Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Smelling Nature as Important as Seeing It

Recently I became aware of one of  Emily Dickinson's nature poems.

From Wikipedia

  Nature is what we see,
The Hill, the Afternoon--
    Squirrel, Eclipse, the Bumble-bee,
Nay--Nature is Heaven.

    Nature is what we hear,
The Bobolink, the Sea--
    thunder, the Cricket--
Nay--Nature is Harmony.

    Nature is what we know
But have no Art to say,
    So impotent our Wisdom is
To Her Simplicity.

I love the simplicity of the poem and respect for nature.  But the poem ended too soon for me, so I decided to add a stanza of my own, focusing on another sense:

    Nature is what we smell,
The Earth, the Mint Leaf--
    Pines, Flower Blossoms, the Rain--
Nay--Nature is Rich.

I decided to focus on a sense that we often overlook--or undersmell!  Smells of nature, research has shown, can reduce stress and boost the immune system. This research from a Tokyo scientist was reported in an Atlantic Cities web article.

Another reason it is better to get outside.

But I don't need more evidence that getting outside is a good thing.  However, today, I think I'll take a deep breathe and smell the nature around me.

I have added a stanza to the original poem.  What stanza would you add?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sometimes Change is Fast

It has been a busy April, and I have spent much of it away from home.  I did not realize this until going on a nature walk in our woods last night.  It had been a couple of weeks since my last walk, and I wanted to see how spring was progressing.  It was a warm evening, the frogs were calling, and my dog was anxious to get some exercise, so we headed out.

The first thing that struck me was the mossy path.  It was now colored in several shades of brown, red, and green.
As I looked out into the woods, several spring wildflowers were in bloom.

I had noticed some species in the past, but this trillium was new.  I found many along the path, and some coming up right in the middle of the path.

And even more obvious were the red bud trees all in bloom.  I passed many along the trail that were in full purple adornment.

Spring was coming up through the winter waste such as this deer jaw.
Spring was changing things fast.  A couple of weeks ago, these mayapples were just bursting through the ground.  Now they covered the forest floor and were tall enough to shade the ground under them.

Even the decomposing deer skulls had changed.  There were many more carrion beetles under the skull.  They scurried so fast as I moved the skull that I could not get a focused picture.  Soon the skull will be only bone.

Fast change had occurred while I had been away.
New blossoms.  Plant growth.  More species.  More individuals. Decomposition. Life renewed.

The transformation and speed of that transformation were remarkable. I barely recognize our woods.  But this is what I have been waiting all winter to experience.  I welcome the changes..fast or slow!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Looking for Wildlife in the Big City

I was so excited to be heading to Boston for the National Science Teachers Association conference.  A co-worker and I were to present on "Science Literacy is for the Birds: Using Field Guides to Leverage Science Time". 

 The talk went well, the conference was fabulous, and so were all the other activities.  So I decided on a theme: look for wildlife in the big city.


In the exhibit hall we found this animated penguin and an alligator.  But that doesn't count.

We took a trip to Cape Cod to see Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Of course, the beach provided evidence of wildlife--Lady Slipper shells, Horsecrab shells, Mermaid's Purse, etc.

 And it seems that every meal we had was evidence of wildlife in the area, namely seafood! 

We even passed the Haymarket area with booths full of fruits, veggies, and fabulous looking seafood.

One of my favorite places was Boston Public Gardens with the "Make Way for Ducklings" display.  They were made of metal---but fun anyway!

I wasn't the only one on the duck.  A small child was also having fun with the display!

I loved all the ancient looking trees in the garden but wondered, why aren't they planting some replacements.  All seemed to be dying but beautiful.

I was surprised to see this redwood in the garden.

One evening we went to a baseball game at Fenway Park.  Maybe I would see wildlife there...other than the fans, that is!!

We found this plastic guy..the green monster....

And the official green monster, below.  It was awesome to see, but not exactly wildlife.

Perhaps I would find wildlife along the Freedom Trail.  We saw many famous sights that brought the Revolutionary period to life.  You could feel the presence of the great heroes of that time period, especially John Hancock (he did more than sign the Declaration), Sam and John Adams, and Paul Revere.
The red line, we discovered, led to the Freedom Trail sites.
Faneuil Hall, meeting place and open air market.

Old North Church...One if by land and two if by sea.

Old South Meeting House where 5000 crowded to debate the Boston Tea Party.  Here some students were reenacting the night of that debate.   
Finally we came upon the Boston Common--like any common of the time, a place used by all but subject to abuse (read "The Tragedy of the Commons").  This area seems so used that grass is not growing.

We saw many overly fat squirrels.  They approached us as if to say, "Where is my food?".  I'm sure many visitors feed them for there is little to support them in the common.

 The day was sunny and pleasant, but the sounds of honking car horns, people talking loudly, and music left me longing for some peace and quiet.

And there were birds. 
Pigeons, starlings and house sparrows.  All introduced species.  And all seemed ready for a handout as well.   Their populations seemed to be doing quite well.

This was to be the extent of the wildlife I would see.  The trip was fantastic, and I feel fortunate to have spent time in the big city.  But I was ready to head home and relax to the sounds of owls and frogs, cardinals and wood thrush.  Home, where wildlife abounds... and I should never take that for granted.