What do the frugal use of money and living a life with minimal impact on the environment have in common? Quite a lot in fact, for there is a strong connection between living with a minimal environmental impact and living a sound economic life. It is no coincidence that economy and ecology have the same root eco which denotes home.
Environmental philosophies have evolve as the humans moved from hunter/gatherer into producer/consumer. Once it was apparent that ignoring environmental degradation could not continue, the first age of pollution regulation, the Age of Ignorance waned. Searching for solutions, we entered into the Age of Dilution. It soon became apparent that the growth of human populations, continued industrial and agricultural growth, and the production of exotic chemicals would force the Age of Dilution to be a short one. The birth of the Age of Exclusion has been a traumatic one as we have realize that we may have little time to affect change.
In the beginning there were three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The original concept of the Three Rs was intended to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills. It was soon apparent, however, that there were many other Rs which could be undertaken to reduce the amount of waste and pollution we each produce.
I first met Karen Skowron just after I started Living Gently Quarterly. Our conversations led to several articles and poems by Karen published in past issues. Karen has many wonderful ideas on how to live a gently lifestyle. She is a lifestyle consultant with a background in psychology, and a superb writer. In addition, Karen, the originator of the term Natural Habitat Houses, has turned several urban properties back to a more natural state and advises others on changing lifestyles.
This day starts in the darkness of night, which is fitting, with me in the midst of a midwinter night's dream. This night, I can enjoy many hours of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, for it is the 24-hour period north of the equatorial zone with the most hours of darkness. On this ultimate day of rest, even the mighty Sun stands momentarily still in the sky.
Whether warm Spring weather will be with us soon is still unknown to the super computers at the weather service offices. But out in the fields of North America, the answer my friend is blowing in the...oops, wrong thought. The answer is lying under the sun because "The Shadow knows!" Most particularly, the shadow of that subterranean species Marmota monax.
The First Day of Spring to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. To everything there is a season: To renewal and procreation. To life force and fertility. To dancing and feasting. To plowing and sowing. To nest-building and mating rituals. To emergence and blooming. To warm winds and refreshing rains.
Each year, Spring begins to migrate northward along the eastern/Atlantic regions of North America from the ever-warm reaches of south Florida to the Canadian Maritime Provinces, eastern Quebec and New England. While the media appear to want Spring to start "on the dot" with the Equinox, nature does not work that way. Studies have established that Spring migrates northward along the coast of eastern North America at about 27 kilometres per day (17 miles per day) at sea-level.
The Summer Solstice: for many, this date signifies the official start of the summer season, although some cultures more attuned to the sun's celestial position recognize this date as midsummer, the central date in that quarter of the year with the most potential sunlight.
With the beginning of solar autumn at Lammastide, the Sun enters its old age, its golden months. The heat of summer lingers a
little longer, perhaps even bringing in the Dog Days of August. The ripening grains are followed by the ripening of the fruits
of tree and vine. A perfect time to give thanks to the Earth for its bounty and beauty.
While living in the Great Lakes basin, one of my most anticipated annual events as Indian Summer. Indian Summer brought the region a stretch of several days with warm afternoons, mild and the bright visage of autumn crimson and gold foliage against rich blue overhead skies treated all of my senses with a vast panorama of sensuality.
The Halcyon Days encompass the fourteen-day period centered on the Winter Solstice when the sea is commanded to be calm and the wind light by none other than Aeolus, keeper of the winds and one of the lesser Greek deities. In the Mediterranean region where this belief originated, the weather is typically calm around the time of the Winter Solstice.
The European pagan festival of Yule has many elements which we have adopted for our year-end holiday celebrations. The focus of this celebration is the Winter Solstice, for Yule observes the death and rebirth of the Sun, whose light and heat gives life.
Weather and various atmospheric phenomena are, in my opinion, the most sensual aspects of life. We see weather, we hear weather, we smell weather and occasionally taste weather, and we definitely feel weather. We often stop listing the senses there, but other physical senses also respond to the weather, as do many mental and spiritual senses. I combine them all under the umbrella of having a weather eye, being sensually aware of the weather around us.
I do want to give you a list of some interesting things to look for in the sky while weather watching. They are generally common, but some may be seasonal in your region. All are quite fascinating, and I throw in a bit of science here to explain why they occur.
The storms of the past week have long filled in, but the winds of one yet to come push rollers across the high-tide beach. I sit...my jacket rustling in the wind...and I feel a spirit moving through me, rustling my soul in sympathetic response. I have known and still find science and poetry intermingled when my Weather Eyes are looking up. In many ways, shapes and spirits, weather brings to me rapture, wonder, a connectedness with the divine. In essence, Enchantment.
One month characterizes Spring within its 31 days: March, the unpredictable month, "in like a lion, out like a lamb" -- or the other way around. Not only changes from in and out but, for most areas of North America, extreme changes in a matter of days.
September's hidden season provides many fine sensual experiences while keeping the essence of summer close at hand. For the great inner half of the continent, September is a month to be savoured like a fine vintage wine, not swallowed as a bitter pill.
I recall a bright late-October morning when I gazed out my window to see dawn's rays glistening off lawns and low hedges fuzzy with frost. Grass blades puffed out like hoary feathers of a great frost bird, the morning air fragile with autumnal breath now visible.
On my wall hangs a glass vessel looking like a stretched teapot, a Christmas gift from my mother. To its far left hangs an electronic barometer; to its right sits a desktop aneroid barometer. Fitting perhaps, since this glass vessel is a style of barometer that has hung in homes for centuries. Known by many names including the weather glass, storm glass, and water barometer, it offers an aid to simple weather forecasting by showing pressure changes as water rises or falls in its "spout."
A distant booming drew my attention away from the engaging novel I was reading. My ears would have perked and swivelled -- were they able -- trying to pinpoint the source of the ruckus. My first thoughts drew in the day's weather forecast: "Chance of thundershowers."
Autumn may be a strange time to be watching towering cumulus clouds for most North Americans, but here on Vancouver Island, it is the prime season. My cloud-watching this day, however, had an added purpose: I was hunting for cloud men.
The snow people, known colloquially as snowmen, have always been silent inhabitants of the winter season, but, like the Sasquatch of the Pacific Coastal Mountains, little is truly known about the race. In particular, we do not know where they go during the warm seasons of the year. Some say they move underground or underwater to avoid the heat; others that they migrate north with the frost line, ultimately hiding within the boreal forests until the cold again spreads southward.
Why is Chicago called the Windy City? For many years, I have believed that Chicago received its nickname The Windy City as a consequence of its bidding war for the 1893 World's Fair. However, recently Barry Popik, a word-sleuth and consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, has made me aware that the name had been applied at least a decade earlier in many newspapers and may have originated from weather considerations.
A while back, I had the opportunity to address a group of school teachers. In one presentation, the speaker showed us an overhead presenting an illustration that he felt was ideally designed for his students, but he did not know the illustrator's name. I knew the minute the slide went up, before he had even mentioned its anonymity: it was a work of Eric Sloane., artist, cultural historian and weather artist.
In 1941, Random House published Storm by George Rippey Stewart. The book became a best seller and a special pocketbook edition would follow US servicemen and women into war. The book has further claims to fame including the inspiration for a Lerner and Loewe song "They Call The Wind Maria." However, its most lasting legacy stems from the widely held belief that the book gave birth to the practice of naming tropical storms.
Its words are our most beloved and well-known spiritual songs: Amazing Grace, written by John Newton, who tells us of his life-changing experience with a storm at sea. Here is his story, one so extraordinary that one biographer claimed his life could have been the model for Coleridge's Ancient Mariner in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
A traditional form of Japanese poetry, the haiku, has a strong traditional connection with the seasons and weather. The connection is not an accident, for many of the early haiku poets concluded that one common experience of all people was the changing of the weather with the seasons.
Weather events large and small have long inspired the creativity of poets and painters, novelists and composers. Perhaps their inspiration comes from primal stirring with their breasts as weather swirls around them. And what more compelling way can artists draw our attention to their works than by using common themes that stir all of us?
Sky painting in murals likely began with the ancient Greeks, and some surviving Roman landscape murals show realistic sky scenes. Early Chinese landscapes included renditions of fog and simple cumuli. Many early Christian works focused on clouds used as a vehicle for Christ's second coming and other Biblical characters. In general, however, sky details were neglected and skies were just given colour as a background in most pictorial art until the 15th Century.
First and foremost, I am a weather watcher, but I also enjoy looking past the lower atmosphere toward those sparkling dots in the heavens. Star-gazing and planet-watching can be a very rewarding experience, particularly when you allow yourself to transcend time and place.
Over the past few months, questions from my readers concerning a phenomenon they observed revealed something completely new to me. One query said: "We're getting some kind of frost that doesn't look like either rime or hoar frost. It appears every morning in the same exact areas (scattered spots), and melts during the day. It resembles ribbons of Christmas candy, some only attached to the ground at its base."
If you have ever trudged through deep winter snows, you can begin to imagine the difficulty of travelling through polar regions with common footgear — and I am not talking about shoes versus boots. I am focusing this piece on the snowshoe, in part because I feel it has deeper North American roots, tied with the Native Americans of the northern, but not always arctic, regions and adapted by fur trappers and mountain men.
Bitter cold arctic winds blow across a landscape recently dressed in a robe of snow crystals. No doubt: winter arrived last night, bursting the extended autumn glow. No delaying bringing out the winterwear ensemble now. I pull out The Box; it contains: gloves and mittens; scarves, toques, a balaclava or two, and a single pair of earmuffs. Emergent from the plastic garment bag, the down parka regains prominence in the closet hierarchy, the new alpha coat.
Following my daughter's wedding, we took the long, leisure route back home to Vancouver Island via British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. There, we spent an added day touring the local wineries from Kelowna to Peachland. As is the custom at each vineyard, we were encouraged to taste the results of the establishment's vintage. But at one, there was a brand that cost a toonie to taste: icewine. Our curiosity peeked we had heard of icewines but never tasted any we bought a glass or two.
On this glorious autumn morning, I have ventured away from my office to personally view some of southern Vancouver Island's most uplifting weather. My destination is the shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Beechey Head in East Sooke Park. During this time of year, this is a popular gathering spot...for turkey vultures.
When I walked out into the neighbourhood park earlier, many of the trees and shrubs were tinselled with gossamer threads, shining in the early morning sun. My walk this early autumn morning also reminded me of those years when later summer/early autumn meant considerable discomfort as my nasal passages reacted to the concentration of pollens, spores and moulds in the air.
High in the atmosphere above the magnetic poles, the solar wind from the Sun interacts with the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere to produce the incredible beauty of the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) around the northern magnetic pole and the aurora australis around the southern pole.
Unless otherwise indicated, all articles written by Keith C. Heidorn.