Marcia Roepke
Trail Time

Trail Time – Winter-More Than a Season

Winter is more than a season. Winter is a mind-set and winter is a challenge and a joy. Like us, our neighbors spend a lot of time on snow removal, and we help each other out when we get stuck in a snowbank or a ditch. It’s a fairly common occurrence, and it’s very good to know your friends are there to help. A lot of shoveling, plowing and snowplowing takes place in the dark due to the short daylight hours of a northern winter.

 January brings us more light every day. The longer hours of daylight and the mild weather make a terrific combination for enjoying outdoor sports. The trails are in good condition for snowmobiling and skiing. Slush on lakes has been a widespread problem this year, and many dog teams had to scratch from the Gunflint Trail Mail Run Dogsled Race that was held a few weeks ago. But yesterday I went snowshoeing and skiing with a fun group on a small lake and we didn’t run into any slush at all.

In addition to snowshoeing, ice fishing, skiing and snowmobiling, January is also very good weather for book reading. I have acquired a solid stack of books to spend time with this winter. I read lot of nature books, and I have two books that are at the top of the pile:

 Arboretum Borealis by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

An Immense World by Ed Yong

Both books have loads of good solid, factual information and both have a couple of qualities that I share with the authors that makes us kin, in a way. They — and I — are passionate about our beautiful earth and full of wonder for nature. Here’s a bit of beautiful writing from the Introduction to Arboretum Borealis:

 “…the land of the Boreal itself spoke to me. The feeling was that of time married to music. I heard the notes of life.”

The author, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, describes plant species from the entire circumpolar Boreal forest, saying, “Nothing on earth compares to the evergreens of the Boreal forests in managing the most efficient photosynthesis in the cold and on the leanest diet of light, or as acting as a passive ground coolant.”

The book is divided into two sections: Trees and medicinal plants. A description of each tree is given, as well as its place in the “Global Garden.” But this book goes beyond a narrow recitation of facts. For example, in the section about the Tamarack, we find a paragraph about the molecular physics of the purity of water. The Eco-function of each trees species is explained and a Bio-plan offered, which details ways in which the particular tree can be used for industrial uses and for the health of the planet. A design section rounds out each species, where suggestions are given for using the tree or a cultivar in landscape gardening. It is a most unusual book. My only complaint is that it was bound so poorly. My paperback copy is coming apart at the spine.

The second book covers a topic that has fired my brain for a few years: How do animals experience the world? It begins by asking us to imagine a great room that houses a group of animals. There is an elephant, a mouse, a robin, an owl, a bat, a rattlesnake, a spider, a mosquito, a bumblebee and a human. The author then describes each animal’s unique sensory experience, offering comparisons and differences between the species. As the author says:

 “Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal can only tap into a small fraction of reality’s fullness. Each is enclosed within its own sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of an immense world.” He offers a wonderful German word for this sensory bubble: Umwelt. Each species has its own Umwelt, or perceptual world.

Eleven chapters in this book focus on how various creatures experience the world with their unique senses, followed by a chapter on uniting the senses and another on threatened Sensecapes, titled “Save the Quiet, Preserve the Dark,’ where he outlines how noise and light pollution threaten the survival of many species.

The quiet and the dark: two treasures we must never take for granted, up here in our beautiful boreal forest, on the Gunflint Trail.

 The author offers a German word to describe

Immense World: ”The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of an immense world.”

~  Marcia Roepke