Klingon Devil Pods: Trapa natans

IMG_4349devilpods480And it turns out that the name we gave it– “Devil Pods”– is one of the historically-used “common names” for this plant. It took us a while to finally conclude that it was indeed a plant, since the pods seem to be made of a very hard alien material rather than any botanical matter we’d ever seen.

So had concluded at first that these were actually baby Klingons, dropped at Kingston Point Park along the Hudson. But then I knew that I had seen images of this bizarre thing from the web on Planet Earth, so as we drove towards our next destination (Massawaska State Park) I attempted to ID the six (empty non-viable) pods we brought with us.

And in this I failed. But my friend’s daughter back home that evening googled “Catskills black seed” and it was the first item listed. Go figure: the range extends from Virginia to Canada. And a friend for dinner that night–a kayaker–recognized the pods immediately and with some loathing as “Water Chestnut.” And it has both a good and a bad reputation–the former, back in Asia from which this invasive derived, the latter among those who fancy open surfaces on  waterways.

Also called water caltrop, water chestnut, buffalo nut, bat nut, devil pod, and ling nut, this water-rooted plant can quickly choke waterways.

“Water chestnut was first observed in North America near Concord, Massachusetts in 1859. The exact path for the introduction is unknown. It has been declared a noxious weed in Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Carolina and its sale is prohibited in most southern states.

“Water chestnut can grow in any freshwater setting, from intertidal waters to 12 feet deep, although it prefers nutrient-rich lakes and rivers. Presently, the plant is found in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, with most problematic populations occurring in the Connecticut River valley, Lake Champlain region, Hudson River, Potomac River and the upper Delaware River.”

I should mention that we found these botanical land mines on a sandy beach near the volleyball nets. I still think they were dropped on our planet with sinister intent. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Water Chestnut (Trapa natans)
http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/trna.htm

The Creature (Dis)comforts of Air Travel

It had been months in the planning. A college buddy invited me to his home in Westchester County, NY. On Saturday I would speak at the Pound Ridge Reservation Trailside Museum. On Thursday and Friday he and I would hike in the Catskills. But there were issues at both airports that made getting there an ordeal.

First there was the altercation with TSA that resulted in the letter below, crudely typed in flight while I was still fuming and indignant. Then at my destination, I suffered the consequences of the airline cavalierly moving my flight FOUR HOURS earlier than scheduled less than 24 hours in advance of departure. My friend’s day did not let him blow off planned meetings to fetch me home. So I sat and waited. Sort of.

I got to spend three hours like a street person at LaGuardia, where when you pick up your baggage, they want you OUTTA THERE and provide no place to sit except where you see me splayed out in the window. Color me disgusted with air travel at that point.

But in spite of some other glitches, we landed on our feet in the Catskills, and perhaps more about that soon. I offer my letter, just as a way of venting, and can’t imagine I’ll bother to pretend that sending it would do anything more than add all my personal details to a database watch-list and risk of future harassment, should, God forbid, I EVER have to get on an airplane again.

To Whom if May (or May Not) Concern at TSA

A micro leather man tool on my keychain was confiscated by TSA. It included a blade maybe an inch long and this was deemed a sufficient threat to do what? Somebody could do more damage with a large paper clip. Are paper clips “illegal”? Hair pins? Please offer some common sense maximum-permissible blade length that is determined by potential lethality.

I find it hard to believe that no effort has been made to provide convenient  access to prepaid mailers at public airports. If available these could be purchased quickly so that when small items of great personal value are confiscated at check-in they do not end up for sale. I was told taken items are sold, and this is disturbing.

Taken items should be incinerated so that opportunists with government contracts do not profit. Found items are one thing. TAKEN items should not benefit anyone–especially any entity doing business with the government.

This Leatherman tool was a special gift from my daughter and when it was taken I was given no real option other than to miss my flight to prevent this from being held and sold. That is unacceptable. Please arrange additional options for mailing personally valuable items to our homes rather than having the only choice be  “you can run it back to your car” parked a half mile across the blistering asphalt with 20 minutes before boarding. I am not O J Simpson. My checked luggage was by then already out of the terminal.

I saw your sign asking for input to TSA and have the faint hope that our tax dollars pay for someone at the other end who both listens and has the will and the authority to respond appropriately to disturbing experiences like what has just happened to me on June 10 at 115pm at the Roanoke VA airport.

I encourage TSA to rethink their rules to avoid making airports into increasingly threatening, obnoxious places for peaceful travelers while doing less than necessary to protect us from true threats. Please devote more of your time to consistently detecting truly lethal items and less to the harassment of law-abiding passengers for such low-threat items as a one-inch fingernail-pick.

Vote – Floyd, Va. – Best Southern Small Town Nominee: 2015 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards

Image courtesy Woody Crenshaw
Image courtesy Woody Crenshaw

Floyd, Va.: Vote for Your Favorite Southern Small Town!!

Source: Vote – Floyd, Va. – Best Southern Small Town Nominee: 2015 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards

We want people to know about Floyd, visit Floyd, enjoy Floyd and buy goods (arts, crafts and entertainment) and service (meals, lodging) in Floyd and come again.

We want to avoid Floyd being loved to death. It’s a bit of a tightrope.

Displaced Persons: Recovering from Travel Shock

I am thankful that I look forward to returning home when we occasionally travel. Imagine dreading to go back to the familiar routine. We have no such dreads. Anymore. There is that about a dual retirement plan–a recent chapter at Chez HeresHome.

It was cold inside (57 degrees) when we returned from four days with the GRANDS (and their parents of course) on the NC coast. The wood stove is cranking this morning, and it looks like it will be to some degree (!) for at least a few more weeks. But soon, we make the transition from “tyranny to the wood stove to the tyranny of the garden” as I once described it–a major tilt of the planet shift in the center of our lives.

This swing of focus from inside during short days to being outside during long days also means any writing projects I might have had underway will be co-opted by lawnmowers, string trimmers and soil amendments–and it also means hours on the porches with a book, a laptop or free hands and a receptive set of more-or-less intact senses. Life is good at least until mid-June when it grows too hot and I retreat indoors except early and late of a day.

So I have a week’s worth of STUFF for the blog, from which I’ll sift one or two that might be of interest to today’s small cluster of regulars. You know the kind of odds and ends that might end up on Fragments–or as I considered a renaming this weekend to the Breccia Blog.

The featured image is from a neighborhood margin where this certain rock is used in landscaping–as it is all along the interstate within an hour’s drive of the coast. (We stopped there on a walk to turn such rocks and found rolly-pollies for the 7-yr-old’s petting zoo.) Rushing down the interstate this rock only appears rough and gray, but on closer inspection at this pedestrian pace it is obvious that this is sedimentary rock consisting of a limestone “mortar” holding together a dense deposit of bivalve shells.

I have not yet be able to determine the age of such deposits or where along the coast they are mined. But since the original shells of some of the bivalves still persist, I’m thinking it is not old and therefore not a deep deposit, so easily quarried and sold by the dump truck load for a profit.

pilly300So I’m hunkered there ruminating about the history of these random chunks of sedimentary conglomerate and wondering how to learn more about them, and out of nowhere, the word BRECCIA popped into my head. I didn’t know I knew the word. I looked it up when we got little PILLY home to his new home.

Breccia, it turns out, is not quite the right word. It means  “a rock composed of sharp fragments embedded in a fine-grained matrix (as sand or clay). It typically refers to other rocks cemented into a conglomerate. But that word pulled from thin air did lead me to the more appropriate word for this kind of rock–and yes this blog is a kind of breccia. Or maybe just flotsam piled higher and deeper.

And now that I have you at the edge of your seats, here it the best term to describe this shell-packed kind of rock:

“Coquina (/koʊˈkiːnÉ™/; Spanish: “cockle.”) is a sedimentary rock that is composed either wholly or almost entirely of the transported, abraded, and mechanically-sorted fragments of the shells of either mollusks, trilobites, brachiopods, or other invertebrates”

You’re welcome, Scrabble and Hang-The-Man fans everywhere.

Longing: The South West Coast Trail

Totally opposed to my notion, nay my resolution–to use my time more wisely in the mornings, I once again found myself browsing at random by way of Google Earth. This is  a lens on the planet through which I could gaze–and learn–for entire days if I (or she) let myself.

Thankfully then I suppose  it was a good thing that my old computer was sluggish touring the world through Google Earth. Unfortunately then I suppose it is not to my advantage that the new iMac with much more internal memory and much faster video card makes Google Earth seem a spontaneous extension of my hand — — as if I were in real time traveling along one of the world’s great rivers or over its highest mountain peaks.

The latest exploration this early morning arose out of my curiosity about the filming location for a Netflix series we have been watching called Broadchurch. [Rated 8.4 on IMDB.] I was able to find out that Dorset on the coast of  Great Britain was one of the filming locations, and that is what I plugged into the location bar in Google Earth. The experience of traveling the Dorset and adjacent coast has been strangely bittersweet.

The bitter bit of this experience is acknowledging that I will never be on the ground to explore the territory, and only know it from the map. Walter Mitty experiences remorse on accepting as real the fact that he has been pretending. In particular, it is the South West Coast Path that has caught and held my attention this early cold morning, and created a feeling I can only describe as longing.

[I’d be shocked if anybody did, but just as a starting point for exploring this trail, you can input into Google Earth the following: [su_highlight background=”#d6eaed” color=”#191f5a”]Start Point Lighthouse, Dartmouth, United Kingdom.[/su_highlight]]

Of course you know if you have visited this blog many times at all over the past 13 years that I am very happy to be where I am. And yet, there is a part of me that grieves and regrets that it is so very difficult to avoid ugly, busy, overbuilt and artificial in eastern half of this country. Frankly, I’m ashamed and disappointed in what we’ve done to both natural and built environments. No wonder we are held in low regard by so many in other places that have honored their history and the land. But that’s another riff.

I hold no illusions that the southern coast of Great Britain is pure and devoid of such things. And yet, the very fact that this footpath courses through mostly small villages across 630 miles of countryside, close enough in most places to see the sea, often from the very bluff’s edge–this is quite different, you likely agree,  from east-coastal America–which is for the most part rather newly “developed” and ugly, busy, overbuilt and artificial. I know there are exceptions, but you’ll be hard pressed to travel two miles on the eastern seaboard south of Maine without asphalt, neon and traffic. Except in remnant snatches, we gave that kind of coast away a century ago.

I guess I always imagined that the time would come when I would travel. Now would be that time of life I imagined. There will not be the hiking and climbing and sleeping on the ground I found no challenge at all long years ago when I was imagining knowing the world upon retirement. We could still be tourists somewhere I suppose, but that does not conform to Mr. Mitty’s travels into his future. Imagination’s current abode is in a different chassis with worn wheels and shocks, and small gas tank.

I realize every day some new “never again.” The fact that I have just discovered but will never set foot on the South West Coast Path is, oddly, just one newly-plucked item fallen through the wide wicker of my bucket list.

But you, dear reader who has stumbled here by accident just to find this post–check it out. Maybe this is one you can both imagine and do. Tell me about it when you return, won’t you?