Old & abandoned

Even trees get thirsty sometimes

With all the spring sun we’ve been getting in New England these days, even the trees are thirsty, sneaking surreptitious sips of high fructose corn syrup in the form of McDonald’s sodas. Either that, or “leaf litter” isn’t the only kind of dry detritus you can find in the woods in springtime.


Last week in Keene, we had our first fire warning of the season: a reminder that low humidity and dry leaf litter make for dangerously flammable forests. This weekend in Waban, the “fire” outside is metaphoric, with forsythia blooming like a yellow-hot blaze in suburban yards and gardens.

Although I mentioned Earth Day earlier this week, yesterday I was remiss in remembering Arbor Day. Steve was similarly remiss, mentioning today that he’d forgotten both Earth and Arbor Days, presumably because he was “not watching the calendar closely enough!” For good or ill, neither Earth nor Arbor Day is on my calendar, but I’d like to think that doesn’t matter: wouldn’t it better for us (and the health of the planet) if we spent less time watching our calendars and more time listening to trees?

In New England at least, the trees right now will tell you it’s spring, their “words” being unfolding leaves, blooming flowers, and (in the case of pines) a yellow dusting of pollen. Before he died, Thoreau had intended to construct a local “Kalendar” that, according to Bradley Dean, would provide a biological time-line of the natural year, with the blooming and breeding of plant and animal species serving as temporal markers:

Apparently he intended to write a comprehensive history of the natural phenomena that took place in his hometown each year. Although he planned to base his natural history of Concord upon field observations recorded in his journal over a period of several years, he would synthesize those observations so that he could construct a single “archetypal” year, a technique he had used to wonderful effect in Walden.

Maple blossoms

In my neck of the woods, I’ve learned, trout lilies bloom at the end of April, and forsythias flame not long after. I don’t need a calendar to remind me of that fact, just my blog (the 21st-century, high-tech equivalent of Thoreau’s journal) and photo archives. Next week, I’m hoping the wake-robin (Trillium erectum, also known as purple or red trillium) will be blooming since I have an unofficial ritual of blogging them on May 1st, whether at Goose Pond or Beech Hill. After May 1st, I’ve learned from years of New Hampshire living, the black flies will emerge, and my days in the woods around Keene will be numbered, at least until blood-sucking insects die off.

It might be true that the trees of the greater Boston area are fond of McDonald’s soda, but I’d prefer that instead of “loving it,” they simply leaf it. Steve rightfully notes that every day should be both Earth and Arbor day, for “When should we not be thinking about trees, about the health of the planet?” Between you and me, I think the trees in New England and elsewhere would be healthier if they just said no to soda.

This post is a roundabout excuse to mention two tree-related things. First, the Nature Conservancy is spearheading an effort called Plant a Billion Trees which is attempting to re-forest a richly bio-diverse (and unfortunately endangered) area in Brazil. If you, like Steve, can’t plant a tree in your urban backyard, you might consider donating to the cause of “One dollar – One tree – One planet.”


Second, don’t forget to submit your tree-related links and pictures to next month’s Festival of the Trees. You can send permalinks to mike (at) 10000birds (dot) com, submit them via the Contact page at 10,000 Bird’s, or use the Festival’s online submission form. The deadline is April 29, so get moving!

Out to dry

It rained last night but not this morning as forecast; now in the late afternoon, the sky has darkened with imminent thunderstorms. In the sodden aftermath of April showers, you sometimes find rain-soaked newspapers abandoned on benches, their inky images blurring as their pages return to pulp.

You might consider this an April update of an image I shared last November.

Lost, and free!

Today’s Photo Friday theme, Found Objects, has my name written all over it. Not only have I previously blogged found objects like a child’s stuffed octopus, a rain-soaked pair of glasses, and a dirty pacifier, I have an entire blog category devoted to the subject. In a world where it’s so incredibly easy to get lost, it gives me a sense of hope to think that sometimes, precious things like stuffed toys, blankets, and binkies are found.

Money grows on trees?

It seems similarly optimistic to think that someone stumbling upon a wallet in the woods would simply brace it on a branch, allowing its rightful owner to re-trace steps to re-claim it. Have I any way of knowing whether the various keys, watches, and cell phones (!!!) I’ve found in the woods over the years have ever found their way back to their rightful homes? No. But still, I hold out hope that somewhere and someday, possessors and possessions will be reunited, this wallet staying in precisely the same spot on a heavily traveled trail for several days before someone, rightful owner or otherwise, claimed it. Only a philosopher will dare ponder whether this wallet was finally found or merely lost again.

Matching pair

There’s something sad about a single lost glove bereft of both home and mate…but a matched but nevertheless lost pair is a real rarity. If you’re lost with a companion, are you truly lost? Or is a matched pair of gloves merely wandering, seeking adventure apart from any interfering appendage?

Found pacifier

Lost kitten

But if found objects like cast-off pacifiers give me hope, posters advertising the lost tug at my heart, pointing as they do to the way loved ones sometimes disappear and ultimately pass. It’s one thing to believe (on Good Friday of all days) in the God of Lost Things…but who but the most optimistic holds out hope for a kitten lost right before a massive snowfall? Whether one lost kitten makes it through another storm, shouldn’t we all find comfort knowing that someone, somewhere, believes, hopes, and prays she can?

Still lost

Love is akin to hope, so those who love truly hope deeply as well. The posters J and I spotted earlier this month for “missing Max” looked brand new, but Max hasn’t been seen since August. Is an entire season or more too long to hold out hope for a returned friend? At what point do you stop putting up posters or take down the weathered ones that remain, reminders that the lost aren’t always found? Or does a faithful friend ever stop looking, wondering, and hoping, believing in his heart of hearts that Max is out there somewhere, and okay?

If faith were enough to bring lost cats and kittens home, return wallets to their rightful owners, reconcile mis-matched mittens, and return toys, blankets, and binkies to the little ones who love them, we’d have nothing in the way of Lost and Found in this world. Instead, we live in a messy and dangerous place where we sometimes lose, forget, or misplace the things we value the most, and people who don’t know or care about the true value of our sentimental things find them as if by mistake, not knowing the love, hope, and disappointment they hold. These aren’t just lost animals and objects, you see: they’re forlorn wanderers looking for home.

Laundromat lost & found

Apparently my alter-ego works at Market Basket…and she left her name-tag at the laundromat just like Jared from Pizza Hut left his name-tag somewhere along Main Street last May.

For a rainy day

Today’s been a meteorological mess of a day, with classes at Keene State being canceled due to a whole night then day of rain, sleet, snow, and freezing rain. Right now, the rain is still falling onto saturated snow, so we’re under a flood warning: not a pleasant place to be given vivid memories of the last time Keene flooded. Still, it was momentarily cheering today to realize one of Keene’s other laundromats–my usual one being closed due to the weather–has an official lost and found board for all those stray keys and name-tags that get laundered out of customers’ pockets.

On a dismal, wintry-mix New Hampshire day, a girl’s best friends are her Anchor Drop rain boots and anyone who helps her find lost keys. At your service indeed!

Anger issues?

There’s feral furniture, and then there’s smashed furniture: the innocent, castoff victim of some anonymous party’s uncontrolled anger issues. I snapped this photo in Cambridge on my way home from the Zen Center on Sunday. I’d stopped in the bitter cold to photograph something else then was struck by the poignancy of someone else’s smashed chair. There but for the fruit of Zen practice go I.

Blogging has taken a temporary backseat to other demands: today is the first day of classes at Keene State, I’m getting ready to go to a west coast wedding this weekend, and my online classes are solidly settling into the stride of their eight-week term. Life is busy, but busy is good. Being busy pays the bills, being busy keeps me out of trouble, and being busy leaves me no time for unnecessary crack-ups.

Snow on fence

No sooner do I get home from Ohio, it seems, but it’s nearly time for me to go back to school: another example of time slipping out of my fingertips.

In one sense, I’ve already been back to school for more than a week. My new online term started last Monday, so two classes of students and I are well into the second of our eight weeks together. But for me, “back to school” refers to face-to-face classes, and those resume next week. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out where half of December and January have already gone. What happened to the long winter break I’d looked forward to during a busier-than-usual fall semester?

Feral in the snow

Time has a way of slipping away regardless of the traps and snares I set in its path. Yesterday I sat down with my Book of Lists–the notebook I use to organize teaching and other mundane tasks one to-do list at a time–and made the first set of lists for the new semester. For each day, a page; on each page, a list. Today, tomorrow, and the day after: here are the tasks, chores, and errands I have to do between now and then.

I have almost an entire book filled with such lists, and time slips away still. Do you know how many times I’ve lamented in occasional scribbled journal entries (some kept in the Book of Lists, and others elsewhere) about how I need to “tame time” through more efficient list-making, scheduling, and other time-management techniques? Despite all my organizational tips and tools, time refuses to slow for me. No matter how many times I make my lists and check them twice, time still continues to fly.

Tangle with tracks

Time, I’ve decided, is a wily creature that delights in wriggling from our grasp, creeping away into any tangle or thicket where we with our calendars, to-do lists, and time-lines cannot follow. Yesterday as I made yet another set of lists and noticed how my current Book of Lists is nearly full, I wondered whether I should keep it once I’ve moved onto its successor. I keep my journals–I have a portion of my bookshelf where they stand numbered and dated as they keep the time written within their leaves. How much more indicative of my days, I thought, is each day’s to-do list with its assortment of tasks Done and Still Undone?

They say Saint Peter stands at heaven’s gate with the Book of Life, a list he checks for the souls of the saved, their names appearing like a entries in a maitre d’s reservation book. Isn’t Saint Peter’s book merely a mythic version of my own Book of Lists, a whole lot of lives chronicled in his while mine keeps track of merely one? Time can’t be tamed, but it can be tracked, noted with each line-item like a snow-stamped footstep. Where have my days gone, and what (if anything) did I accomplish with them? Only the Book of Lists knows, if I dare page back and double-check the checked.

The second photo in this entry is intended as a visual reminder that even in the snowy wintertime, furniture sometimes chooses to go wild.


When I shot this photo of an odd glove found on the Cochituate Aqueduct trail in Newton, MA this morning, I hadn’t read the news item about a grad student in Pittsburgh who started a website to reunite lost gloves with their owners. Instead, this odd glove made me think about Blue Octie and the other lost objects I’ve blogged over the past year or so.

Although the odds of any odd glove being reunited with any given hand are low, we cling to hope when it’s our glove that’s lost or a glove we ourselves have found. Maybe what we find along with any odd glove is our own capacity to hold out hope?

You don’t need gloves–odd, matching, or otherwise–to click over to Riverside Rambles for this month’s Festival of Trees. Enjoy!

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