I love the word ponder. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the verb ponder as "to weigh carefully in the mind" or "to consider carefully." My sister, Judy, taught the word to my 5-year old granddaughter, Allegra, when we visited her a couple of weeks ago. Allie grasped the meaning of the word and was using it correctly in no time at all. One morning, she was sitting at the table with a puzzled look on her face, and I asked her what she was doing. She replied, " I'm pondering which toy I should take to school for show and tell." Her response made all of us smile, and after thinking about it carefully, she made a decision and took action. Pondering a situation is important - but action is necessary or nothing ever gets done.
For the last decade or so, lots of pondering has gone on about the conditions in Chautauqua Lake. Many people probably feel this year was better, but for me and my neighbors in Burtis Bay, it was the same old story. The weeds were so thick that my next-door neighbor could not use his fishing boat. Floating weeds came in heavily day after day, and it took hours to haul them out of the water and wheelbarrow them away. The blue-green algae arrived early this summer and stayed. We had a thick scum of blue-green algae and a smell reminiscent of my days on the farm when I helped my dad clean manure out of the gutters. New friends came to visit me this summer, and we could not even enjoy sitting by the lake because of the stench. I was so embarrassed that I could have cried, leading me to ponder my dilemma.
I have thought carefully about what experts have told us as to why our lake is in the condition it is. And believe me, I always try to do my share to help. I don't use fertilizers on my lawn or dump my grass cuttings or leaves in the water. I always cleaned up after my dogs. I am careful when I put gas into the boat, and I waterproof my dock on shore. I try to pull as many floating weeds out of the water as possible and remove any floating debris. I support the Chautauqua Lake Association, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and the Chautauqua Lake Partnership and encourage my neighbors to do the same. With my fellow lady kayakers, I helped searched for and removed water chestnut plants last year. I'm very observant when I'm on the lake or the river, always pondering, wondering about what else can be done.
Whole Eurasian milfoil plants were floating to shore towards the end of summer.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver
Towards the end of summer, I did notice something that made me stop and think carefully. There was a heavy mat of floating weeds by my dock, and when I started pulling them out, I realized how different they were. They weren't the normal floaters - they were whole Eurasian milfoil plants. The long stringy stems were nearly defoliated and black near the root ball, which was still attached. In my mind, I thought, "Something positive is going on out in the lake for all these weeds to float in like this. Could some insect or natural cycle be the cause?" The last time we saw dead plants like this, there was an abundance of caddisfly, which were given credit for controlling the milfoil population. Hmmm, can we hope?
With winter on the way, we will have many months to ponder the question, "Will the lake conditions be any better next year?" And, although we may not be able to do anything physical to help, we can encourage our local officials and lake-oriented groups to take some action to help ensure a better tomorrow for the Chautauqua region.
Susan M. Songster Weaver is a retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local, private nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty, and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information on CWC, visit us at chautauquawatershed.org or facebook.com/chautauquawatershed or call 664-2166.