Despite a brisk wind, it is a beautiful Thanksgiving morning here.
At sunrise, Kodi, Henna and I explored the back forty. From there I looked south to Long Mountain, the ridge highlighted by the morning sunlight.
A mockingbird scolded us from a thorny thicket of shrubs. White-throated sparrows were more furtive among the bushes. My favorite redtail lifted off from the tall pines and soared over the pasture. Henna and Kodi foraged in the pasture for Thanksgiving treats. They want to keep going out, so we've had three walks already. It is nice to get outside on a nice day, while the turkey slow cooks in the oven.
First snow of the season--a dusting--fell during the night. Then the skies cleared and the winds whipped up a fury. Continuing all day. Fallen leaves are swirling and scurrying across the road and covering people's lawns. At dawn the leaves lay still under a light coating of snow and from the overnight chill.
Patty Laughlin of Lorax Landscaping suggests NO fall clean-up in perennial beds. Patty says that, "The leaves and debris provide a haven for good insects through the winter. Uncut perennials allow better root and crown protection (they catch leaves and snow for their insulation), provide food and perches for birds and add winter landscape interest for you."
I took Patty's advice and I am now enjoying the garden even more this fall. The big bluestem is six feet tall. Loose clumps of silky milkweed seeds hang on to their stalk, at least until the next big wind comes along.
I enjoy the form and structure and colors of our perennial garden that endures and continues through all seasons. As our own yard takes on more natural patterns and rhythms, perhaps others will take note and lessen their seemingly manic drive to "clean-up" their yards.
A news item on NPR this morning highlights some new findings about where wolves first befriended humans. Scientists are still uncertain as to why or how wolves became domesticated by hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago. Maybe it was shared interests or some similarity in social structure or hunting techniques.
I wonder if it was the warmth of the campfire that drew in some wolves. Our sweet Henna is fond of the woodstove, lying within a foot of the door, her body so hot that she starts to pant.
Getting several square meals a day versus hunting down your prey seems like a good deal too. I can see why wolves would figure that out and decide to live with humans. As time went on life got even better--cozy beds, toys, play dates. Dogs, at least in many western homes, have a great life. I think Henna and Kodi would agree and thank their ancestors for making the move to domestic life.
The Year 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of extinction of the passenger pigeon. Project Passenger Pigeon (P3) is a collaborative effort based at the Chicago Academy of Sciences to raise awareness of the passenger pigeon story as a way to promote species and habitat conservation. Among many other efforts, they are raising money for a film: From Billions to None, The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction.
The P3 website has a cool map of the U.S. and Canada that is clickable on each state and province. Here is what it says about the passenger pigeon in my state of New Hampshire:
"In his 1903 work on the birds of New Hampshire, Glover Allen summarized the former status of the bird: “Arriving within our borders during the first week of April in tremendous flocks, they nested in large colonies, at least as far north as the White Mountains proper.” The pigeons would stay until October.
Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
A bird shot on October 10, 1881 was stuffed and displayed in the Public Library of Acworth, not far from where the bird met its demise. A later report is that of W.W. Flint who told Allen that he killed a bird near his home at Concord during the summer of 1885."
The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America--an estimated 3 to 5 billion birds. The P3 website is full of information about the passenger pigeon, the relationship of people to nature, and how we can ensure no other species are lost to extinction because of human actions. There are many creative ideas about how to get involved.
Last night we saw the movie Gravity in 3D at a local theater. We rarely go out to movies anymore, relying mostly on streaming Netflix or picking up a movie from Redbox. Since we heard such good reviews of Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, especially in 3D, we splurged.
It is a fantastic movie, showing the vastness of space and the beauty of earth. Go see it in 3D in a good theater. The movie will enhance your appreciation of the skills and thrills of being an astronaut.
On a somewhat related note I launched a Twitter account last week (ellen_tsnne) as part of a new project called The Stewardship Network: New England that I am working on. I never much cared for Facebook, but Twitter, for me, seems to offer a steady stream of interesting tweets. I decided to follow Science Friday on NPR and it just happened that the host Ira Flato recently talked with Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. Since space was on my mind after last night's movie, I was intrigued.
Hadfield has a new book, An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth, and a series of quick videos on how they do things in space, like brushing teeth. And check out this YouTube video of Hadfield singing a revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded on the International Space Station. Then go see Gravity.
Gray skies are expected on a November day in New England. This morning started out gray, but a lovely sun emerged late in the afternoon. Darkness will come early though, as we fell back an hour this morning with the end of daylight savings time.
A strong wind a few days back blew most of the leaves off the hardwoods, except for the oaks and beeches, which hold fast into winter. Many trees now stand bare, revealing their varied shapes--stately, gnarly, broken topped, many-branched, diseased, healthy--that were hidden by leaves all summer.
Even in the woods, where beech saplings have turned the forest understory into a golden color, the grays of November emerge. Giant, gray boulders seem even bigger today, as we walked through the Oaklands of Exeter.
A fallen hornet nest, ash gray in color, lay still and vivid against the copper beech leaves. The queen left the nest earlier in the fall to live underground or in a log through winter. The rest of the adults die as cold weather sets in. Peering into a hole in this nest I could see several adult hornets frozen in place, but they might still be alive so I let them be.
There is beauty in the gray calm of November. A cheerful thought as the days grow shorter and winter sets in.