APRIL 2000

Monday -- April 3, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.22     Water Temperature: 53

Because of a death in the family your Caretaker will be in Texas this week attending to a funeral and family business. The log will resume on the morning of Monday, 10 April. The very capable Caretaker's Wife will be the duty officer until then.

Congratulations to those of you attending the annual river clean-up, and especially to the Judson/Esch family that organized the details. The great fun that was had and the fact that few seemed inclined to leave the conversations after potluck proves that virtue really is its own reward.

Quick notes... Maria Stensel reported seeing the shad running and being scooped out 5 to the netfull at Chain Bridge. Fern Ingersoll counted 13 different types of wildflowers on the Island... come on down and try to match her. And Alex McCoy suggested a fishing contest be held one Saturday for Members... but Gerry Barton said it would not be any fun because George Malusky would certainly win. Still, an idea with merit??

Monday -- April 10, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.78     Water Temperature: 53

What a difference a week makes... so much green! Apparently there were many goings on during this last week, not the least being the wind storms that forced the Captain to close the Island Sat afternoon and Sunday. The Caretaker's Wife handled everything competently, including another snake in the quarters.

Tuesday -- April 11, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 54

Flowers... flowers... everywhere !!! The green so fresh... surely this is among the most beautiful of times to be on the Island!! Yesterday we saw two geese just beginning to build their nests... so there are still some who have not even laid their eggs yet. The daily fights continue between the big goose whose mate's nest is on the fallen sycamore tree and the couple trying to build a nest on the canoe shed.

Wednesday -- April 12, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.28     Water Temperature: 56

Do not forget that tonight is the night of the monthly meeting... 2000 hrs.

Thursday -- April 13, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.10     Water Temperature: 55

I wish to report an event that happened while attending a funeral in Granbury Texas for an uncle who was a much decorated war hero... shot down twice... and much loved in his community for his leadership and integrity. While driving from the church to the cemetery the funeral procession must have encountered well over a hundred on-coming cars. Without exception... every on-coming car pulled off the side of the road and stopped!!! Now folks... I do not mean they edged over to the side of the road and slowed down... in Texas the road shoulders are wide... and I mean they pulled off of the road and stopped!! Without exception!!! You could have driven all the way using the left hand lane. But what is significant is that these drivers did not know and were not recognizing the character of my uncle. This gesture of respect they would have accorded to even the smallest or meanest of them.... and I ask you to reflect how lucky we are collectively that there are still places in this country where the old ways still hold sway.

Yesterday while checking the new trees planted during the fall Workfest it was discovered that the two river birch at the bottom of the Island were toppled. The beaver had completely eaten one... completely meaning that the only thing to be found was the 4 foot tall column of chicken wire that had surrounded it... all vestiges of the tree were gone. The other was on its side and the beaver have been working their way from top to bottom. This tree has now been re-planted and a metal rebar driven through the root ball to keep it upright. The working theory is that the beaver could not get through the chicken wire and got up on their hind legs and pushed the trees over while the ground was soft from high water.

Last week the Island was visited by Bill Browning of the Rocky Mountain Institute (970-927-3851) who suggested that up-river Island erosion could be controlled by planting willow trees. This was discussed during last night's meeting, and at Trip Reid's suggestion we have attempted to contact them for more info... Stay tuned.

Friday -- April 14, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.99     Water Temperature: 55

If you walk the up Island trails leaving the swimming area you will be struck by the numerous clumps of luminescent phlox. Phlox is coming into its glory all over the island and on cloudy days it seems to glow. Also numerous this year are the Paw Paw blossoms, which are green and have to be looked carefully for, but hang beneath the branches like little bells. Last year there were not very many blossoms, and all year we only observed two fruit on the Island, and few fruit in the entire area, so it will be interesting to track their development this year. Anyone with ideas about what affects Paw Paw fruit production and delineates good years from bad... please let us know.

The other night after dark we noticed an odd sound coming a long way from up river, and as it came closer it became distinguishable as the calls of an approaching flock of geese. As the searching flock got closer to Ruppert's Island, the geese staying near Hotel Cormorant there began to call back, and the two different types of calls were quite distinguishable... the one calling ahead and the other welcoming. The Caretaker's Wife commented that the approaching geese were being "called down," and surely the process would be the envy of any human flight controller.

Saturday -- April 15, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.99     Water Temperature: 55

Today's Workfest has been postponed until next Saturday, 22 April.

Gerry Barton brought his fishing pole yesterday to gather evidence regarding the efficiency of the fish ladder. While he did catch two small mouth bass... there was no sign of shad or herring. I should also take this opportunity to correct an observation last month that the McCoy brothers were the first fisherpersons of the year. Perhaps they were the first of the season... but Gerry did come down twice previously... so early in fact that I did not credit the presence of his pole as anything other than a nature meditation tool.

Trip Reid has called to confirm that the golden flowers around the Island on 2 to 3 foot spikes are golden ragwort, and that the type of trillium we have on Sycamore is purple trillium, also known as trillium erectus. There is a large clump of celendine near the ferry landing, and it has been instructive to listen to the surprising number of debates as to whether it is the "lesser" or "greater" celandine. By the way, during the meeting Wednesday night Trip mentioned that some bleeding heart had been planted on the Island, and when challenged regarding the tradition on the Island of not bringing on any other non native plants, pointed out that only plants suggested for river bottoms by the Maryland Native Plant Society are considered.

We continue to get questions about the presence of the snow shovel near the Captain's Float. Now, at night there is no more perfect sleeping quarters for geese than moderately sized floating platformss, by definition affording them the security of a moat. What is more, this goose motel comes complete with a cleaning service to remove any of the night's droppings the next morning. Thus the red snow shovel is a multipurpose tool... becoming in March a perfect goose pooper scooper.

Sunday -- April 16, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
This Sunday starts the first of an attempt to have the Sunday substitute caretakers contribute to the Caretaker's Log. There has been a log book in the Clubhouse for some time, and occasionally substitutes have made entries. But I have resolved to push them to do so now, especially following the incident of 21 Mar (see Log), on the theory that the Island be treated as a ship and a ship's log be maintained by whomever the bridge officers happen to be. Unfortunately, the beginning is not auspicious, as the second shift substitute caretaker did not report for duty, meaning there were no "officers on deck" and Members had to fend for themselves. Some of us think it is outrageous that such an important responsibility should be treated so lightly... and my first instinct is that there should be a severe penalty, such as removal of guest privileges. However, the problem here is that they are volunteers, and often the best of the Membership. If there were a requirement that all Members had to share the responsibilities in some manner, then such a penalty would be an easy call.

But, back to new beginnings... herewith is Jim Matthews' report:

Temporary caretaker Jim Matthews reported for duty at 10:00 AM. As the traffic was light, he conducted a science experiment on the drying effect of the sun's rays on a totally soaked pair of New Balance shoes. Four or five groups visited the Island between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM... light rain in the AM and glorious in the PM.

Monday -- April 17, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.90     Water Temperature: 56

Please note that the river forecast calls for the river to rise above the hazardous stage sometime Tuesday.

Your Caretaker is incensed to think that Members can not be expected to be responsible for remembering to show up for scheduled substitute caretaking duties. Upon reporting that yesterday's second shift caretaker did not show up, your Caretaker was asked why he did not call in advance to remind the two families scheduled for duty. It is true that these advance calls were always made until recently, as suggested by Peter Jones as a form of self defence by any Caretaker wishing to protect his day off. But such calls are a tacit admission that Members should be expected to be flaky and irresponsible... that they do not view their obligations seriously. If this is the case... it should not be!! This is a simply a case of scheduling... and since Members have no problems when it comes to scheduling soccer practice or TV programs... it is insulting to think that Island responsibilities have less priority. Nor is this an isolated problem... it happened at least three times last year... without so much as a rebuke to the parties involved. Your Caretaker wishes to announce that as he does not wish to believe he is employed by irresponsible people, he will definitely cease making any such advance calls... and any inconvenience to Members wishing to come to the Island on Sundays will have to be borne by the Members themselves.

Tuesday -- April 18, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.34     Water Temperature: 57

On Sunday George Malusky and sidekick Mark made a serious expedition to fish above the new fish ladder. George is the Club Pro as fishing goes, and this was to be a definitive test for shad and river herring. Unfortunately, although using his "shad rig" they were only able to see and catch very many... very large... small mouth bass. Poor George!

Yesterday we received a call from Bill Browning ( of the Rocky Mountain Institute (see 12 Apr log) regarding our queries concerning the use of willow trees to control river erosion. He has recommended a book by Leslie Sauer of Andropogon Associates of Philadelphia entitled "Once and Future Forest" in which a technique using huge fiber sausages made from copra are attached to eroding banks and then planted with willow trees for stream bank stabalization. Cahill Associates of Philadelphia is the associated engineering company that uses this vegetative and hydrological technique for riparian restoration. When asked if he had heard of snow fencing being used for erosion control, he said that the exact same principle was used by the copra/willow technique... to dissipate and diffuse the energy of the water. We will try to learn more.

Eric Simpson, John Wiebenson, Greg Katz, John Matthews, and Trip Reid have all mentioned a concern about the erosion on the up-river end of the Island since the '96 floods and either suggested a possible solution or brought some sort of independent expert to the Island to view the situation. Surely this could be an interesting committee to consider the problem... perhaps with the balancing addition of our own hydrological expert, Blair Bower... whose opinion regarding the futility of any effort to shape the river to our will is well known.

Wednesday -- April 19, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.68     Water Temperature: 56

Questions have been asked about the purpose of the various chairs scattered about the Island. These are compass rose chairs. You will have seen a compass rose on maps... where the mapmaker has drawn a circle and superimposed from the center of this circle the lines of the map that correspond to true north and the other prime directions. And sometimes these lines extend to the edge of the map... especially in old maps. In a similar sense a clever Japanese garden is set up to emphasize intersecting lines of sight... and sometimes a bench is located to designate a particularly beautiful viewpoint... and in this case the gardener has placed a particular compass rose in the map of his garden. Sometimes it is left to the visitor to wander the garden and try to discover the hidden intersections the gardener has planned... and so take delight in the discovery... and in this case we walk about with our own personal and physical compass rose seeking the right place to "sit" it. Of course, on our Island the Master Gardener and Mother Nature have conspired to set us in a sort of Japanese garden and fill our lives with unseen lines of intersecting beauty. It is a blessing to come to the thought that such hidden treasures are here for us, much less to actually discover them. Thus the chairs... but do not think they are sited at discovered intersections... they are merely places around the Island to rest one's personal compass rose while the search continues. They are also symbols of a terrible secret... that the grass paths known as the beaver trails are actually the result of a monstrously selfish attempt at a meditation garden.

Sometimes when meditating and trying to find that inner place it is possible to imagine that one is inside the space of one's head. At first it is easy to think that we are "in here" by ourself... or perhaps later, with experience, we sense some inner presence... and perhaps then we even imagine we are within only with our God. But indeed it is true that "no man is an Island, entyre in himself." We look out through our eyes into the world of our senses and think how we walk about in that outside world!!! We carry our own compass rose as we walk the map of our lives, and one might suggest that the problem in our lives is that we project our lives onto a Mercator Map World when in fact we live in a True North World. But we are in fact not "out there"... we are very much "in here". Furthermore, we are not "in here" just with ourselves... in a sense we are all "in here" together... and then the question arises... is all of humankind in our head... or do we discover that we are part of a larger self... sharing the collective unconsciousness... or perhaps it is all the same and the only difference is a difference in perspective. How does that song go: "Timothy Leary's dead... no... he's on the outside... looking in." In or out may just be the difference in where we choose (or are able) to place and locate our personal/spiritual compass rose... just as one may walk the Island and find a chair to place one's personal/physical compass rose. Lucretius once suggested that all religions were merely different windows looking in upon the same room... that in fact the room was the same but only appeared different because each window had a different perspective "looking in." Oh... to be able to place one's compass rose within that room!!

Thursday -- April 20, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.65     Water Temperature: 56

This is a First Gosling Alert !!! Round up the kiddies and all stale bread and come on down !!! Our new kitty Miss T is not allowed outdoors now without a chaperone until we can see her behaviour and be assured the geese have established their primacy. There are at least two groups that have come over from Ruppert's Island, because all of the Sycamore Island geese are still sitting their nests. The first false Solomon's seal blossoms have appeared, and a robin appears to be building a nest in the hickory tree next to the deck, where we may all observe the developing family over the next few months.

Friday -- April 21, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.93     Water Temperature: 59

Yes... it will probably be raining tomorrow... but not hard or much. Yes... it will be cool tomorrow... but not cold. Yes... the river level will be above 5 feet tomorrow and rising... but not that much... and in consultation with the Captain and the President it has been decreed that the Workfest will go on. The Island will be closed Sunday because of the high water, so come on down tomorrow for the food and the fellowship.

One begins to notice that the bluebells are finally past their peak. True, it has been a long blooming season for them, and even now small yearlings are still popping up, presaging a spectacular season next year. And while there are so many other shows just getting underway, this first significant fading is a real message: Get down here !! These are the best of days on the Island !!! No one should miss it !!!

When a gentle breeze stirred a strange sound in the trees yesterday we looked up and realized it was the sound of the first maple helicopter seeds, falling through the branches with a sound not unlike little hail or frozen rain. There are so many sounds to harvest down here... sounds not available in the urban congestion... sounds that are part of out primal programming and that our bodies expect to be immersed in as part of our natural environment. The development of electricity and the internal combustion engine has surrounded us with other sounds... but consider how recent these are in generational terms and thus how thin this artificial veneer. On some level twenty thousand generations of genetic programming yearn for these natural sounds as a form of nourishment. So come on down... catch a few natural sounds... think of it as an aural vitamin supplement for your genes.

Saturday -- April 22, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.29     Water Temperature: 59

It was chiily... it was damp... the river was above 5 feet and rising... but the Workfest went on and an intrepid crew of thirty-three showed up: John Matthews, Gerry Barton, Renee and George Dunham, Ann Kip and Mark Brenneman, Tryon Wells, Tove and Susan and Madelyn Elfstrom, Vicki Judson and Jennifer and Tom Esch, Steve Sarfatti, Trip Reid, George Malusky and friend Mark Flor, Blair Bower, Jim Drew, Jim and Christine Matthews, George and Marcia Loeb, Maria Stenzel, Bob and Michael Henry, John and Diane Noble, Tom and Diane Levy, Mark Strasburg, and John and Joey Thorne, and of course, the Caretaker's Wife. The Clubhouse was cleaned and the swimming floats put in. Gerry Barton and Tom Esch repaired parts of the wooden walkway. Repairs were begun on the screens on the porch. The door from the deck to the warm room was repaired by George Dunham and re-hung. Trip Reid brought down another river birch to plant, and while I did not see him much... days later I would find where large, thorny, obnoxious clumps of weedy shrub rose had been removed from people areas. Perhaps the best adventure was when Maria Stenzel, George Malusky, and Mark Flor took a canoe up-river to bring back a four foot diameter tire, although they paid for their fun by not returning in time for lunch. And the lunch was everything we have come to expect... one person was heard to comment that watching George Loeb at the grill was what kept him going. One result of the high water was that your caretaker did all the ferry work and was not able to bear witness to who was doing what this year, so many of you will have to remain unsung. However, special mention in the dispatches this year goes to Mark Flor, frequent fishing companion to George Malusky, who put in a hard morning's work and is not even on the waiting list. As the river was still rising, the Island was closed in the afternoon after the Workfest participants had left.

Sunday-- April 23, 2000 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.38     Water Temperature: 59

Monday -- April 24, 2000 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.34     Water Temperature: 56

River stages are forecast to remain above hazardous levels through the middle of the week, and with more rain expected, it is difficult to suggest when the Island will open. Stay tuned !! The high waters have flooded the nests of several of the geese on the little Islands near Sycamore, so the eggs are lost and this year's gosling population will be diminished.

The flowers that are really coming on this week are the golden ragwort, the false Solomon's seal, and the phlox. Some of the taller and more fragrant phlox is blooming early. We do not remember that there was nearly this much phlox last year, or that the main lawn was so full of so many kinds of wildflowers.

Tuesday -- April 25, 2000 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.51     Water Temperature: 55

This Island is Narnia !!! Or so was the announcement of one enchanted visitor. So children of all ages take note... stepping onto the ferry can be the same as stepping through the wardrobe! But alas, the magic faded when the same visitor to the Island apologized for looking at the geese... knowing we were fond of them... and confessed to seeing only something that was "pan ready... serves six."

Wednesday -- April 26, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.00     Water Temperature: 54

Notice that the water has cooled 5 degrees just since Sunday. The micro-climate of the Island is often dictated by the temperature of the river water, so if coming down today... bring warm clothing.

Thursday -- April 27, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.70     Water Temperature: 54

Today seems more like a day in November than in April... chilly and damp... the temperature is struggling in the 40s. Mid-morning the Caretaker's Wife called to say that while driving on Highway 355 a State Trooper stopped all eight lanes of traffic to let two geese and their goslings cross. Now... didn't your heart skip a beat when you just read that?

Friday -- April 28, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.49     Water Temperature: 54

Today was the day that Remar came to the Island to take away accumulated trash and other stuff resulting from the Spring Workfest. You may recall that Remar is a non-profit, Christian, Latino outreach group helping the homeless and the addicted. After each Workfest they bring a truck onto the towpath to carry away stuff. This year they first went and picked up the new ping pong table purchased by the Club and brought it over to the Island... heavy lifting that as the new table is definitely heavier than the one they took away. This year we also gave them two of the old and never used canoes that had jagged metal tears in the gunwales. But mostly the big truck was entirely filled with trash, throw away stuff from the Workfest, and some large items recovered from the river. They are reliable and conscientious and Members use them for odd jobs as well as pick ups. They can be reached at (202) 588-8752.

The log should record that we were awakened at 0500 hrs by a group of loud and drunken voices from the towpath. Before Remar arrived, empty beer cans and other trash was recovered from the area near our towpath landing.

Saturday -- April 29, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.43     Water Temperature: 55

The Island is alive with goslings... and there are more to come considering the number of geese still sitting their nests. The count must be up around 19. Too bad they do not eat the creeping Charlie, which is starting to mound on the yard in places and is putting out myriads of pinkish flowers. There is also an explosion of brilliant white flowers... as yet unidentified... with numerous small clumps scattered around the lawn. There are now two new lawn chairs on the Island in response to those of you that agitated for more comfortable sitting last year.

And again the log should record that we were awakened shortly after 0300 hrs by someone ringing the bell, but no one could be seen when the Caretaker's Wife investigated.

Sunday-- April 30, 2000 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.21     Water Temperature: 55

Substitute caretakers Christy and Garth Ross entered into the upstairs log book: A perfect day on Sycamore Island - sunny, warm, and breezy. The highlight was probably the infant yellow goslings perusing the Island. Seven parties arrived while we were here - a perfect combination of activity and relaxation.

After returning to the Island in the late afternoon, the Caretaker's Wife went upstairs to investigate sounds of loud pounding, and found an approximately six year old boy banging a ping pong paddle on the brand new ping pong table, for no apparent reason, and of course made him stop. The two day old table now has its first scratches and marks. No parents were in evidence, and when the Caretaker's Wife returned from searching for them, the boy and his sister were throwing pool balls onto the slate top of the pool table. It is a wonder the slate was not cracked. Several minutes later the two children were seen leaving on the ferry with unknown adults. This incident is reported not because it is unusual, but so that the budget committee can have an example of how fast wear and tear begins.