Thursday, September 26, 2013

Autumnal review

Death and rebirth are beautiful things. Full photo on Flickr

Set for perpetual regrowth

Do you ever have those moments in your life where you feel like you're living in a film? Or maybe a good novel. Suddenly your whole life, where you live, who you love, what you do and who you are is revolving around you in slow motion, and you feel yourself defined. Hopefully what you see makes you happy.

The sensation can strike at any time, but I tend to believe certain conditions spur it on, and for me, autumn is filled with just the right ingredients. In these weeks when the trees are shifting colors, the air is crisp, gardens are being harvested, and hunting seasons are picking up is when nostalgia hits.

We reap now the seeds we sowed last spring, thus everything is in review. Our investments are set before us, our progress made evident. Marked on a mental timeline is where we've been, the steps we've taken, and how we arrived at who we are today - someone different than past us.

Just over a year ago, I wrote one of the heaviest pieces I've ever tangled with. At the time I was going through a very tumultuous, personal crisis, and this column gave me a way to express my grief. I felt isolated and lost, but reaching out to you, reader, was my way of wrestling depression.

At that time, reconnecting to nature allowed me to escape, while writing publicly about my pain forced me to face hard truth. When I asked for help I found it in the solace of words. Telling stories of freedom and adventure only served to create in me a hunger for more, which in turn forced me to seek more adventure to write about.

If I've learned one thing, it's that nature is full of positive energy, and following that pureness has lead me right where I need to be...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Trapper versus furbearer

The coyote that outfoxed two trappers. [Flickr Photo]

Canis latrans, a true survivalist

Two men wander through a forest made thick with fresh snowfall. Tree limbs bow low under the weight of a winter storm cascading over a dimming gray sky. The wind picks up to rustle snowflakes into the mens' bearded faces. Again and again, the blizzard cuts through the trees at the progress of the heavily-flanneled men, testing each footstep made in the rapidly growing snow drifts.

One man carries a shotgun, the other a flashlight. No words are exchanged as the pair tramp deeper into the dark wood with day's light quickly fading. Brutishly, yet quietly, the man with the flashlight steps over fallen trees in his wool pants, separating the ice and snow-laden underbrush by spreading his arms out in front of him. Behind him, his armed companion keeps his eyes up, off the ground and searching the lifeless, frozen tangle ahead of them. He is always listening, always watching for movement.

This isn't how trapping is supposed to go...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Aquatic invasive species

Collecting plankton samples on English Lake

A brief lesson in the changing biology of our lakes

Hand over hand I pulled the sock net into the boat. The porous fabric let lake water out while capturing tiny creatures inside. As I pulled up on it, the net ushered the little creatures into a plastic tube at the bottom, and once the seven-foot net was completely out of the water, I unlatched the tube at the end to see what was inside.

Thousands of tiny freshwater plankton - a brown cocktail of basic living organisms that look like insects you've never seen before - bubbled at the bottom of this 500 ml, white, scientific-looking tube. They came from the deepest part of English Lake, 25 feet below the surface of the water. Some of them were creepy crawlers with exoskeletons, others were just gelatinous blobs of life (think amoebas). But among the living test-tube cocktail squirmers we did not notice any spiny water fleas.

Originating from northern Europe and Asia, the planktonic spiny water flea is an invasive crustacean among our American waters. It was inadvertently introduced into the Great Lakes during the 1980s and has since been detected in inland waters in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New York and Ontario. In 2003 it was discovered in the Gile Flowage in Iron County...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Green and gold

Growing up a shareholder

The Pack is back. When the green and gold take the field in San Francisco this Sunday afternoon, it'll mark my 18th season as a true Packer fan. Consciously a Packer fan, I should say. See I remember watching Reggie White crush running backs on TV as a child before I understood what was going on - living rooms full of adults shouting at the television - that was my introduction.

It wasn't until '96, when Brett Favre led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title that I learned what Title Town meant. I remember that year well. The big game was cause enough for my parents to spring for a new television set to see the big game. We jumped up from our 15-inch dial set to a 30-inch monstrosity that came with a remote control! Oh the picture quality! The players were so huge.

A few years after those pair of Super Bowl trips in the 90's, we visited Green Bay to see training camp and tour the Packer Hall of Fame. Seeing the players in real life - how big they were, how fast they could move - truly blew my mind. I was in junior high school at the time, and though we didn't get to see a real game, we did spend the day in the shadow of Lambeau Field - the first great earthly monument I'd ever seen.

That all paled in comparison to when I went across the street for a slushy though. On my return to the bleachers where my family sat waiting for me, I was walking down the sidewalk alone when a tall figure came trotting up to me. His shadow blotted out the sun, and by the time I yanked my face up out of the slushy cup in my hand, he was nearly on top of me. His gaze met mine, a broad grin formed across his mouth, his eyes sparkled, and that's when Brett Favre greeted me, a dorky, awkward seventh grade boy who thought Packers were living gods, with a simple "howdy". A quick two-finger-mock-salute accompanied it, then he turned and leapt onto the charter bus that hauled the players from the practice field to some unknown location.

I've used howdy as a greeting ever since...