In the Woods

March 24, 2013

Broken, downed tree at Cunningham Falls.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Even though the calendar says it is Spring, it has been cold and wet over the past few weeks and tonight’s forecast is for a rain/snow mix that could make the morning commute interesting.  On days like what the morrow will most likely be, getting up and out early before folks start careening down the highway is a real benefit.

Broken, downed tree at Cunningham Falls.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

But I digress-it would seem that it would be hard to do that at the beginning of a post, but I seem to have managed it.  Anyway, given that today was in the high 30s and overcast, but not wet in any way, going to the mountains and walking in the woods seemed like a very good idea.  On the way to the Catoctin Mountains, I realized that it had been quite a while since I had been there and one way to measure that is by the weather we have had recently:  I have not been to the mountains in one hurricane (Irene), one superstorm (Sandy), and one derecho (sorry but the Weather Channel had not yet started naming everything).  I have written a number of posts about these storms and their effect on the built environ, as I have been doing most of my photographic work in the city for the past year or so.  As a result of that, I had (almost) completely lost touch with the local mountain range to the north and west.  It was a pleasure to again walk along the trails and look up to see trees and large rocks instead of glass, steel, and concrete.

Broken trees and rocks at Cunningham Falls.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The downside was exactly that-the number of horizontal or diagonal trees was impressive as those three storms had really left their mark.  And that mark will most likely be visible for quite some time, long after the snow and chill in the air have been replaced.

The wood stove in the ranger station did a very nice job of removing said chill and created an inviting atmosphere that was a bit hard to leave.  Nonetheless,   I did leave wondering just how much heat could be generated if it were possible to harvest that vast amount of board-feet of downed wood.  Another climate-related angle occurred to me as well: once a tree is down, it is no longer able to participate in the CO2-to-oxygen cycle, nor is it able to provide cooling shade.  While absolutely not as damaging as a clear-cut, these storms did take their toll.  Despite the snow still on the ground, and that yet to come tonight, we really are just around the corner from another summer.  It would be nice to have those trees back to offset that heat that is sure to come.

Take good care.

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The First REAL Snow

March 6, 2013

Snow falling in backyard.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today is March 6, 2013 and we received the first REAL snow of the season according to local broadcasts.  Yes, it has snowed before this winter, however, those snows were of the light, fluffy sort for which the Mid-Atlantic region is decidedly NOT known.  No, this one began as rain and then continued to fall as a wet, heavy snow-the very type that I dread when thinking about the need to move it.  This kind of snow also tends to soak all but the most weather-proof of gear, and with the wind blowing as it is, a very cold, damp environ in which to work is created.  Most unpleasant, especially when considering the initial forecasts were for 10-18 inches of accumulation.

Snow falling in backyard through window.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That is the very reason I stayed inside to watch the snow as it fell-that is a pleasure.  It can be soothing to watch the flakes wax and wane and buffet to and fro as the storm gains and looses energy.  I really used to look forward to snow.  Being out in the cold was an exhilarating experience and the absence of bugs and people made for excellent walks and photography.  As I have grown older, though, I have much less a tolerance for such weather, especially when it comes to shoveling.

Melting snow in driveway.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Which brings me to the highlight of this particular snow event.  Yesterday was relatively warm (high 40s to almost 50 degrees) and very sunny so the asphalt soaked up enough heat that the snow was actually (mostly) melting as it came to rest on the driveway.  In addition, since this is March, the sun arcs across the sky at a higher angle thereby bathing the ground with a bit more energy.  Indeed, the temperature has remained above freezing even though it has continued to snow. This most likely also kept the accumulation down as it appears that no more than a few inches are on the ground as this post is being written.  More will be revealed about that as there are a few more hours to go with this storm.  Tomorrow the temperature is to be warmer and then still warmer over the weekend, so whatever we have by the end of the fall will not be around long.

This has been a good day (so far…)

Take care.

Age

March 1, 2013

Dried old magenta tulip.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Age has a beauty unto its own…

Dried yellow rose past its prime.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

…one just needs to live long enough to experience it.

You see, with age can come a dignity, a grace, a wisdom that simply is not present in youth.  These characteristics also transcend physical beauty.  However, flowers are one thing-people are another.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the life expectancy for someone in the United States (as per 2010 data) is 78.7 years.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pegs the number at 78.49 years, which makes the US 51st out of 222 countries tracked.  (Monaco at 89.68 years ranks 1st and Chad at 48.69 years places at 222nd.)  It is a worthwhile sociological exercise to investigate the social-political-environmental conditions of each of these three countries so as to understand the gulf that exists between the first and last countries on this list.  The 11-year gap between the United States and Monaco is also worth a look.

One can also go to the other end of the developmental time line and examine infant mortality rates-this is the number of deaths prior to age one per 1,000 live births in a given year.  For example, the CIA states that the infant mortality rate for the US was 6.00 infants per 1,000 live births in 2012.   That number places the United States in the 173rd slot out of 223 countries.  (The CDC reports a similar number for the United States based on 201o statistics-614.7 infants per 100,000 live births.)  According to the CIA, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate at 121.63/1,000 live births and Monaco is the lowest at 1.80/1,000 live births.  As before, it is important to look beyond the numbers so as to understand the conditions related to such numbers. It also worth noting that various countries have different formulas for calculating infant mortality, so that can be problematic from a statistical standpoint.  Nonetheless, the infant mortality numbers do provide insight into the overall health of a country as this number tracks what is arguably the most vulnerable citizens of a given country.

A quick glance at the numbers tells the obvious:  far, far more infants die in Afghanistan than in the United States.  However, that superficial assessment is grossly unfair as the United States is the prototypical most-developed nation while Afghanistan is a prototypical least-developed nation.  To make it a legitimate comparison, one must examine the infant-mortality rate in the United States in relation to other most-developed nations, and when doing so, the United States, at 6.0, actually has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.  For example,  Canada is 4.85, Germany is 3.51, and Japan is 2.21 as per the CIA numbers. Again, it is important to examine the social-political-environmental conditions that contribute to this number (here is a report from the CDC based on 2008 data-pages 9 & 10 and 23-25 discuss these issues).

On the other hand, UNICEF has reported that the number of deaths of children below age 5 has declined over the past 20 years.  While there is still a long way to go and many problems to be addressed, both locally and abroad, it is important to recognize that it takes time to acquire that dignity, grace, and wisdom and many are gone before such an opportunity exists.

Take care.