Monday, January 30, 2012

Politics 2012 - and it's only January

January 10: The New Hampshire Primary.  It's a big deal here.  We're the first in the nation to vote on the presidential candidates.

I'm an Independent who votes the Democratic ballot based on its history, principles and traditions.  It's a vote that demands I keep my voice alive and "out there"... not falling into "silence is complicity"... not letting my responsibilities stop with the one act of voting.

This year, the Republicans had a roster of candidates that filled our hearts with dread -- Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, Romney, Huntsman, Bachman.  We face extreme politics that could strip away everything I value -- public education, women's rights, single payer health care, environmental safeguards, conservation, a social agenda that protects (in deed not only mouth) the civil rights of everyone in this country.
Voting in an old New England Town House makes me feel connected to my country, my town, my roots.  It's quintessential New England -- the wood stove, food, a bake sale, jeans and fleece.  The talk is civil, more or less.  It's where we live, after all, where we see our neighbors, police + firemen, town officials, teachers, young + old, face-to-face.

January 19:  Real Heroes.  This lady, a widow from northern New Hampshire, refuses to sell her farm to the Northern Pass Project.  Northern Pass is offering huge, inflated sums of money to create high-tower transmission lines from the Canadian border to Groveton. There are no existing Right-of-Ways to this point, so Northern Pass thinks it can buy out local landowners.  This private venture promises big money to landowners in a poor part of the state.

She lives on a farm that's been in her husband's family for generations. She doesn't want to sell it to Northern Pass for many reasons. Her grandson wants to farm it again.  She loves where she lives. She doesn't in believe this project -- or its tactics of threatening eminent domain and turning family members against one another.  

After she said, No, she had legal expenses. She became dragged into controversy.  But today, she's recognized for the heroine she is.  The Northern Pass Opposition held a fundraiser and turned over a check to help her with those legal fees and other expenses.

This is what freedom and choice and doing the right thing is all about. 

January 25.  New Hampshire State Senate Votes and strengthens the law protecting landowner rights.  The final tally was 23 in favor and 1 opposed.  But it was no easy victory.

HB 648 needed to pass.  Without it, Northern Pass would have an easier time taking the land it wants for its transmission lines.  Even with this new law, the lobbyists and influence-hucksters will simply turn their attention to other avenues -- federal regulators, their friends in the courts and on regulatory committees, their lawyers, who knows...

Can you spot the lobbyists?  The landowners?
Here in the gallery, we are carefully shielded from the Senators' eyes. The space is full:  the orange of opposition, the sleek black of power, lawyers on Smartphones (making luncheon dates with lobbyists), and older residents of the North Country who left homes and farms before dawn to be a presence here.  
Here's my message to the Senate:  "I'm not paid by anyone to buy or influence your vote.  I'm one of the people you represent.  Let's not forget that.  It's simple, back to basics.  Politics 101."

Saturday, January 07, 2012


The New Year blows sweet, although a bit cold.  There are no questions for me now.  I am in the right place at this particular time of life.  On a chilly Thursday morning, Barry's birthday, we head north.  
Franconia Notch
Cannon Mountain 
Crossing the Pemigewasset River
near its source
We walk to the Basin over a thin layer of ice.  There's a woodpecker hole on this pine tree to the left.  The air is crisp and bites my nose.  I wear my new "retirement boots", lumberjack leather, thick sturdy soles -- and I don't fall.

We warm up at the Littleton Diner and feed our minds at the wonderful independent bookstore down the street.  We come away with books on mushrooms, writing, and log drives down the Connecticut River.  I buy myself a "Congratulations on your retirement" card.  It just seems the right thing to do.

Barry treats himself at the local antique-curio shop where he finds the sword of a long-deceased swordfish.  It just seems the right thing to do -- and it is.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Count the Birds

January 1, 2012:  It was warm for a January day in New Hampshire.  The sun slipped in and out of the clouds.  Brown leaves underfoot held a memory of October or early November.  I wore a fall jacket, no gloves, no boots.  It's unsettling for this old New Englander to be so free this time of year.

Then, another marker of change appeared -- this red-bellied woodpecker, a bird we knew from Maryland where we lived in 1971.  We had seen one last week in western Massachusetts where we celebrated Christmas on a warm, spring-like day.  No Currier and Ives this year!  No sleigh bells, no skiing, no snow, no ice -- just an unfamiliar bird in an untimely landscape...

Red bellied Woodpecker
January 2, 2012:  Today is the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a time for birders to scour their areas and take count of the birds they see. Across the world, ornithologists and citizen scientists share their data and study the changes in the numbers and the species recorded year by year.  
  • Changes -- like this red-bellied woodpecker, a bird of the southeastern forests, now at home hundreds of miles north of where his ancestors thrived.  
  • Changes -- like waterfowl now swimming in open water on the big lakes of our region.  
  • Changes -- robins staying all winter and feeding on different foods, like the true survivors they are, adapting to new conditions in their lives.
Where I find no change is on the human side of the equation. The New Hampshire Legislature is now considering a bill to limit how evolution is taught in schools.  The parade of presidential candidates fall all over themselves denying climate change and its consequences. 

We bulldoze wetlands, destroy mangroves and then bemoan the flood damage that follows.  Think of fracking, Northern Pass Transmission Lines, strip mining...

This red-bellied woodpecker has a lot to teach us about adaptation and survival, limited resources and conservation, destruction of habitat, and knowledge of where we live and what we need to survive.  

After all we're merely another species amongst the many, subject to natural laws and consequences.  

Let's teach that in our schools!