Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The urge for going

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all the trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go

Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying, all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and a-racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, and they've got the wings so they can go

I'll ply the fire with kindling now, I'll pull the blankets up to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going and I guess she'll have to go

She gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empire's falling down

Monday, October 6, 2008

moonlight & dawn

If I close my eyes I can hear geese and ducks making small talk on the water. If i don't have to close the window for the sake of cold, I think I could listen all night to their chatter. What are they talking about? Joy in the full moon? Preparations for the great flight? Delighting in the last warm night for a while, perhaps? I can't see them because my light dims my eyes sensitivity to moonlight, and their silhouettes get lost to the ripples of the lake.

I turned off the light in hopes of being able to write in moonlight alone, but alas it won't work. The lines on the page are rendered invisible by its blue glow. It is a perfect evening for listening and the sounds fill the cabin. A squirrel clumsily thrashing through the bushes. A steady hum of crickets. The gentle lap of water slapping rock. Over the lake, laughter is carried from a distant party to my ears. 

I revel in nights like this and wish my own house was as open to nature as this cabin is. The room I sleep in the cabin is really the living room with several extra beds in it.  The beauty of that is the side walls of the room are nearly all windows. I purposely take the bed aligned with the sunrise so it wakes me up with it every time I stay there. 

Warm sun on my cheeks is one of the most pleasant wake up calls I've ever received.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pulled over, Route 9, 8am, foggy

Fog is something I've recently been fascinated with. As I write this I'm sitting inside a morning cloud, in my car, awed by beauty and the unknown. As I bring myself to wake up as I drive, I suddenly find myself floating through a sea of color-eating mist - changing the greens oranges and yellows of the trees into muted, pale imitations, save for the brief instant that I get to glimpse them when I get close enough. That tiny bit allowed to be revealed at any given moment has its own mystery and almost sensual quality - like the flash of a naked ankle of a fully covered woman in a burka.

Fog can feel like you're going to fall off the planet, somehow falling forever in a void of white mist. I saw a road sign that said 'Right Lane Ends' and immediately imagined a car driving over a cliff into the unknown, and somehow flying on like a balloon let go from a child's hand. 

The mist and fog clouds a familiar landscape in mystery, begs me to ask what's around the next bend, the next hill or valley. I have to say I love what weather can do to a familiar landscape - part of the inexhaustible beauty and uniqueness of nature. This spot, this moment, will not hold the same secrets tomorrow, nor will it be any less beautiful.

I like how fog can change your perspective, how it can change what's hidden and what's seen, like a skilled photographer's composition. I've seen fog turn mountains into islands, trees into ghosts and curves of a road into a magical path. 

I've seen fog spilling out of a graveyard on Halloween so creepily I avoided driving over the mist in fear of disturbing the dead souls within it. Fog often makes me think of death - not in a way which evokes fear but maybe one of peace. I imagine death could be like approaching a foggy curve in the road, its edges just blurred to oblivion, and the trip around the bend is known to no one but somehow is attractively serene. I can only hope that when I die I am greeted with such a beautiful sight.

Friday, October 3, 2008

remembering not to worry

The rain today seems to complement my energy level, not very violently strong but deliberate and tired. I had a lot to accomplish today and didn't quite fit in all of it. Sometimes that's how the day goes, though. Accepting that my to-do lists are always impossibly long is helpful when I really begin to worry about getting everything done. 

I recently figured out that I have a procrastination problem that involves feeling overwhelmed. If I feel overwhelmed then I also feel paralyzed and can't start anything because of the associated worries about getting everything else on the list done. That, in turn, allows my to-do list only to grow scarier and scarier. So I've been trying not to acknowledge the overwhelmed feeling and just press forward towards accomplishing things. I vow to keep working on something all day, to keep moving, writing, cleaning, reading, whatever it is until it comes to the point that I can cross something off the 'big list'. 

I have a lot rolling around in my head, so physically writing down and crossing items off lists certainly helps to quiet the voice that's asking me what I've already forgotten to do. My memory is a direct cause for anxiety and I compensate by using devices to assist my memory. I did notice this week while driving that I was recalling memories easily when I was relaxed- and they were memories I hadn't touched on in quite a while. I do believe in attention restoration theory and maybe that's all I really need - a little more calm and free thinking. I think I'm enjoying journaling, too, for that reason because it gives me a moment to focus and recall the thoughts on events of the day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Good Day sunlight

Good-day sunlight 
Id like to say how truly bright you are 
You dont know me but I know you 
Youre my favorite star 
Follow you I will so lets get moving 
Who needs shelter when the mornings coming?  
Absolutely theres no one 
Who needs shelter from the sun?  
Not me, no. not anyone. 
By your clock the cock rooster crows 
Then off to work where everybody goes 
Slow, but eventually they get there 
Picking up the day shift back where all left off 
Confined and pecking at relationships 
You know its only a worthless piece of shit 
Who needs shelter when the mornings coming? 
 Absolutely theres no one 
Who needs shelter from the sun?  
Not me, no. not anyone.
 Id sleep it all away but the sun wont let me 
Id miss those lovely days of summer 
Good-day sunlight 
Id like to say how truly bright you are 
You dont know me but I know you 
Youre my favorite.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

morning, time

I'm so glad I can see in color. I'm sure I wouldn't understand what I'm missing if I couldn't, but there must be something neurologically stimulating and attractive about bright colors. Driving from Dover to Grafton, VT takes three hours on paper. Six hours of my day stuck driving a car. Except that its autumn, and Vermont, and absolutely stunning.

As many people in New England do, I am transfixed by leaves in chromatic spectrums on branches which hang over the road like the most elegant wedding decorations. The little yellow ones that fall like tinker tape confetti as I swoop around rural roads on the drive just instantly make me smile. The bright red ones that glow even brighter when coated in rain and illuminated by morning sun. 

Mornings are special to me lately because I've never really experienced the process of morning like I do now, I never work up early enough to know or what to get privileged access to morning views. If I could get my body to cooperate, I'd like to wake up and see the dawn each morning as I wake up. Maybe take an early walk, ride or drive to photograph those things that most people don't really get to see.

Whole songs have been written about the process of dawn, the one I remember most is Jon i Mitchell's Morning Morgantown "When morning comes to Morgantown, the merchants roll their awnings down, the milk trucks make their morning rounds in morning Morgan town. We'll rise up early with the sun and ride the bus while everyone is yawning and the day is young in morning Morgantown"

Unfortunately, my brain doesn't cooperate with the early rising unless it has to, but Antioch has provided that official reason for me to drive in at dawn. Seeing the same road at the same time each morning makes me acutely connected to and aware of the seasonal change. I cherish it. 

Daylight savings time really messes me up though because the transition is so abrupt and un-natural. The gradual tilt change, the angle of the light works in harmony with our brain's rhythms. To so horribly shock it seems just cruel to our psyche I wonder if people get grumpier at those transitions. I do! For now though, nature and the beauty of the colors is enough to keep me serene and peaceful these days.

Monday, September 29, 2008

the right to sell my self

I put in a solid six hours of nonstop work on my practicum project today. I created real deadlines by lining up meetings with my practicum supervisior instead of waiting until I finished the project to talk. Sometimes I just think I really need that. Its pressure but its a real deadline. I do worry that its taking time from my other classes, but I'm on '2nd extension' so it should be a priority. I have until Thanksgiving technically, but I want it done by mid October at the latest. My classes will only be getting busier and more important each week, and I don't want to urn in mediocre work just because I'm overwhelmed. 

I have to say, I'm really proud of the quality of work I've put into this project. Even if only one person ever sees it, I know I've put my all into it. Tomorrow I will spend half my day in a car chasing a fall internship. I have a quiet confidence that I will be a perfect fit for what they need. Its a small nature center, a small hodgepodge of exhibits with a long history and tight budget. But that's real life. You don't always get to play with the billion dollar exhibits.

I have a natural ability to foresee problems, critique, connect and analyze media. I don't know where I got it but I am very good at knowing what to look for, what to tweak, what might be a problem, what won't/will work. Its hard to articulate though. Until you put me in exhibit design over the summer and I start bring up questions and design considerations that didn't even cross the instructor's mind...

I am still uncomfortable talking about those skills I have, too, because to say I'm natural at that and I have a thorough viewpoint is to me, arrogant. But when I graduate, won't I be selling my skills to employers? Does holding a master's degree give me some kind of bragging rights of does my ability speak for itself?

Having to work to show what I've done is important, too. Showing by really doing in the world. Not as an assignment but in something the public sees, does, learns. I always wanted to be a textbook writer for the same reasons I'm now interested in exhibit design. I truly believe that I can do it better than it exists right now. Am I brilliant? No. Do I know everything about everything? No, of course not. But I'm beginning to realize that i have my own specific point of view and skills, and it feels pretty damn good sometimes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

cobblestone memories

Decided to try a new venue today for work that's a little closer to home and hopefully not nearly as cold as the UNH Library. I saddled up on my bike and headed out of my apartment in a different direction entirely, towards Dover itself. Despite some crossings that demand some extra vigilance, the trip in is short and delightful. About two miles into town, under huge beech trees beginning to turn, the asphalt sidewalk changes into antique brickwork. NOt the type of modern bricks with every gap filled smooth and sharply geometric, no, these were rounded red semi-rectangular cobbles with gaps in between each that bounced my bike tires enough to make me giggle. The pattern of the wiggling, too, changed with the brick's orientation. I wonder how old they are. The houses in the neighborhood are up to 200 years old and by the degree of wear on the bricks I wouldn't be surprised if they had seen a lot more years in Dover than I have. 

As I start wondering about what Dover used to look like, I turn the corner towards the library where the sidewalk remains bricks but resembles a waterslide where it has twisted and been lifted or sunk from roots, erosion and frost heaving. This creates a delightful undulation under my wheels that I might never have noticed if not on a bike. I'm really beginning to love using my bike , though arguably I picked the wrong season to start to like it. 

Another class has an assignment that requires adopting a behavior that I don't do regularly to try and make it permanent. I was originally planning to eliminate plastic bags completely, but I really think that may be too easy. Maybe I should challenge myself to using my bike, walking or taking the bus if the trip is 5ish miles or less. This seems really easy but i think if I were to draw out a 5 mile radius line around my apartment, it would include more than I think it does.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big bad hill

I feel so much more alive and normal today. I took my bike out this morning and pedaled to the UNH library to get some work done. It was a bit cooler than I expected and my hands turned pink for want of gloves. As I biked I noticed that all the side of the road weeds were swelling with seeds and berries. I must have fun over hundreds at a time on the sidewalk. The wind blew gently but just enough to rattle the drying gasses and accentuate the rustling of a few animals I surprised along the way. 

The ride to UNH passes a great swooping field, abandoned greenhouses, railroad tracks, a power cut, and a field of now dead sunflowers. The way to UNH is also marked by a steep downhill slope which makes me almost fear breaking the speed limit on my bike if I don't touch the brakes. Needless to say I don't usually go back on the bike but allow the bus to do the work of that uphill for me. 

Today, after 6 hours of really doing good work, I packed up to try and catch the 6:10 bus home. As I left the library the bells ran for 6:00 and the sun's golden glow spread out on the campus lawn. I unchained my bike and suddenly got the urge to just keep riding right past the bus stop. I didn't feel like keeping still. So I pedaled my original route in reverse towards home, wondering if the killer hill would clam me as a gasping, sweaty victim. 

I was surprised that I managed to get halfway up the hill with no problems at all. Then, the fatigue and less-than-substantial food court food gave up on me. My legs started to burn, my breath became warmer on my chin. But I just kept pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. My front tire wobbled like a six year old's with the training wheels freshly off, but I just kept pedaling. All of a sudden, the pedaling got easier. The hill had flattened out to a piece-of-cake incline and I breathed several rapid sighs of relief. That wasn't nearly as bad as it could be or as I thought. It as suddenly just any old hill, just a part of my trip home from UNH. I never once stopped the while way home, and I smiled proudly as the bus passed me only a half mile away from my stop. Not bad for someone formerly afraid of the big bad hill.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Every state line...

Took the scenic route home tonight on purpose. Had a lot of my mind that was best ruminated in the mountains with Nick Drake in the stereo. Funny how the same road can look so different in the opposite direction. The rolling purple hills accented by the setting sun's orange glow, a silhouette of wind turbines, a corn maze and an obelisk all greeted me as I headed back east through VT. Chill enough, too, for woodstoves to add that delicious wood smoke scent to my journey. I cracked my windows for most of the trip back in an attempt to absorb the experience. 

Drives like this make me yearn for a simpler life, with the dawn waking me and the moonrise completing my day. To be connected to a place like this - to the workings of the seasons and the timings of life's little sequences - sounds so right. This was in stark contrast to earlier in the day when I sat in a greek restaurant located on a busy highway, which instead of windows, they had an artist paint tromp l'oeil versions of Mediterranean vistas. Why should a state line, an arbitrary and unnatural boundary, have such an obvious effect on culture? 

When I left my home state of NY though Troy and crossed into Vermont, I knew I was in the state before I even saw the first VT sign. The culture is different. Peoples children were outside in Vermont. Fields were bountiful with crops, farms were old yet cared for. There's something in the air, even. When I crossed into NY on Friday I started sneezing any nose ran for no reason. But don't VT and NY share the same air? The same soil? why has this difference evolved? 

A friend suggested that the pollution might be causing my sniffles in Albany as she handed me a glass of filtered water. Where do you start when all of the population's knowledge about the environment starts with "Don't drink the water, the PCBs are all over the Hudson." Yes, it has basis in fact, but seems to state such despair, or worse, fear. The best solutions aren't universal and approaching one culture, whether it be a country, religion, political affiliation or state line can be a challenge. 

I often get overwhelmed and want to fix everything. My only hope is that I can find something that will make difference to people. Moving to Vermont to live a simpler life is tempting, but is there more work to be done on the other side of "the line"?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunshine & pumpkins

Why can't humans look directly into the sun? I guess I mean why can't my delicate retinas tolerate the most sunning mountain sunset in Vermont as I attempt to drive west to Albany? Maybe its so I could be forced to stop at a farm stand to stroll around the signs of autumn and really notice the depths of orange sunlight on an orange pumpkin skin. Or to see shafts of dusty air illuminated through rows of hanging flowers. Or to force me to stop and appreciate the taste of the air today, the calling of my sweater in my backseat.

I find myself fascinated with sunsets and rises because of the fleeting alternative views on the world. Suddenly, and only for a moment the shadows and glow draw your attention to the most mundane and ignorable things, the rays transforming them into radiant beautiful objects. The dirty windshield of an old truck. A dead sunflower. A piece of wood, a row of grass. 

I feel like its a secret because only I am standing in front of these objects at the right minute as they are elevated to beauty and elegance. I frequently photograph scenes like this because I may never see the same combination of angle and timing of the earth's tilt as I am sure that if I returned tomorrow it wouldn't be the same. 

So stopping in exasperation as the setting sun overwhelmed my rods and cones afforded me a unique opportunity to see something no one will ever see again in quite the same way. I'm glad.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Environmental Writing Freewrite

Morning mist rises off the water's surface and swirls around the whiteness and greyness of the standing wood. The water, giving rise to this spooky show seems solid and still. There is no line between this smoke and sky, a hazy outline of wings only briefly stays to remind us of the world above. I crouch, motionless gazing at the tiny picket row of green between my mind and the cauldron's edge. The stalks stand askew as if mimicking the rows of trees without branches, and the color of the reeds feels more comfortable to me than the vast grey. 

Interrupting these teetering rows is a touch not of green, not of grey, but a translucent light brown. I nudge my toes to the squishy edge to identify this strange figure among the blades, and too soon I realize it isn't moving, but was surely once alive. Tiny armadillo like plates and gussets find their way to create what seems to be an alien armor - but hollow within. 

The emptiness, perhaps, reminds us of something that has escaped to a new world, a new form. Crawled out of the too-still mirror water, this creature pushed and escaped its shell with new wings to explore the unknown world of sky and grey. Like clothes discarded in haste or eagerness, this small brown skin calls back to a life under the surface, a life unknown to us no matter how hard we try to seek it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Down in... sandals?

I woke up a little nervous but okay, asked a groggy Annie if I could borrow her sandals to wear up to do our presentation (in order to try them out to see if they're mountain decent worthy). I open up the Gray Knob log and write an entry describing my time at the cabin and my experiences of climbing my first few mountains.

Before we leave to check out the plots, Laura offered me duct tape for my boots. I take them outside, sit on a rock, and attempt to repair, help or otherwise un-wreck my boots. Complete failure.

The duct tape won't stick to any surface of my gritty, wet boots. So, sandals, it seems are my only options. Thankfully I put on the one thick pair of hiking socks I had left and went up to do our plot. I wrapped my ankles and the bridges/arches of my feet in tight tape, put the socks on, and strapped on the sandals. I packed up my pack, which felt just as heavy as the ascent, and took Laura's poles to clime down with. The dead boots were strapped to the outside of the pack because they were wet and smelly, and so that I could switch to them if I absolutely had to.

I got strange looks form the class when I showed up in sandals, which quickly turned to silence when I showed them y dead boots and they reailzed I didn't have a choice. For the first part of the descent it was easy and I was in good spirits, singing optimistically. Ray said he liked the singingin because it got Paul Simon's "Slip Sliding Away" out of his head.

As it got steeper I began to really rely on the poles to be my additional balance, a great way not to kill myself by falling forward. My feet and knees hurt pretty badly and I was very slow which I am sure annoyed some people but it really was my maximum sandal speed. The trail was wet from rains, the rocks were steep and it took a bit of thinking each time I wanted to place my foot somewhere. It was at this point, too that I realized that my body doesn't trust my left ankle/foot at all and that the right one had to go first to stabilize anything. This meant that I was lopsided walking most of the time, but I had to do whatever I could to make it down.

Three hours later I got to the rock that we had stopped at on the way up, the point at which I wondered if I'd made it up at all. I passed the milestone with enthusiasm and a short while later the ground leveled out. We cut across a power cut and were were back at Lowe's store where we had started. I got high fives all around when we met back up at the end.

I'm not sure how long it will take my body to recover from this trip, but I do feel very encouraged about my physical abilities. I've lost even more weight since then, and I think that I'm in better shape than I have been in the past 10 years. I'm encouraged, exhausted, relieved, that I survived it, and with such a fun story to tell. I don't know if I'll do such a major backpacking type trip again very soon, but I'm no longer as afraid of it as I used to be.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Woke up this morning stiff and tired. Groggy tired. Coming down the stairs I knew my ankles were angry at me. I tried not to worry about it as we atalked about the details of today's hike. I popped some ibuprophen. After trying in vain to locate clean, dry socks (I am packing WAY more than I need next time, of course, I hope not to have a boot with a gaping crack in it next time either) I decided on the old plastic-bag-in-the-boot trick in a last-ditch attempt at waterproofing.

Ray decided to hang back for this one and I considered it too, but I idint' feel all that horrible, and I could at least take solace in the fact that this hike would be easier than yesterday's. We set out under "socked in" foggy skies, but it wasn't very cold, so we were in decent spirits. The trails were mostly less steep which my sore joints really appreciated.

The path was kept quite misty ahead of us and kept me from looking up and feeling overwhelmed. We found a lot more species to be in bloom, yellow mountain avens, 3-toothed cinqfoil, alpine azalea and mountain heath.

We stopped by a bog community wiht hopes of seeing a field of wildflowers, unfortunatly the snow had only recently receeded and the plants weren't quite in bloom. At this point, my boots, I'm sure, were wet, but my plastic baggie in the boot trick was helping.

We ascended from the spot up a quick, steep climb to see an unusual sight... SNOW!

The last bit of a snow bank remained and was melting. Around it were a bunch of flowers. Folds from the class slid down the snow patch in turns, I refrained because of my boot holes.

From there we decided to summit Jefferson - a "short climb" from where we were. About halfway through the climb it got steep and difficult, my heart began to beat hard and I was out of breath like on the first day's hike in. I went up slowly barely able to see the rest of the class in the mist but they kept encouraging me.

From the last tall cairn, it was only a quick scrabble to the top - and I got to the summit. As out of breath as I was, I kept thinking, DAMN, I CLIMBED TWO MOUNTAINS?!

The view, unfortuantly, never opened up for us. The way back was the way we came up but thankfully down this time.

My ankles started to twist and get unstable during the decent. Briefly the coulds opened and we could see the Great Gulf and castelated ridge.

Most of the trip back was uneventful until we heard thunder and had to hurry for cover. The wet rocks combined with fatigued ankles and rushing wasn't too safe and I tweaked both my knees and ankles even further than they already wor on my dead shoes. Fortunatly, I didn't take abig fall, and we soon made it back to camp without being electrocuted.

I took a nap then attempted to go out and do my plot readings. Just as I got there it started raining - hard. After that the thunder came, and I had to hunker down for a while until it passed. When I saw the rest of the group coming down the trail I joined them, sloshing back under thinkdering skies. I was also lucky here that the only thing I got from that trip home was ver wet.

The probelm at camp is now that 75% of what I brought is now wet. I'm writing this in the moxie shirt and black leggings. My other pants were completely soaked.

I'm optimistic that I'll at least have something to wear tomorrow, if not the best option possible. I am MUCH more concerned about my boots though, they're... dead. But then, what will I wear down the mountain tomorrow???!?!?!

Alright I'm off to bed, I need the warmth of my sleeping bag to dry me off a bit.

Monday, June 23, 2008


This morning we awoke at 6am to attempt to foil the weather for our long hike to Adams and the Madison Hut. What I had not realized previously is that Adams is actually among several peaks, the lowest is Adams 4, then Mt. Adams, John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams, etc. We started our ascent up the normal paths towards our plots, took quick readings and kept going.

I was wearing my long black pants with a zippered poly pro shirt. In my pack I through my raincoat, rain pants and other necessary academic gear.

Up the path didn't go too horribly. I felt ok and was at least comfortable with the steepness. I brought hiking poles that I borrowed form Laura, but I found myself carrying them in hand and not using them for the ascent. I was occasionally breathless as we went up above the plots, but not as embarrassingly so. As we followed the cairns up the trail, all the trees dissappeared. Above me I saw nothing but lichen covered rocks and sky. I peered up at Adams 4, only barely higher than Gray Knob, and gulped.

The ascent, though "challenging" was manageable but as we ascended the views opened up, ad we were able to see additional peaks by the time we got to the summit of Adams 4. From there, we could see the real Adams, Jefferson and Madison. From Adams 4 we went down to Thunderstorm Junction and a tiny bit of rain came in for a few moments.

The downhill was steep only briefly, but then leveled out to a wind-blown grass. I was relieved and energized to put my feet on soil and soft ground if even for a moment. The trail snaked sideways then aimed directly up at Adams itself. The ascent to Adams was over huge rocks, and I was slow, but after stowing the poles I felt more at home on the rocks. The view up was again, nothing but rocks, the view behind was even more beautiful. White mists hid the valley completely, which made the peaks look as if they were islands floating in a white soft sea.

We got to the top of Mt. Adams and paused to take a photo. I felt proud and excited to have had the opportunity to do this (flora aside) to prove to myself that I'm capable of doing things that others can physically. I DID IT. I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN PEAK!!!

From there we descended a steep, sharp downhill and I could feel my hiking boots disintegrating as a whole and splits developed, I prayed that they'd last the trip.

Our steep ascent slowed to a gentle descent as we swung around the side of the mountain, then uphill towards star lake, which from the back of Adams, looked like a small muddy puddle.

As we got closer it got bigger and we began to see bog plants in bloom, so lovely! We could see the Madison hut and star lake opening up. We got to the lake and it was a bog surrounded by grasses whipping in the wind that was coming through the valley. Rain threatened but held off until we were inside the AMC hut Maidson, then downpoured once we were inside (luckily).

We rested and thankfully ate, and weighed the options ahead. Ascend Madison? Return to camp?

The weather's instability lead us to choose to return. We looked over a crazy ravine (The Great Gulf) on the way back, the views were awesome. We watched the clouds just pouring over the mountain tops. I can't even describe how small I felt.

We opted to skirt Adams 4 on our return, so no more uphill for the rest of the way (YAY). The spur trail was fairly hard, and I hurt my knee by twisting or hyper extending it on a rock. I'm not incapable of bending my right knee fully, the pain from behind my knee makes me spring back up in pain whenever I go to kneel or crouch.

We came back via Crag camp, bigger but more filled with people. We stood on the deck and watched butterflies ride the thermals coming off of the slopes. Eventually we headed back to Gray Knob.

I'm going to take some advil in hopes that my knee gets better by tomorrow, where we will be doing a longer, yet not as steep climb...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Misty mountain tops

I'm afraid of everything still. Last night I slept okay, but worried about hiking today. Worried about my stomach letting me down on the middle of a hike. Worried about what happens if I get sick or hurt on the trail. But I'm tring not to let it mess me up. I'm worried my rain gear is crap. We are doing plot work today, which is a huge help. I can turn around to camp if I need to. That makes me feel a lot better.

It's raining now and I'm going to try out my rain gear. I know the jacket's good. I am nust not psyched about getting wet feet.

Today we made the decision (based on the forecast) to do plot work only. We got to our site to find it was still there, with nice gusty winds, but it wasn't cold, just breezy. You could see the white clouds accumulating in the valley, a sight I always love to see, it reminds me of japanese paintings.

Our goal today was to map our plots and determine % cover. We went to work very dilligently and I quickly made a really strong and detailed map. Just as we were finishing our last quadrant, we saw our teacher jump over the rock. A few raindrops hit my hood and she said we should probably take a break because the storm coming in looked like a good one. We packed up quickly and snuck down to the trail, ducking into the cabin as the rain started to increase in intensity.

We ate lunch and then the thunder started. While most groups had nothing to work on, I re-wrote some notes more clearly on graph paper and began to replot my map, look up scientific names, etc.

As the storm waned, I got more tired. The storm broke and the groups hurried back to their plots to do work. I decided to retire to an hour long nap, which the returning rain helped with. I slept soundly and awoke feeling ready. Annie and I headed out to our plots in cool breezy conditions, took our measurements and returned home just as the rain started back up. My rain jacket got pretty damp - I apparently needed to waterproof it or something - so its now hanging and dripping to dry. When we came back we worked on our data for some more, then Annie and I made dinner (pasta with peppers and onions) which wasn't impressive but went over well. After dinner I really stopped doing work because I was tired but I did draw two landscapes with colored pencil, a media I'm only slightly familiar with (and not trained in at all). We listened as Laura read passages from letters written by a female hiker from the 1800s. How interesting and dignified/poetic her entries were.

I wanted to see the sunset but it wasn't visible through the rain clouds, so I turned back. I at least stayed dry this time.

Tomorrow's plan is to rise early and hike the peaks. We're going to try to get to the summit of Mt. Adams and perhaps Madison. We'll be out most of the morning, but extremely thankfully we'll only have day packs on. Phew. I am still a bit concerned about being so far away from a bathroom, but I haven't had any issues as of yet. Today was good and I felt comfortable, my muscles ached only mildly which let me feel more optimistic about moving around. A rainy day for rest was welcome.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hike to Gray Knob

We met in the parking lot, I saw Laura our professor when I rolled in, in shorts. I immediately looked down at my legs. Pants - under armor long underware. I looked at laura and saw she was wearing a tank top. I looked down at my chest. Bra, underlayer and long sleeves. I was wrong about everything. I got out and unpacked and repacked my pack about three times. Food in the bottom? Top? Where should I keep my rain gear? But I tried to smile, tried to look in "the know." We compared pack weights. I had about the same weight as all the guys. I have no idea what it weighed, but I put it on and hunkered forward. UGH. I could walk on flat ground fine. We crossed the street to the trail head.

I was happy with my balance at first. I was expecting to be unimaginably off balance. The "hikers" of the group immediately took the lead like gazelles and I was instantly out of breath. We entered the forest and I started drifting farther back, stifled by my long-sleeved shirt. I tweaked my pack straps at a stop for water and put the weight onto my hips. Ahh, temporary relief.

We walked under forest cover, through mud, over rocks and roots. The weather stayed breezy. About twenty five minutes in, I ditched the shirt. It felt awesome to get the sweat off my body. The hills we climbed were moderate and I was going slowly but doing okay. Then, about halfway up, the squishy mud path turned into the rocky steep path. I couldn't do anything but look at my feet, putting one foot down after another. We'd stop every twenty minutes or so for water, which I got conservative with once I felt it sloshing around in my belly. Don't get sick, I thought, just don't get sick. Every turn we came to got steeper. The trail is really that straight-up-damn-the-torpedos kind of shit. I looked up and saw rocks, rocks, rocks....

As we walked further up it began to sprinkle, which initially felt really good on my face and arms, and took the edge off my overheating a bit. It rained harder as we stopped to take our rain covers out of our packs. It rained very heavily for about 5-10 minutes - no thunder though. A passing hiker later told us that we missed the hail that was going on further up the mountain. Laura told a story about coming up with two people who were slow and couldn't get out of a thurnderstom. I really felt like she was directing it at me, I knew she wasn't, but I was lagging father and farther behind the group.

I really couldn't go much faster without getting helplessly out of breath. We eventually got to the part that was "stupidly steep" and I started to feel my left hip joint protesting. I didn't feel like I had the strength to push myself up each step, it was like climbing a never-ending sideways wet, rough, staircase. But I kept my complaints to a minimum and kept going, albiet slower and slower. It got really tough and I began to wonder what the hell I thought I was doing.

But then we reached the krumholtz where the trees start to get stunted and wind blown, and I could see a tiny glimpse of blue mountains ahead. A few minutes later, more steep. I counted my steps as I went, resetting once I got to 42. It gave me a small goal to reach. Suddenly I glanced up to see where i was and I was blown away. Infinity in each direction... MOUNTAINS... nothing but green, blue, clouds, haze...

I wish I could say I ran the last bit, that I triumphantly scampered to the cabin. But I pressed on at the same pace, really unable to go at any other speed or pace. I did manage to take some pictures and photos to prove that I had done it. It may have been one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I didn't bail, quit, cry, break a bone or have to turn back like I had feared for so many nights before.

After settling into the RMC hut (Grey Knob) which had Tibetan prayer flags hanging inside of it, we took a short hike to check out the areas where we'd do our plot work. I paired up with Annie probably because we seem to have similar paces and demeanor, and she was kind to me as I slowly grappled with the trail.

We grabbed our day packs and got our equipment, proceeded to go up the mountain further. How light, how easy this was compared to only hours before. This I could handle! My feet still bugged me a little but not to the magnitude that it mattered.

We hiked above the treeline and all I could do was grin. The view was fantastic, and the alpine flowers were easy to pick out, so tiny and so beautiful. We selected a plot that was closest to camp, and I was exceptionally thrilled by this (less hiking 2x per day to get plot measurements.). It was surveyed in 2000 by another group so we also got the historical context too.

After finishing our plot work, Annie and I took photos of each other on Grey Knob (the rock) itself. It felt SO good to be in the sun, in nature, in the mountains.

Dinner was awesome but now I am nervous that my dinner will suck in comparison. Tonight's was tortellini, spinach and red sauce. MMN! I ate heartily though I am still nervous about my stomach I am okay now. I'll try not to worry about that, which can help also.

After dinner we watched the sun set from a scenic vista. IT was unimaginably beautiful. I have never seen infinite mountains before. Peaks everywehre. So gorgeous, so pristene, so perfect. A perfect end to a triumphiant and important day.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Prelude - Alpine Flora

People say that to truly live, you need to challenge yourself. When I first saw Alpine Flora on the course listings, I ruled it out as a physical impossibility for me to take.

I've never been athletic, coordinated, strong or graceful, and I've been self-conscious about it for years. That, combined with a sedentary job and weight gain, I would never have thought a year ago that I'd do something like this, something so unbelievably physical.

But I did. Perhaps it was the lack of other options, or the fact that the other classes were in areas that I already knew so much about.

So, I hesitatingly packed, overwhelmed with anxiety and questions I couldn't answer. I'm still convinced I underpacked or skipped something important.

So, last night I reached my apex of worry, then hit a zen-like calm. Things will happen as they will.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Teaching in the Outdoors (summary of learning)

I walked into this class with almost no experience teaching children or teaching in the outdoors, which also happened to be my motivators for taking the class. I was excited to be exposed to teaching in the outdoors because it boils down truly to what I'd like to do as a career. If I can inspire a love of nature and a true connection to it, I can really make some kind of difference in the next generations of children that are coming into the world.

I am extremely happy with the way the course went, and I think that have fulfilled my goals (to learn some of the logisitics with dealing with groups of people in the outdoors, and different ways to keep people focused and engaged in the out of doors). I think I gained a lot of insight from thinking about the roadblocks and talking to the class about their experiences in helping others overcome the roadblocks that we face when getting people to be involved in nature. I also feel that being asked to sit and journal, sit and take in what is going on around me really did help me to clarify my brain after a long day of learning as well. I didn't write as much in my journaling as I actually thought about (it's actually been a long time since I've done so much writing with a pen so I couldn't really keep up with my thoughts.) I think that by having us all share activities with each other I was able to see how they would be related to different ages and different learning styles, and it is fantastic to now have a set of activities which I can use in my practica if necessary.

Centering on the design motifs, I also think that there are some in that list I wouldn't normally have thought to use, such as fantasy and small worlds, but are just as helpful as the hunter-gatherer and adventure themes that I am used to. I really think that place-based education is the future of our education, and the map making along with all the other motifs could be used with any age level outside to help to bring the environment to them and get them reconnected with the world around them. I appreciated the discussion of the motifs and I was also delighted to see that the motifs were all touched on in our final activities. (Like the fantasy of finding "baby dragons" and making maps of an unfamiliar territory, hunting and seeking certain things in nature, the adventure of being blindfolded in the woods, pretending to be monkeys with great enthusiasm...) It is always easy for me to see the hunter/gatherer opportunity for learning but it is great to add the other motifs to my bag of tricks as well.

Additionally, the references that were available will be useful to me in my practica, and we have some of the same resources available at the Wells Reserve where I will be teaching. Overall I feel like the course has given me familiarity with what types of learning goes on in the outdoors and by doing so increased my confidence upon starting my practicum in July.

Teaching in the Outdoors - My Bag of Tricks

My Environmental Education Bag of Tricks Includes....
  • ambulators to make a long walk seem shorter or more fun
  • how to relate common games to environmental issues
  • the developmental appropriateness of certain games
  • knowing how to use all 5 senses
  • being able to encourage thoughtful reflection
  • nature journaling
  • colors of nature game
  • onion trail game
  • call and responses
  • animal allies role playing games
  • hunter gatherer searches, games, scavenger hunts
  • fantasy and map-making placed based education activities
  • allowing kids to make up names for the plants that they're seeing
  • comfort in leading a group of kids
  • when to do an active vs. a quieter program
  • how to be aware of potential safety issues
  • how to inject a sense of adventure into nature exploration
  • how to get parents and mixed age groups going
  • ways of getting the attention of a group that isn't listening
I think I've got a lot more that I haven't written down, and I think I'll continue to add to this list whenever I learn new things. I love the fact that a lot of my classmates shared their experiences, too, so I can also approach them for advice if I need it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Teaching in the outdoors (class journal 3)

One needs only to look at the dashboard of my car, the shelves in my apartment or inside the heavy boxes when I move to understand that I must be a hunter gatherer or collector. I have a feather that I've yet to identify on my dashboard, I have coral, rocks, shells, bone, animal track casts strewn about, and it's tough for me to resist the urge to pick wildflowers.

It may sound bad, but some environmentalists have told me that I'm stealing things from nature, but I know that by using my senses and it is always a thrill for me to seek new things in an environment. I think that we miss a lot surrounding us because we fail to really look at things, and by seeking certain colors, objects or textures we open ourselves up to observing a lot more in nature.

Also, by collecting different signs (as I did during my mammalogy class at the Harris Center last semester) you can really get to know an animal that you may never catch an actual glimpse of, like a bobcat, moose or fisher. I think some of the hunter gatherer motif actually involves a bit of adventure, too. It is an adventure to hunt for things, and it is a joy to discover something you've never seen. I felt at ease finding dragonfly enuvae once I found one, I saw them everywhere! I'd never seen something like that, evidence so fresh of emergence, and it was a thrill to me every time.

Teaching in the Outdoors (class journal 2)

Sitting in the marsh, if I were asked to write on this when I arrived here, I should describe only a few meager glimpses of life. A blue heron nest stands still and empty at the top of a dead tree, a few ripples of bugs on the surface of the water. But as I stared at the still water, I saw the first few glimpses of life. Newts swam underwater, a great match to go with the efts we were finding throughout the previous days. I caught a leech that was swimming (something I've never seen).

Apparently I have forgotten all of my freshwater biology, or I have never really been to a swamp, because everything we pulled out, every muck-filled bucket was full of life. Every bit of pond scum every bit of plant hid a living thing. There was life everywhere. And if only we could get people to go outside to see below the "mucky" water, see into the mud, see into the forest and open their eyes, their senses to that sense of adventure, we would feel so much more connected to the world.

I don't think I'll ever drive past a swam again and look at it in the same way...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Teaching in the Outdoors - Day 1

Today was he first day of class for my Teaching in the Outdoors class. We've had a full, long day and as I write this I'm sitting in Panera bread (free wireless wohoo) sipping a chai and trying to remember the entire day as well as I can.

We started with the typical introductions, then went outside. The first activity was a silent walk, we walked from the entrance of the Harris Center to a tree-shaded lawn. As I listened to the typical noises of morning birds waking up to song, we all heard one that we weren't expecting. It went hoo-ho-ho-HOO... hoo-ho-ho-HOO and come to find out it was a pair of Bard Owls. How neat is that?! It's so rare for them to sing during the day so they must be gathering food for new chicks. I could tell that this would be one of those special classes at that. We played a few great group games before going down to the lower part of the field to journal using all of our senses (see previous entry for an excerpt).

Another neat activity followed when our teacher brought out paint swatches (the kind you can pick up at the Hardware store) and asked us to find that color in the open field below us. I first got yellow and found a yellow leaf and a dandelion, then a purple card had me picking other purple wildflowers. Each person in the class took their find and laid it out on a white bandanna, and it really tuned us into the colors other than the dominating green in the grass. I love how with the conscious attention of the mind, our senses can be so much sharper, more discriminating. Throughout the rest of the day I felt my eyes picking out sudden flashes of color - the yellow butterfly's wing glinting, the bright green beetle on the rock, the wildflowers within the grass.

After that, we were allowed to take plants in the area and smudge them onto small pieces of paper to make a drawing. I took an Indian Paintbrush and created what turned out to be a very beautiful sunrise (or sunset, depending on who you ask) behind mountains made with clover leaf smudging. I'll try to scan it if I get a chance.

Teaching in the Outdoors (class journal)

Below me ferns spread rising and splayed to meet the sun, star shaped flowers and vines creep along under their cover. Lichen spreads lazily on the rock, the wind picks up and I hear bugs buzzing, trees rustling and it almost sounds like running water. A big black ant crawls across my smudge painting, a spider starts and stops hesitatingly on the rock face, in a hauntingly mechanical manner. A dragon fly sits for a moment on a leave then another, then rests beside me.

Beetles, bees, ants, moths and butterflies dance in and out of view, in and out of earshot. Above my head a dead pine reaches up into the cloudless sky like the bristles of an inverted broom, as poplars and aspen flutter in a high breeze. Dots of yellow buttercups on the ground in the grass are navigated by bees ad butterflies in a lazy but precise path. A green caterpillar inches up my leg, then arm to check me out.

I can feel the weather chance as a cold breeze seems across my exposed skin. I am in awe of how many bugs and plants and flowers I've never stopped to watch or hear. How many different buzzes, flicks, whines, flutters, rustles, chirps, peeps and whistles there are to hear, and how many more I do not yet hear, awaiting to be heard.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Interviewing... the pressure!

So this morning I got all "spruced" up and drove to Wells, Maine for an interview for a practicum opportunity. Perhaps I should back up. Through my grad program at Antioch, we are required to take a total of 8 credits as a practicum or internship. Usually this is done as 2 credits in the summer, 2 in the fall and 4 in the spring. The practicum consists of 150 hours per two credit practica which is quite reasonable. I've been looking at programs in the seacoast area both because its a shorter drive and I've got a background in marine biology, so the coast is a natural choice. I have been a little behind in finding a practicum because of other academic work, so it was awesome when a fellow classmate recommended one for me. "It would be perfect for you!" she said.

And boy was she right. I went to Wells to interview at the Wells Natural Esturarine Research Reserve for an environmental education position. The position itself involves being a second teacher for their young kid day long programs and their older week long programs for kids from 9-12. The topics are fun, the courses are outdoors and the camp is exceptionally education focused.

I got on well with th director that I ws interviewing with, and though I have little experience with direct teaching of kids, I think I deomonstrated that I knew a lot about estuaries, bogs, oceans, intertidal areas and that I didn't mid getting muddy.

She said she was interviewing a couple of people this week - I know of at least one more from Antioch - and that she'd give a call at the end of the week.

Thankfully, I have a lot to do this week, so it'll keep my mind of the suspense.

After the interview I walked around the place and it was absolutely gorgeous. I hope that I get the position and that I can come back with my camera to take pictures of the place. It was the first day in a while that it wasn't rainy, and I saw all kinds of wildlife. I saw deer tracks, coyote scat, a garter snake, birds, seagulls, swallows, ducks, fish, butterflies, flowers - it was so picturesque and perfect.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Ahh spring break is here, but I say that with the most sarcastic of all "ahhs." I'm not really getting a chance to relax this spring break, but I am a little encouraged that I'll have some time to catch up on what I'm reading - it's all quite interesting, I have just had little time to work it into my schedule lately.

Spring pops its head out every now and then here, though I'm completely jet-lagged by daylight savings time from this past weekend. I think I've said this before on this blog, but I'd much rather allow my body to naturally adjust to the few minutes difference in the timing of the sunrises and sunsets throughout the year than I the thought of being so jarringly thrown back into darkness.

I did see a robin this past friday, which for me is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Though, now it's 22 degrees out again, so my green suede coat will have to wait a few more weeks to break out of the closet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

effectiveness, not eifficiency

A great quote from one of my readings this week regarding learning:

"If learning is what we value, then we ought to value the process of learning as much as we value the result of it. A typical classroom narrows both thinking strategies and answer options. Educators who insist on singular approaches and the "right answer" are ignoring the history of our species: Human beings have thrived because we continually seek viable alternative solutions instead of being bound to a single path. The human brain survives on effectiveness, not efficiency. Limiting education to the search for the right answer- as we do when we focus on standardized testing - violates the law of the adaptability of the developing brain. Quality education encourages a wide-open creative problem solving approach, there by exploring alternative thinking options, multiple right answers, and creative insights. These are not valued on standardized tests."

Monday, February 11, 2008

inside wants out

I've been working out lately. I got a little tired of being the last one up the side of the mountain each time our class went on a field trip. I do feel a lot more active than I have in any other winter, and I'm actually losing weight instead of gaining it while snow's on the ground - which is a fantastic improvement.

But I have to say, winter still gets to me a bit. I miss being outside. Today, the wind is howling with a -15F wind chill, and I'm sitting indoors, wishing I was following tracks through the woods, but knowing that really, that wouldn't be healthy. I get stir crazy in the winter, and a tad depressed. Right now, that's manifesting in an aversion to sitting still. I don't want to read what I have to for class because it involves being under artificial light and sitting still for hours at a time.

(I did, however, update my tracking photo album to include the most recent class, where we saw some awesome stuff. Above is a picture of bobcat tracks, and that day we saw coyote, mink, and bear signs.... sweet.)

If I could read while running at the gym, I would, but bouncing up and down while running makes me a little nauseous if I try to read.

I'm also having a paradox between what I'd like to read and what I am supposed to read. I have a few books that I ordered for personal reasons (The Omnivore's Dilemma, Blink, The World Without Us, etc.) that are calling me, but I have to read 6 chapters of Beak of the Finch, 4 chapters of Evolutionary Ecology, 2 chapters of my Learning Development Book, and I have to finish the book on brains. Phew. I should stop writing and get back to work...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Unplug children

Inspired by several things and remembering Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods" I decided to make a bumpersticker that expressed what I felt about the way kids were growing up these days. It's now available for sale at my Zazzle site should you feel so inclined. I think there's a few more ideas still stewing, so there may be more coming.

In association with

Foxy lady

Last week I went tracking for the first time since I started taking Mammalogy. Since then, the conditions have been horrid for tracking - everything is melting and rain obscures any tracks that were there. But, since I have some pictures of the tracks I saw, I thought I'd show you what they looked like in fresh, good snow, instead of the junk we're dealing with now.

On my first jaunt out I saw squirrel tracks, white footed mouse tracks and red fox tracks! I had no idea there was so much red fox activity in Durham, but there were plenty of tracks gonig up and down the frozen Oyster river and through the woods. I had a great time out in the snow following the tracks around, and I can't wait to do more!


On Icicles and language

So tonight I am writing a paper regarding the language development of 18-24 month olds. After having difficulty finding anyone I know with a 2 year old (everyone's child seems to be older or an infant!) I decided to to my analysis on a home video of my brother Greg when he was two, circa 1988 (my mom's haircut is hillarious.)

I've had a great time writing this paper because its forced me to look at really what stage Greg was in at the time by looking at his language alone, instead of just thinking that his speech was the most adorable thing ever.

An excerpt:

When mom interacted with Greg, it was clear that they had certain nicknames for things that they were doing. The tinsel that they were putting on the tree was called “icicles” which Greg seemed to understand was the shiny stuff he was attempting to put on the Christmas tree. I wondered if he knew where the nickname came from – the tree resembled one coated in ice when the “icicles” were all applied – and I wonder if he thought they resembled each other at all, because there were big icicles outside of the window hanging from the eave of the roof. It was clear, however, that his meaning of icicles as being the silver, thin tinsel they were putting on the tree was a little less than concrete a few minutes later. Greg opened a box of ornament hooks, spilling them onto the floor, heaping them into a pile and then dropping them from above his head in front of him. These ornament hooks were silver like the tinsel – and when asked what he was doing, he said “Look icicles!” at that time, mom corrected him and said, “No, honey, those are hooks for the ornaments.” “Icicles,” Greg said back. Mom slyly scooped up the pile of ornament hooks and returned with some more tinsel. “Lets put more of these icicles on the tree,” mom said, “and daddy will attach the hooks later.” This, to me, was an example of the “No, that’s not a kitty!” example given in class – the subtle dissonance (a la Piaget) and learning that must have been going on for Greg all the time at that age.
What was also interesting is that at the same time I was writing this paper, I came across an article that has to do with language development of toddlers that is quite amazing.
ScienceDaily (2008-02-04) -- Researchers are studying a ground-breaking theory that young children are able to learn large groups of words rapidly by data-mining. Their theory, which they have explored with 12- and 14-month-olds, takes a radically different approach to the accepted view that young children learn words one at a time -- something they do remarkably well by the age of 2 but not so well before that.
I shared this article with the class and the teacher thanked me for it. Maybe she'll mention something about it in class tomorrow. Anyway, that's all for now, back to the paper.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I've been a little slow to update lately, as I've had a lot of external stuff going on that has nothing to do with grad school or environmental thought. I hope to go back to writing more than once a week just so that I can keep writing for enjoyment, instead of just taking notes and writing things for class.

I found a cute cartoon online that was inspired by Richard Louv (left) and the No Child Left Inside thing. Nice to see that other people are worried about the issue, too.

A few things have happened in school lately, and I'll quickly update you - with a thin promise of more detail later.

My classes for the semester are Evolutionary Ecology, Ecological Economics & Public Policy, Learning Development & Theory and Mammalogy. The last one was a last-minute change. I was signed up for Herpetlogy (study of reptiles and amphibians) but didn't want to take it, I was wait listed for the other class. A half hour before the first class was to begin I got a notification that the course was open. I'm excited that I get to study mammals instead. It's a course in tracking, scatology and mammal behavior. I am totally psyched tonight, actually, because we had fresh snow today, and I'm breaking in my new snowshoes tomorrow looking for my first tracks. (snowshoes were highly recommended and/or manditory for the course, so I picked up some at Play it Again Sports for a pretty good deal.)

I've only recieved three out of the four grades for the past semester, I got a Very Good in both Foundations of Environmental Education and Evolutionary Ecology. I got a Good in Community Ecology of the New England Landscape - and honestly, I think I deserved it because it was the course that came last when I was taking care of everything each week. I didn't put my heart fully into that one, but I did learn a lot. I'm a little annoyed about the Evolutionary Ecology. I was sure I'd be getting an Excellent in that in at least the class participation part... but I got Very Goods across the board. I thought I did better than that, honestly, but I'll take the V. The last one that I'm still waiting on a grade for is Language of Nature... and I'm not sure on that. I loved that course immensely, but its a very subjective grading system, so I am just going to have to wait and see.

More thoughts later...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

the snowman

I'm sitting this morning, looking outside at the slushy snow on a gray winter day, watching two young parents making a snowman with their little girl (about 5 years old), because it is warm outside and the snow is such good packing it just begs for it.

As I was watching them play, I had a thought. I can safely venture that this family doesn't have a lot of money, as the parents are very young. Where I live is not a very affluent apartment building, and there are usually kids running around outside.

I began to think back, again, to my childhood. Playing outside, playing in the neighborhood is not only good for kids socially, gets them outside and lets them find themselves, it is also free. There is no video game console to purchase, no controller needed to experience nature. Could it be, simply, that those who are naturally letting their kids outside today are the ones with less money? If you don't have the $800 to spend on a Nintendo Wii, are you more willing to encourage your child to play outside, or offer them different opportunities to do so?

It is a question that just popped into my head, and I wonder if the next generation of kids in touch with nature will be the ones who grew up in the lower middle class, without access to the technology that kids have in their faces all the time in more affluent homes. Also, how can we reach those who do have more resources in their family and get them to allow their children to do the same things that the middle class parents thought of naturally?

For now, I'm just tickled pink to see that families still do things together and play outside.

growing up

There is a lot coming ahead this year, and a lot of changes to my life are still afoot.

I decided that this year I will be trying to eat differently. I am going to try and shift my diet in the direction of fruits and veggies, and while picking them and learning how to cook with them, I plan to choose local and/or organic fruits and veggies. I touched on this a bit before when I talked about silent spring, and my gut reaction to the pesticides on them. I've had time to think about it and it is healthier for me to get fresh fruit and veggies instead of processed things or things that have been sprayed with tons of pesticides and preservatives. I want to expand my cooking skills, too, so that would be an interesting challenge. Also, I'd like to support the local community here, and I'm quite curious about the possibility of getting a farm share, and perhaps splitting it with Lincoln, who cooks more often than I do. (Or just giving him the leftovers, perhaps).

What a farm share is depends on the farm that you're talking about. Farms that grow food locally sell "shares" of what they grow to consumers, and that money helps pay for the farm. How it works in most places is that you get a basket of fresh food once a week, depending on what is growing at the time. You then use that food all week and then get another basket the following week. It may be ambitious, but I'm thinking that it would open up a lot of new recipes for me and save money in the long run. Also, it would allow me to more naturally eat what is in season at the time - squashes in the fall, berries in july, etc., and be more in touch with the natural rhythm of agriculture.

Just like my arguments against daylight savings time, I think that we've become very removed from the rhythm of nature itself in our current society. People would not groan so much about it being "dark" when they leave for work, or "dark" when they come home if we got rid of daylight savings time. Our bodies would have time to adjust to the incremental changes that happen through the seasons. If each day it is a little darker or a little lighter outside, our bodies adjust. The same goes for food. We're so conditioned to having whatever type of food that we want whenever we want it, we're out of touch with what is actually in season during the year. Global trade has allowed us to forget the difference between native and exotic fruits and veggies. I think that by buying what is in season from local growers, I can be a bit more in touch with my "roots" if you'll pardon the pun.