Blame Canada! Blame Canada!

June 9, 2023

Who knew that silly song from South Park would someday be relevant? The preoccupation this week has been poor air quality from forest fires up in Canada. We’re spoiled in the Adirondacks, used to pristine air quality, and I had headaches and burning throat until winds pushed the smoke down-country. The frequent rain here also helped. I plan to resume my outdoor sports tomorrow, weather permitting.

I started wondering about the animals affected by the forest fires. Yes, it’s sad and wrong for animals to suffer from fires caused by human activity, but nature is the cause of many fires, so I reasoned there must be adaptive responses.

Fisher. Photo USDA Forest Service.

Forest fires are a primary method for promoting ecological diversity in western North America. Fires open the forest canopy and allow tree and grass species to flourish, which in turn protects small mammals and provides food for deer. In the Adirondacks, where there is high precipitation, fires are rare (thank Goddess!) and beaver dams and snowstorms open the canopy. Otherwise, the forest composition would eventually become mostly beech and hemlock.

Forest fire affect on animals depends on the intensity of the fire. There are low-intensity fires, where the dry brush and shade-resistant plants are burned away, and the tree trunks are scorched, while the tree roots remain healthy and the taller trees remain standing. The ash from these fires enriches the soil. The high-intensity fires create high temperatures that damage the roots and turn trees into dead snags. The ash produced is toxic to some plant species and most trees do not grow in the area for years or decades. A mosaic fire is a low-intensity fire with pockets of high-intensity heat. This is actually a fine scenario, from the standpoint of ecological diversity.

In a low-intensity or mosaic fire, animals shelter in place. Small rodents go underground, bears climb to the tops of trees, medium-sized animals and some birds appropriate tree cavities, while other birds and deer move to the periphery of the fire. When the fire is extinguished, the animals move back into their territories.

In a large scale high-intensity fire, such as what is happening in Quebec right now, animals migrate quickly out of the affected area. This brings them into conflict with animals in other territories or with humans. The animals cannot move back into their territories when the fires are gone because there is nothing for them there. While some grass cover will emerge, it will take years for the area of a large-scale burn to support diverse wildlife. Large scale, catastrophic fires particularly affect animals that live in deep mature forests such as fishers and goshawks.

I haven’t mentioned the affect of large-scale high-intensity fires on fish. Landslides from denuded forests containing toxic ash slide into waters and kill the fish.

This is a depressing scenario, but the good news is that forests will recover. We humans (not just Canadians) need to become better at preventing this situation, which is mostly the result of our activity.

Garter’s Point

June 2, 2023

Last Saturday, I hiked to Kelley’s Point, a stopping point on Long Lake along the 136 mile Northville-Placid Trail. I traveled about ten miles of it, and it was a difficult hike due to the frequent blow-down, which was irritating but not impassable.

Kelley’s Point is the site of an old hotel, and the stone steps leading down to the lake still remain. There were several campers there Saturday, who evidently paddled in.

I was resting on a rocky outcropping at the Point when a huge Garter Snake slid onto the rock. It had the characteristic green stripe, but it was so big that I doubled checked to make sure there was no rattle. It came straight for me, and I had to move or it would have been on my lap.

An unusual encounter with an animal such as this is always an important sign. This snake was making sure I got the message. Snakes to me are about change. I have been spending more time outdoors, vowing to get back in shape after the life problems that distracted me the past few years. The snake coming to me at that particular point was telling me that my efforts would be well rewarded.

In my first book, Invoking Animal Magic, I have a whole chapter the significance of the snake.

Otter Play Date

May 26, 2023

Saturday I was out with a group and we saw an otter. It was running out of a marshy stream into the woods, bounding quickly.

Otters to me represent play. About twenty years ago, in late winter, I was trudging along a seldom used path with a friend and we saw three otters playing in an icy stream. They would float on their backs, dive under the water, chase and scare each other – they were having a great time.

It’s Memorial Weekend, the start of summer, and I’m ready to cut loose. The licensing board disallowed 1/4 of my CEU credits, for totally bogus reasons I could not have foreseen, and I had to scramble this month to come up with enough before my license expired. Just when I thought I was done and could relax a little: more boring courses. The most painful part was all the patronizing rich girl MSW’s on a teaching mission to proselytize about preferred language on some surprising topics. I use cognitive restructuring in therapy, rephrasing problems to help clients achieve their goals, but I think this is a completely unethical trend, this cognitive restructuring on a societal level by supposed experts without the permission of ordinary people. It’s a power and control game, and it certainly won’t fly with the working class clientele I deal with. They like plain straightforward language and are rightly suspicious of constantly changing “preferred” terms. What a load of nonsense I’ve been dealing with this year!

So my compelled dumb useless classes are finally done for awhile and I really truly am ready for some down time. I’m like an otter: full of energy I’m determined to direct in enjoyable ways.

Photo: Tom Koerner, US Fish & Wildlife Service

It’s finally feeling like spring

May 19, 2023

Black fly season in the Adirondacks is quite beautiful, even when it feels like a bite on the neck. I’ve had difficulty adjusting to a head net in the past, but this year it has felt surprisingly comfortable.

Not many hikers here at the moment, and I have the woods to myself. The birds are back, though. One of my favorite sounds is the drumming of the male ruffed grouse. I’ve never actually seen him do this, but I’ve heard him often enough.

Busy Beaver

May 11, 2023

It’s looking good for my social work license. I have the continuing education hours and the money for renewal. Over 100 hours! It’s been a marathon. Some great new spring photos coming soon!

An Adirondack Spring

April 14, 2023
Eastern Bluebird. Photo William H Majoros

Well, the warm weather has arrived. Temperatures in the mid-70s melt the snow in the roads and the fields, at least in the lower elevations. There is a constant roar from swollen streams and rivers. I hear it even at home indoors. Backwoods activities are approached with caution, as rising stream levels can cut off retreat.

I saw the first Turkey Vulture of the season this past week. Bluebirds are singing. I heard the first Northern Goshawk last week and retreated, with perhaps an overabundance of caution. They’re courting, not nesting, right now.

Wild animals, like humans, are much more active. Yesterday and today, while cycling in the woods, I heard my favorite songbird, the Winter Wren. It will continue singing through the Summer Solstice.

Winter Wren. Photo Fyn Kynd

A snowy spring day

April 4, 2023

You guys are probably ready for flowers and leafy trees, but this is what it looks like here in the Adirondacks on the second week of spring.

Even so, there are noticeable changes, more than just the longer days. Crows and ravens are more active.

There is open water, reflecting the warmer days interspersed in the heavy snowfalls. With the open water comes ducks and geese.

Redbirds begin singing and Chickadees become much more vocal.

Not many tourists this time of year. It is a time of quiet waiting.

On Racket Lake

March 19, 2023

This is a photo of Racket Lake. It’s called that because the snowmobiles make a big racket when they speed over the ice.

Actually that’s not true.

Filters have been applied to this cropped photo to make it wuzzier and more sherbert flavorful. The lake is spelled Raquette, not Racket, and it’s supposedly named for a pile of snowshoes, raquettes in French, found at the confluence of the water. At least this is the origin given by the area’s museum, Adirondack Experience.

Since people in positions of authority are, in 2023, the most likely to be repeating a mistaken belief, I looked up the word and found raquettes to indeed be the word for snowshoes in French. Whether abandoned raquettes were the inspiration for the name is still up for grabs, but the explanation is at least plausible. If I were going to write an authoritative tome on Raquette Lake (sans the final “s,” please note), I would seek historical documents attesting to the longevity of the name and the presence of French-speaking persons in the area at the time the word arose. If a contemporary account of a such a story was extant, I would cite this derivation in my Raquette Lake exposition, perhaps simply as anecdote or with a caveat. In other words, I would employ some conscientious skepticism. The explanation I threw out first about the name is, of course, patently absurd.

Our perceptions of the world are like a cropped photo, limited by where we stand and blurred by our perspective, which is never absolutely sharp. Furthermore, our experience is a lens we place over everything we encounter, lending the landscape a color unique to us.

But a distortion of reality (and we all have them) is not the same as a delusion. When confronted with a piece of information that sharpens the focus or clarifies the color, people usually make the adjustment without difficulty. This is how a subjective understanding that is rooted in objective reality changes and evolves. Experience teaches us that we don’t have a perfect understanding of reality, so we are able to shift our view, just a bit.

A delusional picture of Raquette Lake, on the other hand, might look like this

or this

or even this

Delusions do not accept skepticism or withstand scrutiny. When confronted with evidence that doesn’t fit into a delusion, people tend to defend the delusion. The defensiveness is a clue that there is a wholly false idea imbedded in the consciousness, and people express this defensiveness by censorship. It is especially hard for people to examine a delusion if it benefits them materially or socially. As evidence increases, despite efforts to shut down discussion, some people experience greater and greater distress until the delusion dissolves. Others fall too deeply into the delusion to swim out. I call this racket, where some are deluded, others are too apathetic to know what a delusion is, and others are forced to endure lies, “Racket Lake.”

What’s in a name? as Shakespeare once said, and stoned philosophers repeat often, thinking they’ve said something new. I suppose we could call this Raquette Lake

but it’s kind of stupid, and most people who already have seen Raquette Lake (or even seen a lake) would agree only if they were forced. Language does evolve, though it’s being willfully mutilated at the moment by the gender studies departments and their black-hooded minions. Still, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about here. The con goes even deeper. What I’m saying is that this

is not this

The ice on Racket Lake is rather thin. Mass delusions are dangerous for the apostates and the appeasers and the true believers. You may face consequences from the fearful or the powerful or the powerfully fearful for telling the truth. Then again, you may continue peddling delusions without recognizing that the weather has shifted. Because being forced to play along with delusions has the curious effect of making people value the truth. Falsehoods cannot survive forever for this reason.

People who endured decades of repression in Eastern Europe under Soviet domination maintain that although they suffered from economic stagnation, bureaucratic corruption, and lack of communication with the outside world, the worst part of the experience was playing along with the disinformation: stifling their observations; pretending to believe things they didn’t believe; honoring people they detested. Those who escaped scolded us in the West for not appreciating our freedom.

Now we in the US are being coerced into accepting that men can be lesbians. That castrating children is medical care. That sex stereotypes are carved in granite as “gender” while sex itself is sculpted in ice. That being male or female is “fluid” while your ideas about yourself are your very existence.

Well, the world is heating up. How solid is the ground under your feet (and how deep is the water)? We shall see.

It’s only temporary….

March 2, 2023

So I’ve been busy since the start of the year getting ready for my social work license renewal.

I haven’t been practicing in the field for a few years, so there’s lots of catch up to do. I don’t mind the continuing education, as far as it goes, but it is keeping me from my writing and keeping me inside quite a bit.

Fortunately, it’s been a terrible year for outdoor activities, swinging from bitter cold to rain and back again for many weeks. This is the kind of weather I grew up with in Ohio, and it makes even an outdoor winter person want to stay indoors. So I’m not missing too much. If you HAVE to do 101 continuing education hours in five months, on top of your job, this is the time to do it.

The job is very part time, so I’m not working and studying all the time. But there’s only so much time I can spend in front of the computer, with my pain issues, so the writing is taking a back seat. Temporarily.