Posted in Uncategorized, tagged climate change, concord, ecology, environlment, global warming, Kathleen Burge, postaday, richard primack, scientist, thoreau, walden pond on March 10, 2013 |
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When you take pretty much the same walk every day, camera in hand, you may have trouble finding new things to photograph. You may look in vain for something different, puzzling, or mysterious.
But there is something to be said for combing the same territory over and over, as scientists are finding from studying the detailed record keeping of Henry David Thoreau.
“ ‘As far as I know, there is more information about the effect of climate change in Concord than any other place in the United States,’ said Richard Primack, a Boston University biologist who calls Concord a living lab for his research. …
Primack, writes Kathleen Burge at the Boston Globe, “has researched how climate change has affected the flowering times of plants, comparing modern data with the information Thoreau collected between 1852 and 1860. Primack and his lab found that for every 1 degree Celsius increase in mean spring temperature, plants bloom about three days earlier. …
“Primack came to his work about a decade ago, when he decided to change the direction of his research. He had been studying the effects of climate change on plants and animals in southeast Asia and decided, instead, to focus on his home state.
“But when he began searching for older records of plant flowering times in the United States, he came up short. Finally, after six months, someone told him about Thoreau’s journals.
“This was kind of a gold mine of data,” Primack said. “As soon as we saw it, we knew it was amazing.” More from the Globe.
Keep an eye open for the upcoming Thoreau exhibit at the Concord Museum April 12 to September 15, described here.
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We had to cut down a sick sugar maple near our house. The arborist counted the rings: 170.
170 years ago Thoreau walked around this neighborhood. Maybe he walked under the tree’s branches. Maybe at this time of year, he kicked up its fallen leaves. The abolitionist John Brown visited a house on this street, too.
Come to think of it, 170 years ago was roughly the period that Concord’s “genius cluster” hung out together, as author Susan Cheever describes the Concord writers in her book American Bloomsbury.
Somehow looking at the rings on a tree that you more or less took for granted makes you think about historical characters that always seemed in the distant past. You imagine that you might have had a nodding acquaintance with Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and various Alcotts if they hadn’t unfortunately died a few years before you came to town.
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Even people who think they know all about Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott and other Concord worthies often seem not to know Margaret Fuller. She was a key member of the “genius cluster” that author Susan Cheever has called the “American Bloomsbury.”
Although Fuller has passed from public awareness, in Concord it is different. Which is why a reading at the Concord Bookshop on January 29 was standing room only. Fuller’s latest biographer, John Matteson, was there to read about her “many lives” and engage in discussion about such abstruse topics as what Fuller thought of Emerson’s second wife. (Answer: Not much.)
It’s always amusing to attend a reading of a book about one of the Concord greats, as participants have such passionate feelings. Especially the Bronson Alcott fan base, who cannot bear to hear a word said against Louisa May
Alcott’s innovative but impractical father. I have been to a couple readings of books in which Louisa appears, and you can see Bronson’s partisans stiffening their spines, baring their fangs, and rising to the bait.
But who was Margaret Fuller? She was a first in many realms, including first female editor of the highly regarded 19th century literary magazine The Dial and the first overseas war correspondent. Matteson bemoaned the fact that she was probably best known, however, for the way she died, having perished in 1850 at age 40 in a shipwreck off Point o’ Woods, Fire Island.
That fact touches a nerve in me, I admit, since I spent all my childhood summers on Fire Island, and it is still a mystery why many of the ship’s passengers were saved while Margaret Fuller, her husband, and her baby drowned. Fortunately, interest in her life has been renewed, with Matteson’s book only one of several in which she plays a significant role.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged boston, concord, environment, environmental, fitchburg, living on earth, loe, naturalist, nature, radio, railroad, thoreau, tom montgomery fate, train, walden pond on June 18, 2011 |
Heard this interview today on the great environmental radio show Living on Earth. Tom Montgomery Fate talks about trying to “live deliberately” like H.D. Thoreau and connecting to nature and memories of his father in the woodland cabin he often escapes to. His book is Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild.
In the elementary school Suzanne attended, all second-graders learn about Thoreau, and as a parent volounteer, I went with her class to the cabin site at Walden Pond. The children had a quiz sheet with questions like, “What sounds would Thoreau have heard in his cabin?” The teacher asks, ”An airplane?” (All the kids say, “No-o-o!”) When the Living on Earth interviewer asked the author about his own retreat being near a noisy highway and a short walk to a pub, I was surprised that he didn’t point out that a Boston-Fitchburg train ran right along the edge of Walden Pond in Thoreau’s day, and that the famous naturalist had an easy walk back home to Concord for a Sunday dinner with his mother. Fate did explain that the Walden mystique was all about a mindset and keeping a balance between what’s important and the often numbing dailiness of modern life.
Asakiyume comments: Living deliberately. Something that’s very important to me about that concept is the notion that you can do it anywhere, in any circumstances. I’ll grant that some circumstances make it really hard: if you’re in a job you hate, or a relationship you hate–basically, if there’s some part of your life that’s putting a huge negative drain on you–I think it’s very hard. But I do think that living deliberately can be done in a suburb, in the country, in a city… not just in the wilderness. I think Thoreau wanted to mark, in actual space, his separation from mundane daily life, and I understand that. But I think it’s the mindset, not the location, that’s important.
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