DUBLIN, NH to ALFRED, NY

In his novel The English Major, Jim Harrison describes a character who departs for a cross country road trip. He brings with him a fifty piece wooden jigsaw puzzle featuring the United States. Whenever he crosses a state border, he tosses the piece for that state out the window. I have no such puzzle, but today I viscerally tossed New Hampshire and Vermont. I left home early Sunday morning. It was a soft and clear sunrise. It's difficult to leave when each Spring day brings a new landscape surprise.

 

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Every fifteen minutes I'd wonder about something I might have left behind. There are so many ways to manifest separation anxiety! 

However I was soothed by a wonderful radio interview on the NPR show "On Being" between Krista Tippett and the physicist, Leonard Mlodinow. They were discussing "randomness and choice" a subject I think about regularly. There are so many twists of fate that contribute to your present actions and future outcomes. I've always taken a Taoist view on this. There are waves of events that are mainly out of your control. The challenge is in knowing how to ride the wave. Strange advice from someone who has never ridden a surfboard.

Within an hour and a half I was high in the Vermont hills. I got out of the car briefly during a cold front squall, a vigorous atmposheric wave. I was pelted by small balls of ice. The hills are still surprisingly bare, but the first signs of vernal photosynthetic wildflowers are beginning to show. I love the concept of vernal photosynthetics, the Spring wildflowers that appear before the canopy shades the I forest understory.

My inclination was to stop at Little Falls, New York where I would ride the Eric Canalway, a long bike path that is mainly complete between Albany and Buffalo. However I was deterred by a driving rain. Once the shower passed I began checking my maps for another likely place to ride. I chose the section between Weedsport and Jordan, a nondescript, but interesting section of the trail. I was delighted to discover several fields of white trilliums, interspersed with pockets of skunk cabbage. 

 

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I stopped at a sign post. It turns out that Jordan, New York prior to 1910 was a bustling town. Barges would line up on the way through the canal. But the canal traffic demanded a deeper and bigger channel, so the canal was rebuilt several miles north of here, and the town of Jordan lost it's mojo. The bike path runs parallel to the old canal and you can see the beautiful and ambitious stone walls that line the canal, and the abandoned channel is filled alternately with grassy parkland, swampy wetlands, and cultivated gardens. I can see how much fun it would be to bike the length of the Canalway, as there is such an interesting mix of old towns, ecology, and history. 

 

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I continued my drive and decided to stop in Alfred, New York for the night. Alfred is a pleasant university town with two colleges, Alfred University, a statuesque campus with exceptional brick building and several small castle like structures, and SUNY Alfred, with sufficient brick, but built in the 1960's SUNY style. Does anyone like 1960's architecture? 

I gave a talk at SUNY Alfred two summers ago. It was a sustainability conference that attracted folks from all over New York and Pennsylvania.  

Alfred is in the Allegheny foothills, with long sweeping plateau-like hills, converging around plush valleys. 

I watched the last few innings of the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies (Let's Go Mets) and then began reading Wallace Stegner's 1953 classic, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, the story of John Wesley Powell and the "second opening" of the American West. I'll be in the west soon and there can be no better guide than Wallace Stegner.

 

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Mitch Thomashow

Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence. Currently he is engaged in teaching, writing, and executive consulting, cultivating opportunities and exchanges that transform how people engage with sustainability and ecological learning. In August, 2011 Thomashow became Director of the Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program. This new program is designed to assist the executive leadership of colleges and universities in promoting a comprehensive sustainability agenda on their campuses. Fellows provide executive consulting on climate action planning, long-range financial planning, organizational leadership, curricular implementation, and community investment. From 2006-2011, Thomashow was the president of Unity College in Maine. With his management team, he integrated concepts of ecology, sustainability, natural history, wellness, participatory governance, and community service into all aspects of college and community life. This included construction of The Unity House, the first LEED Platinum President’s Residence in North America, and the TeraHaus, a passive house student residence, as well as comprehensive campus energy planning, an integrated approach to growing food on campus, and a new academic master plan. Previously from 1976-2006, Thomashow was the Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Antioch University New England. He founded an interdisciplinary environmental studies doctoral program and worked collaboratively to grow and nourish a suite of engaging Masters programs, geared to working adults. Thomashow is the founder of Whole Terrain, an environmental literary publication, originating at Antioch University New England, and “Hawk and Handsaw,” a journal of creative sustainability, published at Unity College. He serves on the boards of Orion Magazine and The Coalition on Environmental and Jewish Life (COEJL). Thomashow is a founding organizer of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD), a national organization that supports interdisciplinary environmental studies in higher education. He provides ongoing consultation to the Sustainable Endowments Institute and their new Billion Dollar Green Challenge program. His two books have significantly influenced environmental studies education. Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist (The MIT Press, 1995) offers an approach to teaching environmental education based on reflective practice—a guide to teachers, educators and concerned citizens that incorporates issues of citizenship, ecological identity, and civic responsibility within the framework of environmental studies. Bringing the Biosphere Home, (The MIT Press, 2001) is a guide for learning how to perceive global environmental change. It shows readers that through a blend of local natural history observations, global change science, the use of imagination and memory, and philosophical contemplation, you can learn how to broaden your spatial and temporal view so that it encompasses the entire biosphere. His essay (2010), “The Gaian Generation: A New Approach to Environmental Learning” provides provocative new concepts for teaching about global environmental change. Another essay (2012) “Where You At 2.0” reasserts the relevance of bioregionalism for digital age learners. A recent essay (2013),“Sustainability as Turnaround” is a case study of his work as president at Unity College. with mandolin.png His new book, The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus (The MIT Press) provides a framework for advancing sustainable living and teaching in a variety of campus environments. It will be available in January, 2014. Thomashow is currently working on two writing, networking, and teaching projects. Improvisational Excellence suggests that improvisation emulates the patterns and processes of the biosphere. It’s a series of essays linking play, music, and observing nature to the paths of everyday living. It is the philosophical basis for Thomashow’s workshops on global environmental change, music and nature, and ecological perception. Wilson’s Library is a series of prose poems depicting extraordinary moments during the history of life on earth. Thomashow lives in the hill country of southwest New Hampshire in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. He loves to explore the fields, forests, wetlands, hills, and lakes of Northern New England where you can often find him on his bicycle. His recreational interests include basketball, baseball, board games, jazz piano, electronic keyboards, musical composition and recording, guitars, hiking, and lake swimming.