Endurance

ImageThis is perhaps my favorite Antarctic picture. It was taken by Frank Hurley during Shackleton’s Endurance expedition 1914-1916. Whenever I am down, I look at this photo. It is the last time this beautiful ship, the Endurance, was in full sail. It was completely encased in ice and had been this way for many months. Shackleton was low on fuel and supplies. To put this ship at full throttle with those sails open was Shackleton’s Hail-Mary to get her free. She never left the ice again and not too long after this photo was taken, the Endurance was crushed and swallowed by ice.

There’s so much that this image means to me. First off, the name of the ship – Endurance. She endured more than any other ship and put in a valiant effort to resist the ice. Shackleton himself showed immense endurance himself. When this photo was taken, his last hope to free his home that served his men and him so well, he still had hope. He had hope to get her free and get either to his destination on the continent of Antarctica or to one of the whaling stations. After this photo was taken, when he realized that the Endurance would not come free, was probably Shackleton’s darkest moment.

Instead of giving in and surrendering to the ice, at his darkest moment, Shackleton decided to endure. He had to make some of the most difficult decisions anyone ever had to make. He went on to lead 28 men to safety. They camped for many months on the sea ice, they sailed without modern navigation to the nearest land mass. Once there Shackleton knew they couldn’t stay there forever and took off with 6 men to make an epic journey to South Georgia where there were several whaling stations. When he made landfall he realized he was on the wrong end of the island and hiked across never-navigated lands (which were not navigated again til a couple years ago) with no equipment. They put nails into the soles of their shoes to make crampons. They reached their destination and were able to rescue all of 28 men.

So whenever life to me feels impossible, and it seems like I cannot go on, I look at this photograph. It shows both hope and despair. It shows people who wouldn’t give up, even in the face of the impossible

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Benefits of Snow

People in the northeast are sick of snow. I think people in the northeast need to be reminded that they need to not take the white stuff for granted. In today’s day and age we seem to forget to look beyond our backyards and look at the whole picture. We also tend to forget to look into the future.

Of all the natural ‘disasters,’ snow is probably the most benign. It doesn’t really hurt anyone. It’s kind of like a venomous snake. If you don’t provoke it (drive like an idiot in it, ski/snowboard in an avalanche area, etc.), it won’t hurt you. In fact, unlike the other natural disasters, snow has numerous benefits. We should be praising snow, dancing as each and every snowflake falls from the sky. Snow is a blessing.

* Pest Control: Thanks to snow there should be less of those annoying bugs around this summer. This is everything from ticks, mosquitos, and other insects that have been out of control like the emerald ash borer. Thanks to snow, there will be fewer ticks. As long as the snow sticks around and it stays cold, the ticks can’t survive. The later we have snow, the better. Mosquito season will be later and shorter. Aren’t those reasons to celebrate? Thanks to snow. The emerald ash borer has been devastating trees in states all across America – not just ash. Their numbers used to be kept in check because it used to snow a normal amount (you know, like we’re getting now). Because of the fact that we have not had a real winter in a long time, their numbers have been out of control and spreading, killing off entire forests and increasing wildfires. Thanks to the snow, their numbers will take a huge dent and we may be able to save iconic forests such as the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

* Snow Insulation: Now, this might sound counter-productive, but snow insulates our gardens and lawns. Any gardener or farmer will tell you a good “blanket of snow” is desirable for a garden. It keeps your plants warm (yes, warm) and happy throughout the winter season. It is WAY much better than having them exposed during the winter, especially when there’s extreme temperature fluctuations. If soil is frozen, without snow, plants can die of thirst. Snow keeps that from happening. Even when plants are dormant, they still need moisture and snow provides that.

* Poor Man’s Fertilizer: Snow has been shown to give a nitrogen boost to gardens and soil. Any gardener/farmer will tell you that nitrogen is a vital nutrient for the soil and people with spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquids, powders and techniques to get nitrogen into their soil. But here comes snow, a free way to get nitrogen into your soil. It delivers an estimated 5 pounds nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. This helps plants grow lusher, produce more fruit (as evident by my fig tree, which always produces more figs whenever we get more snow), and generally just be happier whenever we get snow. You know what they call snow? Poor man’s fertilizer. You know what the Old Farmer’s Almanac says? “Year of Snow, Crops Will Grow” – be thankful for snow. There’s a good foot and a half of snow on my yard and gardens right now – I can’t wait to get out there and garden. I bet I am going to get some great crop this year! So bring on the snow!

* Snow is Water: There’s really not enough news or pictures of the drought in California right now. Even if rained (or snowed) for every day for the rest of the winter, they still would not replenish their water supply. There’s towns that have completely run out of water. Maybe it will hit us here in the east when cost for our food goes up since California grows a lot of our food. Anyway – we’re LUCKY here in the east to have so much SNOW because snow is WATER. Our reservoirs will be full, our wells will be filled. Our pastures will be green. Our seeds will be sown and will grow. Stop being selfish and whining about snow.

Which would you rather have?
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So, next time you moan about the snow, think twice. If you have a farm, be thankful. If you’re a gardener, be thankful. If you in any way depend on water, be thankful. There’s people having to recycle their bath and shower water for drinking water – in the UNITED STATES. There’s people in Africa and India drinking water that is polluted with feces, dead animals and trash. We have clean, pristine, beautiful snow. Be thankful.

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