Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Solstice Wood

Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip.  A bit of Midsummer Night's Dream to it, a midsummer night with magical and non-magical people meandering and mixing around the forest. Four hours tonight spent in that world.  With Sylvia, hiding her self because she is afraid they will hate her if they know who she really is.  With Iris, furiously stitching away, trying to create walls to block out the unknown which she fears.  With Liam, unafraid of the unknown, opening himself to the mystery, finding beauty all around him.  With Tyler, numbing his pain by escaping into computer games.

These are the people that I am.  And then the book comes to an end and I return to the world.  The world of hacking against a boring job, struggling with incompetent and uncooperative people, the world of people treating me with scorn.  I started the book to escape this world.  But I had to come back to it.  Sylvia escaped to a magical world, and when she returned from it, she was healed.  But when I returned, it was all still there.  How do I move forward? I live in a dead end.

Friday, September 24, 2010

How to get through the winter?

What is it that makes the summer feel better? If it's daylight, maybe I should get one of those lights they use for people with seasonal affective disorder.  If it's the fresh air from having the windows open all the time, maybe I should leave the window open a crack even in winter, and be sure to spend time outside.  If it's the warmth, maybe I should keep the windows closed, stay inside, and turn up the heat.

Weather this September has often been in the 60s, but now we are having a wave of warmth, with 70s the past few days, and 80s today.  I feel the way I do in the spring -- I wasn't conscious of feeling oppressed by the colder weather, but when the warmer weather comes, I feel the oppression has lifted.  It's the same way that I'm not conscious of feeling oppressed in the city, but when I go out to the country, I feel the oppression has lifted.

What exactly is it that makes me feel better in the warmer weather? It seems to have to do with feeling warm fresh air blowing on my skin, feeling the warmth of sun shining on me, seeing the leaves moving in the wind, walking barefoot, the freedom of movement permitted by summer clothing, and spending time outside.  I don't like hot humid days, but on those days, I like the cooler evenings.

Tree books

In order to learn about trees, I have gotten nine tree books out of the library. My plan is to figure out which I like best, and then buy those. I don't want to have to carry around nine books every time I go to look at trees! Here are some comments about the books I've gotten from the library, as well as some books that I have not yet gotten.

Books structured by identification keys. These books take you through a decision tree: i.e. if tree has this feature, go to this page, if a different feature, go to a different page.
  • Arbor Day Foundation. What Tree is That? A Guide to the More Common Trees Found in North America.
    I have not seen this book yet, but it says it covers more than 250 kinds.
  • Symonds, George W., and Chelminski, Stephen V. Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees.
    The way this book is arranged makes it easy to use for a beginner. However, I ended up not being able to find some of the trees I was trying to identify. I think it's good, but should probably be supplemented by a more comprehensive book. Lots of black and white pictures.
  • Watts, May T. Tree Finder: A Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves.
    This is the smallest book physically, and would fit in a large pocket, which makes it easy to take with you. Uses leaves only to identify trees. Includes about 150 trees.
  • Watts, May T. Winter Tree Finder: A Manual for Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter (Eastern US).
    The winter counterpart of Tree Finder.
Books in which identification keys are secondary. These books do have identification keys, but they are just a few pages of a big book. Book is mainly pages of information about specific types of trees.

  • Grimm, William Carey. The Illustrated Book of Trees: The Comprehensive Field Guide to More than 450 Trees of Eastern North America.
    Includes line drawings.
  • Petrides, George A., and Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and North-Central United States and Southeastern and South-Central Canada.
    Covering 455 species, this book is more comprehensive than the other books in this category. However, I found it harder to use, especially for a beginner. In order to identify trees, you choose your path through the identification key by determining things like whether end buds are clustered, or whether leaves are feather-veined, and I don't always know things like that. Another thing that I didn't like was the way the pictures were separate from the text, so you had to keep flipping back and forth.
  • Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Guide to Trees.
    In order by taxonomy. Includes more than 600 species. With color illustrations. Has a few paragraphs about each family, and then just the basics for each species.
Books which group trees. In these books, you leaf through the appropriate section in order to find the tree you want.
  • DeGraaf, Richard M., and Sendak, Paul E. Native and Naturalized Trees of New England and Adjacent Canada: A Field Guide.
    There are 14 sections, for example, "palmately compound." Each type of tree has about two pages which give details of things such as leaves, bark, habitat, etc. Has line drawings.
  • Farrar, John Laird. Trees of the Northern United States and Canada.
    Similar in structure to DeGraaf and Sendak book, in that trees are divided into 12 groups, and many species have two pages about them (non-native trees are given less space), telling about leaves, bark, habitat, etc. However, this book seems better because it includes more kinds of trees, and because it has color photos. I could see myself reading about a few trees each night before I go to bed, enjoying the beauty of the photographs.
Photo identification.
  • Little, Elbert L. National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region.
    Front section includes photos of green leaves, fall leaves, flowers, fruits, pods. Find the photo that matches what you are looking at, and then turn to the page number given for details about what kind of tree it is.

Books to read. Not so much for identification, but books you can read to learn more about trees.
  • Blouin, Glen. An Eclectic Guide to Trees East of the Rockies.
    Has several pages on each of 50 kinds of trees.First page for each tree gives the basic facts: leaf, flower, fruit, twig, bark, wood, heigh, diameter, longevity. Following pages tell interesting things, such as how used by humans throughout history and how used by wildlife. Includes color photos.
  • Fergus, Charles. Trees of New England: A Natural History.
  • Kricher, John C., Peterson, Roger Tory, and Morrison, Gordon. A Field Guide to Eastern Forests: North America.
  • Wells, Diana. Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History.
    Tells about history and mythology of 100 kinds of trees.
  • Wessels, Tom. Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England.


I have been learning about trees as part of my druid studies.  Trees have been around me all my life, and they did not seem particularly noteworthy.  But now that I have started learning, I realize there is so much to learn.  It's not like I can just read a book and then I'll know trees.  It's like a wealth of things which will continue unfolding for years.  Now, as the leaves change colors for fall, there are so many things to learn which were not there in summer.  Did you know that sugar maples turn red or orange, while Norway maples turn yellow? And sugar maples turn earlier than Norway maples.  Did you know that locust trees turn yellow, and they turn earlier than many other trees?

Now, walking down the street is an experience of wonder.  There are so many trees to be seen.  And, when driving, I have to be careful to pay attention to the road, because I tend to get fascinated by the trees.

Fatigue and Health

Reading over the posts I wrote in August, I see how affected I was by fatigue, and how it caused me to be irritable and antisocial.  I have been feeling better for the past week.  When I am ill with fatigue, it is so hard to imagine that I will ever feel any differently.  I once read something that described chronic fatigue syndrome as walking around carrying a refrigerator on your shoulders.  When I have that refrigerator, I feel that is just what life is like, life is that hard, and I just have to keep on going anyhow, have to do my job, do my chores, and try to carve out some happiness.  And then the refrigerator goes away, and I feel so much lighter.  Suddenly, it seems pleasant to go out and be around people.  Suddenly I just do things, I'm not forcing myself to do them any more.  Always I am looking for a cause for the presence or absence of the fatigue.  If I go to bed earlier will the refrigerator go away? How about if I exercise more? Or exercise less? Have caffeine? Quit caffeine?  Go out more? Stay home more?  There are no easy answers.  I work hard to live a healthy lifestyle, but the refrigerator comes and goes according to its own whims.