I would not be here today writing about nature if it weren’t for my mentor, Paul Stoutenburgh. In the mid-1950s when I was a teen growing up next to the potato fields in the Oregon part of Mattituck, my mother turned my attention to a small notice in the Mattituck Watchman-Long Island Traveler. It said that a man named Paul would be showing slides of birds at a local church.
Out of the mouth of babes come gems . . . to paraphrase a well-based adage about the wisdom of children. Such was the case when Judy Shepard was driving her 4-year-old granddaughter home from preschool in Sag Harbor last fall.
As they passed Otter Pond on their way to Noyac, little Irina asked the name of the pond. When Judy responded, Irina asked, “Are there otters in it?”
“No” came the reply.
Circles and squares, rectangles and cones, triangles and cylinders, octagons, pentagons, spheres and so on. We are surrounded by symmetry, and why not? The earth is spheroid, the moon and the planets are round, and so, it seems from our perspective, is our sun. According to the conjectures of some astronomers and astrophysicists the universe is circular.
Little Northwest Creek is, indeed, little and in the extreme northwest corner of East Hampton Town. It serves as part of the border between the town and the Village of Sag Harbor. The stream itself is 10 feet at it widest, but the wetlands on either side of it are substantial and in terms of area coverage rival the wetlands on the creek’s much bigger neighbor to the east, Northwest Creek.
Not only are we faced with more and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere each year, but with global warming resulting from it and acidification of the seas. One might say we are in for calamitous times if we don’t somehow reverse these dangerous headlong trends. But how can we, especially in an age when we are so conscious of our own mortality and want to live life to the fullest? Planes, trains, and automobiles. Coal, oil, and natural gas. Self-indulgence? Yes. The need to survive? Surely.
Call them what you will — aits, isles, atolls, cays, keys, islands, reefs, shoals, even continents — there are millions of them across the globe. The name that I particularly like to describe the smallest of these patches of raised land surrounded by water, very wet marshes, and in some cases even by sand, is hammock, from the Spanish hamaca. We have a lot of them right here in our own backyard.
It’s fall, and pleasant, but dry. It’s another round of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good? The white and purple asters in the yard that are flowering at a great rate — white wood aster, smooth aster, stiff aster, panicled aster, calico aster, wavy-leaved aster, and heath aster in the order of flowering — with the white wood asters beginning in mid-August. Some goldenrods are chiming in as well, and the bees are going crazy gathering pollen, but as is the state of things in the past several years, none of them are honeybees.
Have we escaped a superstorm? In 2011 we had Irene at the end of August, in 2012, it was Sandy at the end of October. We missed the bullet last year, but the tropical storm season is not over, and when it is, the northeaster season will be right at its heals.
The glaciers are melting, the seas are rising, the globe is warming. Yet, the Farmers Almanac, which is right most of the time, says we are going to have a hard winter. I have yet to see a wooly bear to measure the brown against the black, and have no idea what the winter will be like.
Most of September is summer, but in my eyes all of September is fall. Lots of wonderful things start happening at the end of August. The rich and the rowdy leave for the city. There is less traffic on the roads and highways. The days are cooler and the air less humid. Striped bass and neotropical warblers begin their fall migration southward. Snowy tree crickets and katydids sing the loudest. Asters and goldenrods break out in whites, blues, purples, and yellows. Beach plums ripen. Cranberries begin to ripen.
I live across the street from Noyac’s Long Beach, a barely more than 100-foot-wide isthmus between Noyac Road and Route 114. The isthmus, with its county road, Long Beach Road, separates the inner Sag Harbor Cove from the outer Noyac Bay, part of the Peconic Estuary.