A muddy, melting mass of maudlin, but spring will come
Maybe it’s the thought of flying cars that got to me, but this past weekend was almost depressing.
I had a tough time getting out and enjoying our beautiful weather. This was partly because of too much reading about dams falling apart and our Department of Natural Resources being dismantled.
Still, things aren’t all that bad when we’re in Wisconsin. Even if the ship goes down, our bellies will likely be full of cheese curds and the sea will probably be made out of beer.
So, after whining a little about the weather, I’ll move on to the ritual counting of the blessings.
It’s that awful season again
Weekend temperatures in the mid-50s, along with bright sunshine, probably brought much rejoicing to many citizens of our fine state.
I like spring as much as the next guy, but in my 10 years in Wisconsin, I have experienced a total of about six days of that season.
In the meantime, I’ve suffered through approximately 666 days of that season that I call “Mud.” I’m guessing 666 because mud is evil.
As I’ve noted frequently, I love winter and its sports like my mother loves her writer son – unconditionally, regardless of the fact that the aforementioned rolls in periodically bearing the gift of higher utility bills and blustery noises. Winter being the aforementioned, of course.
Anyway, last weekend brought a sudden melting and runoff of our snow down into the sewer, like the dreams of Atlanta Falcons fans in this year’s Super Bowl.
Once I got word that Iverson Park and our other local cold-sports venues have shut down for the season, I began to feel cheated.
This is the first year since our arrival that we didn’t make a trip to Iverson’s sledding hill, and I also missed out on Standing Rocks ski trails. That’s partially offset by discovering new favorites like Powers Bluff in Wood County and Nine Mile Recreation Area in Marathon County.
This past weekend started with me taking apart a platform bed – twice – to find a missing pair of kid glasses. Tasks seemed to pile up from there, and by Sunday, I was stir-crazy and trying unsuccessfully to convince my kids to take an outdoor trip.
It didn’t help that I spent much of last week reading about outdoor subjects like California’s Oroville Dam – the nation’s highest – nearly failing after an overflow. Climate change, characterized in part by long drought followed by rains of extraordinary volume, is apparently partly to blame, as shifting and extreme weather patterns impact everything from soil structure to water depth.
In the meantime, our state government is apparently trying to break up the Department of Natural Resources and kill off its own magazine. Wisconsin Natural Resources is a successful, decorated publication that apparently ruffled feathers with stories related to – what else? – such topics as climate change, groundwater use and endangered species, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
That paper reports that the magazine is self-sustaining despite counter-assertions by a department spokesman, who also denied that the move was political – even though a former editor resigned over what she characterized as censorship of stories seen as controversial by some administrators.
Even the so-called good news, such as the possibility of Tesla executive Elon Musk developing a spectacular tunnel-boring process that could open a world of underground transportation, didn’t lighten my spirits.
That’s because the same piece talked about the possibility of “air taxis” – cost-effective flying cars with autonomous systems to fly them – which immediately made me realize how difficult it would be to enjoy a national park with those around.
Every time you’d look up, there’s be some legislator and his dopey kids zipping around looking for a new place to put another vacation home on a riverbank, protected, of course, by somebody else’s flood insurance.
Thank goodness so many of our legislators are anti-science and anti-education. That ought to keep people from developing the skills and abilities, or having the laboratories, for inventing anything great for the foreseeable future.
But I digress, and I need to take a step back from figuratively wallowing in news to the actual task of trying to enjoy mud season.
About the best I could do Sunday was talk my daughter into walking to my office. On the way, we stopped in Emerson Park to play among the remains of our snow sculptures and the ice river the parks department lays out for skaters.
As my daughter climbed a lumpy former work of art, I noticed in the bright late-afternoon light that she seemed taller. This sparked wistfulness, but also a grateful feeling that I’ve still got half of her elementary years, and all of her secondary years, to try to convince her of the value of weekend outings with the old man.
A good sun will still shine
Even though 2016 brought us the third consecutive year of record-high worldwide temperatures, hardened criminals – pardon me, climate scientists – say the absence of El Niño should make 2017 cooler, so maybe we’ll have a longer winter next time around.
And there is other good news. Former Texas governor Rick “Can’t Remember Three Agencies” Perry is now convinced climate change is real, so apparently miracles do occur.
Locally, we’re reminded of our own reasons for hope. We read last week of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s own Christine Thomas, dean of the College of Natural Resources, being named to the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame, which puts her in the good company of Aldo Leopold, John Muir and one of her CNR predecessors, Dan Trainer.
Meanwhile, folks like former English professor Dan Dieterich keep fighting the good fight. Dieterich, a local champion of environmental causes, will discuss the impact of climate change on Wisconsin as part of the Portage County Ice Age Trail Association’s annual meeting at the downtown library’s Pinery Room. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27.
And there’s a social-media movement afoot to have as many people as possible buy $9 subscriptions to the DNR’s magazine to pressure the state to keep it, with the idea being that everyone will vote with their wallets.
So it was last week and shall be next week. We all slog on through the muck, striving to reach higher ground and smiling as much as we can during the trek.