The first victim of spring, a Dark-eyed
Junco. Dead, on a sidewalk of New York.
Image © Valerie Druguet
Chapter 2: BEGINNINGS, (RE)ITERATED
Tuesday, March 21.
I think today may have more to do with the Equinox
than with Spring. For one, last week's warm weather
bubble burst like something out of Wall street and
today's crispy outdoor ether reads 15 degrees wind-chill.
Coldsnap ! Nevertheless, we are still plodding through
space (as a planet, as a people, as a City), and the
at least is still with us. Today will last exactly
12 hours, as with every equinox
- and the man on the moon says whatever lively chaos
and turmoil might wreck our terrestrial planes, the
sky will continue to do its thing; up in the cosmos
satellites simmer radiantly in the sunlight, they
orbit with elliptical consistency. Around and around.
Call it determination, gravity, maybe it's faith.
Idem the flowers on the ground (Central Park), the
birds in song (everywhere), the trees in bloom (Callery
Pears, 8th avenue and 25th, or try Park Ave), the
midges over pond and lake (Prospect park, seen Sunday,
snapped up by inbound Phoebes and Pine Warblers).
Yes, it is cold out and yet all these plants and animals
they're still popping, still coming, still exploding,
straight up and full speed ahead into the future.
Hey, my buddy Cal even saw a hyper early, record-breaking
Louisiana Waterthrush, spotted and photographed
in Central Park. This bird over-winters in the Caribbean
and breeds in North America near ravines with gushing
Back to my main point. Resilience. Summer is nigh
and everything seems to know it, regardless of the
cold snap, the lull, the drag, the snow that might
return. Regardless what 9 million muffled men and
women in coats do or say. This is spring. And on this
frigid first day of 'official' spring, March 21st,
a Red-winged Blackbird flies by my window (20th floor)
on its way up 7th avenue, uptown, up north. Winging
its way into the breeding season, regardless. Such
Plants and animals, they can read the earth and the
passing of time in the stars above them. Me, I've
got weather.com, and I check it compulsively. I can't
control the weather so I obsess. I stress. I waste
my time. The birds and the bees they just go on. Call
it omniscience, or just plain old stubborn - is nature
a donkey ? My inner pagan seems to think so. Today
the universe looks like its got something I don't
have. And I'm jealous.
reminds me. Global Warming. Let me tell you the truth
about Global Warming. The problem is with the name,
global…warming. When we hear the words 'global' and
'warming', well I guess you assume this means the
globe will just get warmer, globally. True, but not
so fast. I have spoken with two colleagues, they're
the NYC specialists, Bill
Solecki and Cynthia Rosenzweig. Here's the idea,
in my words, not in theirs. The gist is the same:
fasten your seat-belts. Of course, the mean temperature
of the planet will rise, on average, over time. Maybe
slowly, probably not that slowly. Ice caps will melt,
ocean levels will rise, millions if not billions of
people will either be displaced, die or go to war
over dwindling resources. In the meantime, the climate
is about to take us for a zinger of a spin, here in
NYC even, a giant roller coaster ride, in my imagination
something like the wormhole in contact - without Jody
Foster and the raunchy ending. And far more riveting
than the old Cyclone at Coney. No this is serious
and it is for real. Warm spells will get hotter (they
already are), draughts drier (idem), rains will get
wetter (etc), snow falls snowier, cold snaps snappier.
Some days the earth will look like a bat out of hell.
Hurricanes will rise in frequency and intensity.
All of this is already happening to the global climate
system and it is called turbulence, turmoil, variations
in amplitude. These variations will continue to increase.
Cold will mean colder, hot will be hotter and well,
although the mean average year round temperature might
wind up looking the same, it will be slowly increasing,
Storm surges ? They will get higher. Waves too, will
increase in amplitude. And NYC in all of this ? The
waves will break, into the harbor, past the Verrazzano,
over the broad in the bay, the green one, so goodbye
Lincoln tunnel. Goodbye Holland. Canal street will
again be a Canal. You can watch it all coming in real
time. Start saving, too: all of this flooding
and repair will be paid for with your tax dollars.
see, up above in the cosmos satellites simmer radiantly
in the sunlight, they orbit with elliptical consistency.
Whatever lively chaos and turmoil might wreck our
terrestrial planes, the sky will continue to do its
thing. Global warming is affecting the migration of
for some, negatively
for others. It will soon kill millions
of species. Ours could be one. Others will appear.
And at the end of the day, Daddy Catastrophe will
show up and lead this planet into new creativity,
new realms. Daddy catastrophe and Mother Earth have
been at it before. For 4 and half billion years, to
be precise. From sudden death (asteroids, mega volcanoes,
Homo sapiens…) comes new life. From violence and extinction,
rebirth. Death and Life, they're stuck together like
proton and neutron. Go together like sperm and egg.
They, more than any partner in history, have been
leading the dance, and made this stinking existence
of ours so very possible. So very real. Don't believe
me ? Good science corroborates my shtick. Just sit
down with your kids and watch 'Miracle
Planet'. (Plenty of cool talking heads and this
time, Noam Chomsky is actually allowed to speak).
Native Americans too, understood the process of earthly
catharsis, long ago; they saw it in Coyote, the 'evil'
one through whom 'good' things come. They understood
creation, rightly so, as an ongoing process. But then
again so did Stanley Kubrick.
Me, I'm stubborn and I'm going to stick with my inner
donkey, at least for today. Because yesterday my wife
Val and I were returning from a day in the field.
We passed by Morgan Mail Facility, on 8th avenue and
28th street. On the hard pavement there were two dead
juncos. Migrating juncos. Heading north, through spring,
into summer…no such luck. Their bodies were locked
frozen, contorted, something like the guys smoked
at Pompeii. They had flown into the looming glass
panels of the infamous facility but to birds these
pseudo windows look like transparent continuums of
the world around them. In the glass the juncos saw
the reflections of trees. The promises of new branches.
Broken promises: they did not see the glass. They
flew right into it. Broken beaks, broken skulls, smashed
brains, ripped tissue, multiple lesions, internal
hemorrhaging. Broken spring. 100
million birds die this way every year in North
America alone. They die pathetically because of windows
erected in their way. Because of glass (Glass can
cut, slice a life in half). They die because of our
shades, our glitz, our cool. Ultimately, because of
who we are. "Moloch!, whose eyes are a thousand
In old Mannahatta, the 'island of many hills', legend
has it that in the end, there will be nothing but
darkness. And in the darkness will echo the call of
you next week
P.S.: The coyote quote is an actual legend. And btw,
there already are coyote in NYC - they raise their
pups on golf courses, in the Bronx.