Saturday, March 12, 2016

Preview of coming events

Highs in the mid 60s, such as we're enjoying today, are more typical for late April or early May in this part of the world. Don't put away your Winter jackets and snow boots just yet, you'll only be tempting the weather gods. Instead, just enjoy this gift from Mother Nature and say "Thank you" to her.

mid-March 2014 snow cover
mid-March 2014 snow cover
Photo by J. Harrington

If I were back in Massachusetts at this time of year in this kind of weather, I know exactly where I'd be, on the bay side of the isthmus that divides Duxbury Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, fishing for flounder. In Minnesota, we're at that awkward time of year when the ice is pretty chancy for ice fishing and open water seasons haven't yet begun except for some catch and release trout waters. On the other hand, two years ago we were still in the midst of snow season.

mid-March 2015 no snow cover
mid-March 2015 no snow cover
Photo by J. Harrington

Earlier this morning, while drinking coffee and reading a piece in the 10th Anniversary issue of Ecotone, I started thinking about what it means to know a place. The author was observing the advantages of having lived in several very different locations and being able to "compare and contrast." Having, just yesterday, been confronted with the challenge of being able to identify the plants growing on my own little piece of Minnesota, I pondered whether being able to "name" some or all of the local flora and fauna is a requisite for "becoming indigenous," or naturalized, as the case may be. Then there's the question of local folklore, or lack thereof. Does folklore coincide with bioregional boundaries?

The Better Half recently lent me her copy of the journal GeoHumanities: Space, Place and the Humanities. I suspect I'll spend some time skimming through the articles and wading through the academic prose as I continue to try to come to some "sense of place" that may, or may not, match a "sense of people and culture." If I had never encountered Schroediger's cat or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, such topics would no doubt be of less concern. In simple terms, I'm still trying to figure out what it means to be at home in this place where I live on this planet in this universe. Quotations from two of my favorite writers may frame this better. Wendell Berry notes that "People exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but the defend what they love..." Theodore Roethke wrote "I learn by going where I have to go." Why do some of us simply "value" a place, while others defend it? I have to go try to find and understand answers to that question. I'm sure they're at a place we all need to find.

Value Added

By Stephen Sandy

No one knew what the stones like squatting frogs
signified. There they were, fuming in rows, out
of the ground; every critic had his explanation
or hers. But—we had to remember—they
came to nothing, every one; those large stones
out of the earth served the systems
of those who considered them, as explaining
something about the past it was important
for the explainer to explain. And yet
no one had any idea truly; there was no
basis in fact for any view of them, and
they remained like their origins—or like
smiling Olmec babies, sweet but ominous figures
come from the earth to reproach us, almost
cheerfully, for our ignorance—a mystery, just
as the probe of our feelings came up with nothing.

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