Monday, June 26, 2017

Half baked #phenology

For those of you who may share my sense that our unseasonably cool weather needs to end soon, I've decided to fix it. Unfortunately, it may have been I who created much of this pattern by finally packing away the last of my Winter season clothes a short while ago. I know, I should have been less optimistic and more Minnesotan. Now I'm going to try reverse psychology on the weather gods and goddesses. I've reactivated my sour dough starter. (This is, I hope, at least a little bit consistent with Dana Meadows' approach described in Dancing with Systems.)

I'll feed the starter for the next day or two, despite temperatures running 10 to 15 degrees less than average. Then, I'll be ready to bake a couple of loaves of sour dough bread sometime before the July 4th weekend is over. If this works as I intend, our cool, good for bread baking temperatures should reach the mid-80's to low-90's by next weekend, more seasonal but less than ideal for running the oven. For those who can't stand Summer's typical hot, humid weather, please save the hate mail. I'm just working on temperatures, not humidity. Send the nasty messages to whoever handles rain, fog and snow, if it gets humid to go with my heat.

Black-eyed Susans in August
Black-eyed Susans in August
Photo by J. Harrington

The pattern this year does seem sort of out of whack, I think that's the technical, meteorological, term. For example, I haven't yet seen any black-eyed Susans in bloom this year, have you? To be honest, my photos, plus my less reliable memory, suggest we should see them much later than June around here, but, according to phenology resources sitting on my shelf and online, Susies should be nodding in our roadsides by now.

Day lilies, June blooms
Day lilies, June blooms
Photo by J. Harrington

In a more typical(?) year, by now we also would have seen some day lilies, such as those in the picture above, from June 19 last year.  This year they're just starting to bloom as of yesterday or today, about a week later than last year. Is that normal? How can we tell? Minnesota started June much warmer than average, then dropped below average and looks like it may end the month about average. The scientists who study climate change say we should expect more extremes, including more cloudiness, since warmer air can hold more moisture. I think they're projecting future events pretty well so far.

Have you ever read the book about black swan theory? Not only are our weather patterns and phenology sequences demonstrating what seem to be more and more black swans, so are our politics. I don't like the way many of our trends are developing. Then again, some claim Lao Tzu tells us that "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." Others say this is a misattribution and cannot be found in the Tao Te Ching. Perhaps that helps explain why I'm reading Only Don't Know, Selected Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn who advises "If you don't understand, only go straight — don't know. Whatever that means, it somehow seems like good advice for folks like us to follow these days. I am, however, willing to consider alternative perspectives if you have any you think might better fit our "O tempora o mores."

After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard


East of me, west of me, full summer.
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
                                         looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.

Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
                       I flit from one thing to the next.
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
                  Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.

The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
                                           up from the damp grass.
Into the world’s tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.


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