You are here: Home » Reports by Year and Month » 2011 » ERTHAWARE Report #200 “Shuffling Towards Summer on Mayday”
May 012011
Dear ERTHAWARE Adventurers,
(a Haiku)
Mayday sun warms,
Harbinger of summer…
Strap on snowshoes!

At the end of April, I called Dennis who had just returned from a winter in Arizona. “Denny, you desert softy – you need to go for a walk in our hills. This is our real home. It looks like Mayday weekend is going to be sunny. How about it?”

We rendezvoused in the little town of Sequim. I transferred my pack and camera gear into his Element, we stopped at a farmer’s market deli where they constructed a custom gourmet sandwich for our later lunch, and we headed for high country.

The first 20 years of my life was mostly spent in the greater New York City area – a city boy. A sunny day in May means summer is around the corner. But the last 49 years I have become native to the wild West. May in the mountains is not a guarantee of anything. One must be prepared.

We drove to where the huge snow tractor and snow blower stopped. I had previously checked the snow base where we were going – 168 inches, 14 feet (4.27 meters). Thus we were equipped with our snowshoes.

While not a record snowfall year, it was greater than average for this time of year. Climatological research points to the cyclical La Nina effect in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean during which a huge mass of water cools 3>5 degrees centigrade below normal (the Le Nino effect is the cyclical opposite when the same area warms). This cooling La Nina pulls the prevailing jet-stream that drives storms out of the Gulf of Alaska further south. Thus great blizzards hit the California Sierra mountains this past winter, some places receiving a total of 80’ (24.4 m) over the winter, approaching all time records.

On the other hand, higher than normal water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have pumped much more moisture into the atmosphere that cycles over central United States. The converging differential systems of strong La Nina storms from the west and warm systems arriving from the Caribbean Sea have created record tornado sequences (4 times the normal expectation) with great devastation and loss of human life. Likewise, record warm sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean and in the seas around Indonesia and northeastern Australia have produced epic destructive rainstorms in other parts of our little planet. Everything is connected! (This should become a creedal confession).

I love the peek-a-boo views out to the horizon through the alpine forest as we shuffled along. My only regret of the day was that the spectacular snow flocking on the fir branches was beginning to melt. In the above picture we are looking south towards the Burke Range that creates the steep northern wall of the Enchanted Valley that in early summer weeps dozens of waterfalls cascading thousands of feet from the melting snow and glaciers above.

We soon came upon a snow drift about 30’ high. A guy half our age that we had met earlier plunge-stepped to the top and made a direct descent on his Xcountry skis that ended in a grunting tumble with flailing extremities and one lost bundle of ego. In our day of snowshoeing we met about a dozen folk, mostly on skis. It was getting crowded. We plodded on.

There are those AH-HAH or WOW moments when breaking out of the forest and into a clearing, the earth immediately tumbles into a deep abyss and the distant panoramic horizon is filled with majesty. These are moments of apophatic mystery, of speechless awe in which the mind is stilled and opened to receive. It is a surrender to beauty…yet in realistic terms, a savage beauty, for if we study the geological history that formed these mountains, it is a story of tension and pressure and earthquakes and folding and uplifting and storms and glaciation and avalanches and erosion, a story of the convection rivers in the blistering molten core of the earth moving the oceanic plates into collision with the continental plate, traumatizing the thin skin of this little planet. In a humble sense I claim emotional ownership to these Bailey Range hills (pictured below) since I climbed and trekked them in my younger days. Yet, they could just as well have killed me if approached with ignorance, disrespect and careless human cockiness.

What an exciting time to live. In this last century we are learning through scientific discovery how our tiny spinning planet works with its vulnerable but rich biological veneer of which we humans are an integral and utterly dependent part. This growing and testable knowledge is creating a revolutionary Copernican-like ground shift in our thinking that many will resist or bury their heads in enclosed self-absorption. But many others are beginning to discover the dynamic of it all and are beginning to alter their life choices. Let me mention one perspective in closing. There are others I will talk about later.

The geo/biological system that supports life on our little home planet is a global system. While we can define the characteristics of discrete local habitats, for example, the Pacific Northwest Rainforests, or the Northern Boreal Forests of Russia, Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia, or the Tropical diversity of Indonesia and Brazil and Congo, these regions are interconnected and interdependent with all the rest of the world. In a flourishing economy of Life-on-Earth there are no isolated entities as sovereign nation-states that can do what they darn well please within their borders. In the Creed of Life, if life is to flourish on this planet in the next centuries, such independent thinking and acting is flat out heresy. Whether we like it or not, all human political and economic systems will need to make dramatic changes in priorities and function according to a growing body of testable authoritative knowledge for the health of this world.

Yet, how exciting to be on the ground floor of a new revolution, to be scientifically informed as to the wonder of life on this little planet, and to be emotionally and spiritually enlivened to think and act with functional creative art, exercising hope, and embracing loving kindness and compassion as a foundational belief and ethic. We all have a profound reason to live and find our niche to be healers of life locally on our little home planet that, yes, will have global consequences as we all work together in “deep” community – for all is connected.

20 years ago, I would have never realized that what was happening in the Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii was effecting my snowshoeing on Mayday weekend. Such exciting knowledge brings me closer to that Ground-of-Being to which I bend in awe.

on the journey

hugs from Lynn and me
The L.E.A.R.N. Group (Life Education And Research Network) non-profit
2204 Chestnut St.
Port Townsend, WA. 98368 USA
without the patronage and support of friends like you, we could not expand our program. Thank you!



Hello. Welcome to the Blog version of Erthaware Report. I have been photographing nature for over 40 years and writing about it for almost that long as well. I hope you like the content of this site and come back often!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.