Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The bane of "Normal" #phenology

I'm just about ready to accept the idea that the "new normal" is that there's not much (any?) normal anymore. We just keep setting records for warmth or wet or wind or something. It's probably time for me to dig out and reread Joan Didion's essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Being reminded of the cultural milieu of the '60's should help me persist through today's environmental and political turmoil.

It rained again last night and this morning. Rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow and Thursday. A multi-county area around the Twin Cities is under flood watch through Wednesday night. We're not as bad off as Baton Rouge, but we're trying. The float trip on the St. Croix last Friday represents a bit of luck in both weather and river stage. I read over the weekend that some rivers in Arkansas have been too high to be fished effectively due to near continuous wet weather down south. I'm starting to wonder how long this will need to continue before it affects the local fly hatches. Something to look into over the Winter, but nothing to look forward to if and when it occurs.

those large, dark "dots" (except the largest) are turkeys
those large, dark "dots" (except the largest) are turkeys
Photo by J. Harrington

I can't prove it but I believe the warmer, wetter Summer around here has affected the patterns of the local turkey flocks. You know, the ones I've fretted about off and on over the past few months. Yesterday, I was pleased to count 16 or so in a large, loosely grouped flock picking and pecking their way across the back hill. That's encouraging and probably a good indication for me to stop fussing about things I can't change, like the weather. That's something all of us together have accomplished.

Red Baneberry, pretty but poisonous
Red Baneberry, pretty but poisonous
Photo by J. Harrington

One thing I can and will change, as soon as I've posted this, is that I'll go and pull the ripe Red Baneberry I noticed out by the compost heap yesterday because "Baneberry plants are poisonous and the berries are considered especially poisonous." There were a number of plants (I think nightshade) that sprouted from the bagged compost the Daughter Person and Son-In-Law put on their flower garden. I thought we had pulled and disposed of all of them, but something seems to have been missed, or maybe the baneberry is a "volunteer". That's all too often normal in this life.


By Francis Ponge

Translated by Joshua Corey and Jean-Luc Garneau

The rain, in the backyard where I watch it fall, comes down at different 
rates. In the center a fine discontinuous curtain — or network — falls implacably and yet gently in drops that are probably quite light; a strengthless sempiternal precipitation, an intense fraction of the atmosphere at its purest. A little distance from the walls to the right and left plunk heavier drops, one by one. Here they seem about the size of grains of wheat, the size of a pea, while elsewhere they are big as marbles. Along gutters and window frames the rain runs horizontally, while depending from the same obstacles it hangs like individually wrapped candies. Along the entire surface of a little zinc roof under my eyes it trickles in a very thin sheet, a moiré pattern formed by the varying currents created by the imperceptible bumps and undulations of the surface. From the gutter it flows with the restraint of a shallow creek until it tumbles out into a perfectly vertical net, rather imperfectly braided, all the way to the ground where it breaks and sparkles into brilliant needles.

Each of its forms has its particular allure and corresponds to a particular patter. Together they share the intensity of a complex mechanism 
as precise as it is dangerous, like a steam-powered clock whose spring is wound by the force of the precipitation.

The ringing on the ground of the vertical trickles, the glug-glug of the gutters, the miniscule strikes of the gong multiply and resonate all at once in a concert without monotony, and not without a certain delicacy.

Once the spring unwinds itself certain wheels go on turning for a while, more and more slowly, until the whole mechanism comes to a stop. It all vanishes with the sun: when it finally reappears, the brilliant apparatus evaporates. It has rained.
Translated from the French

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