Published Date Written by Ed ParsonsOn Earth Day I took a walk with my grandson Ridley around White Lake, located in the 756 acre White Lake State Park in Tamworth. We had a blast.
Around 10 a.m. we arrived at the town landing located at the end of a dirt road off Depot Road. We were alone. Yet over the next hour, while we walked the circular path around the lake, others would arrive there on this pleasant yet overcast Sunday morning.
There was a chance of rain, so Ridley wore a rain coat. To keep his head warm I lent him my colorful Choucas Hat.
Choucas Hats are a fairly new product of ZP Sports of North Conway. The idea of a light outdoor sports hat came to the owners while on a ski tour in the Alps, and the name came to them upon reaching a craggy summit in the Dolomites and seeing a large flock of circling ravens, called Choucas (singular version pronounced Choo-ka). Check out their various hats and the amazing variety of bright color combinations they come in, at www.choucashats.com.
From our car, Ridley and I headed north along the circular path around the lake. Usually the first few hundred feet of the trail from the parking lot is partially flooded or muddy during the spring wet season, and care is needed getting around it though thick alders. But this time it wasn't too wet, and the coast was clear. Even the effects of an unwelcome drought can have some positive qualities.
The path along the tree lined west shore of White Lake allows for ample viewing of the lake, with numerous open spots. Ridley got into a ritual of stopping at each one and looking for dead sticks to throw in the water, and I only partly succeeded in waiting patiently, without reminding him to move on.
As for me, I was glad to finally see a profusion of mayflowers in bloom on both sides of the path. I picked a stem of flowers and invited Ridley to smell them — one of the aromatic rituals of spring. He allowed me to put some behind his ear for a portrait photo. Maybe it is something from the 1960s, but for me that has never been gender specific behavior. Nature is too rich a treasury.
As we walked along, I spied a loon out in the middle of the lake. Then two. At one memorable stop next to a fallen red pine trunk that hung low out over the water, one of the loons gave a long wailing call, and Ridley looked out over the lake, captivated.
I hoped that a few bird generations into the future, the loons would call to him when he was my age. Then to his children.
At the end of the lake, where the inlet brook flowed under a footbridge and widened into a dark pool before reaching the shore, Ridley found brief interest in attempting to move a section of white birch log that lay partly in the water, and partly on a muddy shore. It was too heavy, but he persisted until the log shifted a bit, sending out ripples into the pool.
A grandparent hopes that a child will send out ripples of benefit into the world as he matures into an adult.
We crossed the footbridge onto the trail down the east side of the lake, which is further back from the shore, and a walk through a hemlock forest. Crossing the next short footbridge, Ridley paused to sit on it, dangling his feet above a muddy brook. He loves mud the way adults love chocolate, and will walk right into it if practical. And sometimes when it is not. But this time he saw the sense in preserving dry feet, and we continued down the forest trail.
Finally we neared the state park's long white beach, and walked out onto it past a family enjoying the sandy shore during the pre-swimming season. By then Ridley had two walking sticks and held them like trekking poles. One was a fresh beaver stick, one was just a dead stick that he saw value in.
Reaching the car, we had to take both of these sticks home.
Left at that, it was the perfect Earth Day activity. But later, I made a phone call to get more inspiration about Earth Day. Sensing a general malaise in the population about continuing wars and environmental degradation around the globe, as well as a faltering focus on global warming, I decided to call an incurable optimist.
I called Paul Mayewski of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. Recently he gave a talk at the Cook Memorial Library in Tamworth on climate change.
With my inquiry, he recalled the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and how there has been an interesting progression since then. There has been some progress. "We have reduced leaded gasoline and reduced acid rain," he pointed out. "One focus now is to slow down increasing greenhouse gasses."
A long time saying from the environmental movement still works very well for Mayewski. It is: "Think globally, Act locally."
He says that an environmentally conscientious path is a win/win situation for everyone. "Nobody wants to spend money on things that we don't need," he said. "The less fuel we use, the better off everybody is."
In his work, Mayewski has led more that 40 expeditions to the far corners of the world taking core samples of ice to study the weather of the past, and where it is heading today. With this experience under his belt, he offered me a final few words that implied that man is not separate from his environment. "It is time to be better to ourselves."