Spring has only just sprung around here but Tuna and I have already managed to get in a few nice hikes. The photos above are from the O.D. von Engeln Preserve at Malloryville in Dryden, NY. This little known swath of land located between Cortland and Ithaca is owned by the Nature Conservancy. I’ve lived in this area most of my life and was never aware of this hidden gem until we took a field trip there for my Wetlands class at Cornell. What makes this place so special is that you have more than half of the six wetland types and corresponding plant communities represented in an itty-bitty parcel of land (the preserve is only 35 acres which makes this a super easy hike). As you walk along the well-marked dirt trails and wooden boardwalks, you’ll find a bog with sphagnum mats and pitcher plants, a wooded swamp, groundwater-fed fens and if memory serves me correct, I think there’s even a marsh nearby. The preserve also serves as a fantastic lesson in glacial deposition with its wooded esker trail and kame and kettle topography.
The photos above are from our Chicago Bog hike last week. As you can see, there was still a bit of ice and snow happening. I kept my eyes peeled for migrating amphibians and sadly, all I saw was death. One adult spotted salamander was hit in the road and I found these frogs dead in the shallows of the bog. Looks like they had an even worse winter than we did–which I didn’t even think that was possible! I wish I had the motivation to go out at night to help the sallies cross the road. That’s one of those things I prefer to do with a partner because you’re right by the road and you need that extra person if something goes wrong or even just to be more visible to drivers. Anyone want to night herp with me? There’s still time for us to be heroes! For more pics on my previous Chicago Bog and the Lime Hollow Nature Center hikes click here.
It’s been a few weeks so I should update you on the goings on in my world. First, let’s start with a little Tuna love, shall we…
Petunia is the best companion I could ever ask for. This winter has been rough on both of us but her especially. Walks have been few and far between due to her rather hairless nature and the freezing temps. I have a few coats for her but they don’t cover her extremities and her naked undercarriage is completely exposed. (I blame grandma Ling Ling for not knitting her that sweater I’ve been requesting.) She’s been a good sport about being cooped up though. She’s a pooper and a trooper!
I’m trying to figure out where I left off with this blog without looking back…because that would be cheating. The last time we met I was interviewing for the Programs Manager job at the animal sanctuary. Well, after two uncomfortable interviews, I was informed that I didn’t get the job. To say that I felt heartbroken, defeated, vulnerable and frustrated over the rejection was an understatement. Luckily, I had planned for such a letdown and as soon as I was informed of my fate, within minutes I had accepted the field biology position in Yellowstone. It will be double the hours, more pay and a lot more physically rigorous but the financial cushion will provide me with choices and opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I can take the money and buy a camper or start a store or who knows. Plus, it will give me two months of exciting fodder for this here blog. So you, my loyal reader, can rest assured knowing that there will be more embarrassing field stories to come.
I miss the farm terribly but my supervisor assured me that I was welcome to visit whenever I wanted. I have yet to take her up on the offer though. Strangely enough, of all the amazing animals I was lucky enough to work with, I miss one particular horse the most. They are one of the few creatures I’m completely terrified of but yes, when I close my eyes and think of that place, Beyond’s soulful eyes are what I see first. Please take a tour in April and send all my animal friends some love from me. I’ve been enjoying Erin’s Barn Briefs as they have kept me up to date on all the goings on with the animals. I would highly advise reading this blog post from her because it talks about how Hannah the sheep has been coping since Lambert’s death and also the recent restructuring of the endearingly menacing Goon Squad. Sounds like exciting times.
For the first entire week after leaving the farm all I did was sleep. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life. And I’ve been eating…lots. I think I’ve gained all the weight back that I lost which is a bummer but winter pudge is not completely unwelcome. I’ll lose it all once I can get back outside anyway. The weeks following have been all about making soap (which will be addressed in my next post), finding someone to take over my lease, packing up my things, getting rid of most of my possessions, and watching Battlestar Galactica.
Trying to find someone to rent my apartment has been another eye opener for me. These are dreadfully, dark and desperate times. I’ve had folks contact me that want to squeeze their entire family into my studio apartment because that’s all they can afford; mothers living in battered women’s shelters; a woman who has a kid very sick with lead poisoning from a previous living situation; many with bad credit; one with bad credit because her husband took away her kids and she had to use credit cards to pay for a failed custody attempt; most are on public assistance; many are disabled in one way or another; one works for IBM and is terrified of being laid off like many of his former coworkers; the reality goes on and on. These are tough times my friends. Be lucky for what you have because there are people just scraping by with much less.
Today, I’m enjoying my last dregs of downtime. Tomorrow I rent a cargo van and attempt to shoehorn all my belongings into it. Then it’s off to Cortland to unpack it all. Moving completely sucks but as it stands right now, most of my furniture and probably more than half of my belongings are going either to the Salvation Army or being sold in a few upcoming garage sales. I get high off of getting rid of stuff. Each item that leaves my possession is like a tiny burden being lifted. I’ve always felt this way. Most people enjoy accumulating but I’m the exact opposite. I entered the world loathing clutter. I remember as a young child cleaning out the drawers of the dinning room hutch for enjoyment. (These cleaning sprees led me to throw away important documents such as the title for the family car. Oops!) Shopping is right up there on my list of loathings. Most of my possessions are things that were given to me instead of intentionally purchased. Someday, I hope to just own the clothes on my back and walk the world.
These are bittersweet times for me but I remain optimistic. I love this area and my nearby friends but I know that moving away means moving forward. I’ve enjoyed many years of good times in the Hudson Valley but I’m also haunted by dark times and soured friendships. There’s nothing I’d like more than to put that all behind me. So much of me wants to hold on but I’ve just got to let it all go. It’s for the best.
Enough of this serious stuff. Here’s some selfie shame:
I made it home from the bar at 2 am last night and while I fumbled around in the darkness trying to find my apartment keys I was struck by the lovely night sky. Knowing that my camera has a night photography option, I figured there was no better time to test its capabilities. I ran in, grabbed the camera, and took the above photo. Clearly, my camera sucks and couldn’t capture even 1/10th of the night sky’s magesty. Just when I decided to call it quits I noticed something moving around in the bushes just feet away. I took a few steps closer and saw some glowing eyes peaking out at me. Holy gawd! At this point, I was terrified but certainly too curious to run. So I got closer. I could hear the creature’s jaws chomping on something in the bushes. Was it feasting on one of the feral cats that live under my porch? I hope not, I’ve gotten quite attached to them.
Okay, this is clearly one of those mysteriously elusive Chupacabras right? Can a goat sucker also be a cat sucker? And I’d never heard of a sighting in New York. Perhaps I’m the first to witness this species’ northern migration. And I have photographic proof of this. What a goldmine! I was absolutely terrified at this point but I knew that I needed to edge closer to snap that one photograph that would put me on the cryptozoology map.
And here it is! This devil creature is clearly a hybrid between canine and Zool from Ghostbusters. It must be a Chupacabra! Ahh…the reality is that this thing lives with me. Sleeps with me even. She’d gotten her line wrapped up in the bushes and busied herself by eating cat poop until I came to her rescue. We went inside (I was completely disgusted by her at that point) and when I reviewed the photos I absolutely howled with laughter. I probably woke my neighbors but I couldn’t help myself. Many of us may have strange bedfellows but I think I win the prize by having strangest (and grossest) one of them all.
Happy Friday to you all! Please keep in mind that there’s no Saugerties Farmers Market tomorrow. It’s the Garlic Festival instead so get out there and make your breath smell delicious (or at least better than Petunia’s)!
It’s that time again–our four year right of passage. For those that have a long wait in line (some people have 7 hour waits–not sure how that’s legal), here are some funny Petunia pictures in her Bon Jovi coat (minus the fringe):
I remember where I was last election day, like it was yesterday. Time certainly does fly so fast. I was at the Black Swan in Tivoli, New York. It’s a fun little pub in an adorable little hidden town. The pub stays open late and features a fun cast of characters behind the bar. They mostly cater to the Bard College hipster crowd but they are usually coming when I’m going. They must return to their dorms after class and power nap because they only appear –in their too tight stovepipe skinny jeans–after midnight, at the earliest. I was there four years ago today enjoying many pints, getting caught up in the collective anticipation. I also had an ulterior motive for being there. At the time, my favorite pastime was drooling over a mustached bartender with fantastic fashion sense named Alex. Ahh, I haven’t had a crush like that since then. As time passed Alex and I became good friends and he certainly holds a special place in my heart. It now makes me laugh, knowing him better, when I think about how smitten I was with him. I remember the crowd in the bar going absolutely berserk when Obama was announced as our new president. People were crying. It was a great moment to be alive. There was so much hope in that room and in the world.
I must say that I believed then what I believe now: we are on a sinking ship regardless of who the president is. I remember looking around the room at all the ecstatically hopeful people and I felt sorry for Obama even then. And I feel sorry for him now. Sadly, these four years haven’t diminished that sinking feeling in my gut. It’s certainly not Obama’s fault. A wise yogi once said, Don’t hate the playah, hate the game. The world unfairly expected one man to change a system that’s completely broken in just four years. The United States isn’t a democracy, it’s a plutocracy. And it makes me sad to think that citizens of other countries are fighting to the death for this form of government when they should be fighting for something better. A two-party system only serves to polarize us on issues that most of us can actually agree on (or can at least find some middle ground on) and any one elected official can’t possibly represent my vote on all issues. More than anything, the idea of voting for the lesser of two evils just doesn’t sit well with me. When I told my friends that I was voting for Nader in the last election, some of my friends stopped talking to me because my third party vote stole from a primary candidate (think of the Bush/Gore election). But I stick by the idea of there being more than two parties. I’m sorry. Women and people of color in years past didn’t fight tooth and nail for the right to vote just so future generations could have only two viable options. In a perfect world, each citizen should have their own say on every issue, instead of electing one person that represents a portion of their total beliefs. Heck, I’m willing to go to the polls once a month or even once a week if need be. It would probably be harder for billion dollar lobbies to buy our vote compared to one elected official–they are just sitting ducks for corruption. It’s instant job creation right there. Out of work politicians can run the polling booths. Oh silly me, they probably don’t ever have to work again. Most of them are rich.
The flip side of this negativity is that I believe in the collective power of people and I believe that we can change anything that gets in our way. Change is hard though and modern day individualistic Americans aren’t really accustomed to working together anymore. The social movements of the 60’s and 70’s seem all but wiped from our DNA. I’m proposing that, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but sometime in the near future, we get together and begin the work of reforming our political system. Taking it back from the few and giving it to the many. In the meantime, seize this rare opportunity to participate in a system that’s supposed to represent our ever changing individual and collective needs.