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.

The enduring bond of dogs and humans

By Michael Dover

The germ of this column came from reading Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire,” which shows the reciprocal relationship between people and domesticated plants: The plants meet human desires and humans propagate the plants widely. My immediate reaction was, “Of course! Dogs and cats!” The idea was helped along when a wonderful dog joined our family.

Published in Earth Matters on February 22, 2021.

Stunning perspectives now democratized by drones

By Christine Hatch

When I fly, I get a window seat whenever I can. I press my face against the glass, camera ready, and spend the flight marveling at the shapes in the landscape, how the surfaces turn to art, how places I know from maps are transformed by the light and are so, so small.

Published in Earth Matters on February 8, 2021.

Guides aside, birds are where you find them

By David Spector

As birdwatchers travel we keep track of birds we encounter, especially those new to us. And when we travel, we want information about finding such birds.

The Massachusetts birdwatcher visiting California wants to know when and where to experience snowy plovers, tufted puffins, western screech-owls, western bluebirds, western tanagers and other western birds; the California birdwatcher on an exchange visit to Massachusetts would want information about piping plovers, Atlantic puffins, eastern screech-owls, eastern bluebirds, scarlet tanagers and other northeastern species.

Published in Earth Matters on January 25, 2021.

The wisdom of trees in winter

By Lawrence J. Winship

What is the wisdom shown by “wise trees”? Is it perhaps that they appear to cease striving and simply endure because growth is made impossible by the “sure” arrival of cold, of scarce and pale light, and of water frozen solid? Or might the verse call to mind the “wisdom” of genetic information encoded in the tree’s DNA?

Published in Earth Matters on January 11, 2021.

When is a trout a salmon and what difference does it make?

By John Sinton

When I was fly fishing for pink salmon some years ago in the Pacific Northwest, I hooked an enormous steelhead, which is a sea-run rainbow trout. That steelhead was twice the size of the five-pound salmon I’d caught, but I wondered why one was called salmon and the other, trout.

Published in Earth Matters on January 2, 2021.

Then, now, and in an uncertain future

By Tom Litwin

On my desk is an old Kodak photo of my Dad and me, standing in front of our home. With snow piled high, we had just finished digging out our driveway — my snow shovel proudly displayed. On the edge of the photograph is stamped 1961, so I was 10 years old. While working at my desk I sometimes drift off into the photo with memories of sledding, snowball fights, snow huts, maple syrup on snow, skiing and coveted school snow days. There are few weather events like snowstorms that are as intertwined with our culture and lifestyle, yet they have humble beginnings.

Published in Earth Matters on December 11, 2020.

Restoring a wetland despite a drought

By Christine Hatch

When the bulldozers come to the field site you’ve affectionately spent five years measuring and studying in minute detail, it feels like someone is tearing up your living room and smearing mud on the couch. As a geologist, it is also a rare and wonderful opportunity to lift off over 100 years of human land use and look underneath, and back in time to what once was.

Published in Earth Matters on November 28, 2020.

Keeping nature intact for all in the CT River Valley

By Laurie Sanders

If you’re interested in natural history, the Connecticut River Valley is a great place to live. The combination of geology, hydrology, human history and climate create a remarkable diversity of habitats. In Northampton, where most of my conservation work has focused, you can explore 40 different types of natural communities — from rocky summits and cliffs to open marshes, floodplain forests and rivers.

Published in Earth Matters on November 21, 2020.

An inside look at a loon

By Katie Koerten

During my stint as a bird rehabilitation intern in Vermont years ago, we had some memorable moments. Once, someone brought in a juvenile bald eagle that had been shot near the Canadian border. We were horrified at the crime of shooting such a bird, but excited to be in charge of its care. It made a full recovery and we released it at the Connecticut River, where it promptly flew across into New Hampshire. But the experience that made perhaps the biggest impression on me was the time we got a call about a common loon that had been found in a parking lot, listless and unable to fly.

Published in Earth Matters on October 30, 2020.

Spiders right at home with you

By Joshua Rose

The back door is their favorite. Not that they avoid the front. I see a few there. The front is just too clean, bright and sunny. Not enough hiding places. Plus, we humans are always blundering through, destroying their webs.

Published in Earth Matters on October 17, 2020.
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