Archive for April, 2009

Which came first – the worm or the egg?

April 29, 2009
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Pine trees along the coast are loaded with pollen missiles ready to fire.

It’s not unusual at this time of year to see the cracked, jagged-edge remains of robin’s eggs, blue as the sky, lying on the ground. But what about the mass migration of thin earth worms, driven out of the ground – I’m guessing – by last week’s steady rains? Wherever sidewalks split swaths of grass, the reddish strings of living protein have been inching their way across the pavement, destination unknown.

Some left slick trails behind them, others lay curled and drying in the day’s rising heat, and others – reminding me of a man with no water heading out to cross the Sahara – slinked their way down the face of curbs blissfully unaware of the vast plain of black asphalt ahead of them.

Contemplating the worms, my thoughts moved toward the robins and ancient wisdom percolating up from my childhood when I first learned that the early bird catches the worm. This week, every bird caught a worm. They were everywhere, so many in fact that much of the feast was left on the table. There simply aren’t enough birds around to eat all the available worms.

Feeling like Sherlock Homes or Inspector Clouseau observing and pondering, my curiosity sought an answer to the worms and the birds and the cracked eggs. Is nature so finely tuned – is God so detail oriented – that the worm bloom is designed to coincide naturally with the time of the year when the birds most need protein to nurture their eggs and hatchlings?

And how about all the pollen? Does the same fine green powder dusting our cars and sifting through our screens also settle onto the ground to be ingested by worms as another dish straining the bounty-filled table of the vernal feast?

There’s a connection here to the annual run of mackerel that used to mark April along the coast but which has not, now, for several years. Capt. Dale Parsons of Fisherman’s Wharf in Lewes has a theory, but for now, the connection between worms, mackerel, robins and pollen will have to wait for another blog. In the mean time, give yourself a natural high. Get outdoors, take a walk for an hour, and interact with the amazing natural world around us.

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“When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d . . . .”

April 23, 2009

Poet Walt Whitman penned that beautiful opening to his poem by the same title in the turbulent wake of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The poem expressed his inner certainty. The heady scent of lilac blossoms, as sweet to the nose as is their purple color to the eyes, fresh and tender with the cleanliness of April rain drops dripping from their heart-shaped leaves – from then on, their poignant beauty would remind him sadly of his beloved president’s death. And so the power of the poet ripples out to all of us.

dennis20090423This week, nurtured by soaking, sustaining rains, lilacs are opening their fragrant and tiny blossoms in grapelike clusters throughout Delaware’s Cape Region. Because of Whitman, the rich sweetness of those blossoms flows into the nasal portals of my most reminiscent sense and connects directly with the poem-driven knowledge that Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, shot in the back of the head the night before by John Wilkes Booth.

Poets and artists live in different dimensions than most of us. Allowing their minds, their imaginations and their talents to take them into realms that many of us resist, they invite us to open the doors to perception through which they have already passed. Jim Morrison of The Doors sang: “Break on through to the other side . . . .” Whitman, with his lilacs, reminds us that there are realms defined by the past worthy of sad, melancholy and, in their own curious ways, beautiful and constructive reflection. Through that reflection we can find ourselves too, breaking through to other dimensions of human existence.

What’s worse: gambling or credit cards?

April 21, 2009

“There goes Delaware again, leading the way to the bottom.”

A number of years ago an employee of Delaware’s state department told me about a convention of employees from state departments around the nation. We were discussing Delaware’s status as a most-favored place for businesses to incorporate. The employee told me that Delaware is known for its liberal and deep body of corporate law and its hands-off approach when it comes to corporations. The employee also said other states regard Delaware’s political philosophy as more protective of corporations than of individuals. The employee then quoted another state’s employee – see quote above – to illustrate an attitude toward Delaware’s permissive corporate ways.

In the current debate over expansion of gambling venues in Delaware, one comment has stuck out like a sore thumb. I can’t remember the exact source, but the general sentiment expressed was that if a venture like the Del Pointe proposal with its thousands of promised jobs for Sussex County were proposed for New Castle County, the state would be shifting funds around and writing all kinds of special legislation to make it happen. New Castle County legislators, of course, would be rallying around the proposal because of its benefits to constituents.

Bull hockey, some might say? That’s crazy. Gambling’s different.

Not so. It happened a few decades ago when Delaware rewrote its laws to attract out-of-state banks here and enabled them to export Delaware’s unlimited usury rates to the rest of the nation. As a result, major credit card operations set up in Delaware. Companies were able to use Delaware’s laws to make major credit card marketing, with steep interest rates and increases hidden in fine type, a fact of life for our nation. Many people then, and now, saw that move as another example of Delaware “leading the way to the bottom.”

Economic times weren’t so different than what we face now. Delaware’s Farmers Bank, where most of the state’s funds were held, was on the brink of bankruptcy and Pete duPont had just been elected governor. He jumped into the state’s budget and cut, cut, cut and seized the banking law opening that ultimately resulted in thousands of jobs for Delawareans. It could easily be argued that had times been rosier, opposition to harboring credit card operations with virtually no interest rate caps would have been stiffer.

Is sanctioning more gambling venues, with appropriate regulations, worse than allowing an unlimited number of credit card operators into our state? There’s no doubt in my mind that far more people are in financial trouble due to credit card problems than due to gambling problems. This double standard is, at best, unbecoming for our state, and at worst, crippling an economy when it most needs help.

Billboard proliferation detracts from Sussex as a destination

April 18, 2009

Billboard proliferation continues unabated in Sussex County.  It seems like the first thing people do when they buy a piece of commercial property is to erect a billboard.  I understand the economics.  The more income you can get off a piece of property the better.  It helps pay the mortgage.  The problem is that Sussex County’s permissive billboard policies allow us to stack commercial upon commercial.  Not only can you build a commercial enterprise on your commercial land and erect the related signage, you can also put up billboards on the property to advertise other people’s businesses, so long as you have proper spacing between billboards.  In a concentrated commercial area like Route 1 between Nassau Overpass and Rehoboth Beach, the large number of billboards not only distracts from the many businesses trying to attract customers along the highway, they also detract from the natural beauty of our area – the fields and trees and waterways.  It’s one thing to have commercial signage for businesses, but when the clutter of ever-increasing billboards begins to tangle the messages into one large indistinguishable and eye-numbing blur, the commercial advantage begins to decline and with that the attractiveness to our area for tourism.  A computer-modeled build-out scenario showing how many billboards could be constructed in Sussex County under current regulations might open our eyes and allow us to develop new billboard guidelines that will be beneficial to all in Sussex County over the long haul.

A classic nor’easter swells the dogwoods

April 15, 2009
Nor'-easter-driven seas climb the sands at Rehoboth Beach.

Nor'-easter-driven seas climb the sands at Rehoboth Beach.

A classic nor’easter blew in this week complete with signature winds, heavy seas and lots of sorely needed rain.

The compass told the story.

Our usual weather patterns show winds making their way clockwise around the compass. South winds move to southwest then west, then northwest and so on. But when the winds reverse course, and start shifting counterclockwise, look for a storm with heft. As I write this Wednesday morning, the forecast for 100 percent precipitation is making good and the winds – gusting well above 20 knots – are shooting straight down Lewes’s northeasterly oriented Savannah Road bringing a good washing to the community.

Dogwood blossoms throughout Sussex County are about to blossom. In my mind I can taste the fresh coolness of this storm’s cleansing rain rolling down the windward bark of the dogwoods and feel the swelling blooms about to unfold their white petals.

After two good days of storm, this one should blow out by the weekend.

When the seas settle, I wonder whether any of the head boats will find offshore schools of mackerel moving north. Rain puddles littered with fallen blossoms remind me of flashing schools of fish in the sea.