Water Closet for April 13, 2018

Two decades ago on a card table in lovely Warner, New Hampshire, two attractive book covers caught the old Closeteer’s eye.  At that Saturdays Farmers Market, Laurette was selling her husband David Carroll’s Swamp Walker’s Journal and The Year of the Turtle.  The Closeteer, now and then a swamp walker, who likes turtles, bought both.  After picking blueberries on the summit of a Warner Hill on a field reminiscent of the opening scene in the movie Sound of Music he and good wife Chitose picnicked on nearby Mount Kearsarge.  They then returned home with the books that were to enhance the Closeteer’s future hikes in our woods and wetlands. 

Rachel Schneider holds a baby snapping turtle. Both are vertebrates yet the human is without a protective boney shell. Turtles’ ancestors have been around 200 million years, hers about four million. Rachel’s body temperature is close to a steady 99 F; the turtle’s fluctuates staying close to that of its surroundings. – Judy Schneider photo

     For the next few months and years the handsome books were visited frequently by the Closeteer who was drawn back by the scientific prose-poetry and fine illustrations of naturalist Carroll, who loves turtles and their habitats.  A friend, Nancy Sander, who knew Carroll as a fellow member of an informal group of artists long before the Closeteer happened upon his books, recently shared a quote from Armistead Maupin. “You cannot be loved by someone who doesn’t want to know you.”  Carroll passionately seeks to know about the turtles he loves and their homes.  His sentences often rise to the level of poetry.  He uses common and scientific names of the animals and plants which he somehow fits well into his lyrical lines.  While beautifully written his paragraphs can be taken only a few pages at a time.  To get to really know his beloved animals and plants there must be long pauses for the reader to think, to imagine, or to visit a local wetland.  The swamp walker has us doing both on many levels.  Evolution, human history as related to his subjects, weather, climate, and the everchanging light so important to artists are always on Carroll’s mind as he wades through familiar wetlands in relatively undeveloped Warner.  Surprisingly, he often finds shell-protected friends whose ancestors were here fifty times longer than ours.  Many are acquaintances he has been finding for many years.  He carefully and gently checks the health and appearance of each.  These are not just cursory medical doctor visits.  He sketches, take notes, and photographs before letting them go.  His notes also include descriptions of their surroundings.  Later, when writing his books, he waxes eloquently on how he felt on his encounters.  He remembers his feelings well; imagines what those of his subjects might have been without being overly anthropomorphic.  While turtles have many of our genes they are very different.  We have similar latitudes and longitudes but our origins differ by tens of millions of years.

Painted turtles basking in sun on log in the Ipswich River. Despite their body temperatures changing with surroundings, some turtles begin to come forth from winter sleep while the water is still close to freezing. – Elaine Gauthier photo

     As the “big nights” of mating by vernal pool creatures and turtles are now upon us, the Closeteer is reading Carroll’s latest book, published in 2009, entitled Following the Water: a Hydromancer’s Notebook.  He and Nancy visited her onetime artist friends, Laurette and David Carroll, at their old home in Warner last summer.  Carroll and wife kindly gave them well over an hour in their studio to hear the author’s latest plans and to ask questions.  There wasn’t much chance for the latter.  With humans the old turtle man takes the stage and gracefully dominates.  A few minutes with him made it clear why his books are so eloquent and erudite.  Carroll is a well-read scholar familiar with several languages.  We asked him about a next book, which launched him into a story of an interrupted friendship with a girl, a childhood playmate, in a Connecticut swamp.  We’ll say no more – we want his readers, if a book comes to pass to be as surprised and delighted as we were about what happened.  The Closeteer and Nancy left with many unanswered questions.

     Carroll as he now revisits his awakening swamps has even more questions and the knowledge to form them about his subjects.  He deeply worries  about our species’ effects on his favorite animals.  Our developments and waste byproducts are a challenge for us all including turtles.  Carroll is pessimistic while giving us reasons and the knowledge needed to protect.  We Stream Teamers wish President Trump and his EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would be visited by Mother Nature and somehow magically enticed to read.  Maybe then they wouldn’t strive to drain all swamps, even those outside of Washington.

     Let’s end with a paragraph of Carroll’s from the first chapter of Following the Water as he enters a clean swamp, one he has visited yearly for decades after ice out in his quest for turtles.  “Stepping from the snow-crested bank, I descend into the icy running of the brook.  There is daybreak that comes with every rising of the sun, and there is the yearbreak that comes with thaw and the unlocking of the ice.  As I enter the newly opened water, I enter the year and, in a mingling of dream early remembered and new dream just beginning, start to wade again the streaming of the seasons.” 

 Note:     Naturalist David M. Carroll was awarded a MacArthur Fellow Program Grant, or “Genius Grant,” in 2006.  Visit him and wife Laurette at The Carroll Studio Gallery on line to see some of his illustrations, sketches, and list of books,  and paintings  by  Laurette Carroll who works with watercolors, oils, pastels and mixed media.




  Precipitation Data* for Month of:  Dec Jan Feb March  
  30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.12 3.40 3.25 4.65  
   2017 Central Watershed Actual  2.97 4.04 3.76 6.4

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

 For April 6, 2018   Normal . . . 141 CFS            Current Rate  . . .137 CFS


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

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

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>