Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter robins

This morning, as the dog and I walked down Canns Beach Road, we were accompanied by a flock of robins, crossing and re-crossing the road to fly through and then rest in the tall bushes on either side. I knew that more and more frequently robins winter over, so I wasn't about to gush over any early arrival of spring (it was also 15 degrees and snowing lightly). But I do tend to get a little fanciful as I walk in Maine, and I couldn't help thinking about their numbers - a couple of dozen - and why they seemed to be following us. Climate change probably accounts for their presence (easier to brave increasingly mild winters here on the coast than spend all that energy on migration?); I wondered if they were hoping for handouts of seed and suet from this example of the animal that caused them to be here in the first place, inducing guilt by a kind of piteous flying. Later, Google set me straight. Robins survive the winter by eating winter berries, those red and orange beauties of late fall and early winter, but the birds don't eat them when they're still bitter and even poisonous; they wait for cycles of cold and thaw to make them edible.Of course: a month or so ago, those bushes were startling, masses of berries in vivid contrast to the black and gray and white of bare branches and snow, a poignant reminder of the berries of summer. And now, fallen and tasty, the berries serve only the guiltless. The simple explanation, and solution, is usually the best.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Men in tracks

Driving north on the Maine Turnpike yesterday, we passed, and repassed, two vehicular units at least three times in the course of 20 miles. Each unit was oddly similar: pickups with Massachusetts plates hauling snowmobile trailers and driven by men in sunglasses. There was no obvious way to account for their inconsistent speeds. We speculated that the men in each cab were listening to the same talk radio show, and as the invective and outrage rose in volume, so did their speed. They would return to normalcy during the ads.

Curiously, we had just been talking about the annoying propensity of men always to be trying to score points, always trying to know it all, always seeking power. No wonder so many women turn away and seek other comforts.

It's also quite embarrassing to see how easily men slide into stereotype, or treat the world as stereotypical objects for their own use (not that women don't, but they at least seem to care that they do). So I couldn't help supposing that here were some guys going north for the weekend to scream around the woods and drink beer. I suppose I should be pleased they're at least getting outside, maybe even into wilderness, and I've always said that humans are becoming dangerously detached from their animal selves, and a small (very small) part of myself might like an hour of speed and deviltry. But I hope it doesn't take alcohol and gas and noise to get me out of selfishness, and the soft music of wind in trees puts Rush Limbaugh to shame, and what you can do on a ski is so much more rewarding than what a Ski-Doo can do on you.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Committee work

Necessary evil? Shoot me now? If I had a nickel....

"A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours." (Milton Berle).

But I was never so glad to do committee work as I was this week. (In this case, it's enjoyable all other times of the year as well, since the cause is so wonderful.) It's the start of a new year, year-end giving was excellent, and the cause - land preservation and conservation - grows ever greater. Not everyone feels this way - we've had several prospective Board and committee members bow out at the idea of more fluorescent lights and bums in chairs. But the work needs to be done, and this recently released prisoner of soft chairs and enforced rest and kid gloves is rejoicing. Work practices and governance procedures and fund-raising ideas are so much more interesting than the state of one's abdomen. The organization may not have needed me all that desperately these last couple of months, but I surely needed it. The good wishes and bonhomie were one thing, but the real need was to get out of oneself, to immerse oneself in a great cause again. Who would have thought that the interior of a conference room could be as inspiring as a walk down to Ash Point?