Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Springing


This piece appeared first in the Spring edition of the magazine, Edible Berkshires.

March 17th

March Madness. I had a son who played high school basketball so I know all about the NCAA tournament.

But I’m talking about a different sort of madness here.

The kind where you’ve absolutely and totally had your fill of winter. And then some. But there’s at least five or six weeks of it left. You just don’t think you’re going to survive the last gasps of snow and ice and that bone brittle cold.

In three days the calendar says spring will arrive. Who are we kidding?



What about that mid-sized glacier blocking my back door?  I need hip boots to get to the bird feeder.
Who decided spring was in March anyway?

In 2009, my husband and I lived in Washington, DC, where I saw dark purple and yellow pansies thriving in FEBRUARY!  And the first week of April, there is the miracle of cherry blossoms. 

Hundreds of trees, each looking like they are wearing a delicate pink ballerina’s skirt fluffing around them.

Back to the misery that is an early Berkshire County spring. I am remembering a May 20th when we had to light the damn woodstove.

OK, enough of this miserable complaining.  For a moment this morning, stare at the beautiful meadow outside the window.

There now. It’s sunrise and the willow trees are glowing a pale orange. The buttery disc that is the moon is setting over that beautiful hillside you are so fortunate to see.

Before you decide you are moving to Miami, open the back door and inhale the absolutely pristine country air. Let the throaty racket that is the morning’s birds settle deep into your heart and soul.

Soon you will start to feel the continuing miracle that is Mother Nature.

Meditate on the fact that despite the cold and snow, the sun is up once again and it’s another glorious day in the Berkshires.
********
April 17th

Finally, thank God, it's here. Hard to fathom what’s happened in the last few days.


It was winter-looking even on Sunday. The pond still had some white ice.

The backyard glacier was still the size of a sectional sofa. There, lying everywhere in the backyard, were those crystallized eyebrows of snow.

And then of course, was the mud. Where there wasn’t snow there was the misery of goo that we have to endure between winter and spring.

But whoosh! Monday came and its mild temps erased the ice. The glacier was no bigger than a dinner plate. The mud was drying up.

Now there's a hint of spring in the lawn. Green shoots have popped up everywhere, and amidst the crusty brown leaves appears the first purple crocus!! Soon we will have the ecstasy of daffodils and tulips.

The birds are doing their sweet singing, too, and those wonderful spring peepers are making a racket, which always sounds a bit extraterrestrial to me.

At the feeder today, there are brilliant yellow goldfinches. And a redwing blackbird. And nuthatches. And then, our one true harbinger of spring: dozens of robins are bobbling around right where that glacier used to lay.

Will the rose-breasted grosbeak return come May?

Open the windows and all of the doors. Let it all in: the sun, the budding trees, the spring breezes that smells like warm earth.


After what we in Berkshire County have endured, there is no end to this mighty miracle that is spring!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What if the water in your sink poured out black and stinky?


If you were listening to All Things Considered on NPR last evening, chances are you heard a very moving story about a special education school on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. The school, which has been operating for 40 years, offers services to about 60 children and adults with moderate to severe disabilities.

Saint Michael's Special Education School has a water problem. A BIG problem. The tap water often pours out black and foul-smelling into the sinks. The school is forced to buy its water in big jugs, which costs the school thousands of dollars a year. St. Michaels needs clean water, and there is now a project underway that would supply that water.

Amazingly, the foul water meets national drinking water standards -- the so-called primary standards. As NPR correspondent Laura Morales reports, the water is not poisonous. But it doesn't meet the secondary "aesthetic" standards which affect how the water tastes, looks and smells.

Enter Dig Deep, a California-based non-profit organization devoted to helping communities dig and maintain low-cost water supplies. Dig Deep has a filtration plan for St. Michael's water system. That water project costs $100,000. They have raised $75,000 already. Can you and the people you know help them reach their goal?

As the young Navajo girl tells the camera in a video on the Saint Michael's website, "WATER IS LIFE!"

Indeed, water is a precious resource. Here in the Northeast, we so easily take clean water for granted. Lately, though, even before I knew about St. Michael's problem, I have been thinking a lot about water, and how it's in such short supply in so many western states. It makes me turn faucets off, do less wash, take shorter showers, flush toilets fewer times.

To donate to the water project, go to Dig Deep's website. Fortunately, we don't have to dig too deep in our pockets to help make clean water flow on a reservation in Arizona.

This piece also appears on The Huffington Post.





Tuesday, April 04, 2017

NASA: 235 trillion miles is close by in the universe!

On February 22, 2017, The Washington Post reported:
"A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth."

 It's been weeks since the discovery was announced.  
By
now
I suppose I should have fathomed this news.
But as many times as I read accounts
of the discovery, I am awed. My brain can
absolutely make no sense of the distance. 
NASA says that these exoplanets
can be reached in 40 light-years.
40 light-years, huh?
That equals
235 trillion miles, a distance that 
NASA says "is relatively close to us."
Double HUH??
Why do I keep coming back and 
coming back and coming back
to what I call one of the deepest
mysteries I can recall.
I was talking to my son-in-law Evan, a rather
brilliant scientist, about light-years.
He calculated that if you were traveling at the speed
of light, you could circle the Earth
seven times in one second!
Maybe it's just me, but I believe that
all of this is rather impossible
to take in.
It's a little (just a very little) like standing
at the edge of the Grand Canyon and
trying to absorb the vast pink and brown and orange 
glory before you.

This news is definitely in the category of 
things I will never ever comprehend.
It's right up there with staring at a baby
or a flower or somebody's eye

and all those other miracles of Mother Nature.
I could spend each day for the rest of my life
contemplating all of this and I am quite sure
I will always end up in the same place
Mystified and oddly, comforted too,
that there is an INFINITY of 
of miraculous things and us? Hardly a speck of dust in the Universe.