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That Stirring You Feel Is Within You
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

Spring melt in Upstate New York. Photo by MaryLaura Barkley-Mau.
CHANGE HAS come to the Pea Patch, and it's come early again -- after a couple of years of this anomaly, I'd presume this to be the 'new deal' in our seasonal clock. Spring is peeking out from behind the whipping wind and bitter cold, and not just hints of it. There are buds where buds shouldn't be yet, and mating calls echoing from birds that should still be tucked into winter nests. Even the quality of light has shifted, and that usually doesn't come until the weather is balmier. The spiritual community has it that time is speeding up -- maybe they're right.

One thing that works my nerves the most, here in the Mid-west, is the monochromatic winters. Within a handful of days in fall, as the last of the leaves tumble, the bare bones of the forests turn the landscape into a tangle of black and gray angles, trunks and limbs ghostly without their dress; the grass goes quickly brown beneath them. Months of ice and snow regularly trim the trees in shades of white or sparkling ice sheaths, but nothing rescues you from the 'sameness' of the color palette, save the welcome flash of a cardinal showing off a splash of red (that will not be so dearly appreciated in summer, when the color is lost in foliage. As bonded pairs, female cardinals are a kind of khaki-brown, their red beaks the only compliment to their mates. Nature protects them by blending them into the landscape.)

Last weekend brought us a delightful day with temperatures near 80 -- it was a gift, appropriate to the first day of March which is also my son's birthday. The next day it didn't quite reach 30, and we had an ice storm, delivering a fine layer of pellets like BB's to coat the neighborhood. It was the day after that, road-slicked enough to limit travel and with the temps hovering in the mid-30's, that my eye caught something at ground level, reddish and quick. Hopping. If you know your ornithology, you'll know that this could only be a humorously round, fat-breasted robin, and he was not alone. He had several of his flock with him. They worked over the frozen ground, hunting worms and grubs, undaunted by what still feels...to me, anyway...very much like winter. Robins are not due for another few weeks. But then, neither are the bunnies and I've seen several in the yard in the last days.

This fall, we had an extremely short season turn, and many trees still wear a coat of deadened leaves from last year, frozen by the cold before they could fade and release. Last spring, we had a faux-spring that shot buds into bloom to be caught in a sudden snow storm, causing financial damage to orchards across Middle America, and limiting the crop. Tornados, typically occurring spring through fall, have already delivered us an unprecedented number of twisters in January and February, several with tragic loss of life. Tornados will do as they will no matter the season, of course -- but the extended period of their occurrence, as well as their severity, has unnerved many. We just don't know what to expect these days.

The weather, along with seasonal patterns, is changing quickly, and we can no longer rely on 'the usual' -- I'd say that expecting the unexpected is probably sound advice. We can't wait for the traditional signals to send us off into seasonal activities; we need to read the signs and do what comes naturally. Listen to the stirring within us as a signal from our internal clock, rather than relying on the calendar. We're reconfiguring time -- we need to intuit our way through this new thing.

As much as humankind attempts to control environmental variables, we are better off, in my opinion, observing and adapting as do the wild critters. Some of this climate shift is within natural parameters and it's up to us to adjust ourselves accordingly -- which is not to say we shouldn't do everything we can to assist in stabilizing the environment, in addressing carbon footprints, in behaving as stewards of the planet and making attempts to save her endangered species. We must minimize the fallout, as best we can. To do less is foolish; to do more is necessary.

The notion that mankind has 'dominion' over the planet (I think we read it in some old Book -- wink, wink) never quite works out the way we figured it would. With all its science and knowledge, its plans and intentions, humankind is still a day late and a dollar short when it comes to nature, seeking to reconfigure what it messed up to begin with. I read today that the National Parks Service lost a battle to the Department of the Interior who has decided to flood the Grand Canyon for sixty hours, pushing millions of cubic feet of water through the canyon in order to redistribute sediment; the NPS is worried about damage to habitat and archeology, as contained in their ten-year, 80 million dollar study, but the DoI has determined those warnings "unsubstantiated." In case you're clutching your heart, relax -- it will have already occurred by the time you read this. How many animals do you suppose died in this little experiment, which was evidently economically expedient for the DoI? These are the kinds of things that happen again and again, just under our radar. Like our national inaction on the dying polar bears -- or the removal of Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered species category -- or the 'plastic soup' we're creating in the oceans with our trash.

It seems as if there are a staggering number of environmental challenges, and too many of them man-made. But there are things we can do. For starters, we can act politically. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have similar green plans that put environmental issues front and center, tying them with economic renewal programs. John McCain, meanwhile, has received a 'zero' from the League of Conservation Voters on his congressional voting record, despite his supposed break with his party in favor of climate change issues. The current government, of course, is stalled on environmental action, unless you count continued obstruction by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as their hostility to proposals by states to cap their own greenhouse gases.

In the simplest terms, we can be mindful consumers, selecting non-toxic cleaning supplies, recycling and giving up a bit of convenience for the sake of our planetary stewardship. We can be aware, visit websites like TruthOut and Alternet to keep on top of the environmental news. And we can talk about our environmental responsibility; sadly there are still some people out there who don't think its their problem.

Something's stirring, out there. It's up to us to be alert, be prepared and add our voices to the majority of Americans who favor responsible environmental policies. The green movement may be ignored at the moment, but it's active and due to bloom. Environmental awareness isn't new, it began to bud in the 70's and it's maturing quickly. 20 and 30-something's that learned their ABC's on the PBS offering, Sesame Street, were instilled with a love of the planet; they've passed that on to their children. We're sharing one world here, and each of us must take responsibility for our own little piece of it. There are robins in the Pea Patch and they're early. So get busy with your green plan -- it's never too late!

By the way, two items of note: we will 'spring ahead' with daylight savings time this Sunday, another of humankinds manipulations; a recent study shows that this time change causes us to consume more, not less, energy. Be advised.

As well, if you would like to create your own backyard as a wild animal habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation for tips and information.

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