Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August update #phenology

I'll concede this first item is a little questionable. It's definitely seasonal, but maybe not so natural, more's the pity. Today is Primary Election Day in Minnesota. I voted. Although I arrived after the "morning rush," I was only number 30 in our small township. I've long been an adherent of the precept "If you didn't vote, you can't complain." I keep finding so much to complain about that I don't want to loose my complaining ticket. If you need info, try the Secretary of State's site.


The second item in our update is an internet discovery found while looking for something else. (Such serendipity is also one of the reasons I love visiting independent bookstores.)  The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission [GLIFWC] has a 2016 phenology calendar. Since the GLIFWC is both indigenous and local, we hereby update our August 1 listing of Sturgeon Moon to the GLIFWC's manoominike-giizis, Ricing Moon. We've already mentioned goldenrod blooming, but now we can also know to look for nighthawks migrating.

August goldenrod
August goldenrod
Photo by J. Harrington
As additional Minnesota phenology resources, we can add that the Freshwater Society's 2017 Minnesota Weatherguide Environment calendars are now available! You no doubt are already familiar with the Minnesota Phenology Network's web site.

The format of the GLIFWC phenology calendar seems like it would be a good framework to build a Northern Rivers phenology. (I'm not sure how far south of Minnesota we need to go before we're free of rivers that ice up.) Events that I can think of of the "top of my head" include:
  • Spring -- ice out, flow increase
  • later Spring, early Summer -- snow melt, high water, flooding
  • Summer -- torrential rains, flooding
  • Autumn -- low flows
  • late Autumn, early Winter -- ice up
These need refinement and revision, but they're a start. Events like fish spawning will vary by species but can be added as we go along. Suggestions for improvement and additions gratefully accepted.

Speaking of refinements and additions, no sooner had we proposed curating a list of River poems, that the Academy of American Poets released their curated list of Poems on Water for Teachers. There must be more than humidity in the air this August.

My Mother Goes to Vote


By Judith Harris


We walked five blocks
to the elementary school,
my mother’s high heels
crunching through playground gravel.
We entered through a side door.

Down the long corridor,
decorated with Halloween masks,
health department safety posters—
we followed the arrows
to the third grade classroom.

My mother stepped alone
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her.
I could see only the backs of her
calves in crinkled nylons.

A partial vanishing, then reappearing
pocketbook crooked on her elbow,
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel.
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already
been decided.

We marched back out
finding a new way back down streets
named for flowers
and accomplished men.
I said their names out loud, as we found

our way home, to the cramped house,
the devoted porch light left on,
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted
into a voting place—
there were two mothers, conversing,
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.


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