Sunday, August 16, 2015

Local is as local does

We ate our first honeycrisp apples of the season this past week. They had the crisp part just fine but might have been picked a little early for the "honey" flavor.

ruby-throated hummingbird at feeder
ruby-throated hummingbird at feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

When once we only had a male or a female visiting at a time, several hummingbirds have been showing up at the feeder this week. They've also been exploring the picture window to see if there's a way into the house, perhaps to taste the Better Half's purple orchids growing in view of the window. I'm assuming that this year's family is learning their way around and starting to "fatten up" (if I can use that term about hummingbirds) in preparation for their migration.

Canada goose, gander and goslings
Canada goose, gander and goslings
Photo by J. Harrington

I've heard reports that the Canada geese are going through their "training flights" these mornings, when this years goslings test their wings and the adults make sure all the pieces are there after the Summer molt. These practice sessions will continue until they all head south at or just after freeze-up.

Thinking about migration provides a different perspective to the question of "local" as in local food or local economy. For example, historically, "...the Ojibwe ...moved according to a seasonal subsistence economy---fishing in the summer, harvesting wild rice in the fall, hunting, trapping, and ice fishing in the winter, and tapping maple syrup (see below) and spearfishing in the spring...."

Local foods can be as close as our backyard, or within a "100-mile diet" range, or the five-state region centered around Minnesota. Our hummingbirds and geese travel more than 1,000 miles from their Summer range to the Gulf coast or beyond. If that migration distance is "natural," we probably need to give more thought to what we're trying to define as "local," lest we be found arbitrary and capricious. You might have thought that, since we finished the bioregional quiz last Friday, we were done with it for now. You might have jumped to a conclusion.

Where We Live

By Michael Dickman 
For John Guare 
I used to live
in a mother now I live
in a sunflower

Blinded by the silverware

Blinded by the refrigerator

I sit on a sidewalk
in the sunflower and its yellow
downpour

The light of  the world
beads up on one perfect
green leaf

It scribbles its name on every living thing then erases it so what’s left is more of a whisper than a mother

Here it’s spring

Over and over and over again


I used to live
in a cloud now I live
in a crow

It’s tiny and crippled in there but I can find my way to the bathroom in the dark if   I need to

All the windows
in the crow are left open
and let the clouds in

Back in

They float past my bed and have nothing to say

Hello it’s nice to meet you!

From a telephone pole
tongues slide out singing
welcome home

Welcome home they sing


I used to live
in a tree now I live
in a king

He waves his arms in front of   him and endless migrations of   birds disappear into his coat

I like to sit up inside
his crown eating sandwiches
and watching tv

Hills shake in the distance when he shuffles his feet
Floods when he snaps his fingers

I bow inside his brow and the afternoon stretches out
Orders more sandwiches

And sells the slaves

and sets the slaves free

and sells the slaves


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