The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Thoughts on a new normal

A web of pipes direct natural gas from beneath Pennsylvania, cutting  webs into state and private land.The manager of a 24-hour grocery was faced with a reality of calculations. Some people shopped late at night, but not nearly enough of them to pay the bills.

“I am about to change the hours,” he said. “We will open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.”

Some of his customers would complain for a short period, he said, then they would adjust to the new hours.

He was correct. We humans adjust to reality, or what we think is reality.

Last month was the hottest January in 141 years of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeping such records. On many mornings, as I sneaked out from under a warm blanket, I would argue that point – until I saw the evidence outside my door. Temperatures in the 20s and ground bereft of snow gave credence to the NOAA pronouncement.

It’s been said that if you place a frog in a pot of water and turn on the heat, the water will heat slowly and the frog will allow itself to boil to death. It turns out, the frog is smarter than we thought, and will jump out of the water while he still can.

We humans may have a problem.

The family hot tub is outdoors, and during winter we keep the temperature turned down. The water does not freeze and we hope it reduces electricity consumption. On the other hand, we normally like the water at about 101 F – about three degrees above book-normal body temperature. When I step into 101-degree water, it is hot.

It does not take long to become comfortable. The body become used to the new normal temperature.

Thus I could get used to the temperatures of the past few days. As I write this, the measuring gauge has marked 54 degrees. It’s early evening and the sun we haven’t actually seen all day through the clouds has reportedly gone down behind the western mountains. The good news is that if the sun ever stops shining, global warming will no longer be a problem.

The pavement is wet with afternoon rain, and surrounded by green grass. Creeks near my house iced over for a few days. One day, I found a Canada goose and a swan paddling back and forth in an opening too small for either of them to take off and fly to someplace with more open water. The ice lasted only a few days.

Crocuses are sprouting in the woods. Red-winged blackbirds are scouting nesting sites in the wetlands. Red-tailed hawks are beginning to fly in pairs.

In 2011, a Marcellus drilling company spokesman told me the great thing about producing natural gas from Pennsylvania was it’s proximity to New York to Maine markets. This week, permits in hand, Duke Energy cancelled the 124-mile pipeline meant to carry heating fuel to the cold country. Turns out, it’s not so cold there, and there’s not enough money in selling heating fuel to people who do not need so much of it.

Several pipelines are tearing up Pennsylvania countryside, crossing the Appalachian Trail and private Lancaster County lands to transport natural gas to export terminals for sale to European homes. But a mild winter has cut those markets, as well. Environmental activists and private landowners appear to be getting help from the planet herself in the effort to save fields and forests from destruction.

Warmer winters are easy to get used to, unless one is an aficionado of downhill skiing. Or natural gas sales.

On the other hand, I am a lover of swimming in the creek, and that, might be available a bit earlier this year.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.


  1. Terry W. Burger

    March 2, 2020 at 08:18

    It drives me crazy when gleeful golfers celebrate freakishly warm weather.

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