Friday, December 30, 2016

Forests and New England History

In his book "1491", Charles Mann puts an idea in prime time. He thinks that aboriginal Americans, prior to 1492, would create small "burns" in the forest, to control understory growth. Grandpa was a part of the first wave of people involved in forest control. Dad continued that tradition, and his generation saw a veritable shutdown of wildfires - the "Smokey the Bear" effort. Which, in retrospect, was remarkably successful.

I look around me today, at all the understory trash in our woods in Massachusetts (but you could go anywhere in the US - it is the same). If a fire got started here, there is enough tinder that a wildfire could be a monster. Fortunately, in the eastern US, there is enough moisture that wildfires are exceptional and rare. 

Hating winter

Oh, yup. I understand the loveliness of the pristine white coating of a snowstorm. But this winter I'm really hating it. 

One of the "secrets" of enjoying winter is being able to get outside and do stuff for fun, regardless of the weather. If you get shut inside, you end up hating the cold. Past few years, I've been out running my dogs about 360 days out of 365. I ride my bike, they run off leash. I've got the perfect space for that right next door - a large Cisco campus that has square miles of conservation land. 

On November 6 I wasn't paying enough attention and one of the dogs crossed up my front wheel and I went down, smashing  my kneecap. Ouch. Recovery has proceeded rapidly and well, but I am still unable to ride my all-purpose bike for these runs. Maybe another month. On top of that, I got tendinitis - "trigger finger" - on the middle digit of my right hand. Just in time for all the Christmas and holiday toasts, and New Year's salutes, right? Ahuh. The short story is more painful joints, less ability to get out and have fun. P.I.T.A. 

There's more: I'm boarding a 3rd dog for a neighbor in housing transition. Since this dog can't be entirely trusted off leash, this adds a couple of layers of complexity, but I won't belabor the point, eh? We won't talk about how it gets a little harder to recover as every year passes, eh?

Yup, the coating of white is pristine and beautiful. And I'd rather have the snow than the cold rain and wet conditions we get otherwise. There is a reason I've chosen Massachusetts over Seattle. Talk about hating weather! So, yeah, I'd rather have the snow. But I'm still hating it this year. 

Meh, today is sunny. And, I got my dogs out in the sunshine. I put their neon yellow safety vests on, and I drove away, for them to follow and get a run in. They cruise at 25 miles an hour, folks. Guest dog doesn't get this privilege, but we walked for a mile or so to get him some time in the fresh air. I am so glad that their is sunshine today. SO glad. 

BTW, lest you think I spend all my time hating on the nasty weather, fear not. Today, after I parked and on getting out of the car, I got the opportunity to watch our local leucistic hawk for a few minutes. That is a white red-tailed hawk. Obviously, not literally "red-tailed" in this case. We've been sighting this hawk for years, and we look for it always. Unusual, and beautiful. 

Another natural phenomenon of beauty, this past week, has been the moon. It has been waning, and last night was the new moon. However, for a few nights it was clear, and the moon was rising about 3-4 AM. The dogs typically get me up at least once in the middle of the night - to relieve themselves - to check for critters roaming in our vicinity - whatever. And I happened to be up between 3 and 4 AM on a couple of nights. 

And, the moon was stunningly beautiful. It was a silvery dish rising outside my window. I swear, the only thing that could have been better would have been for me to plop a bunch of fruit in that luminescent moon-dish, and we could have had the very picture of a still life with fruit!

Not all is lost to the tiresome drag of the cold and wet. Sometimes there is beauty, regardless.