Archive for December, 2015

Dec 29 2015

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Winter Finally Arrives

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snow barrelsA full-blown winter storm was underway when I got out of bed this morning. Not the kind that makes headlines or excites weather forecasters, but a steady, all-day affair that is blanketing the region with white stuff. If there was any doubt before about what time of year it is, there isn’t now.

I go outside and notice right away that my half-barrels and sap buckets are crowned with snow. I use them to grow herbs during the warm season. In fact, the stubborn remnant of an oregano plant peeks through the cover. I am not fooled by it. I grab my shovel and start to work on the driveway, digging out the cars.

Here in northern New England, the first big dump comes as something of a relief. You know it’s coming – just a matter of when. And you know that it is only the first of many to come, gradually accumulating through the half-hearted thaws until we’re thigh-deep in it. Only then will the great springtime melt begin. But that’s months away. Best not to think about spring.

I heard the other day that Vermont has lost population during the past year. That comes as no surprise to those of us who live here. Good paying jobs are few, living expenses are high, and the winters are hard to get through. As for the latter, it’s best if you have some hobby or craft to keep you busy until April. For some it’s skiing, ice fishing, or snowmobiling. Others, like me, have indoor preoccupations. I get a lot of writing done this time of year.

Still I feel a tinge of dread as I push snow around my driveway for the first time this season. There’s a lot of backbreaking work ahead, not to mention deep cold. And all things green, except conifers, lie dormant beneath the snow.


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Dec 17 2015

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A Short Gray Day

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December Rail TrailAfter a productive morning on the computer, I went to the nearby rail trail to stretch my legs and clear my head. The sky overhead was full of clouds so I wasn’t real excited about getting outdoors. But the midday temps were well above freezing. That meant the walk would be pleasant enough.

The sun, hanging low in the southern sky, peeked through the clouds just as I was starting out. That was the last of it, though. A stiff breeze blew in more clouds from the west a few minutes later, obscuring the sun and assuring that it’ll rain this evening.

Here in northern Vermont, the sun rose at 7:24 this morning. It’ll set at 4:12 this afternoon. Yeah, it’s that time of year – a tough time for those of us who are energized by light.

Chickadees flitted through the trees, adding a little cheer to an otherwise dreary day. I flushed a great blue heron from a small brook. My dog Matika was happy just to trot along and sniff around. Watching her, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I think too much.

Nature has its moods. It is best to roll with them, I kept telling myself. So I focused on the warm air, and the clear path underfoot as I walked – a rarity in mid-December. Be grateful for that. The deep cold and heavy snow will come soon enough.

The days will start getting longer in a couple weeks. Until then, I’ll illuminate the tree in my living room as grey light gives way to twilight. In fact, it’s time to do that now. In the absence of the real thing, artificial light will have to do.



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Dec 07 2015

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Reflections on Climate Change

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images-4I stepped outdoors a few minutes ago to clear my head after working all morning. I marveled at the unseasonable weather. Temps are well above freezing today, and there’s no snow in my back yard. Here in northern New England, this kind of warmth in December is rare indeed.

Weather fluctuates, of course, so what changes from one year to the next is no big deal. But when long term patterns develop, it’s time to pay attention.

Scientists tell us that 40% of the ice covering the Arctic Sea has melted away since the 1970s. Northern nations are scrambling to lay claim to oil deposits there, which are fast becoming accessible. What’s that tell you?

Skeptics insist that we don’t know enough about climate science to say for certain that the planet is warming up due to human activity. That may be true. But certainty in science takes an awful long time to establish.

Prophets of doom say we’d better do something before it’s too late. Two degrees Celsius is the magic number. Once the overall temperature of the planet rises that much, all hell will break loose. We are now halfway there.

Some people see the ongoing climate change as the end of nature as we know it. The key phrase here is “as we know it.” Nature will persist long after humankind is gone, even if we take millions of other species with us into extinction. The age and scale of the cosmos assures us of that.

So the real question is this: What happens to us in the interim, as the climate changes? More importantly, should I as an individual give a damn about anyone else living or not yet born?

Representatives from most of the nations in the world are currently meeting in Paris to draft a universal and binding agreement on climate change. Is that even possible?

What can we do? More to the point: What are we willing to do? Is it fair for rich nations to dictate policy to populous industrializing nations just now starting to obtain the kind of material well being that Westerners have enjoyed for well over a century?

These matters are too much for a woods wanderer like myself to wrap my brain around. I know my own nature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I know human nature. And all rhetoric aside, that’s what our talk of addressing climate change is really about. What we can do will be determined by what we are.



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