Acknowledgment long overdue

For the past few years, I have been receiving postcards from Theo Nelson regularly. They are lovely and colorful handmade cards with a poem on the back. I got another one today — all the others are lined up on a wall in my office — and I thought it was about time to mention it. It’s Spring again!


Of course, Spring in western Minnesota doesn’t look much like that: what we have is lots of gray rain, gray dirty snow shrinking into lumps of gray dirty ice, and brown grass poking up through mud…but we’ll take it!

(Reverse of card below the fold)



  1. jorge says

    At least it is getting warmer here in the great Pac. NW. The card reminds me of some of the ferns in the Olympics Nat Park Rain Forest…

  2. c-law says

    yeah… spring. In Nova Scotia were supposed to get 25 cm of snow. Although I’m sure it’ll turn to rain halfway through, because that’s what it did all winter.

  3. says

    O/T…I apologize…a great BBC video series focusing on the social implications of the misinterpretation of Darwin has recently been posted on YouTube…2 parts, 6 subparts to each.

    The series mentions George R. Price who has an interesting history and worked at U of Minn.

    Perhaps PZ can elaborate on him…

  4. Josh says

    I saw that card and immediately thought of a Mississippian-aged (so maybe ~350 million years ago) seafloor, with a bunch of crinoids waving about in a lazy warm shallow current. I guess we see first what we’re conditioned to see. Cue Alan in 3, 2, 1…

  5. mackrelmint says

    What a fun illustration! I half expect a fox in socks to appear from behind on of the trees in the rather Dr.Seuss-like scene on the postcard.
    Here in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories of Canada’s far north, we’re a balmy -31C and we’ll be positively roasting tomorrow if we reach a forecast high of -22C.
    Spring will come eventually…in June.

  6. says

    The weather is still, of course, a bit variable here (South of France), but it’s been warm enough for Northern European types (like me) to wear short sleeved shirts and sandals. One lady, from China, was spotted in shorts. And there are a few sunseekers on the beach (including ladies in various states of undress), albeit most(?) of the swimmers/sailboarders are still using wetsuits. The (green) grass is already quite tall in the yard (up to c.30cm in places), albeit the trees are taking their bloody time about showing some leaves. And I gave a black cat the heebie jeebies this evening—<evil grin>—that’ll teach it not to raid the garbage bin!

    The natives (locals) are still bundled up like it’s deep winter in the Arctic.

  7. Jody says

    Dang it all, I was certain those were Truffula trees on that card. I half expected to see a barbaloot frolicking among them.

    It only made sense; PZ has sort of a Onceler-ish quality about him that I find quite charming. It’s the mustache, mainly :)

  8. MAJeff, OM says

    Ferns? Crinoids?

    Hold it. People are interpreting the image as being different things? THAT IS NOT ALLOWED! Only one interpretation can be accepted!

  9. Sili says

    … my card of the Emperor’s New Clothes doesn’t compare, no.

    Chalk another one up for crinoids. Even if I didn’t know the name. Pardon the pun.

  10. Josh West says

    Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here.
    Life is skittles and life is beer.
    I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
    I do, don’t you? ‘Course you do.
    But there’s one thing that makes spring complete for me,
    And makes ev’ry Sunday a treat for me.

    All the world seems in tune
    On a spring afternoon,
    When we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.
    Ev’ry Sunday you’ll see
    My sweetheart and me,
    As we poison the pigeons in the park.

  11. Josh West says

    Woops, forgot to credit that bit of song.

    From the brain and piano of Tom Lehrer.

  12. Quidam says

    I like that cover to the Selfish Gene – The Expectant Valley by Desmond Morris – apprently RD bought the original. “there surely must be some things that theory tells us must be so, and it can’t be right to rule out of bounds everything that we can’t see with our own eyes. This, by the way, is the inspiration for choosing the Desmond Morris painting The Expectant Valley” – Richard Dawkins

    I have two copies of the Selfish Gene, one with a cover showing a bird covered in eyes – I have no idea of the symbolism, and the other the 30th anniversary edition with a very boring and generic cover. Apparently there is a ‘Retro’ verion of the 30th anniversary edition with the Expectant Valley as the cover.

    BTW that postcard definitely does not show crinoids. More like a peacock tube worm (Sabella pavonina).

  13. says

    This is probably the first time I, in Ames, IA USA have ever had enviable weather this late in March! Sunny, somewhat warm if a little wet this morning and windy. And nearly all the snow melted!

  14. Peter Ashby says


    I know what you mean, I was born here in Scotland then spent some years in Southern New Zealand before we moved to officially sub-tropical Auckland. I never properly acclimatised and remember cycling to high school in shorts, shirt and jersey in the winter air temp 13C (55.4F) and others were walking there wearing warm jackets, scarves and gloves. I got married in the very far south of NZ and when my mother told a friend she and my dad were off there for the wedding did not consider that sufficient reason for going to such a terrible place (she had never been of course). It’s warm enough here in Eastern Scotland for me to run in shorts and a t-shirt, was a whopping 8C (46.4F) when I went out yesterday.

  15. theo says

    It’s good to know you have been receiving the little buggers. Not that I worry about a response – I just hope that whoever sees them has a smile brought to their face, no matter how briefly!

    Crinoids, Truffula Trees (I forgot about them – love Dr. Seuss!), peacock tube worm (Sabella pavonina), and Sedentaria polychaete – Wonderful! My vocabulary has increased a wee tad and goodness – my latest tree creation has some real world counter parts. Bonus! Of course, telling people Fan Trees are based on sea worms loses some of its fantasy appeal I suppose.

  16. 'Tis Himself says

    I just hope that whoever sees them has a smile brought to their face, no matter how briefly!

    Your hope is fulfilled, Theo. This card is lovely. I was smiling while looking at your very pretty pictures on your website.

    Thank you.

  17. Janine, Insulting Sinner says

    Josh West, you forced me to to link to Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.

    When I worked as a bike messenger, I would sing this song on the first day of spring for all of my unlucky clients. I am afraid I am as odd as I portray myself to be.

  18. Quidam says

    Dang it all, I was certain those were Truffula trees on that card. I half expected to see a barbaloot frolicking among them.

    It only made sense; PZ has sort of a Onceler-ish quality about him that I find quite charming. It’s the mustache, mainly

    I rather think you mean “PZ has sort of a Lifted Loraxish quality about him that I find quite charming”

    You won’t see the


    and it’s the Lorax who has the mustache and speaks fo rthe trees.

  19. 'Tis Himself says

    Janine, Insulting Sinner #29

    I am afraid I am as odd as I portray myself to be.

    There is nothing odd about serenading people with Tom Lehrer songs. I’m sure you made your little corners of the world happier with thoughts of a merry little hobby.

  20. John Harshman says

    The great crinoid/tube worm controversy (and they are tube worms) reminds me of the second funniest thing about Harun Yahya’s amazing book Atlas of Creation. Most of the book (very boring and repetitive, by the way) consists of a picture of a fossil alongside a picture of a living organism, with a caption explaining that the fossil is identical to the living organism, and therefore evolution is false, so there.

    There are many pictures of crinoid fossils throughout the book, each one, without exception, accompanied by a photo of an annelid tube worm.

    (What’s the funniest thing about the book? It’s that most of his pictures of living insects are actually plastic fishing lures, pulled off the web, many with the hooks clearly visible.)

  21. NewEnglandBob says

    Just a tiny bit of snow left here on the north side of the house.

    100+ tulips are out of the ground and growing, some as much as 8 inches tall.

    temps from 20F to 65F.

  22. says

    I’ve been getting Theo’s cards for years, too! I wish we lived closer, so I could buy him a damn beer.

    As for spring, we already had some here in Taos, New Mexico. Almost 70 degrees last week, woo-hoo! But last night the wind was gusting to nearly 60 mph, blew all the lawn furniture to into the sagebrush, tore the cap off the chimney, knocked my ladder down — okay, I’ll stop — and tonight it’s going to get down to 20 degrees!

    I’ve seen hummingbirds in the snow here in early May, so anything can happen.

  23. Eric says

    in Just-
    spring when the world is mud-
    luscious the little
    lame balloonman

    whistles far and wee

    and eddieandbill come
    running from marbles and
    piracies and it’s

    when the world is puddle-wonderful

    the queer
    old balloonman whistles
    far and wee
    and bettyandisbel come dancing

    from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



    balloonMan whistles

    e.e. cummings

  24. Susan says

    This is so wonderful, Theo : I’ve enjoyed receiving these wonderful little cards every since Theo and I ran into each other a few years ago at a high school reunion. I love these little masterpieces so much that they adorn the greenboards (blackboards for us older ones) in my office.

    I know I don’t always say “thank-you”, Theo, but be assured that I do always appreciate you wonderful drawings.

    Sue W — Vancouver

  25. bassmanpete says

    We moved from Melbourne to Far North Queensland at the end of October last year. Yesterday morning we recorded the coolest temperature since we arrived, 20.4°C. Currently it’s a mild 27.3°C (wipes sweat from eyes and pours another cold drink!)

  26. Tassie Devil says

    I have been known to fling open a window and serenade the neighbours with a few lines from Oliver:

    Who will buy this wonderful morning
    Such a sky you never did see…

    Of course, now I don’t have any neighbours.

    Great card, BTW.

  27. says

    This year I dragged the kids NORTH from our perch in Vancouver Canada for spring break.

    Just got back, and lived tell about it over at my place for anybody interested.

    Way more important, though, are Theo Nelson’s cards – they truly are a treasure.

    And he loves to send them to interested folks….

    (see PZ’s link in post)



  28. KI says

    Grey rain, grey piles of snow, but you forgot the dog poops that surface everywhere. Good crop this year, scoop laws were violated regularly around here.

  29. Melody Nayler-Keller says

    Hi theo,

    Sorry, I had not thought to write here. I have just been
    sending comments to your email! Apologies. I totally enjoy
    all the news and artwork you send our way. Your sense of
    humour is off the wall but suits us perfectly. Ray thought
    they looked a lot like Crinoids also. Keep up the great work.