Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coming Out of the Water

I didn’t realize last time, when I called my post Reflections, that I would soon be reflecting on my 18 months of writing this blog, but that’s what I am doing today. If you have been a follower of this blog, even on occasion, you know that I have not posted anything in almost three weeks and now I have decided this will be my last post, at least in this spot.

It’s not because I don’t continue on a daily basis to watch the water outside my door. I do. It’s not because there aren’t issues about the Great Lakes to write about. There are. It’s not because I don’t have time to write (writing this blog doesn’t take much time) or that I am no longer interested in my environment. I definitely am.

I think it is more because I don’t want to become like the old lady who repeats and repeats and repeats herself to the point where no one hears her anymore. I could post more pictures about my neighborhood. I could post more reports about use or misuse of our waters. I could muse more about how I love where I live and how I am a Great Lakes Gal, but I think the time has come for me to stop.

That’s not to say that my interest has waned – far from it. Writing this blog has only increased my passion for the Great Lakes. I still plan to see more, learn more, and act more, and I will continue to follow other blogs, which do such a good job on informing me on my passion. If I have sparked your interest in this topic, I urge you to follow them, too. The sites I will continue to follow are the ones listed on my Blog List (see margin at the left).

In my very first posting, It’s Day One, I wrote that when I go swimming at the lake, I first wade in slowly before I take the plunge. What I didn’t comment on was how I come out of the water, but I could have said is that when I’m done swimming, I am wet and maybe even cold, but happy that I took the plunge. That’s how I feel about this blog. It’s time to come out of the water but I am leaving it glad I came in. I learned so much these past months, and I hope you have learned a little along the way too.

I’m glad I went swimming. Thanks for coming into the water with me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Water has reflective properties. That may not be exactly how a physicist would describe the way light changes direction at the water's edge, but I am sure you know what I mean. Who has not stood at the edge of a pond or a lake or even a bowl of water, and marveled at this phenomenon?

A poet would have different words and thoughts on reflection. Reflections on reflections, so to be speak. For now, I prefer to follow the advice given to writers – show, don’t tell, and I am going to show you three water pictures that show reflection.

The first two were taken this weekend in Western Massachusetts at a place called the Bridge of Flowers. Look carefully to see how the ovals are formed. The third photo was taken in my own backyard, at the local marina.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More on the Eco-Nightmare

Today I am following up on two things I mentioned in my last post about the BP Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.

1. It seems that Rush Limbaugh is blaming the Sierra Club for the whole thing. Why? Because he says the “greeniacs have been driving oil drilling offshore.” If you can stomach hearing Rush rant (it’s only a minute but a minute of Limbaugh seems like an eternity) you can click here. You can also click here to make a contribution to Sierra Club in their attempt to make Rush their top fundraiser. It’s worth $10, or even more, to send Rush a message on this issue.

2. I made reference to as a place to go for more information on what is happening in the Gulf. I didn’t realize that this website is sponsored by BP. The same website is listed in the BP ad today on the back page of the first section of the New York Times, where BP tells us what they are doing . Not exactly an objective third party are they?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The BP Eco-Nightmare

A while back, I wrote about changing the name of the Asian carp to make it sound better and therefore less threatening – and maybe even edible. (See January – What’s in a Name?) But changing the name of this invasive and destructive fish will not change its impact on the Great Lakes. What’s in a name that can change things?

However, right now I am not thinking about fish. I am continuing my thoughts about the disaster in the Gulf Coast. This morning I read two commentaries on naming this disaster. If you’ve noticed, in some places it is referred to as the Deepwater Horizon Blowout. That’s what CBS’s Sixty Minutes called it.

Joe Romm in his acclaimed blog Climate Progress wondered what we should really call this disaster. He then referred his readers to Dominique Browning who has an excellent post in her blog Personal Nature. Browning makes a connection between the floods in Nashville and the Gulf Coast disaster, which she says we cannot call either a leak or a spill. Neither do justice to the geyser that, hour after hour, day after day, is pouring out in the water. Both posts are worth reading.

Joe’s blog received several comments about the name. Everyone seems to agree that BP needs to be in the description just like Exxon Valdez was and still is following that disaster. Hear Exxon and what do you think? Oil Spill. Hear BP and what do you think? Not just the corner gas station anymore, that’s for sure.

There are several places you can go to learn what the public can do about the disaster, which I am afraid is not much. One place is the Sierra Club website. I found that the Wisconsin Chapter, named after Sierra Club founder John Muir, who was from Wisconsin, site is the easiest to use for contacting officials. Another site is the Deep Water Horizon Response site, but notice how they are not calling it what it really is. The BP Eco-Nightmare.

Addendum: In a press conference this morning, Senator Dick Durbin (D,IL), expressing frustration with the party responsible for the oil gush, said that BP should no longer stand for British Petroleum, but rather Beyond Patience. Good one, Dick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It Can Happen Here

I can't get the pictures of the Gulf Coast oil spill out of my mind, yet there isn't much I can do except be horrified. From what I have heard, even those down there who want to help have had their hands tied, unable to get the materials or permits they need to help. And quite frankly with the extent of the damage, how much can be done anyway?

So this morning I did the only thing I know how to do and that is to write a letter. I sent it to my local newspaper and it may or may not be printed (sure it will, they print everything). I am posting it here so others can see it, too. In case anyone asks, you saw it here first! Here it is:

The pictures and news from the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill are horrifying. When I hear about the destruction of this valuable ecosystem, one that may never come back after this devastating event, it makes me very sad. In addition, to call it an accident, adds insult to the injury. We are now hearing how many mistakes were made in construction and operation of the oilrig and how government agencies were at fault, too.

Maybe this could not have been totally prevented, but certainly more could have been done to save both the workers who were killed and the environment. Will we use this as a lesson? I would like to think that we would see, now more than ever, how we need to be weaned off fossil fuels.

If this event does not hit close enough for you, imagine such a catastrophe right outside our own homes in Lake Michigan. We may not experience an oil spill, but other cataclysmic events could destroy our ecosystem. Think of the effects pollution, invasive species, and water diversions can have on the Great Lakes. The destruction may not occur as quickly and as visibly as that which we are now seeing in the Gulf Coast, but don’t think it can’t happen here. It can and it will unless we protect this precious water.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Evolution of a Lighthouse

Lighthouses have a following. Some think them romantic; others think of them in the context of adventure and the high seas. I am not smitten with lighthouses except for the one that says ‘home’ to me when I see it, yet when I heard about the opening of the newly restored Southport Lighthouse, I had to go see it. They have been working on its restoration for quite a while and it finally opened this weekend.

The lighthouse dates back to 1866, but it is not the first lighthouse in the Kenosha harbor. Actually, Kenosha, which used to be called Southport, has had some kind of beacon reaching out into Lake Michigan since 1837, when a 10-foot oak tree was set on fire every night during shipping season. I learned that from the museum display inside the newly restored lighthouse keeper’s house. That’s an artist's rendition of it above.

The 1866 lighthouse could house two families, one upstairs, and one downstairs. Kenosha couldn’t have been such a bad assignment for a lighthouse keeper because it was near a thriving town. I remember a few years ago visiting the lighthouse at Raspberry Island in the Apostle Islands, and the keeper there was isolated for weeks on end. Even today at that sight, in the summer an employee of the National Park Service is out there alone, except for the tourists who come during the day. I suppose it’s a great summer job for a college student who wants to spend the summer reading, writing, or just contemplating. As a full time job for a family, I’m not so sure it was.

The current lighthouse, The North Pier Lighthouse, the one I always show pictures of and means I’m back home, dates back to 1906. It wasn’t always red, but I happen to like that it is now. You can learn more about it on-line at various sites. The new museum at the 1866 Southport Lighthouse traces the history of the Kenosha Harbor, and also has some displays of different kinds of lighthouse lenses.

My husband and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to which lighthouse we like best. I like the North Pier one best – I like that it is red and how it looks against the water and sky behind it. He likes the old brick of the Southport Lighthouse. If you are in our area, you should come and see them both as well as see the exhibits at lighthouse. Then you can decide for yourself which is more romantic or adventurous. Either way, it’s worth an hour of your time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts Clouding a Beautiful Morning

This morning, I took my first bike ride of the season on my favorite lakeshore path. It was a perfect spring morning; the grass is green, flowering trees are budding, and the tulips are in bloom. I only rode about twenty minutes each way but I enjoyed every minute of my ride.

But as I rode south from my house, and looked out over the sun dancing over the sparkling water, I could not get the Gulf Coast catastrophe out of my mind. I tried to imagine my beautiful body of water covered in oil and even the thought of it upset me. I watched the seagulls preening themselves on the remnants of old docks and imagined them covered in oil, too. I saw fishing boats and thought about the fishermen, commercial and recreational, who suffer from ecological disasters such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico.

I stopped at a favorite spot to rest. It is at the end of a dead end street near where I used to live. My children used to climb these rocks and play at the beach in the small cove here. That was almost thirty years ago and I am happy to see that the water is still crystal clear here (although the beach has been marked as Private Property and I have to wonder about that).

This morning the wind was coming from the south. As I approached Southport Park, I was reminded that the sewage treatment plant is at the west end of the park. You can’t always smell it, and this morning’s odor wasn’t as awful as it could be. People have reported that in the Gulf Coast there is a pervasive horrible oily smell. I can only imagine it, but again, another reminder of the current disaster in the Gulf interrupted my enjoyable ride.

I don’t know what kind of similar event could affect the Great Lakes so quickly and so profoundly as an oil spill, but I do know ecological disasters happen. Can they be prevented? Some, I suppose, can be like the entry of the Asian carp into the lakes or preventing sewage and toxic materials from being dumped in the water. Can the experts think of all possible scenarios and prevent them? Probably not, but it sure would be comforting to see efforts being taken to prevent the ones that we know what to do about.