Solar Eclipse From Vermont

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The recent solar eclipse was a big deal all over the place. In the U.S. it was the big news, aside from the shenanigans in Washington. Here in Vermont we did not get to see totality. No moment of evening-in-the-middle-of-the-day for us. But we got a bit of a show nonetheless.

Early afternoon my lovely spouse set up a viewing station: four outdoor chairs facing south to see the sun, but on the edge of the shade. Just the right spot. Some cold drinks and snacks rounded out the event. All we needed were our special glasses.

We could have purchased some solar eclipse glasses, or goggles as we kept calling them, in plenty of time. By the time we got around to it, however, they were out of stock locally at the places we knew had carried them, so I went to the hardware store to see if they might have some. The woman working there did not answer directly but instead said “You can’t see the eclipse here.” I was happy to inform her that we, indeed, could see it, even though we would not get the total eclipse. She was happy to be, well, happy. She was really happy in fact. She said more than once to her colleague that she needed to go home, she was so excited. I don’t believe that was an option for her at that time.

My wife did order some glasses online, just in time. They were more expensive than the ones we missed by a day at the local toy store. Plus she had to order a pack of five. That, however, worked out well. There were four of us and, two days before the eclipse, I dropped one pair off at the hardware store for the clerk there. She hadn’t managed to find any yet. She was, again, pretty happy.

Out in the sunlight, on a perfect day to watch a solar eclipse, we donned our dark spectacles. Let me tell you, those things are dark. I was expecting them to be somewhat like sunglasses, only a little darker, but there was to be no walking around in those puppies. Eyes shaded, we looked up and exclaimed “Holy crap/Oh my god/No way/Whoa that is so cool!”  Variations of this exclamation were proclaimed several times by each of us.

And is was so cool. The disc of the sun getting partially covered by a round shadow does not sound like a lot of excitement. But seeing the sun, round and bright and just there day after day, disappear, even a little, was so different, so out of the everyday, so slowly dramatic, that we looked at it over and over and kept offering our amazement aloud to each other.

I was texting in real time with a friend in South Africa. He could not see the eclipse–not in the path and also night. I discovered the shadows on a chair in the photo above. Each spot of light through the leaves of the tree made its own little crescent shadow. It was an imperfect repeating pinhole viewer. I sent him that photo and it gave him a sense of the wonder of it. I tried hard to get photos of the eclipse itself, using instructions to do it safely and effectively, but failed in a big way. Memory will have to do.

After a couple of hours the moon and sun fell out of alignment. We picked up our empty beverage vessels, moved the chairs back to the porch, and got on with the rest of our summer day. It was a day to remember though. As shadows grew long we all headed out to town together for one thing or another and my wife looked over at the spot from which we had watched. “Remember that time we sat there and watched the solar eclipse?” she asked.

We sure did.

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Water this Summer

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High water on the Winooski River

I was planning to continue working on staining the house siding today. That wasn’t going to happen. I got up early enough. It was not raining, but it was going to rain. I didn’t want wet stain to get rained on. I would have had to stain it again. So I held off. Good thing. The rain came down.

It came down in sheets. Not for long, mind you, but in that short time we got a lot of rain, tossed around by strong winds. The forecast called for rain throughout the day and we got a few more bursts like that. Staining will have to wait.

I was away for a good chunk of June. My son and I were in New Hampshire last week. My wife was home and reported heavy rain, enough to flood our road, which I have never seen. Three inches of water fell in as many hours. That was mid-week.

My son and I came home on Saturday. As we headed west to Vermont it started to rain. It was a hard rain, so hard we slowed to a crawl it was so difficult to see. Once the rain let up a bit we kept going, slow but steady. We passed route 25A and I considered heading across that way, but decided to try 25C, farther north. But shortly after we turned onto that road we encountered a ROAD CLOSED sign. Maybe we should have taken 25A after all, I thought.

But at 25A we found a couple of rescue vehicles blocking the road. They were not there when we had passed the first time. I asked the man there if the road was blocked due to flooding. “I don’t think you’ll float,” he said, looking at our van, before adding that several other roads were closed. That was good information. Hopping onto the wifi at the store down the road (no cell service to be had), we chose a long route around. It took about three extra hours to get home that day.

I did get started on staining the house this week. We had a few days of sun. Yesterday I had to stop early. A thunderstorm moved in. I’ll get it done over time. I have some summer left. Water is high now. The ground is saturated. With more heavy rain like this, we might get more flooding. I hope we don’t get too much.

 

Climate March Montpelier

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Before things got started at the Montpelier People’s Climate March

Yesterday was the People’s Climate March. The big event was in Washington, of course, but Vermont had its own sister rally. My children and I, along with a friend of my daughter’s, went down to be a part of it.

We got there early to a busy city. There were baseball and basketball games at the high school, as well as a bike race through the capital. We were an hour early so we wandered a bit before finding a spot on the lawn to watch and to listen. There was no march, even though State Street was closed, so it was more a rally.

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A sampling of attendees and signs at the Montpelier Climate March

The crowd was decent-sized but I admit it seemed small after the Women’s March in January. Partly, I think, people are just not as fired up as they were the day after the inauguration. Plus, the Science March just happened last weekend and I imagine many people simply could not attend both. It was a beautiful day. It was a good day to do any number of things. And, frankly, climate change is a fuzzy thing. That is why it has gained less traction than so many other causes. The science is clear but the everyday impact on individuals? Not so much.

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The energy was pretty positive, despite the somber topic. Speakers had the same message: this stuff matters and is real, our current administration is working to make it worse, and we all need to keep fighting to make real change. There were adults and kids, teens and gray-beards. The crowd was pretty white, to be expected in Vermont.

I felt like it mattered just to show up. I wanted to show my kids that showing up is important and that there are other people out there who also care. Climate change does feel like a problem that isn’t getting addressed enough, and, like so many other people, it feels difficult to address on a personal level. But again, just being there to listen and to be around others who understand the gravity of it all seems to help.

It did give me some energy to stay positive and, maybe, to take some action. I mean, if this kid can rally for it, so can I.

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Town Meeting 2017

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Last year I missed our annual town meeting. My wife attended. She represented us while I stayed home with our offspring. This year I made the trek to the high school to sit and listen in the auditorium. As I drove over there I admit I reminisced a bit about the days when my wife and I went together, in a different town than the one in which we now live, and shared the experience. I miss that–experiencing it together and then processing it. Last night, however, I passed on what happened after I got home.

The school board meeting was first on the agenda. That used to be on a different day but moved to the same evening as town meeting recently. While the town meeting itself filled the auditorium, the school meeting offered plenty of empty seating–about 40 people were there, including the school board and the co-principals. We are shifting to a regional school system–several towns are merging to share resources and to save money. That was discussed, plus some positive school outcomes. It was helpful to be there.

The first big issue to be discussed at the general town meeting was whether the town would support a bond to fund a new town garage. That discussion got a bit sidetracked when someone asked how much debt the town has. While that answer is in the town report (at least as of the end of the last fiscal year) there was lots of discussion about how to interpret all the numbers in the report. Learning math pays off. No one really questioned the value of a new facility, just taking on more debt to do it.

We also discussed whether to help fund a project to try to eradicate Eurasian Milfoil from our local lake. This has been a problem in many places. This invasive plant will clog a lake, it is so prolific. It grows like, well, a weed. After attempts to remove it manually last year, the proposal is to use an herbicide to target the Milfoil to suppress it. Naturally, this created some interest in the topic and some folks had some things to say. Someone called for a paper ballot (rather than the usual voice vote) so this article took some time. In the end, it passed by what you might call a narrow margin.

I headed home in the rain, feeling that I was a little more a part of the town. I voted on the articles presented. I listened to what my fellow residents had to say, although I did not offer any words myself. I like that I get to see and hear from other people in town directly. This is a pretty small town, but still, there are plenty of people I just don’t encounter much, if at all. So it gives us all a chance to be part of something together, as a town, as a community, whether we all agree on things or not. I find some satisfaction in that.

This morning I made my way to the town hall to vote–for school board members, for selectboard members, for the high school budget, for new school buses, for that proposed town garage. I said hello to a few people. I thanked the town clerk for her years of service, and the volunteers for helping us all out. I grabbed a donut hole on the way out and headed back to work, civic duty done for now, feeling just a little more connected to my town. These days, I need that. I think we all do.

Women’s March Montpelier

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Like thousands of other people across the country and across the globe, I attended a march today.  I have never seen more people in Vermont’s capital than I did today. The Burlington Free Press estimated 15,000 people attended the rally. Some estimates were as high as 20,000.

We left early to get there in time to find parking and to get to Montpelier High School, where the march was scheduled to start. Still a good way from the interstate exit we were in the slow lane to turn off. Traffic was backed up before noon. The march was scheduled to start at 1:00. Good thing we left early.

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We later learned that the Montpelier exits on Interstate 89, both northbound and southbound exit 8, were closed. Then exits 7 and 9 were closed in both directions. There were a lot of people trying to express themselves in the capital city today.

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And express themselves they did. There were many signs, some clever, some hardhitting, all honest. I have put a few of them here.

We walked from the high school to the capital lawn. There were poets, politicians, speakers and musicians on hand to offer some guidance and inspiration. It was difficult to hear it all but that didn’t matter to me. Most people didn’t seem to mind. The atmosphere was a mix of celebration and pissed-offedness and determination to not stand for all the negativity of our new president. People are not happy about this change and they wanted to do something, to at least show up and demonstrate how much they do not support discrimination and oppression and fear.

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The message, on signs and in conversation and from speakers, was about supporting women, for sure; but it was also about fairness and equality for all in general. There were plenty of people who are just angry about our nation electing such a hateful man to represent us all and to lead us. “Not my president” was a common theme.

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Pussy hats and other pink hats, and just pink in general, was prolific. I wore a pink hat myself, borrowed from my spouse. My daughter, plus her friend and her mother, were in my party. There were plenty of my friends and colleagues and neighbors there, although I saw few of them. There were just so many damn people.

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I was inspired today. I felt more hopeful. It was a hell of a better day than yesterday. I am baffled that every day can bring more head-slapping, eye-rolling, are-you-f-ing-kidding-me news. It wasn’t just that I was around so many similar-minded people, although that was helpful. I was proud to be a Vermonter. I was proud to be around people who believe that kindness matters. I was proud of my country.

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Let me clear here. I am not upset with anyone who believes that government has a different role than I believe. I am not against anyone because of their political party affiliation. I can disagree with others on how things might be changed, or our national priorities, or how to make things better, or even what the problems are to begin with. But I cannot support this president. He is a nasty man. He is a liar. He is dangerous. I am frightened for our nation. I am not upset because “I lost” and I am not going to “get over it.”

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I know that many other people stand with me now. Change is hard. Apparently we have some work ahead of us. I am not sure what I will be able to do, but I guess I will need to be doing something. For now I am just angry and confused. In terms of what I am feeling, this guy with the green sign nailed it:

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Read more details about the Women’s March in Montpelier here.

Rainy June Days

IMG_0481It is sunny and warm this morning. It feels like summer. The sun is up, the air is humid. A Cardinal belts out his whistled song. The meadow grass bows. Across the road, the flood waters recede. It has rained for several days now, sometimes coming down hard. The river rose, then rose higher, then spilled into the fields.

My son and I wandered out into it a couple days ago. We chased frogs. They sang loudly enough to hear them across the field, but when we approached closely they clammed up and stayed hidden. Too shy for mammals I guess. We tromped through the new swamp, my cracked mud boots filling with water. We bushwhacked through the stand of willows, getting scratched and soaked. It was a blast.

Yesterday morning I wandered out to see how much flooding occurred. The field around the river with filled, although I have seen it higher. Water did not cover the road. Mallards swam far out, dabbling in the grasses for slugs. A Great Egret flew in later, wading through the pond, seeking out those frogs we heard. Maybe it would have better luck. A Great Blue Heron arrived while we ate dinner on the porch.

Already the water has dropped. The river will be within its banks today. Rain will likely fall again tomorrow. Thunderstorms will pop up more than once this month. June is here, and she is wearing summer. She looks lovely.

I Like May

IMG_0331I have spent a lot of time getting outside this month. Green has taken over from white and gray. Birds are singing. The sun shines or the rain falls. Winter is done. I have been loving May. It may, and this is a maybe mind you, be taking over as my favorite month. There is a pun in there, but let’s just let that go. Here is some of what I have been up to this month.

I visited Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge for the first time. The place was beautiful. I only explored some of it and will have to go back to see more at some point. I saw lots of birds, getting there first thing in the morning, including my first Black Tern and, right in the parking lot of my first stop, a Yellow-Throated Warbler.

I visited a few other spots as well. I just passed the 200 mark for birds species I have found this year, over 150 of them in Vermont. Like I said, I like May.

 

Leaves just emerging at MIssisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Leaves just emerging at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

I saw more than birds at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

I saw more than birds at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Northern Waterthrush at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Northern Waterthrush at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Boardwalk at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Boardwalk at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Dutchman's Breeches at Geprag's Community Park, Hinesburg

Dutchman’s Breeches at Geprag’s Community Park, Hinesburg

Trillium, Woodside Park, Colchester

Trillium, Woodside Park, Colchester

Woodside Park, Colchester

Woodside Park, Colchester

Bike Path, Burlington

Bike Path, Burlington

Shelburne Pond

Shelburne Pond

Clay-Colord Sparrow, a lifer for me, right in Hinesburg

Clay-Colord Sparrow, a lifer for me, right in Hinesburg

Yesterday morning, out early

Yesterday morning, out early

Golden-Winged Warbler welcoming the day with its buzzy song

Golden-Winged Warbler welcoming the day with its buzzy song