Sunday Nature Call, uke 47: In the Meadow Can We Build a Snowman?
I thought it would be another barren week on the birding front, but then on Saturday a gang of vagrants paid a visit. The collection of Rowan trees proved a temporary attractant to these circus performers. Thank you, your song and bursts of group flight were joyous.
New birds: 2
Sidensvan (Bombycilla garrulus)
Toppmeis (Lophophanes cristatus)
In the Meadow Can We Build a Snowman?
On my return home from a week traveling, I saw a rope of lights on the distant mountain. The shape suggested a ski jump. In the morning, an alpine hill was visible. An odd white patch on a gray landscape, that one might, at a glance, mistake for a static plume of smoke. It was my omen for what is to come. A faith in the near-artic future of this land. There will be snow.
As the cradle of sking, Norway is exhuberant about its national sport. The first snow of the season is officially anticipated greatly (unofficially there are plenty of Norwegians who long for an extended trip to the Canary Islands). As autumn wears, the tension of waiting for skiable snow becomes palatable.
I saw men on roller skis, training, the second day I was Norway. A man (I have only noticed men on roller skis…research project?) ploughing the streets of west Oslo in August is a vision of many things: hope, dedication, perseverance, silliness… I was excited. We had dragged our skis across the world to participate in this snow-mad culture, and here was proof that the dream was real (my teenage years were filled with fanatisies of nordic glory)! It would not be a matter of if, but when.
Living in the banana belt of the Midwest, the skiing seems to be either feast or famine. Here, I could have the confidence of those fortunate sons in Grand Marais Minnesota, Hurley Wisconsin, and other locales blessed with consistent snow. It will snow…but when?
We had a tease of snow in Oslo. On Monday, there was a morning of just enough snow to snarl traffic but not enough to accumulate. The ski resort area of Trysil has snow, kind of. They bunkered snow over the summer to springboard the next season. In a couple of shelted patches, snow survived the summer on its own accord. Snow making machines are at work.
The history of Norway is one of snow and skiing (Sondre Norheim helped bring the sport to the world; you can thank him when you meet). But that is history, what is the future? Global warming portends an unpleasant future for winter recreation (a minor detail actaully in the global crisis). My Iowa home will become more like the Ozarks in the winter than Minneapolis. What will happen to Norway?
Technology only goes so far, you can’t resist physics or Mother Naure for long – they never rest. With enough money, you can make snow. Our Sunday family hike took us around and through snow making equipment in use. What a wonder! That equipment though is tactical not strategic. At what point wouldn’t it matter?
If you are a nay-sayer or doubter, then realize the science that is allowing you to read these words over the internet is the same science that is predicting global warming. It is the same science that runs your mobile phone, flies your airplane, and develops your prescription drugs.
As long as there is an earth, there will be nature. I guess the question is, “What kind of nature will it be?” I like to ski. My wife and children like to ski. I want to have a future in which my sons can enjoy the salubriuos pastime like I have. I want that for your sons and daughters too.
Near our apartment is a grassy hill, a meadow. It’s just been a lovely spot of open green in an otherwise developed or forested city. It is reserved for sledding and skiing. My boys are eager to run the hill. But there is no snow making there so we will have to wait for the real thing.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh