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Saxophones and Saxifrage: Improv Jazz Meets Natural History

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At this year's Burlington's Discover Jazz Festival I enjoyed an amazing performance by one of my favorite artists, Terence Blanchard. In many ways, my training in jazz helped define my approach to environmental education and engagement. Here's the piece I wrote on the topic for the most recent edition of Field Notes.
In an apocryphal story from the annals of jazz lore, a stranger woke on the floor of a smoky New York hotel room shared by two of the greatest legends in American music. Dim morning light seeping through the blinds illuminated John Coltrane, hunched on the edge of a vinyl chair playing licks on his saxophone, and Thelonious Monk, out cold on the bed. Somewhere between meditation and frenzy, Coltrane drilled imaginative, improvised passages again and again, turning them around and backwards, modulating them through every key, and working every tempo. The stranger left to tour the city for the day, returning 14 hours later to find Coltrane in the same place, horn…

A Welcoming Committee

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This is a repost from my short piece for a recent edition of the Burlington Conservation Newsletter. Enjoy!
One warm winter afternoon each February, an enthusiastic chickadee reminds us of a bygone Vermont. Its “feeee-beee” song is a delightful protest against months of austere soundscapes. Like a perfect brushstroke on an empty canvas, the song’s beauty is its simple counterpoint to the wind in the treetops, the distant rush-hour traffic, or the crimping of footsteps in the snow. After months of slush, snow, and sticks, many of us have only the foggiest recollections of why we call this place the Green Mountain State. But the chickadee, ever the optimist, sings to remind us that the seasons will change soon enough—and it’s about time to clear the throat.

That change came all at once last Saturday. Practically overnight, our soloist was joined by an orchestra of neotropical voices. A cloud of song sparrows, eastern phoebes, and early pine and palm warblers fell from a passing cold front…

Winterization

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Here is a repost of my entry over at the University of Vermont's EcoBlog, a site run and maintained by the UVM Field Naturalist graduate students. If you like this entry, I highly recommend checking out the weekly posts by the rest of my talented colleagues!














One good thing about a mild winter is we avoid that familiar experience of leaving a warm house to enter the arctic interior of a frosty, morning car. Imagine sitting down in that frigid seat: Your shoulders tense and tighten like old taffy, you shiver spontaneously, and the chill leaks into your soul at the space between your pants and socks. Your heart accelerates and your blood pressure spikes. Eventually, either your mental resolve or your car’s heating system recalls you from distress.

Your rational mind knows that things could be a lot worse, so why does our very evolution invoke this intense response anyway? When hit with cold, skin receptors tell the brain to dump a hormone into our system that forces all these unpleas…

Polar Bear of the Day (11/9)

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Happy Polar Bear Season 2015, y'all.
Thanks for caring about the King of the Arctic.

Polar Bear of the Day (11/8)

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Polar Bear of the Day (11/7)

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Polar Bear of the Day (11/6)

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