Earth Matters

Every two weeks, the Hitchcock Center publishes a column, "Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley," in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Writers include Hitchcock staff and board members, former board members, presenters in our Community Programs series, and friends of the Center. Look for the column at the end of Section C of the weekend Gazette or on their website. We will keep a complete list on this site, so if you miss seeing a column in the newspaper, or want to see it again, come here at any time.

How do animals live through our winters?

By Ted Watt For the Gazette

Each year as autumn advances I find myself amazed anew by the ongoing cycle of life in the face of approaching sub-freezing temperatures. Water, the facilitator of life processes, freezes solid and life-giving processes cease. Dormancy, hibernation, migration — there are so many strategies by which life manages this potential catastrophe.

Published in Earth Matters on December 15, 2017.

The case of the songless songbird: Cedar waxwings

By David Spector

Now is a good time to get outside to look for cedar waxwings, a striking songbird with an interesting story. Indeed, any time is a good time, as they are here year-round and always interesting, both for what they do and for what they don’t do.

Published in Earth Matters on December 1, 2017.

When do we find our place in the landscape?

by John Stinton for the Gazette

I recently went cycling with a friend who told me that he’d had a wondrously strange experience — the world around him suddenly became intensely bright and immediate to his senses. How could that be, he asked? After 70 years of living, what had he been missing?

Published in Earth Matters on November 17, 2017.

In memoriam, Elizabeth Farnsworth, writer, illustrator, scientist, naturalist

By Michael Dover For the Gazette

Elizabeth Farnsworth died suddenly at the end of October. I’m certain that anyone who has read even one or two of her many Earth Matters columns shares my sadness of this momentous loss.

Published in Earth Matters on November 3, 2017.

How seeds survive the winter

By Elizabeth Farnsworth For the Gazette

In an “Earth Matters” column this August, I marveled at the myriad methods by which seeds get around. Imagine you’re a seed that has traveled far and landed in a happy place, rich in soil and free of other competing plants. Now you face a new challenge as the days shorten and the weather gets colder. How will you survive the winter?

Published in Earth Matters on October 20, 2017.

Giants among us (silkworm moths, that is)

By Joshua Rose For the Gazette

Being a naturalist means regularly receiving messages asking “What is this thing?”

I received one on June 1 from a fellow Hampshire Bird Club member. Her husband was doing tree work on a town common, and photographed a huge moth nearby. I recognized it as a polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), a member of the family Saturniidae, the giant silkworm moths.

Published in Earth Matters on October 6, 2017.

A naturalist contemplates hunting

By Lawrence J. Winship For the Gazette

Some months back I talked with a friend about the challenges of growing vegetables in the Pioneer Valley and ways to deal with deer and woodchucks. Despite all attempts at fencing and repellent, entire sections of her garden were destroyed — just too many hungry mouths, leaving little for her family.

Published in Earth Matters on September 22, 2017.

Talking about climate change: What Buddhist teachings offer

By Mark D. Hart For the Gazette

I wince a little when I recall an email exchange with an old college friend. He responded to my annual Christmas letter, where I had revealed my political involvement against climate change. It turns out he is a “climate skeptic” and has written articles for conservative journals.

Published in Earth Matters on September 8, 2017.

Marveling at the wondrous power of seeds

By Elizabeth Farnsworth

Seeds are the beginning of life for so many of the plants that give humanity life: the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, the medicines that save us from disease. I am awed by all of nature, but nothing speaks to me of the miraculous so much as a seed.

Published in Earth Matters on August 25, 2017.

‘What is a bird?’ Easy question, complicated answer

By Henry Lappen

When I do my educational performance “A Passion for Birds,” I always ask the audience “What is a bird?” Depending on the age of the audience, I get quite a variety of answers. Someone usually starts with “It’s a flying animal.” I respond by pointing out, “Under that definition, bees and bats are birds.”

Published in Earth Matters on August 14, 2017.
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