Solar Stuff

While I’ve not had a chance to visit the new solar array at Thoreau Farm, I have seen pictures and gotten notice via the mail. At the same time, even at this relatively lofty latitude in Maine, I’ve been watching nearby houses take on panels, angled, of course, just so to catch the southwestern arc our sun takes. And last year, nearby Bowdoin College completed a solar installation that covers the huge tundra of roof above their field house and hockey rink.

Thoreau Farm Solar

Thoreau Farm Solar

All of this in a state that suffers one of the country’s most regressive governors, and one of the few politicians who might be capable – sadly – matching D Trump mouth for mouth.

Imagine what might happen with a little political light, will and encouragement.

For now, however, I desist with this line of thought and return to panels facing the sun. And, when I turn that way and angle my face likewise and close my eyes, I am reminded of Henry Thoreau sitting for the sunny morning in his Walden doorway “rapt in revery,” and I am reminded also of his meditation on direction for a walk in “Walking”:

When I go out of my house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to instinct to decide for me, I find…that I finally and inevitably settle southwest…My needle is slow to settle…and does not always point southwest, but it always settles between west and southwest. The future lies that way to me…

Always sun aware, Henry Thoreau saw its direction as the way of progress, the way to what’s next. And Thoreau realized (favorite Henry verb) that the project of the day was not to make America great again, but to realize the land’s and its peoples’ potential by going forward. He points the way at Walden’s end:

I do not say that John or Jonathan will realize all this; but such is the character of that morrow which mere time can never make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

Thoreau Farm’s solar panels, open like pages to the sun, join with thousands of other new panels/pages in pointing the way forward, in turning light into a better life.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, News and Events, The Roost, Thoreau Quote, Walden

Mowing the Lawn – At a Cost

By Corinne H. Smith

“Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?” Thoreau, Walden, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”

The front yard HAD to be mowed. I had cut the whole back yard a few days earlier. But with all of the rain we had gotten, the grass just kept on growing. Another storm front was on its way, and I had just a small window of time after work before the raindrops were sure to fall. I hurried home, filled the mower’s gas-tank, and yanked on the cord. Since the landlord had recently changed the spark plug and the air filter, the machine roared right up. It practically carried me along with it.

Usually I enjoy the act of mowing. I get a chance to take a closer look at nature. Most of my lawn isn’t grass, of course. The violets, clover, wild strawberries, creeping Charlie, oxalis, and black medic far outnumber any blades of grass. But isn’t diversity good? And from the street, who can tell? It’s all greenery. I think the variety is fun to see. And the bunnies, birds, and squirrels seem to appreciate it a lot, too.

But today I was driving angry, so to speak. The world was too much with me. I was turning thoughts around in my head: mostly from posts I had seen online, and mostly geared toward our tangled political scene. I should know enough to ignore such stuff. But today it had overwhelmed me. I was furious. I marched up and down my rows with determination, chewing on every little political exchange I had seen and participated in, in recent days. I wasn’t enjoying my mowing at all. Truth be told, I wasn’t even there.

 

In the clover

In the clover

I swung around again to the patch of clover next to the sidewalk. Abruptly, I stopped; there was a big bumblebee scurrying among the flowers. I paused, waiting for him to finish his good work. I brake for all animals. Except that it seemed to be taking him a long time to attend to these flowers, and I quickly realized that he wasn’t flying from one bloom to the next. He was tiptoeing haphazardly around their stems. I bent down to take a closer look, still with my grip on the mower handle. In the next instant, I saw that only one of his wings, the left one, was buzzing. The right one stood still, and was cocked at an odd angle. It looked as if he’d gotten hurt somehow. Poor guy. And then the true horror dawned on me. It was my fault. I had run over him in the last pass-through. I hadn’t even seen him then. How could I have been so careless?

The bee

The bee

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I chanted to the bee. Darn it. I couldn’t do anything to fix this situation. A bee that can’t fly is doomed. And it was all my fault. Still, I had to finish the yard work. A pre-storm breeze had begun to blow, and the sky was growing dark. I mowed around the clover and apologized to the bee every time I came close. How could I have done such a terrible thing?

If you know me or read my posts here, you know that I’m an animal lover. I freely let spiders live in all corners of the house. (http://thoreaufarm.org/2014/08/down-came-a-spider/) I once relocated a misled mouse from the kitchen to the basement of Thoreau Farm (http://thoreaufarm.org/2015/10/henry-and-the-mouse/) I do my best to do no harm to my fellow planet-dwellers. And yet this time, I had let outside events play hard enough on my emotions that I hadn’t been paying attention to what I was doing. If this was a key lesson from the Universe, it was a particularly difficult one to bear.

“It sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?” ~ Thoreau, “Walking”

Ah, you’re right, Henry. I was out of my senses. I hadn’t seen what was right in front of me. I let the ridiculousness of current events distract me. I should have known better.

After I finished the job and locked the mower away, I returned to the scene of distracted crime. The bee was still staggering around the clover patch. Sometimes he took a tumble and did a somersault or two because of the uncertain footing. I had grounded a pilot who barely knew how to walk. I had sentenced him to certain death. And still I kept apologizing, as if it would do him any good: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Every few hours I checked on him, as if in hope that he would shake off the experience and would suddenly take off and say goodbye. But we both knew this wouldn’t happen.

He made it through the light rain overnight, and he made it into another day. The last time I saw the bumblebee, he was sitting quite still on top of the violets. The broken right wing was now gone entirely. I wasn’t sure if he was even alive. But when I broke off a clover flower and put it down gently near him, he flinched a little bit. No, I’m not going to hurt you again, Bee. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. He waved one of his antennas at me, or at the flower. By the following day, he was no where to be found.

Last of Bee

Last of Bee

Days later, I admitted my awful deed to a friend. At first, he made light of the story. But when he saw how serious and upset I was about hurting the bee, he said quietly, “Did you do it in malice and with an intent to ill will?”

“No, of course not,” I said.

“Then you need to forgive yourself, as the bee has already forgiven you.”

Wow. Thank you, wise friend.

The grass continues to grow. Soon I have to mow again. But this time, I’ll pay closer attention. I’ll leave the outside world to deal with itself and concentrate on my own little part of it. I would fain return to my senses, and to the person I know myself to be.

1 Comment

Filed under Arts, Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, The Roost, Thoreau Quote, Walden

Little Dome

It is remarkable how, as you are leaving a mountain and looking back at it from time to time, it gradually gathers up its slopes and spurs to itself into a regular whole, and makes a new and total impression. Thoreau, Journal, 6/4/58

Smitten with rock.

Let’s begin there, and already you may be saying, “this guy is odd, or hard up,” and that may be true. But it is really a softness of heart for the slow, foot-won world that has me writing this. Which is really a way of calling back some moments on The Dome that I want to hold on to.

On May 25th I go to the source. In New Hampshire for book research and to train for my Run the Alps summer fantasy, I drive first to my home mountain, Cardigan, then north through the close vee of Franconia Notch and around the White Mountains before dropping down to Randolph. There, on the slopes of Randolph Hill, I visit with Run the Alps’ founder, Doug Mayer. With me, I have my running gear, and, the day prior, I’ve quick-walked up Gilman Mountain, jogged over to South Peak and descended into dusk on a favored, 6-mile loop near my home mountain. All okay, and so, when Doug says, let’s run a loop on Madison’s lower slopes around 5:00, I’m in.

Mts Madison and Adams, from distance (The Dome lies hidden beneath the wispy cloud in center of photo).

Mts Madison and Adams, from distance (The Dome lies hidden beneath the wispy cloud in center of photo).

If you run 99% of your trails solo, trail-running with another can distract: first, if you are the wheel-dog, and I am, there’s always motion ahead of you, the fringe kind that yanks your eyes its way, leaving your feet to fend for themselves among the roots and stones; then there’s companionship’s fuel – I don’t want to let another runner down by slowing him. And, though both canids at heart, we are different dogs: Doug’s slight, light on his paws; I am a blockier sled-puller.

So the start is predictable: I go out too fast, even as that adverb and intensifier wouldn’t occur to any observer. Along the mild early up of the Valley Way, my breathing – some machine run amok in the garden – alerts Doug; he slows, walks any real uptick, and we climb. Which, 50 minutes later, turns out to be 1600 feet where we pause to cross Snyder Brook.

“Okay, here’s the reward part,” says Doug. And it is. We slab above the brook to a balsam forest that could be imported from Maine’s coast, easing over its dense-needled, soft, auburn path to the Dome. There, the woods fall away, and a world of air and ridges coalesces before us. I stand there chuffing it all in.

We’re also on my father’s mountain, where, some 75 years ago, he worked in the nearby AMC hut and built his own little White Mountain legend as a 20-something, and where he led me first as a boy. But I have never been here.

The view up to Mt. Adams with its last, winking snow patches is superb, but its the Dome’s rock that holds my eye. Graceful swirls animate its surface, and its rough, mottled grays shift subtly. It is artful granite that tells of both its molten origins and millennia of weathers. The stone keeps swirling, and now I expect some little flute music to drift from the air, tune of a geologic dancing so long and slow that we rarely see it. Soon we will canter down, but for a moment I am outside of time.

And I have run here. I am a lucky dog.

The view up the Inlook, towards the Northern Presidentials.

Up close – looking up from the Dome. photo: Doug Mayer

Coda: Now, perhaps, you want to know where this Dome is. Ah, it’s already weathered so much, and a trail leads right to it, so it’s no secret. Here’s how to get there: go to the Appalachia trailhead parking lot in Randolph, NH; park there and sort out the array of possible trails to this sequence: Valley Way to Brookside to Kelton to Dome to Inlook to Beech Way to Airline back to parking.

Lace up your shoes.

Note: An original version of this appeared on the Run the Alps site, which, if you like mountains, is worth a visit: http://runthealps.com/

Leave a Comment

Filed under Arts, General, Henry David Thoreau, Living Deliberately, Nature, The Roost, Thoreau Quote