Gray Jays

The “Gray jay”, more officially known as the “Canada jay”, is used to to title a chapter in William’s book, Refuge. I chose this chapter because the Gray jay has some spiritual meaning to it all over the United States and Canada. It’s symbolized as a part of nature in a folk tale around the Maine/New Brunswick region, where it reflects actions done on it back to the person performing the action. Another representation is by the Ojibwa/Cree tribes in Northern Michigan/Southern Canada surrounding Lake Superior, where trickster gods would take form as the Gray Jay and aid humans. Gray jays are curious birds and are known to interact with humans on many occasions, with no indication of fear.

In this chapter, the Tempest family is mourning the pour health of the family matriarch (Terry’s mother). She is willing to let go and to have a peaceful death, despite still suffering with her battle from cancer.  I believe the Gray jay is used to title the chapter as it represents the mother of the story. Many Gray jays have a short lifespan and are known to represent the health of the surrounding ecosystems. As the lake level has began its own treatments, the mother remains with very poor health and only continues to weaken as she does not want the treatments and wishes to pass away. The methods of trying to treat her condition only make her feel worse, but in comparison, the treatment of the lake fixed the flooding of the lake but ended up displacing many birds around the environment. Much like the Gray jay, she represents the land around her and everyone in the Tempest family knows it as well.

The Animal Life and Human Connection on the Amish Farm

After the visit to David Kline’s farm, I find that I was able to obtain a better understanding of Amish life. The large swaths of land owned by a small yet independent farming community brings a new meaning to self sustainability. The animals that belong on these farms range from guinea fowl and dogs to rowdy stallions and hulking cows. The utility of these animals are not forgotten, as they play a role on the farm just like any other animal, however the cows are especially important in supplying stable income.  During my visit, I counted at least fifteen cows on the farm alone, without putting too much thought into it. David explained the use of his farm animals and the struggle to not get attached too much to these animals. The burden of caring for the farm animals are not without a few exceptions, where some attachments can still be made. An example of this would be of a cow named “Panda” who was respectfully buried after the time of her passing. The avoidance to the mass humanization of the animal life is detrimental in order to not suffer constant loss and be in a state of perpetual mourning. This is the conclusion that I came to, in regards to how this thought is present in some Amish communities. Regardless, the life on the Amish farm was interesting to observe and to hear about the connection between man and animal brings a form of sympathy for any who may choose that form of lifestyle.

Panoramic view of Reeds Lake

The beauty of the little town of East Grand Rapids has always captivated me. As I strolled down the local park, I was able to sit down on a nearby bench and witness a pleasing creation. I faced in outwards towards the nearby man-made lake and saw the shimmering water reflections that sparkled as the sun was setting. I watched Canadian geese and a few ducklings crossing the dark blue waters as the hurry to rest. Further outwards, on the opposite side of the lake, lies a swamp-like portion of the lake with the rare appearance of a swan appearing, if one were to be lucky enough. To the right of my view lied the public library and high school, with the lines of houses boarding the lake only a few feet away from the school itself. To my left resided the yacht club and their private docks to harbor their boats. These boats all ranged from sail boats to speed boats, however the only thing stopping me from inspecting them is a small wire fence. Past the private harbor was the town’s oldest restaurant, Rose’s, which began long before I was born. It’s lakeside view is unmatched and is a perfect spot to observe the calm waterfront scenery. Behind me laid the Gaslight Village, where the old gas-powered lamps are still used to this day to bring light to the small sub-urban development. Being surrounded by the landmarks and history of my small hometown made me feel quite at peace with the environment around me.

An Unexpected Encounter

Although I have experienced many things in my life, I rarely get the opportunity to experience some event in the right place at the right time. Luckily, I was able to experience such a thing quite recently. It was when I was walking back from Woosterfest, when I decided to take a detour through some nearby neighborhoods. As I was wandering through them, I was finishing up on a cheaply made chicken-ranch sandwich from one of the many food trucks that were stationed in the festival. As I was leisurely eating my sandwich, almost finished with strolling by the small houses, I encountered a stray cat. It was a young female cat with a mixture of white and black patterns randomly painting its body. It sauntered up to me, just as I was about to head back on Beall Ave, and meowed loudly. Of course, I knew the cat wanted what I was eating. I set my sandwich on the ground and pet it while it happily ate the leftovers. I wasn’t too attached to the sandwich, as it was not the highest quality of food,  so gifting it to the cat caused me no trouble. As it was finished, it hummed with soft purring and relished in affection for another few minutes before wandering away. Since then, I have still thought of that warm moment with the friendly feline. I hope it does well and as the temperature starts to decrease, that its owner will keep it warm and well-feed inside.

The Black Squirrel: Merry Mascots in Disguise?

The black squirrel is an abundant yet exotic animal that is featured on the college campus of Wooster. One can often see them skittering along the grass or climbing up a mighty tree. They can be seen just about anywhere on campus yet not many people know much about them. It’s like its slick black coat of fur brings a shroud of mystery behind it.  How are they different from other squirrels? I intend on answering this question, as well as looking more in-depth of its cultural impact, in hopes that we get to make a deeper understanding of these furry little creatures.

The origins of the black squirrel may shock you but these critters are found in most of America and even in other parts of the world like England. They are a subgroup of two animals, the eastern gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. The phenotype of the black squirrel is due to it’s dominant genetic alleles determining the hair pigments. As genes determining fur color are complex, to put it simply, black squirrels have special genes that make its jet black appearance and cannot be mixed with other squirrels.

As a result of their human interaction, there are many effects they have on the humans they live with. One of which, is the Mid-West culture surrounding the black squirrels. An example of this is the Kent University Black Squirrel statue. It’s a cultural icon of the university and has its own dense population of black squirrels that reside there. This isn’t the only place that has pride in its black squirrels. There are towns all over the U.S., most often Mid-Western towns, and even Canada that enjoy showing them off!

 

What Humans Leave Behind (In the Thicket of Thoreau)

“As I drew a still fresher soil about the rows with my hoe, I disturbed the ashes of unchronicled nations who in primeval years lived under these heavens, and their small implements of war and hunting were brought to the light of this modern day. They lay mingled with other natural stones, some of which bore the marks of having been burned by Indian fires, some by sun, and also bits of pottery and glass brought hither by the recent cultivators of the soil” (Thoreau page #222).

I found that this quote resonated with me more than I would like to admit. I find it interesting that Thoreau would not only find some sort of reference to the Native Americans but to then describe the remaining artifacts that they left behind. This gives me reason to believe that this passage has more to do about time than it does about the Native Americans. This passage melancholically describes the rise and fall of civilizations and that people may be killed or displaced but their works will remain on Earth. The Earth spectates the changing boundaries of nations and peoples but even if entire civilizations are burnt to the ground, their evidence lays true to the remnants that toil the soil. Even the wording of the broken remains leave the reader with some sort of sorrow for the lost debris like, “mingled” and “ashes”. Certainly, this gives the reader a reason to believe that this is not an observation of random items but a statement on the human’s insignificant time on Earth and its consequences.

The Color of Nature

 

Nature is often thought about in ways of plant life to native animal species to geography and so on and so fourth, but in many cases we glaze over an important characteristics of nature, like color. The visuals of Johnson’s Woods could range through the entire color spectrum. From one end, there were dark, black mud patches in the murky swamp-like portions of the forest to the pale white color of the Beech tree bark. Out of all the variety that was available at Johnson’s Woods that I found to be interesting, I thought the mycena leaiana, the orange mushrooms that were scattered across the forest floor. Their vibrant orange bodies growing on brown logs pops out to any casual onlooker.An example of what they look like is added below for reference to what they look like in person. Overall, this forest was a special treat and I am grateful for the opportunity of observing the colors of the natural world.

The (Nature) Walk of Life

When I stroll around Wooster, I often find myself wandering the paths winding through the various areas of the campus. It was until recently that I realized that these man-made paths were created in synthesis with the nature that surrounds it. This complement of daily, faint exposure to the environment was something that I hadn’t thought of. It wasn’t until I forced myself to consciously recognize the intentions made in creating these paths were that it was a small glimpse of what we all ignore or just take advantage of. From the trees overhead to the plots of grass below, traveling through Wooster was meant to keep the plants around us in mind.