Sunday, April 21, 2013
School was canceled, and there was no way my Ford Focus was going to make it out the driveway or our back road, which didn't get plowed until late in the afternoon. So I emailed the office, saying I would not be in, and settled down to a cup of coffee and checking the news online...something about a manhunt in Boston
All day Friday had a surreal, dreamlike quality to it. I usually relish a day at home, but I had a hard time settling down to do anything. I was disoriented, not by the national news, but the mound of snow pressing against my back door, snow that had slid off the metal roof. After a long Minnesota winter, just when robins have arrived and normally I'd be hearing the frog chorus...the relentless snow, the woodpile buried and almost gone, how much more can one take? I'm beyond the trite complaining that has become a staple of Minnesota culture, the resolve of those who say they hate it here but somehow can never bring themselves to pick up and leave. I love it here; I have lived other places, and this is the only place I'll ever call home. But with the flood and the April snow all within the space of a year, the moose near the Canadian border dying off at an alarming rate, intense windstorms leveling forests just to the south of here, I get this uneasy feeling that this is the beginning of a long storm to come, a storm we humans have helped to create...I'll come back to that later.
While the Boston Marathon bombing was a horrible, malicious act, I have been disturbed by the media coverage surrounding it. Sure, the news outlets have a job to do, but it seems lately none of them have the grace to say "we don't know yet." Speculation, intimidation. And Twitter, so I can hear the latest unfounded speculation. And while yes, this was big, Boston is not the center of everyone's universe, and this was not a national crisis. That's just what a terrorist would want us to think.
What's more, it seems the media had this double standard of wanting to make us scared, yet highlighting acts of "bravery" that make us feel all warm and fuzzy about ourselves. Is it really news that people rushed to aid others rather than running away? Absolutely not; it's human nature! Is it surprising that we have not de-evolved into a society where it's every person for him/herself? I'm not surprised. And I bet people weren't "cowering in fear" all day Friday when the authorities ordered the city of Boston shut down. It was a wise thing to do from a public safety standpoint; the fewer vehicles out on the road in the event of a high speed chase, the better. Law enforcement did their job, and it is one of the toughest jobs in the world. I understand their elation at having brought an end to this drama, but it was not exactly an occasion for cheers and high fives. Save that for when the Bruins win the Stanley Cup.
My point, and I do have one, is this: Why, when people are hurt and a threat by "terrorists" to our security is perceived, does it result in such drama, but when injury is perpetrated on our home, our habitat, our environment, in the name of profit for a few, do we turn away, or justify it, or maybe take a little feel good, symbolic action? This happens every day, and our society has marginalized those who can see the damage as "environmental wackos". This planet is our one and only chance to prove we can sustain ourselves; we ain't going to start a colony on Mars to save the damage we've caused here. It's a grand experiment, and so far it's been bought out by short sightedness and greed. We can do better. Maybe.
I for one could do with a little less global warming. These April blizzards and historic floods are really getting to me.
Monday, February 18, 2013
There has not been a northern owl irruption like that since, and there may never be. But recently I had heard of numerous sightings of boreal owls near Duluth, with a few great grays also reported. With the ever-present chance of seeing a snowy owl at the Superior airport, I decided it might be worth a day trip. I mentioned my tentative plans on Facebook, and I found a friend, Diana, whom I knew from the Christmas Bird Count, who was interested in accompanying me. When it comes to birding, two sets of eyes are much better than one.
The birding reports made it sound like we could just drive along Scenic Highway 61 along the Lake Superior shore until we encountered parked cars and spotting scopes, which would point the way to a boreal owl. Alas, the boreal owls, which would have been a life species for me, were evading even the most ardent birders that day. But we had one sighting and photo opportunity that made the day worthwhile:
During the great gray owl irruption of 2005, I did not yet own a digital camera, which was frustrating given the number of perfect photo opportunities I had. This shot more than makes up for it!
Friday, February 08, 2013
Unfortunately, this video stream will not work for those of you who, like me, do all my home Internet on iPad these days. Come on, Flash and Apple, get along already!
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
If you want a definition of poetry, say: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing", and let it go at that. All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it, however tragic it may be. All that matters is the eternal movement behind it, the vast undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation, or ignorance, however unlofty the intention of the poem.
The joy and function of poetry is, and was, the celebration of man, which is also the celebration of God.
-Dylan Thomas, from 'Notes on the Art of Poetry', 1951
Friday, February 01, 2013
I read the published paper, which can be found at no cost here. Since I seem to have left that part of my brain that deals with methodology and statistics behind as soon as I defended my Master's thesis, I was glad that another source, Vox Felina, did a thoughtful job of critiquing the methodology and conclusions.
Now, I think we can find some points that cat people and bird people can agree upon. And, I think the media did a disservice to both groups by portraying each as single minded fanatics. One, cats, if left to roam, will kill what they can. Sometimes they won't even eat it. (Humans have this same disgraceful habit) Two, there are specific areas, such as islands, where predation by cats, whether pet or feral, has contributed to the decline, and even extinction, of some species. For these areas, a recovery plan, if feasible, should definitely address the harm done by cats.
...a study that gives numbers without context is meaningless. Do we have population estimates of the bird population in the US? As a fish biologist, I know how difficult it is to get an accurate estimate of the population of fish in a small lake.
...a study that gives numbers without any estimates of what species are killed, and in what proportion to the total, is meaningless.
...The issue of mortality is hard to convey to a public who does not have a basic understanding of animal population dynamics. A certain number of any species will succumb to mortality, without affecting the overall population. Certain species that are adapted to the urban environment may occur in higher numbers than what would be expected in nature, and may also be preyed upon by urban cats.
And then we have conflicting issues of compassion. The drive of compassion in humans is undeniable; it is what keeps us civilized, it is what gives us hope. One side has compassion for the prey, the poor vulnerable victims of a predator brought upon all corners of the earth by humans. One side has compassion for the cats; it is not their fault they are here, and that they have an urge to kill (a Sylvester and Tweety cartoon comes to mind, in which Sylvester attends a twelve step program for his "addiction"). Cold, hard science tends to disregard compassion. In my career I have seen, on one hand, ridicule for people who bring "nongame" species in (i.e. songbirds) for rehabilitation; on the other, I have seen many people who choose wildlife management as a career who think the only good cat is a dead cat.
Can we find common ground? I think the media hype surrounding the "study" that came out this week only serves to divide people. As is the case with most stories that qualify as "news" these days.
UPDATE: Apparently I am not alone in thinking this way. NPR blogger Barbara J. King questioned the statistical validity of the study, as well as its usefulness:
There is a (mostly) thoughtful discussion in the comments section of King's blog post.Demonizing cats with shaky statistics, however, won't help us build the pillar of understanding required to strike a satisfying balance between the needs of cats and their supporters with the needs of wildlife facing a feline threat.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Hello, my name is Deb and I am the author of this blog called Sand Creek Almanac. A few days ago I realized I have been writing this blog for eight years now. Many things have changed in my life, and in the interconnected lives we share on the Internet. I feel as if I have gotten out of touch with blogging, time and time again, and I have been doing some soul searching as to the reason I do this in the first place, what I want this blog to be, and even what I want my life to be in the next ten years or so.
I started this blog when blogging was the new Social Media. Some wrote it off as a way for narcissistic types to share every detail of their lives on the Internet, but I started out with no such pretense; I just thought it would be a fun way to challenge myself to do some writing, to share my life. And my life was anything but normal; I lived with my husband and three kids, ages 7, 5, and 3, in a small cabin on 40 acres in a very rural wooded area in Minnesota. As a bonus, the winter I started writing this blog was the winter this region saw an incredible irruption of Great Gray owls; I would routinely see a dozen or more on my way to work. Great fodder for writing, at a time I needed it.
Year have passed, my posting frequency has dwindled, and Facebook and Twitter have taken over as the way to share life stories. As I see it, blogs have gotten to be a promotional tool. While a few of my original blogging friends have remained faithful to the medium, I have perceived a "get big or get out" movement in blogging. Sand Creek Almanac gets about 25 hits a day, mostly from random Google searches. Not big in any regard.
Yet, I still have this urge to write, to tell my story, or to weave stories. I am not the same person I was eight years ago, nor would I like to be. I am the mother of teenagers who have plans for their lives, and in less than ten years I may be an empty nester. At the same time, I have a job that I like, I am Assistant Area Fisheries Manager for a four county are in east central Minnesota, but I can't see myself doing that until I am 65 or older. In fact, I would like to retire and start a new chapter in my life in ten years or less. I am going to be 46 in a month and a half.
So, I am turning to the things I like to do: writing and playig music. I can't see making a career out of the latter, although I would like to be in a band that plays once in a while, just for fun. But writing...yes I know, the success rate is horribly low, but, it is something I have always felt called to do in some way. And that's where I think this blog can help, can be a beginning.
So again, my name is Deb, and I am hereby re-commiting myself to the art of blogging, and what it might lead to, if only for the discipline it teaches me. I will write stories, about Vinny who takes Sally (the labrador) on long walks on weekends; about Nina, who has a goal to go to medical school; and about Joe, who loves epic stories like The Hobbit, swords, and who recently won the school Geography Bee as a fifth grader.
Thanks to my long time readers, and I am looking forward to meeting many more on this journey.
Sunday, December 09, 2012
Vinny and Nina wanted to get a Christmas tree yesterday, so they went out and chose a young balsam from our land. It's nice to not have to go too far to find a nice tree, and not to have to pay $30 or more for one.