Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Don't force it

photo of beardtongue in bloom
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for visiting. Just a few short weeks ago, this beardtongue was blooming all over the property. Now, there's hardly any to be seen. We're starting to see transitional season fog. Have you ever tried to make a plant produce fruit before it's time? Have you ever tried to expedite healing an injury your body has sustained? How well did either effort work? The next time you're faced with such a temptation, may I suggest you take a moment to read Testament of a Fisherman by John Voelker, writing as Robert Traver. Here's a copy.
"I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful,
and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the
television commercials, cocktail parties and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world
where most men spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of
delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or
impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect
that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because
mercifully there are no telephones on fishing waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without
loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup tastes better out there; because maybe someday I will
catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I
suspect that so many other concerns of men are equally unimportant -- and not nearly so much fun" 
An alternative version of the philosophy is captured, it seems to me, in Pete Seeger's wonderful Turn, Turn, Turn. One of the reasons I do my best to keep publishing My Minnesota (with occasional recent interruptions) is that I hope the effort may help someday make me as wise as John/Robert and Pete. I hope you read it for the same reason. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. Come again when you can.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tomorrow?

photo of the sun coming up
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for the visit. Remember "Annie?" Remember the lyrics to the song "Tomorrow?" I needed to double check. I've been home from the hospital one week today. A week from tomorrow I get my staples checked. Today I've been awakened and noisily chastised several times by a little brown and black and white dog who thinks he is more determined to play with me than I am to sleep and recuperate as much as possible. Always remember, no one is totally useless who can at least serve as a bad example or as a source of amusement for small dogs. This particular small dog is kind enough to limit his inclination to howl and run away every time he sees the stitchery the surgeons have practiced on my scalp. I'm far from an expert in these things, but I believe I could qualify as bad cover art for a heavy metal album. Being "laid up" for awhile does give one lots of "normal" things to  look forward to doing again, but then, I've heard people say that one reason to bang one's head on a brick wall is that it feels so good when they stop. This doesn't carry the same weight with some of us as does the idea that fly-fishing is the most fun one can have standing up in rubber pants. Based on the past week, I have to get my general health back to a point that I can survive dressing after I've done my daily Physical Therapy exercises. I think I'm going to try to sneak up on those. A frontal assault seems but foolish. I hope you're all doing well and doing good. The deadline for submissions for 25 books every Minnesotan should read hasn't yet approached, let alone passed. Suggest some titles and authors. The world won't end if we exceed 25. The sun will come up tomorrow. I promise. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily (at least we're working back up to daily servings, health and extenuating circumstances permitting).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Prevention preceeds resilience

photo of Carlos Avery marshes
© harrington
Welcome! Thanks for visiting. Do you remember "Superstorm Sandy," the hurricane? How about the tornado that demolished Greenberg, KS. One of the reasons these events hurt so many families and businesses is that, we as a society, allowed people to build where we knew it wasn't safe to build. We didn't require stringent building codes because "it costs too much." We also wiped out many of salt marshes that served to buffer coastal storm surges. These were not accidental decisions. They were not made in ignorance. As far as I know, these were conscious decisions made in hopes that the rational minority would be proven incorrect. They were made with all the responsibility of a crapshooter playing with the families' monthly rent money. I lived ten of the better years of my life in and around east coast salt marshes. They often looked like the fresh water Carlos Avery marshes pictured above (make allowances for differences in specific plant species). The land and water and wildlife patterns were/are similar. Waterfowl, fish and shellfish use marshes as breeding and resting grounds and nurseries. Minnesota is known for it's waterfowling and fishing. It used to be known for its button mussel industry. Why are we continuing to permit (as in issuing permits to) industry to destroy and only partially restore our natural resource base. I don't think the solution is to monetize the value of ecoservices provided by nature. I suspect those who prefer to fight with dueling checkbooks would just love us to redefine the issues in their terms. If we weren't already guilty of monetizing that which shouldn't have a value placed on it because it is priceless [thank you Mastercard] maybe we could stand up for non-monetary values, you know, the kinds of things we used to call truth, justice and the American way. We'd best try to find those values again soon, and hope that enough of us still share them, because we aren't likely to be successful in the future using our short-shighted rants to protect our individuality and freedom. I think we'd best remember Bobbie McGee's assessment: "freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose." Thanks for listening. Have you made your suggestion on twenty-five books every Minnesotan should read? See if the comments are working and send a title and author. Minnesota is too important to loose because enough of us didn't show we cared. Something like that's already happened once. Check The Lorax by Dr Seuss. Come again when you can.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Almost there

Hi! Thanks for checking in. If you're wondering why the blog looks different, please check with Blogger. I haven't intentionally changed anything. Much as I've always wanted to "fly like an eagle," these days I'd settle for being able to caw like a crow. Sharp noises and rapid movements hurt my head. I know, those of us who have survived traumatic surgery should be more grateful. I'm sure I will be as the experience of random pain and twinges diminishes. For now though, I again want to let Sue and the crew at Subtext know how much I appreciate their efforts in keeping alive our list of twenty five books every Minnesotan should read. Yesterday I updated the list [below]. It now has links (to local independent stores as much as I could). Here it is [although we're still not up to 25]:

Paul Gruchow:
Robert Bly:
Howard Mohr:
Craig Blacklock:
Paul Gruchow and Jim Brandenberg:
Mary Lethert Wingerd:
John Tester:
Jim Gilbert:
Sigurd F. Olson
Bill Holm:
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Lorna Landvik
Helen Hoover
Grace Lee Nute
Justine Kerfoot
Lucy L. Morris
Sarah Stonich
Louise Eridrich
Kent Nerburn
Claudia Poser
Donna Tabbert Long
Danielle Sosin
I'd also like to thank readers of this blog for their patience with the irregularity of recent postings. I can but suggest how much I wish I were in shape to do better. I'm planning on getting back to rants, raves and reflections served here daily as soon s I can. In the interim, I'll do what I can and continue to appreciate your patience. Both will be needed for the near future. Mother Nature seems to be determined to teach me that neither growing a plant nor recovering from an injury can rightly be hurried. I think the student is ready.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Recovery has many paths

photo of doe and fawn in Summer field
© harrington
I want to particularly thank the good folks at Subtext for their well wishes:

"Our best wishes go out to John Harrington who was the inspiration to our '25 Best Books to read to understand Minnesota' list. He had a bad week health wise and we hope he is feeling better. Was it all that thinking about the list, John?"

For the record, I am feeling better. Thanks. I didn't yet break my brain
working on the list, although that's still well within the realm of possibility if I treat it like a brick wall to bang my head against. Instead, I'm trying to follow Tom Sawyer's example with the fence to be white washed  and get better read Minnesotans than I to supply authors and titles. All in all though, I'm reminded of the story about Lincoln (or Roosevelt?) to the effect that he could deliver a 2 hour speech with about 20 minutes notice but, if the requester wanted a 20 minute speech, he would need two weeks notice. Both the recovery and the list are taking longer and are more work than anticipated. Both are also wonderful learning experiences. I'll add titles I've missed that others have suggested, make sure there aren't duplicate listings and provide a complete update on this blog tomorrow. Today, in addition to thanking the folks at and through Subtext who've wished me well in my recovery and helped with our list, I want to rant a little at the folks at University of Minnesota Medical Center. Not at the wonderful teams who deliver care, but the folks who design and redesign the facilities in which great health care is delivered. This may, or may not, be the first time they've had as a patient someone a little bit familiar with biophilia and sustainable building. But, as more of us Minnesotans take an interest in sustainable living, there will be more patients who notice the lack of views of nature and the natural features missing at least in those areas of the center to which I was exposed. I wish the University the best in it's efforts to become a top ten world class research university. I hope their medical department will start to engage facilities designers able to create the kind of designs that can bring about the improved recovery results more and more research studies are showing. Now that I'm home, I can enjoy the kind of views [taken this morning] shown at the top of this page (the fawn is barely visible to the left of the doe). I know these scenes help my recovery and also help me feel better during the down times of my recovery. Minneapolis isn't devoid of beautiful views of nature. I'm sure someone creative could help the U figure out how to bring the views that already exist to the patients who will come there for the best, most advanced, most holistic treatment. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Be the change

photo of a Minnesota heaven?
© harrington
Welcome! I fear I'll loose a substantial share of my recent readership now that folks will no longer need to check in to see if I'm still a practicing Minnesotan blogger. I was discharged today. (By the way, as much as I could support the idea, I can't verify that Minnesota's heaven looks like this with a lake in the center.) In about two weeks, I'm supposed to go back and get the staples in my head removed. I suspect that may be as bad as it sounds Meanwhile, I intend to do as much as possible to achieve some good and enjoy life. Today, one of my doctors made my day (actually made my life all of which needs to be taken into account to explain where I am today). When a doctor expresses even a mild amount of envy regarding the good I can do in my job, I sure as hell pay attention and decide to do better work. The only other thing of note that's been happening recently on these pages is the beginning of a conversation about 25 books every Minnesotan should read. We're now up to a listing of 15 authors with an objection to one book. Here's the current listing, still in no particular order. I'll try to add links to potential local sources tomorrow. We're still looking for suggestions. Fifteen obviously isn't twenty-five, which number was selected because it seemed like a readable number of books.


Paul Gruchow:
Journal of a Prairie Year
Robert Bly:
Silence in the Snowy Fields
Howard Mohr:
How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide
Craig Blacklock:
Lake Superior Images
Paul Gruchow and Jim Brandenberg:
Minnesota: Images of Home
Mary Lethert Wingerd:
North Country: The Making of Minnesota
John Tester:
Minnesota’s Natural Heritage: An Ecological Perspective
Jim Gilbert:
Minnesota’s Outdoor Wonders
Sigurd F. Olson
Wilderness Days
Bill Holm:
The Music of Failure
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie [series]
Lorna Landvik
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
Helen Hoover
The Gift of the Deer; Place in the Woods
Grace Lee Nute
The Voyageurs Highway
Justine Kerfoot
Woman of the Boundary Waters

 If you haven't noticed, our North Country once again seems to dominate. I don't object at all to the attention paid to the peace and beauty of our northwoods and lakes. I do think it's a shame if our magnificent prairie country is neglected. Is this list the best we want to offer the world of readers who want to learn about our Minnesota? Thanks for helping. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. By the way, even with bright afternoon sun in my eyes, I am truly, truly grateful and realize I am very very lucky to be writing this from my patio at my house in my yard in My Minnesota. From one who's been to a dangerous corner of life and returned, please don't take anything in your life for granted. The fellow that was in the bead next to mine seems to have a longer path to recovery than I think I'm faced with. Those who should know tell me it could have been much worse for me and mine. Our lives, our loves and our Minnesota are too fragile to be taken for granted or wasted frivolously.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Gift of the Deer

Hi! You have no idea how much happiness is captured in typing those two letters. Other than a temperature that spiked earlier today and has kept me from going home for now, and the fact that this photo is the most green I've seen in four days, I seem to be recovering well. Turns out that one of my occupational therapists is a musician. His last name is spelled Zerr and he tells me it's pronounced Anderson. Only in Minnesota. We could all use more folks in our lives like that. Speaking of the kind of folks we could use in our lives, this week I've been lucky to learn that I have many of them and one of them includes Sarah Stonich, the wonderful author of Vacationland, a book I've recently started, who quite properly chastised my initial listing of ten books all Minnesotans should read with her comment that said "My My, only one woman? How about "The Gift of The Deer" by Helen Hoover. "The Voyageurs Highway" by Grace Lee Nute, and toss in a Justin Kerfoot for good measure." My only excuse, and a poor one it is, is an extremely faulty memory. I read "The Gift of The Deer" by Helen Hoover many years ago. I should have listed it. Thank you Sarah for joining the conversation and helping out. We could use more like you in this conversation. Kristen wrote she would add the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and any of Lorna Landvik's books. I have to admit that the title "Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons evokes pictures of Edina and the old Daytons. I'm truly grateful for the suggestions from other well-read Minnesotans. One of my fondest hopes is that this become our list, not just my list. Thanks for participating and for caring. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. By the way, would anyone support the inclusion of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom on the list?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't take life for granted

photo of close to heaven
© harrington
Hi. From what I'm told, it's your turn to welcome me back. I have traveled as close to heaven this week as Lazarus did. Multiple hours in surgery Wednesday morning getting a subdural hematoma fixed has convinced me that enjoying our moments of consciousness  is essential. In the process fo being repaired, I've met some wonderful nurses, therapists and doctors and one chaplain all dedicated to helping many of us return to what we call a normal life. As the person who has lived with me for some time just said "you are one hell of a lucky sucker." This helps to confirm my long time suspicion (as a recovering planner) that "no amount of planning will every replace dumb luck." I'm glad to be back. Thanks to those of you who actually missed my prattling. If you're nice to me I promise to not post the picture of me looking like Frankenstein, with staples running down the middle of my head. I've noticed some comments on my 25 books every Minnesotan should read. I'll get to those tomorrowwhen I can given them the attention they deserve. Thanks again for caring and participating. Rants, raves and reflections will continue to be served here daily whenever, and as long as,  I'm able.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stupid is as stupid does

photo of thunderheads at sunrise
© harrington
Hi! This should have been yesterday's posting. The record of 253 consecutive daily posts was broken because Verizon, our DSL provider, had a service outage that lasted at least most of the evening. I'm reminded of the Middle Eastern(?) practice of making small imperfections in rugs (and things?) because only G d can make something perfect. Anyhow, as I was driving to work in the morning, listening to a weather forecast that said there would be no rain (at least in the forecast), I was watching these thunderheads build. I didn't hear of any rain so I guess the forecast was more accurate that what my very eyes thought they could see. Does that happen to you on occasion? You think you see something, you think you know what you see and what it means and, later, it turns out that what you saw wasn't what you thought or what it meant? Another example from the past few days. We have a hanging basket of begonias over the front stoop. Early one recent morning, as I was taking Si-Si for our morning walk, I turned on the front light and saw the begonia basket not hanging, but on the stoop. My immediate thought was "I didn't know that bears liked begonias. Wonder why s/he left some?" The reality was a heavily watered hanging basket exceeded the holding capacity of the screw holding it. There wasn't a bear involved at all. Having seen a few locally in the past few weeks, I was preconditioned to "presume facts not in evidence," as my lawyer friends would say. (I hope you don't think less of me having learned that I have lawyers as friends.) In fact, I think it may have been a lawyer, long ago, who taught me to "never attribute to maliciousness what can be accounted for by stupidity." That lesson has held up well (better than the begonia.) All in all, I've had a couple of lessons in the past week about limiting my projections from what I see to what it means (and even what caused it). Thanks for listening. Sorry I missed yesterday. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Upawn consideration

photo of Summer dawn at Carlos Avery
© harrington
Hi! Have you noticed that Summer's sultry seduction works on many of us, maybe most, but not all? Apparently, I am married to the "woman who hated Summer." Classic case of it's both the heat and the humidity. When it's hot enough, or humid enough, or both, even a Summer breeze doesn't do much to cool us off. The dogs spend most of their time flopped out, belly up, tongue hanging and breath panting. (Reminds me of the old joke about the fat man who hikes to the top of the steep hill in Summer and takes off his hat and pants.) The moth and butterfly field guides arrived today. I'll see if I can figure out "what's the creature on the kitchen screen." I think I'm going to see if I can cheat a little today. The Terrain blog (not directly or specifically related to Minnesota, that's the cheat) has three recommendations on poetry and one on prose. I've read My Green Manifesto (Milkweed Editions, a Minnesota publisher, saved from cheating), the prose recommendation. If the poetry recommendations contain writing as good, they're all worth reading. (I need to see if my local library has any kind of worthwhile contemporary poetry selection.) There's been quite a tumult about a certain "Not Guilty" verdict delivered recently. Those of us who remember when a Hibbing kid named Zimmerman was starting out under the name Dylan, he delivered The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll [another not guilty verdict] and Only A Pawn In Their Game, both from "The Times They Are A-Changin'." You might want to listen to these two masterpieces, or at least read the lyrics, and think about how little the times have changed. I think we need to remember one of the messages from the Lorax:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
I wasn't there to see what happened in Florida. I do believe that "stand your ground" laws are little more than an invitation to vigilantism  brought to us by the same kind of folks opposing immigration reform and dropping nutrition programs from agriculture legislation. In case you want to call me on what this has to do with nature and Minnesota (and I hope you care enough to ask), one of the basic legs of sustainable society is social equity. I care too much about living in and leaving a sustainable Minnesota to my children to be willing to take an "I've got mine, lock the gate" attitude. How about you? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reading Summer

photo of lazy, hazy days of Summer
© harrington
Welcome. I'm sure you know that Summer is a traditional time for reading, no doubt due to vacation schedules. This morning while we were at Subtext, the bookstore downstairs from Nina's, I started a conversation with Sue, the proprietor, about "25 books every Minnesotan should read." We have such a rich and rewarding heritage (literary and social and environmental) that reaching a consensus on our "literary commons" may be a real challenge, but one I believe we can rise to meet. The listed books must capture the essence of Minnesota and should primarily be written by Minnesotans (a few outlanders can be allowed). Ten of my nominees would include (in no particular order):

Paul Gruchow:
Journal of a Prairie Year
Robert Bly:
Silence in the Snowy Fields
Howard Mohr:
How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide
Craig Blacklock:
Lake Superior Images
Paul Gruchow and Jim Brandenberg:
Minnesota: Images of Home
Mary Lethert Wingerd:
North Country: The Making of Minnesota
John Tester:
Minnesota’s Natural Heritage: An Ecological Perspective
Jim Gilbert:
Minnesota’s Outdoor Wonders
Sigurd F. Olson
Wilderness Days
Bill Holm:
The Music of Failure
 It's intentional that there aren't more authors and titles listed here. This is supposed to be a conversation, not a monologue nor a dissertation to be defended. What would you add (or subtract) from this list to get to 25 books that best capture the Minnesota you most love? Thanks for listening. Feel free to add your nominees using the comments option (which may or may not work on any given day). Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dog days?

Welcome. Please join me as we experience the present, or rapidly approaching, dog days of Summer. As we avoid perspiration by turning the fan up and the air conditioning up and the thermostat down, we might want to consider at least one basic alternative: slowing down. Can you tell me what a sunrise smells like? Have you listened to the sound of s Summer zephyr playing the leaves of a field of soybeans? Have you looked out your window and seen "the sun pour in like butterscotch and stick to all [your] senses?" Can you describe the mist rising over the local pond on a damp and humid morning? Aren't these the days you dreamed about last January and February as the cold and snow encapsulated your life like a mausoleum? How good, or great, or new does something have to be for you to really appreciate it? What's sufficient? How much is enough? Is anything short of perfection a failure, to be thrown on the trash heap? Is you iPhone the latest? Are your clothes the hippest, most fashionable? Do you actually enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or do you just go through the motions from long established habit? Is walking the dog a chore or a pleasure? I've heard there's a saying among small plane pilots that "any landing you can walk away from is a good one." Would you be happier and you life more satisfying if you believed that any day you've lived through is a good one? By the way, have you read any poetry recently? Who's your favorite poet? Who have you helped in the last twenty-four hours? Who have you thanked? Summers are short enough we might want to seriously consider enjoying every bit of them, whether they meet our standards of perfect Summer day, or not. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Local delights

photo of whitetail doe under a pear tree
© harrington
Hi! Meet one of our charming neighbors. Obviously, people in a house (us) about 50 yards away aren't enough of a concern to keep someone from helping herself to the browse on the pear tree. (Note the bare branches on both sides.) We're not sure if this doe is the same one that was bedded down in the tall grass around the back yard "wet spot" earlier this week. The good news is that Franco the rescue wonder dog is too busy chasing non-existent squirrels from the deck to notice larger critters that are actually there. (There are plenty of squirrels actually on the deck from time to time. Franco just refuses to let their presence [or lack thereof] determine whether or not he can chase them and bark at them.) Did you go and read the Connie Wanek piece as suggested(!) yesterday? I'm please to tell you that I got to Magers & Quinn today in time to buy their last copy of Darkness Sticks to Everything, or at least the last copy they had on the shelf. The clerk said they'd order more but I noticed yesterday that Amazon has it listed as a one to three month special order so I'm not sure how soon more copies will arrive. (yes, I spent more than Amazon charges and put up with aggravating traffic to buy from a local bookstore. If Amazon disappeared off the internet, I doubt that I'd miss it as much as I would if my local independent bookstore went away because everone was too busy saving money at Amazon. Browsing real books on real shelves with real people around and coffee nearby is much more to my liking than clicking on internet buttons and having software suggest what others like me are buying.) I am feeling somewhat righteous about the fact that I came out of a bookstore with no more than the one book I went in to buy. There's little doubt that temptation will overcome me next time but, in the interim, a rainy weekend has probably been salvaged, or, at least, made more enjoyable. I hope you enjoy your weekend too and that you find enough time to come back when you can. Thanks for visiting. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The light side of Darkness

Welcome. I just returned from picking up this week's CSA share at the W.E.I. Amadore Hill Farm. Most of the local ponds are turning green. We saw one doe at the back edge of a corn field. Si-Si enjoyed the ride. For the second consecutive trip I didn't get lost. This week's cookie share was half a dozen oatmeal raisin cookies, one of my favorites.It's been, all-in-all, a good day. Earlier, I came across a wonderful article by Connie Wanek, Duluth writer and poet, on the mnartists web site reviewing Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected and New Poems by Tom Hennen. I must have read at least one of his poems in Garrison Keillor's anthology Good Poems. I'm sorry to say I didn't follow up to find more of his work. After Connie's review, and the (linked) N.Y. Times review, I'll be reading more of Hennen's work in the near future. In fact, I was so taken by the review, and the included poems, that I'm going to stop early today so you can go and read some delightful prose about a Minnesota poet by a Minnesota poet. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. [In case you didn't notice, today's posting was a rave about both Connie's review and Hennen's poetry. The icing on the cookie is the afterward by Thomas R. Smith, another better than fine local poet and writer.]

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

State of flow

photo of Allium (prairie onion) in blossom
© harrington
Reader, meet Allium! I think this is the prairie onion version. I haven't yet noted any this year but that probably doesn't mean anything except I haven't been near wherever I took this last year. As we settle into Summer, do you find yourself experiencing it as a series of days, like a calendar in which each day and week and month is a discrete object, separate from all the others? Do you, instead, ever get a sense of seasonal flow with time flowing like a river on which you're flowing endlessly and irreversibly downstream? I'm becoming more and more interested in the difference between focusing on processes rather than products. Plants can be seen as leaves, stems, flowers, roots or as a process that converts sunlight and rain and soil into stored energy. When I look out onto a field of grasses and wildflowers, I end up with a very different emotional response when I sense a process rather than products. I can imagine myself as part of the process (converting plants, and, indirectly, sunlight into me) much more readily and comfortably than I can sense myself as one of the parts (I'm not a plant and have no stems or leaves or flowers, although I am growing roots). For a slightly different perspective from a place long ago, try these lyrics from Dylan's "watching the River Flow."
People disagreeing everywhere you look
Makes you wanna stop and read a book
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
That was really shook
But this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow
I'm leaning toward the idea that this may be a fitting way to approach the seasons, life and today's world. What's your take on process versus products? Remember, you can only eat or drink so much, and drive one vehicle at a time, and no one that I know of has ever come back to confirm that "he who dies with the most toys wins" and I've always wondered: wins what? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Moth-eaten Summer

photo of unidentified large moth on window screen
© harrington
Hi! This is the creature that prompted me to order the moth and caterpillar field guides. Apologies for the quality. My iPhone couldn't figure out how to focus through the screen instead of on it. By the way, through the screen you can see the same yard through which "Bearly There" wandered a few days ago. To help orient you, you're looking almost due North, the gravel road is off to the right and the front of the house is also to the right. If you look carefully, you can see a number of dead branches on the oak trees. I finally found an explanation of what's going on. From the National Park Service Mississippi River and National Recreation Area web site:
As the Mississippi River corridor was settled in our area, grass fires became less frequent and fire intolerant trees grew up around the bur oaks. These lesser trees block light to the lower branches of the bur oaks. When branches no longer have access to light, the tree often “self-prunes” letting those useless branches die so valuable resources can be used on those branches that still have access to sunlight. Look for open grown bur oaks with dead lower branches that were once located in what was savanna, but is now forest.
 You may or may not be able to see that the local bur oaks are thick enough (and the fires around here suppressed enough) that the trees are self-shading. Since I haven't noticed similar patterns with maples of birch or ... I'm intrigued by how this evolutionary trait came about and why it seems limited to bur oaks. It does all help me see that individuals, whether trees or people or whatever, are defined in part by the community in which they live. Remember the old saying "clothes make the man person?" Much of what I'm reading and thinking about these days leads me to believe that community makes the person and the people (plus the climate and the trees and the soil and the water and ...) make the community. You know, we're all in this together. Now, about your ecological footprint and you energy use intensity! In fact, I was delighted to learn that a number of Minnesota cities are actually tracking the effects of their sustainability initiatives. They started out as Green Step cities and went on from their to participate in the (statewide) regional indicators initiative. Check it out. Talk to you local community and civic leaders. Join the parade. We need to move beyond green to regenerative development. Sustainable is an intermediate stop. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beauty is as beauty does?

photo of butterfly-weed (orange mildweed) in bloom
© harrington
Hi! Doesn't that butter-fly weed just look like Summer? It's also known as orange milkweed. In addition to making lots of butterflies happy, it had lots of medicinal uses for Native Americans. I had no idea. Did you? How many other things do we take for granted when we should be in awe of their potential uses beauty? How easy it is to slip into the mode of judging on utilitarian values alone. How easy to think utility pertains only to us. Do butterflies see aesthetic beauty in orange milkweed or do they recognize it primarily as a source of nectar? Does a butterfly salivate at a field of orange milkweed the way I do when I smell a Juicy Lucy and onion rings? I discovered over the weekend that we have an Audubon field guide to North American butterflies but that it doesn't include moths. (I know, moths and butterflies aren't the same.) The latest issue of Big River magazine has photos of moths and then I noticed a very large moth on the kitchen window screen on Saturday. That combination got me started looking through our field guide library for moth references. I soon discovered that I can probably figure out any butterfly I come across in My Minnesota, but I'm strictly OTL (out to lunch) when it comes to moths. Such are the challenges of being an armchair naturalist. On the other hand, I did come across a web site on Butterflies and Moths of North America, that's worth checking out if you're into Lepidoptera and whatever. I bet you didn't know that later this month (July 20-28) is National Moth Week. Did you? I'm starting to feel that we've made it to "those lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer" and I'm even less focused than usual. I'll stop now before I begin prattling, if it's not too late already. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Haying season

Hi! Enjoying Summer? We have temperature in the mid to upper 80's; trees fully leafed out; grasses topped with seed heads; humidity daunting to oppressive; lakes finally warm enough to jump in; air conditioning a pleasant surprise when coming inside; mosquitoes, deerflies, horseflies, and assorted and sundry other flying biting creatures filling the air. Several days ago we noticed fireflies in the back yard. Dragonfly squadrons seem fewer and further between this Summer than in years past. Yesterday, a doe with triplet fawns was reported to be seen in the back yard, a treat to watch for in the future. (I resisted the urge to say "fawns spotted" in the back yard and was almost successful in resisting that temptation.) I don't recall ever seeing as much purple vetch and hoary alyssum as are blooming right now. The fields look like an ad for the Minnesota Vikings. The orange daylilies along our roadside are now in bloom. Summer's zenith is a good time to think of those whose work takes them to hot and humid fields.

Twilight: After Haying

Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?

The men sprawl near the baler,
too tired to leave the field.
They talk and smoke,
and the tips of their cigarettes
blaze like small roses
in the night air. (It arrived
and settled among them
before they were aware.)

The moon comes
to count the bales,
and the dispossessed—
Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will
—sings from the dusty stubble.

These things happen ... the soul's bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses ...

The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
That hay will smell sweetly of Summer next Winter. I hope you manage to put up some wonderful memories these warm days to see you through next Winter's storms. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stop your [k]vetching

Welcome! I think the picture is of red clover. When I'm driving through the countryside, I frequently confuse it with crown vetch. I never confuse either of them with purple vetch, which I frequently confuse with hairy vetch. Plant identification at road-speed is unwise and unnecessarily challenging. I have a hard enough time standing over or kneeling next to a plant with a field guide in my hand. I do much better with wildlife, such as the large black bear we spotted yesterday as we were on our way to pick up our CSA share for the week at Amadore Hill farm. This one was two to three times the size of the "little" guy(?) we had visit our back yard earlier in the day (~100 lbs versus ~300 lbs). S/he was  a couple of hundred yards away, headed into the woods from the back edge of a cornfield with a pigeon-toed stride that looked like s/he was shoulder-balancing a chip. It's a rare day when I get to see a black bear in the wild. Two in one day is magical. I gives me an entirely different feeling about where I live. Si-Si the blond lab stayed stretched out on the back seat and never noticed nor got excited. She travels well. She doesn't respect personal space very well nor the fact that food on the kitchen counter top isn't intended for her. This week's CSA cookie share largely disappeared while I was otherwise occupied. I'm certainly glad she didn't get her "better to ask forgiveness than permission" attitude from her owner. Neither of the bears we saw looked like they were about to ask permission either. In honor of Summer and a two-bear day, let's enjoy this Hayden Carruth bear poem.

Bears at Raspberry Time

Fear. Three bears
are not fear, mother
and cubs come berrying   
in our neighborhood

like any other family.
I want to see them, or any   
distraction. Flashlight   
poking across the brook

into briary darkness,   
but they have gone,
noisily. I go to bed.   
Fear. Unwritten books

already titled. Some
idiot will shoot the bears
soon, it always happens,
they’ll be strung up by the paws

in someone’s frontyard   
maple to be admired and   
measured, and I'll be paid   
for work yet to be done—

with a broken imagination.   
At last I dream. Our
plum tree, little, black,   
twisted, gaunt in the

orchard: how for a moment   
last spring it flowered
serenely, translucently
before yielding its usual

summer crop of withered   
leaves. I waken, late,   
go to the window, look   
down to the orchard.

Is middle age what makes   
even dreams factual?
The plum is serene and   
bright in new moonlight,

dressed in silver leaves,
and nearby, in the waste
of rough grass strewn
in moonlight like diamond dust,

what is it?—a dark shape   
moves, and then another.   
Are they ... I can’t
be sure. The dark house

nuzzles my knee mutely,   
pleading for meaty dollars.   
Fear. Wouldn’t it be great   
to write nothing at all

except poems about bears?
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. By the way, if you're still not sure about [k]vetching, follow the link.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bearing my soul?

Hi! Welcome. Shortly after I took this picture of an angry, red sun rising behind the trees, I went back across the road, up the driveway and into the house. I then filled the front bird feeder, went back outside and hung it up. About the time I was doing all of this, the neighborhood black bear (not full grown, more than a cub) was casually sauntering along the north side of the house, apparently making his/her rounds (gender unknown) looking for errant trash cans (ours are in the garage) and bird feeders (see above). As I grabbed the camera, "Bearly There" [like that name?] wandered through the side yard and stopped to check out the compost heap. I'm guessing coffee grounds and corn husks didn't offer much appeal. There's no photo of the bear because the compost heap is screened from the house by a number of trees and I wasn't passionate enough about getting Bearly's picture to go down the deck stairs and get closer so I could get a clear shot. Having spent most of my adult life as a rugged outdoors person hunter/fisher, my next most immediate thought was: "I need [not want, need] a bear-size caliber handgun for protection." Si-Si and I could have been attacked while on our morning constitutional. I then pictured clearly what the scene would look like as I tried to quickly extract a handgun from its holster [either on my hip or in my armpit] while faced with a charging bear and a panicking Si-Si. I followed that with the scenario of taking out the bird feeder while "packing" and the bear comes around the corner of the house, all of 15 or 20 feet away. If you've ever seen a Keystone Cops or Marx Brothers movie... So, maybe I should hang a couple of pots together from Si-Si's collar so they can bang together and scare Bearly (only one? unknown) away. Maybe I'll try some of the ideas on this bear smart web site. Since I'm still working on whether a black bear is one of my totem animals, I don't want to limit myself to options that may be terminal for the bear, Si-Si or me. In fact, I think it's time to put thoughts of bears in the context of these questions from Mary Oliver.
THE MOTH, THE MOUNTAINS,
THE RIVERS
Who can guess the luna's sadness who lives so
briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone
longing to be ground down, to be part again of
something livelier? Who can imagine in what
heaviness the rivers remember their original
clarity?

Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile
time with them. And I suggest then to you also,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that you bow to the earth as
you feel how it actually is, that we--so clever, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained--are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.
 Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.