Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: The Environment

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Monday, October 15, is Blog Action Day, in which bloggers are encouraged to write for that day on a single topic. This year the topic is "the environment." You can learn more about the event here.

"Are you walking a marathon?"

The woman at the table next to us in our local Subway posed the question a few days ago. Mary and I figured it had partly to do with Mary's T-shirt for the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge, a 3.5-mile run in which both of us had participated back in 2002.

Maybe it had to do with us looking as though we had walked. Which we had....

Our "post office walk" is roughly two miles round trip. The no-frills version takes us from home to our local post office and back, but sometimes (we explained) we take an extra jog to the water tower and/or what we call the "post office pond" several blocks away. The pond is a favorite hangout of frogs, dragonflies, ibises, egrets, and other cool creatures.

Male Halloween Pennant
Male Halloween Pennant dragonfly

Sometimes we just take an extra jog anywhere. It's about six miles from home to the local Quizno's and back, four miles round-trip for the library.

Pines 5
Mary carts trash and recyclables that she's picked up by the side of the road during a walk to Quizno's. A major town thoroughfare is to her left; the woods are to her right.

"Why is she walking? Doesn't she have a car?"

A friend, to whom someone had asked that question several years ago after seeing me, replied, "She's from the north. They walk up there."

Horn Pond, Woburn, about 1985
The trail around Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts

My biggest adjustment after moving to Florida wasn't the heat, as I'd expected it to be. It wasn't the humidity, or the bugs, or the palm trees, or even the occasional Confederate flag display. It was having to drive to get places. I grew up on the New York subway and continued my love affair with public transportation when my allegiance changed to the metro Boston "T". I didn't get a driver's license until I was 31.

Avenue N Subway Station, Brooklyn, NY, 1996
Avenue N subway station on the F train line (BMT) in Brooklyn, NY -- my home stop when I was growing up.

JFK-UMass T-Station
JFK-UMass "T" stop on the Red line in Dorchester, MA -- my home stop before I moved to Florida.

There's no subway where I live. No bus system. There is a county transport van for those in need. Some brave souls bicycle on the county roads, but that's a scary proposition -- and I say that as one who's bicycled through Boston and environs. The "environs" stretch across much of Massachusetts, into New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and down to my home town.

Bike Map
This map hung on my office wall. The red lines mark where I bicycled in 1995 on my 1983 Univega touring bike, which has a heavy steel frame and handlebars that I changed to non-aerodynamic uprights. I bicycled around 3,500 miles that year.

The long line snaking down through Connecticut and off the bottom left of the map represents the first Boston-New York AIDS Ride (261 miles in 3 days, minus a gap of 19 miles when the organizers had to close the route between the 4th rest stop and our camp outside Bridgeport, CT, due to bad weather). The line tracing the hook of Cape Cod represents my longest one-day ride (so far) of 137 miles. The line extending into New Hampshire and off the top of the map represents my first century ride, which totaled 131 miles.

My most difficult ride is represented by the red line extending in an almost straight horizontal line into the middle of Massachusetts. From my July 9, 1995, journal entry:

"Yesterday we made it to Barre, just before the Quabbin Reservoir. This was a hard one -- beginning in Princeton, we climbed a shoulder of Mt. Wachusett, and the first climb was a long, steady uphill. By the time we did another steady but shorter climb my quads were burning lactic acid; on more than one occasion I was about ready to get off and walk.The last .2 mi on Rt 62 into Barre was an incredibly steep climb -- the only one, David said, where he habitually uses his “granny gear.” I don’t have a “granny gear” -- after the first minute of climbing I dismounted and walked the final hill. My lowest gear is something like 5 gears higher than the one David was using, and by this time my quads were shot. I told myself: Why suffer? Besides, we’d be taking another 50+ mi to get home, on a 114-mi round trip."

1995 Boston-New York AIDS Ride
I stand before bicycles on the night before the start of the first Boston-New York AIDS Ride in September 1995. I was one of thousands of riders.

When I have to, I rely on my car, which is 17 years old and has 26,076 miles on it at the time of this writing. It didn't pass into my hands until five years ago, when its mileage was around 11,000. At age 44 I became a motor vehicle owner for the first time.

I've learned to love my sweat. Walking is great exercise, it doesn't burn fossil fuels, and it creates its own wind chill when the heat index (and sometimes actual temperature) is in the triple digits. During hot summer days I wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. I carry water and a face cloth. Paradoxically, I sweat more when I step into an air-conditioned building because I've stopped walking and no longer create my own breeze.

Closed Due to Hurricane

(Not that much breeze.)

Walking is ecologically friendly in other ways. One literally stops to smell the roses. Or, more likely down here, the jasmine.

Star Jasmine Flower
Star Jasmine flower

This time of year I call out greetings to Gulf Fritillary butterflies in addition to my human neighbors. Saddlebag dragonflies hover overhead.

Gulf Fritillary 4
Gulf Fritillary butterfly

The walks increase my awareness of whom I share this corner of the planet with. Instead of the isolation of enclosure in a steel or fiberglass frame, I experience a communion with the natural world.

Large Scoliid Wasp
Scoliid Wasp. I estimate that the abdomen alone on this wasp is at least an inch long. Thanks to Tom Bentley at Bugguide.Net for the ID.

Walking means you're not alone.

155 Ibises Plus 1 Cattle Egret
155 White Ibises plus 1 Cattle Egret

Unless you want to be.

Dorchester Bay, Massachusetts 7
Carson Beach, Dorchester Bay, Massachusetts. The walk from home to Castle Island and back measured 7-1/2 miles. During low tide, like that shown here, I walked up and down the beach gathering sea-worn glass, broken bits of crockery, and other discards that I recycled into mixed-media art -- like that shown here.

My newly-published science fiction/anthropological fiction novel deals with problems arising from extinctions (you can read more about it here). In addition to the environmental sensibilities I've picked up on my walks, I've also learned from my work in the environmental research area at Abt Associates Inc. and from transcribing shows for the environmental radio program Living On Earth.

Deviations: Covenant can be pre-ordered from Aisling Press and from Barnes and Noble. The Deviations page has additional details.


Blogger Unknown said...

This coalition is making sure Congress sends the president a strong energy bill with meaningful changes for our environment and planet. This legislation would be a monumental step toward stopping global warming. Go to
and sign the petition. The link helps make blog action day so much sweeter!

10:51 PM  

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