Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fog and Drizzle

The road was slick this morning as we walked with Kodi in the pre-dawn darkness. We walked tentatively in the fog and drizzle, with the temperature hovering just below 32 degrees. The plow truck must have gone by earlier, leaving a spray of salt and sand down the middle of the road. He passed by again at 7:30 am, driving too fast, sprinkling just a pinch of salt (and sand) in his wake. Given the icy conditions, a slow healthy shake would have been more suited to the conditions. The truck whizzed by again an hour later, a few minutes before the school bus passed by.

I serve on my town budget committee, so I am sensitive to the cost of plowing and treating icy roads. I know what is in the budget. We vote on the town budget in March for the fiscal year that runs from July to June. If you thought predicting a week's worth of weather is difficult, try estimating how much sand and salt is needed for your town roads a year from now, and how much it will cost per ton. I empathize with our public works department. Still, perhaps a good, slow shake of salt and sand on the first pass this morning would have sufficed, rather than three pinches on three passes. By the way, if you want to get to know your town, join the budget committee.

The fog only thickened as the day wore on. I felt it seep into my body and brain. On my walk with Kodi I focused close in. Amidst the grayness, I suddenly saw the textures of tree bark more clearly: the cinnamon-reds of hemlock and red oak bark; the symmetrical ridges and furrows of white ash; a peeling yellow birch; and the pale bark and irregular fissures on basswood trunks.
I noticed, too, the prevalence and patterns of lichens, coating tree trunks, branches, and stumps everywhere I looked. Lichens, composed of an alga surrounded by fungi, are greener and brighter in the rain and fog. I learned from Mary Holland, author of Naturally Curious, that the fungi becomes more transparent as it absorbs rainwater, allowing the photosynthesizing green alga to shine through the normally opaque fungi. Lichens really are more brilliant when all else looks gloomy. Have a look.

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