Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter wish

photo of chickadee in budding oak
© harrington
Happy Easter! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by. I hope you know you're welcome anytime. This year, the field behind the chickadee in the photo is still partially snow covered. Given the extended weather forecast, I expect to be snow free by week's end (at least temporarily). One of the Easter treats I found on this Easter Sunday is an opinion piece in today's Star Tribune by Peter Leschak, a writer I consider indigenous to northern Minnesota. It has to do with the differences between those of us who help turtles across the road and those, thankfully fewer, who go out of their way to drive over them. It doesn't say much about what I assume is the majority of us: those too busy, too indifferent, too inattentive, too ... to care one way or the other. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I think we've reached a point where indifference is a luxury that we can't afford. When I was younger I had a poster on the wall of my office. It was a quotation attributed to Harvey Cox that read: "not to decide is to decide." It seems to me that concept represents one of our major problems with the gridlock and lack of effective leadership currently haunting our representatives in Washington. Think about it, are they representing us? If we have so little agreement about priorities, strategies and tactics, why can't we at least agree to try different approaches to see what works? [Turtle crossings anyone?] Are our ideological disagreements so deep and profound that there's no hope for compromise? Has life in these United States become a "Mexican standoff?" If most of us are neither for nor against the success of turtles crossing roads, who would be harmed by having our representatives prohibit humans in vehicles running down turtles? Maybe big oil companies who make major campaign contributions and might someday want to be able to drill in the wetlands and, if the turtles were gone (accidentally of course) there could be no endangered turtles requiring mitigation. Is this the Gordian knot we've tied ourselves into? Easter is a celebration of the return of life. My Easter wish for all of us is that affirmation of life, not money, become central to our decisions. Stop back anytime to My Minnesota where (sometimes cliché-ridden) rants, raves and reflections are served daily, including Easter.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Doe, Sí, doe

photo of green-eyed doe at Spring twilight
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for coming. It's hard to see at the scaled-down photo size, but the doe's eyes above are shining green. Especially at this time of year, and again in the Autumn, watch for green highlights at roadsides. If you see any, it's a good idea to slow down. [For that matter, slowing down might be a good idea all by itself.] Many of the non-human people that live in My Minnesota don't show red-eye from lights. the Today saw a flock of robins in the trees out front. Based on their return to the feeder today, I'm guessing that the unidentified birds at the feeder the other day were female purple finches which, with their more colorful males, are headed through the area on their way north.I was checking yesterday and couldn't find any reports of what happened at Minnesota's Environmental Congress. I'll see next week if any of the folks I know who might have been in attendance have anything to report. Moving on to the urban environs, here's a link to a game that will challenge you to name the neighborhoods in Minneapolis. I'm embarrassed to say it took me longer to identify 20 neighborhoods in Boston, my old home town, than to name 20 in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy it. One of these days, we'll talk about living in a state that has 360 cities with a population of fewer than 500, and cities with neighborhoods of more than 15,000. We may also stick a toe into the waters of rampant parochialism [see the Comments section]. In case you're wondering what this has to do with nature, think about John Muir's wonderful quotation:"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." If we're going to save ourselves from each other (humans are probably the  greatest environmental threat of the Anthropocene), we need to read Pogo more and learn to get along. Thanks for listening. Have a Happy Easter if I don't see you tomorrow. Come back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Poetry of Spring

photo of waterfowl in flight
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for dropping in this Friday afternoon. Welcome. An unconfirmed report from our predawn dog walker claimed that geese were heard in the neighborhood early this morning. The timing would be about right. I'm hoping to see a red wing blackbird one of these days soon, promptly followed by some open water in the Sunrise River. Last night, three does were feeding along the south facing slope in the backyard where the snow had melted and some ancient acorns might be found. I'll download the pictures from the camera and share one tomorrow. I've noticed in the past few days that the red squirrels and the mice have made more holes in the patio screening below the snow line. If we didn't feed the birds, or if the birds didn't make a mess with scattered seeds, the squirrels and mice wouldn't be attracted to that corner of the house and ... But then we wouldn't have the birds to watch all Winter. Sigh! Doing the cleanup and fixing is a Spring chore to look forward to, as is the prospect of writing blog posts while sitting in the warm, gentle breeze that we should have any day now. Right? Then we'll get to kick back, put our feet up and enjoy Spring, Summer and Autumn. But first, we'll participate in National Poetry Month. Starting April 1st (also Twins opener), My Minnesota is going to increase (and hopefully improve) its poetry content and comments, particularly on Minnesota poets such as Robert Bly and Joyce Sutphen, although we'll probably try to sneak in some non-Minnesotans like Gary Snyder. I hope you'll enjoy it. If not, come anyway for our other rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Seasons change, climate changes

photo of unknown birds at feeder
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. More melting today and more signs of Spring. I'm embarrassed to say I'm not sure what the birds are pictured at the feeder. A couple of days ago was the first time I've seen them this year. On the drive home today I saw the first motorcycles (two of them) of the year. No sign of geese returning yet. More and more of the class 5 aggregate is appearing from under the road's snow cover. The driveway is about 30% melted. I had, however, forgotten how long it can take for a normal March snow cover to melt. Median strips and gutters (roadway, not bowling) are looking more dirty by the day as Winter's buried trash appears from snow banks. This Sunday is Easter but it looks like Winter is trying for a resurrection. Report from the morning (predawn) dog walker was that the local owl(s) and coyotes were heard. Speaking of wildlife, Ron Madore, on Earth Journal at MinnPost, has an interesting (but depressing) report today on a newly issued Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. You can read the report or, as Ron notes: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a free, two-hour webinar on the National Climate Adaptation Strategy at 1 p.m. Minnesota time on April 9. Interested? You can register here. It would probably be worth you time to watch it if you can. Much of the appeal of My Minnesota comes from the critters (besides us) who live here. Since it appears that we're not going to convince the powers that be to stop using the climate as a toilet, maybe we can learn how to help our fellow earthlings survive our irresponsibility. Thanks for listening. Stop again tomorrow. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Indigenous thoughts

photos of red osier dogwood cuttings leafing out
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for coming. For those of you who need to see some real green, here it is. The red osier dogwood cuttings are leafing out nicely (see photo). On a directly related topic, I'm still struggling with depth of field. Maybe I need a macro lens? Anyway, today's sky is partly cloudy. I saw some sunshine. The temperature reached the mid-fortys. Snow is melting. Hawks are back perching on the Interstate light stanchions. Life is improving. Still no sign of geese or crocuses, so that's to be looked forward to. Have you ever wondered whether nature tries to achieve economies of scale? I haven't thought a lot about it, but given what seems to be her drive to diversity, I'm doubtful that economy of scale is a significant factor in many natural processes. Nature abhors vacuums and, I think, monocultures. Given my suspicions, I'm encouraged by the increasing attention being paid to local economies, slow food, local food, self-reliant, resilient communities. There seems to be a growing awareness of our interdependence on each other and the natural systems and services we rely on. From some of the reading I've been doing recently, Native Americans had a strong sense of community and interdependence. Since 2013 is the Year of the Dakota in My Minnesota, this might be a good year to learn more about their relationship with nature as a way to further reconciliation. You can probably expect to hear more about that on your return visits. Please come again. Rants. raves and reflections served daily.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mything you

photo of sunset with light pillar
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Did you see last night's spectacular sunset? The light pillar was one of the best reasons for ice crystals to exist that I've ever come across. This afternoon's dog walk was actually comfortable. I'm not yet ready to put the cushions back on the patio furniture, but I'm starting to believe (again) there will come a time... Have you come across the phrase "life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved?" How about "happiness is to be found along the way not at the end of the road?" This is a time of year I am more challenged than usual to accept the wisdom in those ideas. I want the ice gone, now. I want the snow melted, now. I want it to be warm, not warmer, but warm. And then I remember my grandmother asking me if I meant to wish my whole life away. Learning to enjoy now, to be fully in the present, does not come easily to me. And yet, the beauty of last evening's sky gave me pleasure, and hope, and a glimmer that there are many things we humans are incapable of improving on. Do any of you think that a genetically modified sunset would be more beautiful? How many of you were there to see the first earth rise? What did that do to your perspective on us humans and our home? Yesterday, I read about someone who is going to walk most of the way across the country because she believes we need "radical re-mythologization efforts in our communities and around the world." That started me thinking about Gary Snyder and Native American myths, especially those related to turtle island. Maybe we don't need new myths, we need to rediscover and share the ones that are indigenous to our home. Think about it. We'll talk some more tomorrow here at My Minnesota where rants, raves and reflections are served daily.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Awash with Spring

photo of icicles dripping
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for dripping in. How's the icicle situation at your place? Here, some are dropping off, others are accreting, others (on the north side of the house) are sitting around minding their own business. The county finally got around to attacking the pot holes that have been attacking my car and my spine. The oversize puddles still sluicing the road will make short work of the county's repairs but I'm grateful for the effort. While walking Franco the Rescue dog this morning under a 97% waxing gibbous moon, I noticed the tree shadow patterns on the bright snow cover and thought of gray ghosts filling the space between the trees created by the space taken up by the trees. It reminds me of Minnesota's development. There's lots of places where we aren't compared to some places where we are. One of the issues that intrigues me these days is the way that city designers and planners seem to have forgotten about the concept of hinterland. We have viewsheds and foodsheds and energysheds and watersheds, all useful terms, but not focused on the urban-rural relationship. I've been thinking about this because I came across a reference that mentioned that the most appropriate human-scale travel boundaries are those established by bicycle. I think those bounds might be similar to bounds established by horse travel. Some day, sooner or later, we're going to run out of fossil fuels. If we haven't by then mastered renewable electricity transportation networks, our scale and range may well return to the horse and bikey days. How would that change your life? Are you doing anything to increase your families self-sufficiency? Do you have kids? Are you concerned about trying to prepare them for the future? Several of the folks I most admire have been quoted as saying some variation of "the best way to predict the future is to create it." What are you doing today to create a better future for our kids? Thanks for thinking about that. Stop back soon. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Carrots and sticks

photo of deer trail in the snow
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for dropping in. Have you noticed that, in late Winter, too many trails seem all uphill? Several days ago, harsh, March winds had scoured the snow layers, leaving ridges in the snowcover. Warm days with some sun have now softened those ridges as they began melting the snowbanks. This deer trail leads into a ridgeline thicket, in which and behind which the wind is sapped of much of its ability to steal warmth. Yesterday, sitting out of the weather in my warm reading room, I finished working through a flash non-fiction piece that really made me think. As you may know, the Inuit have many words for snow. I had always assumed, being the Caucasian, Anglo-Saxon, meat-and-potatoes type that I am, that, unlike snow to the Inuits, a carrot was a carrot was a carrot. (Perhaps my mother, when pregnant with me, had been frightened by Gertrude Stein.) It turns out there is a multitude of carrot types and varieties. What intrigues and encourages me is that I learned about this not in an organic gardening or local foods book, but in a book on how to write flash nonfiction. Now, I admit, this isn't the most efficient way to learn, but it may be more effective. I'm much more likely to remember there is a variety of carrots because I discovered it in an unexpected encounter. I'm also more likely now to look for varieties to see if they actually taste different. It seems to me that one of the challenges in (of?) life is finding a reasonable balance between the comfort of the familiar and the excitement of the new. (When I was younger, the comfort of the familiar was practically nonexistent.) I suspect, if I tell my wife that I'm looking for a variety of carrots, she's going to wonder about the aliens that kidnapped her meat-and-potatoes husband and substituted someone willing to consider veggies. This should add to the excitement of the new in her life. Thanks for listening. Stop by again. Rants, reflections and raves served daily in My Minnesota.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring signs

photo of a ring around a fullish moon
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for stopping in. Are you enjoying the "warm" weather? Tonight we're supposed to have a waxing, gibbous moon, 86% full. With the cloud cover this afternoon, I'll be surprised if we get to see any moon at all, thus, today's photo. When I filled the bird feeders this afternoon, I noticed the woods were full of bird sounds. Walking the dog, my nose told me the neighbor had either just mucked out the barn or really needed to very soon. Several days ago, in the cold and wind, none of these Spring signs were evident. Franco the Rescue dog is spending more and more time, much to the annoyance of his walker, listening and sniffing (head down) and smelling (head raised). Is Spring the season of senses? Not only does the earth awaken from Winter's near-death experience, but those of us who have spent Winter bundled and booted found most of our senses wearing mittens. What's the sense of listening through a hat or earmuffs covering our ears? We "know" there's nothing to hear. Once you've smelled below-zero cold, it hardly ever changes, especially through a drippy nose. I remember reading that scenting conditions for dogs are improved by some humidity. Winter air is about as unhumid as it gets around here. With so much snow cover in a normal Winter, there's clearly nothing to see except white and more white. And yet, the neighborhood barred owls manage to find mice and voles under the snow. The deer I see don't seem to be any less alert in Winter. I know the local turkey population notices my approach as soon as, or sooner than, they do when the ground cover is plants rather than flakes. I've never really been a Winter person so perhaps I'm one of the few who finds his senses dulled and dimmed by Winter. Do you? How common do you suppose it is? Will warmer Winters help us Minnesotans feel more alive or less Minnesotan? Thanks for listening. Feel free to share some answers in the comments. Raves, rants and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It's about time

photo of returning waterfowl
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping in. This afternoon, between the sunshine and the above-freezing temperatures, I swear I could sense the spirits of Minnesotans rising (except, maybe, for those in the Red River valley). Is this it? Is Spring finally hear to stay? Have waterfowl started north and will there be open water for them when they arrive? Are you excited? I am. I've been fighting off that Winter won't let go of me funk. My poor wife has come down with the proverbial Spring cold or worse. And yet, today I heard several crows cawing. I don't recall hearing that earlier this season. Shrinking snow banks are turning gravel roads into bogs. I could cope with an extended period of days in the upper 30s and nights around freezing. A slow melt would help up north. For someone who's spent much of his life hurrying to get to wherever next may be, I'm slowly learning to appreciate the pace set by snails and turtles. I'm also grateful for another opportunity to experience the earth's quickening. Enough for today. I'm going to go take a deep breath of fresh, Spring air. Thanks for listening. Stop by again soon. Rants or raves served daily.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Turning water into whine

photo of muddy Spring road
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for coming. Welcome. In my neck of the woods, we've progressed(?) back to substantial portions of mud in our otherwise snow and ice covered roads. The last time local roads looked this good was in early January. Tomorrow, we're supposed to get up to or above freezing, at least for a few hours. The icicles along the roof lines are still hanging in large suspenses and there are increasing concerns about Spring flooding in the Red River valley (while the rest of the state continues to suffer from drought). Today, on another waterfront, Ron Madore at MinnPost had a story about how we've been mismanaging, or at least not managing, our groundwater. I certainly hope we here at My Minnesota provided some encouragement for Ron to use his more bully pulpit to note that we're paying people to do a job and they're not doing it very well. Actually, what Ron wrote was "...this is where you can stop feeling sorry for the DNR's groundwater managers, because they freely admit they don't make use of the information they do have when it comes to protecting this resource." This is a point we've been making for several months. MinnPost also refers to MPR's story about the way DNR has been "overlooking" groundwater permit violations. If you think I'm "piling on" I'm not sure whether to reply "damn right" or "I certainly hope so." Maybe we should ask the State Patrol to enforce water permits. I'll repeat what I wrote some time ago in the same context: I don't want bigger government. I don't want smaller government. I want better government. I also want a chance to vote for politicians who make campaign promises to that effect. Is Minnesota ready (again?) for a good government party? Thanks for listening. Drop in again tomorrow. Rants and raves, sometimes with reflection, sometimes with malice aforethought, served daily.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Whitetailed locavores

photo of red osier dogwood cutting starting to leaf out
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for dropping in. If you look really, really hard, you can see the bare beginning of leaf out on this dogwood twig. It's been in water in the 70 +/- degree temperatures in the house for several weeks now. The cuttings at the other end of the piano are further along, but, really, just starting to turn green. As much as our late Winter weather pattern has caused me (and you?) stress and inconvenience, I suspect it's affecting the deer even more. And I'm not carrying twin fawns. Do you remember the old saying about complaining about having no shoes until you met someone with no feet. Winter's Lazarus move this week had me complaining about cold and wind and snow until I noticed several deer trails on the way home today and stopped to think about what they're going through. I'm not sure what the local deer are browsing. I assume cedar or maybe something woody like the dogwood in the photo (sans any sign of leaves). New growth will benefit whitetails and humans for different reasons. This weekend, I'd expect the sap to start flowing again. Maybe late next week waterfowl and blackbirds will show up. Soon it will be time to bring in the bird feeders (or hang them out of reach). Ursus americanus will be waking up, feeling hungry and starting to shuffle around. Have you adjusted yet to the later sunsets? I find my internal clock still hasn't caught up with daylight savings. Maybe it will be Easter. Easter's early enough this year that the deer will still be in their dun Winter coats. I'd not look for signs of Summer's red pelage until later in April or early May. For those of you who have read this far, for a reward, here's a link to an interesting perspective on urban whitetails. Thanks for listening. Come back soon. Rants and raves served daily here in My Minnesota.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Winter's blow out?

photo of frost crystals on window pane
© harrington
If you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she's a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin' winds.
"Girl from the North Country"
                          Bob Dylan
Welcome. Thanks for coming on this last official day of Winter. Bobby Zimmerman, from Hibbing Minnesota, must have known more than a few days like today, to be able to capture our weather so well in his lyrics. Short of embedding a video, I'm not sure how a photo would show howling winds. I'll have to look into that, but hopefully not before next Winter. The weather forecast calls for above freezing daytime highs starting this Friday, accompanied by clouds. How's that Seasonal Affective Disorder thingy working out for you? On the other hand, shipping season is starting in Duluth I think I heard on Minnesota Public Radio this morning. The Coast Guard's icebreaker was breaking up the 20" thick ice. The 1,000-foot Mesabi Miner is to be the first departure of the season today or tomorrow. Now, in my book, this is not the same as the arrival of robins, geese, or cranes, but I'm ready to take what I can get as signs of Spring. I did notice last night that the red osier dogwood cuttings are starting to leaf out. That's another good sign. If you wonder what this list is about, go find the "Small Victories" post from about a month ago. I'm celebrating having made it through another Winter in My Minnesota. I'm glad you made it too. Stop by again tomorrow to celebrate the beginning of Spring. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Water, water anywhere?

Welcome. Come in out of the wind and warm up. Thanks for stopping by. What do you think, is this Winter's last hurrah for the 2012-2013 season? I believe it may be so. My wife has started to complain about birdsong waking her up over the weekend. Singing chickadee-dee-dees and snowflakes piled on branches bearing Spring's buds. That's My Minnesota for you. Have you ever thought about the fact that nature is constantly redesigning and rebuilding herself? Seasonal change is dominant in most of the country outside arctic and tropical areas. Darwin's had something to say about evolution and adaptation. Why then do you suppose it is that so many of us humans, especially in corporations and the public sector, are so resistant to change? Let Mikey try it. He won't like it. I noticed in a week old news article that I saw just today that DNR has asked the judge to dismiss the White Bear Lake citizens group suit against DNR for issuing ground water withdrawal permits inconsistent with Minnesota's environmental requirements. The part that really got under my skin was the statement that "the DNR argued in court Monday that the suit should be thrown out because local municipalities should be included as defendants..." I'm not a lawyer, but having other potentially guilty parties doesn't seem like an exoneration, nor, so far as I know, do municipalities get to issue their own water groundwater appropriations permits. According to their very own web site (checked about 5 PM this afternoon) "A water use (appropriation) permit from DNR Waters is required for all users withdrawing more than 10,000 gallons of water per day or 1 million gallons per year." As a further rant on my part, has the DNR never heard of, does it not believe in, the precautionary principle? I ask because elsewhere I found reference to a DNR staff member (among others) arguing that more data is needed to make the right decisions about groundwater use, in case that decision ends up in court. I'm not against more data. I'm against delaying decisions to proceed with some options that would be beneficial under all scenarios just because we don't have "enough data" to yield certainty. We have Water Conservation Law changes, effective last year, where the "deadline for compliance has also been pushed back to January 1, 2015." Minnesota, along with much of the Midwest, is experiencing drought, several parts of the state are suffering noticeable water shortages, but, God forbid, we move too quickly. My final question for today's rant: "What do you suppose it might take to create a sense of urgency in the public sector?" Thanks for letting me bend your ear. Stop back tomorrow. Rants (obviously) and raves, sometimes mixed with reflection, served daily.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Marching into Spring?

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Thanks for coming. Welcome. The photo above is one of the greenest in my collection, a promise of days to come and a great hiding place for leprechauns. When I got up this morning, the outside temperature was -1, the average low is 25. Winter seems to be strengthening. Since we're still enjoying persistent snow cover, I'm going to share with you the fact that, thanks to my wife's keen eye, I actually have my very own personal photos of snow fleas, right in the front yard of my house. You might recall that back in January I questioned the existence of these critters. I now have unphotoshopped proof. Those teeny, tiny little specks are snow fleas. (No, I did not sprinkle the pepper shaker on the snow.)

One of the local papers yesterday had an article about how this snow and (freezing) rain in March might help My Minnesota's drought and soil moisture come planting time [next month, doesn't seem possible]. Since the ground is still frozen, and it's my understanding that frozen ground means water runs off, not sinks in, I have my doubts. What I'd really like to see, and think we could use, is soft, bare ground being bathed in a gentle Spring rainfall. I'm looking forward (oh! how I'm looking forward) to trading snow fleas for dwarf trout lilies and rising trout in gently flowing streams. Until then, stop back soon. Reflections, raves and rants served daily.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cumulative impact

photo of Spring pond, brown grass
© harrington
Thanks for stopping by. Welcome. The picture above was taken one year ago today at the very small pond just up the road from our house. Notice the lack of snow cover and the snow and ice melt sitting on top of the ice edges. Today, that same place is covered with several inches of snow and there's not a drop of open water in sight. The weather forecast for the next week or so has local high temperatures in the twenties, nothing above freezing, which means no sap flowing. Do any of you remember the song by the Supremes  You can't hurry love? Substitute "Spring" for love and that pretty well describes how I feel theses days. If there were one thing I might change about Minnesota's seasons, it would be to make her as "successful" with Spring as she usually is with Autumn. Autumns in Minnesota are often beautifully longlasting. Our transition from Autumn to Winter seems less stutter-step (with exceptions for the occasional Halloween blizzard) than Winter into Spring . Autumn is more like a long glide down a smooth, gentle hill. Spring's arrival is more like trying to ski up that hill, full of moguls. And yet, perhaps it's because Spring's changes are so spasmodic--leaf out lasts but days, fiddlehead ferns burst up and uncurl in spasms notably brief. Robins and cranes and herons have their first annual appearance  just one time per. Each Spring phase moving toward Summer lasts little time. Spring is a study in cumulative impact. Once the snow and ice are gone, there's a sense of hurrying toward maturity, like a teenager that can't wait to become "grown-up." Although the calendar will tell us that Spring arrives five days from now with the Equinox, I think we'll be hard pressed to find signs of it by then. Maybe, though, our gangly teenager of this year's Spring will, when it arrives, go through one of those growth spurts that adds inches (or in this case greenery) overnight. Stop back for daily reports containing rants, raves and reflections regarding My Minnesota.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Winter's stuttering end

photo of snow on white pine and oak
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for coming. How'd the Ides of March work out for you? I had hoped to be hearing goose music by now. Instead, I've been listening to the sounds of snow and freezing rain and sleet. Have you ever noticed how quiet everything gets in the midst of a windless snowfall? The flakes whisper as they gently stroke each other and the earth, like lovers quietly sharing secrets. The rest of nature holds its breath, trying to overhear what's being said. Soon this season's Winter will be gone. If the scientists and climatologists are right, next Winter may have a more difficult time sharing its beauty with us, and the Winter after that could face an even greater challenge. What would Minnesota be like without a Minnesota Winter? Would you notice? Would you want to move farther north? Would you rejoice? Donald Hall, in his delightful "Introduction" to A Mind of Winter: Poems for a Snowy Season, writes "At winter's stuttering end, in March, midnight freezes and noon is tropical, maple trees grow tin pails, and from sugar houses smoke rises day and night. Winter springs into sweetness." Our Minnesota is listed as one of only 19 states where maple syrup is produced. If Minnesota's Winters become like Missouri's are now, we probably would keep our syrup production, unless an invasive species like Dutch Elm disease came along with warmer Winters and wiped out sugar maple trees. One of the reasons climate change is such a concern is that we can't be sure enough of results to make adaptation a certainty, nor resilience built in. My Minnesota just wouldn't be My Minnesota if it turns out to be like San Diego. For an Easterner like me, San Diego is just to far from the ocean. Thanks for listening. Stop by again tomorrow. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Join the dance

photo of birds at feeder in snowstorm
Welcome. Thanks for coming. I don't know about you, but I thought this morning's snow was definitely more for the birds than for the commuters. We got more than was forecast and it came at rush hour. Another one tomorrow? Thankfully, we're on a countdown to actual Spring. One week from now it arrives. This being Minnesota, it may be questionable that the weather gods will acknowledge that it's Spring. We'll see. Since Spring is a time of renewal and discovery, I thought I'd share something I rediscovered last night, while I was looking for something else. Donella Meadow's magnificent piece "Dancing with Systems" was lurking in my download folder. I suggest you read the whole thing some day but here's the section that caught my attention yesterday:
12. Expand the boundary of caring.
Living successfully in a world of complex systems means expanding not only time horizons and thought horizons; above all it means expanding the horizons of caring. There are moral reasons for doing that, of course. And if moral arguments are not sufficient, then systems thinking provides the practical reasons to back up the moral ones. The real system is interconnected. No part of the human race is separate either from other human beings or from the global ecosystem. It will not be possible in this integrated world for your heart to succeed if your lungs fail, or for your company to succeed if your workers fail, or for the rich in Los Angeles to succeed if the poor in Los Angeles fail, or for Europe to succeed if Africa fails, or for the global economy to succeed if the global environment fails. [Emphasis added.]
As with everything else about systems, most people already know about the interconnections that make moral and practical rules turn out to be the same rules. They just have to bring themselves to believe that which they know.
I've (re)read the whole essay several times. It's only a few pages. Like a good poem, I get more from it each time I read it. Do you suppose we could lock all our politicians (they are ours, you know, no matter how much we might want to disavow them, we keep electing them) in a room and play these few sentences time and again until they're willing to sign an affidavit that "they get it?" I started My Minnesota as part of my own personal crusade to encourage Minnesotans to increase their appreciation of and protection for our built and natural environments. I don't know of any way to make people care (try it some time with a two year old). I only hope encouragement makes a difference. Go read Donella's point 14 and then let me know what you think. Thanks again for listenting. Stop by again tomorrow. Rants and raves served daily. Often both on the same day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Meet Franco

photo of Franco the rescue dog
© harrington
Hi! Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Meet Franco. I've mentioned him from time to time but this is his real introduction. Technically, he's my wife's dog, but, as with many things in our lives, we share. He's been living with us for almost two years now and he's gotten to be a little larger than shown here. Franco the rescue dog is part border collie and part ? His collection of bones, left hither and yon on the floor, makes me wonder if he's part dragon. His herding instinct is irrepressible but doesn't work well on the flocks of birds at our deck feeders. Franco came into our lives shortly after we had to say goodbye to our old black lab Fidget. The house was too empty without a dog. After one neurotic Brittany Spaniel and a series of Labrador Retrievers, it only seemed fair to give my long-suffering wife a chance to choose. She chose Franco (or vice versa, I'm not really sure) from the dogs at Northwoods Humane Society. He has now become the source of and cause for most of my exercise, walking mostly along the township road that runs along our property. (He's also, indirectly, the reason I'm now serving as president of NHS.) I often wonder how much he can smell and differentiate because he intently explores areas that leave me indifferent. They're not all centered around deer prints either but he won't explain to me just what it is he finds so fascinating. Franco has two basic speeds: full (preferred) or off, needed for sniffing and being petted, and hardly anything in between. This makes for some interesting "conversations" when we're out for a walk since I prefer to have him walk on a loose heel and he continues to act as if he's never heard of such a thing. Since we had retrievers for so many years, it seemed natural to throw tennis balls for Franco to chase and, maybe, herd. He has a really hard time with priorities when there are two balls bouncing in the driveway at the same time. Since tennis balls tend to disappear in six or eight inches of snow, my wife has been amusing Franco by throwing snowballs for him to chase. They, of course, can't be distinguished from the snow in which they landed, necessitating much dashing about and digging into snow cover by Franco. He also seems to think that snow flakes are there to be herded, which resulted in a certain blogger with an overdeveloped attraction to alliteration writing about: Franco frantically frolicking in the freshly fallen, fancy, fine flakes. Today's post clearly rates as more of a rave than a rant, but don't tell Franco. His head's big enough already. Thanks for coming this far with My Minnesota. Stop back tomorrow. Rants and raves served daily.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March's black hole

photo of country road in summer
© harrington
Thanks for coming. Welcome. The picture above is what yesterday's photo will look like in a few months. Before we get there, we must rediscovere, as we did today, how much worse mud can be than ice for driving on? through? in? All of the above and other. It has qualities similar to a black hole, from what I've read about black holes. I know mud from first-hand experience. Your tires get sucked into a certain horizon and can't pull free, just like light at the event horizon of a black hole. Actually, the way the weather is going, the whole month of March 2013 is beginning to feel like a black hole with Spring below the horizon. Is this from the same blogger who but a week or so ago was raving about the inevitable, relentless forward march of Spring. 
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
This weekend in St. Paul St. Patrick's Day is scheduled to be celebrated the day before it occurs. (We can't be having all that rowdiness on a Sunday now, can we?) Next month we celebrate National Poetry Month. I was going to suggest that such would be the antithesis of rowdiness until I remembered Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his "Poetry as Insurgent Art"  Strive to change the world in such a way that there's no further need to be a dissident. That's great advice for all of us, poets or not. It also, to me, calls for a certain amount of acceptance of imperfection. That's what I need to do with this March. Now that we've settled that. (Had you noticed it was unsettled?) I heartily recommend that you take a break (a small break) from reading My Minnesota to spend time with Saints Patrick and Larry. The continuing, gray dreariness of March offers a fine opportunity to spend time reading, organizing your fishing gear (for most of it, flies still bounce on the St. Croix and on all of the local lakes), baking bread, and looking as hard as you can for things outside to be cheerful about. Someone, probably either my long-suffering wife or the daughter's SO had the superb common sense to spread sand across the driveway near the house. I took out the trash without threat to life or limb. Celebrating small victories is another successful strategy for managing March. Please bring your celebrations back tomorrow. Rants and raves, often both, served here daily.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beware the Ides +/-

photo of ice covered road
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for sliding in. In a few days, we'll have reached the Ides of March. I think Caesar was as likely to be killed driving his chariot over et tu Brute [scroll down to the 3rd line, 4th paragraph] ice-coated roads like the one in the photo as to be stabbed by 60 of his closest friends. (As an aside, do you suppose there's any hidden message that goes with the Minnesota Environmental Congress being held on the Ides?) Back to cold reality, just about 3.5 or so of the 4 miles +/- of my township road gets like this almost every mid-March. (Full disclosure: my driveway is even worse, but it's much shorter.) The township's policy is not to plow unless more than three inches of snow falls from a storm. Not unreasonable, except for the compacted, then melted, then re-frozen into ice, coating we end up with almost every "Spring." Last year the well above average temperatures provided a tropical (for Minnesota March) interlude and the sudden melt of what little snow there was avoided the normal skating rink. This year looks like it's going to compensate for last year. Have you ever thought that Minnesota would be a much more pleasant place to live if the average temperatures weren't made up of such extremes? On the bright side, this is sap collecting, syrup making time. Out in Colorado, daffodils are coming up and bees are out and about. [check March] Here in My Minnesota, we just need to hold on a little bit longer and the ice will turn to melt to make mud out of our class five aggregate and the mud season will stick around for a month or six weeks before becoming dust season. Enough kvetching for today. (Another blow for a multicultural Minnesota.) Friday night's Red Horse concert was great. I pick up two CDs I should have bought long ago. Saturday, I got to read an amazing book. I also finished transplanting all the dawn redwood seedlings (more than twice as many as were supposed to have made it this far). Yesterday we headed for the coop in Stillwater instead of St. Paul. On the way down Highway 95, I managed to get some distant photos of an eagle in flight. We had Mexican for dinner last night. All in all, a pretty good weekend even though the change to daylight savings is going to have my internal clock all katywampus for a couple of weeks or so. Hope yours went well too. Stop by (urban)/slide in (country) again tomorrow. Rants and raves served here daily.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March's many moons

photo of ghost doe
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for dropping in. Have you reset your clocks yet? What about the one in your car? It's that time of year. The doe pictured above has her biological clock set. It doesn't need adjustment. She wasn't fifteen feet from the north side of the house when I took this. (It would have come out better if I had turned off the flash and used manual focus. Live and learn.) This end of Winter/beginning of Spring is a tough time of year for our native wildlife. New growth hasn't started. Fresh snow and melting ice cover the ground. The Anishnaabe call March's full moon (the 27th) the "snow crust moon." Dakota/Lakota refer to it as the "moon of the sore eyes". It will be the first full moon of both astronomical and meteorological Spring. The Algonquin referred to it as full worm moon, welcoming back the robins. New life in wombs started during last Autumn's mating season demands scarce nutrition for growth. In our well-fed house, we've started the annual Spring debate about when to bring in the bird feeders to keep the bears from snacking on them. Sometime in the next few weeks, hibernation should end. Between then and about the end of May, bird feeders and trash cans are particularly vulnerable around here. Maybe this is the year I'll actually suspend a feeder or two on a clothes line running from the deck to a nearby oak tree. Have you seen clothes drying on lines between pulleys? I assume the advice about hanging your food high in bear country could also work for bird feeders. Bears and deer and birds aren't the only creatures hungry these days. Many Americans, U.S. citizens living right here, go to bed hungry each night while we waste 40% of our food. That strongly suggests to me that we don't have a production problem. We don't have a shortage of farmland. We don't have to convert the little remaining prairie to cropland. We have a management and market problem. Here in My Minnesota, as in the rest of the country, it seems to me that our distorted politics have created even more distorted markets. Or, maybe it's the other way around. In any case, it's not working and we can fix it, if we try to agree on a better way. What do you think a better way might be to preserve, conserve and better serve our Minnesota? Stop by again tomorrow. Rants and raves served daily.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

To conserve and protect

© harrington
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for coming. So far today we've had mostly rain. Roads tonight should be interesting when the temperature drops, as it will. The pictures up top show the red osier dogwood cuttings I collected awhile ago. The cuttings aren't vibrating and my hands weren't shaking badly when I took the pictures. I just didn't account for the effects of the shadows against the white walls when I released the shutter. I'm really hoping that these cuttings will develop roots and become suitable for planting in a damp spot in the back yard. Meanwhile, the vibrant red adds a nice touch of color to the house. Maybe, in addition to roots, I'll get to see some green if leaves develop. Spring in My Minnesota has lots of brown and tan for a long time before green starts to appear. By the way, when I took the cuttings, I didn't pull the whole plant out by it's roots; I took only a few from each plant; and I knew they weren't a threatened, endangered or species of special concern, unlike the Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily, our only endemic plant species. It occurs in only one watershed, three counties, somewhere we haven't yet plowed or paved for some other purpose. I wonder how it will fare as Minnesota's climate warms and the native species from here migrate north while those south of us move in. How much do you like Minnesota as it is today? Are you willing to change, not give up, but do differently, to protect it? We have, as I see it, been coming at the questions of environmental protection and climate change all wrong. It's like the difference between working harder versus working smarter. Using fewer resources to produce better "things" that last longer and are repairable means lots of changes in the way we do business. It doesn't mean that our quality of live is diminished. Just the opposite. Some time ago, I made reference to the short-sightedness of burning down the house to try to stay warm. I didn't think it was a good idea then. I still don't. Fracking sand mining, groundwater mining, sulfide mining, agriculture as an extractive industry (mining the soil) won't produce long term sustainable employment. I remember the loggers on the west coast complaining about protecting the spotted owl costing them jobs. I never did see a realistic response to what they expected to do for jobs after the old growth forests were gone. If a water-rich state like Minnesota is facing water shortages because we mismanaged our resources, I think we can do much, much better. The Minnesota I moved to many years ago to pride in being a state that works. Is that reputation too hard for us to maintain? I don't think so but evidence to the contrary is adding up. I hope I've made you think and that will make you want to stop back again. Rants and raves served daily.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring music

photo of early Spring last year
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for swinging by. Would you believe that the photo above is from mid-March last year? I didn't. I thought the date function in my fancy digital camera must have been on the fritz. Then I checked the Minnesota Climatology Working Group's web site to find that my camera didn't lie to me and this is really what the local scene looked like. From their Mid March 2012 report:
During this warm stretch, the maximum temperature in the Twin Cities has reached or exceeded 70 degrees on eight days, breaking the previous March record of five set in 1910. Through March 19, the Twin Cities maximum temperature reached or exceeded 70 degrees for four consecutive days, breaking the previous record of three consecutive days which occurred on March 23-25, 1939 and March 22-24, 1945.
At the moment, there's 6 to 8 inches of snow where this photo was taken a little over a year ago. This year we still have a springtime still full of promise more than pleasure. Tonight, however, I'm expecting immediate gratification from the pleasure of hearing Red Horse at the St. Croix Falls Festival Theatre. Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky have elevated and redefined the meaning of synergy and harmony. Individually, each is great. Together, they're awesome. In case you can't tell, the unreconstructed hippie in me thoroughly gets into folk music. An added bonus is that the Theatre's seats are actually comfortable enough for these old bones to sit through a concert and still be able to walk afterwards. If my long-suffering wife and I are really lucky, the freezing rain will hold off until the car is back in the garage and we're in the house. After hearing Red Horse tonight, next week (or the week after) I can look forward to hearing returning red wing blackbirds and Canada geese. Despite the weather forecast, My Minnesota is full of more raves than rants today. Just like our weather, that may change by tomorrow. Stop by to see which way the wind is blowing or if the sky is falling.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

To every thing, there is a season

photo of Spring road
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for dropping in. Let me ask you, do you enjoy change? How about changing? Transitions present challenges, and opportunities. Winter hangs on. Spring comes on. Freeze. Thaw. Melt. Snow. Rain. Freezing rain. Ice. Two steps forward, one step back and maybe a couple sideways as water moves from a gaseous to a solid to a liquid state. When I think about it, that's the same kind of pattern I follow when I'm changing. How about you? If change comes to quickly, it's hard to adapt successfully. That may be what we're going to experience this weekend with the prospect of freezing rain and then rain and then snow melt followed by runoff and rivers rising and ice jambs. Winter to Spring seems more challenging than Spring to Summer or Summer to Autumn. Thinking back on the different times I've fallen in love, some were like Winter to Spring, and included the occasional ice jamb plus localized flooding. Other times, with other women, falling in love was more like a warm, gentle slide from the end of Spring to the beginning of Summer. Please don't ask which I preferred. Winter to Spring is full of promise. Spring to Summer, full of pleasure. Reminds me of Wallace Stevens wonderful lines:
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after. 
I hope each season in My Minnesota brings you both promise and pleasure and that you find the same each time you visit us. Stop back tomorrow. Rants and/or raves served daily, with an occasional dollop of fantasy just because we can.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring fantasy

photo of hoar frost on trees
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Tomorrow's weather may include fog and hoarfrost. That, if true, presents an opportunity for some more pretty pictures although a picture of a hoarfrost covered tree in the fog may be akin to a ghost in a snowstorm and the flip side of a black cat in a coal bin at midnight. The latest issue of Big River magazine arrived yesterday. It has a wonderful cover photo of pasque flowers, with more inside. This evening I have to read the story. I know they're a harbinger of Spring, but I've always associated them with the prairie more than the Mississippi river. Anyhow, I'm getting more and more excited about the seasonal transition. Daylight savings starts this Sunday. I'm anticipating the arrival of Canada geese late next week or thereabouts. Before then, we may get several days in a row where the daytime highs are above freezing. That will result in melt, then drips, then trickles, then possibly rills leading to rivulets. Speaking of flowing water, much of the St. Croix river is still ice covered, as are the local lakes. We're probably about a month from ice out on the lakes and I'd expect the river to open sooner. Easter is early this year, March 31. That's when I'm going to take a look to see if we have any local pasque flowers. But before then the Minnesota EQB will be holding their Environmental Congress on March 15. If you can spare the time, you should register to attend. I think it serves  Minnesota well when citizens help keep an eye on even the best intentioned public servants. One of the things that caught my eye recently was an item about the folks in Fergus Falls still trying to find a new use for the former regional treatment center/state hospital. I wonder if it could serve as a focus for education and activity related to the major prairie restoration effort recently announced. Wes Jackson has been doing some amazing work at the Land Institute. Maybe we could do something comparable in My Minnesota. Today we added fantasy to the rants and raves served here daily. Stop by tomorrow to see what's brewing or stewing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The urgency of now

photo of snow on pine needles
© harrington
Welcome. Come in. Get warm. This was a day to be grateful for a functioning furnace and working snowblower. By Thursday, we'll be back to daily snow melt and mud making. Have you noticed that there are cycles within cycles within cycles with years and seasons and months measuring ... what? If we can't step into the same river twice (Heraclitus) doesn't that mean we should be more attentive to now? We change, rivers flow, times are  a-changing according to at least one well-known Minnesotan. Back when I was in college, one of my sociology professors made a point of emphasizing that technological change usually occurred faster than society could adapt to it. I wouldn't be surprised to find that climate change may happen faster than we can successfully adapt to it. Much of the emphasis thus far (, the opposition to the XL pipeline) has been on reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While I agree that's necessary, aren't we beyond the stage where it's sufficient? What can we accomplish in our Minnesota that helps us to both mitigate AND adapt? First, we can forget the argument that economic growth is stifled by environmental regulations. An MIT economist, among others, has found that "The odds that environmentalism could be negatively associated with job losses at the state level are extremely poor: slightly more than one to thirty one. We can safely reject the notion that state environmentalism resulted in economically meaningful job losses. [ The Economic Impact of Environmental Regulation - MIT] Then we can look for options that both mitigate or minimize impacts (greenhouse gas creation) and help adapt at the same time. For example, how about a program to finance the moderate rehabilitation of our houses paid for through the energy savings created by the rehab? Most existing houses are in cities and towns. Creating better cities and towns helps protect the environment of My Minnesota in a number of ways. I've seen proposals that urge green rehabilitation of existing buildings as a way to increase energy conservation, save money, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I don't recall seeing the additional benefit of (re)building better communities listed as a way to rebuild Main Street. Maybe because we haven't been mindful enough of taking care of and building on what we have in our Minnesota? Newer and bigger isn't always better in My Minnesota. Rants and raves served daily. Stop back soon.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Prairie praise

The Music of Failure
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Have you ever visited Minnesota's western prairie country? Have you read the prairie works of Bill Holm, Robert Bly, or Paul Gruchow. If not, you're missing some of My Minnesota's most amazing and indigenous experiences. Although I've read much of his other work, I just started reading Holm's first book of essays, The Music of Failure. Minneota, Bill's home town, has been a "drive by"each time I was traveling in the vicinity of Marshall, Montevideo, and Lac Qui Parle. I don't recall ever stopping. After reading his version of The Grand Tour, I regret the omission, although without Bill's detailed description, I'm sure I would have missed many of the details that make small towns best known to those who live there. It seems to me that Paul Gruchow's Journal of a Prairie Year should be required reading for everyone that lives in Minnesota. My first copy sort of fell apart from overuse. It's one of the few books I've bothered to replace. The newer edition has a wonderful Foreward by Scott Russell Sanders, a very welcome addition. I wish that we could replace the tall grass prairie as readily as Paul wrote about its remaining remnants and the country that surrounds them. And, neither last nor least, across the silent, snowy fields of western Minnesota, we see Robert Bly, Minnesota's first poet laureate, and raconteur extraordinaire. Poetry, simplicity, natural world, natural words and mysticism help make Bly's poems about life on the western edge of Minnesota an invitation to read close and deep. As Spring begins to freshen in Minnesota, a trip to the library or your local independent bookstore for something prairie-focused from one of these three Minnesota treasures will help you appreciate and treasure the wonderful mystery that begins near the western border of our Minnesota and continues a thousand miles up to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. If your library card has expired, and you don't live near an independent bookstore, you can explore here. But even better would be to spend some of Spring on the prairie. You can catch up on the raves and rants at My Minnesota when you return.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sic transit

© harrington
Yesterday, frost crept up the storm windows, again. A light coating of hoar frost glittered on the trees. Overnight temperatures drop to single digits. Daytimes aren't quite making it above freezing, although the sun's strength plus dark roads, soil or shingles shrinks snow and ice cover. The roof edge is decorated with suspense after suspense of icicles, glistening in the sun. Sun rise now occurs in the middle of the study's east-facing window, not at the southern, right hand, edge. By June it will be rising at the left hand, northern, edge. As the sun transits the sky from south to north, so Spring becomes Summer. Wildflowers bloom and fade. Hatchlings grow and fledge. Do you notice any of this as you live your life? If you're visiting here, the answer is probably yes. So I ask you, how can we help those who are missing the day to day wonders and pleasures of living in our Minnesota, because they are focused on "more important" things? There's a saying I came across many years ago to the effect that "no one on their deathbed ever wished they'd spent more time at the office." Ahead of us is a Spring season that can be full of flowers, rebirth, growth, regeneration and restoration. Kids, lambs, calves, colts, chicks, kittens, puppies, children, friends and loved ones are there whether we notice them or not. But, and it's a huge but, if we don't notice them we won't take pleasure in them. Love is not an abstract emotion. It's immediate, real, very soft and very, very hard. Long, long ago, on a blog site far, far away, I found some advice that I'm beginning to finally follow. Click the link, follow the advice (a request, not a command), and come back again to share some more Spring in My Minnesota. THE LINK (Oh, and Happy Birthday! to my better half; may this Spring weave you the sunshine.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Season of sugar and mud

photo of two tom turkeys in a snow field
© harrington
Welcome, Thanks for dropping in. The dark dots you can see above the shadow line in the photo are actually a couple of tom turkeys walking across the neighbor's field yesterday afternoon. If the photo were larger, you would be able to notice that the snow cover is shallow enough that most of the birds' legs are visible. The snow cover on the township road is also very shallow. Unfortunately, although turkeys and deer don't seriously compact snow in the woods and fields, cars and trucks do compact it on township roads. Then, when we get to celebrate Spring, our country roads (thank you, John Denver) turn to ice and mud. Where the clay content of the class five aggregate is high enough and combines with snow melt, it's hard to tell one from the other. Neither does anything for traction or directional stability. If it weren't for the occasional deer or turkey that decides it's better and safer to run in front of an on-coming vehicle than to wait, icy roads would be less of a hazard. On the plus side, warm days above freezing and cold nights mean that sugaring season is underway. Maybe one of the few positives that may come to My Minnesota as a result of being the top warming state in the nation could be an increase in the number of sugar maple trees growing here and the amount of maple syrup produced. One the other hand, the current drought and our profligate use of water, combined with the impacts of climate change, may present more problems for wild rice growing. We have created a consumer culture and, although we're really, really good at consuming the earth's resources, we haven't realized yet that, when our climate's gone, we can't just buy another to replace it, not even a "new and improved" climate with more warming power with the naming rights going to Fossilfuels, Inc. Just imagine the entertainment value and good will "this thousand year storm brought to you by Fossilfuels." Thanks again for coming. Stop back again soon. Rants and/or raves served daily here in My Minnesota.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Can't beat third place

photo of entrance to Nina's Coffee Cafe at Selby and Western, St. Paul
© harrington
Have you ever heard of a third place? I bet you have. I bet you've even been to one. Have you hear of Ray Oldenburg? Ray's an urban sociologist who wrote a book called The Great Good Place, about third places. First Place is Home; Second Place is Work; Third Place is a place like Nina's Coffee Cafè. Ray's premise is that "bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other 'third places'... are central to local democracy and community vitality." We seem to have reached a point where the only democracy left in this country is local, and there's not enough of that. Community vitality is to be nurtured, cherished, supported, endorsed and fostered. It contributes to local economies, Community Supported Agriculture, food coops, housing cooperatives, energy cooperatives (hopefully leading to a decentralized energy generation system less and less dependent on fossil fuel generators), arts organizations, poetry in the sidewalk and Writers Rising Up. Nina's has a frequently rotating display of art by local artists. "Overflow" tables are shared with Subtext, the downstairs bookstore successor to Common Good Books (prop. G.Keillor) which moved to a higher traffic location near Macalester College. At Nina's, yellow brick walls plus a cup of cappuccino or a latte become a yellow brick road to an urban Oz, a magical land of intelligent conversation, hip, funky table mates, and a constant buzz of humans interacting, except for the poet at the corner table, left alone while she fine tunes her troublesome stanza, and the essayist at the "loft" table at the top of the stairs, staring out the distant plate glass window, trying to see the logical progression in his piece about the futility of mining fracking sand and shipping Minnesota by the trainload to Pennsylvania. Nina's keeps a running list asking those who have written all or parts of a book while there to list their name and the book's title. Weekend evenings often offer local music. Doesn't some of this sound like a better way to spend an evening in My Minnesota than cooped up in the living room, watching the latest and greatest idoling survivor make it to the next level. Bowling alone and drinking alone are each worse than living alone. Place's like Nina's offer an antidote to all three. Maybe that's another reason they're know as third places. Next time you're at your favorite third place, be sure to stop by and visit My Minnesota.