Category Archives: ecology
Many people believe the Earth is angry at us. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do consider Earth to be a living thing with a consciousness of sorts. Regardless, there is no question that nature is running amok. Nature seems to be telling us, intentionally or otherwise, to get our act together and stop trashing the planet.
I won’t distress Dear Reader with stats about disappearing frog species, nor debate climate change here; just ask a pro tennis player or competitive skier. I’ll wax anecdotal instead. Feel free to submit your own observations. Here’s the short list.
Coyote. I watched a blonde, unkempt dog stroll up a Massachusetts driveway in broad daylight. Oops, it wasn’t a dog. Pack animals roam solo? In daylight? Coyotes are blonde outside of Vermont? Do they have more fun?
Mice. In August, I stepped on a young mouse in my room. I do hope it was dead already, but from its fresh little entrails I could tell it had been alive…recently. What self-respecting rodent goes indoors in summer? Was it too hot outside for mousey? Came in for the A/C? Same week in Bellows Falls, a feisty country mouse scampered around us in my cousin’s driveway unafraid, then leapt into the manifold of his pick-up. Why?
Rabbits.The new generation of bunnies in our neighborhood is fat, confident, and more prone to lolling than hopping. You walk up to them and they don’t even stop chewing. Rabbits, like horses, have no real defense besides flight. So why aren’t they fleeing? I sometimes charge them just so they’ll become afraid of humans, which they should be, especially my sniper neighb with the pellet gun. Rabbits, by the way, are not rodents, because of their incisors and canines, guts, sex parts, and poo-eating. Who knew?
Birdsect. I don’t know what the heck this thing is, besides a fuzzy pollinator. First, I thought it was cool, and giant for a bee (hence the nickname). But when I went to photograph it, it became…aggressive. What the heck is it?
Hawk-Bunny Murder-Suicide. A dead hawk was in our street, with a dead baby bunny in its clutches. It looked like a cartoon caption contest in The New Yorker. “Wha’ happen’?”
Dragonflies. It wasn’t until we saw an unusual number of dragonflies — again, just sort of hanging out — that a lake-loving friend and I read up on them. Most fly for only a few days or weeks of their lives, the rest spent as aquatic nymphs (like us!). One flew from my friend’s head to my head, back and forth, as we swam in a pond. Was it energizing or sampling us? Collecting DNA to colonize its next planet should this one melt? We felt honored either way.
The animals: why are they unafraid? Do they know something we don’t about our imminent demise? Have they realized we are inferior to them? We are in fact idiots, with our moronic abuse of our own planet. Rather than stockpiling canned goods and ammo for the End of Days, let us try an apology: Dear Earth, We are terribly sorry for our pathetic stewardship. Please know that the people of New England, CO, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Cali get it. May other places wake up. You’re gorgeous. Love, Vermont.
Well. Before the waters turn icy, go jump in a lake, river, or ocean. Cold water is renewing, and you adapt to it quicker than ya’d think. Bracing! Great good fun. Good day.
At least I used to joke that I did. Until by mistake it really happened.
I recently ordered on eBay an “open box” of eyeball moisture drops — the disposable kind. Not only was the box open, every single vial was, and empty. So I kind of bought someone’s recycling. Otherwise known as garbage.
Since Keurig was bought by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006, the K-cup waste issue has been a long and local one. Here are two alternatives that work. Aside from, obviously, not using them at all.
Problem is, many workplaces have this as the only coffee maker. And I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most re-gifted items ever. People get one as a gift, re-wrap it, pass it on, and on and on, until it finally makes its way to someone who says, “Okay.”
First, if you’ve got a bunch of K-cups you already bought, you can cut the lids off with this little baby and recycle the plastic housings. Not perfect, because recycling is a dirty, energy-consuming process. The recycle a cup® , available all over the place, is fun to use:
Second and better, the reusable Solofill Cup® vastly improves the “coffee cage” that had in past incarnations brewed a terrible cup of coffee. Available all over the place. Brew on.
[I’m Tweeting cool little mesmerizers like this from @annVTPBS if you want in.]
Referenced in column later this week.
With wells, you never know what’ll happen. I’ve known more than one family that has had to carry buckets of water inside from a brook for various purposes, including toilet use. No fun at all, esp. in winter.
This summer, groundwater levels are not a problem. But when they are, my friend’s father’s advisory, printed and mounted at every sink, conveys the message with a distinctive and poetic economy of words.
Greg Bahr — native Vermonter, neighbor, artistic madman behind Bahr’s Stoneworks — has a far-out genius for putting rocks together. Here’s a recent wall of his in downtown Bethel, incorporating old bottles and bones he found on-site. “Are the bones human?” everyone asks. “I’m not sure,” says Greg.
With last week’s cosmic Soopermoon and unexpected low humidity, Vermonters were feeling their oats—a horsey expression referring to “hot” feeds such as oats that provide extra equine energy. Carbo-loading for ponies.
We’ve been flat-out frolicking. As we bike, swim, and tool about our gorgeous state via horse, cycle, and golf cart, we inhale gnats and drink in the astounding natural beauty of the Land. No matter our troubles, her scenic landscape’s backdrop to our drama grows, flows, and enchants mightily. The Creatures of the Land also sparkle. Musicians strum, hummingbirds hum, and stories fill out ears with delight. Campfires! Charades! Laffs!
Deliriously happy, we pack on summer blubber by way of chips and macaroni salads (hot feeds), with dripping cones, toasted marshmallows and extra mayo all around. Chomping chewing gum with the ferocity of a jungle cat, I wear a bikini as a disturbing incentive to avoid the snack bar lakeside. Unsightly, but y’all don’t look that slender, either. As a friend’s father happily observed, “There are no Beautiful People at Silver Lake.” It’s Vermont. We just don’t care.
With little rain, the long and sunny days demand movement. Soopermovement. Early we rise, to tend gardens and hit balls, knowing that pacing oneself now is not an option. For soon the air will grow cold, leaves will float down the brooks, and the Tunbridge World’s Fair will be upon us. Is this year’s theme The Year of the Insect?? Giant horseflies take meaty chunks from us daily. I hope they are having a good time.
The tourists are. As they cram our roads with Corvette Clubs, motorcycle brigades, and kayak-lidded vehicles, they stuff our coffers with (hopefully) enough wampum to get us through what friend Sassy calls “the dark months.” While we lament oftentimes the physical and financial hardships of Vermont, visitors envy our visual bounty from the windows of inns and restaurants. Let us see, as they do, that the grass is in fact greener here. There’s a heck of a lot more of it.
With all our rivers, woods, and contradancing, we get physical without pricey gym memberships. Fishing and tennis are almost no-cost, and you can’t live here without knowing someone with a canoe or bike to borrow. We get our ya-ya’s out for next to nothing. People everywhere need to get their ya-ya’s out because life in Modern Tymes is vexing. Tech nuisances drive us batty, our free time devoured by the modern bane that is overcommunication. Which disPinterested, Twitterless, Linked Out Facebidiots like me don’t do much of, yet it’s still exhausting. Many here lack—or shun—the [devil’s!] tools needed to overcommunicate, a source of ruin. Good for them. It seems to me that the more we communicate, the more we worry. More people to worry about, I guess. More worrisome details shared. Just. More. Worrying.
I told my friend Kay I was glad in some ways I have no kids, so in our “sandwich generation” years I am open-faced, with only parents to be concerned about. Her reply:
“One thing better about parenting elders than parenting kids is that people are not competitive about their aging parents. Imagine if they were. ‘My mother got into Green Mountain Golden Years Assisted Living. It was her reach facility, but she got in! Her safeties were Maple Heritage and Mellow Manor Northeast Kingdom.’ ‘Well, my mother was sent to prison and it’s not costing me a dime. Free dental!” We could brag about who has lasted the longest without a walker. That would be like lettering in track. Blood test results as SAT scores…’My dad’s combined LDL and HDL were under 250!’ ‘Wow, you must be so proud. I’m going to make my dad take it again. Surely he can improve over last time.’ I feel a Roz Chast cartoon coming on… ”
A toast to Green Mountain splendour, hay-makers, canoe-loaners, tech-shunners, shenaniganers, parenters, summer fatties, and sooperfriends who supply laffs. Thank you all. Good day.
A normally wry friend recently told me how his ex had pointed out his faults on her way out the door. This had made him especially dejected. I asked, “What faults?” and he explained. “You know, the disorganization, the forgetfulness, the keen desire to have my picture taken with political celebrities. . . .” I replied, “Those aren’t faults. Those are endearing traits, charming to those who love you.”
It’s been said that what attracts you to someone is what later drives you nuts. Likewise, qualities you have that delighted someone can devolve into vile faults demanding extirpation. But it’s a puzzle when someone who is leaving you feels obligated to express exactly why you’re not good enough. Why do that? Isn’t it bad enough they’re abandoning you? I once received a 13-page Dear Jane letter, detailing all I had done wrong. I see, I thought. Yes, it’s clear now. Thanks so much.
What became clear? My shortcomings? No. That the devil is alive and well. He enters people and makes them romance you, leave you, and tell you how you failed. The devil was in the details: in this case elaborately illustrated criticisms. The devil also invented call waiting, data mining, and other vexing details of modern life designed to make us willing to swap with him our souls, for just a few moments of blessed peace.
He also recruits Litterbugs. When I’m behind someone that throws a cigarette or Big Gulp out a car window, I become possessed. I honk, flash my lights, and make impolite gestures. I know this is wrong, and both Litterbug and I could rightfully say (nod to Flip Wilson), “The devil made me do it.”
Discussing this in church, a wry southern friend says with vehemence, “I want to know. What does a litterbug look like?” I know precisely what they look like but the words I’d use to describe one cannot be said in church. We work ourselves into a lather over it. Then, pews away, I hear a Vermonter of many years (90+?) say to her companion, “It always takes me by surprise, spring. It’s such a lovely transformation, especially after a hard winter.” That this woman could still be awed by how our area is like a different planet in spring, after nearly 100 of them, drives the devil right out of me.
I give a wry friend a candy bar named Chocolate Interlude which she promptly renames Chocolate Intervention. Then I think how in these blasted modern tymes how they add an “e” to things (e-billing, e-commerce) and how we can add our own e’s for the heck of it, to our e-underwear and our e-moxy and our e-breath. And how a wry Vermont friend said in Connecticut, “They call these pot holes?” And how nude season is nigh, and the mighty Goliath of mud has been subjugated by gravity and slender blades of grass, and nothing but nothing smells like flowering trees.
Then I attend, despite this column’s deadline, the local Legislative Breakfast. Our state senators and representatives articulatewith intelligence and fairness issues that are ridiculously complex, e.g., the GMO labeling bill just passed—and how VT will be sued by corporations. That the Governor’s so-called “Food Fight Fund” is being established, smartly, with the help of non-Vermonters, is cheering. Someone half my age pays me a compliment. I spot a granny on a riding mower. Finally—get this—technology proves heartening. I choose truelove as a password and it is denied for being “too common.” That its selection as a password is too common says something huge about humankind.
Yes, there is plenty of hard evidence of the devil’s existence, including but not limited to black flies, BP, and the Disgraceful Home Printer Ink Scandal of Modern Tymes, wherein (pricey!) ink tanks mysteriously dry up and your (infernal!) printer won’t even scan without ink. Sometimes we choose between two devils, say, black flies and DEET. A Mainer I know says you can’t go fishing without it. I use it when the biters are so vicious I don’t care if it shuts down my brain, bladder, and kidneys, though I know DEET to be compressed devil in a can.
Some days, the devil’s around every corner, seems like. Yet somehow, with an overheard “lovely transformation” and a too-common password and grannies riding mowers and a posse of wry friends, we remain eHopeful. We soldier on. If you feel disheartened, I’ll give you part of my heart, that as yet unaffected as yet by DEET and other devilment. Good luck. Good day.
…on Green Up Day, when Vermonters comb the Land for garbage and citizens with trucks (not uncommon in Vermont) haul it off to the dump. Literally tons of garbage statewide.
I found the usual assortment of party implements plus mystery stuff. Like Spider Man underwear (size: extra extra small; they make underwear this little?) and a shoe so badly destroyed you had to wonder what happened to it (threshing machine? Two bears fought over it?) Also a sign that said WATCH IT GROW (watch what grow, the cubic volume of garbage? A Bud Light tree?) The kindly lady I worked with had somehow hauled a mattress into her truck, after days of rain. New Englanders are tough, man.
As I passed other Green Uppers later in my car, I gave them the same double-honk and thumbs-up out the window we’d gotten earlier. Good work, keepers of the Land!