Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wilbo Discovers that He is a Wet Rabbit; In the Year of the Fire Monkey, He's Going to Go Bonkers over Orchids, Lichen and Raptors

As we have passed Imbolc, a Scottish holiday marking the return of the sun to the western hemisphere, thinking spring is honest thinking. Imbolc is usually the first of February, halfway between the winter and spring solstice. I was driving through Baraga when I saw magentas in the clouds to my west, driving to Houghton after a week in Muskegon. As we have passed Groundhog's Day, thinking of an early arrival to spring hardly seems delusional. Punxsutawney Phil failed to see shadow in that Pennsylvania town to east of US 219, and that means six weeks of cold and we're done with the white stuff and black ice. I was driving through the low mountains of Pennsylvania in June of 2007 and I decided to see Shanksville and the impact site of Flight 93 instead of seeing the hometown of Phil the groundhog. I regret not picking up visits to Punxsutawney and Shanksville because I love Bill Murray and his film, Groundhog Day. If they filmed in Punxsutawney, the cinematographer certainly made the town look attractive and cozy, a great place to try again and again for love.

Monday, February 8th ushers in Chinese New Year, this year the Year of the Fire Monkey. I was born in 1963, the Year of the Water Rabbit. Rabbits and Monkeys are said to be exact opposites; Water Rabbits and Fire Monkeys have to be even more antagonistic because water extinguishes fire! As we approach Chinese New Years, celebration of the return of the sun to the land, thinking about flora and fauna makes sense.
During lunch at the Jutila Center, part of Finlandia University, I took an elevator up to sixth floor, floors seven and eight of the former hospital unoccupied. On the walls, I witnessed about one hundred images of Keweenaw flowers, all captured by local photographer Harvey Desnick. Keweenaw has more than a dozen kinds of wild orchids growing in bogs and swamps, a connection to the wilds of the Amazon. Keweenaw has returned to a pristine, wild state after mining ceased and logging left stump lands. The stump lands have raised forests that look primeval and the mine walls have populated with lichens.

Karena Schmidt, on the staff of the USDA Forestry Service, gave a lecture Tuesday at the Calumet Library, touching on the almost seven hundred different kinds of lichen growing on poor rock and sandstone and float copper nuggets. Schmidt is hardly pursuing an odd hobby. She makes certain that the best graphite mines in the world can provide nuclear grade material to Lawrence Livermore National Lab and numerous clients.

Spring might be a great time to count orchids and lichens, field books in hands. I have yet to climb Mount Brockway, famous for a raptor count. The count proceeds for several days between April 28th and May 3rd. I am looking for the official days for 2016. I'll be all over Keweenaw spring like a hot monkey!

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