Everyday Thoughts- The Blog

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  • Revelations of a Snapping Hazel

    Revelations of a Snapping Hazel

    The name Witch in witch-hazel has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable".[6] "Witch hazel" was used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm, Ulmus glabra;[7] American colonists simply extended the familiar name to the new shrub.[citation needed] The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England, may also have, by folk etymology, influenced the "witch" part of the name. "         Wikipedia

    Everything is done blooming, even the geraniums in pots on the porch. It's late November. Winterberries rule accompanied by small golden apples littering   the side of the road. There is still one more surprise, one more elegant moment for which I have been waiting.

    Sometime in late October when it's leaves are still citron green , it begins - the long slow bloom of the witchazel. In a good year the blooms will last a month, ending reluctantly in December, leaving seed pods that may not explode until late in the following summer. 

    Two days ago we had snow in the night, three wet inches that are still hanging around. The days are terminally short now. The sun never gets above the trees at noon and fades by two. With only three or four protected leaves left dangling she's still not done. In some ways this is her most glorious time. Her  grace,  the flow of her soft brown branches is fully revealed and she is most emphatically  enjewelled with filaments of gold. This is our native witchazel, undoubtedly worth waiting for.

    The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 3–8 metres (9.8–26.2 ft) tall, rarely to 12 metres (39 ft) tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, 4–16 centimetres (1.6–6.3 in) long and 3–11 centimetres (1.2–4.3 in) broad, with a smooth or wavy margin. The genus name, Hamamelis, means "together with fruit", referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year.[5] H. virginiana blooms in September-November while the other species bloom from January-March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals 1–2 centimetres (0.39–0.79 in) long, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 1 centimetre (0.39 in) long, containing a single 5 millimetres (0.20 in) glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 10 metres (33 ft), thus another alternative name "Snapping Hazel".[4]"    Wikipedia

  • Tar Sands And Chickadees

    Tar Sands And Chickadees

    Canada continues to rape and pillage its boreal forests and arctic tundra as seen in these most wonderful flyover photographs.

    The forests which are being destroyed are some of the last virgin forests on earth. The carbon beneath them is the most valuable carbon sink. It just seems insane. The trees that are being destroyed, the tar sands that are being extracted, these are the very ecological tools we have for turning global warming around. 

    The black capped chickadee is one of the bellweathers in war on the planet. It lives in a very specific climate zone. It's southern cousin, the Carolina Chickadee and the Black capped only meet in a very narrow band of habitat in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Carolinian chickadee can not survive farther north and the Black Capped not farther south. With the changes in the climate the zone is moving north, slowly steadily north. 

  • CHCHChanges

    I've been looking around. 

    We are fifteen years into the 21st century.  We are in the midst of a very contentious transition from an oil based industrial economy of explosive growth in population and  disastrous impact on the Earth's ecology.  The unfortunate anthropological name for the coming era is Anthropocene or human era. I am pretty sure this is a misnomer. Nature is quickly overthrowing us as we approach the point of no return through climate change. Storms, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes on a scale not seen in the last ten thousand years are killing humans at an ever increasing rate.

    We can no longer afford to think of ourselves as the dominant force in the universe. We cannot pretend to be the top of the food chain. Viruses, and bacteria are quickly unseating us. If we pause but one moment we can see that we are no longer in charge and that we need to quickly find a way to live smaller, quieter, and frugally, or human beings will not be part of the next century on Earth. Nature will find a way to reach an ecological balance by removing the human problem .  

    It is not as simple as just leaving the remaining oil in the ground and turning to wind and solar to provide us with power. It is not just eating local and driving less. We need to approach each other and the Earth with compassion and intention. Less than one hundred years ago most of our parents and grandparents lived in communities, and waited for strawberries to grow in the spring.  Days were long and winters longer.

    I'm not saying all this to depress or alarm but rather to maybe create a space where radical new options for living might grow. It is not the end of us to not be on top but rather it is a better  state of affairs, a place where we can live in community together and functionally integrated with everyone and everything. Humans do not have to be the outliers.

    So what will life here look like a hundred years from now? I have no idea. I just started thinking. Maybe we can be more respectful of ourselves, each other and the place where we live or maybe we'll be gone.

  • Sexy Salmon

     Not so long ago I heard a fish biologist talking about  Salmon . There were many fly fishermen in the audience waiting to hear about the return of the Salmon to the Kennebec. The other half of the program was about Alewives. That is what I was there for. The Salmon guy was talking about putting fry in the Sandy River upstream off the Kennebec. I asked him why. 

    Some background first: I live in the Kennebec/Sebasticook Watershed in Maine. As with most other rivers it is a watershed of dams, some very large, most without fish passage. Add to that the fact that while the health of the river is much improved it is not up to Salmon standards for the most part and few if any (under 5) Salmon come up to spawn in 2015. The height of the dams and the existence of large turbines on route make travelling as a young Salmon treacherous if not impossible. Alewives cannot travel the Kennebec above Waterville much less salmon. In my mind's eye I imagined these tiny Salmon fry coming downstream from the Sandy hurling themselves over 20 foot drops at the several dams between the mouth of the Sandy and the Gulf of Maine, or worse being stuck behind the dams and trying to get down through the turbines or dying there. And what if they make it to the ocean and they can't get back to the Sandy? They were born in a tank. Did they imprint on the Sandy as home or the tank? How exactly will this work? Really.

    His answer to why was: to see what would happen. That's all he said.  Perfectly nice guy but some days I don't get humans.

    How about we get the rivers in shape for the salmon to be able to spawn on their own by cleaning up the rivers, taking out or providing fish passage at the dams, and bringing back the Alewives to keep the Salmon safe in the pack coming upstream? Yes this will take a long time but it would be a true restoration for our watershed. I think we are proving we cannot outsmart the fish.

  • It's history is the iconography.

    It's history is the iconography.

      I was walking up and down the side of the road trying to find the iconic one,THE Bur Oak. The fact that they were plentiful beside Twenty Five Mile Stream actually constitutes its claim to fame. The species  is slow growing, can live 400 years, and is endowed with the largest acorn of the American oaks. The story goes that these oaks were planted in the Kennebec and Sebasticook  watersheds by the Native Americans because of the acorns, a valuable food source. This is substantiated by fact that the  place they grow abundantly in Maine is along the river and streams of our watershed.  It's journey is its iconography.

    Since they grew and grow in the upper midwest one could assume they were brought to Maine from the Great Lakes down the St. Lawrence river by native or French traders possibly 300 or more years ago. We know that the Abenaki travelled and traded with tribes from what is now New York . Meaty acorns would have been a valuable item to trade. However the mighty acorns got to Maine they are now seen and appreciated along the local waterways.

  • signals uncrossed

    September 21, 2014 matching world events with the turn of the earth

     Today there are 400,000 citizens marching outside the United Nations flying the flag of the sun,
    while in  Maine  bumblebees feast on mountain mint, purple asters, and goldenrod.
    Hard necked garlic hangs pungent in the mudroom.
    Rituals of harvest play out in streams, fields, and in the streets.   

    The fish are coming down, the anadromous ones,
    driven by cold Canadian air,
    schooling back and forth,
    stirring courage before pouring out of lakes and ponds,
    making a run to the salted sea where they will feed and nurse wounds garnered in spawning.

    Balls of late hydrangea pinken in graveyards large and small
    bringing a temporary beauty and fruitful bounty to the stones of the dead, 
    outshining the bronze grave markers of fallen soldiers.

    It is the moment of filling the larder  attended by a round of  gunfire from hunters
    just now warming to the season of the kill.

    It will soon be a time of voting with whatever granule of hope remains. 

    Ironically a silence comes precipitously over the land and inside of us,
    even as children chant and shout for the future in the faraway streets of NYC.

    Songbirds depart for warmer climes and
    doors and windows shut against the evening chill. 

    Summer is near done in New England
    giving us a momentary eerie sense of calm.

  • Best Cat Ever

    Best Cat Ever

    We have only had a couple of female cats in thirty some years for some reason but there was one I will not forget because of what she did one day. We once hosted a family of red squirrels . They eat the leader buds on maple  and oak  trees. I am not a fan.

    Never was sure where they slept  but they spent some time under our house. it's on stilts. So this cat, Tuffy, one day sat at the corner of the house where they would come out to get to the bird feeders and wait. One by one they came out and one by one she dispatched them to the great beyond and received my blessing as the best cat ever.  We have not hosted a red squirrel since.

    Response to Robin Follette

  • The Long And The Slow Of Change

    It seems the inevitability of change does not soften the blows. The mills of Maine have been closing for a very long time. Some few remain. What is the new landscape to look like.

    Are we going to gentrify the North Woods and create a tourism economy like no other east of the Mississippi ?  Bring a National Park to match Baxter? Bring a highway to move tourists and oil trucks to and from the Maritimes?

    Take a look at a dying town and you wonder what the choices are. The multigenerational families who worked the mills will be unemployed. There will be few to no new jobs in the once proud towns. With tourism there will be seasonal employment. Some will return to logging, fewer to farming. Most will leave. Those who would blame a government or an ethnic group or some other imagined demon would be mistaken.

    Maybe some will dream of adding value to the timber, the rivers, and the ocean that surround us. Create jobs by adding value here not by shipping our lobsters and trees to Canada or China.   

    Like I said, change is inevitable. What defines us is what we do with it.

    In The New York Times this week.

  • Rocks


    I am a recovering beachcomber. I grew up collecting shells on the beach. detritus. harmless enough right? I sold ugly clam shells on the beardwalk in the evening when I was five. my first enterprise. As years past I moved to Maine where rocks are the staple of most beaches east of Port Clyde. The coast of Maine evokes the feeling of a place both ancient, and well worn.

    I became an international smuggler bringing a glorious large round gray cobble back from Campobello Island. Neither the Canadian or the US customs blinked an eye. In the summer it graces our back deck among zinnias, in winter it holds down the styrofoam insulation around the base of our house.

    Then last year an article came out in the NYT about cobble snatching in Acadia National Park. The most popular park in the us was suffering from the loss of so much cobble. 

    There are 7 billion of us on the planet. How many of us are collectors? Go to Pinterest and type in rock collecting and see the results of our plunder. Does it have consequences? YES.

    You are most likely alone or with friends or family when you absent mindedly bend to retrieve a stone that has caught your eye. Maybe it has a white line through it or a shiny blackness that fades as soon as it dries or maybe it is just very smooth and round. I know them all. We in Maine name beaches for rock. Jasper Beach comes to mind. I won't tell you where it is.  

    Rocks seem infinite in number but they are not. It took  thousands of years for the ocean to tumble  that smooth stone in your pocket. Those rocks' parents were here long before we humans appeared on the planet.  We have to learn to leave really leave no trace that includes pillaging the rock that makes the dirt that grows our food that gives us life.  amen.

  • Slowing Down

    Slowing Down

    Mid afternoon I took a walk down the path between Unity town and Unity campus trolling for birds with a knowledgeable bird man trying to improve my birder skills. We were looking for a thrasher.

    There wasn't much stirring on the surface but that is the thing about looking for birds. They won't be seen especially in the warm middle of the day  but I have learned to slow down, bring my pulse to resting rate and then my  ears will open and my eyes begin to see.  

    There was a Least Flycatcher. Never saw it . Just heard it. it was nearby somewhere in the foliage. It saw us. chit chit chit. How cool is that?

    Soon a performance for a warm sunny summer afternoon  begins to build. A pair of kestrels fly through, male then female. They meet. I looked like he handed off food and then they split up. Next question: Where's the nest? Are they nesting?

    Common Yellowthroats light here, then here, then there. A phoebe lights and stays sitting in the cool shade above the stream. Kingfisher flies regally up the water line. A flicker crosses the field.  All of this in the middle of a warm afternoon.  So satisfying.

    I could just come here every day morning, noon, and eventide, and stand above the stream on the bridge.  I could learn so much by slowing down.