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pipl_nest_007

Photo: Wayne Hathaway
The endangered Piping Plover is a species that actually benefited from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 — at least on Fire Island.

It’s a ill wind that blows nobody good, as they say, and the ill wind of Hurricane Sandy seems to be a case in point. As devastating as it was along the East Coast, there are reasons why an endangered shore bird benefited on Fire Island, a place I spent many youthful summers. Annie Roth has the story at the New York Times.

“The wrath of Hurricane Sandy’s powerful winds and violent storm surge left considerable damage across New York and New Jersey in October 2012. But for one tiny bird, the cataclysmic storm has been a big help. …

“The piping plover is a small, migratory shorebird that nests along North America’s Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast. The species, which is listed as endangered in New York State and threatened federally, has been the focus of intensive conservation efforts for decades. But on one island that was heavily damaged by the big storm, the piping plover population has increased by 93 percent, [as Katie Walker, a graduate student in wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech] and colleagues reported in the journal Ecosphere. …

“Fire Island, a 32-mile-long barrier island off the southern coast of Long Island that is popular with vacationers, was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy. The storm washed sand and seawater across the island, flooding homes, flattening dunes and breaching the island in three places.

“Sand deposited from Fire Island’s oceanside onto its bayside created a number of new sand flats. Some areas were also breached by seawater but most were filled by the Army Corps of Engineers shortly after the storm as part of the recovery effort. …

“Piping plovers like to nest on dry, flat sand close to the shoreline, where the insects and crustaceans they feed on are easily accessible. But over the past century, coastal development and recreational use of shorelines have vastly reduced the amount of waterfront property available. …

“For the past three years, the majority of new and returning plovers chose to nest in habitats generated by the storm. And now, for the first time in nearly a decade, Fire Island’s population of piping plovers is growing. …

“Barrier islands like Fire Island are known as early successional habitats, which means they require regular disturbance events to keep their ecosystems in check. Under normal circumstances, Fire Island would experience disturbance events on an annual basis. However, engineers have gone to great lengths to stabilize the island, and now only powerful storms like Sandy are able to have a significant impact on the island’s ecosystem.

“ ‘Barrier islands are very dynamic systems, they don’t stay the same from one year to the next. The species that inhabit them there are adapted to these changes, so if we try to keep these systems static, we are going to lose these species,’ said [Jonathan Cohen, assistant professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who was not involved with the study].

“Last year, 486 pairs of piping plovers nested along the shores of New York and New Jersey, approximately 10 percent of which did so on Fire Island. If current trends continue, the two states may soon reach their recovery goal of 575 breeding pairs set out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

More at the New York Times, here.

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I just went back to bathe in the golden glow of blogger KerryCan’s early summer memories here. I’ve been planning to take her up on the idea of sharing a childhood summer photo and letting train of thought take over.

KerryCan says she and her cousins had “absolutely nothing to worry about except breaking a plastic flip flop or getting sticky drips of Popsicle running down an arm,” which doesn’t quite fit my childhood. But I was always looking forward and believing something nice was coming.

I began dreaming of Fire Island in January or so — creating a paper pocket on our front door with Ocean Beach postcards tucked in and badgering grown-ups with “When are we going?”

And goodness knows, I dearly loved the ocean, swimming every day in my early teens unless there was a red warning flag. On choppy mornings, I might be the only one out there in front of the lifeguards.

Here I am at about age 10 with the older of my two brothers, probably competing for who could run fastest.

I didn’t learn until I was practically a grandmother that some kinds of competition with him might be ill-advised — like the time I tried to bend back my thumb the way his joints allow him to and ended up with a trigger finger and a hand operation! Ha, ha. Laughing now.

On this Atlantic beach, we used to dig for the tiny armadillo-like mole crabs that we called “jumpies.” Where are they now?

Fire-Island-in-the-50s

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I’ve been meaning to share a charmingly illustrated 1986 publication called The Book of Holidays around the World. The author is Alice van Straaten.

Her entry for January 1 mentions the Rose Bowl Parade, of all things, and how it was launched in 1890 in imitation of the Festival of Flowers in Nice, France.

She also describes a celebration in Greece honoring St. Basil: “Children go from door to door, carrying an apple, a paper ship — or a paper star — and receive coins for singing calends, carols of good wishes for the year.”

(Kind of makes me think of going door-to-door at day camp on Fire Island with a list of scavenger-hunt needs. Of course, in that case, you’d be asking for a paper ship or an apple, not carrying items to the houses. Summer renters were very tolerant of scavenger hunts. Today, you’d probably want to do a scavenger hunt only where you knew the neighbors.)

I’ll conclude with one more tradition, highlighted on the website Watching the Swedes.

“Almost every New Year’s Eve since 1896, a well-known person has stood on the stage at a Swedish open-air museum and recited the poem ‘Ring out Wild Bells’ by Lord Alfred Tennyson written in 1850. This may seem weird, but nowadays, the event is televised and attracts a large public. Translated into Swedish, the poem is called ‘Ring Klocka Ring’ and it has a very meaningful and deep content as we leave one year and enter into another.

“Various famous people, mostly actors, have had the honour of delivering this rousing poem throughout the years. Of the 20 narrators so far, only one has been a woman. However, this year the second female narrator – popular opera singer Malena Ehrman – will take the stage.”

Art: Edmund Dulac
Father Time, featured in The Book of Holidays around the World.

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Two grandsons are starting school this week and overcoming shyness, which got me talking to John about what happened one time when I was a shy first grader.

My family had stayed an extra month on Fire Island that year, which meant that when I got to first grade on the mainland, I didn’t know any of the routines. For example, I didn’t know what the lined paper that appeared on my desk after recess was for. (It turned out it was not for drawing a picture of a girl.)

Another routine was morning attendance. We would all sit quietly at our desks, and when Miss Dobbins called our name, we would say, “Here.”

This particular morning, I was really not feeling at all well but was too shy to raise my hand in the middle of a ritual. I didn’t want anyone to look at me.

But becoming increasingly desperate, I made up my mind that when my name was called, I would go up to the teacher’s desk and tell her I felt sick.

Miss Dobbins called my name. I got out of my seat quickly and hurried up to her desk and opened my mouth to say, “I feel sick,” and vomited all over her lap.

She didn’t get mad, just asked another teacher to hold the fort while she cleaned up and got me some help.

People looked at me after all.

(One always feels an urge to come up with a moral for every tale one tells children, but I don’t think this tale has one. Stuff happens to everyone. Even grandmas.)

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I spent my first couple decades vacationing on Fire Island, a barrier beach off New York’s Long Island. Once you get islands in your system, you never want to get them out.

Nowadays I frequent an island that is part of a state that calls itself an island, too: Rhode Island. Here are some pictures from my latest visit.

The photos are mostly self-explanatory, but I would like to draw your attention to the carrot. The young man in the photo pulled that carrot out of the ground for a neighbor, who gave it to him. His mother washed it, and he ate most of it in one sitting.

And he didn’t even feel like he had overdone the eating the way Peter Rabbit did. No need for a dose of chamomile tea.

2115-Galilee-for-fishing

082315-sheltered-harbor

082215-vase-on-deck

082315-one-big-carrot

2215-fuzzy-fruit

082215-blackberries

082315-about-sharks

082315-lobster-boat

082315-sold-to-pirates

082315-Southeast-Light

082215-sunset-RI

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I admit I dropped the poem-a-day e-mail from poets.org because I couldn’t keep up, but I saved a few that I liked recently.

This one by Alberto Rios, for example.

“One river gives
Its journey to the next.

“We give because someone gave to us.
“We give because nobody gave to us.

“We give because giving has changed us.
“We give because giving could have changed us. …

“You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
“Together we are simple green. You gave me

“What you did not have, and I gave you
“What I had to give—together, we made

“Something greater from the difference.”

Read the whole poem here.

Meanwhile, poet friends have been busy capturing present realities and past screen shots. Ronnie Hess wrote a poem inspired by watching home movies of her Fire Island childhood. It reads in part,

“follow your sister
“as she leaps and cartwheels along

“the beach into the sea. I see your eyes
“follow her, your mind dart,
“your body imitate her older moves.” The whole poem is at Quill and Parchment.

And poet Nancy Greenaway caught the mood of our endless winter with this roll-over-and-go-back-to-sleep nugget

Sleeping In
School vacation: time for winter hibernation.

Photo: svsnowgoose.com

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It’s a little hard to get my head around using this topic for an opera, but an article at FastCo Design makes it seem almost logical.

“A legendary 1960s battle over the urban design of New York City is getting its dramatic due. The struggle between urban planner Robert Moses and journalist/activist Jane Jacobs over Moses’s proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway will become an opera, thanks to composer Judd Greenstein and director Joshua Frankel.

“Moses and Jacobs had deeply divergent visions of New York City’s future. Moses was the powerful planner behind a swath of New York City expressways that displaced half a million people during his reign as the city’s master builder. He envisioned a city built for easy driving.

“Jacobs, who popularized the idea of eyes on the street — the notion that streets are safer and more vibrant when there are pedestrians on them — vehemently opposed Moses’s plans to raze Washington Square Park and much of Greenwich Village, where she lived, to build yet more miles of highway.” More here.

If you ask nicely, I will sing you the lyrics Arnold Horwitt wrote to the tune of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (substituting the word Moses) that the crowd sang on a ferry ride to protest a road Moses proposed for Fire Island.

Photo: FastCoDesign

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