Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't Go Green!

Usually I'd be fine with the Go Green slogan, but on this map the 17 states in the darkest shades of green are more like gangrene, with the exceptions of a few islands of national parks and New Orleans. Even Texas shows more intelligence!

With the exception of my years on the Yellowstone island and one year in Ohio, I'm happy to have lived all my life in the palest states on the map. As the old saying went, "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts". But it's a few of the states in the middle group which will be the most important when it comes to 2020 vision. Here's looking at you, MI, PA, WI. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Accepting Tender Resignation

I started greentangle ten years ago today and added Hard Wood to Whittle almost seven years ago. There have been many changes since in my life and the blogs, and there are now a lot fewer posts, readers, and comments, and I expect that to continue as I lead a more inward life and write with less frequency and less ability. Emotionally, my favorite period remains the early years’ frequent focus on animal rights issues with a couple regular commenters with whom I felt a strong connection. The creative quality of my blog writing probably peaked a couple years later, and certainly the opportunity to include four years of photos from Yellowstone made for an interesting period.

I used to do an annual post listing my favorite posts of the year, and back in 2014, after I had finished my Yellowstone period, I created a document on my computer of all my favorite posts from both blogs, perhaps wondering if some sort of book could come from it all. When I saw today how long ago that was compiled, I decided that I will go through the past few years’ posts and update the document. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of anything I’ve written since which would be included except possibly some of the Autobobography series, and then I read the last paragraph of the last post already in the document, which mentioned that I’d made a rough outline for that very series. So that will be a short new project for me.

I don’t feel that any drastic change has led me to spend less time adventuring or writing, just age and a continuation of the path I’ve been on all along. I am in the early stage of a possible new round of plantar fasciitis and since I can’t avoid being on my feet about five hours a day for my two part time jobs, I’m certainly avoiding any extra walking, but I’d already mostly stopped hiking before this foot flare-up.

I’m sixty years old and have never owned a car; I’ve already done a lot more walking than most modern people will do in their lifetimes, including over 700 miles in Yellowstone alone. The pleasure I got from hiking came from two main sources—first, the combination of getting away from the hectic human world and slowing into the rhythms of the natural world, and second, seeing wildlife. Here in Duluth, the wildlife which provided the strongest encounters for me were deer and bald eagles, but they were rare sightings, not like the everyday elk and bison and much more of Yellowstone. I’m certainly less connected to the natural world than I used to be, but I don’t feel any regret that I’m no longer capable of doing everything I once did. 

These days I mostly get away from the human world by staying in my apartment, which has always been a needed strategy for me at times. Although I’ve seldom disliked anyone as an individual and even enjoyed the company of many people in small doses, being around people has generally been an experience I felt I needed to recover from via solitude. No doubt there are many factors contributing to that, including being an only child and the type of childhood I had, but I also think the major factor is simply that I chose to live differently from most people and felt I had very little in common with them. The company of nonhumans always gave me more satisfaction and pleasure than that of humans.

I still appreciate the creative output of humans and I probably should have developed my own artistic side more deeply in my life. I feel content these days to stay home and listen to music, watch films and television programs (though I haven’t owned a tv since it went digital), and read books. At times, I also read my old journals; I’m currently on 1990, almost half my lifetime ago, and honestly enjoy reading my words more than most books, though I don’t think that would be a widely shared experience.

At that time, I had started working for the college in Boston which would become the longest employer of my life (ten years) but still hadn’t moved to the immediate Boston area. I was taking the commuter train but had already become actively involved in city life, seeing a Boston counselor, taking writing and other classes at adult education centers in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, as well as at Harvard Extension. I was talking with the manager of my favorite Harvard Square bookstore about a job there and to city residents looking for a roommate. It was the time of the Robert Bly version of the men’s movement and I went to some of those classes as well. I had just discovered a new New Orleans restaurant in Boston--Dixie Kitchen, run by future great singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier.  I’d often take a midnight train home from the city. That sort of questing is still part of who I am even in my physical inactivity—I bought a couple translations of the Tao Te Ching, important to me long ago, a few months ago.

Reading my own long ago words today provides a warm mix of memory and anticipation, knowing what was still to come during that fertile Boston decade of my life—moves and relationships, exploring more natural areas around the city, a new period of running, time spent with a group which got disabled people out for experiences in the natural world. I’m very glad I lived that life, and glad that I wrote about it so I can recall it more clearly, but I have no desire to be living it now. I’ve reached that point with my Yellowstone memories as well. I think it would take a lottery win for me to ever take a distant vacation again, but if that happens, I’d much rather see Boston or New Orleans again than Yellowstone.

Regardless of where I spend my time, I still care more about the natural world than the manmade one, and of course am disgusted by the current government’s contemptuous attitude toward nature and other species. But the only thing that surprises me is that it’s happening already. I’ve never had any doubt that this civilization would destroy everything else to continue, but it doesn’t even need to be happening yet--this is just evil and childish greed. Wildlife’s salvation still lies not in an election but in collapse.

I recently had a physical with no major problems. One test result estimated that I have a 13.5% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, which frankly seemed low to me—I would have guessed at a higher risk. So we’ll wait and see if any of this is still around for the 20th anniversary.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bring Me the Head of Donald Trump (Apologies to Peckinpah)

covfefe? Did he have a stroke? How could we tell?

This administration is the last gasp of a dying generation which wants to take future generations with it. 

covfefe? Did Melania finally let him hold her hand?

Except it's not fair to blame the whole generation, or old white men, or even rich old white men. Some of us clearly get it, and are able to think beyond our own greed and insecurities, and don't think everything is about us or this country.

covfefe? The stuff where his brain should be?

Not only is he likely unable to spell the spelling bee winner's name, he probably thinks she's a fake American.

constant negative press covfefe? Russian for bastards?

It's another loud celebration of militarism in Duluth this weekend. Yesterday, I heard and saw a long string of dozens of geese flying towards Canada. That's the kind of air show I prefer.

covfefe? The stuff his followers drink instead of Jim Jones's beverage? 

That would explain a lot about why he has any.


Hillary needs to go away. It's a shame she didn't do it a year ago. We probably wouldn't be in this deep covfefe now.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

RIP Gregg

Overall, my favorite part of the Allman Brothers was probably Dickey Betts's guitar playing. But Gregg Allman wrote at least a couple songs I loved. My college roommate's future wife was named Melissa.

Crossroads, will you ever let him go? Lord, Lord.
Or will you hide the dead man's ghost?
Or will he lie, beneath the clay?
Or will his spirit float away? 

Finally free of the whipping post.

Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,
Like I been tied to the whippin' post.
Tied to the whippin' post, tied to the whippin' post.
Good Lord, I feel like I'm dyin'.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wolf Wars

A moment of unnatural history: watched a gull carrying a rectangular piece of red and white cardboard, maybe part of a pizza box, fly up to rooftop. It looked like airmail.

Finished reading a new book a couple days ago—Wolf Nation: The Life, Death, and Return of Wild American Wolves by Brenda Peterson. It’s a good look at the overall picture, a mix of history and anecdote not limited to Yellowstone as many wolf books are.

It includes a focus on wolf hatred and the fact that giving control of wolf populations to the states amounts to giving that control to the ranchers and hunters whose opinions control state wildlife boards despite the opposition of the majority of the public.

That’s really what this post is about, inspired by a visit to a Facebook page of Gardiner (MT) and Mammoth Hot Springs (YNP/WY). Someone posted there about the reward for catching the recent killer of a well-known Yellowstone (since that post, various groups have listed rewards and donations which now have the total up to almost $30,000). 

Many of the local Gardiner residents proceeded to attack the idea of caring about the wolf and mentioned a Montana cop who’d recently been shot. This is standard practice anytime someone expresses concern over an animal issue—denigrate the concern by bringing up all the issues someone else considers more important, which is almost always some human issue.

Outliers like St. Francis aside, this often comes from a Christian background. Create a god, declare yourself made in its image, and give yourself dominion over all other forms of life. It’s hard to imagine a more arrogant, negative philosophy for interacting with the natural world. This is a major reason I have such a low opinion of people—because they consider themselves more important than anything else.

The other result of that thinking which struck me is that all those Gardiner residents think there’s some big difference between the person who shot the wolf and the person who shot the cop. I think they’re both products of the gun-happy, let’s shoot something culture of this country as a whole and of the states surrounding Yellowstone in particular—a culture which puts those states, along with other pro-gun areas such as the south and Alaska, at or near the top of the list of states in both death by gun and suicide by gun rates. The blue states are generally at the bottom.

During the years I lived in Yellowstone, I spent a lot of money in Gardiner and elsewhere in Montana. This event and these comments have finalized a decision which had largely already been made—I won’t be returning to Yellowstone. Not only because of the negative effects of overcrowding on the park experience, but because I don’t want to contribute another penny to the states which surround it. 

Adding this link to a post by a local with a description of a Gardiner meeting about wolves and poaching.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Arts and Sciences

I strolled for science this morning. I don't like to carry signs, so I wore this shirt instead. The government thinks it's OK to kill hibernating bears? Well,

I haven't seen any news coverage or crowd estimates of the Duluth march but apparently there were over 10,000 people at the St. Paul march. We didn't have that many of course but it was a large crowd--maybe over 1,000. 

I'm not actually a science worshipper--I think being too rational can take a lot of the pleasure out of life. I was there to support sciences such as ecology and conservation biology, but I oppose messing with genes and have no interest in seeing all human disease cured so we can overpopulate the planet and drive species to extinction even faster.

I was in the middle of the pack--here's some of the people in front of me
 and some of the people behind me.
 There were lots of good signs.

Note the NO SCIENCE = NO BEER sign in the corner of that one. This is serious!

After the march I went to a restaurant for lunch and got the following in my fortune cookie. "A different world cannot be built by indifferent people." I'm not gonna get all optimistic on ya, but jeez!

Then I stopped by Electric Fetus for Record Store Day and heard Sarah Krueger sing a couple songs. My current favorite musician Anders Osborne was on NPR this morning talking about the group he started to help sober musicians stay that way. 

There were lots of dogs walking with us today.
 I didn't see any cuter than this pup.
In a few days I'll be taking a much needed vacation from my two part time jobs, leaving Duluth for the first time since I got back from Yellowstone almost a year ago, and heading over to Marquette to see my favorite dog and his human.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I used to recommend nature related books on greentangle. Unfortunately, reflective of our society’s illusion of removal from nature, as exemplified by a government which favors pollution and greed over ecology and humility and respect, and children and adults who’d rather play games or listen to music on their phone than see or hear the world they’re passing through, there aren’t as many of those books being published now. So now I feel the need to check out any book which involves the outdoors at all, and then write about a book I don’t recommend you read.

The Stranger in the Woods is about a man who apparently spent 27 years living in the Maine woods with almost no human contact, surviving not by living off the land but by stealing from buildings. Most of the people in the area do not believe that he actually lived outside all that time, which was my first reaction as well. He claims he never left his camp during winter to avoid leaving footprints in the snow (he was not in a remote wilderness, but only a few hundred yards away from the closest neighbor). I have a hard time imagining how he was able to steal enough food to stockpile to survive those long winters, and history is filled with false claims of nature fakers. 

But whether or not he lived there for 27 years doesn’t actually matter to me because he offers no explanation of why he did it (claims not to know) and offers no wisdom from his experience. Yet he considers Thoreau a dilettante with no deep insight into nature. Of course, he also considers Bach too pristine and believes people will be listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd in a thousand years. So, clearly not a guy I’d like, and enough about him.

I’m actually much more troubled by the behavior of the author. After the “hermit” (more about that later) was finally captured stealing, the author wrote to him in jail. They exchanged a few letters, but after the hermit stopped replying, the author made the first of many trips from Montana and showed up uninvited and unannounced at the jail to visit someone who obviously didn’t like people around. The hermit’s relatives hung up on him and closed doors in his face, but others in the area spoke to him. On his trips to Maine, he would camp at the hermit’s campsite. Eventually after the hermit was released, he had to tell the author that if he showed up again, the police would be called. It was all much too much of a creepy stalker vibe for me.

For me, there were only two interesting aspects of the book. The questioning of the hermit’s psychological state led me to briefly investigate autism spectrum and schizoid personality disorders to see if either fit me; many aspects of the latter seemed to apply. The book also discusses three types of hermits: protesters, pilgrims, and pursuers. I’m clearly in the first group—“. . . primary reason for leaving is hatred of what the world has become.”

If you’d like a more detailed review and description of the book, see a review in New Republic here. And for a large and fascinating collection of material on hermits and solitude, check out the website which doesn’t consider the book’s subject worthy of inclusion.