teisipäev, juuli 29, 2008

where nature is dangerous

A few weeks ago we took a ride out to an area generally referred to nationwide as "the Hamptons" -- a string of English-founded towns* on the southeastern extreme of Long Island, many of which end in the suffix -"hampton" {ie. Bridgehampton, Easthampton, Southampton, etc.}

The "Hamptons" are a culturally distinct entity for several reasons. One is that they are the New York-adjacent playground of the rich and khaki. This is a place where Jerry Seinfeld and Puff Daddy are neighbors. The Hamptons are also the last area on Long Island where the indigenous population plays a political role. Indeed, the "big" question is whether or not a casino will be built on Indian land.

At the glorious Easthampton beach, as seen above, we went to enjoy the ocean, except Epp got a little bit more of the north Atlantic than she bargained for. The waves looked nasty, and I could tell that there were few people in the water because they feared getting beaten in the surf. But Epp waded in, sort of waving off our beach paranoia, until {boom} she disappeared under a breaking wave.

The next thing I saw, as the waves retreated from the shore, was Epp's leg sticking up through the foamy surf. She pulled herself up and started to make her way back, with a sort of surprised, nervous grin on her face, when {boom} another wave knocked her down. I was holding our daughter, so my father, who was with us, made his way down and helped her out of the mess.

It turns out we weren't so paranoid. There have been a number of drownings in recent weeks on the ocean side of the island, following a similar pattern, where the strong currents, encouraged by storm systems to the south, sweep inexperienced swimmers away to a place where teams of divers and rescuers cannot find them. We could sense the danger because we have grown up here, but Epp couldn't, because she hadn't.

It reminds me of an inverse story where Epp ridiculed my lack of natural knowledge. We were in Rhode Island, and we happened upon a crop of mushrooms in the grass. Epp saw them and instantly knew she could make food out of them. But I had been taught from an early age not to tango with wild mushrooms. My friend does pick them, but he learned his 'shrooming skills from books on fungi and a wandering Pole he met one day who enlightened him to 'shroom harvesting techniques.

To your average suburbanite, or whatever you wish to call people who live in suburban-like areas an hour plus from a metropolis, the knowledge of which mushrooms are edible and which ones are not so nice was lost long ago. I have no idea, and no one ever imparted that knowledge to me. But Epp knew, and to her my paranoia about mushrooms seemed silly. In her opinion, something so natural could hardly be seen as dangerous.

But maybe that is just the difference between North America and Europe. Epp was quite amused one day when I told her not to go near the shiny, three-leaved plant preposterously known as 'poison ivy.' To her, no plant could seriously exist. For Estonians, you see, nature is friend. To, at least, northeasterners, nature is a place where one must tread carefully. After several others reinforced my 'stay away from poison ivy' message, Epp came to believe that there really were these nasty plants that could leave you with an itching, oozing rash.

Estonia, though, has its own bounty of natural surprises. One, the ubiquitous stinging nettles, I have already touched on here. But, in my mind, tenderfoot visitors to Estonia should beware of its armies of killer ants. I am serious. A few years ago in Suure-Jaani, I took a wrong step near a playground and my foot was submerged in a sea of moving, red, hostile insects. The litte girl nearby stammered "sipelgad!" {ants!}, which my beginner's ear heard as "sibulad!" {onions!}.

More recently, while mowing the lawn {always a treacherous activity}, I picked up a plastic tube that belonged to one of my daughter's toys. I shook the tube to remove the dirt inside, when it seemed a handful of white rice slid out onto the backyard table. But it wasn't rice; it was a red ant's nest, and those were their little babies. Needless to say, they were really pissed off, and by the end of the day, I had two or three bites on my hand -- and when Estonian ants sting, it hurts.

Sometimes, I guess, the best way to learn about nature is to experience first hand.

* There are Dutch-founded towns on Long Island as well, such as Hempstead {Hemestede}, and Flushing {Vlissingen}.

13 kommentaari:

plasma-jack ütles ...

those little red ants are really strong biters. other species are completely harmless, even scary-looking "metsakuklased" (which, in fact, are protected species)

plasma-jack ütles ...

The most dangerous animal around here is probably viper, unless you piss off a mommy wild boar or a mommy bear. Nice-looking red berries called "punane leeder" are quite common and quite dangerous, especially for kids.
In July you should watch out for wasps, because their poison can be lethal in summer. Although very rarely.

Otherwise it's safe during the summer (oh yeah, don't get bitten by ticks). It's during the winter when staying for too long in the nature can kill you.

Unknown ütles ...

I got my first bee sting a while ago and I'm past my teen years. Sucker attacked my toe for stepping on him. He died though, so I guess it's fair.

Rainer ütles ...

I hate to turn this one political, but I just can't resist a good pun.
In Estonian slang "sibulad" can also referr to Russians. So an aggressive red swarm may not mean just ants...

Unknown ütles ...

Yeah, great unintended pun.

LPR ütles ...

We had a teenager reloative from Estonia visiting us here the other summer and she of course scoffed on our suggestions before going to the beach:

1) Eat breakfast
2) Drink water
3) Wear a hat
4) Lather yourself with sun cream

Sure enough, she ended up fainting, puking blood and under the IV for the rest of the weekend.

How do you explain to an Estonian who sees sun less than 15 minutes a year that it can be dangerous?

You don't. You let them try it out.

How do you explain that surf can break your neck and leave you paralyzed neck down?

Well, you remind them that you were not fucking kidding when you were talking about the importance of drinking water ...

Life's a learning experience. We, estos just have a long way to go.

About mushrooms - same thing, mushrooms here do not correspond to european ones.

I should know. I am a member of MA (Washington Area Mycological Society)

So, Epp, I understand, but cool it about the mushrooms.

martintg ütles ...

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles...
We had a teenager reloative from Estonia visiting us here the other summer and she of course scoffed on our suggestions before going to the beach:

1) Eat breakfast
2) Drink water
3) Wear a hat
4) Lather yourself with sun cream

In Australia, the sun and surf is the least of your worries. White pointer sharks, blue ringed octopus and box jelly fish are enough to ruin your summer, permanently. Oh, did I mention the poisonous spiders and snakes?

Mushrooms are not too bad though, the goldern ones that turn blue after crushing are particularly psychedelic.

Unknown ütles ...

Estonians are used to live IN the nature. From my early childhood I've mushroomed with my mother, collected berries and herbs from the woods to make tasty jellies and herbal tea for winter time. But one has to know how to move around in the woods, many of younger people don't have the knowlidge anymore and tend to behave stupid, and I'm not talking about throwing around rubbish and demolishing ant nests. For example, they don't know simple things like one has to wear comfortable shoes and clothes with long sleeves in the woods. And do NOT touch everything - because we also have planty of plants that are poisonous and can make you a very nasty rash only by touching them. Not even talking about eating some berries that could just simply kill you, and very fast, and some of those are very alike to eadable ones. So, when you truly are close to nature, you know the dangers, and you are prepared to meet unknown dangers in foreign countries, where the nature is different. I think, attitude of people behaving in a so irrational way like in your examples shows a sad thing - even people in Estonia don't know about the nature so much anymore.

AndresS ütles ...

Nice-looking red berries called "punane leeder" are quite common and quite dangerous, especially for kids.

I ate one of those when I first moved her. Tastes like poison...

Kristopher ütles ...

Virginia creeper (mets-viinapuu) is very common in both my part of the US and Estonia, especially around houses and trellises. Very toxic to children.

I would say your paranoia about mushrooms is well-founded. In Estonia, there's only a few you have to watch out for that are deadly. In N. America, there's more variation.

In Estonia, I'd argue that the green toadstool could be easily confused. All mushrooms can be confused when they are young.

I wouldn't eat anything I find that has "gills" underneath and not "sponge".

Mingus ütles ...

Estonia's baby carriage wheel-killing urban thorn bushes?

Frank ütles ...

Here in Germany we regularly have to deplore the death of Turkish fellow citizens (and as wikipedia has it, also of Uussaksad from Russia), who mistake the Roheline kärbseseen or Amanita phalloides (or death-cap in English) for a perfectly edible species at home in Anatolia ...

So it might indeed be better to consult and to listen to the locals.

LPR ütles ...

I completely missed G's joke at the first go.

Nature is dangerous indeed.

Beautiful and dangerous.

Dangerous when Epp goes through all these pix in the camera. Nothing but beach bunnies in their natural habitat ...

Not to worry, G's the man to explain anything away, I am confident.