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Being a volunteer has made it possible for me to be in some special places- the sort of trackless wilderness area I read and dream about on cold winter afternoons.  In my last post I mentioned that I am frequently up to my neck in foliage…sometimes I’m in way over my head!  Several years ago I was on a butterfly monitoring foray in a large preserve far to the south of here.  The grass and forbs were easily 6-8 ft tall, and the reserve is BIG.  Pretty great, really.  Anyway, the scientist leading the group is quite tall, with a daddy-long-legs stride.  I’ll never forget how in just two strides he utterly vanished from my view.  (Thanks, Ron, for coming back to rescue the shrimp!)
Just a few weeks ago I was out with another group.  This time we were collecting seed from a high quality area to disperse into an area that had been disturbed.  In this group most of us were short… so this is about what we had going on at eye-level;

I was tickled when one of the biologists said this was the time to play the Marco-Polo game.  I always did love that- how fun to play it while wandering around in a high quality tall-grass prairie.  We kept track of each other and collected lots of seed from several species of plants.  It was a good day.

Botanists at work

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It’s the Little Things

This is a photo taken by my friend on our trip to Deception Pass.  Except, I couldn’t seem to access it.  It has been MANY years since I lived out there, and I find the human hand has been heavy in the Pacific Northwest.

“But always the essence of the lives-the finding of food, the hiding from enemies, the capturing of prey, the producing of young, all that makes up the living and dying and perpetuating-is concealed from the eyes of those who merely glance at the surface of the sand and declare them barren.”   -Rachel Carson

Sadly, I found myself a bystander and “home” seems to have shifted to the prairies and savannas and wetlands of  northeastern Illinois.  Here, I’m usually up to my neck in the plant communities I have come to love, along with all the critters to be found.  That is what resonates with me about Rachel Carson’s quote- out there I was merely glancing at the surface and it did look barren to me.  But venture a little way into a tall-grass prairie and my eye quickens to movement- the grasshopper, the hummingbird moth, the spider lurking in the depths of a bloom.

I hope one day to return out there and renew my membership among things wild.  But for now I will revel in the plants and beasties to be found here.

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From Sea to Shining….Oil Spill?

This morning a distressing news item on the radio opened my bleary eyes in a hurry.  It seems Rick Perry has declared bold new plans for this country if he gets elected president.  I listened carefully to the story, but couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  He wants to aggressively drill everywhere except Florida…a key voter state, I guess.  He wants to roll back our hard-won clean air laws, and strip the EPA of their powers.

Nowhere in his statement did I see reference to stimulating the economy through developing renewable, clean energy sources.  That is where America can become a true leader, that is where jobs can be created.

When I read the story what struck me was the fear I was hearing between the lines of his statements.  He is associating our successes at reaching for clean water, air and soil with a stagnant economy, and I cannot let that stand.  The reasons we are in a economic mess are many, and yes, doing things clean can cost more in the short term.  I could point to the staggering cost of war, or the obvious result of cutting taxes while increasing spending, but I don’t want to digress here.

Let’s keep our eye on the prize.  Pollution kills, period.  The same old rhetoric about great jobs materializing out of drilling for oil is a lie.  We have achieved good standards of clean air and water.  These are great achievements of which we should be proud, and which we must uphold.  It is a mistake to use them as scapegoats for a weak economy.

We are a nation of courageous, innovative people.  I have spoken here before of business leaders who have found ways to not only run their businesses clean, but even improved their bottom line in the process.  Increasingly I hear stories of entrepreneurs finding ways to turn garbage into product, or to raw material for new product.  I see people in my own community experimenting with different ways to get around.  Popular demand led to a local bus service when it was thought to be impossible here.

Clean air laws are not stopping this country.  Fear is.  Let’s be the home of the brave, instead.