Friday, August 31, 2018

Summer's end marks Autumn's beginning -- the Circle Game #phenology

We hope you're enjoying this last day of meteorological Summer. We're starting to wonder if we should spend Labor Day weekend building an ark. The weather forecast for the next week or so includes rain every day except tomorrow. Getting the brush pile torched isn't looking very promising, but we live in hope. The cottontail runny babbit whose home is under the pile would be grateful for the rains if s/he knew what a day or two of dry weather would bring. Rather than leave a rabbit homeless at the start of cooler weather, we intend to consolidate several smaller piles that are currently perched elsewhere on the property. We can't add all of them to the current pile without taking a chance on having a fire too large  to comply with DNR's regulations.

food fit for a deer
food fit for a deer
Photo by J. Harrington

We keep seeing pairs and family-sized small flocks of sandhill cranes in some local fields. If there are any larger flocks assembling nearby, we haven't yet noticed them. The oak trees near the front corner of the drive have been dumping lots of brown acorns onto the ground. Seems early for that. None one seems interested in feeding on them yet. at least we haven't noticed tracks in the mud near the acorns. Then, again, a yearling whitetail doe did stop under the pear tree a bit ago. Checking for fallen fruit we suspect.

food fit for a deer
early September acorns
Photo by J. Harrington

September's full  moon will be almost a month from now, on the 24th. The Ojibwe call it manoominike-giizis, rice moon. In his wonderful A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold calls to our attention what is mostly no longer there in September: the early morning chorus of birdsong. Come September the southerly migration begins for many songbirds. The feeders around the house have been getting emptied much more quickly than when the fledglings were being fed insects rather than finding their way to sunflower seeds and sugar water nectar, and the last bit of grape jelly for the soon to depart Baltimore orioles.

September Midnight



Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer, 
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,  
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,  
Ceaseless, insistent.   

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,  
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence  
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,  
Tired with summer.    

Let me remember you, voices of little insects, 
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,  
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us, 
Snow-hushed and heavy.   

Over my soul murmur your mute benediction, 
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest, 
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,  
Lest they forget them.



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Thursday, August 30, 2018

bringing Autumn into flower

Each year, for the past five or ten years or so, about this time of year, we've planted a half dozen of so chrysanthemums along the North side of the driveway. They add a nice touch of autumnal color until snow banks bury them. Come Spring every single year, every single one of them has died, although they are supposed to be perennials. Too much snow and ice and not enough protection in the Winter.

driveway mums
driveway mums
Photo by J. Harrington

We had been contemplating replacing the mums this year with some asters. The asters we planted near the road on the driveway's North side two years ago were inadvertently dug up by the Daughter Person. The ones we planted last year on the South side of the garden suffered the same fate as our mums. We fairly quickly learned to be more intentional with our hunting and fishing efforts, rather than "chuck and chance it. Our gardening and horticultural education is proceeding much more slowly. Older brain?

wild asters by the roadside
wild asters by the roadside
Photo by J. Harrington

Since we now know to try to protect this year's mums (straw mulch?) to see if any survive, we'll look for alternative locations for the asters we were considering substituting for mums. Maybe they'll do better since climate change has now brought the border of hardiness zones 4a and 4b near to us. Not long ago we were in zone 3.

Chrysanthemum


by Josephine Moore


Petals, defying gravity
in life, strong in youth,
using water for bone
structure, open
with hydraulic home-grown
Mechanics. The delicacy
of pressurized blooms
is reinforced by dry
spells: arid soil
leaves weakened gardenry
To wilt as the flower-heads droop
to their weedless graves.
But harvest chrysanthemums
at their peak full-
ness, press them among plum
Pudding recipes and bible
verses, squeeze moisture
from xylem and phloem,
and they will stand
crisper than freshly-cut mums.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

random rains of violence

Today's weather is close to a perfect Autumn day. Midday temperatures in the mid-sixties, cool northerly breeze, partly cloudy, partly sunny skies are a very welcome change from the humid or raining weather we've had over the past week. At least we haven't suffered the 5" to 12" or more of rain that southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin have received the past several days. In addition to creating suffering for the human inhabitants of the area, we wonder if the flash flooding will affect the trout populations. Those who have studied climate change tell us that we should expect storms and other weather-related events to be more intense. Much of this Summer's weather and wildfires seem to bear that out.

Vernon County WI stream before deluge
Vernon County WI stream before deluge
Photo by J. Harrington

One of the Wisconsin counties hit hardest by the rains is where we vacationed with the Better Half a couple of weeks ago. In fact, there was one very attractive house for sale in a community we drove through. Unfortunately, it was located in the flood plain of the Kickapoo River in a location noted for its flooding. We're both disappointed and glad that we didn't succumb to temptation. We wish a speedy recovery to those affected by the recent rains and flooding both in Wisconsin and in Minnesota,

Local rains have softened the soil enough to make pulling buckthorn relatively easy. We were back at it today after we spent some time pulling poison ivy roots and stuffing them into a black lawn and garden bag. We also threw out the inexpensive "rubber gloves" we work over a pair of work gloves to pull the damn vines. We're minimizing our use of Roundup, although there are several places where the roots are held by the soil tightly enough that they just won't pull and will require spraying, unless we break down and get some goats.

buckthorn and dame's rocket
buckthorn and dame's rocket
Photo by J. Harrington

While removing invasive and irritating plants in preparation for replacing them with more attractive and even tasty flora, we came across some thorny seedlings that look like prickly ash or black locust. We haven't paid enough attention yet to have a tentative identification. That's on the list of things to do between now and Labor Day. We just confirmed that the swamp milkweed produced some seed pods that look like sort of like pea pods or something. If we end up with an explosion of swamp milkweed next year, we suspect that neither the butterflies nor we will complain. (Ash?-locust? and swamp milkweed seed pods have been added to the "to be photographed" ToDo list.) So far the routine of using yard work as a form of exercise and focusing on the process of actually getting to know many of the details of what's living on "our" property with us is going well. We're starting to wonder if home is where you feel you belong as much as any other explanation, and belonging seems to require, or at least respond to, interaction.

Home


Carl Sandburg18781967


Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night when I listened
To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry
 in the darkness.


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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Water is Life #WorldWaterWeek

It's the noon hour on August 28, 2018 in East Central Minnesota. The skies are cloudy. The local temperature is 60℉. As we type this, we're wearing a fleece-lined flannel shirt and our fingers are cold. IN AUGUST? IN MINNESOTA? Clearly this is not part of global warming but it may well be related to climate change.

Plus, the areas of southwestern Wisconsin we've visited this year are currently under flood watches due to lines of thunderstorms that have been passing through Minnesota and into our neighboring state to the East.

Today is approximately the middle of World Water Week. According to one of their policy briefs,
All the 17 [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, are linked to water. The 2030 Agenda recognizes that social development and economic prosperity depend on the sustainable management of freshwater resources and ecosystems and it highlights the integrated nature of the SDGs. It is therefore important to consider how water contributes to all the goals. When looking for solutions, one goal cannot be tackled without taking into consideration how the others are affected.
Grand Marais Harbor on Lake Superior
Grand Marais Harbor on Lake Superior
Photo by J. Harrington

Lack of a holistic perspective is one of the current faults experienced in Minnesota. There, plus other Great Lakes States, people are faced with increasing competition for existing water resources, those once considered abundant to a fault. Are we killing the geese that lay the golden eggs? In the northern part of Minnesota, mining for copper is seen as presenting unacceptable risks to the Boundary Waters, St. Louis River and therefore Lake Superior. Yet, political pressure to proceed with the mining proposals continues. The southern third or so of Minnesota fails to meet water quality standards due, in large part, to (corporate) agriculture while growing numbers of proposed industrial-scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations [CAFO] further threaten the water supplies and local surface water on which communities and tourists depend.

a trout stream in Minnesota's farm country
a trout stream in Minnesota's farm country
Photo by J. Harrington

Wisconsin has already obtained an "exception" to the Great Lakes Compact and Agreement for Waukesha to withdraw Lake Michigan water, and the prospect of the Foxconn project offers further threats to maintaining any integrity to the Great Lakes compact.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes offers insight to other perils facing these lakes, as does The Great Lakes Water Wars. We suppose that, as long as people continue talking about the growing demands on our finite resources, there's a chance that we'll escape some shooting wars. That's more than we can say about other parts of the world. We wonder how many Midwesterners are in attendance at World Water Week.

Water



The water understands 
Civilization well; 
It wets my foot, but prettily, 
It chills my life, but wittily, 
It is not disconcerted, 
It is not broken-hearted: 
Well used, it decketh joy, 
Adorneth, doubleth joy: 
Ill used, it will destroy, 
In perfect time and measure 
With a face of golden pleasure 
Elegantly destroy.



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Monday, August 27, 2018

Does a "normal" band of brown = a "normal" MN Winter? #phenology

We're a few days late posting this. Last week we discovered the season's first wooly bear caterpillar. It's been hanging around on the inside of the screens on the back patio. The photo is less than ideal because, in the afternoon, when we took the picture, the sun was shining and backlit the fuzzies more than our cell phone camera could comfortably handle. It looks to us as though the brown band is about "normal," whatever that means. After about half a lifetime here, we're not convinced there is such a thing as a normal Winter in Minnesota.

should we expect a "normal" Winter?
should we expect a "normal" Winter?
Photo by J. Harrington

Last year we found a wooly bear late in the season and, carefully following directions, put it in a jar with food and earth to watch it hatch come this Spring. The effort failed. The caterpillar never made it to the cocoon stage. As some form of compensation, we'll do a catch and release on the caterpillar that is still trying to find its way out of the screens. We can free it next to the area where we left the tiny frog, about the size of the nail on our little finger, that left onto SiSi's head when we let her out to do some business. Cutest darn frog we've ever seen. Sorry we couldn't get a picture.

A Caterpillar on the Desk


by Robert Bly


           Lifting my coffee cup, I notice a caterpillar crawling over my sheet of ten-cent airmail stamps. The head is black as a Chinese box. Nine soft accordions follow it around, with a waving motion, like a flabby mountain. Skinny brushes used to clean pop bottles rise from some of its shoulders. As I pick up the sheet of stamps, the caterpillar advances around and around the edge, and I see his feet: three pairs under the head, four spongelike pairs under the middle body, and two final pairs at the tip, pink as a puppy's hind legs. As he walks, he rears, six pairs of legs off the stamp, waving around the air! One of the sponge pairs, and the last two tail pairs, the reserve feet, hold on anxiously. It is the first of September. The leaf shadows are less ferocious on the notebook cover. A man accepts his failures more easily-or perhaps summer's insanity is gone? A man notices ordinary earth, scorned in July, with affection, as he settles down to his daily work, to use stamps.


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

our celebration of #NationalDogDay

Because it's #NationalDogDay, the dogs to whom the Better Half and we belong insisted we post their pictures.

Our own four-legged friend is SiSi, a yellow lab X ? cross. She has two speeds, bubbling

SiSi, with the bubbling personality
SiSi, with the bubbling personality
Photo by J. Harrington
and off!

SiSi, in the "Off" position
SiSi, in the "Off" position
Photo by J. Harrington

Our Better Half belongs to Franco, a border collie X ? cross, who is noisier but more circumspect than his blond companion.

Franco, whose human is our Better Half
Franco, whose human is our Better Half
Photo by J. Harrington

Each is a rescue dog, which means that each rescued their respective, if not overly respectable, human from a dogless existence. The pair of rescuers have agreed that, if we do a good enough job with today's posting,  they'll reward us with a treat. They would also like all of you to know that, if you don't currently have a dog, you should head for your nearest shelter and let one rescue you.

“The Sweetness of Dogs”


by Mary Oliver


What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. It’s full tonight.
So we go

and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself

thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.
“The Sweetness of Dogs” by Mary Oliver from Dog Songs 


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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Season changeup #phenology

Next weekend is Labor Day, the unofficial end of Summer. It's also September 1st, the official start of meteorological Autumn. The goldenrod near the wet spot behind the house is losing its flowers, although throughout our area there's still great swaths of golden yellow flowers to be seen. More and more maples are showing colorful leaves. The bergamot behind Coffee Talk in Taylors Falls has lost almost all of its petals. About eighty percent of what remains are only seed heads with a lonely petal or two on each stem.

'tis the season of goldenrod
'tis the season of goldenrod
Photo by J. Harrington

The Better Half took me to Coffee Talk today for a cup of cappuccino, a reward for the hour or so spent this morning pulling yet more buckthorn. The progress is becoming more noticeable each session. We're looking forward to being able to plant replacement native shrubs this Autumn or next Spring (or, some of each). Yesterdays and last nights rain softened the soil to make the pulling easier. We noticed a number of cedar seedlings intermixed with the buckthorn so we're removing those also. Plus, despite our efforts with poison ivy strength Roundup earlier this Summer, we have a number of vines looking frustratingly healthy. We think the next logical step is to pick up a pair or two of throw away work gloves and try pulling the ivy and disposing of it and the gloves in a black plastic trash bag.

and the season of changing color palettes
and the season of changing color palettes
Photo by J. Harrington

Hummingbirds are still around and, as of yesterday, so are/were Baltimore orioles. The last of the grape jelly went into the oriole feeder this morning. About this time of year peak migration occurs so we'll buy another jar next Spring. The report from Annenberg Learner web site is that the southward migration of monarch butterflies has started.

The End of Summer



Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.



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Friday, August 24, 2018

should Minnesota follow Montana's mining initiative?

Three times last century, Minnesotans failed to approve an initiative and referendum process. We were residents, and voters, in 1980 and voted in favor. We were dismayed at the failure then and are even more so now. Here's one reason why.

Montana, another state whose name begins with "M," and also a state where mining issues are becoming more contentious, has an initiative, I-186, that would modify that state's current mining laws in a way that, among other things,
Places the burden of proof on the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to find, in writing and based upon clear and convincing evidence, that proposals for new mines will not cause perpetual water pollution problems.
which way would Twin Metals' waters flow
which way would Twin Metals' waters flow
Photo by J. Harrington

That last phrase reads to us as if it could help address some of the issues related to the mine development proposed for PolyMet's NorthMet project and the Twin Metals development. From what we've read, the evidence available on PolyMet is neither really clear nor convincing. Financial assurance isn't enough, in our opinion, for a variety of reasons, up to and including uncertainty about where and how potential any catastrophic failures might fit into any financial assurance provisions.

As part of the supporting information in favor of the I-186 initiative, a description of the status quo reads much too much like what we believe about Minnesota's status for us to have any degree of comfort about how mines and mining are and will be overseen in our state's future. Here's what's claimed:
Currently, newly proposed mines are supposed to prevent pollution from entering Montana’s waterways. Unfortunately, due to insufficient enforcement and lax legal standards, this hasn’t happened. Mines such as Zortman-Landusky, Montana Tunnels, and Beal Mountain have become permanent sources of pollution, the companies have gone bankrupt, and taxpayers have spent millions of dollars treating contaminated mine water (and will do so forever). 
St. Louis River between PolyMet NorthMet and Lake Superior
St. Louis River between PolyMet NorthMet and Lake Superior
Photo by J. Harrington

It remains beyond our comprehension why the owners, investors and managers of both PolyMet and Twin Metals haven't taken an initiative themselves and committed to join the United Steelworkers, ArcelorMittal, Microsoft and others by participating in the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance's Launch Phase. Starting a new kind of mining in Minnesota, in locations that could severely degrade some of the state's most revered natural resources, warrants "belt and suspenders" levels of protection. We're not likely to achieve that with our business as usual approach nor with a win-lose process wherein we perpetuate an unnecessary and ill-founded jobs vs. the environment conflict.

We doubt that Montana's water resources are any more valuable to them than Minnesota's Lake Superior and Boundary Waters are to Minnesotan's. We are equally doubtful that Minnesota's mining regulators are much more rigorous than Montana's. We think the new and emerging processes offer much more potential for avoiding mining contamination than what we have now. We also believe that the demands for sustainable supply chains will continue to grow. What we don't believe is that it is wise for Minnesota to continue to ignore international standards that move the world toward sustainable mining and continue to rely on the same old same old processes in a new world facing a new normal.

Perpetuum Mobile


By Marin Sorescu

Translated by Michael Hamburger


Between people’s
ideals
and their realization
there is always
a greater drop
than in the highest
of waterfalls.

This potential gradient
can be exploited
rationally,
if we build a sort of
power station above it.

The energy it supplies,
even if we use it only
to light our cigarettes,
is something
anyway;
for while one is smoking
one can very seriously
think up
ideals even crazier.


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Thursday, August 23, 2018

"finding our place on the planet"

Every once in a while, one of Life's little ironies reaches out and trips us. Sometimes nothing actually changes except our perception. Today was one of those times for us.

There is an absolutely wonderful book by French author Jean Giono, titled The Man Who Planted Trees. We've read it several times and have often thought about the pleasures of a simple, focused life, oriented around the restoration of a place through tree planting. Such seemed beyond our reach.

backyard buckthorn
backyard buckthorn
Photo by J. Harrington

Earlier today it occurred to us, as we were researching shrubs to plant in lieu of the buckthorn we're pulling that, if we substitute pulling buckthorn for planting trees, we can live a life similar to that of the man who planted trees. This realization, and some of the lessons related to distinguishing buckthorn from the black cherry trees and seedlings on the property, is helping us also learn just how much attention we need to pay to minimize the mistakes could make by unnecessarily cutting down a cherry tree because we (mis)identified it as overdeveloped buckthorn.

nearby wild serviceberry
nearby wild serviceberry
Photo by J. Harrington

While we're on the theme of pulling and replacing buckthorn, we'll share the tidbit that the Minnesota DNR's list of deer-resistant shrubs doesn't seem to have any overlap with their list of shrubs to replace buckthorn. Sigh! So, the other two constraints we're looking at are sandy, well drained soils and a moderate to very shady site. One the plus side, we'd like to be able to forage fruit from whatever we plant.

At the moment, we're leaning heavily toward juneberries (serviceberries) and/or chokecherries. One reference suggested nannyberries which we'll consider if we can find references to use in any foraging guides. We're also contemplating the fact that there's wild serviceberry bushes just down the road, so either the local deer herd doesn't find them that tasty or ours will just be one more cluster in the forest.

It's a pleasant feeling to think we've made some progress this week and that we're engaged in a process more than a project or series of projects. We're actually following Gary Snyder's advice to:
“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”

For the Children


Gary Snyder


The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
The steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light


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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

writing nature

One outcome of our recent participation in a workshop about "nature writing" was a reminder that we had started to compile a list of sources of awards on that theme. Even with one or two more incarnations, we doubt if we'd have time to read all the books we already know we'd like to read, let alone those we haven't yet discovered, to say nothing of those yet to be written. Limiting the list to writing about nature and the outdoors probably wouldn't help much, but we need to start somewhere. Perhaps sometime soon we'll get "caught up" enough to add Dwellings, a Linda Hogan book, to our Christmas list, along with some others. We've been trying to get to reading some of her writing for a couple of years now. The writing class included a page-long excerpt from Dwellings.

our Blue Marble, "Nature" from a distance
our Blue Marble, "Nature" from a distance
Photo by J. Harrington


  • Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award [SONWA] (Northland College)
    Established in 1991, SONWA honors the literary legacy of Sigurd F. Olson by recognizing and encouraging contemporary writers who seek to carry on his tradition of nature writing. In 2004, organizers expanded the award to include children’s literature and in 2015 added the young adult genre. For a full list of winners 1991-present.
  • Henry David Thoreau Prize (PEN America)
    Established in 2010 by Dale Peterson, the Henry David Thoreau Prize is awarded annually to a writer demonstrating literary excellence in nature writing. Previous winners: Gretel Ehrlich, E. O. Wilson, Gary Snyder, Peter Matthiessen, T. C. Boyle, Diane Ackerman, and Linda Hogan.
  • John Burroughs Medal, John Burroughs Nature Essay Award and Riverby Awards
    (John Burroughs Association)
    The John Burroughs Association seeks to enrich lives through nature by encouraging and promoting nature writing. Not only do these literary awards promote nature books and essays and exploration of the natural world, they serve to advance their authors and stand as inspiration to other nature writers.
  • The National Outdoor Book Awards
    National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and Idaho State University
    The purpose of the awards is to recognize and encourage outstanding writing and publishing. Each fall in early November, the NOBA Foundation announces the winners of the ten categories making up the program, including History, Literature, Children, Nature, Natural History, Instructional, Adventure Guidebook, Nature Guidebook, Design, and Outdoor Classic.

Nature, at a more intimate scale
Nature, at a more intimate scale
Photo by J. Harrington

Minnesota has its own annual book awards, but there isn't a separate category for nature writing, which is too bad we think since our adopted home state has provided many wonderful and great writers, a fair number of whom have done a superior job of writing about nature in Minnesota as we'll as writing about Minnesota's nature.

OH NATURE


     Today some things worked as they were meant to.
A big spring wind came up and blew down
     from the verdant neighborhood trees,
millions of those little spinning things,
     with seeds inside, and my heart woke up alive again too,
as if the brain could be erased of its angry hurt;
     fat chance of that, yet
things sometimes work as they were meant,
     like the torturer who finally can’t sleep,
or the god damn moon
     who sees everything we do
and who still comes up behind clouds
     spread out like hands to keep the light away.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

There are paths through these woods

Several years ago, when we were active in the green building sector, some of us came to acknowledge that "there's more than one path through the woods." The concept is that there's more than one way to do a better job, whatever the job may be, particularly regarding sustainable development. Recently, we've been feeling more and more glum about the number of our "fellow Americans(?)" who seem determined to get and stay lost, rather than follow any path. Then it occurred to us to take another look at what's happening, using only our peripheral vision.

the path is made by walking
the path is made by walking
Photo by J. Harrington

Lo and behold, there's lots of folks doing lots of good, creative work, making paths by walking them. Time to brighten up and join the parade. We may have mentioned some of these in previous postings, but until very recently hadn't managed to put all the pieces together in an alignment that makes sense.

Early this morning we read all of an interview with Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. In it, we found mention of Donella Meadows, Elinor Ostrum and several others who have been exploring and describing ways to have a sustainable economy.

there is more than one path through the woods
there is more than one path through the woods
Photo by J. Harrington

This interview is only a small part of the growing treasure of resources being collected at the Next System Project, an initiative of The Democracy Collaborative.

Those collaborations provide both a framework of and examples of how to move toward attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We're seeing a growing number of references to how these goals are, or can be, readily incorporated into strategic plans for corporations, both for profit and not for profit, and governmental agencies.

Some of the bigger issues facing planet earth and its inhabitants these days derive from the complex of climate change and the action, inaction, and retraction on commitments to address and adapt to it. In a broad sense, Raworth's Doughnut and a future economy designed as regenerative and distributive gets at that. More specifically though, Project Drawdown identifies 100 solutions that not only address, but reverse, global warming. We've read, enjoyed and learned from several of Hawken's prior books, such as Natural Capitalism and Blessed Unrest. Past time for us to read Drawdown.

Many years ago we read, and were mightily impressed by, E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. It looks to us as though the seeds he planted germinated, grew and spread in time to offer us the possibility of a softer landing from our current unsustainable trajectory. As the small plane pilots are reported to say "any landing you can walk away from is a good one."

Like the Small Hole by the Path-Side Something Lives in



Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me 
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets—the narrow ones, 
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves. 

There too have been the hard extinctions, 
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines 
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.

A few escape. A mercy.

They leave behind 
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.


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Monday, August 20, 2018

Where to find an ethic

As we drove to and from Baraboo Wisconsin over the weekend, we noticed, almost everywhere, a proliferation of pale green vines growing over much of the countryside. Today we learned that we were probably seeing wild cucumber. As we were learning about Echinocystis lobata, we also read that kudzu has spread into Canada. We just checked and there's no report that we can find of this invasive species having reached Minnesota, but it's now North of us and South of us and warming climate is unlikely to help keep it at bay. Sigh!

and these are: prairie coreopsis?
and these are: prairie coreopsis?
Photo by J. Harrington

We also noticed many tallish to tall yellow flowers, some of which we think are Few-leaf Sunflower (Helianthus occidentalis) or Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani), and others looked like Prairie Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata). Since we're still trying to learn how to tell a plant's bract from our elbow, these identifications are tentative suggestions at best.

thoughts on a land ethic
thoughts on a land ethic
Photo by J. Harrington

Something we're sure we must have read before this weekend, but that never registered as well as it did when we saw it on a poster at the Leopold Center is the observation in the photo above. It's contrary to some of our fundamental principles, such as "if it's important, write it down!" That no doubt helps explain why it hadn't really registered before now. We're going to rethink this, or at least try, as we explore a transition from being a product-focused person to one who comes to trust more in process. Joy Harjo offers some insights into why "an ethic is [n]ever written."

Remember


Joy Harjo1951


Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.


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Sunday, August 19, 2018

The wisdom in Blue Highways

We have much to process and ponder, literally as well as figuratively, now that we're back home from an all day nature-writing session at the Aldo Leopold Center. For one thing, we avoided the Interstates and took Blue Highways all the way home. The trip was more scenic, less boring and more enjoyable. William Least Heat-Moon is on to something. We broke up our trip for breakfast at the Corner Cafe in New Lisbon, an authentic small town cafe. Avoiding the interstates took a little longer but was well worth the tradeoff in time for enjoyment. If we're having fun, why hurry?

sandhill cranes in fog
sandhill cranes in fog
Photo by J. Harrington

As we left town, we checked that the sandhill cranes and Canada geese were in the same fields this morning as where we saw them yesterday. Today, however, we were earlier and the fog was thicker. In fact, we couldn't even see the distant edges of the fields this morning.

circus elephants on the lawn
circus elephants on the lawn
Photo by J. Harrington

Do you know that Baraboo is noted for its historic relationship with the Ringling Bros. Circus. We're told that, when not traveling, Baraboo was the Summer base of operations for the circus, as Florida served for Winter camp. We stayed at the Ringling House B & B. Here's a picture of some of their lawn ornaments.

Now, about one of those things to ponder: the theme of the workshop was Wisdom Sits in Places. This has started us thinking about what kind of place is a river, specifically, the St. Croix River. What is the wisdom that sits in the place we know as a river? We're really looking forward to exploring these and related questions. Perhaps they'll help us finish a project we started several years ago and then hit a creative block on. Wish us well.

Devotee


Anne Waldman1945


for the wisdom of the Rocky Mountain National Park

what to call wild use
of nature
to the human
where character
is centered
entering like a devotee,
genuflecting, vast space
what to call drama
of containment edging
unknown? tundra’s
tenacious
front to the stars,
above all tree-lines
can you breathe?
what is your risk,
anthropoid?
to lichen, moss imbricating
delicate plants hundreds
years
in the making
shivery!  sweetest
tiny world
what’s next,
where is our ark?
all directions of space
glance across moraines
near and far to plunge
or fly?
gambol like a shaman with
mountain denizens
a raw and windblown
dance
of preservation,
let no one break or tread
rigor you barely understand,
o human rangers
guardians as keepers of
land’s vision
inside trembling
precarious
Anthropocene
make wonder, not wreck
things you barely
know of this world
bow down to
dark power’s
indigenous alchemy
wild basin
when I could see death
inside the camp’s firelight
night we sat vigil for our sick friend
in coma and
sun was strong by day
and later ice was blinding
(he lived a little longer)

ecology of mind!
“to preserve this
element of unknown places”
(Aldo Leopold)
when it was never summer
when it was timeless
Rocky spine cut a divide
touched a nerve
confluence of lines,
east & west
held a universe
let us in
Blake’s garden of love
and see what you
never have seen
marked out by the magus
trickster shaman
playing in
zone of the bighorn
there is an elk in your future
if you wait
there is a black bear in your future
if you let him live
beyond Illusion
of the poetic
not made in your image
for your pleasure
yet they are sublime
(beneath a surface
cities of discontent
go down)
walk climb stop stare
rake
mind’s neurons flashing
you stumble
you gaze
you touch inside loneliness
at 11,000  feet
moose and elk
in continuity
below
mirroring illuminating
a beautiful
desolation
outburst sounding
rut and passion
a circuitous present
where you
pick up
a shard of shell
back up
on the tundra
evidence of
once was ocean
wisdom
dakinis,
lokapalas, imps
mountain deities
nod and
bow, o gratitude!
without this
care
we lose our way
kill the thing we need, we love
you better know.


Aldo Leopold (1887-1948): American philosopher and ecologist,
best known for his book Sand Country Almanac.
dakinis:  female embodiments of enlightened energy

lokapalas: dieties of place


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Saturday, August 18, 2018

A natural wonder

This morning, on our way to the Leopold Center, we found several fields full ion flocks of cranes and Canada geese. Several years ago we found some cranes flocking up at the end of August, in fields much closer to home. Oon arrival at the center, we met a room full of a dozen or so writers seeking the wisdom that sits in places in the natural world. (If you get an opportunity too attend something like this, we strongly recommend doing so.) Today's poem bu Joy Harjo is one of the readings we used as a model.

sandhill cranes in St. Croix river valley fields
sandhill cranes in St. Croix river valley fields
Photo by J. Harrington

We also got another chance to visit "The Shack." This time in full Summer. Leopold and family did lots of work turning a vacant sand farm into fields and wood lots full of life. We found ourselves wondering if it took more work to create the original sand county farm or to restore life to burned out land. Since we recognized a handful of plants at the Center, and some at The Shack, that also grow in our fields at home, we didn't feel as much as if we were in strange country. That's a good reason to learn your local wildflowers.

Aldo Leopold Center
Aldo Leopold Center
Photo by J. Harrington

Tomorrow's a mostly travel day so we'll probably do a short posting again but we'll add some pictures of the non-writing high points. 'Til then.


She Had Some Horses


By Joy Harjo


I. She Had Some Horses

She had some horses.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers' arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren't afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, "horse."
She had horses who called themselves, "spirit," and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who
carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed.

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.




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Friday, August 17, 2018

Exploring the nature of a land ethic

Today is a packing and travel day. We're headed for country near Aldo Leopold's "The Shack." Returning Sunday.

"The Shack," a converted chicken coop
"The Shack," a converted chicken coop
Photo by J. Harrington

We've noticed similarities between Leopold's country around The Shack and our own little piece of sand plain. They each bear a very slight resemblance to the scrub pine sand dune country of Cape Cod, one of our favorite parts of Massachusetts, where we grew up. That raises some themes we hope to explore here over the next several months. Meanwhile, if you haven't yet read Leopold's Land Ethic, and you hope to understand some of the basic problems our world is facing, you might want to start here.

The Shack in its natural environment
The Shack in its natural environment
Photo by J. Harrington

Nature



As a fond mother, when the day is o'er, 
   Leads by the hand her little child to bed, 
   Half willing, half reluctant to be led, 
   And leave his broken playthings on the floor, 
Still gazing at them through the open door, 
   Nor wholly reassured and comforted 
   By promises of others in their stead, 
   Which, though more splendid, may not please him more; 
So Nature deals with us, and takes away 
   Our playthings one by one, and by the hand 
   Leads us to rest so gently, that we go 
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay, 
   Being too full of sleep to understand 
   How far the unknown transcends the what we know. 


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Thursday, August 16, 2018

The end of the Terrible Toos?

Measured by the meteorological calendar, there are about two weeks left of Summer. Astronomically speaking, we've about five weeks to go. In either case, there's less left than spent. We've decided that we've not spent enough time outside this Summer. We think it's because of a case of the Terrible Too's:
  • too hot
  • too humid
  • too windy
  • too rainy
  • too tired
  • too lazy
  • too timid?
This despite knowing that we are generally happier when we spend more time outside. Although the Better Half claims it's all in our mind, we suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder in deep Winter and compound that with Nature Deficit Disorder. We should know better than to expose ourselves to NDD during the Summer. If only we humans were wise enough to consistently do what we know is good for us instead of what we think we want right now.

Something else we haven't been doing enough is creative writing. Most of our postings here lean more toward the nonfiction, journalism end of the spectrum, with occasional excursions into creative nonfiction. Somehow, during the past few years, we've drifted from writing poetry. Culture shock since November 2016? Anyway, thanks to the Better Half, we're going to re-engage the left side of our brain, plus our heart, in this one day writing class taught by Kimberly Blaeser:
Aldo Leopold Center
Aldo Leopold Center
Photo by J. Harrington

Wisdom Sits in Places: Creative Writing from the Natural World

Can we translate earth voices or invoke the buried layers of ecology and natural history when writing about the natural world? Aldo Leopold wrote, “There is…drama in every bush, if you can see it.” This workshop will invite participants to create works of poetry, creative non-fiction, and mixed-genre writing arising from encounters in the field. The day will include short explorations of the prairie and woods along the Wisconsin River, discussions of sample readings, directed writing exercises, instructions on craft, and the process of writing, reflecting, and “translating” our nature experiences into creative works. The workshop will conclude with a group sharing of the best of our day’s work.
[ASIDE: we've been writing this on the screened patio and just watched a flock of five hens and seven poults wander within ten feet of where we are sitting. A most enjoyable experience and another example of why we should spend more time outside.]

hen turkeys with poults
hen turkeys with poults
Photo by J. Harrington

Sometime between now and the beginning of Winter we expect to enjoy the best six seeks of the year, whether all at once or spread out remains to be seen. Cooler days, Autumn colors, fresh apples are among the pleasures for which we give thanks each November, but as of today (and most every day) we are also very thankful that the aforementioned Better Half has somehow managed to stay married to us for 33 years and put up with us even longer. All too often (another "terrible too") we're not sure how she does it, but we're learning to just be glad she does.

Apprenticed to Justice



The weight of ashes
from burned-out camps.
Lodges smoulder in fire,
animal hides wither
their mythic images shrinking
pulling in on themselves,
all incinerated
fragments
of breath bone and basket
rest heavy
sink deep
like wintering frogs.
And no dustbowl wind
can lift
this history
of loss.

Now fertilized by generations—
ashes upon ashes,
this old earth erupts.
Medicine voices rise like mists
white buffalo memories
teeth marks on birch bark
forgotten forms
tremble into wholeness.

And the grey weathered stumps,
trees and treaties
cut down
trampled for wealth.
Flat Potlatch plateaus
of ghost forests
raked by bears
soften rot inward
until tiny arrows of green
sprout
rise erect
rootfed
from each crumbling center.

Some will never laugh
as easily.
Will hide knives
silver as fish in their boots,
hoard names
as if they could be stolen
as easily as land,
will paper their walls
with maps and broken promises,
scar their flesh
with this badge
heavy as ashes.

And this is a poem
for those
apprenticed
from birth.
In the womb
of your mother nation
heartbeats
sound like drums
drums like thunder
thunder like twelve thousand
walking
then ten thousand
then eight
walking away
from stolen homes
from burned out camps
from relatives fallen
as they walked
then crawled
then fell.

This is the woodpecker sound
of an old retreat.
It becomes an echo.
an accounting
to be reconciled.
This is the sound
of trees falling in the woods
when they are heard,
of red nations falling
when they are remembered.
This is the sound
we hear
when fist meets flesh
when bullets pop against chests
when memories rattle hollow in stomachs. 

And we turn this sound
over and over again
until it becomes
fertile ground
from which we will build
new nations
upon the ashes of our ancestors.
Until it becomes
the rattle of a new revolution
these fingers
drumming on keys.


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