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…]

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…]

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…]

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.

Hmmmmm….

Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom.

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Photo: Patty Maher, Light & Dark

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It was over, he said. It was too late, we had dithered too long. Our society had already become too fragmented and dysfunctional for us to fix, in time, the calamitous mistakes we had made. And, in any case, people’s attention remained elusive. Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom. It was useless, the man said, to deny that suffering of immense magnitude lay ahead, or that there’d be any escaping it. How, then, should we live?

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

Sunday Morning

I take hope in every politician’s or economist’s statement that Americans aren’t buying enough; in every student’s reference to “sustainability” or “mindfulness”—terms that weren’t in my college vocabulary… I take hope from the growing number of solitaries and the growing interest in meditation, contemplation, centering prayer. I have faith in the capacity of truth, if brought to light and given time, to win its cause, the capacity of love to win its cause. I place little hope in conventional politics, so invested are mainstream political parties in endless, unsustainable growth, or in conventional religion, with its interest in perpetuating its power. Instead I find hope in love, for one another, for our earth. Those of us invested in love can choose, must choose noncooperation. I buy less; I consume less; I take myself off the grid in the face of efforts to force me to remain on it; I dedicate myself to friendship as my organizing, bedrock relationship; I study and talk about how to become, in fact, a society of friends.

— Fenton JohnsonAt the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020)


Portrait: Source

Saturday Morning


Moved! Thank you for sharing Kiki!

At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this?

North American songbirds have been shrinking steadily in size over the past 40 years, according to scientists who measured tens of thousands of the feathered creatures from dozens of different species and attributed the changes to rising temperatures.

As the birds’ bodies got smaller, their wings gradually got longer, the scientists said in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Ecology Letters. The longer wings, the researchers said, may help offset the loss of body mass so the birds can fly efficiently on their long migrations. The changes were too small to be apparent to the naked eye, the scientists said, amounting to a gram or so in weight per bird and a few millimeters change in individual wing length…

Migrating birds in the modern world face many hazards affecting their growth and survival, from vanishing nesting grounds, dwindling food sources and pesticide use, to domestic cats, which kill up to 3 billion birds annually. Collisions with high-rise buildings kill another 600 million or so migrating birds every year.

~ Robert Lee Hotz, from “Songbirds Are Shrinking in Size, Study Finds. Scientists pin drop-off in size of North American songbirds on rising temperatures” (wsj.com, Dec 5, 2019)


Notes:

Post inspired by: “At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this? / And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this?”  by Ilya Kaminsky, from “A City Like a Guillotine Shivers on Its Way to the Neck,” Deaf Republic

And further inspired by: “But there’s something undoing about the dying light of mid-afternoon. In that empty old house on Marlborough Road all that had stitched me into this life came undone and I couldn’t escape the feeling that folded against my back were wings that had failed to open. ~ Niall Williams, “This Is Happiness” (Bloomsbury Publishing; December 3, 2019)

Sunday Morning

Recognizing the dignity of each living thing, mobile or fixed, insect, animal, tree, or mushroom, has broadened my love for this world and diminished my need for a god in heaven. We have multitudes of gods on Earth.

Terry Tempest WilliamsErosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Photo Credit

Lightly child, lightly

This is the bleached-bone veritas of the Colorado Plateau. We stand on the edge of an erosional landscape looking out. The curvature of the Earth becomes our home range. The silence before us is time. We feel how small we are in the embrace of geologic relief… Watching light captured and held within the pastel pinnacles of Bryce Canyon in shades of pink, orange, and yellow—all these weathered places show us we are merely humans, soft, humble, and temporary.

~ Terry Tempest WilliamsErosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Notes:

  • Photo: Colorado Plateau by tlswan2
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Truth

Most decisions are based on a tiny difference.

People say, ‘This was right, that was wrong’; the difference was a feather.

I keep scales wherever I am to remind me of that. They’re a symbol of my awareness. Of the distortion most people have of what is better and what is not.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Photo: Feathers by Marie

What can we do? Step to the side. Give her the right-of-way. Kneel.

Has anyone been face-to-face with evolution? The other day I was eye-to-eye with a Galápagos tortoise that had spent three months walking from the top of the volcano down to the sea to lay her eggs at night on the island of Isabela. In the slow, deliberate nature of her world, she upholds twelve million years of perfection. Beauty is the origin of wonder. What enables her to live eighteen months without food or water? Does a fast predicated by drought or famine become spiritual? What can we do for the tortoise? Step to the side. Give her the right-of-way. Kneel.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Notes:

  • Inspiration? I’m searching for my next book. I can’t find it. For some reason I’m drawn to this book. I engage. I’m tempted to drop it, but something keeps pulling me forward. 1/3 of the way in. I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends (yet). But there is something in these essays that won’t let me go. A Teacher teaching, interspersed with meditations, that makes it more important than anything that I’ve read in years. Onward.  Let’s see what’s ahead.
  • Photo: Giant tortoise on Pinzon Island, Galapagos. Rory Stansbury, Island Conservation/Flickr

Sunday Morning

“I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Blake said, his voice serious and quiet. “It isn’t just the yew. Have you noticed the Douglas fir by the science building? Or the blue spruce by the auditorium?” I shook my head. He said recent measurements indicated those trees, too, were growing much faster than they should have been. Blake had talked with several people at the U.S. Forest Service about what he was noticing on campus and they told him recent measurements from around the world showed mature evergreens of all species now regularly exceeding previously recorded height records by twenty to thirty feet. “Why?” I asked. Blake settled a little coral impatiens bursting with buds into the soil. “Global warming,” he said. “I think they’re trying to save us.”

~ Jessica Francis Kane, Rules for Visiting 


Photo: 123RF

Thirsty (95 sec)

Let’s just say…Wow. Stick to the finish on this video.

And don’t miss these photographs here: The real Lion Kings: Incredible photographs show the majestic animals in their stunning natural habitat on the African plains (via DailyMail.com, February 23, 2019)

 

 

Sunday Morning: Invocation

Architect of icebergs, snowflakes,
crystals, rainbows, sand grains, dust motes, atoms.

Mason whose tools are glaciers, rain, rivers, ocean.

Chemist who made blood
of seawater, bone of minerals in stone, milk

of love. Whatever

You are, I know this,
Spinner, You are everywhere, in All The Ever-
Changing Above, whirling around us.

Yes, in the loose strands,
in the rough weave of the common

cloth threaded with our DNA on hubbed, spoked
Spinning Wheel that is this world, solar system, galaxy,

universe.

Help us to see ourselves in all creation,
and all creation in ourselves, ourselves in one another.

Remind those of us who like connections
made with similes, metaphors, symbols
all of us are, everything is
already connected.

Remind us as oceans go, so go we. As the air goes, so go we.
As other life forms on Earth go, so go we.

As our planet goes, so go we. Great Poet,
who inspired In The Beginning was The Word . . . ,

Everett Hoagland, from “Invocation” in Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2018)


Notes: Poem via 3 Quarks Daily. Photo: coolultramodernesolitude (via Newthom)

Miracle. All of it. (This Year on Earth)

In 2018,

  • Earth picked up about 40,000 metric tons of interplanetary material, mostly dust, much of it from comets.
  • Earth lost around 96,250 metric tons of hydrogen and helium, the lightest elements, which escaped to outer space.
  • Roughly 505,000 cubic kilometers of water fell on Earth’s surface as rain, snow, or other types of precipitation.
  • Bristlecone pines, which can live for millennia, each gained perhaps a hundredth of an inch in diameter.
  • Countless mayflies came and went.
  • More than one hundred thirty-six million people were born in 2018, and more than fifty-seven million died.
  • Tidal interactions are very slowly increasing the distance between Earth and the moon, which ended 2018 about 3.8 centimeters further apart than they were at the beginning. As a consequence, Earth is now rotating slightly more slowly; the day is a tiny fraction of a second longer.
  • Earth and the sun are also creeping apart, by around 1.5 centimeters per year. Most of the change is due to changes in the sun’s gravitational pull as it converts some of its mass into energy by nuclear fusion.
  • The entire solar system traveled roughly 7.25 billion kilometers in its orbit about the center of the Milky Way. This vast distance, however, is only about 1/230,000,000th of the entire orbit.
  • There were two lunar eclipses and three partial solar eclipses, each a step in the long gravitational dance making up the roughly 18-year saros cycle. During one saros cycle, eclipses with particular characteristics (partial, total, annular) and a specific Earth–Moon–Sun geometry occur in a predictable sequence; at the end, the whole thing starts again. This pattern has been repeating for much longer than humans have been around to see it.

I like knowing these bits of cosmic context because they link me to a larger world. I can echo the words of Ptolemy: “Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.”

Mary Hrovat, from “This Year on Earth” (3 Quarks Daily, December 24, 2018)

Don’t miss the rest of her essay here: This Year on Earth


Notes:

  • Photo: Phys.org.
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: 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.”

Riding I-95 South. With Cuts.

I’m crossing the I-95 overpass, aiming to circle back and slide down the ramp into the pack – the morning rush is backed up for miles.

I wait at the stoplight.

Four girls, 7-8 years old, blue skirts, sweaters, hair pulled back, backpacks bouncing on their backs…hustle across the crosswalk, all four with iPhones cradled in both hands. Texting. Surfing. Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat.  Hands, eyes, fingers, all blind to the onset of autumn in the trees overhead, and the yellowing leaves which quiver from the gentle breeze easing in from the North. The light turns, I see them in the rear view mirror, heads down. And likely still down at this moment. The scene replays in a loop. Something Large, is irretrievably Lost.

I inch down 95.

Something Large, is irretrievable Lost.  A 1/2 mile stretch on my right, formerly lined with thick, lush trees, the same trees that separated the commuter train lines from the suburbs, the same trees offering a moment’s sanctuary from Work-to-Come or Work-Behind-Us, these same Giant trees, thick with foliage…are Gone.

A giant yellow earthmover hulks along the highway, resting from the mayhem it delivered overnight. Creating What? Room for a second lane exiting into Greenwich? Another rail line? Tree-free space to stand-up cinder block distribution warehouses for Amazon, that stretch for acres, offering convenient access to I-95?

I pass the clear cut, the traffic eases and it’s all behind me. Or so I think. [Read more…]

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