pretty this month.

The blanket flowers wilt in mid-day but still continue to send out blooms.

As do the gerbera daisies.

The blue plumbago is undaunted. The shrubs are covered in these flowers.
The milkweed has been blooming nicely but has had few Monarch or Queen butterfly visitors.

 Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender.' 

 Foxgloves suffer from the weather but are still blooming.

 Petunia 'Laura Bush.'

 Ornamental potato vine.


 And more lantana.

Beautyberries are, of course, known for their shiny berries rather than their blooms, but here are those blooms.

 Duranta erecta, aka golden dewdrop.

 Peegee hydrangea.

 Clerodendrum 'Cashmere Bouquet,' aka Mexican hydrangea.

 June means the crinums are beginning to bloom.

 And more crinums.

 Justicia 'Orange Flame.'

 Summer blooming chrysanthemums.

Native sunflowers.

The 'Peggy Martin' rose got a severe pruning several weeks ago to combat a bad case of blackspot, but it came back this month and rewarded us with another flush of blooms.

 And the "Lady of Shalott' just goes on and on.

The large almond verbena shrub is covered in these tiny, fragrant white flowers.


 Summer phlox.

The blooms of the 'Purple Ballerina' datura have ripened into these seedpods called "devil's apples." 

 A bank of mixed four o'clocks.

 In the little goldfish/frog pond, the pink water lilies are blooming.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a favorite with pollinators.

And there you have a look at the plants that continue to brighten my garden and my life with their flowers. Thank you for visiting. I look forward to visiting your garden in turn.

Thank you, Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting us once again.