Faces of Wetlands: Northern Waterthrush

northern waterthrushPhoto: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Northern Waterthrush is a small songbird with a brown back and a whitish, creamy underside with dark stripes. They winter from Florida to South America, and spend their summer at their breeding grounds from Alaska to New Jersey. They’re also a bird with of paradox. Despite being widespread, they’re tricky to find. Despite being called a thrush, they’re actually a warbler. Unlike most warblers, waterthrush feed on the ground. Instead of the canopy they prefer low, dense, shrubby vegetation. They specialize in wet spaces such as wooded swamps, bogs, and lakeshores. They prefer still water, but that doesn’t mean they like to stay still. Perhaps the most defining trait of the Northern Waterthrush is its constant tail bob as it strolls through the underbrush. One theory for this behavior suggests that the movement flushes out insects for meals on-the-go. Another says the bounce warns predators that this little bird is agile and attentive to its surroundings. Clearly, the motionless perching mourning dove is a better bargain for lunch.

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Sacred Sites Tour: Critical MN History

On April 21st, 2018, I participated in a sacred sites tour led by Jim Bear Jacobs and Sanctuary Covenant Church. What follows is my summary of the day, but I must say upfront that there’s no substitute for living the experience, the stories, the space, the place, of the tour itself. Gleaning some parts of it and plugging it into the web is important though, because this is real life Minnesota history, and has a real life impact on us today.

On a personal level, I see  that it’s my history, too. Literally. Thanks to my Grandmother’s genealogy skills, I know that I’m descended from German/ Russian-German steamboat captains that piloted along the Mississippi into what was then known as St. Paul’s Landing. I can drive and walk to an exact tombstone of my ancestor overlooking the River in South Saint Paul. Saint Paul’s Landing by way of steam boat was the main entrance for white settlers. Many of which of German heritage, their pioneering was the Western frontier in the 1850’s. This is me, my ancestors, my literal genetic unfolding. It’s our responsibility as Minnesotans to know and grapple with.

Where do we start? At the Dakota place of Genesis. If you’d rather skim the written version, there’s a great website from the MN History Center with resources, photos, and videos.

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Faces of Wetlands: Common Yellowthroat

There’s a bandit on the loose!
Weight: .4 oz
Color: Buffy olive-brown with black mask and bright yellow accents
Wingspan: 6”
Last seen: Cattail marsh

Have no fear, this bandit means no harm. It’s actually quite cute. The Common Yellowthroat, often referred to as a “masked bandit”, is a warbler of dense, wet pockets of cattails and shrubs. While VLAWMO doesn’t work directly with birds, this little warbler connects closely to our work with water resources.
Adult males boast a signature bright yellow throat, while females are an olive-brown with a dash of subtle gold under the throat and tail. When out on a Spring walk, they’re more likely to be heard than seen. While the Spring chorus can be a frenzy of different songs, once you pick out the Yellowthroat, it’s hard to miss. Listen for a high-pitched “whi-chi-dee, whi-chi-dee” or “whi-chi-dee-dee” that descends from high to low notes. Hear a sample of this song here.

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Planets, Critical Thinking, and Peace Making

Mission to Saturn - Get facts about this planet

In planetary astrology, each planet is ascribed attributes, or energy patterns, that together make up the templates of our day to day experience. Woa, what? While this may turn many off, bear with  me. The key here is template… the probabilities, the behind the scenes forces that pull at our subconscious.

In fact, I don’t care if you’re into astrology or not. I’m not waving a metaphysical banner or striving for woo-woo recruits. What’s more important, and what I’d like to illustrate, is how some ideas from this study can apply universally to our politically vexed and stretched discourse.

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Letting Go: A Training Regime


The familiar phrase “fake it ’till you make it” has recently been re-adapted into a popular Ted Talk. “Fake it ’till you become it” is a main message found in Amy Cutting’s talk, found here.

When I first saw this video a few years back, it was also a time I set upon a path of persistence, discipline, and a few injuries. As you’ll see below, the process of pushing one’s limits includes spills and days with no apparent progress. Now reviewing my footage spanning over a couple years, I see a theme that relates to Cutting’s ideas, but I also see that there’s something too easy to miss.

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Heavy Metal Environmental Education: Part 3 of 3


In the last two parts of this series, we looked at metal music as a strategy for cultivating a sense of empathy and connection to a place. When it comes to cultivating a sense of empathy for a place, we looked at Freeman Tilden’s six principles of interpretation.

1. Interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described
to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.
Interpretation should be personal to the audience.

Great- so now what?

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Capoeira: Social, Environmental & Global

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SALVADOR, BA– I recently had the amazing opportunity to travel to the state of Bahia, Brazil. To the pulsing, lively, vibrant city of Salvador. My goals were to take a course in Portuguese, stay with a host family, and learn more about the art of Capoeira right from the source. While these goals were certainly a lifetime opportunity, the deeper realizations from them offer other life changing opportunities not yet manifested.

As I mentioned, Salvador is the birthplace of the art of Capoeira. The Portuguese colonists took with them a tragic slave trade, which lasted longer than any other slave industry in the world. Almost 4 million displaced Africans took with them similar fight dances to Capoeira, which laid the art’s foundation to what it is today. In Brazil, interactions with diverse people groups, the social and political structures, as well as the local sense of place and environment, shaped the art. During the time of Slavery, it was a way to train, stay empowered, maintain a cultural identity, and more. Today, it is an active and growing symbol of freedom, birthed from a resistance to oppression and domination. For a more detailed history of the art itself, click here.

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