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Have you ever seen a leaping rat?

2020: A Leap Year and Year of the Rat

For some this might be the darkest, coldest, and longest time of the year. The months of January and February seem to drag on and on for what seems like a decade (see what I did there? because we just jumped head first into a new decade). With this year feeling even longer seeing as it is a leap year. Yep, that’s right February has 29 days! Woohoo!!! However, leap years are very interesting and important. They occur every four years to allow the calendar year to synchronize with the solar year (the time frame it takes the earth to go around the sun). 

The whole idea of a leap year is quite obscure, but extremely necessary to keep everything in the universe aligned. We in North America use the Gregorian calendar, which is the standard calendar for the entire world. As everyone already knows a regular year is 365 days but, in reality, it takes the earth exactly 365 and ¼ days to orbit the sun! So, instead of adding 0.00068 seconds (1/4 day = 6 hours / 365 days = 0.00068) to each of our days the quarters were added up and the leap year was created. 

Every four years one day is added to compensate for the extra time it takes the earth to complete its orbit. However, it cannot just be that simple. So, here’s the catch, centuries are unable to be leap years unless, yes there is an unless, they are divisible by 400. For example, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 1600 and 2000 were leap years. Other than that one exception the every four year rule is reliable. We know this year (2020) is a leap year so let’s check the math: 2020 / 4 = 505. The quotient is a whole number, so, that’s the truth it is a leap year! 

Like everything else in the world, there is never only one way of doing things. On top of the Gregorian Calendar there is also a Lunar Calendar. To distinguish a clear difference the Gregorian Calendar follows the cycles of a solar year and the lunar calendar, just as it sounds, follows the cycles of the moon. The Lunar Calendar is followed in many “old world” traditions to determine the dates of religious and national holidays. For example, the lunar calendar is used in Chinese tradition. Today, many people still calculate their age using the lunar calendar (seeing as it is a full 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar) giving them two very different ages! So, does that mean you can have two birthdays? Yes, please. 

This year Chinese New Year, which is determined by the lunar calendar, is January 25, 2020. Chinese New Year is full of different traditions with symbolic meanings predicting your fortunes for the future. One of the most popular traditions are the zodiac animals. There is a total of twelve different Chinese zodiac animals that are each assigned to represent a year and this year it is the Rat. 

Just thinking of the physical appearance of a rat you may cringe, but wait its fortunes are far from cringe worthy! In Chinese mythology the rat was the first of the zodiac animals to arrive at the emperor’s party. It is said that the rat convinced the ox to give him a ride, but upon arrival the rat jumped off the ox and ran ahead making him the first to arrive. Rats represent the beginning of a new day and are a sign of wealth. They are also clever, successful, and happy to live a quiet and peaceful life. It is said babies born in the year of the rat are energetic, optimistic, and likeable. If you think this describes you the recent years of the rat are as follows: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020. That makes me a rat!  

At first you may think, “well, if I was born in year of the rat, then any year of the rat is lucky for me”. However, it is the opposite. If you are a “rat baby” the years of the rat are unfortunately unlucky for you. The only defense possible to be employed is the colour red. 

It all started with the legend of Nian. Nian was a ferocious beast that had the head of a lion and the body of a bull. He would terrorize the villagers by eating their livestock, crops, and even their children, but he was afraid of only three things: fire, noise, and the colour red. One day Nian was defeated and from that day on the weapon was considered to bring luck and good fortune to all. That weapon was the colour red! 

Now to deter the evil demons, and bad luck, from coming too close red lanterns are hung outside homes. Cleverly enough people wanting to deter the unluckiness will commit to wearing only red underwear for the duration of the entire year. 

Chinese New Year celebrations are filled with beautiful dancing dragons (who actually embody Nian), red envelopes of money, fireworks, family, tradition, and more. Approximately more than 20%, to help conceptualize that is about every one in five people, of the worlds population celebrate Chinese New Year. That explains why it is also called the spring migration since everyone is traveling home to be with their family. 

If you are looking to ring in the Chinese New Year it is suggested to check your local china town or newspaper for celebrations around you! Just think if you lived in China this celebration grants you five to sixteen work free days!!! Wow!

Gong hei fat choy! 

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If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it really fall?:

The Appalachian Corridor and The Mont Foster Project

Many people call this time of the year “the season of giving” seeing as the famous “Giving Tuesday” has just flown by us. “Giving Tuesday” was introduced in 2012 when two organisations, the 92nd Street Y and The United Nations Foundation, joined forces to dedicate a single day of the year to celebrate the generosity of giving, in which I quote, “is a great American tradition”. 

Nestled in the heart of the Eastern Townships there is not only pristine lakes, flourishing forests, and quaint cabins, but an expansive territory, hopefully, home to a nature reserve. To be exact the Northern Appalachian/Acadian Ecoregion, which includes The Appalachian Corridor, spans across “two counties, five US states, and four Canadian provinces”[1]rightfully claiming the title of the densest forest in proximity to people. 


Image 1: Map outlining (region coloured in green) the territory of the Appalachian Corridor.

It is the home to many species of animals: black bears, fisher cats, bobcats, cougars, and moose, including quite a few endangered ones: wood turtles, snapping turtles, pickerel frogs, four-toed salamanders, spring salamanders, and northern dusky salamanders. All of these species, no matter how cute or cuddly they may be, are important factors to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. 

Image 2: Photos of some of the animals currently inhabiting the Appalachian Corridor/Mont Foster territory.

Alright, now time for a quick little crash course. Why is this important? Well, The Appalachian Corridor includes a territory known as Mont Foster. To make this territory feel more relatable it is approximately nine kilometres from The Town of Knowlton and is accessible via trail networks. However, currently this area is the headline of an ongoing saga between citizens and a developer who plans to flatten the forest and construct up to 70 homes. Yes, that means new infrastructure, economic benefits, and jobs, but it also means displacing animals, destruction of habitat, disrupting 1000 year old migration routes, and natural beauty. Today, 75% or 217 hectares of this land is protected as a nature reserve, but still more needs to be done. Like anything else the funding project has deadlines and this projects deadline is fast approaching. So, with the “Giving Tuesday” mindset firmly in place please ponder the idea of giving back to your community. Preserving this natural area is beneficial for everyone, whereas deforestation only benefits a handful. 

Image 3: Official logo of The Appalachian Corridor.

If you are willing and able to give, please consider the Appalachian Corridor: Mont Foster Project. 

If you would like to hear more, please listen to the fabulous interview on CIDI 99.1 FM with Gail Watt.

 For more information please visit the website: corridorappalachien.ca    

[1] Appalachian Corridor – http://www.corridorappalachien.ca/en/geographical-portrait/


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