Celia Thaxter on Scarlet Pimpernel

Following in the foot-steps of Jean Stefanik’s excellent post on Scarlet Pimpernel at the Isles of Shoals, we thought we’d share a poem from Celia Thaxter on this very same subject. Note the use of the pimpernel, here, as a proxy for determining bad weather much as Jean discusses it being a poor man’s weather glass in her post. We hope that you enjoy.
Scarlet Pimpernel (Photo courtesy of Jean Stefanik).

Scarlet Pimpernel (Photo courtesy of Jean Stefanik).

The Pimpernel

She walks beside the silent shore,
The tide is high, the breeze is still;
No ripple breaks the ocean-floor,
The sunshine sleeps upon the hill.

The turf is warm beneath her feet,
Bordering the beach of stone and shell,
And thick about her path the sweet
Red blossoms of the pimpernel.

“O sleep not yet, my flower!” she cries,
“Nor prophesy of storm to come;
Tell me that under steadfast skies
Fair winds shall bring my lover home.”

She stoops to gather flower and shell,
She sits, and, smiling, studies each
She hears the full tide rise and swell
And whisper softly on the beach.

Continue reading


Scarlet Pimpernel: The poor man’s weather glass

Today we have a special treat for you. One of our Lyman V. Rutledge Marine Laboratory committee members and dynamic volunteer, Jean Stefanik, has put together a post for you on Scarlet Pimpernel. We hope you enjoy!

Scarlet Pimpernel

Scarlet Pimpernel (Photo courtesy of Jean Stefanik).

Throughout the Isles of Shoals a small, unassuming plant graces the landscape each summer.   It’s one of those charming non-native plants brought to the Shoals presumably by early fishermen.  Scarlet pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis, is also called the poorman’s barometer or  weather-glass, and is a low-growing annual plant found originally in Europe, now also in  Asia and North America.

The English Wildflower Guide lists it as native to England, “common on bare and disturbed ground, especially …and also found on sea cliffs.  It is an annual, prostrate, spreading and scrambling herb… flower is up to 14mm across (about 1/2 inch) and has 5 scarlet petals with a purple eye and a fringe of hairs… 5 bright orange stamens. The fruits are globose capsules…stems are square…  leaves are opposite, pointed ovals, inserted directly onto the stem.”   It’s now naturalized on the Isles of Shoals, which means it dies each fall but re-seeds itself freely for the next year, and has been doing so on the Shoals for at least 400 years!

An artist's rendering of the famous plant (Photo courtesy of Jean Stefanik).

Jean Stefanik’s rendering of the famous plant (Drawing courtesy of Jean Stefanik).

While scarlet pimpernel is common on the Shoals, one sometimes has to do a bit of searching for it because of its size.   It is usually most recognizable beginning in July when the tiny bright orange flowers begin to open.  Look for small plants or clumps, especially on a sunny day, because the flowers only open when the weather is sunny.   Some say it’s a predictor of upcoming storms by responding to drops in air pressure (which usually accompanies storminess) while others think overcast lighting or dropping temperatures trigger the flowers to remain closed, even in the daytime.   This predictive ability is responsible for its “poor man’s weather glass/barometer” common names, and apparently why early mariners found it useful to carry, and ultimately plant, on the shores of North America.

Continue reading

More of Eric Masterson’s birds of the Isles of Shoals

Short-billed Dowitcher, Star Island, May 10, NH May (Photo courtesy of Eric Masterson)

Short-billed Dowitcher, May 10, Star Island, NH (Photo courtesy of Eric Masterson)

You may recall that a month ago we were lucky enough to have New Hampshire birder and photographer Eric Masterson share some of the photos he took this May on Star Island of birds migrating through the Isles of Shoals. (You can look back at that post here.) Recently, he even visited Star Island during our ISHRA and NHC conferences to talk about his book , give us some of his insights into birding and display some beautiful photos.

We’re lucky enough to bring you a second installment of some of the photos he took this past May – with a whole bunch of new visitors. We hope you enjoy. And, remember, when you’re out on the Island to log the birds you see in our eBird account at the Rutledge Marine Laboratory.

Bobolink, May 10, Star Island, NH (Photo courtesy of Eric Masterson)

Bobolink, May 10, Star Island, NH (Photo courtesy of Eric Masterson)

Sedge Wren, May 10, Star Island, NH (Photo courtesy of Eric Masterson)

Sedge Wren, May 10, Star Island, NH (Photo courtesy of Eric Masterson)

Continue reading

Interacting with whales?

I may be anthropomorphizing but it is hard not to think the whales are responding to the music. Although I don’t recollect sound traveling so well from the atmosphere to the hydrosphere. Still, this is entertaining and inspiring…even if for unsound reasons.

Sustainable Star

Just finished one of our weekly discussions about sustainability and Star Island. It went quite well. I’m always inspired by the hard work it takes to navigate organizations and regulatory agencies to actually create change on the ground. Star Island is in the midst of trying to go off diesel as an energy source and onto a mixed system of solar, propane, and conservation. Most of the skeptics have been won over but the devil is in the details…and the details aren’t finished yet. Jack Farrell has done an impressive job of navigating the issues and keeping the community informed.

I’m presuming that this initiative will be successful and lay a foundation for Star Island’s immediate future but deeper specters haunt my dreams. Sustainability as it is usually applied looks at systems and energy flows (sometimes fiscal flows are used as a proxy) within a specified domain. As we increase this to a broader universe externalities become internal. Star is an island in many ways. It stands apart from many cultural norms and tries to sustain certain values in the modern world. Nonetheless it is a part of the modern world and will be swept along with it. This is not the Isle of Iona where some say Christianity survived the collapse of European civilization. Although perhaps in some ways it is. We who have been touched by this place can carry its message into the world.

The big question is what is the message we bring. I don’t think it’s anything specific. There are threads of learning that run through all the conferences. Lessons that are learned through sharing in community, cooperatively working together to create a shared experience. For a week we live on an island and create magic together. How do we bring that magic home? How do we make it last a year? What is in the secret sauce that we can bring back to our communities? I know there’s something there but wouldn’t want to define the what (I think it’s different for everyone), I’m more interested in the how.

Because in the long run of our children’s or grandchildren’s lives we will probably have to give up this island. If sea levels rise too much, no amount of capital spending will preserve us. To make Star truly sustainable we need to make it portable. I do believe that is the task of the next generation of Shoalers.

Please comment with your own ideas of how we might do this.