Water Closet for January 9, 2015

For many years on January 1st the old Closeteer and his Japanese-American wife now in their 80s have driven in the cold to Gloucester’s rocky east coast to watch the first sunrise of the year.  Now and then a couple of their children and a grandchild or two join them.  For the old couple the ocean that stretches out before them connects to the waters of Japan where they met.  He, a coastal Yankee, played as a boy in and on the salt waters of the Merrimack.  Now he plays on the clam flats of the lower Ipswich River.  She was brought up on beautiful Kyushu, a semitropical land and sea of mountains and many coastal islands, where fresh sea food is almost daily enjoyed.  Some of the water molecules the Ipswich clams squirt while being dug and those within their cells came from Japan tens of thousands roundabout ocean miles away, to end up in her chowders.

Other Japanese visit the same mile of coast at 07:13 on the first morning of the year to see the Sun peep over the Earth’s horizon or, more exactly, the horizon ducking under the Sun.

Chitose, born 174 longitude degrees to the east and grandson Django born here, longitude 72 W, have just turned from viewing the first sunrise of 2014 as seen from Gloucester’s eastern shore. - Middleton Stream Team photo

Chitose, born 174 longitude degrees to the east and grandson Django born here, longitude 72 W, have just turned from viewing the first sunrise of 2014 as seen from Gloucester’s eastern shore. – Middleton Stream Team photo

Some years its rays are hidden by cloud banks that glow from the Sun behind.  Salty, sentimental connections are nevertheless made even when the red circle of Nippon is not seen.  Her devoted Buddhist father, Tokuji Ryu, had climbed a high hill near their home in Kyushu each New Year’s Day to pray and greet the Sun.

On January 1, 2015 a low, loose fog bank on the sea was broken resulting in a dramatic show of smoldering clouds with gaps of brilliant red as the sun came into view.  Along the shore, greetings “Happy New Year” and “Shin Nin Omedeto” were heard.  Just west in Gloucester city many such greetings were no doubt spoken in Portuguese and Italian. Sadly it probably won’t be a good year for Gloucester fishermen. Cod populations have steeply declined; a 500 year old fishery is dying.

The oceans, sick with country-size gyres of floating plastic and increasing heat and acidic carbon dioxide, are enlarging as the ice of the Arctic and Greenland, the latter hardly any land at all, melt more than freeze.  The visitors standing on the granite of Cape Ann thought not of these illnesses.  The surface seemed at peace.  The following day, however, the dread worries returned.  What is our planet to become?  Will it continue to suit organisms as well as rocks?  Or will there be yet another mass extinction followed by recovery in novel forms?  Questions. Questions, not to be asked on New Year’s Day, a time of hope.  When work days resume we must collectively do more than hope.

Of course you don’t have to visit the sea to experience sunrise from a spinning Earth.  A tree line or hill will do.  At night one may choose to watch the rising stars.  Our Sun isn’t the only one, our Earth with its diverse life could be; it certainly is the only one for us.  On a planet with close to eight billion minds of our species buzzing and now largely connected, let’s try for harmony instead of static.  And speaking of static, wars of all kinds are great polluters. Laura Hillenbrand in her best selling book Unbroken reminds us that during the war in the Pacific almost 16,000 of our planes with fuel and bodies joined the strangely named Pacific.  She doesn’t include the losses of Japanese ships and planes.  A century before, the great whales were practically wiped from the oceans by greedy men wanting their oil.  After WWII the victors tested a score of poisonous atomic and nuclear bombs at Bikini and Eniwetok.

Madness . . . The old Closeteer and wife are still with all this baggage they wish could have been left behind in 2014.  Let us all hope for sunrises and sunsets we know aren’t enhanced by dust from wars’ explosions; the natural, innocent dusts of volcanoes do just fine.




Precipitation Data* for Month of: Oct Nov Dec Jan
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.40 4.55 4.12 3.40
 2014 Central Watershed Actual 8.09 4.60 8.45 1.5 as of 1/6**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):

For Jan 6, 2015      Normal . . . 52 CFS                       Current Rate  . . . Unavailable

*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Dec. 

**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Jan.

Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.

THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584