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January 26, 7:00 pm: Fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owl Migration by Jennifer Vieth, Carpenter Nature Center

February 23, 7:00 pm: The Elegance of our Tallest Birds: Cranes, Herons & Egrets by by Stan Tekiela, NatureSmart

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Matthew’s Musings: March-April, 2012

By Matthew Schaut, MRVAC President

Gary Eichten’s distinctive voice is one of the first things I became accustomed to when I moved to Minnesota some 6 years ago. After nearly 45 years with Minnesota Public Radio, the host of MPR’s Mid-Morning Show retired. Surely, his choice of subject matter in his final two days was not trivial. In his last two days on air, Gary chose to air an archival interview with the venerable Governor Arne Carlson, and his final interview was with Vice-President Walter Mondale.

According to Governor Carlson, the purpose of business is to employ human beings, and any company that hires an employee has an obligation to that employee’s well-being. The Governor explicitly said the profit motive and focus on short-term profits is not the raison d’etre for business, nor the mark of success. Rather, there is stewardship of persons and resources and relationships. Quality of life, anyone?

Notable in the final interview with Vice-President Mondale, was Mondale’s choice to end by making an appeal to preserve Minnesota’s natural resources. He noted how easy it is destroy natural resources for projects that may seem necessary, or because it seems convenient. He mentioned a bridge. My sense is he was making a gentle plea to reconsider the proposed Behemoth we are told “must” be erected over the St. Croix River Wild and Scenic Waterway in Stillwater.

Why, we ask? To serve commerce and urban sprawl and ridiculously long commutes? Are we really still in thrall to this appalling, greenhouse gas spewing mode? This is a battle we thought we’d won, an area we thought was preserved. It must break his heart; in his extremely kind and utterly civil way, the Vice President is reminding us we actually do have the choice not to destroy.

Sometimes, something destroyed can be restored. At the last refuge talk, on January 27, 2012, Dr. Scott Sharkey shared his experience of restoring the Refuges Opus Marsh by plugging an absurdly placed drain tile that drained the marsh into the Minnesota River. He did this with a group of volunteers in 1995. Since then, this honorary Warden of the Marsh, has made a study of this place. He shared his stunning photographs with an appreciative audience. Methinks there may be no person alive who has seen as many Least Bitterns in the nest…

It’s probably pretty clear that I experience my share of depressive realism. I read too much. Yet even I know that Spring is coming. Here is a paraphrase from the Prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, to put us in mind of Spring. I’d like to include the original verse – it’s delightful!

“As for me, though my wit may be little, I delight to read in books and revere them in my heart. In them I have such joy and faith, that there is scarcely any activity to draw me from my books, unless it would be some festival or else the lovely time of May. But when I hear the little birds singing, and when the flowers begin to spring, then farewell to my studies for that season!”

Merry Wanderings, all you honorary Wardens of the Marshes!