As the fingers of ice start to creep across the lakes and ponds, it's a pleasure to snuggle up by the fire or crawl under that fuzzy blanket on the couch with a good book. So I thought this would be a good time to look at some classic volumes that remind us of the importance of good conservation.
While I was a forestry student in the 1970s, I read ''Woodswoman: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness'' by Anne LaBastille, who later became the commissioner of NYS Adirondack Park Agency. Like me, she had been a suburban kid with little knowledge of woods, but she inspired me with her descriptions of the wilderness around her: ''The freeze-up takes its time. There is no stopping it. The freeze-up is an event as important in nature as the solstices, equinoxes, full moon and eclipses. It affects the living patterns of many fish and wildlife species.''
Anne passed away recently, and the news sent me to the attic to dig up my yellowed copy of Woodswoman. Re-reading her words reminds me to get out and see the changes the seasons bring: ''The lake was a wide white canvas upon which I created snowshoe patterns as freely as a finger painter'' ... My old wood snowshoes hang on my wall, replaced by lightweight aluminum ones, and are aching to come down and make those patterns in the growing snowpile in my yard.
Winter is a great time to find a good book about the outdoors and dream of working toward a better future for the natural beauty of the Chautauqua region.
Photo by CWC
I practically memorized Henry David Thoreau's ''Walden'' as a teenager, and now, turning the pages to read of his small cabin I think how pristine Walden Pond's clear water and protected woods must have been. He writes: ''The indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature - of sun and wind and rain, of summer and winter - such health, such cheer, they afford forever! And such sympathy have they ever with our race, that all Nature would be affected ... Shall I not have intelligence with this earth?'' The stewardship in his words instills the need for all of us to connect with nature and to protect it. As Rachel Carson noted, ''One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, 'What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?''' Protecting those priceless moments in nature is part of our legacy to future generations.
Ralph Waldo Emerson argued that ''Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths.'' But he noted that having good thoughts without action ''are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed.'' So appreciating and admiring the woods, streams and lakes around us isn't enough. It's important to be active in their protection and to understand the complex connections between what we do on our little corner of the world and what happens to the environment. While the winter leaves you time to search through seed catalogs and boating magazines that you didn't have time to review over the summer, remember that the health of Chautauqua's watershed is a year-round commitment. Plan now for protection of lakes, ponds and streams by planting trees, creating rain gardens, putting in a shoreline buffer of native species, installing rain barrels and compost piles and by reducing the runoff from your yard. Now is a great time of year to read and to think about what you can do to conserve our watershed. Before you know it, the snow will pile high ... and then melt slowly, feeding our watershed and replenishing the lakes and waterways. Flipping through the pages of ''A Sand's County Almanac,'' I am reminded of this renewal of water: ''Each year, after the midwinter blizzards, there comes a night of thaw when the tinkle of water is heard in the land. It brings strange stirrings, not only for creatures abed for the night, but to some who have been asleep for winter.'' But until it's time for that meltdown, find a good book about the outdoors and dream of working toward a better future for the natural beauty of the Chautauqua region.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy presently has its 2011-12 membership drive under way and is seeking donations to conserve the Wells Bay Lakeshore. To support these efforts or for more information on CWC's healthy landscaping for healthy waters efforts, visit our website at www.chautauquawatershed.org, or call 664-2166.