Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cold weather activity for humans #phenology

Walking a dog this morning, the sky was clear. I could see a few stars but, since I had left my glasses in the house, so they wouldn't be all fogged up when we got back in the warm, and the windchill was about minus 20℉, I didn't see any meteorites. [The Better Half, "She who enjoys Winter," walking her dog shortly after SiSi and I had been out, reported seeing no meteorites either.] For me, sky watching, and many other outdoor activities, go much better with temperatures above freezing. (Ice skating isn't included in that list, but then, it's been many years since I've played hockey or been on skates.) It's highly improbable I would have done well on Hoth.

what we usually get at the front feeder
what we usually get at the front feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

As I bet you already know or have heard, today the Earth is at perihelion to the sun, putting us 3% closer than we are in July. There is no doubt an explanation as to why, when we in the North Country are "enjoying" what may be our coldest weather, it happens at the same time the Earth is closest to the sun. There is equally do doubt that the answer wouldn't make me feel warmer.

Black-capped chickadees, White-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers have discovered that the front feeder has been refilled. Pretty much the same crew of usual suspects has been showing up at the deck feeders too, although yesterday afternoon they were joined by a Red-bellied woodpecker. My strategy for getting through these bitter, windy Winter days is to stay inside as much as possible and do even more reading than usual.

what we hope for at the front feeder
what we hope for at the front feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

Since it's cold outside and reading is an inside activity at this time of year in Minnesota, and we are rapidly approaching the inauguration of a new administration, one which won a minority of the votes cast, I rechecked A Yale history professor’s powerful, 20-point guide to defending democracy under a Trump presidency for for reading suggestions. Low and behold, I had read, many years ago, 1984, (and Animal Farm, as well) but none of the other tomes listed in his point number:

"6. Be kind to our language.

Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps The Power of the Powerless by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev."
Much to my surprise and disappointment, neither of my local library systems have listed in their catalogues any of the other three of the first four titles. Those books are also nonexistent to rare at several of the local used book stores. That makes me all the more determined to read at least a couple of them, perhaps via a request at one of the library desks when I go to check out the Peter Pomerantsev title? Look at the mischief I can get into when the weather turns this cold. Read this Milosz poem to judge for yourself if how he thinks seems appropriate to the times.

You Who Wronged


By Czeslaw Milosz



You who wronged a simple man
Bursting into laughter at the crime,
And kept a pack of fools around you
To mix good and evil, to blur the line,

Though everyone bowed down before you,
Saying virtue and wisdom lit your way,
Striking gold medals in your honor,
Glad to have survived another day,

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
You can kill one, but another is born.
The words are written down, the deed, the date.

And you’d have done better with a winter dawn,
A rope, and a branch bowed beneath your weight.


Washington, D.C., 1950


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