Sunday, June 30, 2019

Salmon Obsessed with Return

An Obsessive Sense of Place

Lattices of salmon ribs litter the banks of a stream.  On cold autumn nights, frost flowers bloom reflecting star light.  The stream babbles and unintelligible song as it rushes westward.  It is the salmons’ place to be born, tow spawn; it is their place to disintegrate and die.  Salmon are anadromous fish, fish evolved to follow an elegant rhythm of always returning to their birth stream to spawn after maturing in a saltwater or sweetwater se.

            For male and female salmon alike, the imprint of place is their obsession.  As smolts they burst from their transparent eggs still wearing a yolk sac on their bulging bellies.  Like their ancient ancestors who breathed glacial meltwater through their gills, the newborns streak down stream to the freedom of the great inland sweetwater seas known as the Great Lakes.  In jade green waters they feed their voracious dream until their bodies grow heavy with it—until they resemble silver purses stuffed with treasure: slick coral beads and pearly white milt.

Summer sun dazzles  down through the thermoclines—the layers of warm, cool, cold water—where it enters through the fishes’ pineal eyes—triangles on top of their heads—giving them sure knowledge of their place in the larger scheme of things.  They bide their time drifting in schools, fanning their tails in repose, gorging on small fish.  They dream of their place where clear water chortles over quartz and granite under shifting shadows of white pine and tamarack.  It is their place and as their urgent need to return gather force under a moon that grows heavy on the horizon, a moon the color of salmon eggs, a moon that must change to bone white, the salmon mill about in the harbor.

The fishes’ bellies grow heavy as the harvest moon.  The dream becomes reality as celestial cues, the sun, the moon, the stars enter each cellule and each dancing atom of their bodies.  Then they begin.  The fish return to their stream and nothing will stop them: they ignore hunger, snares, treble hooks.  On their silvery sides their lateral lines carry everything they need to know; their maps and compasses imbedded in the circuitry of their bodies…the hereditary wisdom of their species carried in a network of circuits from pineal to tail.  It is a sure knowledge of the west Michigan river system linked to the Great Lakes.
                                                                                        --Barbara Spring

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Isle Royale in Lake Superior

Greenstones,  Wolves, Moose, Thimbleberries, and the Isle Royale redfin lake trout

On the map, Isle Royale looks like the eye in the wolf’s head shape of Lake Superior with Duluth its snout and the Keweenaw Peninsula its mouth.  It is precious since there are few places left on this planet that have been preserved like this.  It is unique; some of the oldest rocks on this planet form Isle Royale, its plants and animals  and minerals.  There are copper mining pits on the Island where native Americans dug rich veins of copper long ago.

     When I think of Isle Royale, I think of Eden, a place away from cars and the noise of machinery. There is no traffic on Isle Royale; only hiking trails.   The sounds of Isle Royale are of bugling moose, the silvery songs of northern songbirds, the lapping of waves on rocks and the quavering voices of loons.  Sometimes there is the slap of a beaver’s tail.  The resident pack of wolves are elusive and seldom seen.  We did not hear them at all.

     My husband and I hiked the trails there and I’ll never forget the thimbleberries  higher than our heads along a trail.  We picked the large berries like none other I have ever tasted, copper color, tangy and delicious.

          We found greenstones, Michigan’s semi precious stone.  We stayed on Isle Royale for a week and every day we took a different hiking trail.  We watched a diving duck teaching her young to dive.  We saw a fox near its den, and had a close encounter with a moose.   As we hiked, my husband Norm said, “I smell a moose.”  I didn’t believe him, but as we came around the bend, there it was, bigger than life, standing athwart our trail.  We kept a respectful distance and it casually strolled off.

          We did not fish, but the rocks off of the island are the place where the Isle Royale redfin lake trout spawn as they have for millennia.  This is an endemic species and it’s good to know it is still returning to Isle Royale every year before returning to the depths of Lake Superior.

          In my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes, I have a section devoted to this very special fish, the Isle Royale redfin lake trout.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Lake Levels Rising in the Great Lakes

The Detroit Free Press

Water levels are surging in the Great Lakes and likely will set records this summer, forecasters said Monday — a remarkable turnaround from earlier this decade that's bringing welcome relief to shippers and marina owners, but causing flooding and heavy erosion in some areas.
A six-month bulletin from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted Lake Superior and Lake Erie soon will reach unprecedented high points, as a heavy winter snowpack across the region's northern section melts and mingles with water gushing into the lakes from rivers swollen with spring rainfall.
Levels have been trending upward at varying rates since 2013, when Lakes Huron and Michigan fell to their lowest points and the other Great Lakes were significantly below normal. That was the nadir of a nearly 15-year slump that stranded pleasure boats, forced cargo vessels to lighten loads, dried up wetlands and fueled conspiracy theories that water was somehow being siphoned off to the parched West.

               "It's quite the shift," said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology with the                           Corps' district office in Detroit. "Now we're at the other extreme."

Lake Superior, which holds more water than the other four combined and sends it in a continuous flow through its southern outlet, is about 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) above its long-term average level for this time of year, and nine inches (22.9 centimeters) higher than a year ago. Lake Erie is 26 inches (66 centimeters) over its long-term average.
Michigan, Huron and Ontario aren't expected to set records but are well above average, Kompoltowicz said.
Great Lakes levels are known to fluctuate over time. But experts said the prolonged drop-off of the past decade and the more recent rise likely result at least in part from a warming climate.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Living Waters

Living Waters

The north woods ring—the waters gather dripping from the tops of pines, running, running, running over ancient rocks.  The veerys trill up and down the scales, the warblers chime their notes through still bare twigs and the water runs, it runs down to Lake Superior swirling downstream, plunging over waterfalls just freed from ice curtains.  Curious deer come to drink from the pool below lifting their heads, standing motionless to sense the air.  Is it bear?  Wolf? Lynx?

Sun dapples down through bare forest trees—sun streams, the ground steams, wet leaves tilt insisting on light, thrust new spikes.  Water flows through mobile root hairs, roots, stems, vaporizes into air.

Wild geese weave the wind, skid along black marsh water among tangles of cat tail.  Further downstream waves curl onto a rock shore polishing stones to oval and the small stones roll chinking and chunking.  They assume their flat round shapes over years of grinding, finding their ease in the wave rhythms, rolling rolling, rolling.  White caps bubble foam and the jade water is a dancing goddess in the middle distance between shore and horizon.

Children arrive to pick up fossils of ancient coral and to find stones to skip on a quiet day.  They chase sea gulls and try to become airborne by leaping and spreading their arms.  Cormorants and sooty terns rise and cleave the air.  The red cheeked kids leap in the early spring breezes, their knuckles chapped.  What do they care?

The bones of whales and sailors roll in the currents—some finding their way out to sea, some becoming, becoming, becoming a diatom’s shining, becoming the bones of an emerald shiner, becoming limestone shale in the loving exchange between the living and the living.  The islands of Lake Superior bear greenstones and jewel like snakes.  Sturgeon and trout spawn leaving pearls and coral in the crevices of rocks.  A moose stands chin deep in and island lake.  The islands of Lake Superior are quiet, remote and cold,  littered with bones.

Curled underground, water drawn up through squeaky pumps splashes into enamel buckets—water clear and cold and tasting of iron.  The iron flows through the veins of the moose and in the red cheeked children.

Loons quiver their greetings and as twilight falls, bullfrogs groan their love songs—they bellow all night long.  I lay awake listening to the water lapping the night and its creatures.

                                                  by Barbara Spring

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Return of Eagles, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons

The Return of Eagles, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons

In 1962 Norm Spring read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.  He wondered how anyone could read the book and not do something about the harm DDT was causing to the environment. He was living right across the street from Central Park at the time and the city of Grand Haven, Michigan would spray the elm trees for Dutch Elm disease with DDT.  He was told he could move his car, but along with his wife he had two small children and the house and places where the young children played would be coated with DDT.  The problem was DDT did not kill the elm beetle. it soaked into the ground and everyone could see robins trembling in their death throes in the grass.  The spray washed down the streets and into the storm drains so DDT entered Lake Michigan where it was caught up in food chains.  The fish became highly contaminated with DDT.

 Fish eating birds such as the American Bald Eagle were affected since their eggs became thin and cracked as a result of DDT and did not hatch.  Norm went to every meeting of the Grand Haven City Council for three years and finally the Grand Haven City Council agreed to stop their DDT program.

People came from a nearby city and asked “How did you do that?” and together they formed the Michigan Pesticides Council that met at Michigan State University.  Among the members were:  Norm Spring, chairman, Joan Wolfe, ornithologists Dr. Ted Black, Dr. George Wallace, Dr. John Kitchel,  Charles Schick, Ann Van Lente, , Joseph Kleiman, Theodore Carbine.  Due to their work DDT and like pesticides were banned in Michigan in 1972 and then the ban went nation wide and Canada followed.

Today the Eagles, Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons have returned to the shores of the Great Lakes, the United States and Canada because the democratic process worked.

Norm was inducted into The Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame in 2014 for his work on behalf of the environment.

 Think Globally and Act Locally.