Monthly Archives: August 2016

Boom Acorn Drop: A Predictor?

Acorn Drop on Patio Photo by Faye

Acorn Drop on Patio
Photo by Faye

Weather folklore:

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, will cause snow to gather in a hurry.

 I awaken these mornings to the sound of acorns pummeling off the solarium glass roof adjacent to my bedroom. Usually, the rat-a-tat cacophony arrives in early fall. The sheer volume, like marbles falling from the sky, landing on my patio, is disconcerting.

Perhaps, it’s the fact that as a gardener, I live close to the ground. I check plantings, their needs, aware of baby rabbits chewing tender plants, aphids nestling on tree leaves and plants. This summer, I’m on alert about the extremes—soaring temperatures, the absence of rain, the shrinking pond water, the withering oaks.

In contrast, the squirrels and chipmunks are whizzing about, on speed mode. Everywhere on my patio there is evidence of these critters at work. Acorn shells are scattered and broken. Squirrels leaping up and down the pine branches alongside the driveway are fat-bellied. Chipmunks scurry and bolt in and out of their rock fence holes with lightening speed. These burrowing and arboreal rodents appear to be preparing for the worst.

Could the worst be an early and lengthy, snow-piled-high winter? In the midst of heat and drought— I became curious about the relationship of massive acorn drops and winter. Could there be a correlation?

Gratefully, I turned to Google for facts. According to the August 9th Blog of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, oak trees have irregular cycles of boom and bust. Boom times are called “mast years” and occur every two to five years.

Thankfully, a mast year is not a predictor of a severe winter ahead. Ironically, a study reported on the Accu-Weather Blog indicates that to understand a boom acorn drop, we need hindsight. Yes, looking back at the life cycle of the oak and how it births acorns gives us data for the future.

The volume of acorn production each year is partially controlled by external factors like the effect of precipitation on acorn development. The acorns of today began forming 2-3 years ago. As a result, the acorn crop piling up on my patio, in my lily beds, circling the hosta plants, rolling down the hill onto the driveway, was set in motion during the past MILD winters. The mild weather allows the trees to conserve resources and produce more acorns.

Case in point: two years ago, during the winter of 2014, my patio was piled six to eight feet high in snow and ice. In comparison, last winter was very mild. It was the 2nd warmest on record in Boston, just behind the winter of 2001-02. A major part of that was December, which was a standout month for remarkable warmth. No wonder the acorn harvest is a banner crop this season.

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry have no bearing on snow gathering in a hurry. Once again, I am grateful to realize how important it is to consider possibility and complexity when delving into observations from nature.







Grateful I Have Most of My Teeth

Photo by Marv

Photo by Marv

Scene: six years old, sitting on my father’s lap. Dr Brownstone, our family dentist, drills a lower, right tooth. I want to scream and wiggle, but cannot. My Dad holds me tight— one arm around my waist, the other across my chest. The loud and ponderous 1938 drill felt like a dangerous weapon in my young mouth.

By the time I was eight, cavities and the prerequisite drillings were a constant. I drank ample milk, ate cottage cheese and slices of Kraft American. A doctor told Mom to add an abundance of green peppers— preferably raw—to my diet. It’s not wonder I handed off my salad green peppers to my granddaughter the other night at dinner. I enjoy red or orange or yellow peppers. Green peppers give me the shivers.

My current dentist is Dr. Krowne; I kid you not. I struggled with dentist-anxiety for years until I was referred to Ken (yes, we are friends at this point and he is likely reading this blog). To say that I was nervous that first appointment with Ken is an understatement. For most of the time, we talked— about my history, my fears, and in particular my worries as I was fast approaching the need for multiple crowns given how many layers of fillings my teeth held.

This past Sunday night, I chipped a crowned tooth that had recently undergone a root canal. Ken fit me in the very next day. As I settled into the chair, I noticed the recent films from my root canal on a monitor. A thick file was open in his lap. I was not surprised at his recommendation, “The crown split. You will need a new one.”

Ken is forthright. He had warned that the root canal treatment might compromise the crown. Pouring over his notes, he noted that the porcelain crown was over a dozen years old. At that time, I was in the midst of treatment for mercury toxicity and we had agreed on a mercury-free product. This time, he recommended a gold center with porcelain surrounding. My gold crowns have held up well. I felt safe with his suggestion.

If you haven’t undertaken a crown replacement, the wear and tear is grueling. There is—the drilling down, the dust flying, the water spraying, the shaping of the impression, the tiny fear that the taffy-like compound will harden and won’t release, the bitter taste of the cord wrapped at the base of the tooth. Ken talked me through it, and in between, we chatted about Natalie Cole singing in the background, his summer vacation, my time away at Chautauqua.

At the end, I tell Ken how grateful I am for his competence. I tell him he has literally saved me from the fate of my parents and brother, who had to resort to false teeth. His response: a broad grin with kindness in his eyes. Kindness eases pain, kindness eases anxiety. I am grateful.


Alan & Arlene Alda: An Original Couple

Alan & Arlene Alda M. Snider Photo

Alan & Arlene Alda
M. Snider Photo

“Where will your imagination take you,” Arlene Alda asked, as she and her “Hawkeye” husband of sixty years shared the stage @ Chautauqua’s Creative Expression week with Roger Rosenblatt, a close friend. I was grateful to be front and center, writing away, grabbing the trio’s spirited nuggets and wellspring of stories.

Grateful to have come from a first generation where education was key, Alan’s voice bubbled. “How glad I am I can still be a kid,” commenting on his ability to take risks and follow his curiosity. “When I notice, I feel alive in the present.”

Now eighty, Alan began with a discussion of his book, Never get Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I’ve Learned. He philosophized, “We are all going to die. We need a lot of laughs before we die…” At age eight, Alan’s beloved dog died suddenly. Sobbing, Alan and his dad carried the beloved pet across a field, intending to bury him. But as Alan was digging, he could not stop sobbing. In reaction, his dad suggested it might be better to stuff the dog so that Alan could always keep him. Stuffing seemed better than burying. The decision was made.

Weeks later, recovered from the loss, Alan was faced with a dog fresh back from the taxidermist. Sitting on blue velvet in the living room, the once lively pet had a horrifying expression in his glass eyes. Alan’s memory was irrevocably altered. “You can’t hang onto something that goes. We can’t hold onto the people who die. We have to let successes go. We have to let failures go and move on. If you hang onto it, it becomes a stuffed dog. It only becomes a pale charade of what it was when it was alive,” he reflected.

Arlene elaborated on how being in the present, following the imaginative trigger of her images, is a gift. A classical clarinetist, she evolved as a writer through photography. As a musician, she interpreted the composer’s art. In contrast, writing required a leap of imagination and courage. She likened it to Doctorow’s metaphor of how a car’s headlights in a fog illuminates slowly, bit by bit.

Author of sixteen children’s books and four adult books Arlene said of her recent, Just Kids from the Bronx, “What I tried to do was chronologically pick out from each person’s conversation that story which was not only personal to them, but which we could all identify with, be amused by, be saddened by.”

I was totally identified with and grateful to resonate with the creative and spontaneous aspects of the Alder’s lives. Mindful curiosity in action, I thought.

“If there weren’t originality, everything would be the same,” Arlene pondered. “The voice one finds in writing is a distinct voice, and the voices that one finds in writing are distinct so in that sense there is that core of originality and the possibility of the original.

“The themes remain the same. It’s how we interpret them,” Alan elaborated. Amen!