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MARTHA SEZ: It’s another glorious day in the Portwenn of the Adirondacks

July 12, 2019
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

The glorious Fourth of July has come and gone: Summer is here in the town of Keene. We have been transformed from a quiet little town into a crowded and noisy but jolly vacation destination, complete with pedestrian, bicycle, motorcycle and vehicular traffic.

The Adirondack Park has relied on the tourist economy since the late 1800s, when stagecoaches brought vacationers from the East Coast for stays of a month or more. Local guides led wealthy gentlemen-the guides called them "sports"- through the mountains in search of game.

The practice at the time was to use hounds to herd deer down to the water's edge, where the sports could shoot them en masse. Running deer is no longer legal in these parts, but we still have summer and autumn visitors.

In fact, tourism has increased in recent years. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2018 Adirondack Challenge, promoting recreational opportunities in the North Country, has indisputably worked.

On May 20, 1892, Gov. Roswell P. Flower signed the law creating a 2.8-million-acre Adirondack Park. In 1894, representatives at the Constitutional Convention approved the "forever wild" clause, which prevented timber cutting on state lands in the forest preserve. I just learned that Lake Flower in Saranac Lake was named after the eponymous governor.

I have been dying to use the word eponymous in a sentence. It contains two animals. Can you find them?


We meet people from all over the world. The other day I spoke to a little brown-skinned, dark-eyed girl, slight and shy, probably about 3 years old. Her father had a red dot-a bindi?-on his forehead. She had a faint tracing on her face the color of lily pollen, as if she had been smelling lilies. Henna? I surmised that they were from India.

She was not South American, not Mexican. She was with her father. Still, the innocence of small children reminds of the little migrant children in this country who are being held, separated from their parents, and I felt sad and sick. The situation with the migrant children has come to haunt me; it is never far from my mind. My co-worker Grace said she felt the same way.

Here is a topic for a college paper: Compare and contrast the use of the weather of Cornwall in the television shows "Doc Martin" and "Poldark."

Every Doc Martin script starts with the same line: "It's another glorious day in Portwenn."

"Doc Martin" is filmed in Port Isaac, an old fishing village set in a natural harbor. In the show, the village is called Portwenn. It's always sunny in Portwenn.

How different is the depicton of Portwenn from the brooding, windswept, scenes of moor and sea in the Cornwall of Ross Poldark, where bonfires rage on the dark cliffs as he charges by on his steed. You'd hardly know it was the same place.

In my mind, Portwenn is like the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley. During the winter months, I think of our summers as one clear blue sunny-skied, 70-degree day after another. In reality, while we do enjoy such days, they are exceptional, not normal.

My daughter, Molly, often sends me links to stories she know will interest me. Here is one of the latest: "Hallucinogenic fungi Turn Cicadas into Sex-Crazed Zombies," by Madeleine Gregory. I Googled the subject and came up with some other scholarly treatises.

One of my favorites is "Fungal Hallucinogens Send Cicadas on Sex Binges after their Genitals Fall Off," by Mike McCrae.

Scientist have discovered that as cicadas emerge from their nymph stage and come crawling out of the earth, some of them become infected with the fungus massospora. This fungus produces an amphetamine similar to ephedrine as well as psilocybin, the chemical responsible for the the magic in magic mushrooms. The fungus eats the cicada's organs and causes its rear end and genitals to fall off, while increasing its energetic propensity to try to mate. The tail end of the cicada is replaced by a relatively large plug of fungus spores, inspiring McCrae's term for infected cicadas, "Mini crop dusters of doom."

McCrae writes, "Even as the cicada bodies turn mouldy and start losing parts - including bits of their abdomen and their genitals - they don't slow down."

West Virginia mycologist assistant professor Matt Kassan calls them "flying salt shakers of death," as they rain down spores on the ground and on other cicadas.

Enjoy the summer, and have a good week!



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