Volume 4, Issue 5
In This Issue...
"Mindful Birding" by Lynn Bruner
"If your knees aren't green by the end of the day,
you ought to seriously re-examine your life."
--Bill Waterson, "Calvin & Hobbes"
Inching Towards Spring
Lock Haven University will be hosting Pennsylvania author Bathsheba Monk on Thursday, March 31, at 7:00 p.m. in the PUB MPR. Monk will read selections from Nude Walker, which is set in a small Pennsylvania town. Monk’s acclaimed Now You See It: Stories from Cokesville interweaves 17 stories of a Pennsylvania coal and steel town and its Polish-American inhabitants. Monk is also working on a musical about the Marcellus Shale.
The Environmental Studies Minor at LHU continues to grow: 21 students have signed up since October. Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENVT101) will be offered in the Fall of 2011 (TTh 2:10-3:25). If you are interested in finding out more, please visit the Environmental Studies website.
--Lynn Bruner (LHU Psychology Professor)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness. More accurately, I’ve been trying to get out of my head, out of my worries, and into the process of paying attention to what actually is in front of me. Mindfulness has been defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to things as they are” (Williams, Teasdale, Segal, & Kabat-Zinn, 2007, p. 5). To what can we pay more mindful attention? To anything, but especially to what we normally take for granted or ignore, and particularly to anything we often misinterpret, or see the way that we wish to see it instead of how it is. In cultivating mindfulness, we become more intentional: we turn off the autopilot and think and behave with purpose. We become more experiential: we are present with the feelings and experiences of the present moment, instead of constantly dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We become more nonjudgmental: we allow ourselves, and others, to be where we are.
There are some excellent books now available on bringing mindfulness into everyday life, in ways that can positively affect psychological health: I’ve included a mindfulness bibliography below for interested readers. Mindfulness practice often involves training in disciplines like breathing, meditation, and yoga. I’m also finding that bird-watching is becoming one of my mindful moments. Bird-watching, or birding, can become a consuming hobby for some people. Birders create life lists of bird species seen, poring over identification guides and studying bird songs on their I-pods. Some enter birding competitions, trying to correctly identify the most species in a specific area, or within a particular time frame. Although those can be interesting and enjoyable pursuits, they aren’t necessarily the way of the mindful birder.
For me, mindful birding means a kind of watching that sinks in, that is only about being present with a bird. One Sunday morning, I watched a yellow-shafted flicker working away at the suet feeder in my yard. He attacked the suet with brio, pulling back his head each time to precisely the same position, then striking anew. His claws dug into the wooden post; his tail spread out to support him. The red patch on the top of his head was the brightest thing in my entire yard, which was dull with the drabness of late winter. In fact, the longer that I looked at that flicker, the more it seemed that he took on clarity and definition: he was absolute, whereas the yard around him seemed fuzzy and uncertain. When he flew away, I realized I had been sitting absolutely still, my teacup cooling forgotten in my hand. For those moments, I had not done anything but be present and observe.
I’ve had similar moments watching the ebb and flow of my yard’s small community of 14 slate-colored juncos, as they travel from the feeder, to the ground, to the evergreen, in constant shifts and sweeps and flurries. I’ve watched goldfinches scalloping through their courting flights, and listened to robins proclaiming themselves in the long liquid songs of nesting time. When I walk across campus I try to tune in to bird signs, and have often been rewarded by the sight of migratory birds: on one particular day last spring, the trees near Russell Hall were buzzing with cedar waxwings. On another afternoon this fall, titmice were raiding the berries on Ivy Lane. To stop and look at them, to see them fully, even for just a moment, helped to replenish my flagging energy. I breathed them in and walked on to my meeting, feeling like my eyes had been fully open for the first time all day.
My point, I suppose, is that mindful birding can help us to “pay attention on purpose” and thus to be better aware of how many of our moments are lost to mindlessness. We miss so much! The actual taste of what we’re eating. The shadows on the mountains that change with the seasons. The sounds of the birds moving through the trees. The feeling of the breath cycling through our lungs. By the simple act of fully turning my attention to another living creature, mindful birding helps me remember that I’m still alive, and I breathe. I Listen. I Look. I’m here.
For more information, check out any of these books:
--Brad Dally (Director of Student Recreation Center)
The spring thaw has begun! Well at least for the next few days that is. It is only the third week of February, but the warmer temperatures have me looking forward to March. I know I may be jumping the gun a little, for, as we all know, we can still get plenty of cold weather and snow for the next month, but I am hoping for warmer weather and sunshine! As much as I like winter, I look forward to spring and also the start of paddling season. I am sure there are other canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts out there as well who feel the same way and are excited for that first paddling trip of 2011. It may seem crazy to be out on the water in March and, yes, the water is extremely cold, but it’s not too bad as long as you don’t capsize or slip and fall in. Whether you like the rush of whitewater, or slipping along a quiet lake looking for wildlife, we are very fortunate to live in a beautiful area with countless rivers, creeks, and lakes that provide endless paddling opportunities for all skill levels and interests.
For many area paddlers, The Red Moshannon Down River Canoe and Kayak Race marks the beginning to their paddling season. Saturday, March 26th marks the 44th race which is typically scheduled for the last Saturday in March. The race is held on a 7.5 mile class II+ section of Moshannon Creek that starts near the town of Grassflat and ends at the Route 53 bridge near the town of Moshannon. There are a variety of canoe and kayak race divisions for individuals and teams of paddlers to compete in. The race is not only popular for local paddlers, but on race day I have seen many vehicles with license plates from Ohio, New York, and Virginia. In years past I have competed in the race and I have also paddled the creek race day just for fun to watch participants. It is a blast, there are a lot of people out on the creek, and the scenery is spectacular. The race is not only a lot of fun for paddlers, but a lot of spectators come out to enjoy the race as well and cheer on the participants. After the race there is an awards banquet with food and prizes held at a local hall for race participants.
This is a great event and I encourage you to go and see it for yourself sometime. If you are interested in the race, you can check out Tussey Mountain Outfitters in Bellefonte, their website is www.tusseymountainoutfitters.com. I hope that everyone enjoys the last few weeks of winter and hopefully I will see you out on the river this spring and summer. Happy paddling!
--Lindsay Repman (LHU Geology Major)
The sad truth is that Americans remain addicted to fossil fuels and a lifestyle that is destroying us. Governmental regulators refuse to implement legislation that would decrease the wealth of banks, the auto industry, and the oil and gas industry. However, we still have the ability to invent and create. Change will only be enacted once the people have come together and collectively restructure the governmental system with regulations in place that preserve and honor scientific investigation and moral truths. Many people today are joining together to speak out on behalf of change. May this reading provide you with enough sparks to ignite a change.
Stuck in a cycle of take and take we have moved from being a part of the life cycle to a parasite that has infected this life-sustaining planet. Earth is our provider, and Planet Earth has a list of grievances to present.
For far too long have I been providing. You are like children greedily nursing from the womb long after your teeth have emerged. You think only of yourself yet ironically engage in actions that will lead to your destruction. If you know that this life provides something special and if you want to share the gift of life with other humans yet to be born, then please, pause and consider the truths of transformation.
The truths of transformation gather together the thoughts of many. The truths of transformation lead us into a world of structure and balance. From the Roman Empire to Atlantis, from Babylon to the Aztecs, from the Hopi to current Americans the human race has been running on cultural variations of repeat. If you want the pain to end, then it is time to forgive yourself and accept the teachings of history.
We are a people of ingenuity. We are a people of invention. We are a people of passion and vitality. Love fuels connections and energy. We enjoy enjoying. Clear away the buildup--it is time for life in balance. It is ok. It doesn’t mean an end to all that you love and enjoy. We need to heal to choose to live sustainable lives as global citizens.
Breathing provides our bodies with the molecules to carry nutrients vital to life and remove debilitating toxins. It is a balance within our bodies and it is part of a greater balance with the earth’s atmosphere and levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The trees get energy from the sun as they absorb carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. We then inhale the mixture and after using up the oxygen, exhale our waste. Soon the waste is used by another. And thus, we live in balance.
But the lack of awareness and the complications of greed have served to swing the pendulum to the extreme. Now we must unite and develop ingenious solutions. From Biomass to coal and solar to nuclear, from hydrogen to helium, we are rising up! The Age of responsible balance is upon us as we transform negative into positive. All we have to do is choose to accept the change. Remember, the power is yours; the choice is yours.
--Caroll Rhodes (Director of LHU's Student Support Services)
Cookies are my favorite part of any meal. My current favorites are chocolate almond “Sandies.” They are packaged in an eye-catching foil lined wrapper boasting the “TerraCycle” logo. As I enjoyed snacking on the cookies, I decide to look at the website – www.terracycle.net. This is an organization that provides free waste collection for materials not typically part of curb-side municipal programs. TerraCycle pays “brigades” that collect the materials, and they actually make products from the waste that is sent to them. This is called upcycling. They make recycled fencing from drink pouches; recycling bins; clipboards made from circuit boards; tote bags made from cook wrappers; and nearly 240 other items. You can purchase these products at Walmart, Home Depot, Target and Kmart.
If you collect items for TerraCycle, you can earn money for almost any school, non-profit or an individual. TerraCycle will even provide you with pre-paid shipping labels. The website reports that to date $1,840,651.61 has been raised. This has saved an enormous amount of landfill space.
--Bob Myers (LHU English Professor)
One of the major publishing events of the late nineteenth century was the two-volume Picturesque America, which was published by Appleton between 1872-74. Lavishly illustrated, Picturesque America is a series of tours of the scenic places in America. Our library has a 1972 reprint of the book (the original edition sells on on eBay for $400-$1150).
Sue Rainey's Creating Picturesque America details the publication history of the project and discusses the cultural significance of both the text and the illustrations. She notes that late nineteenth century Americans sought beautiful natural areas where they could experience the "picturesque" and the "sublime." The goal was to gain a sense of God's grandeur and attain mystical union with nature. Rainey discusses the strategies used by the editors to downplay the rapid industrialization that was transforming America. One of those strategies was to structure the tour around river travel, which was in the process of being replaced by the railroads.
In the chapter "The Susquehanna" the writer travels up the river from its mouth at Havre de Grace, Maryland, to near the beginning of the West Branch at Clearfield, and then up the North Branch to Wilkes Barre. I was intrigued by the description of our area as it appeared in the early 1870s. He describes Lock Haven as "a minor sort of Williamsport" but notes that "it is a very charming little place, very bustling, very thriving, and more picturesque than the larger town of Williamsport" (214).
As he continues up the West Branch to Renovo, the writer celebrates the beauty of one of the areas that has not been lumbered: "Those persons who have never wandered up a mountain covered with pine-trees have no conception of the sublimity of such a place. There is a silence, a solemnity, about a pine-wood, which at once impresses the senses with a sentiment of awe" (216). However, he notes that these places are few and far between: "Superb as is the sight of a pine-wood in all its pristine splendor, the spectacle of one, after the lumberers have been felling right and left, is by no means admirable. . . . The place is a slaughter-house, and the few trees that have escaped serve but to intensify the unpleasant aspects of the scene" (216).
To me, the book serves as a reminder of the consequences of unrestrained resource extraction. Many people are surprised to learn that in 1900 the mountains surrounding us would have been almost entirely treeless. Nature has recovered from this devastation, but it has taken a hundred years.
--Barry Overton (LHU Biology Professor)
The hunting of wild edible mushrooms in Pennsylvania is a robust hobby practiced by many nature enthusiasts and has a particularly rich tradition in Pennsylvania due to the cultural practices of the many immigrants that settled during the coal boom. There are thousands of mushrooms that can be found in Pennsylvania forests, and many are considered gourmet and delicious. Out of that number, a relatively small percentage of species are toxic, and for a significantly larger percentage the edibility is unknown.
The most frightening of the toxic mushrooms that can be found in Pennsylvania are the amatoxin producers. There are ten known types of amatoxins, and all of them seriously affect the liver and kidneys when ingested, even in relatively small doses. In 2007, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received 7,351 reports of exposure to toxic mushrooms . Only 54 of these reports were identified as amatoxins, but almost all of these were fatal.
Usually, these poisonings were a result of misidentification of mushrooms collected for use as food. However, amatoxin-related poisonings can occur accidentally in children and animals. The genus Conocybe commonly occurs in lawns, and children sometimes ingest them when playing in the yard. The genus Galerina usually can be found growing on wood chips used as mulch, and woodchips are used on playgrounds at many day care facilities.
Symptoms associated with accidental ingestion of amatoxin-containing fungi follow three distinct stages. After a latent post-ingestion period of about 6-12 hours the victim experiences abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea, with symptoms lasting for about 24 hours. The second stage of begins with marked improvement that could last 2-3 days. The third stage begins with hepatic and kindey failure. Death may occur in 3-7 days.
Up until recently, successful treatment of this type of mushroom poisoning has been limited. In the United States clinical treatment is under way using Silibinin (Legalon©SIL) a compound derived from seeds of plants commonly known as milkweed thistle. Interestingly, milkweed thistle has been used to treat chronic liver disease for almost 2000 years in traditional herbal medicine. The use of Silibinin in association with Penicillin G has been shown to reduce liver failure if administered with 48 hours of ingestion of amatoxins.
If you are a wild mushroom hunter and consume wild mushrooms, I encourage you to talk to your primary care physician and have them keep a supply of this drug in case you make a mistake. The earlier treatment begins, the better your chance of survival. Knowledge is power, and when it comes to amatoxin-related poisonings, early treatment is critical—so please share this information with your physicians and veterinarians.
--Travis Weaver (LHU History Major). Photograph by Tyson Buttorf
It's time for another exciting outdoor adventure into the god-forsaken hinterlands of glorious Pennsylvania, and this one is challenging. This month's assignment is for you and a couple of your more expendable friends to drive out into the Greater Renovo Area to look at a bunch of really big hemlock trees and interject some excitement into your lives. You see, the path to the Forrest H Dutlinger isn't some well marked DCNR trail, instead it is a muddy hellhole fraught with perilous water crossings across poorly maintained cable bridges and such. At the end of the day you will feel that you have gone on an awesome and slightly dangerous adventure into the pitiless wilderness.
The Forrest H. Dutlinger Natural Area is a big area of semi-virginal forest that was somehow overlooked for wholesale destruction back during the lumber boom. I say semi-virginal because someone did sneak in and cut down all of the valuable white pine trees while leaving everything else intact. It is really rare around this area to find trees of such a prodigious size thanks to the whole “Lumber Capital of the World” thing. You might even see some elk while you are out there.
So how do you get to this primeval wonderland, you ask? If you are heading there from Lock Haven you will want to jump onto Route 120 heading north, also known as the Renovo Road, and stay on this until you come to Renovo. Then keep an eye out on your right for a rather abrupt right turn onto Tamarack Road. This is a very long and confusing road, meandering through forested valleys, but just stay on it all the way to the end when you will cross a creek and come to a V in the road. If you go left you will go to the Alvin Busch Dam, which, while very nice, is not where we are going today, so instead go right towards the town of Cross Forks. Stay on this road for about a mile and a half until you see Hammersley Fork Avenue on your left--turn left and then take a right onto Hammersley Fork Road.
This is where the fun starts! After a a short drive down the pothole-infested Hammersley Road past some moldering cabins, you will come to a small parking area on your left. Park your urban assault vehicle, say a prayer to whichever of the gods favors you the most, and walk a short distant down the road to where it dips down into the swelling bosom of Hammersley Run. You will probably stand at the water's edge for a moment, mouth agape, and say (as I did) “Hey! How the hell am I supposed to get across this? The answer lies in the form of two metal cables spanning the run. The trick is to stand on one and grab the other and shuffle your way across. This is a rather nerve racking process, especially when you get into the middle of the run, where you first realize that the cables were last tightened during the Nixon administration and are now sagging bad enough to flip you face down/ass up twenty feet in the air over a rocky icy stream. I would recommend sending one of your least favorite friends over the wire first, just in case.
After navigating this minor obstacle you realize that the trail is not so much a path as a winding mud pit that follows the general course of the run heading northward, so put on your war face and get slogging. Your destination is about a mile up the trail from you and along the way you will need to cross over the run several times. I went in the middle of winter of last year and had to scramble over ice-covered dead trees at several points which is about as fun as it sounds. Luckily there are a couple of man-made crossings still remaining, such as an very greasy and bouncy bridge, a very entertaining butt-scooter cable contraption and a somewhat more secure cable bridge. The whole place is like a redneck playground, but try not to get too distracted because you have a trailhead to find.
Keep an eye out to your left for a big plaque set in stone at the top of a small trail, and, brother, good luck finding it because it is damn easy to miss. The best directions I can give you from memory is that is not too far past the second cable bride and a strange deer-skull covered raider camp that looks like it could harbor a fugitive branch of the Manson Family. If you actually find the place, get ready for your march to glory because it is a straight upward shot following the course of an old log slide. If you go in the winter make sure to watch your footing. As you ascend you will notice that the trees get larger and larger in size, and mixed in with the many odd rock formations around it makes for some very nice natural scenery. The Game Commission have released an Elk herd in the general vicinity of this area, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for them. One of my companions went temporarily berserk with excitement upon finding a rather large hoof print, so much so that we were forced to lash him to one of the giant hemlocks until he regained his composure. At the very top of the trail you come to some truly enormous trees, as well as a trail book. Write some comments and take a break amid the natural splendor as your reward, and then retrace your grueling journey back to civilization when you have had enough.