Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year is at hand. Taken literally, solstice means that the sun stands still. But like naturalist Hal Borland said,
“There is no standing still in any season. The earth turns, and the year turns, and sunrise changes, and sunset alters, day by day. And neither man nor his affairs stand still. Change is the only constant.”
It’s a good day for reflection. Here’s 10 quotes to get you started :
“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly. ” – Pablo Neruda
“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer — its dust and lowering skies.” – Toni Morrison
“Then followed that beautiful season, Summer. Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Summer is a gentleman: slowly warming the earth at length before undressing her in the fall.
– Curtis Tyrone Jones
“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” – Maud Hart Lovelace
“The first ear of corn, eaten like a typewriter, means summer to me – intense, but fleeting.”
– Michael Anthony
“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.”
– Deb Caletti
“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” – Wilma Rudolph
“Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this was the first real time of freedom and living; this was the first morning of summer.” – Ray Bradbury
I took this picture on a recent hike and didn‘t think twice about it. I was going through my camera roll and it struck me differently. Tay usually writes the blog posts around here, but since it’s Mother’s Day, I wanted to try and write down how this picture makes me feel.
There’s something about Mother’s Day 2020 that emphasizes the true “super-hero” qualities that all great moms possess. These qualities have never been more salient to me than during this COVID-19 pandemic. Since Taylor and I started our family together six and a half years ago with our son, Mason, I accepted the role as the “bread-winner.” For years I’ve worked 50-60 hours a week at my day job and up until last year I also bar-tended 3 or 4 nights a week for extra income. I consider myself a hard working guy. My work ethic has helped define who I am. I’ve been promoted and recognized for it again and again.
Then as a result of the pandemic I was laid off at the end of March. Getting up and going to work is all I had known and suddenly I was told to stay home and “social distance.” I was incredibly fortunate to be home with my whole family healthy, safe, and secure. I thought to myself, “Wow I get to stay home ALL DAY and get paid for it? What am I going to do? I guess I finally have time to work on the house! Sure, I’ll have to help out with the kids and household chores, but that’s easy compared to what I usually do at work…
Fast-forward six weeks to Mother’s Day. Six weeks of helping Tay prepare three meals a day and supplying a thousand snacks in between. Six weeks of doing endless piles of laundry. Six weeks of sweeping/vacuuming the floor only to have to do it again a few hours later. Six weeks of battling, negotiating, bribing, and even pleading with my children to get them to pick up a mountain of Legos or a pile of Pokémon cards. Six weeks of listening to “I’m bored!” “Mason hit me!” “Veda started it!” “I’m hungry!” “I’m not tired!” “Can I play on my IPad?” “Can I watch TV?” “I don’t like chicken!” Six weeks of saying or sometimes yelling “It’s time to pick up now.” “You just had a snack 10 minutes ago.” “Mason please stop teasing your sister!” “Veda let go of your brother’s hair!” “Please get your pajamas on and brush your teeth!” “Are you listening to anything I say?” Now don’t get me wrong, my kids are amazingly well behaved. They’re smart, they’re funny, and they have incredible personalities. For every 10 times they make me want to scream and pull my hair out there are a million times that make me the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
I can recall times I would come home from work and I could tell Tay was exhausted. But nonetheless she’d power through her fatigue and have a hot delicious dinner ready for the family. She’d make everyone else a plate and then finally attempt to sit down for a quick bite but without fail as soon as one cheek grazed the chair she’d be bombarded with requests and comments like, “Mom, can I have more spaghetti?” “Mom, I need more water!” “Mom, what’s this little green stuff?” “Mom, I don’t like this can I have cereal instead?” Even I would chime in “Babe can you grab me a drink while you’re up?” Then we would finish up our dinner while we reviewed the day’s events and before I knew it she’d have the entire kitchen cleaned, our children in their pajamas with their teeth brushed and be ready to read them a book before bed. All the while she’d listen to me talk about work or whatever was on my mind. She’d validate my feelings while simultaneously folding her fifth load of laundry and mentally preparing the grocery shopping list for the next day. Did I mention she also works part-time doing social media marketing for a local restaurant and creates all the content for Berkshire Family Hikes?
Being at home in the trenches with Tay for the past six weeks has shown a new light on what a mother endures on a daily basis. You see, it’s not about the fact that she can multi-task better than me, or that she’s a master organizer and incredibly good at budgeting her time. It’s not the fact that she’s more patient, more disciplined, and more resilient than I am. It’s that she doesn’t require credit or recognition to stay consistent. Remember in the opening paragraph when I said “I’ve been promoted and recognized” as a direct result of my work ethic? The recognition drives and motivates me as an employee to keep growing. But what if all my hard work was never recognized? What if it was just expected? Studies have shown that eventually an employee will develop a resentful attitude and regress. It’s human nature.
But how often is a mother promoted or recognized for the way she loves and takes care of her children/family? For the way she packs her child’s lunch box for school or helps them with their homework? Our society says “You chose to have a child so it’s your responsibility to raise it. You should be helping your kid with his/her homework. It’s part of being a parent.” This is true, but I would argue that we also should recognize our mothers for what they do every. single. day. without fail. For their super-powers –altruism and unconditional love. Somehow it becomes a seamless part of “mother” nature, one that is too often overlooked.
You see, moms don’t stop being moms when they are taken for granted. They just keep on loving and doing what needs to be done. They are the most unappreciated people in our society. How come there has never been a viral video of a mother simply tucking her kids into bed? That should get more “views” or “likes” than any video out there! But unfortunately it doesn’t. And I’m as guilty as the next person.
If you had asked me six weeks ago what I see when I look at this picture I would say something like “Snack time on the trail.” But when I look at this picture today I see so much more. I see all that led up to this beautiful moment. I see Tay helping Mason and Veda get dressed for the hike. I see Tay packing their snacks and filling up their water bottles. I see a mother spending quality time with her most prized possessions. I see my own mother putting in the work of raising me for the past 33 years and counting. I see all loving mothers who do their best each and every day.
Usually when we go on our weekly hikes Tay takes all the pictures. As a result, she’s absent from the bulk of photos. For some reason I grabbed the camera that day and I’m so lucky that I did. I got to see and capture the essence of Motherhood. I think the perfect caption for this photo is “Super Mom in Her Element.”
I want to recognize and wish every unappreciated mother who has dedicated their life to raising their children a Happy Mother’s Day. They say to look for the silver lining in a bad situation. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, I would never have had this opportunity to spend so much time with my family and see it from a different perspective. I’m making it a point to be more aware of what truly matters as I navigate forward. I hope the world can find and hang on to a more positive shift in perspective as well. I wish you all health and happiness.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you superheroes out there!
With every aspect of our lives suddenly disrupted, nature and outdoor activities provide essential stability, stress-relief and distraction to the current crisis. Lucky for us, the Berkshires is bursting with open-air spaces.
With Spring on the horizon and increasing uncertainties ahead, there is no better time to get outside and let nature work it’s magic.
Here are 20 family-friendly hikes we’ve reviewed to jumpstart your adventures.
I’ve been struggling with what to write these days. We’re hiking more than ever to fill the empty time, yet when I sit down to write a review, the words feel forced. And not because my heart’s not in it, no – my heart has never before been more tied or in tune with nature and it’s source power – but because the traditional review starts to sound hollow and empty, like something left unsaid.
So I do what I always do when my own words fail me. I go searching for someone else’s words to fill the void, someone who made sense of my heart’s feelings, someone who jotted down its similar tune and left them someplace for me to find.
I wanted to share some of those words with you today. Maybe you’ll hear the matching melody to your own heart’s song and they’ll help fill a void or feed some part of your soul.
Walter Prichard Eaton lived, breathed and wrote Berkshire County. A resident of Sheffield, Eaton was the first journalist to pen the “Our Berkshires” column for the Berkshire Eagle. A prolific author, he published a collection of essays in 1920 under the title, “In Berkshire Fields.”
Uncertain times were a familiar subject for Eaton. The essay, “From a Berkshire Cabin,” was written in August of 1918, and America was deeply embroiled in the hostilities o,f World War I.
We may not be in armed combat, but there’s a striking comparison to these current times. ,Although we are living through a different type of global crisis than a World War, the parallels of our own inner and outer turmoil seem to rise to the surface like algae on a stagnant pond. A global spectre, a seemingly undefeatable enemy, and unprecedented carnage. The front lines look different – medical scrubs clothe these soldiers, not fatigues. They wear masks meant to shield microscopic bacteria instead of mustard gas, hoping the heavy antiseptic artillery thrown from the trenches is a efficacious defense.
From his, “…peaceful…quietly lonely and lovely spot where my cabin stands…” Eaton conducts a dichotomous symphony. Lilting tones trill out the tranquil beauty of his surroundings. Then the pitch sharply descends into minor key, chanting the intrinsic dissociation and discord that World War I ushered in:
“I am aware with a pang of almost intolerable sorrow of personal variety. My sin is that I have not worked for others, only for myself. We have struck the pitch of course, in a moment of national stress, when “crowd psychology” plays a large part; there is no sense of denying that. Can we hold the pitch when the tension is relaxed? Can we continue to realize that no individual happiness, no individual attainment of the beautiful, not national prosperity even, is worth much in the sight of the ‘All Beautiful’ unless it is part of a larger world happiness and beauty? “
Eaton wondered why we were capable of sending a massive army to fight overseas under the banner of universal humanity, but couldn’t, as a nation, mobilize for a similar ideal on the home front?
“The forest seems to whisper hope. But it is not going to be easy. Human selfishness, alas! in the form of greed has not always been scotched, even under the stress of war. Its tremendous grip on the world’s affairs in times past, however, as we now see only too plainly, has been in no small measure due to the lazy selfishness of myriads of good people, who would not sacrifice their own comfort, their own delightful leisure in their ivory towers of beauty, to fight for control of the civic machinery, to make what they knew in their hearts to be the right prevail. Those times must pass.
We must descend from our mountain cabins, our towers of ivory; we must come out of our gardens, forgetting our beautiful enjoyments, or our precarious jobs which carry no attendant enjoyments, and remembering only the ideal of beauty in our hearts, the ideal of beauty which means, too, the ideal of justice and mercy and peace and happiness for each and all, demand of what rulers we shall find that they give over to us the machinery which controls our destinies, and the destinies of all our fellows.
The forest seems drowsing in its loveliness, and I am loath to leave it, to descend to the valley road, to dinner – to the Sunday papers. It is hard to come down from a mountain cabin, from an ivory tower, to give up a solitary possession or resign a comfortable privilege! “
With Earth Day on the horizon, I happened upon a different “green” holiday, seemingly forgotten.
On June 1st-3rd of ,1990, the United Nations introduced the Environmental Sabbath Program.
An “International Earth Rest Day,” this interfaith celebration promoted a three-day period of renewal and reflection every June for Mother Earth.
The brainchild of
A Prayer of Sorrow
We have forgotten who we are We have alienated ourselves from the unfolding of the cosmos We have become estranged from the movements of the earth We have turned our backs on the cycles of life.
We have forgotten who we are.
We have sought only our own security We have exploited simply for our own ends We have distorted our knowledge We have abused our power.
We have forgotten who we are.
Now the land is barren And the waters are poisoned And the air is polluted.
We have forgotten who we are.
Now the forests are dying And the creatures are disappearing And the humans are despairing.
We have forgotten who we are.
We ask forgiveness We ask for the gift of remembering We ask for the strength to change.
The third and final verse to this literary concerto came as a result of my new job as 1st grade teacher. Wholly unqualified for this position I knew there’d be challenging days ahead, but I never expected to spend a Tuesday morning tearfully blubbering my way through a reading of “The Giving Tree.”
“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.“
One reason why Shel Silverstein’s artfully simplistic story has such universal appeal, is that for everyone, it can be understood differently. There’s no set way to decipher it, no singular moral to glean.
One might take this story as the foolish epitome of human selfishness, while another may see this as the sorrowful representation of the lengths someone will go for the things they love.
At its core, it’s a profoundly beautiful story about unconditional love and sacrifice, succinctly juxtaposing our sometimes selfish and frivolous human values against the humble goodness of pure, selfless love and limitless kindness. It was the story I didn’t know I needed to hear.
It’s been a joy to see people’s outdoor adventures fill up social media, seeing a wave of folks and families turn to nature for something to do, someplace to be. It reaffirms that message that nature is not only the first but simultaneously the final frontier. It began and it is all that remains. We remember it when all else is stripped away from us. Like that little boy on the stump, now an old man.
During this time of great suffering on Earth we often feel torn between healing ourselves and attempting to cure the social and economic ills that plague our culture. Like Eaton’s cabin, it is easier to construct our little ivory towers of safety and beauty, to live on our own tiny islands and shut out the ugliness. But in doing so we miss the forest for the trees.
One thing I know for certain – if we continue to view ourselves as separate from the rest of the world and not as a part of this living Earth, we’ll never understand that our individual participation extends to the whole, that ,justice and mercy and peace and happiness is intrinsically universal.
Remember to come down from your “mountain cabin” once in a while, remember who we are, and remember what was there for you. Remember that the Earth itself is a healer, full of comfort in wild places, remember to seek songs that make your heart sing, and remember that which we would like to see, we must help bring into being.
Today we’ll be investigating how different kinds of insects eat and how their mouthparts are specially adapted to eat the food in their environments. This interactive activity allows kids to try to eat like different insects and learn how their unique mouths dictate the type of food that they can consume.
Tweezers, Pliers, Tongs, Or Clothespins
Cups – 1 shorter, filled halfway with water or other drink // 1 taller and longer, filled halfway
Sponge – small piece with a straw sized hole cut out
Paper cut in a leaf shape
Food items like cheerios, goldfish, or other small pieces (cereal works great!)
Plastic Bugs (Optional)
After gathering your materials, cover the shorter cup with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Take one straw and cut a sharp angle on one end. Cut a small piece of sponge and squish it into the end of another straw. With two or three other straws, push them into one another to make one longggg straw. Set up a couple plates with your food items.
We discussed different types of insects and the way their mouthparts looked physically.
This chart was a handy visual and the plastic bugs we dug out of the cavernous toy box were helpful to understand the different parts and what they look like.
After that we dove right into the mouthpart mayhem.
We started our activity with Siphoning.
Adult butterflies and moths have siphoning mouthparts. A flexible tube slips into flower cavities and sucks up fluids, like nectar. When not in use the tube rolls up like a party favor!
Looking at the materials spread out on the table, I had the kids choose which item looked most like the feeding tube or proboscis of a butterfly. They found this one right away. Then we imagined we were a hungry butterfly perched at the top of a deep flower. How would we ever get to the nectar at the bottom?!
Next we looked for Mandibles. Insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars have mouthparts that are like pruning shears. Their jaws, called mandibles, chew through leaves by moving from side to side. I asked the kids to find what item on the table was mandible-like?
They used the pliers and tweezers to grind and “chew” the leaf shaped paper. Clothespins or tongs could also be used.
A large group of insects, like mosquitoes, stink bugs and cicadas, have tube-like mouthparts that pierce into their food source first and then suck up its juices. This one was funnnn.
I asked them to think like a mosquito. What item would you use to “bite” and suck blood? They grabbed the pointed straws and pierced the plastic wrap “skin.” I ended up rewrapping the cup multiple times because they got such a kick out of playing mosquitoes.
Lastly, we explored Sponging. Certain types of flies have mouthparts that are like bits of sponge. They must wet their food by regurgitating saliva that allows the food to dissolve. With the straw that had the sponge placed on the end, I instructed the kids to take a sip of water and get the sponge wet. Then to hold some of that water in their straw before moving it over their plate of food and releasing the water on top. Ewww. Another hit with the kids though! They waited until the cereal got soggy and then tried to suck it up the straw.
The kids had fun eating like different insects and it was interesting to learn that insects are limited to foods that their mouthparts and digestive systems can manage, a lot like people.
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