Flying in formation

Snow geese in flight.I saw something last weekend I’d never seen off television. Tens of thousands of Snow geese covered a rather large pond near Kleinfeltersville, occasionally lifting off en masse to create a low cloud of white over the water. The birds were enroute their Arctic birthing grounds.

At rest, they virtually blanketed large portions of the pond, mostly paddling around in small circles filling the air with a sound like hundreds of playing puppies. Here and there, a pair would actually move from one side of the crowd to another, but mostly they stayed where they landed.

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A suggestion of winter

An early spring stream.I fired up my snowthrower Wednesday. The temperature was 70 F, and robins crowded the yard at the edge of the wood.

The weatherman says up to eight inches of snow is to fall on my house Thursday. The sun is supposed to come back out and by Friday have melted the snow away. My snowthrower’s gas tank is half full from last year. I wonder how much fuel I’ll use on Winter Storm Niko.

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Times they are a-changin’

President Trump has been busy the past two weeks. He made some promises during the campaign, and he is trying to keep them. Or look as though he is trying to keep them. If unemployment rises, he will get the blame, so his claiming credit for job creation seems somehow fair, though he has little really to do with it, either way.

But his edict about banning immigrants from predominately Muslim countries has prompted me to consider my own genesis and belief on the subject.

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It seems like magic

Daisy the Calico cat, beside a camera, watching the back year.Someone else’s cat lies on my desk while I’m working, if you can call what I am doing – admiring a calico cat – work. Her chest moves up and down, drawing in oxygen and pushing out carbon dioxide. At one end, her eyes peer out of almost closed slits. At the other, eight inches of soft furry tail wave slowly, its tip articulating like bait, though I have no idea what she wants to attract. Maybe she’s flirting with the human.

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A childhood dream

The Greatest Show on Earth fades, with its elephants, into history.When I was in Fifth Grade, our class trip was to see The Greatest Show on Earth – the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I don’t recall many details of the excursion, but the fact of it obviously has stuck with me.

Many years later, one of my first dates with my now wife was to the Kelly-Miller circus in Littlestown. It was not three-ring, but it was impressive, especially the part after the show when two-year-old granddaughter got to ride an “el-da-dan” – known as an elephant to adults with more practice saying the word. Once you’ve seen a picture of one of those large gray circus animals with tails on both ends, you have pretty much seen them all.

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While the king tweets unsweetly

Spider walking on waterA few of us had a rather nice conversation on Facebook, of all places, the other evening. One could follow the discussion and read what each said and know which side each was on. We kept talking. The participants were respectful, though in agreement not so much.

Many of us are well acquainted with the “anonymous rant” some social media conversations take – someone, sometimes with an obviously assumed name, makes some oft-heard unsupported (and oft times unsupportable) statement about one presidential candidate or the other, a few people gang up with the first and for most observers it becomes a shouting match. When the shouting starts, the listening stops.

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First solo flight

A boulder once named The RocketI believe I have come down with a nearly debilitating case of cabin fever. This constant grayness, in which I wake in the morning to a liquid sky the color of a World War II battleship dripping just outside my pillow, is like a scene from “The Twilight Zone.”

But I’m pretty sure Spring, if I can hang on long enough, will arrive in a spectacular explosion of soft colors. It’s happened nearly 70 times thus far, so probably …Granddaughter affirmed my hope New Year’s Eve.

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Needed: A new generation of problem solvers

Left portion of a computer keyboardSanta and the grandkids are gone, leaving in their wake a pathway to my garage piled high with cardboard and torn and crumpled wrapping paper, as well as numerous smaller boxes that once contained the makings of various foodstuffs. All must be cut or crushed and delivered to the end of the driveway, where it can be disappeared, first into a big truck and then into a landfill most of us know, or care, not where.

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Wendy Sue and Santa

Little siblings at the Christmas treeThe thing I remember most about Christmas was Dad waking us kids up with his shooting at Santa:

“Wait! Stop! DON’T GO! My kids want to meet you.”

We would hear some sleigh bells jingling, but every year was the same thing. By the time we would get down stairs, the Old Guy would be gone, along with the Toll House cookies and milk we had left for him.

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Finishing the job

Our many wondrous advances count for naught if we leave cleanup for our grandkids.At the tender age of about 10, I got my first lesson on the subject of cleaning up after oneself. We’d gone to visit Gramma and Grampa in Watertown, Mass., a little way out of Boston. I always liked visiting their home, a really old-fashioned place with a parlor – a small room off the living room, home to a couple of rocking chairs no one actually sat in. In fact, the big set of double French doors to the parlor was rarely not closed.

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The clear plastic box

A lot of unknowns lie on the other end of the tunnel.We visited Las Vegas several years ago. What a show that was! The city is the nation’s monument to decadence. Over here the Eiffel Tower, there a monorail, way up there a rooftop roller coaster, and everywhere the sound of one-armed bandits joyfully slurping coinage, occasionally giving back just enough to keep the gamblers gambling.

One of the highlights was Siegfried & Roy, a magical duo who could make lions and elephants disappear in front of your eyes. We were lucky enough to get seats in the pits at the front of the stage. Imagine sitting there ooh-ing at the show when suddenly you turn your head to be staring into the face of a small jungle “demon.”

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Thanks for everything

The wind was blowing strongly but invisibly when we arrived at the breakfast place. Later, our morning hunger sated, we exited the establishment into a wind speckled with seeds of the impending season.

Not enough to whiten the grass, but snow, nonetheless. For my part of the planet, four days before Thanksgiving is early, even for snow that does not stick.

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Environmental Prognostication

Chesapeake Bay Watershed sign on I-70.Seasonal weather finally is upon us, maybe. Temperatures should be in the 40 F range, and they’re often in the 60s, but last year this time they were in the 80s, so I suppose it is a bit more seasonal. The juncos, looking like flying preachers in their white shirts and dark gray capes, have returned. Nearly all the other “snowbirds” – what northerners who move south for the winter are called – have departed for what they hope are warmer climes.

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Going, Going …

Fall foliage nearly gone from South MountainFall, as I have previously mentioned, is my favorite season. Spring is bathed in beautiful pastels, summer is a fine time for swimming in a creek, and winter offers superb excuse for curling up inside with a few of those books one intended to read four months ago. But fall – that season of glorious arborous fireworks, celebrating successful end to another trip around the sun, is, as has been said, da bomb.

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Matter of perspective

Fossil fuel pipelineAs I sit watching the water flow downhill, the news is reporting Standing Rock Sioux Americans confronting police in an effort to block a 1,170-mile, $4 billion pipeline being built across land the tribes-people consider sacred, and across a river that is a water source for several million people.

President Obama said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – responsible for at least one of the pipeline’s required permits – is looking at a way to reroute the pipeline, but he has to know the company will fight that, citing the cost of the pipe it already has rushed to lay as it tries to outrun any potentially successful efforts to change the already expensive project..

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Right #1: A Free Press

Tail of a black rattlesnake visible among the leavesI’ve wandered around this planet quite a bit, visited countries I’d like to visit again, and experienced cultures that had some good features and some not so much. In my line, one of the most valuable cultural traits is freedom of the press. It has been under open fire lately, partly because one of the better known candidates claims to dislike most of the press – especially outlets that do not agree with him.

The king of Thailand recently died. Citizens were prohibited, under strict penalties up to and including death, from voicing disapproval of the monarch.

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Changing seasons

A dozen wind turbines on a Fall colored horizon.The end is near, the calendar says, though physical evidence offers some argument. Summer inexorably withdraws southward, following the Canada geese to their winter abode, but the lawn still needs periodic cutting.

We returned from a two-week road trip to the sound of a cricket holding forth from among the stones. It was an unexpected sound for mid-October. Temperatures the past few days have been in the 80s that should be at least 20 degrees lower, breaking records for highs set in 1908. Marsh Creek is shallower than it should be this time of year. Rain near the end of September raised the creek some, but a friend reports a boulder that is usually submerged all winter is about 18 inches exposed.

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The edge of the sea

The Atlantic Ocean incessantly wears away the U.S. coast.There’s something really nice, almost sensual, about wading in 57-degree waves washing great masses of seaweed like mermaids’ tresses, in and out among the rocks and around my feet. I imagine the image was not lost on sailors of long past tales.

Anyway, it was not lost to me last week when I visited Rachel Carson at her Salt Pond Preserve, on the upper reach of Muscongus Sound. She spent much of her time on the Down East coast, wading in the water, searching for signs of marine life about which she wrote in “The Edge of the Sea.”

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Sea Change

The Atlantic Ocean incessantly wears away the U.S. coast.The sky brightens as though on a timer announcing 6 a.m. The sun isn’t really up, yet, but its warming rays are bending over the horizon, illuminating the knotty pine boards of the bedroom loft’s western wall.

The rain has finally tired, leaving only the sound of incessant wave action rubbing away at the shore with the soft-sounding, powerful strokes of a woodworker rubbing the surface of a boat’s wooden molding. The smoothness of the sound belies the power peeling layer after layer of ancient minerals and stirring them into the sea.

Somewhere to my south, a hurricane threatens to submerge Miami, Florida.

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