Archive for the ‘Celebrating our beautiful Earth’ Category

Stopped in My Tracks

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

IMG_1211 - Copy

     A few weeks ago, on one of my wanderings in the forest down the slope from our house, I saw a sight that stopped me in my tracks.  There, just inches above the ground were what looked for all the world like a pair of tiny breasts!  The two cream-colored globes, complete with perfectly placed, protruding nipples, seemed to have burst proudly from some gauzy-looking material.

     I stood and stared.  Then I noticed another one of these ‘breasts’ a few feet farther down the hill.  Then another and another, all within a small area.

     How could this be?  I have walked in this forest many, many times, in all seasons for 20 years, but have never seen anything like this!  Wouldn’t I have noticed?  Or could these ‘breasts’ have developed only this year, and not before?

     Of course I took pictures of them.  And since I had no idea what they could be, I sent a photo to my friend Chris, who knows far more about forest flora than I do.  She wrote me back, saying that they are likely ‘lattice puffballs,’ or, in Latin, colostoma lutescens.

     Now that I had a name to go on, I decided to do a little research. Chris was right.  These little ‘breasts’ are indeed a kind of puffball.  And puffballs are a type of fungus.  But unlike other forest fungi, such as mushrooms, whose spores are located on the outside of the fruiting body, puffballs’ spores are contained inside the fruiting body, in this case the little breast.

     When the spores inside this puffball mature, all that is needed is a little rain.  The drops exert sufficient pressure on the puffball to force the white powdery spores out through the ostiole, or what looks like the nipple.  Hence, the flecks of white powder I noticed here and there on the dead leaves surrounding the colostoma lutescens.  How I would love to be on hand sometime to see spores spewing from a puffball in the rain!

     I learned that these breast-like puffballs are mycorrizal, meaning they have a symbiotic relationship with plants.  In this case, the puffballs colonize the root system of the nearby oaks, increasing the trees’ absorption of water and nutrients.  The trees, in turn, provide the puffballs with carbohydrates the trees create during photosynthesis.

     A few days later, I went outside to see how the colostoma lutescens might have changed since I’d seen them.  Well, I could find no trace of them at all!  They had completely vanished.  I assumed they had completed their life cycle and dried up.  Still, I was surprised to see not even a hint of the previously fulsome little beings.  

     I wonder if I will ever see their like again!–April Moore 

 

Tiny Odes to Our Earth

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

    I am greatly pleased to offer here several very short–and lovely– poems composed by my friend Fred Andrle.  

Hairpin Curve in the River Saar

the slow river
forks around the tiny island
forever

 

 

 

rain against window

thunder
slams against my window
spring obstreporous

 

 

dogs in park

new spring morning
park wide-greening
dog after dog after dog

 

 

too hot too cold

too hot, too cold
too damp, too dry
the seasons humanized

 

sun and fields

everywhere I go
mother sun
brethren fields

 

Fred is a poet, playwright, and journalist living in Columbus, Ohio. His most recent poetry collection is “What Counts,”  (XOXOX Press, Gambier, Ohio, 2012).  Fred’s poetry was featured in the anthology “Prayers to Protest: Poems that Center and Bless Us”  (Pudding House Press), and his poem “The Book”, was read by Garrison Keillor on his public radio series “The Writer’s Almanac.” 

Fred has received Ohio Public Broadcasting and Regional Emmy awards for his radio and television programs. He currently writes as an independent journalist. His opinion columns have appeared in newspapers nationwide.

 

A Tribute to Basho

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

BashoMatsuo

One of my truly sweet memories from a mostly unhappy year of teaching fourth grade was when I taught my students about a Japanese poet who wrote beautifully about nature.

Basho, the seventeenth century master of haiku, is beloved in Japan still, more than 300 years after he lived.

I had long taken pleasure in Basho’s haikus, these 17-syllable slivers of nature, lovingly and creatively wrought.  But only when I found myself enchanted by the description of him in the fourth grade literature book did it occur to me to share him with my students.

Through tender story-telling and rich illustrations, the lit book portrayed Basho as a kind and gentle soul.  He deeply loved nature and took long sojourns, on foot, all over the Japanese countryside.  And in these woodland wanderings he found inspiration for his poems.

Although Basho did not invent haiku–the three-line poem with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third–it is fair to say that he popularized it.  And in addition to his many nature-themed haikus, Basho also wrote humorous ones, some gently poking fun at himself.

My students responded wonderfully to Basho!  They were fascinated by his peripatetic life, and they delighted in the immediacy of his tiny poems.  We read many of them and talked about how they made us feel, about the pictures they evoked in our minds.  And we had fun writing our own haikus.

I know that much of why I found sharing Basho with my students so rewarding is that I was giving them something I truly love.  And they received it in the same spirit.  Kids can readily tell when their teacher’s enthusiasm for a subject is real, when he or she is coming from the heart.

Recalling this experience from more than a decade ago made me decide to learn more about the nature-loving Basho.  So I was surprised, although I probably shouldn’t have been, to learn that the real Basho’s life was not as ideal as that portrayed in an elementary school literature book!

While Basho was famous and revered in his lifetime, he was often lonely and dissatisfied. A star in fashionable literary circles, he later renounced the social, urban, literary life to live instead as a recluse.  But the solitary life did not make him happy either.

It was after his little hut that some disciples had built for him burned down and his mother died, that Basho decided to take to the road.  This was considered a very dangerous act in medieval Japan.  Basho himself expected to die in the middle of nowhere or to be killed by bandits.

To the poet’s great surprise, the wandering life brightened his mood; his depression lifted.  Basho enjoyed his days spent walking, taking pleasure in the changing scenery and seasons.  His poems took on a less introspective tone, as he observed—and delighted in—the natural world around him.

But historians tell us that Basho never found lasting happiness.  He could never feel at peace with himself and was constantly in the throes of mental turmoil.  At one point, he wrote a friend, “ I am disturbed by others.  I have no peace of mind.”

I was surprised to learn of Basho’s deep discontent.  I wondered if his idealized wanderings were actually attempts to escape his inner torment.  Perhaps like me, and many others, he was able to lose himself in nature, there to live in the moment, not plagued by the worries and obsessions that plagued him at other times.

Here are a few of Basho’s poems.  (note that, in translation, haiku can lose its 5-7-5 structure)

About nature:

A cicada shell;
it sang itself utterly away.

An ancient pond…
a frog leaps in
the splash of water.

A little irreverent:

Bush warbler
shits on the rice cakes
on the porch rail.

A little self-deprecating:

Now then, let’s go out
To enjoy the snow. . . .until
I slip and fall.

Finally, I love this line from Basho’s final work, his masterpiece, THE NARROW ROAD TO THE INTERIOR.  “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.  Seek what they sought.”April Moore

 

 

 

 

 

From a Nature Lover’s Broken Heart

Friday, November 18th, 2016
What an amazing sight--the sun coming over the ridge seemed to focus all its illuminating energy on a single dogwood.

What an amazing sight–the sun coming over the ridge seemed to focus all its illuminating energy on a single dogwood.

   

 This morning my daily exercise routine was punctuated by a surge of joy.  

     Looking out the window, I noticed a handful of dried leaves suddenly fly off a little red maple, swirl rapidly around each other, then quickly disperse.

     Moments like this one gladden and feed my heart.  But these nature delights, for me, have their shadow side as well.

     Never far removed from my great pleasure in nature is grief.  How quickly my joyous heart becomes my broken heart.  I grieve that the natural beauty I see from every window of my home is far less healthy than it once was;  I grieve for the many species silently disappearing all around me;  I grieve that we are not acting nearly fast enough to prevent climate change from making my little granddaughters’ future very difficult.

     For me it can be a challenge to let myself feel all of this, both the great joy and the great grief.  But as the poet Stanley Kunitz says, “the heart breaks and breaks, and lives by breaking.”  To be heart-broken is to be truly alive.

      When I think of our efforts to protect the planet, the decades-old saying, “little victories, big defeats” crosses my mind.  We do win victories;  the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have truly improved the quality of our air and water;  some species, through great effort, have been saved from extinction; and certain pristine lands have been set aside for protection.  

     But meanwhile, we are rapidly losing so much more than we are gaining.  Scientists tell us we are in the Sixth Great Extinction in the earth’s four billion year history.  Species are disappearing at a rate that has been matched only five times before.  Ever.  What’s different this time is that it’ a living creature–namely humans–that are the main cause.  And that’s why scientists have named this period the Anthropocene.  Man has become the main driver of changes in the biosphere.

     And now we are entering a new era, the era of  President Trump.  As frightening and discouraging as it is to hear him vow to scrap the Paris climate accord, to open up all of our public lands to oil and gas drilling, and to undo the federal Clean Power Plan, I am heartened by the determination I see on the part of environmental organizations to work  harder than they ever have to prevent Trump from sacrificing our treasured planet for the short-term greed of the fossil fuel industry. 

     I will continue to let my heart break open to the beauty that surrounds me.  And I will remember the words of Jane Goodall, “there is still a lot left that is worth fighting for.”   We cannot know how successful we will be in saving our planet, but we can never give up on Mother Earth.April Moore 

 

 

 

 

You Are Still Amazing

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

turned tree photo 

   On a recent morning, my forest wanderings drew me to look at a downed tree.  This mighty chestnut oak, who once soared high above the earth, has lain on the forest floor now for quite some time.

    I have seen this dead tree many times.  But this day it was a marvel.  Some fierce wind had once pushed it so hard that its giant root base was ripped right from the earth.  Standing near the broad, tangled, sandy mass of roots, I looked out over the trunk’s length.  On and on it snaked along the ground.  Walking its length was a journey of more than 30 steps.

     Imagine being this tall, thrusting so far away from the ground.  As I bent down and felt the furrowed bark along the tapering trunk, I thought how seldom I am this close to the top of a giant tree.  Typically, I can observe a tree’s top only from far below.  Those top branches are so far away.  And here is the top of the tree, right beside me, so close, resting on the ground. 

      I love the chestnut oaks that dominate the forest near our house, whether standing and flourishing in leafy extravagance, or lying dead on the ground.  Even this tree, the flow of life through its trunk stilled, feeds my spirit.–April Moore

An Ode to Dead Leaves

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

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Dry brown leaves
Resting on the forest floor,
Brittle,  thin, lifeless.
Their work is done.

Once they were young,
Fresh, supple, and oh so green,
Open to the sun’s rays
And carrying that sunshine
Straight into the tree,
Bringing the tree exactly what it needs
To live and grow.

And once a leaf’s work is complete,
Its life drains away
And the leaf lets go.
Sever
ed from the tree from which it came,
The
 tree the leaf fed for many months.

Now the leaf lies shriveled and curled,
Lying among its fellows
On the forest floor.

Yet even in death, the leaf gives life,
Each dead leaf returns to the soil,
To support and feed a new tree,
This time from below.-
-April Moore

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth Connection is Back!

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Greetings, all of you who love our marvelous and endangered planet!

     After a very long ‘silence,’ I have decided to revive THE EARTH CONNECTION.  The last time I posted here was February 2015.  That was when I told readers I was suspending my postings in order to devote myself fully to a run for the Virginia state senate.

     I didn’t win.  Nonetheless, I feel very good about the run I made.  I became a candidate because of my passion about climate change and my desire to find a much bigger platform to sound the alarm in defense of our Mother Earth.  The campaign gave me a marvelous opportunity to do just that.  I made the most of it.   And thanks to messaging help from my husband Andy Schmookler, my message got out there widely and boldly.

     Even though the election was last November, it has taken me this long to be ready to put significant energy into a solitary, creative space like THE EARTH CONNECTION.  Instead, I have been continuing to work, as a board member, with two organizations dedicated, in different ways, to protecting the planet–the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

     And now I want to resume publishing THE EARTH CONNECTION.

     I plan to post at least once a month.  I hope you will continue to follow my blog.  And please spread the word if you like what you see here.  Remember, it is free to subscribe to THE EARTH CONNECTION.  By subscribing, you will receive an email to alert you every time there is a new  EARTH CONNECTION posting.  And, of course I do not share THE EARTH CONNECTION’s subscriber list with anyone.

     And one more thing–I am always open to posting other people’s work–poems, photos, narratives, etc.  Thanks!–April Moore

 

 

Some Big News–Part II

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

My husband Andy, our friend Laura, and I were talking over lunch recently about how I might reach more people with my climate message.  (See Some Big News–Part I)

Andy, who is remarkably creative and a great strategic thinker, came up with the idea that there was a platform right here in Virginia’s political arena, available to me.   Andy saw a perfect intersection between climate change and the high degree of corruption in our Virginia government.  Even people who are not receptive to my climate message most likely don’t want a state government that regularly sacrifices the public good to wealthy special interests.

When our current state senator Mark Obenshain, a powerful, well-funded, savvy politician, acts to impede responsible action on climate, that’s just part of a much larger picture of the corruption of our legislature by big money.  The General Assembly’s deplorable refusal to address the climate crisis takes us directly into the deep sickness in Virginia politics today.  Obenshain, who came close to winning statewide office two years ago, and many of his fellow legislators, are serving as lackeys for big corporate interests.  

For example, the General Assembly just passed a bill to exempt the utility Dominion Power from state oversight for five years.  Obenshain supported the legislation (written by Dominion itself) that will increase the monopoly’s profits, at the cost of higher utility bills for more than two million households (including tens of thousands of customers here in the district Obenshain is supposed to represent). 

Related to the grip big money holds over the General Assembly is the refusal by Obenshain and many of his colleagues to enact meaningful ethics reform.  In the wake of an ethics scandal that resulted in former Governor McDonnell being sentenced to prison, Obenshain and others succeeded in blocking real reform.  Instead, the legislature passed a toothless gesture that changes little.

And ethics reform is sorely needed!  The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI) ranks Virginia 47th among the 50 states when it comes to government integrity.  Further, Virginia earns an F on the corruption risk report card CPI issues for each state.

These terrible ethics scores are unacceptable to me, and I imagine, to a great many other Virginians, liberal and conservative alike.  Mark Obenshain is on the wrong side of the ethics issue, and a vigorous truth-telling campaign against him might get even good conservatives who have supported him in the past to see that.  

Fighting for a General Assembly that serves the people, rather than big corporate interests, is an essential part of fighting for an effective response to the climate crisis here in Virginia.  We can’t let Obenshain and his ilk sacrifice our grandchildren for the short-term profits of a giant monopoly utility.

And so, on March 17, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I will officially announce my campaign against Mark Obenshain to represent this district in the Virginia state senate.  So my work as a climate warrior is taking a new and unexpected turn.

And now I have a special additional reason to move outside my comfort zone for this mission.  More on that in the next installment!–April Moore

 

Some Big News–Part I

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

I didn ‘t see this coming.  As recently as two weeks ago this big decision wasn’t even on my radar.  But because of an unexpected turn in the trail, I find myself taking a leap that I hadn’t anticipated or planned.  

If you are a regular visitor to this site, you likely know how determined I have been for quite awhile in my efforts to address climate change.  I love this planet.  I love the living earth. That’s what this website–The Earth Connection.org–is all about.  And it pains me deeply to contemplate what we’re doing to this marvelous planet and to the well-being of life on earth. 

Because of my grief, anger, and fear about the planet we are likely leaving to my two dear granddaughters and to all young people, I have made myself a ‘climate warrior.’  I’ve made several January plunges into the Potomac River to raise money for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), an organization Bill McKibben describes as “the most effective regional climate organization in the entire world!”  I am honored to now be a member of  CCAN’s board.  I have also been going around, every chance I get, talking to various groups about the climate crisis.  Reactions are often quite chilly–stony faces, arms crossed tightly across chests.  The only audience in which most react with the concern and commitment I want to see are high school students in a gifted and talented program.  But these speaking opportunities have been few and far between.  And turnout is often trivial, making the energy and effort I expend far out of proportion.

On one such day, Monday, February 9, after I spoke to a group of just eight elderly ladies, I had lunch with my husband Andy and my friend Laura.  In our conversation, a question arose–how could I get bigger audiences for my talks?

That question precipitated a quite unexpected, creative breakthrough and life decision.  Stay tuned for the ‘rest of the story!’– April Moore  

Wintertime Observations

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

woods_in_winter

Starting in June of 2013, I spent a year making weekly visits to the same little spot in the forest on the side of the ridge where I live in the Shenandoah Valley.  During each visit I jotted my observations in a little book.  It was a fascinating experience to notice the changes in one small patch of forest over the cycle of four seasons.

Here, at THE EARTH CONNECTION, I have been, from time to time, sharing some of those observations.  Below are some of my jottings from the months of January and February of last year:

  • The ground is covered in snow.  And with the leaning tree trunk that always marked the spot now fallen, I have to do some searching to find my ‘spot.’  I notice quite a few footprints.  Clearly, animals have been making their way across my spot.
  • Crows call in the distance.  I hear the wind blowing in the treetops, high overhead, but all is quiet on the ground, where I sit on a log.
  • Subdued winter beauty in all directions.  The snow-covered ground is punctuated with brown twigs poking through the whiteness, angling every which way.  To see some green, I must raise my head and look high into the tops of the giant White Pines.
  • The air is still, except for a woodpecker, hard at work in the distance.
  • The forest is mainly brown now, except for a stripe of snow here and there, hidden from the sun in the curve of a log or the lee of a stump.
  • The wind picks up.  Downed, dead leaves whisper among themselves as they whirl about, disturbed by the wind.  I hear from down the hill a tree creaking under the wind’s push.
  • Now, toward the end of February, bits of color are starting to emerge.  The tiny, outermost twigs growing from the thin, woody plants in my spot are red!  Just a few of them!  They are even tipped with tiny red buds.  Spring can’t be far off!–April Moore      

 

 

 

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