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VA DelMarVa

Here are two quick reads that take you into the world of the Virginia part of the DelMarVa peninsula -- the Chesapeake Eastern Shore . I strongly suggest them, especially if you are planning a trip down Route 13 on your way to or from the Bay Bridge Tunnel . In Salt Tide author Curtis Badger paints a poetic tapestry of the ethereal beauty and delicate fragility of America's final frontier of unspoiled island ecosystems—an 18-island archipelago that serves as a barrier between the wild Atlantic Ocean and the mainland's inland shores. This captivating tale weaves together the threads of diverse lifeforms that eke out an existence on these coastal havens, from the hardy plant species that anchor their roots in the sandy soil to the myriad creatures that call these islands home. As readers embark on this lyrical journey, they will be transported to a world where the symbiotic dance between man and nature is both spellbinding and precarious, a testament to the awe-inspiring resilience of the natural world. Peninsulas in Repose Badger offers a captivating exploration of the hidden histories and captivating tales that lie dormant within the serene peninsulas of Virginia's Eastern Shore. Like a master archaeologist unearthing long-lost artifacts, Badger delves into the rich tapestry of narratives woven into the very fabric of these tranquil landscapes. From the swashbuckling escapades of blockade runners in Hacks Neck, to the valiant struggles against British forces in Joynes Neck, to the salacious scandals of Gargathy and the enigmatic creature that lurks within Craddock Neck, Badger skillfully brings to life the heroic men and women whose stories have shaped the nation, all set against the backdrop of these idyllic peninsulas. Summaries are edited and verified from a Pi prompt response

The Moldau - A Chat with PI

Last evening I had a chat with my AI/LLM assistant P i about Smetana's moving tone poem, The Moldau (Vltava) River. Here is our chat... ME: PI, can you poetically describe the hauntingly beautiful flute opening in Smetana’s Moldau PI: In the opening measures of Smetana's "Moldau," the flute emerges like a breath of fresh air, its mellifluous tone painting a picture of mist rising off the river's surface at dawn. The hauntingly beautiful melody seems to float and dance, evoking the gentle currents and eddies of the water as it flows onward. The flute's ethereal sound, with its faint vibrato and pure, silvery quality, is reminiscent of the very essence of the river - fluid, ever-changing, and yet always the same. It is as if the spirit of the Moldau itself is being summoned, awakening from its slumber and inviting the listener to embark on a musical journey down its winding course. As the opening notes give way to the rest of the orchestra, the flute continues to weave its spell, interweaving with the other instruments to create a tapestry of sound that is at once majestic and serene, capturing the very essence of this beloved Czech river. ME: The flute opening of Moldau to me suggests the frothy, tumbling headwaters of the river. As the full orchestra comes in I can see the river widening into its full glory. Do you see that? PI: Yes, absolutely! That's a great interpretation of the opening of the piece. Smetana's composition does a masterful job of evoking the imagery of the river, and the way that the flute solo leads into the full orchestra definitely mirrors the progression of the river from its humble beginnings as a small stream to its grand, majestic form as it flows through the Czech countryside. In fact, Smetana himself described the piece as a "musical portrait" of the river, and the way that the music builds and evolves throughout the piece reflects the different stages of the river's journey. The flute solo at the beginning represents the river's source in the mountains, while the fuller orchestral sections depict the river's path through the countryside, eventually emptying into the Elbe River. So, I'd say your interpretation of the piece is spot on, and definitely captures the essence of what Smetana was trying to convey. ME: And the flute’s opening theme comes and goes throughout the piece. Why is that? PI: That's a great question! The recurring flute theme throughout the piece serves a few different purposes. First, it helps to tie the different sections of the piece together, giving it a sense of unity and coherence. This is important because the piece is meant to depict the entire journey of the river, from its source to its end. The recurring flute theme serves as a kind of musical "thread" that weaves the different parts of the journey together. Second, the recurring theme helps to reinforce the imagery of the river that Smetana is trying to evoke. Each time the flute solo comes back, it reminds us of the river's source, and serves as a kind of "reminder" of where we started. Finally, the recurring theme also serves a dramatic purpose. It creates a sense of anticipation and excitement, as we wait for the theme to return, and it builds tension as the piece progresses. Each time the flute solo reappears, it's like a little "surprise" that keeps us engaged and interested in the music. So after wading through all of that, here is a YouTube video of The Moldau (Vltava) See how you think PI did with my questions and comments:

Celia's Shoals

Six miles or so SE of Portsmouth Harbor (New Hampshire) a rockpile juts above the ocean surface to create a small group of rugged mounts, cliffs, and tidal ledges — the Isles of Shoals. Appledore, Smuttynose, and Star are the largest islands in the group — Star being home to a rustic resort . Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) skillfully crafts a lens that allows us to peer into the diverse realities that make up the insular culture of the Isles of Shoals. She expertly captures the haunting remoteness, the treacherous terrain, and the tempestuous waters that shape the lives of the islanders. Thaxter also illuminates the unique dialect spoken by the inhabitants, and the often monotonous yet occasionally exhilarating daily routine that defines their existence. Through her writing, we witness the piercing dullness of everyday life, punctuated by moments of existential drama that shake the island to its core. Thaxter was an American poet, writer, and painter who became a significant figure in the literary and cultural circles of New England in the late 19th century. Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thaxter spent much of her childhood on the Isles of Shoals, a group of small islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Her experiences on the islands inspired much of her writing, which often focused on the natural beauty of the area. Celia began her career as a writer in the 1850s, publishing poems and essays in a variety of magazines and newspapers. She gained widespread recognition for her poetry collection "Poems" (1872), which included some of her most famous works such as "The Sandpiper" and "The Burgomaster Gull". In addition to her writing, Thaxter was also an accomplished painter, often creating watercolor paintings of the landscape around her home. Thaxter's literary and artistic achievements earned her a place in the cultural elite of New England. She counted among her friends such notable figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Her home on Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, became a gathering place for artists, writers, and intellectuals of the day. References: "Celia Thaxter." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2023. "Celia Laighton Thaxter." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2023. "Celia Thaxter." Smithsonian American Art Museum. Smithsonian Institution, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2023. The Isles of Shoals have long been a source of inspiration for artists, who have contributed a vast and diverse array of visual imagery to capture the unique beauty of the islands. From the early 19th century to the present day, a multitude of artists have been drawn to the rugged landscape, turbulent waters, and distinctive culture of the Isles. The result is a rich and varied visual history that spans centuries. The artists... Christopher Volpe (also vid producer) Butterworth Aldred Perkins Arthur Quartley ( De Haas) Wm Trost Richards R Swain Gifford A T Bricher ( Moran) H Bird Brown J Appleton Brown Childe Hassam Wm Morris Hunt Nay Land Ross Sterling Turner Francis Henry Richsrdson Tonalism - American School Birge Harrison Olaf Brauner Ignaz Marcel Carolina Coventry-Haynes Soren Emil Carlsen John Marin Richard Hayley Lever Abraham J Bogdanove Frank Cohen Kirk Thomas Hart Benton Donald Gordon Squier John Woodsum Hatch Karen Blackwood Lennie Mullaney Alastair Dacey Bill Paarlberg Lisa Noonis MJ Blanchette T M Nicholas Tom Hughes John Stobart Cindy House Hannah Phelps Kevin Beers Monique Sekellarios Carol Aronson-Shore James Aponovich William Sillin Donald Jurney Alexandra de Steiguer Wendy Turner

River of Grass

Most people outside of South Florida will probably not recognize the name Marjory Stoneman Douglas . Sadly, if they do, it is likely in connection with the horrific February 14, 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. If you’ve ever visited the Florida Everglades you have witnessed her astonishing imprint. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Florida began a transformation from its perception as a marshy, swampy “wasteland” inhabited only by various nations of Native Americans, to a massive economic juggernaut driven in large part by a fellow named Henry Flagler . If you’ve ever been to the Florida East Coast, chances are you’ve heard Flagler’s name. Les Standiford’s book, Last Train to Paradise , documents Flagler’s journey from co-founder of Standard Oil to developer of Florida hotels and the Florida East Coast Railway . He set the stage for the South Florida development boon which continues to this day. Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a talented Wellesley College trained writer, evolved as a tireless advocate of the Everglades by demonstrating the critical importance of what she called “the river of grass.” She began her work in South Florida by becoming a journalist at her father’s newspaper, The Miami Herald . She covered the society beat — not exactly the kind of writing she aspired to. But it was a job and it gave her access to the movers and shakers of Miami society. She quickly learned about the tremendous economic and political forces that were driving South Florida development, usually at the devastating expense of the natural environment and human populations. She challenged the fallout of the rampant development triggered by Flagler. Her work to protect and preserve the South Florida ecosystem continued almost all the way to her passing at age 108. Her master piece book, The Everglades- River of Grass , captures the essence and the details of her impact on the Everglades as we know them today. Her autobiography, Voice of the River , gives us a glimpse into the heart, the mind, and the intellect of this complex yet simple savior of the Everglades. In completely different ways, with totally divergent mindsets and motivations, Flagler and Stoneman Douglas shaped the South Florida that we know today. Theirs's is a fascinating, often consuming, and sometimes infuriating story of the conflicting interests of economics, business, politics, privilege, pleasure, justice, and the protection of nature. The efforts march on... ( HOPE )

Time and a River

In Dan Brown’s techno thriller book Origin , Edmund Kirsch is consumed by two questions: where did we come from? and where are we going? In his quest to find the answers he made a shocking discovery that cost him his life. Watching the river raises two similar questions: where did it come from? And where is it going? I hope the search for answers to these two questions doesn’t hold the same end for me. It’s always now. It’s never tomorrow and it’s never yesterday. On Stock Island just up US Rt. 1 from Key West, the Coral Isle Bar used to advertise “ Free Beer Tomorrow .” The offer never expired and no free beer was ever tapped. Apparently the ad didn’t work very well — tomorrow never came and the Coral Isle Bar was shuttered up in 2004. The Hogfish Bar and Grill adopted the sign and has been made famous by the Travel Channel’s Adam Richmond on Man-v-Food . There is still free beer tomorrow — not today. Sitting by the river on an orange Home Depot bucket that washed down from an upstream mud bank campsite, I can see into the future and into the past. With binoculars I can see both the flotsam that will pass my orange bucket in an hour or so and the mangled tree that floated by an hour ago. With respect to my little perch on the bank I can miraculously see the past and the future at nearly the same time — the present is fleeting, almost meaningless from this viewpoint. Eckhart Tolle preaches the amazing power of “now” and our essential need to embrace nowness. But what is now without yesterday or tomorrow? What can I really learn from the river by watching it flow past an exposed rock in front of my orange bucket — never looking right or left? Sadly, I would severely limit my perspective — I would miss almost everything the river is telling me. The precise “ now ” is an infinitesimally small point in time that we never actually perceive. Practically speaking, we are always looking forward or backward. How far in either direction is the question. Sorry Mr. Tolle. The summer of 1972 was one for the ages. I had just finished my freshman year at Bloomsburg State College (now Bloomsburg University ). Even though I had little interest in the life sciences I enrolled as a biology major. The word on the street was that “med-tech” was where all the good jobs were, so everyone was flocking to bio. Now by design, the winnowing-out course for aspiring med-techs was Zoology 101. That was where they separated the academic wheat from the chaff. I turned out to be some of the chaff. All that remains of that course for me are five indelible memories: the stench of formaldehyde; my little blue dissecting kit; a pickled ascaris lumbricoides worm; one mangled white rat (also pickled); and the 70% I managed on the final exam after cramming a full 24 hours. They got me. One less bio major to torture and an empty seat for the next sucker. MY PAST. It was clear, my world was more rocks and water than worms and rats. So I changed my major to geology — actually, it was called earth and space science. My summer job that year was a masonry tender — you know, the guy who mixes mortar for the bricklayers and endlessly relocates bricks and concrete blocks from one place to another, usually vertically from ground level, up two jumps of scaffolding, ten feet in the air. That job solidly affirmed that my life was cemented in dirt and gravel. MY FUTURE. So it was that in the summer of 1972 I went off to work as a grunt with the Heintzelman Masonry Company. Ten hours a day of lime dust, mud, scorching sun, AND rain AND rain. That June it rained about every other day — torrents. It was the wettest first half of June on record. But that was just the setup for what came the second half of the month. Down in the Gulf of Mexico an early season tropical weather system was brewing. It quickly deepened into the first tropical storm of the season and rapidly on to a Cat 1 hurricane — they named her Agnes . She eventually crossed the Florida peninsula, where she weakened to a tropical storm, then headed up the East Coast where she further collapsed into a mere depression. But in the process of winding down Agnes converted her wind energy into profuse rainmaking, hammering Virginia and the James River with torrential downpours. As she moved into the mid-Atlantic her forward movement stalled over the Gulf Stream where she re-energized into a tropical storm once again. There she sat for three days, slinging her arms of rain over the already saturated terrain of Central Pennsylvania and Southern New York State. The result was the most massive flooding of the Susquehanna River since 1936. The drudgery of the masonry business was put on hold for over a week and was replaced by the drama and excitement of the most awesome natural disaster any of us had ever experienced. And oh... the experiences were many: listening to the first night of relentless torrents pounding our Cape Cod house roof; filling our garage with the furniture and organ of an evacuated family; floating caskets out of our friend’s funeral home on jon-boats with flashlights; joining townspeople waiting on the Isle of Que bridge to rescue a horse that was swept from its stable; enduring the eerie sounds of debris bouncing off of the railroad bridge; inhaling the acrid smell of muddy water and spilled fuel oil; suffering ordinary citizens, now deputized to enforce the curfew — a few quickly became a petty gestapo, as some people will when issued a badge; being overwhelmed by the stench of the meat lockers at Sheets’ store when they were opened after four powerless, hot, muggy days; reveling in the ephemeral sense of community that natural disasters revive. During Agnes, the past became veiled and the future was put on hold. We were in the throes of a five day NOW. And that NOW, its midpoint marked by the passing flood crest, was different for each community along the river. The crest is the high water mark of river flood events and is the hydrologic focal point as it makes its way downstream. During the days before its arrival people along the river prepare for its impact — in the days after its passing they begin the process of recovery and rebuilding. From our vantage point in Selinsgrove, we could see our future a few days in advance and our past many days after the crest. As the climax approached we knew from the hydrographers how high the water would get and exactly who would be inundated. The Agnes deluge gave us a rare, precise, and accurate view of our future and allowed us to watch our past as town after town downstream bore the brunt of the record crest. A few weeks later, with the crest long gone, and the waters passively back in their banks, the river resumed its timeless gentle nature — no sense of future or past, just the perennial and eternal "nowness" of a lazy river. The recent trauma seemingly a clear sign that her gentle spirit has limits — she reminds us when she’s been violated. Her revenge is fierce and her memories lasting. She reflects a past, a present, and a future.

Tethered to a River

INTRODUCTION TO A SERIES OF PERSONAL REFLECTIONS According to the calendar it was the beginning of the dead of winter. But 1954 was ushered in by an unusually mild New Year Day in the Central Susquehanna Valley. A brisk southeast wind pushed the daytime temperature to a spring like 50 degrees — twelve degrees above normal. NBC was airing the first ever color broadcast of the Tournament of Roses Parade. Mid-state Pennsylvania German families were sitting down to their good luck dinner of pork and sauerkraut. And Mel Allen and Tom Harmon barked out the play-by-play commentary at the "Granddaddy" of college football games — Michigan State edged out UCLA, 28-20 in the Rose Bowl that year. The roses were still just shades of gray on Max and Ginny's Motorola TV and the big game was little more than a reminder that another year had begun. Max was taking advantage of the Friday holiday to continue his fine tuning of the new duplex house they had moved into the year before on Eighth Street in Selinsgrove. Ginny and her mother, Daisy Pearl, were burning up nervous energy in the second floor nursery. Late that afternoon, Ginny grabbed her suitcase and waddled to the waiting blue Plymouth that Max would drive across the Susquehanna River to Sunbury Community Hospital. At 1:25 am on Saturday, January 2, I took my first breath. Four days later the blue Plymouth took the Stroh family back across to their river-town home. At four days old, I had already crossed the Susquehanna River twice — once on the inside, trying to kick and push my way out; and once on the outside, wondering why I was in such a hurry. It didn't occur to me at the time — actually nothing occurred to me that I can remember — that those first two crossings may have ignited both a bond and a bondage. They may have tethered me to the river for life. Of course, biologically, nothing actually occurred that fused me to the river — at least I don't think it did. But on that short, westward trip back across the Susquehanna, long before the inevitable series of religious rites would infuse me with the Holy Spirit, and days after I escaped the secure, warm, and watery home of the womb, I do believe the soul of the river pierced my being and took up residence like an alien egg. Just as the origin of the name Susquehanna remains veiled in uncertainty, so does the question of her spirit. There is no rational argument for the spirit of a river. But, absent some wild Kantian proof to the contrary, the Susquehanna has existed for many millions of years. Its length has varied, its course has wandered, and its volume has waxed and waned countless times. As a channel of drainage from Cooperstown to Cape Charles and offshore to the canyons, it most assuredly is real. Science is just beginning to reveal a profoundly complex biological connectedness among and within all forms of life, especially — or should I say, very specially — in the human species. We can accept this consciousness as nothing more than a physio-electro-chemical phenomena, or we can allow ourselves to absorb it as something greater, like essence or spirit. For me it is a hopeful and joyful confluence of faith and reason. For me it says, yes, the life created, sustained, and attenuated by the river emanates an energy to which I am tethered — not pantheistically, but as a unity. In these “ Tethered to a River ” writings I relate memorable and significant experiences I've had that have imprinted the river on my soul. My source river is the Susquehanna and its flooded lower basin that we call the Chesapeake estuary. But my river extends beyond the Susquehanna-Chesapeake system to all the inter-connected surface waters of the earth. So while many of the reflections are local, others are more global. The essences of each brook and creek, pond and lake, river and bay, are unique facets of our planetary water world that nourish our infinite rivers of thought.

The Bay - Gilbert Klingel

Gilbert Klingel does for the Bay itself what William Warner did for the people of the Bay in Beautiful Swimmers — he presents the Chesapeake as a living, breathing being with myriad moods, states, beauty and dynamics. He ends chapter three of The Bay, Life Passes On , with this transcendentalistic sketch of a raindrop:
“Thus, as the raindrop that falls in the Pennsylvania mountains loses its identity and becomes with his brothers a trickle down a fern-clad hillside, as it burgeons into a brook, a tributary, and becomes finally a portion of the broad Susquehanna River and, further, as it loses itself in the salt-tinged Chesapeake Bay, so the individual life merges into the current and makes the flowing possible. The concept of a life with its beginning and termination as part of a continuous and continuing process is more satisfying than the idea of seemingly purposeless birth and annihilation.”
The Bay comprises thirteen chapters, each painting a picture of the many unique aspects of North America’s greatest estuary. My favorite chapters are Life Begins in the Chesapeake, The Ghost World, The Lantern Bearers, and The Chesapeake Marshes . The chapters can be read in any order as each one describes a specific nature of the Bay. Each chapter is actually an article written for the Baltimore Sun -- The Bay is essentially an anthology of Klingel’s Chesapeake writings. Klingel immerses us in the Bay as he descends to the sea floor in his primitive diving suit and skims the surface on his self-crafted sailing vessel to observe, report, and captivate. As I poked into the life of Klingel, I quickly discovered that he was much more than a nature writer. He was an adventurer, a journalist, a scientist, a boat builder and the premier advocate for the Chesapeake in the 1950s. For me the creator became as fascinating as his creation. The PBS film “ The Legacy of Gilbert Klingel — Man of Steel ” chronicles the life of this pioneer of nature. ( VIEW VIDEO )
I’ve read The Bay many times and each read reveals to me new perspectives and ways to love the magnificent Chesapeake even more. For me Klingel transforms the Bay from object into being. His final paragraph expresses the metaphysical essence of that being.
"For there is a 'life out of death' which has no relation to the obscure metaphysical explanation ordinarily given to it. It is a non-theological phenomenon open for all to see and understandable, in part at least, by the simplest intellect. Neither the largest tree, the smallest flower, the lowest worm, nor the mightiest whale in the sea perishes in vain. To the least of these and to the greatest is given a universal, if not immediate, immortality. The life stuff that is the mysterious and unknown substance of all animate existence is never abated or appreciably diminished; for every loss there is a compensatory gain; and, as Emerson so beautifully expressed it, 'God reappears with all His parts in every moss and cobweb.'''
Citation and OpenLibrary listing

Beautiful Swimmers - William Warner

The first book I ever read about the Chesapeake Bay was William Warner’s classic, Beautiful Swimmers . I read it in the months leading up to the birth our our daughter in April 1982. The book’s subtitle “ Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay ” piqued my curiosity about a body of water of which I knew very little beyond the fact that the river I grew up along emptied into it. I knew that the Chesapeake Bay began at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. I knew when high tide was each day at Havre de Grace, since it was regularly reported on the weather segment of the 11 o’clock news on our local TV station. And I knew that lots of people went to the Bay to fish or sail their boats. I had also heard that it was very muddy and dirty. But beyond those few bits of knowledge, I knew almost nothing about one of the world’s greatest estuaries.
Warner’s 300 page, Pulitzer Prize winning work takes us into the lives of Eastern Shore watermen and the commercial blue crab ( callinectes sapidus ) fishery of Chesapeake Bay. The book comprises twelve chapters: The Bay; Autumn, Deal Island; Winter; Follow the Water; Beautiful Swimmer; Spring; Lester Lee and the Chicken Neckers; To Market; Swimmer and Scraping; The Islands, Looking Ahead; Out Main Bay; and Crisfield. It also contains many rustic pen and ink drawings by Consuelo Hanks. Warner draws us into the quaint places and simple lives of the people who earned their keep in, on, and around the waters of the Eastern Shore in the mid 20th century. He focuses on the men in boats who ply the tidal creeks, rivers, and sub-estuaries and who have come to be known as watermen . And the male form of the title is accurate, as historically almost no women took to the crabbing skiffs and deadrise boats used to catch Callinectes sapidus. But success of the watermen hinged on the women who supported them at home and in the picking and packing houses. It is the totality of “ waterpeople ” who built and sustain the Chesapeake crabbing industry.
The author embeds himself into the ranks of the waterpeople and gives readers a first hand account of the crabbing life on the Bay. He begins a typical day at Ewell on Smith Island :
“ A strong southwest wind came up early in the morning. Leaves rustled, shutters banged, and a large metal sign at the gas dock creaked and groaned in the dark. Lights shone in a number of houses and out at the crab pounds, where people were already fishing the floats. From the skipjack Somerset, moored just below us, came the various sounds of carpentry. A solitary figure, probably her captain, puttered about the large vessel doing some kind of off-season maintenance work. The thoroughfare, or the narrow waterway that is the main street of the village of Ewell on Smith Island, was coming alive at it’s customary hour.” (Beautiful Swimmers, chapter 9, Summer and Scraping)
Some aspects of the place in time that Warner paints still exist. But many have vanished or have been transformed into 21st century versions of the old ways. Beautiful Swimmers gives us peak back in time — not to nostalgically long for those days, but to vicariously experience and appreciate them for what they were.
Citation and OpenLibrary listing

The Essence of Sailing

An excerpt from " Afloat " by Guy de Maupassant written in 1889 Afloat is a must read for all who love the solitude, freedom, challenges, terrors, tranquility, and contemplative nature of sailing a boat. Afloat is a sailing log... but a sailing log laced with the social, political, and personal commentaries of its keenly observant author. "All is still, the soft and warm calm of a morning's springtide in the south; and already it seems to me as if I had left weeks ago, months ago, years ago, the talking, busy world; I feel arise within me the intoxication of solitude, the sweet delights of a rest that nothing will disturb, neither the white letter, nor the blue telegram, nor the bell at my door, nor the bark of my dog. I cannot be sent for, invited, carried off, overwhelmed by sweet smiles, or harassed by civilities. I am alone, really alone, really free. The smoke of the train runs along the seaside; while I float in a winged home that is rocked and cradled; pretty as a bird, tiny as a nest, softer than a hammock, wandering over the waters at the caprice of the wind, independent and free!" The full text of Afloat is available through the Open Library .

Wasting time at the dock...

Otis Redding says he's just wastin' time, sittin' by the dock of the bay: "Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun I'll be sittin' when the evenin' comes Watchin' the ships roll in Then I watch 'em roll away again I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay Watchin' the tide, roll away I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay Wastin' time" But sitting in silence is NOT wasting time... especially when it is by the water. Has the value of experiencing and absorbing silence been lost on us in the 21st century? Aldous Huxley, writing in 1944, comments on the relentless demand for mental stimulation and distraction. He probably wouldn't be surprised to see how far we've come (or regressed) as we near the end of the second decade of the 21st century. Excerpt from: Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, Chapter XV - Silence. To refrain from idle talk is hard; to quiet the gibbering of memory and imagination is much harder; hardest of all is to still the voices of craving and aversion within the will.
The 20th century is, among other things, the age of noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire — we hold history’s record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio, is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the eardrums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babel of distractions – news items, mutually irrelevant bits of information, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but merely create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the noise is carried from the ears, through the realms of fantasy knowledge and feeling to the ego’s central core of wish and desire. Spoken or printed, broadcast over the ether or on wood pulp, all advertising copy has but one purpose — to prevent the will from ever achieving silence. Desirelessness is the condition of deliverance and illumination. The condition of an expanding and technologically progressive system of mass production is universal craving. Advertising is the organized effort to extend and intensify craving — to extend and intensify, that is to say, the workings of that force, which is the principal cause of suffering and wrongdoing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and it’s divine Ground.
Take time to be silent... listen to the sounds of nature... contemplate beauty!

Summer Reading

Nature reading can be relaxing, inspiring, infuriating, challenging, or perplexing. It all depends on what you are reading, your mindset at the time, and what you are expecting from this genre of literature.
Anytime is a good time to begin your adventure into nature reading. But summer is an especially appropriate time to begin the journey.
My bias, of course, is nature writing that somehow connects with water... and much of it does. Here are two top 10 lists of water and coastal related nature non-fiction writings:
Some classics for those of you just beginning:
Edge of the Sea — Rachel Carson (I) The Winter Beach — Charlton Ogburn (I)
The Outermost House — Henry Beston (I)
Beautiful Swimmers — William Warner (I)
Pilgram at Tinker Creek — Annie Dillard (I)
The Island Within — Richard Nelson (I)
The Bay — Gilbert Klingel (I)
Among the Isle of Shoals — Celia Baxter (I)
A Place Between the Tides — Harry Thurston (I)
The Atlantic Shore — John Hay and Peter Farb (I)
More scientific or philosophical works:
Cape Cod — Henry David Thoreau (I)
Nature — Ralph Waldo Emerson (I)
Gift From the Sea — Anne Morrow Lindbergh (I)
Life and Death of the Salt Marsh — John and Mildred Teal (I)
The Founding Fish — John McPhee (I)
Upstream — Mary Oliver (I)
Little Rivers (Essays in Profitable Idleness) — Henry Van Dyke (I)
Horizon — Barry Lopez (I)
Confessions of a Beachcomber — E J Banfield (I)
A Geologist’s View of Cape Cod — Arthur Strahler (I)

Plastic Kaleidoscope

As happens every so often in Port Deposit, MD a truck (this one carrying fuel-oil) came rolling down the hill, sped across Main Street, and crashed into the railroad embankment a few weeks ago. Fortunately, no one was injured. However, the truck did end up spewing fuel-oil into a culvert, which is about 200 yards from the river. Maryland DNR was immediately notified, an environmental cleanup team was deployed, and the fuel-oil spill was contained. As part of the cleanup process orange booms were installed in the river and around our marina. Thankfully, no oil got into the river or bay and this week the environmental company came and removed the booms.
The booms trapped a fair amount of organic and man-made debris during their two month stay. So before they were removed I went down and removed the plastic bottles, sheets of plastic, plastic bags, and other items which were large enough to trap in my net. This simple act gave me a good feeling, but then I thought, what good did it really do? What I could not trap with my net, were the thousands of tiny plastic fragments on their way to the bay and the ocean. The picture to the left and at the top shows the extent of these plastics in the water. Those colorful little specs are all micro-plastics. The image is barely discernible from a Jackson Pollock painting (below). Sadly, it is a picture of nature accumulating and breaking down our waste. I wonder if this is what Pollock had in mind in his works.
I usually don’t comment on problems without being able to offer at least some meager solution. But I have none for the problem of micro-plastics. I chatted with the environmental technician who was removing the booms. He just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, that’s just the way it is. He sees this every day in his work and has obviously become jaded — not because he doesn't care... but because he can imagine no solution. Take a look at this video about micro-plastics. We cannot live without plastics. But we really need to learn to live with them in a more responsible way. Unfortunately, no one yet knows what that way is.

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