Sometimes you just gotta laugh

In the immortal words of Van Morrison, sometimes we cry. I’ve written a lot about how important it is for those of us who care deeply about the natural world to express our grief over how climate change is altering our world.

But sometimes you just gotta laugh.

Mike Mossman and Lisa Hartman have long shared a passion for laughter, nature, music and each other — not necessarily in that order. The couple was recently driving to a friend’s birthday party when they started talking about the unseasonably warm weather. As musicians, Lisa and Mike are usually adapting Celtic tunes or composing new ones in that tradition for their family band, Wrannock Celtic Trio (son Angus holds down the third corner). As experienced naturalists, they have a better idea than most people what we stand to lose as climate change continues to play out in Wisconsin and the world, and they worry about that. But the holiday spirit (or maybe it was the ghost of Christmas future) gripped them that day as they drove through dairyland, and soon they found themselves mixing a generous measure of levity into their lament. Before long they had written brand new lyrics to a holiday classic.

Angus, Lisa and Mike in the land of the wrannock

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance when the two debuted their hilarious if sobering climate carol at the Baraboo Range Preservation Association‘s annual holiday party on December 14th in Baraboo, WI. I hope to have some video or audio to add soon; meanwhile, enjoy the lyrics below and feel free to share them (with credit to Mike and Lisa, of course) with your friends and family.

Wrannock takes its name from a species of wren native to the British Isles. Mike is an authority on the birds of Wisconsin and shared this with me about the wrannock’s American cousin:

Wisconsin Winter Wrens are migratory, wintering in the southern US and breeding during the summer mostly in our northwoods. Here they occur especially among the complex structures of mature and old-growth hemlock and cedar forest, living among large fallen trees, stilt-roots, rocks, pools and moss.They also breed in isolated populations in certain heavily forested sites in the Driftless Area, especially in the Baraboo Hills, where their long, gorgeous songs characterize certain stream gorges and the talus slopes around Devils Lake. The Winter Wren is one of the species whose breeding ranges we expect to retract northward with climate change; although its winter range may also shift, making it somewhat more common during its non-breeding season, when it tends to stay hidden and rarely sings.

A winter wren

Like its namesake, Wrannock Celtic Trio shares its gay and haunting music with the residents of Wisconsin and the world.

The great essayist and novelist G. K. Chesterton, who hailed from the land of the wrannock, once wrote that angels can fly because of their levity but devils fall because of their gravity. So go ahead and cry about the changing face of winter, but don’t forget to laugh, too. By doing both, we humans may just manage to retain our place between the angels and the devils. Besides, it looks like we’re all going to need a sense of humor more than ever in the years ahead.

I wish you all the coldest and snowiest holiday season possible.

Walking in a Withered Wonderland

(Wisconsin version. Sung to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland,
with new words by Lisa Hartman and Mike Mossman © 2012)

Sleigh bells ring, but are you draggin’?
Don’t you wish you’d brought the wagon?
The world’s rearranged
The climate has changed
Walking in a withered wonderland

Gone away is the new bird
Here to stay is the bluebird
He sings a lament
As our lakes ferment
Walking in a withered wonderland

In the meadow we can build a mud man
And pretend that he is Parson Brown
He’ll ask “Are you married?”
We’ll say “No man,
Cuz we don’t know why we should stick around”

Later on we’ll perspire
And we won’t need a fire
Our passions are high
Or is it July?
Walking in a withered wonderland

We’ll just go out and get some mo’ booze
We won’t need our skis or snowshoes
Rubber boots, a light coat
Maybe a boat
Walking in a withered wonderland

In the meadow we can build a mud man
And pretend that he’s a circus clown
We’ll have lots of fun with Mr. Mud Man
Wondering if he’ll bake or if he’ll drown

Makin’ way for new diseases
Cuz our world never freezes
Trading hemlocks and trout
For termites and drought
Walking in a withered wonderland

With all the driving and the fracking
And the polar ice cracking
Our pact with the devil
Means a rising sea level
Walking in a withered wonderland

In the meadow we can build a big camp
With all our extra money we can host
Oklahoma people who get thirsty
And refugees escaping from the coast

When it’s drizzlin’, it’s distressin’
It should teach us a lesson
Not to live in defiance
Of nature and science
Walking in a withered wonderland

Though the weather may seem crappy
Just adjust and be happy
Swim in November
Boil sap in December
Walking in a withered wonderland

So frolic and play
Our children can pay
Walking in a withered wonderland
Walking in a withered wonderland

We’re singing our song
Dressed just in a thong
Walking in a withered wonderland