Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The iceberg is moving-

As everyone in the green community knows, we are constantly concerned with the question "do we make any difference?"

Way back in June, I posted a chunk of my own belief and philosophy -Pushing on Icebergs.

Today, the BBC has an article that should keep our faith up for a long, long time.  In a pretty extensive poll, across 21 nations- it turns out that the great majority (average 79%!!!) of people now believe global warming is real, caused by humans, and needs to be dealt with urgently.

Folks, the numbers they cite are huge; and most importantly, a huge change.

We need to savor this, very carefully.  It's a lesson we're still going to need to recall in the years ahead; that iceberg is moving- but where?  And who's pushing on it now?  Not everyone is pushing in the same direction, that's for sure.

Part of what made the iceberg move was purely the personal commitments of those doing the pushing.  While there are many many times when we leave discussions feeling futile- when you are honest and sincere- and quietly persistent- you DO leave those in the audience with a positive impression.  And little by little- their minds do change.

It's really not enough to just read about all this climate stuff in the newspapers, or see it on tv - the skeptics have to see for themselves that there are serious people - people they know- who believe in it.  That's you and me.

Next- the politicians.  Tricky- in all possible meanings.  But, as we've seen in the last months, the politicians DO follow the public trends, they have to.

And yes, we, you, all of us - are changing the way the public- the world- thinks.


Next trick- don't get cocky.  It doesn't sell well, and it makes for stupid decisions...

Now, everybody get back to work, there's more to do.  


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hard to say.

Having a hard time figuring what to write about here. Too many conflicting tugs.

a) I shouldn't be writing at all; I should be out harvesting; we're at a peak for one crop, and I really need to be out there. but...
b) my stupid back has gone "out". Well, "half out". Partly from doing a lot of heavier than usual work; but it happened when I just stepped down off the tractor. A tiny twist; a little compression- ah, lower back in spasm. Can't really stand up, or walk, at this point. Taking meds- not helping much. I CAN sit, which is why I'm at the computer.
c) it's damned hard to whine about my stupid back when Crunch has such trouble.
d) Anonymous left a comment on my post "Things could be worse" - saying (quite politely) I couldn't legitimately complain about my insurance company not covering my stolen truck, when I hadn't insured it... oh, yes I can, and will, in a later post. "Predatory businesses" being one of my listed topics. But it still seems too trivial compared to Crunchy's situation.
e) all the kind comments on my poetic endeavors are very seductive. Hm, maybe I should just do a poetry blog... the ego would love it; but it's not really what we're here for..
f) and we did get some wonderful international coverage a few days ago- Intelligent Life that my ego would also love to talk about... this on line link is just an excerpt of the print... but...

So, I'm stuck. So, I'm going to revert, and put two more poems here- relevant to the season, and I hope life affirming. It's a beautiful autumn day here; cool, crisp, sunny. These were written on very similar days.

Forty eight 9/28/96

Walking my paths

There was one last

ready to drop

fat and sweet
as any blueberry ever

simple to pick it
simple to savor

rain cleared blue sky above
wind, bright leaves

so why was it so painful
just knowing
that you love blueberries


Forty nine 9/29/96

This warm fall day
my life is so sweet

working in slanting autumn sun
watching the world move

one more tick

and today’s crystalline air
flame flickering leaves

even the ache
of wishing
you were here

is sweet


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

poetry, eh?

I've been debating for some hours whether to do this or not- but what the heck; what's the blogosphere for, if not shameless self exposure? Just ask Deanna and Vanessa!

Yeah, I've dabbled in poetry. But like others, it only seems to come when I'm miserable. Not writing these days; too busy.

This was written for a woman who was not there. She never saw this. The event was exactly as described, but the romance never happened. This was the 56th written for her. Musta been pretty miserable, huh? :-) She's gone; but the day and the poem remain, and I have Spice and Smidgen to walk with now.

  Fifty six 11/12/96

I can see nothing lovely
that does not bring you
at once
beside me.

This morning it was the year’s first hoar frost
and true winter’s first sunrise
slowly raising the curtain
on my woods.

all the silent twigs
covered in crystal mirrors
threw a thousand tiny suns
in every direction

and each step I took showed
yet a thousand more.

A bluejay oddly kept the silence;
but landing on a top branch
shook free a cascade of sparks
drifting in dream motion
down and through.

then to bind it all forever
a young eagle
not yet bald
came slowly
only twice flapping
in frozen air,

wingtips just above
into the still.

and you
walked beside me
through it all

Did you know?

Monday, September 17, 2007

The turn of the year

There's a special autumn event I look for every year. It doesn't have a name.

Actually, I've never met anyone else who has seen it, or heard of it. A fact that makes me think, and wonder if that should worry me. Us.

It's quite a spectacular thing, when it happens. Spectacular as it is, though, it goes unnoticed; partly because at the best, it can only last for a half an hour. No more. And it doesn't happen every year, either.

It used to happen most years, at least in part. Now it happens less. That worries me, too.

In a good year- meaning one with good rainfalls, good growing weather- we go into autumn with the trees having their year's work fully completed. The leaves are drying, getting ready to drop; all the nutrients that can be recovered already pulled back into the tree for storage. That's what the fall colors are about, of course, the leaf machinery has been shut down; the nutrients sent back for recycling.

Several species of trees, particularly those with "compound" leaves; walnuts, hickories, ashes- often reach a state where few leaves have fallen yet, color is rather minimal, yet the leaves are finished, and the "abscission layer", the exact area where the leaf is attached to the tree, is fully mature; the leaf is separated, but still, just, hanging on because of a little residual "glue". A compound leaf, you understand, is one that has a central rib with maybe 5 to 9, or more, leaflets on it. It's really one leaf, cut up by nature; and the whole thing is shed when it's time.

Then comes the first frost.

Here, that almost always means a day when a fierce blustery cold front has been moving in, rattling branches, leaves, and teeth, all day. Like magic - year after year- the wind dies to dead calm exactly as the sun goes down; leaving the crystal blue autumn sky fading through all possible blues to black. The stars appear, almost unblinking in the winter-like clarity; the wind stays still; and we know, going to bed, that there will be frost tonight. We usually don't light the woodstove, but just put on sweaters and extra blankets; we know the heat of "Indian summer" will certainly follow this day or two of winter previews.

I make it a point to be up before dawn on these days, because of what happens when the rising sun just touches the treetops, instantly melting the frost that's grown slowly all night long. The frost in the abscission layer; in-between the leaves and the branches. Millions of leaves are now attached to their parents not by glue, or tissue; but only by a tiny thin layer of lacy ice...

You have to be IN the woods to see this. And you have to be up before the sun. And you have to watch every year; because sometimes- it doesn't happen at all.

The air, typically, is still dead calm. The stars are starting to fade as the sun, still below the horizon, brightens the eastern sky. No red in the sky- no clouds to make it. The coffee in my hand is hot; and welcome because it's cold, since I've stubbornly refused to light the fire. The sky gets steadily brighter.

Then- the sun touches the highest leaves.

Nothing happens. Well, the ice has to melt, you know; it doesn't happen instantly. How cold is it? 33°? Should melt fast. The leaves get colder than the air, as they radiate their heat to the black cold of space. This is true- the air temperature can be 35°, even; and if the air is still and the sky clear- it will frost. Or is it colder? 26°? It will take longer to melt if it's cold.

Will it happen? Or is this not the right year?

Then- in the right year- from the very top of the tallest ash tree- an entire compound leaf detaches; in the totally still air- and drops. Sails, is more like it. They can float down like kites with broken strings, shifting, drifting, changing directions- and bumping other leaves. Then another. And another.

The sun only moves up; the warmth only increases, the ice melts faster, the leaves let loose in great shoals, schools, flocks.

Sifting down through the branches; knocking some non-participant maple and elm leaves off, too.

All in total silence; no wind, no sound. Except the sighs of the descending leaves. In my memory, even the birds are silenced by this astonishing forest-wide event. Everything stops to watch. And the whole woods whispers.

For perhaps a half an hour, the sky rains leaves. Quietly, with only the occasional drip of melted frost to accompany the swish of the sailing leaves. What happens when some compound leaf loses a leaflet or two on one side? Unbalanced, they twirl, and swirl, and... well, dance is the only word. Each an individual; a sky full of brilliant, flashing, variations.

Walking in it is transfiguring. Walking through it with a loved one- moreso. Walking through it with a small child- neither you, nor they, will ever forget.

It's a throat-hurtingly beautiful thing; a rite of change I've shared with my loved ones whenever I could. This is IT; the exact instant of change, from summer to fall- the world has turned, successfully, once more. That "successfully" bit is not a given, you know.

I hope you can see it; a little, here. And I really hope you have the chance to see the .. hm. The Last Dance? in real life, someday. It's not easy to do; you can't sell tickets to the leaf peepers, the actual event is far too unpredictable. If you don't actively seek it out, you'll never see it. I'm sure ash trees in cities do drop their leaves this way sometimes- but it's not the same as walking through a forest, where it's all happening at once.

It didn't happen, this year. We got the frost; and the clear clear night; but the trees were oddly on both sides of the equation; the walnuts had all dropped their leaves weeks ago, when drought turned to flood. And the ashes. But hickories, strangely, are still brightly green. Even if the hickories decide to drop at a later frost, the "whole forest" thing can't happen. Of course, I'd been looking forward to showing the Smidgen. Watching her watch with her wide, wide "2 anna HALF" year eyes. Chasing leaves. Seeing the world turn.

Not this year. I'm not greatly disappointed- I'm pretty sure there will be other times. But I do wonder, and worry. When I first lived here, this was something that happened pretty reliably, 2 years out of 3. But in the last 10 years- it's only happened twice, I think. Too many climate signals drifting away from their original settings? It's not just me, the real old-timers here notice the changes, too.


One of the points this leaves me pondering is- how much of our world do we miss- or misunderstand- because critical pieces of it simply go unseen?

Any student of human behavior will tell you that humans mostly see what we expect to see; what we're taught to see.

I don't know anyone else who's ever seen, or noticed, this Last Dance; spectacular as it is. I HAVE had a couple visitors who were here during one- and still didn't SEE it, until I pointed it out.

I doubt the Last Dance has any particular environmental significance, on its own; but-

What else, on this earth, have we just never seen? Never noticed? We humans are so short lived, really- and so self occupied. And still we assume, even the most careful of us, that we have a reasonably good idea how "things" work here.

I have my doubts. And some evidence. And how do we learn; and how do we teach- how to open our eyes?

It's important.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Early frost-

After days of sweltering weird heat- we got frost last night. Just the "light" stuff; not a killing frost; air temp only went down to around 35°F, but there was plenty of ice on car windshields and piles of grass. Smidgen was excited; she's looking forward to snow, since I explained why the leaves were falling off the trees.

I'm not quite so enthusiastic; it's quite early, and some of our crops are vulnerable. At any rate, Middle Child is here for a couple days, with a rented commercial mower, clearing the way for some harvest stuff; that's a huge help.

And just barely in time; since the muggy heat made several things start to ripen ahead of schedule. The harvests aren't supposed to overlap- but they are, this year.

I've seen a couple of enthusiastic newspaper articles recently, explaining how gardeners now have new choices for things to grow- because of the climate changes. Let's grow peaches in Maine!

Don't bet on it. The early frost is a nifty spin-off from "global warming", too. And temperature extremes like that won't go away. Yes, we'll have warmer years, warmer summers- on average; but we're also going to have record blizzards, record cold spells. The atmosphere is DISTURBED- from the extra heat. Your peach tree in Maine is likely to grow beautifully for a few years- then get zapped.

Thanks for all the kind wishes, guys, it really does help. We're still working to exhaustion - but getting a little help- and some of the harvest is IN. Long way to go, though.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Turbo Stabilizer

On a more cheerful note. I don't want folks to think we're about to throw in the towel, here- though of course when you're exhausted, hot, being eaten by mosquitoes at a time of year we never have them.... etc. - it gets easy to feel that way.

But we do have our major stabilizer, Smidgen. Or "Turbo-Child" as I've taken to calling her these days. She's here, hard at work keeping us partially sane.

A couple days ago she decided, entirely on her own, that she wanted to be up in a tree. That one. So- up she went-

(you can click on these for a slightly bigger version of the photo)

I held her long enough to be sure she was stable- discussed holding on, and falling. "I'm fine, daddy." And having a fine time. She started giggling, and wiggling, peeking around the trunk and making faces. "I'm a monkey!" "What! You're not my Smidgen?" "No, I'm a tree monkey!"

Then, she started playing a variation of one of her current favorite games "I've got your nose" - which cracks her up endlessly.

Somehow, all on her own, she wanted to know what to DO with MY nose, once she had it (obviously, it's not enough for me to steal her nose, she immediately grabbed for mine.) "What are you going to do with my nose!?" I wail. "EAT IT!!" with shouts and giggles.

And she does. Over and over. And we both go "Ewwww! Ick! Yuck!" which is all pure delight. Then she wants me to eat hers. Not sure what this says about vegetarianism. :-)

She does make the disasters go away, for a bit.

Back to the mosquito preserve.

FEMA, FEMA everywhere, nor any drop to drink...

Just to let you know we're still alive here! But still working pretty much to exhaustion every day, trying to get the harvest in without a truck, tools, or the mowers needed so we could actually walk through the plantings and find the crop-

It will come as no surprise to those of you who've already been through a disaster- but the gummint is pretty much useless for most of the victims, in spite of the newspaper coverage about how on the spot they are. Here's an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune; now what?.

I'm not sure that link will work; you may have to be a subscriber; we'll find out. These folks were REALLY hit by the flood; - and here's a quote from that article; the bottom line:

"The floors of their Victorian home in town were buckled, the walls ripped out at the knees, the basement filled with raw sewage. At their farm outside town, rivers tore 6-foot-deep gullies into fields, turned pastures into beaches, uprooted culverts, toppled fences and scattered cattle and sheep into surrounding forests and bluffs.

Hours of tedious meetings with Red Cross and FEMA workers led to, well, nothing."

FEMA wants proof they actually own that house, before they'll do ANYTHING. Guess what? the papers were - in the flood. Like nobody there knows who these people are.

Atrocious. Unforgiveable. Actually, the same answer we got from the sheriff when we reported our truck stolen, while all the law enforcement folks, and the National Guard, were enjoying themselves watching the flood- "What truck? prove it - or we won't come out." No, really.

And we're really on the edge of it- "did you get flooded?" uh, no. "is your corn killed; are your cows loose? " uh, don't have any corn, or cows. Well then, it's not a problem.

We HAVE had some fabulous volunteers come to help with harvest. People, not institutions.

Global Warming.

Oh, yeah; not kidding- and a huge threat rarely included in the analyses. Bureaucracies have a known tendency to waste their time and energy chasing their tails, looking busy, and not getting much done. As disasters become more frequent- the ability of government to actually respond in a useful fashion is going to decrease. Less and less will be possible, in general.

Make more friends- they're the ones who will keep you alive.