Saturday, April 01, 2006

Strange Events

It's been a strange couple of days here at the Room. It all started on Thurdsay night, when the Old Hounds refused to settle down and go to sleep. If you know anything about old dogs, you know that they sleep about 99% of the time. This was an odd night.

After restlessly roaming the house for about an hour, starting at midnight, the young hound (age 14) started to growl in a low tone. The old hound (age 15) soon joined the chorus, which quickly evolved into a theatrical production of the most gosh-awful howling you can imagine. I'm always amazed by the ability of these small creatures to bellow out such big, deep sounds.

We realized that this would be an entirely sleepless night if we did not take action. Were the neighbor's cats creeping around the foundation of our home again in their endless search for voles and moles? Was a possum climbing the gutters? Was a skunk family trying to take up residence under the deck ? (I shudder at the thought of skunks under the deck.)

We armed ourselves with the most powerful flashlight we have. A candle might have given off more light, but at least the flashlight would stay lit in the breeze. We left by the front door, locking it behind us so that nobody could gain entry to our home while we were creeping around the property.

We slowly and quietly made our way around the house. As we rounded the corner by the family room, we heard a rustling noise in the woods. Could it be a deer? We haven't seen any since hunting season last fall, but they could be making a comeback. But a deer in the woods should not be enough to disturb the dogs to this extent. Was the Jersey Devil taking up residence? We trained the flashlight beam on the woods, but it was not strong enough to penetrate past brushy the outer edge. The rustling sound picked up in pace, and the creature could be heard moving off toward our neighbor's home.

We finished the circuit of the property, and, finding nothing else amiss, we went back inside. The dogs were unsettled for another half hour or so, but they finally went to sleep. We gladly followed suit.

Fast forward to last night (Friday). The same cycle of events began. This time, we were prepared with a much more powerful flashlight - something much more like a search light. Once again, we crept around the house, and we heard noise in the woods directly behind our home. As we shone the light into the murky woodland, the noise once again intensified. We were shocked and speechless (well, nearly speechless; I won't repeat our actual comments here) to see the back of a retreating black bear!

Black bear have been sighted in a state park not far from here, and one was seen (and captured) in a neighborhood one county over. I don't know that any have actually been seen here before last night, but I guess it was inevitable.

So here we are, stunned in bearland, making plans to secure our trash and add extra lighting to the exterior of our home, in hopes of discouraging bears from foraging too close to the house. Our neighbors seem to have had a similar experience. For the account of their bear sighting, complete with some amazing photos, check out their site.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Room With A View, Fast Forward

The lead story at earlier today was about the acceleration of climate change. It seems that we may be approaching, or may have passed, a tipping point. A tipping point is something like the straw that broke the camel's back. Once you hit it, a cascade of rapid changes begins, and the trend is difficult to reverse.

If our climate continues to warm at the current rate, then many of the world's coastlines as we know them today will be under water by the year 2100. Sea levels could rise by 2-3 feet. The map below (taken from shows the projected impact on the region where I live. My house is situated firmly in the red zone.

In fact, my home is situated far enough into the red zone to make me wonder if it will take a full century for me to feel the effects of global climate change. After all, it cannot be expected that the seas will suddenly rise by 24" exactly 100 years from today. A gradual rise is the more likely scenario, and it has already begun. The polar ice caps and mountain glaciers of the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. As the icefields (which reflect sunlight out of the atmosphere) dissipate, we absorb even more solar energy, increasing the rate of warming. The oceans absorb heat. As the oceans grow in size due to the melting icefields, we absorb more heat. Quite a cascade.

So I wonder, what will I see in my lifetime? If I stay in New Jersey, in my present home, what will I see through my back window? Whenever we have heavy rain, or a coastal storm threatens, those of us who live on the southern New Jersey mainland (the oceanside beaches of South Jersey are located on barrier islands, not on the mainland) joke about having beachfront property when "the big one" hits. Is there more truth in that old joke than we want to acknowledge? Will the woodland that is my back yard die off as salt water seeps upward, killing first the easternmost trees, and gradually creeping up on my home?

I've heard two different versions of the ultimate impact of global warming on climate in the future. Both seem to agree that the temperatures we experience will be extreme. It will either be brutally hot or the Gulf Stream will shift, ushering in an ice age. Robert Frost offers the best summary of my feelings about the possibilities:

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.