Not sprung yet…

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According to calendars and the threshold we’ve set, spring doesn’t begin until March 20. However, nature, as is typical, proceeds as its own pace as we seek to make it fit our arbitrary measures. The reality is all around us. Already plants are producing new leaves and flowers, responding to the subtle changes in light and temperature, proceeding on cycles we are evermore losing touch with. We’d do well to notice more how life is a process–evolving and unfolding, shifting and growing–and much less a rigid, static happenstance. Stop, look, listen, smell–use your senses to notice more; take in the perspective that can be gained from that which surrounds you. Seek out places that engage you.

For more details on the March equinox: All you need to know.

Hungry birds in the rain

I could NOT take my eyes off the bird activity in the backyard during the recent heavy rains—mostly a few dozen robins (& others) enthusiastically devouring berries from what might be a Sambucus or Elder (the smooth leaf margins are confusing my efforts to id it). Of course, robins are known for sometimes foraging en masse like this. This day, it was in the middle of the heaviest downpour.

All that rain

It rained…a lot. Not as much as in a big, multi-day storm a couple of Februarys ago, but a pretty good hit. My rain gauge registered a good 7 inches over a few days.  (Of course, it’s only the 15th, so the month can still find a good robustness.)

According to press reports, most Bay Area cities are at 100% of average annual rainfall for the rain year that starts measuring on October 1 and doesn’t end until for a couple more months as well as for the calendar year.  It’s good to not be in a drought.

Of course, it’s difficult not to juxtapose all the water falling form the sky with the previous two smoke-filled Autumns. Nature is a study of contrast, chaos and balance.

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Showing the scale of my rain gauge.

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The inner tube captures an inch of measured rain; then the water in the outter tube is poured into the inner to determine the amount.

There was quite a bit of news leading up to the rain, much of it catastrophizing the potential impact. Overall, even though it was a relatively strong storm, it was not out of range for out typical seasonal rain events.  As I mentioned, my rain gauge here showed about 7 inches over a few days; I’ve included a chart of rainfall totals provided by the National Weather Service Bay Area office.  (Which, of course, I can do because they aren’t in shutdown mode; though they kept activities in motion during the last one, there were detrimental effects and limitations in the robustness of their data.)  A nearby weather station measured just over 8.25 inches over the past 7 days.

While I really, truly understand the need to warn people in advance about potential hazards and urge caution (some people need a lot of warning to be cautious), I’m concerned that the tone of much of the coverage has gotten more catastrophic and hyperbolic, inducing and stocking fear about the weather and natural occurrences.  I’m troubled that this invokes anxiety and unnerves some people about nature. With all the evidence pointing to a disconnect from nature, and the unfavorable impacts on health and well-being, I think we need to realign how we communicate about natural phenomena—and in this case I mean the media, and, to some extent, people at the National Weather Service providing information and interviews TO the media.

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AND, just to really address a current peeve of mine: We have always had “atmospheric river” phenomena influencing weather on the west coast—always—it’s not a new thing. The atmosphere drives weather to us, and sometimes, periodically during the rainy season, conditions align to drive a great deal of warm, moist air to us.  In fact, our ability to maintain water supplies is linked to having several large storms each season. My perspective is that media reporting jumped on the phrasing a few years ago and has used it relentlessly and to sensationalize—clickbait mentality wins again!

So, always be safe, but don’t get over-wrought about headlines or stories in the regular media concerning the day-to-day weather—context is everything.

Not rolling stones do gather moss

When we moved in to our current place 2 years ago (in March!); I added a few moderate-sized boulders to the yard—they are a lovely hardscape addition to our more “natural” yard landscape, but I really delight in the moss that grow on them.  In fact, when I was at the, um, rock yard, to pick them out, I was particularly focused on the amount of existing (at that time of the year very dry) moss clumps, to the great amusement of the guy driving the tractor to move the rock.

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Rosy Winter’s Day

These roses were blooming last week between storms. Roses are a lovely forerunner of seasonality!

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Although not a botany lesson, I love the use of imagery in the Bette Midler song*. Not pertinent to our area where nothing is beneath any snows, but…:

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long.
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong.
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

*Yes, as far as I am concerned it’s her song…and her movie…but kudos to the song writer, Amanda McBroom.

And remember! Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to start fertilizing your roses! (Because OF COURSE you’ve already pruned them…) I have found great success with these options. (With the stakes, you can poke them in and forget them for several months.)

 

Celebrating another stable orbit

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As we move into the new year on the Gregorian calendar, it’s interesting to note a couple of achievements in space exploration that recently took place.

(Incidentally, the Lunar New Year is the beginning of a year whose months are coordinated by the cycles of the moon. Chinese New Year 2019 begins on February 5—it’s the year of the Pig.)

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first photo of Ultima Thule

In a first, just at the close of the old year, NASA—our civilian space agency that sometimes conducts military missions—confirmed that their New Horizons spacecraft explored Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule, marking the first encounter with a celestial body this distance from the earth, and possibly the oldest space object ever explored.

Another first, just at the beginning of the new year, the China National Space Administration (CNSA)—a military agency that sometimes conducts civilian missions—landed the first space vehicle on the dark, or lunar farside, of the moon. It’s quite an achievement that will hopefully spur additional efforts. This side of the moon is blocked from direct communication with the earth, requiring a relay satellite for the lander to send data and receive commands. This unique position also blocks Electromagnetic interference (EMI), also called radio-frequency interference (RFI), offering a potentially pristine opportunity for deep space exploration if devices can be positioned to take advantage of this position while still being able to effectively communication with earth.

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China’s Chang’e 4 probe

From Space.com:

It takes the moon about the same amount of time to spin once on its axis as it does for the natural satellite to orbit the Earth: 27.3 days. Because of this “tidal locking,” we only ever see one face of the moon, which we call the near side.

The PBS NewsHour Science Correspondent, Miles O’Brien, offered interesting insight on this achievement.

While we are marking the transition of a year:

The Ten Best Science Books of 2018 according to Smithsonian magazine: These titles explore the wide-ranging implications of new discoveries and experiments, while grounding them in historical context.

Nine science stories to watch in 2019 according to the Los Angeles Times.

Stories likely to make headlines in 2019 according to Science.

Short Mindful, Benefits

A couple of recent studies about mindfulness meditation suggest “even a very small ‘dose’ can have beneficial effects in individuals with very little or no practice.” Meaning that even people who don’t meditate regularly can benefit from even one short session of mindfulness meditation.ocean-stone-pyramid-on-beach-fotolia_94897402_subscription_monthly_m.jpg

The suggestion is not that short, irregular meditation is preferable but that any meditation can be a benefit. There are also previous studies that point to the benefits of regular meditation.

I’m not regular enough about when I do it, but I try to be consistent about inserting meditative moments throughout my day. Some of the best practices start with sincere intention that build on even occasional meditation sessions.

Set an intention to make an opportunity to meditate soon! An audio of a guided meditation session might be a real asset to you. The version that works best can be a personal preference, so try a few out—you can find them through a web search, or in your online audio file source (like iTunes) including podcast sources, or even in app stores.

Read the full study.