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Polar winds plunge over the southeast Catskills, freezing all before them and casting  frosty whiteness about as they continue to bring real winter down to Waghkonk. The  desiccated and sere husks of last season’s Beebalm, Goldenrod and Milkweed, bent by  those gusts, seem to nod in agreement. The peaceful White Pines and the wise  northern Oaks also bow before the all-powerful North Wind - for it rules this time. It is  both King and Queen here and now and all pledge obeisance to its frozen might. Even  us supposedly all-powerful humans cannot stop the Power from the Pole. The most that we can do is to deflect its wrath with our little ramparts of wood or stone, desperately chinking our walls - our  armor, as it were - trying (with varying degrees of  success) to defend our little dwellings from one of the  unstoppable forces of nature. Considering that  December 2020 had mostly above-average temperatures, January of 2021 has been somewhat of a shock, slamming us with the afore-mentioned winds and snows, as well as below-average temperatures thus far. Who knows? Maybe this is the coldest  weather that we’ll see. Right. Think positive I always  say. One thing is for sure - we’ll find out.  


We are at the halfway point between the Winter  Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The Celts celebrated  this time as Imbolc (February 1-2), the years First  Cross-Quarter Day. It is a time for celebrating the visible lengthening of days. Also celebrated as  Groundhogs Day or Candlemas. The Mayans noted this moment on the Great Wheel as did Native Americans at Cahokia and at Anasazi. 


Keep in mind that we are surrounded by so much life, even now in this bitter cold, windy  time. Hidden right in front of us is much that is dormant, waiting for the right “trigger”, the  clues that initialize the beginning of Spring. Our land is like a snow desert, the Lady  mantled in white, with seeds frozen in the snow, suspended in frosty layers, waiting to  thaw, to spring forth as unfurling bright-green leaves, and becoming plants (getting a  little ahead of myself here). Snow is a great seed-depository. If you look closely you see  millions (gazillions?) of tiny seeds from every type of grass, plant and shrub. As each  seed absorbs warmth from sunshine, it gradually drops down deeper and deeper in the snow. It is theorized this is an adaptation by plants to preserve and promote their seeds, to protect them ‘til the snow melts in springtime. 


Insects hide half-frozen under bark and  leaf, also waiting(like us) for warmth and light. Sometimes in winter thaw, insects  willhatch,responding to sunshine,  providing a momentary change in menu  for myriad small-birds, fluffed up with down (did they copy human’s down-coats  for warmth?). Woodfrogs lie near-frozen under leaves adjacent to their ancestral vernal  pools, incredibly awakening even before the ice disappears from their watery home.  Beneath the protective snow-cover (White-tail Deer will decimate any bud, no matter  how small, if not sheltered by frozen white), the wildflowers, the Spring Ephemerals, are  just bursting to jump back into life. The snow also provides warmth and shelter to  populations of small rodents. One detrimental effect of this - as many growers of fruit trees well know - is that the small creatures love to gnaw off the delicate bark of shrub  and tree, girdling them. This is why people have learned to wrap these saplings  preventatively. The true hibernators are out there, too, - turtles and Woodchucks, for  example - just biding their time. Wild Turkeys hole up in thickets, on branches above the  ground, venturing out during the day to scrounge seeds (or anything else edible) on the  surface of the snow. Their biggest threat are the Coyotes and Foxes who will try to grab  an ill, old or very young bird.

It is hoped that the recent extreme cold has slowed the  spread of certain serious regional invasive insects: the  Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, responsible for large Hemlockdie-offs (see and Deer Ticks, the main  host for Lyme Disease. Unfortunately, it probably has  not been cold enough to negatively impact Emerald  Ash-Borer (EAB), which is destroying most of our  beautiful Ash trees. Now is the time for us to give the Small Birds a helping hand by putting out bird-seed,  since many of their winter foods are covered in ice and  snow.  Black Bear, which only naps (not truly hibernating)  may wake hungry during a thaw and home in on one’s  bird-feeder, so please pay attention and consider  bringing your feeder in if the weather warms. Hard to  believe right now but spring probably is literally just  

around the corner.  


I love my journey with you all, us spiraling around the Sun, Homeward-bound on our beautiful,  blue orb. I’m not sure exactly what our destination is but I believe the journey itself - and how  we conduct ourselves on that journey - is what is important. And winter is the time that is the  greatest challenge to all of us, the time when our conduct in how we treat each other - and  ourselves - is the most important. It is a challenging time for us all, some more than others. The  challenge for the strong is to help those that are weak and the challenge for the weak is to let  those that are stronger at the moment help them. Next time someone is angry or upset  seemingly over nothing, or the other driver is rude or inattentive, they might be depressed from  family problems (common in this season) or from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) - also not  uncommon right now. We all need to be a little extra patient with each other. Just because  someone else goes off on us, doesn’t mean we have to respond in kind. Again, I believe it’s not  the destination that’s important but how we get there - the Journey. 



It's true. Not only is 2020 past, after another spin around the sun, but also a new solar  year has begun as the days get noticeably lighter. Alright, I admit that I'm probably  making it a little better than it is, but that's how I see things. Someone once asked me if  I looked at "the glass" as "half-full" or "half-empty". I said, "what glass?". No, really. I'm  an eternal optimist. I see the glass (if any) as full, believing that life is brimming around  us, even in winter, lying dormant, just waiting for a chance to grow. Yes, it's another  Catskills Winter Roller-Coaster of Chills, Thrills and Spills, offering us not only danger  and perils a-plenty but also a starkly-beautiful landscape, sculpted sometimes in  gleaming ice and curving snow. So let's all enjoy it as best as we can, getting into the  woods and onto the trails and observe our yearly frigid desert and its landscape of  alternating drabness then sparkling whiteness and light.  

I hope you all have a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Warm winter.

Thank you,

Ranger Dave Holden.

Please feel free to contact me at (845) 594-4863 (new email)

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