Can a tree say “F*ck Off”?

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This is a public service announcement:

Someone near and dear to me (who shall not be named to protect her privacy) recently learned that she traded her end-of-summer jetlag for a Parisian version of Lyme’s disease. As unlikely as that sounds, her bloodwork clearly shows antibodies to multiple strains of Lyme’s bacteria present in Europe, with no exposure to the sole strain known in the US.

The only green space she frequented at the end of August was the Buttes Chaumont park near where she lives. She went there to lie on the grass, walk barefoot on the ground, and spend time with her palms on a beautiful, tall tree (which shall remain anonymous to avoid reprisals), thinking this city version of “Forest Bathing” would help reset her circadian rhythms.

A few days after her last visit to the park, she noticed what seemed to be a large and very itchy mosquito bite on her chest, which began to swell, burn, and spread over the next few days. None of the usual remedies helped. Since there have been reports of tiger mosquitoes carrying Dengue fever and Chikungunya in the Paris area recently, she thought it best to see her French doctor, who thought she was being a hypochondriac. “Can I get a blood test just in case, to be sure?” she insisted. “No, Madame, it won’t show anything,” he laughed. “What about Lyme’s disease?” she asked. “But there is no tick,” he shrugged.

About ten days later she got a splitting headache, but thought it was the rosé wine she drank at a party. Then she started having sharp pains from the middle of her back to her left wrist and thought she had pinched a nerve in a vertebra during her workout. She went to see a noted osteopath, who said the pain would subside over the next few days. It didn’t. When it moved down into her hips, she realized she had allowed herself to be bullied by her doctor.

Cutting to the chase, she managed to get a prescription for the appropriate blood work, tested positive for Lyme’s, and went on Doxyclycline for the next few weeks. The doctor apologized profusely and didn’t make her pay for the consultation.

Luckily, she knows several people in the US who have made a full recovery in similar circumstances. Still, she could have avoided a lot of pain and worry if she had prevailed upon the doctor in the first place. In his defence, no tick was ever found and the rash did not resemble a typical bull’s eye. She did not check herself carefully after being outside because she didn’t know there were ticks in the city.

In addition to her physical symptoms, there was a psychological shock. She says she feels like she’s been broken up with by a loved one. Her favorite green space gave her Lyme’s disease. Was it the lawns or did her favorite tree tell her to “F*ck Off”? In its defence, so many people are touching it now, its thick protective bark is wearing away at the base of its trunk. Is global warming spreading Lyme’s, or is this a long due declaration of independence aimed at obtrusive human beings? Or both?

Moral of the story: Alas, Lyme’s disease has come to this northern European capital. Be careful, check yourself and your kids after time in the park, maybe give the trees some space. It’s October, temperatures are falling, but not all ticks are dormant in winter. Better safe than sorry?

Saving Mount Greylock

DSC02872When I despair about news of the environment, I think of visiting Mount Greylock, in western Massachusetts, and seeing pictures of its transformation from industrial wasteland to green paradise, all the more amazing because this was launched by a group of businessmen:

“Mount Greylock is the highest natural point in Massachusetts at 3,489 feet (1,063 m). Its peak is located in the northwest corner of the state in the western part of the town of Adams (near its border with Williamstown) in Berkshire County. Although geologically part of the Taconic Mountains, Mount Greylock is commonly associated with the abutting Berkshire Hills to the east. The mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states and the only taigaboreal forest in the state….

By the late 19th century, clearcutting logging practices had stripped much of the mountain for local industries that produced wood products, paper and charcoal. Along with this came devastating forest fires and landslides. Following a fire on the summit,[29] a group of local businessmen concerned about the mountain incorporated the Greylock Park Association (GPA) on July 20, 1885,[30][31] and purchased 400 acres (1.6 km2) on the summit. The GPA also undertook long-needed repairs to the Notch Road so that carriages could access the top. Aside from shares to fund its operation, the GPA charged a 25-cent toll for the carriage road and a 10-cent fee to ascend the iron observation tower (built 1889).[23] These fees are equivalent to $9.53 in present-day dollars.[32] …..

Additional support came from the Massachusetts Forestry Association’s initiative to advocate for the establishment of a state park system, and to make the case point, fight inappropriate development of the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock. The principal argument for making the mountain a public reservation was to protect the Hoosic and Housatonic River watersheds from erosion due to recent trends of deforestation (particularly noted on the Adams side). Another concern was to preserve it for the public rather than private and exclusive enjoyment. On June 20, 1898 Mount Greylock State Reservation was created, with the stipulation that the state add to the original land (to ultimately total 10,000 acres (40 km2)). With this acquisition the first public land in Massachusetts for the purpose of forest preservation was created, later to become the state park system….”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Greylock

Worth the pilgrimage, all the more because the location has now been immortalized in the writings of J.K. Rowling as the site of a North American wizardry school…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

Happy Birthday Buttes Chaumont Park

Paris 19th…Now:DSC03606and then, before landscaping, Eiffel’s bridge, and the cliff-top temple:DSC03607My favorite park is celebrating a big birthday–150 years… I thought I knew it by heart, but new signs commemorating remarkable trees and the park’s transformation are full of cool factoids:DSC03611Did you know this tree is called “horse chestnut” because in ancient times its fruit was used as fodder? That this former quarry was a horse cemetery in the 19th century? That draft horses from Vincennes are still used here for logging? DSC03610.JPGPlanted in 1870, this sycamore is 25m tall. Tiny picnickers and miniature bench give an idea of scale…Another specimen:DSC03609Planted in 1865, this one is 20m tall. Symbiotic parasites thicken its bark while its survival strategy creates an “elephant foot” shape at the base. In Greek mythology  plane trees symbolized regeneration and it’s dark heavy wood was used to build the Trojan horse…It’s so huge I couldn’t fit it into one shot. People left of the trunk (center) add perspective.DSC03608And on the other side of the park:DSC03613An association called Kaloumba had set up awnings, tables, chairs and traditional games from all over the world, for all ages. One item from their beautiful collection:DSC03612

Kaloumba specializes in keeping these alive as cultural, social, educational and therapeutic tools, organizing workshops to make your own games from recycled materials, to then keep or sell for worthy causes. Check out their website: http://kaloumba.com

Happy Birthday Buttes Chaumont 🙂 xxxxx Aliss

It’s happening! (updated 17/07/17)

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Live Water Swimming, Bassin de la Villette, Paris Plages, Grand Opening Monday July 17th, 3pm 🙂

Paris has been working towards this for many years, well before the Summer Olympics bid, part of a long term environmental clean up and biodiversity project. What better way to raise awareness than to open a swimming area here? It’s a biofeedback loop for Parisians: water quality is monitored constantly and the pools will be closed whenever the water is unsafe. All around the enclosure displays show how this works, what sources of public and private pollution are being supervised, plant and animal species living in this water, how and why the waterway was constructed, how it has evolved… Maybe this will discourage deadbeats from throwing their refuse into the canal? Come swim and view the displays with your family, it’s a rich learning experience and a way to create a better future 🙂

http://www.thelocal.fr/20170530/take-the-plunge-paris-to-offer-free-canal-swimming-for-summer

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Smooth sailing! xxxxx Aliss

Today the water was laughing

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Bassin de la Villette, Paris 19, near the soon-to-open “Live Water” swimming area, canal so clear, I stopped in my tracks to admire fish of all sizes swimming among the plant life.

Two electric-blue dragonflies flitted in front of me, hovered and disappeared, too fast to photograph. (The fish, too, are camera-shy). When Jacques Chirac was Mayor of Paris many moons ago, he announced he’d swim in the Seine in the year 2000. It took longer than he thought, but decades of effort by local communities and the Paris city government, bio-diversity campaigns and sewage treatment, are paying off. What seemed like science fiction is actually happening.

For more information about wild flora and fauna in Paris,  “sustainable walk” apps, action steps:

http://www.paris.fr/biodiversite#balades-paris-durable_5

Beautiful posters to download:

http://www.paris.fr/biodiversite#affiches-sur-la-faune-et-la-flore-parisiennes_8

Reasons for optimism! Love xxxxx Aliss

Stayin’ Alive

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This July Paris is opening it’s first “Live Water” swimming area on the canal in my neighborhood, the result of decades of work by city governments and local activists who’ve brought the river water that feeds the canal back to life. Particularly relevant as summer returns and I’m coming back to life myself after terror episodes and two exhausting presidential elections…also  inspiring and galvanizing, as Trump withdraws the US from the Paris Climate Accords. Many of us are dedicated to keeping the planet alive and imagining a better future. He can’t stop us! xxxxx Aliss