He really wanted to know

Much of what follows was a column I wrote 20 years ago, almost to the week. My then-newly declared life partner and I had returned from a celebratory cruise around the Caribbean. We had visited the Yucatan Peninsula, Grand Cayman Island, and Jamaica, and spent a couple of days at sea, being waited on. Not a bad life – for a week.

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Masterful pranksters

A tree can take a decade to spread its arms in a morning yawn. Only rocks live longer. But trees are way more mischievous.

I stumbled recently upon a tree stump, clearly cut with human tools. The stump, however, had been split many years earlier by what must have appeared to the then-seedling, to be a huge wedge of sandstone, like a steel wedge placed by a woodsman preparing a cord of winter heat.

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What to do if you lose your compass

I sometimes go for a week or more without getting into the woods, then I go there and remember why I was feeling so badly about not.

I was able to visit my dry vernal pool Monday. Sure enough, a few of the recent rain clouds passed over and made it a pool with water in it. I shot a few minutes of underwater video and there clearly were multiple somethings, looking like translucent polliwogs, swimming around in there. Really tiny, but a few got to the correct focal distance and I could see their bulbous heads and skinny tails trailing behind like pieces of thread in need of a pair of scissors.

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Tell the tadpoles

Tuesday morning there was a serious rain event in my neighborhood, too late for the tadpoles I had been watching in a pool up in Michaux State Forest.

I started photographing them at the end of March, when they were newly hatched.

The First of June marked nine weeks I had been visiting and photographing them. It’d been about a week since I’d last seen them and they did not have legs. They should have grown legs soon, but the lack of rain has transformed the vernal pool into a vernal bed of rapidly drying leaves.

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Block hackers; Buy local

A few years ago, I visited my son and his family in Cincinnati. At the major-chain grocery near his home, I bought some “fresh” apples. At the first bite, I understood why city kids – at least the kids whose parents bought from that store – did not like fresh fruit.

I have tried to eat wooden decorative apples that were easier to chew, and with more flavor.

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Why the old man laughs

Somewhere near the head of a stream, water seeps slowly into a flaw in the granite. Winter cold freezes the mixture of oxygen and hydrogen into an expanding wedge that forces the boulder to crack in two pieces, then more. Gradually, over several winters, the stream grows larger and the boulder pieces smaller.

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Walt was (almost) correct

An ent? or a tree?“Trees are ents who moved too slowly and have taken root,” Treebeard explained in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkein. Treebeard was an ent and being long-lived, had much to say.

Research published in recent years appears to indicate that while ents may be fictional, trees do have feelings and do communicate among themselves, usually along pathways made possible by a multitude of fungi growing at the feet, er, roots of those slow-growing, long-living organisms that clean our air, filter our water and provide the raw materials that form our wooden caves.

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Waddya mean, “Water shortage”

There is plenty of water for one duck. for the rest of us, not so much.I saw a Black and White Warbler in the tree outside my window. My first ever. A tiny thing, about the size of a goldfinch, but all longitudinal patterns of black and white stripes.

What I am pretty certain was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak lit momentarily within sight, then departed before I could take the camera in hand.

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On the wall

The verdict in the George Floyd murder trial was a little hard to hear. Floyd is still dead, and former Officer Derek Chauvin’s family has lost its father and husband.

At almost the same time the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial was being announced, a 15-year-old girl was shot by police in Toledo, Ohio. In the weeks leading to the verdict declaring Officer Chauvin guilty of murder, a young man was killed by an officer who claims to have mistakenly drawn her pistol when she intended using her Taser. And a 13-year-old boy, his empty hands in the air, was killed by an officer who made the “split-second decision.

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Thoughts on unfreezing

No ice, just babies for Mrs Canada.We human mammals love water. We spend nine months in a balloon full of the stuff, presumedly plotting our escape, then spend much of our air-breathing lives trying to at least live next to it.

Those of us fortunate enough to gain housing close to a stream, lake or ocean often post signs around it announcing our success to neighbors who must settle for looking out their front windows at our back doors.

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A matter of perspective

A herd of of Holsteins making milk under the dinner oak.First impressions often are as much reflections of our own perspective as of the person we are evaluating.

After 20 years in the Navy, I matriculated into the University of Maine at Farmington, where I learned stuff and met a nice young woman who lived on a dairy farm with a husband heavy into Holstein husbandry, three daughters of which one actually enjoyed working in the barn, and a son who, after making sure Mommy was watching, reveled in walking atop tall picket fences, figuratively and literally.

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‘Tis the (vernal) season

Future Frogs of Michaux begin life hatched from egg masses in a vernal pond.Rain beats against my bedroom walls like bacon sizzling on a stove for breakfast I am too comfortable to climb out of bed to prepare or even eat once I had.

It seems only a week ago the crocuses popped out of the mulch and leftover snow to welcome spring and the Persian New Year.

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Make plastics-makers responsible for their product

Bottle deposits encourage users to turn them in for recycling.Nine state legislatures are considering bills to make plastics manufacturers responsible for their products end-of-life.

Pennsylvania is not one of them. It should be.

The concept is not a new one. Battery makers must process their products when they no longer start our cars. We buy new tires for our chariot and pay to have the dealer dispose of them.

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Take a trip and never leave the farm

A pharma pirate discovers she has copied a deadly creation.I read someplace that we humans do not actually invent or discover anything. Everything there is to be known, the thesis claims, is stored in our genetic code, waiting or us to stumble upon it.

One of my favorite books – a sextet, of which I actually read only three and a little bit – was the “Clan of the Cave Bear” series by Jean Auel. Officially called the “Earth’s Children” series, it was a strong tale that started with Ayla, a five-year-old Cro-Magnon girl, being orphaned in an earthquake, and subsequently taken in by a Neanderthal clan.

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