Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?


Our 50th year is ending.  Our old times and old acquaintances have not been forgotten.  We have celebrated both, and had a grand time doing so.  Just as family and friends gather in this time of year to reminisce and sing, so have we.  Well…our lips didn’t sing very much but our hearts did.

We needed the celebratory moments.  It has been a tough year.  The places we love, and the people who try to protect them have endured many on-going assaults.  The headlines in The Highlands Voice in 2017 screamed about stream rules that do not protect, rules that allow the killing of eagles, limits on “nuisance” lawsuits, lack of siting rules for exempt wholesale generators, the firing of an excellent West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Advocate, that the WVDEP removed protections from noise and light at compressor stations, that the National Academies of Science study on health effects connected with mining started but was shot down,  more on the interminable story of the FOLA mines, the Forest Service approved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, how we are still battling Corridor H, and pipeline after pipeline—including that FERC approved the ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline.

On the good side, a company was held accountable for legacy water pollution, stream conductivity rules were enforced, our multi-groups “733” petition got some promises of action regarding mining excesses, and the WVU Arboretum was saved from incursion by a highway.   We and our allies won a lawsuit addressing persistent mine pollution in 3 counties, we distributed pollinator seeds, we are closer to finishing up work on a new edition of our hiking guide, and we accomplished an anniversary celebration that was everything we hoped it would be and more.

We all trust that you are enjoying the winter season; perhaps good times with family.  I might be hearing more stories from my family’s past about relatives, known and unknown—true to form for West Virginia.  Maybe there will be more about great-grandfather Asa [see family photo, front, middle] and others.  The tales might be sweetened with goodies such as the cookies his great-granddaughter, my second cousin Iris, gave to me.  These are best when warm, so you may want to cut small amounts to bake and serve whenever a new troop of guests arrive.

Black Walnut Cookies

Cream together 2 sticks of butter and 1 lb. brown sugar.  Add 2 eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. soda, and 3 ½ cups flour.  Add nuts as desired, at least 1 cup.  Form dough into tube shapes and chill thoroughly.  [Refrigerate again to store and slice as needed; these are great as small batch, made on demand, hot out of the oven.]  Slice and bake for 7 min. at 350˚.

Here in our organization, we will be making one change on our officers’ roster.  I came into my current position in a half term.  Six years later, I’m going out on a half term, and Larry Thomas is very kindly stepping up as President in January.  Thus, any hints of burnout can be alleviated, and we know we will benefit from new ideas.  I’m very grateful to Larry and am confident that his leadership contributions will enhance our already strong Highlands board team.  We work well together.  Birds flying in a “V” shape come to mind, as in this description of Sandhill Cranes:

“The two Vs have morphed into one. The point of the V, the prow of the formation, slides to one side of the string of birds and in time back over the other.  Each bird flies in the wake of the bird in front of it, reducing wind resistance. The birds in front are breaking the wind trail for the birds behind.  Along the line, each bird helps, each bird benefits.  Tired birds fall back and rested birds move forward.  In their V, they can see each other and keep track of individual spacing and speed.  They are unified and communal, but still individuals.  They have had lots of time to work this out.  And it seems they well have.”

[“Silence of the Sandhills” by Maple A. Taylor; Bird Watcher’s Digest, Nov/Dec 2017]

I’ll be continuing as representative from Brooks Bird Club and as past president; thank you for supporting and encouraging all the members of the Board of Directors. Perhaps I, or any of us, will see you somewhere…holding a sign at a protest, attending a governmental hearing…or up in the mountains or out on the trail!