Monday, January 28, 2013

The Footprints We Leave

The Footprints We Leave

It snowed a little over the weekend. Not a lot, just a couple of inches, but enough for anyone walking by to leave footprints. Our patio had a host of prints, evidence of the wildlife that frequents our backyard. I was able to identify rabbit prints, gray squirrel prints, a bunch of junco tracks and assorted other bird prints. Chipmunks are holed up for the cold winter months, which is why I didn’t see any of those. They hibernate inside their burrows but will awaken periodically to munch on stored nuts and seeds. I don’t think I saw any skunk tracks (at least I hope not) though I know there are several in the neighborhood. I read that they go into a semi-sleepy state (called torpor) during the winter months so they probably aren’t dashing around in the snow.

Some of the houses around here are in or near wooded properties where deer tend to hang out; no deer have come into my territory though I do see them at the edges of fields as I drive around. I have also seen a red fox dashing across a local busy road. I am sure they are making their own tracks somewhere other than around my house.
It is hard to look at the tracks and ignore their imprint. It is a reminder that we share this earth with many others and we all leave our impressions, whether in the snow for all to see or in the energy for all to feel. Our actions and speech, the way we interrelate with those around us whether human or otherwise, all has an impact. Which brings to mind the questions of what symbolic footprint we want to display and whether we can change our impression as our understanding of our interconnectedness on Earth grows. I believe we can. I believe we are getting to the point where we need to - for the earth and the natural world, for ourselves, and for future generations.

Have fun with the kids the next time it snows. See what tracks you can identify:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Geese on the Go

Geese have been on the go these past months. They can be seen, and heard, in their v-shaped migration to warmer climates. It’s a long trip and they have to stop along the way for rest and food. I was on my way home from grocery shopping when I saw a flock of geese chowing down on small patch of bedraggled grass between busy roadways. Not a particularly inviting place to take their respite. But then this area didn’t always look like this. The place where the geese had landed used to be a wide stretch of open, grassy ground. There were two roads that intersected, with green medians stretching along the length of them. There was no overpass, no jug handles, no ramps coming off the main arteries looping around and heading backwards in a confusing attempt to keep some semblance of approach to the town’s main street.

The geese had no map showing them the “improvements” to the road. Migration is partly a response to the freezing of the water supply up north and the lack of food during the cold months of the year. It also seems to be a learned behavior, calling geese year after year to the places they have been before. Which brings up the problem of the conflict between natural habitat and human expansion. Suburban growth has altered much of the local environment.

Things are changing, though. Many communities are beginning to see the value of preserving undeveloped land; people are working with their townships to preserve their farms, woodland, or open fields in a  movement to keep land free of development. Other things are changing, too. The temperature of the earth is heating up (this has been the warmest decade in recorded history) so maybe the geese won’t have to migrate in the future. It would be easier for them, no doubt, but I must say, I would miss seeing their elegant flight formations and hearing the call that heralds the change of seasons. 

The Canada Goose makes the long trip:

How is the earth heating up?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Animal Crossing: Be Careful Out There

Animal Crossing: Be Careful Out There

I have seen many crossing signs, all meant to protect the local wildlife from traffic along the road. There are Deer Crossing, Duck Crossing, Geese Crossing, and Horse Crossing signs among others in my expanded neighborhood. This is the first sign I have ever seen that specifies Waiters. Really. Waiters. It was appropriate, though. The café in Costa Rica has an outdoor seating area across a narrow road and waiters are constantly dodging cars as they hustle back and forth with patrons’ orders. While it brings a smile to anyone driving past, it brings the same warning to be careful.

We share habitats with animals throughout the world. Our roads, as wonderful as they are in keeping us connected, pose major problems for wildlife. They cut across grazing fields and interfere with the natural wildlife activity. As more communities spring up and more roads are constructed, more danger exists for the native inhabitants of the area. And animal/human contact endangers both, especially when a fast moving vehicle is in play.

The Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, of the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, offers “Hints for the Highways” on how to avoid collisions and what to do if a collision is unavoidable

Let’s try to be careful out there and pay attention to those signs. 
There are a lot more animal crossing signs globally than the familiar Deer Crossing. Here are some you may not have thought of:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sunrise Possibilities

Sunrise Possibilities

Early in the morning, before the world is fully awake, dawn washes the sky in soft hues appropriate for sleepy eyes. As we, and the day awaken, the sun rises above the horizon and the colors deepen to paint the day with possibilities.

The quality of a sunrise depends on what happens on the earth. It depends more on the science of light than on esthetics. Minute particles of dust, such tiny things, have an impact on the display. The quality of the air, often not the best for breathing or for the planet, is transformed before our eyes.

But that doesn’t negate the wonder of what we see. Our eyes can take in the ragtag pieces of the ordinary and discern the beauty of the whole. And the sky provides a canvas to blend it all in harmony. Who can be immune to Mother Nature’s palette?

The holidays are over and the New Year, like the sunrise, has lifted above the horizon to offer possibilities for us all. Can we look beyond our differences in culture, in gender, in religious preference, in financial status, and accept everyone as worthy? Is it possible in this year to set aside the dirt and grime and atrocity of war to coat the world in peace? 

Each sunrise is different. Each day is different. And so is each year. We are experiencing the sunrise of 2013.  Let’s see the promise of the new year and rediscover the beauty that lies within peaceful possibilities.

Want to know why the sky changes colors?