Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Three hundred trout are required to support one man for a year. The trout, in turn, must consume 90,000 frogs, which must consume 27 million grasshoppers, which live off of 1,000 tons of grass.

—  Jeremy Rifkin, The The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World (St. Martin’s Press, October 4, 2011)


Photo: sawyer via Unsplash

Walking. For A Thousand Years.

Here we go again. Daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. 760 consecutive (almost) days.  Like in a row.

The narrator @ Audible is pumping “Independent People” into my head, a novel that won the 1955 Nobel Prize for Halldór Laxness.  Not sure what’s up with my fixation on Iceland and Icelanders: Laxness, Ólafur Arnalds, Of Monsters and Men. Something going on here…  Something.

So, I’m walking, and listening to Laxness…

Had the brook lost its charm, then? No, far from it. Clear and joyful it flowed over the shining sand and pebbles, between its banks white with withered grass, its joy eternally new every spring for a thousand years; and it told little stories, in its own little tongue, its own little inflections, while the boy sat on the bank and listened for a thousand years. The boy and eternity, two friends, the sky cloudless and unending.”

Thousand years the brook flowed.  Thousand years, the tide I’m staring out at, receded, and then rolled back in again. Thousand years of nights, twilights, and sunrises…

Laxness continues: “Nothing in life is so beautiful as the night before what is yet to be, the night and its dew.”

I walk.

It’s 5:01 a.m., twilight (aka near dark), and I notice the tracks. Tracks running from the shoreline to the top of beach. WTH is that?  I walk to the top, wary of what I’ll find; God knows, it could be a badger from New Hampshire that lost its way — hiding behind the bushes waiting for its next victim. [Read more…]

Walking. Sunday Morning. DK Saves.

Let’s just get to the punch line of this story. (Oh, btw, it’s 724 consecutive (almost) days on my Daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a Row.)

There it lay.  At the end of my walk. An Atlantic Horseshoe Crab. Flat on its back. Nothing delicate or beautiful about this alien-looking thing. I’m sure its Mother loved it.

Its Telson was slapping back and forth. (Telson = Tail.  And of course I didn’t know that it was called a Telson. Googled it.) Creature was caught way up on the beach, tide shot out, and here we are. In Deep Shit. And you thought you were having a bad day?

I’m staring at the Telson (and yes, I’m going to keep repeating Telson like some career Marine Biologist)…and I’m wondering if its Telson carries electrical current. Or like a skunk, backs up its ass and spews sulfuric sh*t all over my camera gear.  Or like a Cephalopod, shoots ink all over me, seeping into my skin, and poisons me.

Stamford Daily reports: “Idiot found dead on Cove Island Beach trying to save Horseshoe Crab. Good News though, his death wasn’t for naught. It was notable that he was found flat on his back, like the Horseshoe Crab he was trying to save – – his mouth wide open, teeth blackened with Cephalopod ink, with his arms straight up in the air, because no matter what, the camera gear needed to remain undamaged.

Per NatGeo, Horseshoe Crabs have been around for 450 million years. And here I am, Human, around an eye twitch of that time, trying to assess the probability of being electrocuted or poisoned.  I could have pulled out my smartphone and Googled it to be sure…but this gives you a full measure of this man…not a lot of depth, prefers to let the mystery of life and its currents drag him along to the finish. And ‘hopefully’ that Finish isn’t this morning.

So, there I am. Staring down on Horsey.  His limbs and Telson desperately seeking salvation. [Read more…]

Gazing at the ‘Black Sun’


Gazing at the ‘Black Sun’: The Transfixing Beauty of Starling Murmurations (NY Times, April 4, 2022)

Each spring and autumn, the skies in southern Denmark come to life with the swirling displays of hundreds of thousands of starlings, an event known locally as “sort sol.”

Don’t miss photos and article here.


Thank you Susan.

Walking. And licking the wounds.

697 days, almost consecutive. Like in a row. This daybreak walk at Cove Island Park.

38° F, feels like 30° F, flashes Dark Sky app. Sorry, but that’s crap. Winds gusting up to 35 mph.

Just look at those clouds overhead in the photo. Even they’re huddled together trying to stay warm.

I’m standing in the exact same spot as my last post. That pure and clean moment. That soul lifting moment, lifting me, elevating me up and over my pesky, 1st world problems.

And here we are, a week later, and I’m feeling nothing. Nothing spiritual. Nothing soul lifting.

Jill Horton’s words are pumping into my earbuds on Audible from her title “We are All Perfectly Fine.” No, we’re not perfectly fine Jill. “What’s that like? It’s like bullshit…it’s like violence to my soul.

So the picture must be crystalizing for you this morning. We’re cold, we’re in a pissy mood, and not really sure why. Why not turn this bus around, suspend this walk, go back home, roll under the covers and sleep it off? Whatever the hell ‘this’ is. But I know that I excel at wallowing in it.

I keep walking.

I pull the hoody (‘hoody’ Dale, not ‘hoodie’, or some other French Canadian separatist derivation) over my head to cut some of this wind. And I pick up the pace to warm these bones.

I walk the breakwall, taking care to avoid the slime, to avoid a headlong tumble, to add to the morning woes.

I hear a scurrying in the stones.

I hit pause on Audible, yank my ear buds out and stop.

[Read more…]

Walking. With One (Good) Wing Creatures.

5:15 a.m. I’m out the door.  Dark Sky is calling for rain. Let’s see.

It’s been ~675 mornings, almost consecutive. Like in a row. I’m on my daybreak walk @ Cove Island Park.

It’s not all glorious Swans and pirouettes.

There she is. Up top. The Gull. She? He? Sorry, with no disrespect intended to whatever it is, I’m old school. Or just old. I don’t know its pronoun, and we’re going with She.

I wasn’t paying attention. Not downward anyway.  And typically, the wildlife clears out-of-the-way when Darth Vader approaches. A 6’1″ human, black hoodie, black jacket, black sweat pants, black gloves, black toque (pronounced tuuuk), and a matching black backpack.  Darth, who recently had foot surgery, happens to be dragging his right leg, with his Sorel boot scraping the asphalt behind him.  So all winged creatures give Darth wide berth.
[Read more…]

Miracle. All of It.


Notes: Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.

No religion except…

…No religion except whatever Mary Oliver had going on.


Notes:

  • Quote: Monkcore.
  • T-Shirt: Online Ceramics
  • Inspired by: “Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these— the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?” —  Mary Oliver, from “Mindful” in “Why I Wake Early” (via Alive on All Channels)

Walking. And Ranting.

5:35 a.m. Clear. Cool. 39° F. I open the door, step out onto the front porch, and look out at the skyline. It’s as fresh as if it occurred 5 minutes ago, triggering disbelief and racing its way on to fury.

Yes, it could have been any number of topics that I came across in this morning’s paper. “When do we get to use guns?…How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” Or, “…refusal to provide information to the House Committee investigating the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol. Or, “What abortion access looks like in Mississippi.” Or, “Rep Congressman shared a threatening voicemail he received following his vote to pass the $1.2T infrastructure bills…’I hope your f—- family dies…you f— piece of f—- s—. Traitor.”

This all would have been adequate kindling to light a raging fire. But, no. As worthy as these subjects are, they did not. Not at that moment.

And what’s the line from Tip O’Neil? ‘All Politics is local.”

No, this has nothing to do with politics. And everything to do with local. Like the neighborhood.

[Read more…]

And now in age I bud again

The only trouble with being born in 1961 is that in 2021 you will turn 60, something I did last week. It’s very strange to persist in feeling 22, even as every mirror — and every storefront window and polished elevator door — reveals the truth. Sixty is the point at which people must admit they are no longer middle-aged.

Lately it’s been dawning on me that I would not want to have been born even one minute later than 1961, either. Last week I mentioned this new thought to a friend, and her response was immediate, as though she’d already had it herself: “Because we won’t have to live through the cataclysm?”

Exactly.

Well, no, not exactly. On the days when headlines are full, yet again, with firestorms and catastrophic flooding and biodiversity collapse and endless pandemic and a depressingly effective disinformation campaign to deny the climate emergency — on those days, yes. Absolutely yes. On those days I am glad to be 60 because it means I almost certainly won’t live to witness the cataclysm that is coming if humanity cannot change its ways in time.

But that’s not the way I think on most days. On most days I am simply grateful for the 60 years I’ve had…

I have lived long enough to have learned, too, that what is beautiful and joyful is almost always fleeting and must never be squandered. That rejection rarely bears any relationship to worth. That whatever else might separate us, sharing a love for “Ted Lasso” is enough common ground to start the harder conversations. That life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes…

A lifelong friend, one who will also turn 60 this year, sent me an email on my birthday. Her message contained a passage from “The Flower,” a poem by George Herbert: “Grief melts away / Like snow in May, / As if there were no such cold thing. / Who would have thought my shriveled heart / Could have recovered greenness?”

Who would have thought, indeed? But given enough time, we do go on, somehow. Like the stems and branches of springtime, our shriveled hearts can recover greenness, too. “And now in age I bud again,” Herbert wrote, and so it is with us.

— Margaret Renkl, from “I Just Turned 60, but I Still Feel 22″ in The New York Times (November 1, 2021)


Portraits: First: Margaret Renkl at Auburn University in 1983.  Credit…Billy Renkl. Second: WUTC on September 15, 2021 at 4:37 PM EDT

Miracle. All of It.

For the purposes of the book, Robin, who desperately believes in the sanctity of life beyond himself, begs his father for these nighttime, bedtime stories, and Theo gives him easy travel to other planets. Father and son going to a new planet based on the kinds of planets that Theo’s science is turning up and asking this question, what would life look like if it was able to get started here? And what would that change in our sense of who we are and where we’ve been dropped down?

And they make this journey across the universe through all kinds of incubators, all kinds of petri dishes for life and the possibilities of life. And rather than answer the question — so where is everybody? — it keeps deferring the question, it keeps making that question more subtle and stranger. And I wasn’t sure where I would go with this ultimately in the book. And one thing I kept thinking about that didn’t make it into the final book but exists as a kind of parallel story in my own head is the father and son on some very distant planet in some very distant star, many light years from here, playing that same game. And the father saying, OK, now imagine a world that’s just the right size, and it has plate tectonics, and it has water, and it has a nearby moon to stabilize its rotation, and it has incredible security and safety from asteroids because of other large planets in the solar system.

Imagine that everything happens just right so that every square inch of this place is colonized by new forms of experiments, new kinds of life. And the father trying to entertain his son with the story of this remarkable place in the sun just stopping him and saying, Dad, come on, that’s asking too much. Get real, that’s science fiction. That’s the vision that I had when I finished the book, an absolutely limitless sense of just how lucky we’ve had it here.

— Richard Powers, from Ezra Klein’s Podcast Interview titled “This Conversation With Richard Powers Is a Gift.” (September, 28, 2021, The New York Times)


Notes: (1) The podcast and/or transcript is long but worthy.  (2) Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (3) Photo Credit

Sunday Morning

I love the natural world and I never ceased to see it. The beauty of trees and fields, of hills and streams, of the changing colours, of the small creatures so busy and occupied. My long hours walking or sitting in the field with my back against the wall, watching the clouds and the weather, allowed me some steadiness. It was because I knew all this would be there when I was not that I thought I could go. The world was beautiful. I was a speck in it.

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Grove Press, March 6, 2012)


DK @ Daybreak. 6:00 to 7:05 am. September 19, 2021. 68° F & Breezy. Nantucket, MA.

Miracle. All of It.

Stop. If you’re inside, go to a window. Throw it open and turn your face to the sky. All that empty space, the deep vastness of the air, the heavens wide above you. The sky is full of insects, and all of them are going somewhere. Every day, above and around us, the collective voyage of billions of beings.

…There are other worlds around us. Too often, we pass through them unknowing, seeing but blind, hearing but deaf, touching but not feeling, contained by the limits of our senses, the banality of our imaginations, our Ptolemaic certitudes. […]

They had heard about the butterflies, gnats, water striders, leaf bugs, booklice, and katydids sighted hundreds of miles out on the open ocean; about the aphids that Captain William Parry had encountered on ice floes during his polar expedition of 1828; and about those other aphids that, in 1925, made the 800-mile journey across the frigid, windswept Barents Sea between the Kola Peninsula, in Russia, and Spitsbergen, off Norway, in just twenty-four hours. Still, they were taken aback by the enormous quantities of animals they were discovering in the air above Louisiana and unashamedly astonished by the heights at which they found them. All of a sudden, it seemed, the heavens had opened.

Unmoored, they turned to the ocean, began talking about the “aeroplankton” drifting in the vastness of the open skies. They told each other about tiny insects, some of them wingless, all with large surface-area-to-weight ratios, plucked from their earthly tethers by a sharp gust of wind, picked up on air currents and thrust high into the convection streams without volition or capacity for resistance, some terrible accident, carried great distances across oceans and continents, then dropped with the same fateful arbitrariness in a downdraft on some distant mountaintop or valley plain. […]

On August 10, 1926, a Stinson Detroiter SM-1 six-seater monoplane took off from the rudimentary airstrip at Tallulah, Louisiana. […] [O]ver the next five years, the researchers flew more than 1,300 sorties from the Louisiana airstrip […].

They estimated that at any given time on any given day throughout the year, the air column rising from 50 to 14,000 feet above one square mile of Louisiana countryside contained an average of 25 million insects and perhaps as many as 36 million. [Read more…]

It is a one-way trip

It is a one-way trip.

Each moment of life is a an irreplaceable jewel. If we could carry death on our left shoulder the way Carlos Castaneda suggests and treat every moment as the treasure it is, we would never waste our lives being angry, or petty. We would treat each encounter with a person or a place as the last one. Life continues to change, and with that change we evolve into something new. It doesn’t make what was before wrong but it is gone forever…

I think living here has for me been an opportunity to see this cyclic nature of seasons and yet every season is different. Certainly, I am different with each season.

At the end of my long life what I have discovered is that there are no ordinary days.

—  Jean Aspen, Arctic Daughter: A Lifetime of Wilderness (2018)


Find Documentary Video on Amazon Prime Video

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

What amazed her was their persistent insistence on boosting the self when the world—and this country, in particular—was in disgraceful shambles. The progressing, ever-widening gulf of disparity in every sphere. And were we not also on the verge of an environmental apocalypse? People seemed more fixated than ever on notions of “self-tend, self-care, self.” In the current context, wasn’t naked pursuit of health obscene? The self-contemplation down to the microbiomic makeup of your alimentary system, yet such contemplation was divorced from any reflection. This seemed, now more than ever, the most American of myopias, this unapologetic—boastful, even—attention to the surface self. It sort of made sense, though. A retreat to the local. The hyperlocal and controllable: your heart, your lungs, your flesh.

— Dana Spiotta, Wayward: A Novel (Knopf, July 6, 2021)


Notes:

  • NY Times: “European Floods Are Latest Sign of a Global Warming Crisis.” BERLIN — “Days before roiling waters tore through western Germany, a European weather agency issued an “extreme” flood warning after detailed models showed storms that threatened to send rivers surging to levels that a German meteorologist said on Friday had not been seen in 500 or even 1,000 years. By Friday those predictions proved devastatingly accurate, with more than 100 people dead and 1,300 unaccounted for, as helicopter rescue crews plucked marooned residents from villages inundated sometimes within minutes, raising questions about lapses in Germany’s elaborate flood warning system. Numerous areas, victims and officials said, were caught unprepared when normally placid brooks and streams turned into torrents that swept away cars, houses and bridges and everything else in their paths. “It went so fast. You tried to do something, and it was already too late,” a resident of Schuld told Germany’s ARD public television, after the Ahr River swelled its banks, ripping apart tidy wood-framed houses and sending vehicles bobbing like bath toys.”
  • Photo: Trier, western Germany.  Ernst Mettlach / AFP / Getty Images via NBC News
  • Photo: Rachel, Selfie @ March 16, 2021, Yellowstone National Park

the great chain of life


“Expeditions like these teach us why we need to increase our efforts to restore and better understand marine ecosystems everywhere — because the great chain of life that begins in the ocean is critical for human health and well being. Check out just a small portion of some of the amazing encounters that were experienced via Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) SuBastian during the expedition.”  (Thank you for sharing Christie!)

Walking. With Chernobyl.

305 consecutive days. Like in a row. Cove Island Park morning walk @ daybreak.

I dress. Full winter protection. I’ll leave it at that. There will be no she-wolf-pack piling on today. Lori, Kiki, Dale and all you others and your mocking. Sad, really. Find some other old dog to kick.

Back to the story.

It started last night. I wash down two Tylenol PMs.  Twist right earbud in. Cue up several Youtube videos. And cover up and listen. Because one needs a distraction from the Mind…drip…drip…drip.

First video. What scientists discovered in the Chernobyl forest years after the Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. Worth a watch here.  Video ends and moves to the second. What sort of human cues up a Chernobyl disaster documentary as a bedtime pacifier?

I wake, thinking about Chernobyl.

I walk thinking about Chernobyl.

I pass a Dunkin’ Iced Coffee cup, half full, sitting on park bench. Plastic top discarded behind the bench. I scan the area, no trash can. Disgusting.

I walk.

I pass not one, but two baby blue surgical masks at the base of a tree.

I walk.

I pass a empty Fritos chip bag.

I walk.

I pass a single mitten, wool, wet and dirty.

I walk.

I pass a plastic Mountain Dew bottle.

I walk. Damn, this is pulling me Down.

[Read more…]

sound and silence moving through space and time, like music

For half a century, philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore has written about the natural world, her work shaped by the homes she’s made in Corvallis, Ore., and Chichaghof Island, Alaska. It’s also indebted to the conservationist and writer Rachel Carson (1907-1964), best known for “Silent Spring,” the landmark 1962 book in which she envisioned a world eerily hushed by pesticides. “I imagine,” Ms. Moore writes of Carson, “she called the book ‘Silent Spring’ . . . because it was the loss of the birds’ music that would grieve her the most.”

Ms. Moore adores birdsong, too, though in “Earth’s Wild Music: Celebrating and Defending the Songs of the Natural World” she details the threat of a broader quiet across the planet if humanity fails to heed warnings about the extinction crisis and other environmental challenges before us. “In the fifty years that I have been writing about nature,” she laments, “roughly 60 percent of all individual mammals have been erased from the face of the Earth. The total population of North American birds, the red-winged blackbirds and robins, has been cut by a third. Half of grassland birds have been lost. Butterflies and moths have declined by similar percentages. As individual numbers decrease, species are being lost, too. As many as one out of five species of organisms may be on the verge of extinction now, and twice that number could be lost by the end of the century.” […]

Ms. Moore considers the possibility of an even wider loss—the souring of seas, the withering of forests, and the wholesale disappearance of many kinds of life, which she regards as a form of spiritual impoverishment, too. “My nightmare is that before we lose the Earth’s life-sustaining systems, we will lose its soul-sustaining system—the Earth’s wild music,” she writes. […]

An abiding insight of “Earth’s Wild Music” is that to save the world, we must truly see and hear it. “How can we be fully alive,” she asks, “if we don’t pause to notice, and to celebrate, all the dimensions of our being, its length and its depth and its movement through time?” […]

“We, all of us—blue-green algae, galaxies, bear grass, philosophers, and clams—will someday dissipate into vibrating motes,” she writes. “In the end, all of natural creation is only sound and silence moving through space and time, like music.”

Danny Heitman, in a Book Review of Kathleen Dean Moore‘s “Earth’s Wild Music’ Review: Listening for Nature’s Melody” (wsj.com, January 27, 2021)


Photo: DK, Cove Island Park, January 31 2020, 6:51 am. 13° F.

Three of my best friends

Having just read “The Overstory,” by Richard Powers, I was delighted to learn more about Suzanne Simard, an inspiration for Patricia Westerford, who despite derision and opposition, proved trees communicate among themselves. When I was a child growing up in Marblehead, Mass., three of my best friends were trees: two oaks and a white pine. I named them, climbed them and talked to them knowing they recognized me and enjoyed my company. Now, at 88, all my two-legged friends are gone, but my tree friends are still standing. I visited them last summer, glad to see them tall, strong and healthy.

—  Cynthia Baketel Systrom, Stuart, FL in a reader’s letter to the editor in response to Ferris Jabr’s “The Social Life of Forests in the NY Times Magazine 12/6/20 issue (New York Times Magazine, Dec 20, 2020)


Photo: DK’s 3 Sisters. Cove Island Park. 6:56 am. January 6, 2021.

Sunday Morning

In a May 1952 paper for her religion class, “Religion as I See It,” Plath laid out her “basic tenets”: man was “born without purpose in a neutral universe,” without inherent morals, and was responsible for his own destiny. There was no afterlife. “His mind may live on, as it were, in books, his flesh may continue in his children. That is all.” God was not to blame for man’s evils or triumphs. Plath claimed that she could “never find my faith through the avenue of manmade institutions,” and called herself an “agnostic humanist.” She happily admitted she was a pantheist at heart: “For my security, I resort not to the church, but to the earth. The impersonal world of sun, rocks, sea and sky gives me a strange courage.” For her, the vital world was earthly and present.

— Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf; October 27, 2020)


Notes:

  • Plath was 19 years old in May 1952.
  • Photographs: DK @ Daybreak. Jan 10, 2021. 6:43 to 7:20 am. 28° F, feels like 18° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT. More photos from this morning here.
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