Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn will be hosting a Winter Bird Walk

Shake off the Winter Blues! Come join members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn on Saturday, March 9th for its annual winter bird walk in Nahant!

In the past, we have been treated to sightings of Snowy Owls, Common Loons, Black and White-Winged Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Mergansers, Scaup, Eiders, Brants, Cedar Waxwings, and Hawks, among other birds.

Meet at the parking lot off Ward Road in Nahant (off Nahant Road across from the Coast Guard Station) at 8:30 a.m.

Hosted by the Church’s Green Sanctuary Ministry Team with its mission of honoring the interconnected web of life by promoting environmental education and sustainability both within the church and in the larger community.

Check back for notice of cancellation due to inclement weather.

On Saturday, October 20, Bruce Campbell and John Benson, both members of the Green Sanctuary Ministry Team, volunteered at the Food Project’s Lynn farm located next to the Ingalls School. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, as they helped prepare a portion of the beds for a late fall planting. Working side-by-side with the Food Project youth, they swept away dried vegetable matter, loosening the soil, and spread compost—and got to play with pitch forks!

The GSMT will be organizing future volunteer Food Project events next year. “Sign up to volunteer,” urges John, “you’ll be glad you did! You’ll love hanging out with the community of volunteers from our church as well as with the Food Project youth.”

The Food Project’s mission is to grow a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system. It produces healthy food for residents of the city and suburbs and provides youth leadership opportunities. See: http://thefoodproject.org/ .

The other day, while dutifully picking up trash in the wooded area by the lower UUCGL parking lot, church member Michael Celona saw something moving in the underbrush … what could it be? A snake?

From under the leaf cover, a snout appeared, then a prickly back … could it be a porcupine? It started to walk about seemingly lost and unperturbed by Michael’s presence (see photo). It shuffled over to the trash and started to nibble on a Dunkin Donuts cup and some Burger King wrappers. Searching online, Michael discovered it was a hedgehog! (What did we do before the Internet?) Sensing that this little creature could in fact be lost, and with the help of some other church members, Michael scooped it up, placed it in a box, and called the authorities to see if anyone had reported a missing hedgehog … No, no one had. Posting a photo on Facebook (again, what did we do before the Internet?), it wasn’t long before a woman with a thick English accent arrived offering to foster the little guy, which she explained was an African Hedgehog, a species she was familiar with as she had other “hogs.” Whisking him off, she gave him a bath (see photo) and declared that, aside from a chipped tooth and some ragged ears, he was in decent health. So, step lightly as you walk though the wilds of Forest Ave. … you never know what you’ll find lurking beneath the leaves!

The UUCGL will be holding an Animal Blessing on October 7th. All pets – dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits – and, of course, African Hedgehogs – will receive a blessing!

Breakheart ReservationWalk – August 4

This summer take some time to reconnect with the “interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part!” Come join the Green Sanctuary Ministry Team for a walk at the Breakheart Reservation in Saugus on Saturday August 4th!

In keeping with the GSMT’s tradition of sponsoring outdoor activities in local woodlands, parks, and other open spaces, we’ll be embarking on an excursion to the popular Breakheart Reservation where we’ll see some colorful woodland wildflowers at the height of summer! John Benson and other members of the Green Sanctuary Ministry Team will be guiding this visit.

Breakheart Reservation is a 640-acre hardwood forest with rocky outcroppings, two fresh-water lakes, and a rambling section of the Saugus River. This walk will be an excellent introduction to the GSMT’s theme this coming Church year: Fresh Water – Wetlands, Rivers, and Ponds!

We’ll be on the trail no more than a two hours, starting at the headquarters building, walking along a shady paved loop road (the right-hand side of Pine Tops Road), and turn off onto a path that takes us down to the Saugus River Trail, where we will encounter a riverine wetland. Depending on time and people’s interest, we may then either (1) walk up Pine Tops Road to the Pearce Lake Bathing Beach or (2) return to the headquarters and walk up the lower loop road (Hemlock Road) as far as Silver Lake, for a short hike around a large pond with scenic views.

Getting There: For those who wish to carpool, we will meet at our church parking lot at 9 a.m.
Or, you can drive yourself and meet us at 10 a.m. at the park headquarters (located at the end of
Forest Street, just above the Kasabuski hockey rink).

Directions are on Breakheart’s website:
And here’s a link to a map of the reservation:

What to Bring: We suggest you wear light-colored “woods-walk” clothing: hats; long-sleeved
shirts or summer jackets; long pants; shoes suitable for walking in the woods (no sandals!); and
light-colored socks so you can tuck your pant legs in. Bring a bottle of insect repellent with
“DEET” in it (e.g., Deep-woods “Off” brand) as well as bottled water and a light snack. You
may even wish to bring a “brown bag” lunch.

RSVP: Please let John Benson know if you are planning on coming by e-mailing him at
[email protected].

Fun Fact: The name “breakheart” can be traced back to the Civil War era, when soldiers
training at this isolated location found it so lonely, it broke their hearts.

Only 3% of all the Earth’s water is fresh. That’s not a lot. Especially considering that fresh water is essential to all forms of life! Starting in the fall, the Green Sanctuary Ministry Team’s new theme will be: “Fresh Water – Rivers, Ponds & Wetlands.”Around the globe, fresh water is threatened by overdevelopment, polluted runoff and climate change. As the World Wildlife Fund website notes, “Despite their importance to life … freshwater habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate.” We’ll learn about the threats as well as what action we can take both as individuals and as a church. And although we’ll be thinking globally, we will be looking at our own back yard as well. The North Shore is primarily valued for its proximity to the ocean – that great salty sea – but it also has fresh water treasures including rivers (like the Forest and Ipswich Rivers), and ponds (like Breeds and Walden Ponds in Lynn) – we even have our own pond and wetland right on the church property! So, get ready to join us as we explore and celebrate fresh water bodies and their habitats!

Green Book Club!
The Trees in My Forest,
by Bernd Heinrich

If you are interested in joining the Green Sanctuary Ministry Team’s book club discussion, there are two slightly used copies of this year’s book, The Trees in My Forest, by Bernd Heinrich, under the Green Sanctuary Ministry Team bulletin board in the Parish Hall. Please feel free to take one – but only if you intend to read the book and come to the discussion group!
We’ll be meeting on Sunday, May 20th at 4:00 p.m. in the Fellowship (Library/Fireplace) Room.
The Trees in My Forest is destined to become a classic … biologist and acclaimed nature writer Bernd Heinrich takes readers on an eye-opening journey through the hidden life of a forest.
Winner of the New England Book Award Best Nonfiction Award.
This event is hosted by the Church’s Green Sanctuary Ministry Team with its mission of honoring the interconnected web of life and by promoting environmental education and sustainability both within the church and in the larger community.

We all became little kids again when Wingmasters visited. What a wonderful program.

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published these words in his epic poem “Evangeline” in 1847, much of the eastern United States was still covered by a vast forest that extended from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. Around that same time, Henry David Thoreau was exploring the Maine woods, about which he gave the following description, published later in 1864:
What is most striking in the Maine wilderness is the continuousness of the forest. . . . the forest is uninterrupted. It is even more grim and wild than you had anticipated, a damp and intricate wilderness. . . .

In his 1989 monograph A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization, John Perlin tells of early encounters with this North American forest:

An Englishman on a tour of Virginia, shortly after the Revolution remarked that “an 
immense forest, almost without bounds” covered the state. . . . Another person who viewed the forests west of the Appalachians compared the trees to “a grand assemblage of gigantic beings which carry the imagination back to other times before the foot of the white man had touched the American shore.” . . . The oak commonly had “a straight trunk without a single branch for seventy feet; and from that point to the upper branch it has measured seventy feet more,” according to . . . a visitor to the Ohio country at the end of the eighteenth century.

Among the many birds, including the “princely eagle, and the soaring hawk,” it was the 
hummingbird that most enchanted the first English settlers. William Wood, describing the New England of the 1630s, called this bird “One of the wonders of the country, being no bigger than a hornet, yet hath all the dimensions of a bird, as bill and wings, with quills, spider like legs, small claws: . . . as she flies, she makes a little humming noise. . . .

But by the mid-1860s, this wondrous world of giant trees and enchanting birds had undergone an astonishing transformation. Perlin documents the rapid cutting down of this forest:
Almost 5 billion cords of wood had been consumed for fuel in fireplaces, industrial furnaces, steamboats, and railroads. [This] meant the cutting of about two hundred thousand square miles of woodlands, an area nearly equal to all the land that comprises . . . Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

In addition, Perlin writes, “approximately 25,000 square miles of forest went to build houses, ships, railroads, bridges, wagons, [and] waterwheels.” And “from 1850 to 1860, 31,250 square miles of timberlands” were lost to farm and pasture land, where livestock consumed any new plants, and with them all their vital genetic diversity. Perceptive observers voiced their concern about the consequences of cutting down the forests: the interruption of the natural water cycle, drought, torrential rains and the floods that carried away the topsoil, the silting up of waterways,
and—noted even then—changes in climate. It is the story of the past 3,000 years, as civilizations rose and fell—or were transformed—as they cut down their forests.

But the forests that remain continue to evolve, as they strive to hold on to the past. I remember a camping trip we took many years ago. One night, we saw small patches of the forest floor suddenly flash with a green phosphorescent light. In the forest there’s a lot more going on than we first see. For example, in The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, Peter Wohlleben refers to the work of Suzanne Simard, who has discovered how trees “talk” to each other “using chemical signals sent through the fungal networks around their root tips.” Wohlleben explains:
These fungi operate like fiber-optic Internet cables. Their thin filaments penetrate the ground, weaving through it in almost unbelievable density. . . . Over centuries, a single fungus can cover many square miles and network an entire forest. The fungal connections transmit signals from one tree to the next, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers.
—what Dr. Simard has called the “wood wide web.” (See her fascinating TED talk at

This summer, around the first week in August, our Green Team is planning to lead a walk through Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, to explore its different habitats and diversity of plants, and to see what a modern-day “restored” forest looks like as it works to put itself back together. There is an easily accessible road that loops around the park, as well as winding trails that bring us to open granite ledges, two beautiful lakes, and wetland hollows next to the slowly meandering Saugus River.

And when we encounter a stand of bright crimson cardinal flowers, we may be just lucky enough to see a hummingbird, like the one that so enchanted William Wood almost four hundred years ago.

John I. Benson,
Delivered at UUCGL, April 8, 2018

Please join us on

April 8, 2018
12 Noon

the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn
101 Forest Ave. Swampscott, MA

Admission is free but donations gratefully accepted.
Suggested donations:
$5.00 single and $10.00 family

WINGMASTERS is a partnership of two people dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of North American birds of prey. Julie Anne Collier and Jim Parks are both licensed raptor rehabilitators based in Massachusetts. Together they care for injured birds of prey. Most of the birds they rehabilitate can ultimately be released back into the wild, but in some cases the birds are left permanently handicapped. Julie and Jim are further licensed to provide a home for these non- releasable raptors, and to use them for educational programs. Since 1994 WINGMASTERS has presented over 5000 programs at schools, libraries and museums throughout New England.

WINGMASTERS programs are noted for a calm atmosphere that promotes learning. There is always an interactive exchange of questions and answers during the program. However, for the safety of the audience and the well-being of the raptors used in their programs, the birds are never free-flown and are never handled by anyone but Julie and Jim.

This event is sponsored by the Church’s Green Sanctuary Ministry Team, which is committed to building awareness of environmental issues and generating interest for personal lifestyle changes leading to a more sustainable world.


GSMT 2017-2018 Wingmasters Promotional Flyer