Summer 2021: Ten Weeks of North Alabama Cloud Magic

I have enjoyed a lifelong fascination with weather that has only deepened with retirement, when now I can devote more time to wandering about with eyes to the sky. My weather and cloud addiction began at the dawn of my recollection. Five years ago, I wrote in Nature Based Leadership, my first book, of a vivid sky-memory I still carry from 67 years ago when from my high chair perch I saw something astounding:

I have a vague recollection (from sixty years ago) of sitting in my high chair, watching the sliver of sky that I could see through the kitchen window, rapidly (dizzyingly) transition from blue to very dark as clouds raced across. Even then, I puzzled over what I had seen. Nothing else emerges from the memory. Did a storm follow, or did the blue return? Perhaps Mom placed food in front of me, and the window view—with its curiously rapid cloud covering—slipped into a lower priority. Regardless, the memory is clear. I still puzzle over how nearly-instantaneously the clouds advanced. Given how much more deeply I now understand weather, I suppose that the visual memory is flawed or far too blurry to interpret. I observed and interpreted then through the visual and intellectual lenses of a three-year old, and through those same lenses, stored the memory. How closely does what I recall seeing six decades later match the actual image visible through the parted curtain? The image I carry now is remarkable, like nothing I have seen since. I close my eyes, and the memory is vivid and real, yet it makes no sense through the perception of a sixty-five year old weather fanatic. What we see depends clearly on what tools, understanding, and knowledge we bring to the observation. And time adjusts the memory of what we see.

At age 70 my weather fanaticism directs my eyes heavenward. I don’t miss much. Forty-nine years since our wedding day, Judy tolerates my nearly constant urging that she look at this or that cloud formation, approaching storm, or atmospheric nuance. Because it’s been a good cloud-summer to-date (August 15, 2021), allow me to hit the cloud and sky highlights from June 2 through August 14, roughly 10 weeks, a fifth of the year.

This is not my first Post focusing on the firmament. Here are three, a sampling…not an exhaustive list:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/10/17/the-tumbling-mirth-of-sun-split-clouds-sky-gazing-on-a-12-day-national-parks-journey/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/11/07/cheaha-state-park-mid-october-skies-and-clouds/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/02/03/dawn-sky-glory-december-19-2020/

June 2021

I could have backed into May or even January, yet, the number of archive-worthy sky photos is already at 34 for just this ten-week-cloud Post. June through mid-August strikes me as a good arbitrary view and review window. The image below on June 2 at 5:06 pm is SSW from my patio. A thunderstorm cluster along an advancing cold front pushed these turbulent clouds rapidly from the northwest as heavy rains soon enveloped us, dropping 1.45″ that evening. I like the ominous darkness and the sliver of bright clear sky retreating to the lower left.

 

Two days later I visited Huntsville’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, enjoying the spring-like temperature and bright blue of the system ushered south by the cold front and rain. That’s Jobala Pond reflecting the cerulean sky below right. Experimenting with my iPhone camera when first acquired, I would lie flat on my back to capture the view directly overhead. By June of 2021, I had learned to reverse the camera to selfie setting, hold it horizontal, and away from me enough to keep the bill of my ball cap out of the image, and release the shutter. Voilà, a sky shot from the comfort of standing (below left)! The blue dot puzzles me — an anomaly associated with the direct view into the 1:24 PM overhead sun, I suppose.

 

It’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all. – Joni Mitchell

The secret to capturing memorable sky and cloud photos is simply being outside. June 8 I biked several loops on Madison, Alabama’s Bradford Creek Greenway, just ten minutes drive from my home. An extensive deck of altostratus had been drifting northward as I pedaled. At 9:30 AM I stopped to capture the thin band of blue retreating toward the northern horizon (below right). The deck was not threatening nor did it portend imminent rain. I often take a break on a trailside bench beneath a massive red oak (below left), which most days offers a branch-framed sky-view.

 

 

 

 

 

Eighty percent of success is showing up. Woody Allen

Half the battle is just showing up. Stephen Hawking

I make fifty cents for showing up…and the other fifty cents for my performance. Steve Jobs

 

June 21, a day after the summer solstice, I photographed cumulus building at 2:40 PM from my patio, the view directly south. I measured two-tenths of an inch from resultant showers. Some people delight in living in the nearly constant sunshine of the southwest US. I could not survive without vibrant moisture-rich weather. Blossoming cumulus, dark-bottomed, columns of rain reaching downward as first a shadow, then a spreading torrent, with lightning flashing and thunder resounding provide me with some of the best entertainment on the planet. A full dose of Nature-Inspired Life and Living, combined with my scientist’s zeal to observe, monitor, learn, and revel in Nature’s power.

 

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

A day later, June 22, I returned to the Bradford Creek Greenway, stopping at 9:58 AM to appreciate the much more tranquil sky above the same oak tree. Could the blue be any more intense?

Cloud and Sky

 

I biked the Hampton Cove Greenway June 24, pausing at 10:20 AM at the terminus five miles east of Owens Crossroads. Rich agricultural valleys, nestled between heavily forested ridges, are rapidly transitioning to housing developments as Huntsville expands. While the two images include both the corn and new homes crops, the sky is the central focus. I commend those who anticipated the suburban growth and paved the way with the lengthening greenway. When the corn yields its final acre to subdivision, the greenway will continue to provide a necessary conduit for sky-addict bikers to enjoy Nature’s gifts of overhead beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.

 

Showing up isn’t limited to just places. Time is also a variable to explore and exploit. June 25 at 4:22 AM (yes, I am always up before dawn), I photographed this translucent cloud layer backlit by the full moon. The iPhone employed a three-second exposure. At that moment the eastern sky showed no hint of the coming dawn.

 

The moon will light the clouds, just as the tides shall shape the sand. – Anthony T. Hincks

June 27 at 8:05 AM (left) and 8:08 (right) my patio perch offered nice sun-play backlighting morning cumulus. The left image presents a rainbow prism above the cloud and the other a spectacular margin and a wedge-shaft of solar rays. Some people ask why I get up so early. I hide my incredulity that anyone would not choose to rise early!

 

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? – It is the same the angels breathe. ― Mark Twain

June 27, 2021 the sun set at 8:05 PM here in Madison, Alabama. I snapped this photo at 8:16 PM directly opposite the sunset (which just five days after the solstice is, for all practical purposes, due west). These anti-crepuscular rays are converging due east to the antisolar point. Without dipping into the optical physics, the sun’s rays are parallel even though they appear to radiate outward from the solar point and converge inward to the antisolar point. Picture how a long road straight-away converges to a common vanishing point; the same is true of the sun’s rays.

 

July 1, 2021 my bike ride took me back to the Bradford Creek Greenway, where I paused beneath my favorite oak tree at 8:07 AM to capture an overhanging branch and a memorable cirrus against a perfect blue.

 

July 9 at 4:24 PM from my patio I spotted some distant thunderheads peaking through a nearer opening in the stratocumulus. Radar revealed echoes from these storms some 70 miles to the south. Such radar verification allows me to better estimate location for the images I see. I think about my current reliance upon weather radar for improving my decisions about hitting the bike trail or heading to my mushroom foraging forests. I wonder, too, about how many people even see such a cloud-window as this, much less read it to recognize a distant thunderstorm. Funny thing that the more I learn about weather, the more that I appreciate it. Learning and understanding weather (or anything of Nature and science) more deeply certainly adds volume to my knowledge base, yet, increases the universe of related things I do not know and understand. Toby Keith echoed my sentiment when he sang I Wish I Didn’t Know Now What I Didn’t Know Then.

 

Morning cumulus often show off, sending puffs vertically into sunlight peering above the eastern horizon, like this one on July 10 at 5:45 AM. This one suggests movement from left to right (I verified through observation). Cumulus clouds build vertically, often encountering winds of increasing velocity with height. The pink top of this one is being sported along more quickly than the gray below it drifting more slowly.

 

July 21 at 8:50 PM, I captured this line of thunderheads to the south with a 3-second shutter. For all practical purposes, we were at full dark, the clouds illuminated by urban lights.

 

Cumulus never fail to entertain me. These few individuals July 27 at 4:37 PM hinted at developing into showers and thunderstorms. They never broke through the threshold beyond fair weather galleons.

 

Who reports the works and ways of the clouds, those wondrous creations coming into being every day like freshly upheaved mountains? John Muir

July 30, a vigorous thunderstorm cluster powered southward at 6:09 PM (left, view to north) and at 6:14 PM (right, view to southwest). These ragged gust front underbelly clouds evidenced turbulence in advance of the rain shield, which dropped 0.42″ of rain.

 

Be comforted, dear soul, there is always light behind clouds. – Louisa May Alcott

Thirty-nine years of my life had passed before I understood that clouds were not my enemy; that they were beautiful, and that I needed them. I suppose this, for me, marked the beginning of wisdom. Life is short. – Limani David

August 4 at 6:00 AM crepuscular rays reached into the rapidly retreating night, far to the west. Dawn arrives with promise and hope on mornings such as this, its good tidings foretold in every ray.

 

August 13, 6:03 AM, an alto cumulus deck ushered in the new day. I can’t imagine choosing sleep, oblivious to such a grand entrance.

 

That same day, thunderstorms 60-70 miles south of us peeked through our broken mid-level partial cloud cover at 5:28 PM. The casual observer would not have caught sight of the storms (below left) without drawing them closer with telephoto (below right). I have fond and still deep memories of camping with my family as a boy, fishing for catfish along the river after dark, watching far distant thunderheads, lightning illuminating their cauliflower tops from within. Because darkness lagged several hours beyond these images I was denied seeing the storms light from within.

 

You must not blame me if I talk to the clouds. – Thoreau

A powerful storm drifted our way from the west just 30 minutes later, nearing close enough for audible thunder at 6:01 PM, producing a roll cloud headed in my direction. I sat watching, waiting for the imminent wind and rain…in vain. As occasionally happens with heat-of-the-day thunderstorms, the sinking sun and rain-cooled air associated with the storm combined to stabilize the atmosphere, shutting down the convective energy. This storm fizzled without sharing a drop of rain.

 

 

 

 

 

I felt blessed to see a shimmer of color August 14, 6:47 PM as this narrow, chimney-like cumulus rose to my ESE, its top shearing to the north, dropping enough virga (precipitation evaporating before hitting the ground) under the shearing overhang to create a small rainbow arc (visible in the below right expanded view).

 

Try to be a rainbow, in someone else’s cloud. – Maya Angelo

Two and three minutes later (6:49 and 6:50 PM), the virga rainbow arc shifted almost imperceptibly to the cloud’s lower right.

 

Fittingly, the ten-week cloud series ends August 14 (6:50 PM) with a spectacular floating-city cumulus platform rising to my south.

 

Now, if God made the clouds so beautiful, did He not mean us to gaze upon them and be thankful for them?Alfred Rowland

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • What we see in Nature depends clearly on what tools, understanding, and knowledge we bring to the observation.
  • A lifelong weather addict, I find inspiration for life and living in clouds.
  • Wherever I roam, I keep an eye to the sky for beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's Books

 

All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

 

Early Spring in West-Central Pennsylvania

March 27, 2021 we visited our son and his family in Butler County, Pennsylvania. While there we traveled with them to a lovely rolling hills horse farm and stables where our two granddaughters help care for and ride two horses. I could not resist wandering across the property, exploring early spring pastures and woodlots, and reveling under an amazing cerulean sky.

A Rolling Pennsylvania Landscape Under a Cerulean Sky

 

I offer this Post absent much of the ecological science and observations I usually include. Consider this more an aesthetic journey across a special landscape mosaic of open pasture, woods edges, and woodlots, all accented by a remarkable spring sky. Winter had not yet abandoned the farm, although spring was racing northward at roughly 100 miles per week. So, allow me to usher you across the farm, highlighting a few special elements along the way. Still-dormant woodlots, pasture grass coming to life, and a sky of beauty beyond compare.

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

I was grateful to be in the out-there of western Pennsylvania!

Woodlot Edges

 

Such woods-edge scenes bring rabbits, deer, and soaring birds to mind. Mixed habitats and the ecotones that transition pasture to forest provide rich habitat for all manner of birds and mammals. The woodlots draw me in; the pastures lure me out of the forest.

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

Tree crowns, too, reach into the pasture, not drawn by the open majesty, but by the bountiful pasture sunlight. And beneath those reaching branches, brambles and tree seedlings advance into the open. Sunlight is a powerful magnet. Given time…and a cessation of mowing or horse feeding…the forest would invade the pasture. Maintaining the forest/pasture mixed cover requires management, intentional practice by the landowners.

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

I could not help but pause time and again to gaze skyward, especially at the forest edge. I wanted to capture the aesthetic bounty so that I might return to the image on an insufferably hot Alabama July or August afternoon!

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

 

 

 

Some of the best things in life are free. I wonder, how many people walk about on a spring day with digital device in hand, unaware of the magic above and surrounding them.

Within a Woodlot

 

My wanderings always draw me into forests, for trees are my passion. I miss these western Pennsylvania forests, similar to where I grew up in western Maryland and not far from where I conducted my doctoral research in the Allegheny Hardwood forests of NW PA and SW NY. Below left is a bigtooth aspen, whose range extends little beyond the upper mid-Atlantic states, the northeast, and lake states. Aspen, both bigtooth and quaking, make me think of cooler summers and far deeper winters. That’s a red maple below right, a more common main canopy occupant than it is here in Alabama. Red maple ranges from the border with Canada  into most of Florida.

Horse Barn

 

Black cherry (below left) dominated the forests of my doctoral studies. I found northern red oak (below right) commonly on my measurement plots. I also found white oak, sugar maple, red maple, beech, yellow poplar, basswood, white pine, hemlock, and white ash.

Horse Barn

 

As I’ve begun to do in dormant season forests wherever I am, I captured the crown image below. Once again, tree crowns are not interlaced. Each individual stands alone with a ring of crown shyness isolating one tree from another. Unlike some of the massive crowns I’ve reported for white oak in particular in our southern forests, all of these crowns are narrow.

Horse Barn

 

The emerald ash borer mortality front passed through this area within the past five years. Here is a white ash standing dead. The bark is beginning to slough; its crown still reaches into the canopy. Most of its branches have fallen to the ground. Adjoining crowns have not yet filled the ash’s canopy void. I consider it a dreadful shame that this magnificent tree is fading from our Pennsylvania forests. The zone of ash mortality is approaching the Alabama/Tennessee border. I am concerned for our north Alabama ash.

Horse Barn

 

As I often do, I found tree curiosities in the woodlots. Below left a black cherry canker beckons wood bowl turners. And, I discovered that poison ivy (below right), just as it does across Alabama, is a common main canopy resident courtesy of its habit of regenerating with the stand and growing vertically in tandem with the trees reaching skyward.

Horse Barn

 

I confess to a fantasy. I’d like to develop a coffee table style book of forest curiosities and tree form oddities. All I need is a sponsor to cover the cost of touring across our eastern hardwood forests, camera in hand, applying my understanding and appreciation of applied ecology to my ever-keener eye for seeing what is hidden in plain sight.

Pastoral Setting

 

Even as the forester within me seeks the sylvan settings, I thoroughly enjoyed the pastoral elements of the farm. Yet, still I seem to accent the pastoral photos with trees. In western Pennsylvania someone had chosen to plant borders of Norway spruce. This Scandinavian-named species is native to much of western and central Europe, and is quite happy across the northeastern US.

Horse Barn

 

A farm pond near the homestead adds a nice domestic touch to the landscape. And, few things beat a white wooden fence.

Horse Barn

 

I’ll end with the two girls returning to the stables along the white fence. What could be better than wandering a new section of God’s green Earth with grandchildren?! I hope that I will have planted a seed of Nature-appreciation in them.

Horse Barn

 

I shall continue to enjoy Nature wherever life and living take me. Perhaps one day, long after only my writing and photos remain, the then two women will see their horseback photos, read my words, and remember their Pap and the seeds of Nature-Inspired Life and Living he sowed.

A Cerulean Firmament — Heaven Over Earth

 

Our grandchildren compose one element of our heaven on Earth. Yet, I could write ten thousand words and never truly express the utter power, hope, and spirit in this simple woods-edge cerulean firmament photograph.

Horse Barn

 

I find Nature’s supreme gifts and magic moments whenever (and wherever) I enter wildness.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations:

  • Nature never disappoints those willing to look.
  • A cerulean firmament — gateway to Heaven on Earth.  
  • Life’s greatest pleasures are free.

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, Humble, and Reward you!

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

 

All Three Books

All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

 

 

Reflections on Natural Disasters

 

Reflections on Natural Disasters

 

Today’s instant global news connects us with calamities from Asian tsunamis to California and Australian wildfires to calving Antarctic mega-glaciers to seething volcanoes to European floods to a variety of weather extremes (hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, ice storms, severe thunderstorms, tidal surges, and drought). We anthropocentric humans dub such events as natural disasters. Yes, these perturbations are natural. But, in whose eyes are they disasters? Excepting their effect on humans and our lives, structures, and economies, they are simply normal fluxes of atmospheric physics, weather patterns, and our Earth’s dynamic crustal plates. Landslides and earthquakes result from a constant battle for equilibrium. Storms of all sorts occur as the global atmosphere seeks balance. Glaciers work tirelessly to scrape mountains to the sea. Water and gravity likewise sweep soil, rocks, and associated debris seaward.

Bradford Creek

 

Fires have burned California forests, growing happily in a dry-summer/wet-winter Mediterranean climate on steep hillsides, since long before the first humans entered what became the Golden State. Winter rains have generated mudslides on the fire-cleared hillsides for as long as fires have periodically scorched the forests. The cycle of forest/fire/mudslide/forest is natural, and will continue without regard for the foolhardy humans who place homes with little regard to Nature’s ways. Flood plains identify themselves clearly to the hydrologists among us, yet we build homes and cities in harm’s way. We populate beachfronts subject to tropical storms with homes and other infrastructure. We time and again “protect” New Orleans by rebuilding, reinforcing, and elevating levees, yet as the city sinks year after year from the weight of thousands of feet of sediment, the city will one day pay the ultimate price.

November 2020Oak Mountain

 

From the perspective of managers and recreationists at Joe Wheeler State Park (Rogersville, AL), the December 2019 tornado that destroyed the campground amounted to a natural disaster. Nature “handles” such disasters in stride. In fact, such storms serve to renew the forest, or whatever ecosystem is affected. It is we humans who struggle with the impacts.

Joe Wheeler SP

 

The week of February 15, we witnessed a deep-diving polar outbreak reaching to the Texas Gulf coast, bringing record low temperatures, relentless snowfall, and historic ice storms. The death toll in Texas alone reached 86. Property damage across the southern US matched major hurricane levels. The news media spoke of this as an unprecedented natural disaster. Many of the now-broken records go back 100-plus years to 1890. Unprecedented? Okay, in 1890 the US population was one-sixth of today’s. Because home electricity did not appear commonly until 1930, residents in 1890 did not suffer from power outages. Frozen pipes? Likewise not a problem. A disaster? Certainly a disaster for those who lost power, experienced frozen pipes, were unable to secure clean water, suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, and went without food. But, a natural disaster? I think that Nature and her wildness will feel little consequence from such a weather phenomenon, which, while unusual, occurs every few decades or once a century.

Here in northern Alabama, the evening of February 17 brought us six inches of snow. I am sure it triggered many fender-benders and perhaps a few resultant injuries. Schools closed for several days. Yet, I do not consider this generally as more than a minor natural perturbation here on the eastern edge of the more calamitous cold air invasion. In fact, I welcomed the snow as a brief period of winter during a time when spring was locked and loaded, ready to emerge.

 

All of these natural disturbances are part of the grand cycle of life and the ongoing fluxes associated with forces seeking balance. Natural disasters? I beg to differ. Natural, yes. Disaster? Only in human terms. However, I understand how we derived the term. I don’t suggest that we seek an alternate moniker. I simply want to remind readers that our own human impacts on the future may be more of a disaster than anything that Nature throws our way. Consider among others: foul air; abusive agricultural practices; soil erosion; wetland elimination; species extinction; water pollution; paving paradise (and putting up a parking lot; courtesy of Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell).

So-called natural disasters do not not dim my own maturing love affair with Nature. Instead, the vagaries, mysteries, and power of Nature further inspire me, driving me to seek deeper understanding of this incredible planet and our place within its global ecosystem.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my musings on natural disasters:

  • Everything in Nature occurs in accord with her own immutable laws
  • Nature cares not about human impacts
  • We humans can only deal with Nature… not control her

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksOak Mountain

 

All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

 

Dawn Sky Glory December 19, 2020

Saturday, December 19, 2020 dawned gloriously without ceremony. Too few people witnessed the day’s beginning… only a handful of us intrepid souls apparently had no penchant for late Friday nights, choosing instead early Saturday risings. Judy and I perform our daily pre-dawn 1.5-mile neighborhood walk irrespective of whether it is weekday or weekend.

I offer a 30-minute sequence of dawn-sky-show from that near-solstice winter morning. The sun at that time of year here in north Alabama rises nearly 30 degrees south of due east, a full 60-degree swing from the summer solstice. Daylight arrives an hour and 15 minutes later on December 19 compared to six months prior (hours adjusted for DST and ST). I did not know the nuances of the term dawn until researching and drafting this Post. Science recognizes three stages of dawn: astronomical; nautical; and civil. Here are the delineations for December 19:

Astronomical Dawn (center point of sun reaches 18 degrees below the horizon): 5:18 AM

Nautical Dawn (center point of sun reaches 12 degrees below the horizon): 5:49 AM

Civil Dawn (center point of sun reaches 6 degrees below the horizon): 6:20 AM

Daylight (center point of sun rises above the horizon): 6:48 AM

We’ll keep these in mind for the following photos and discussion. I arise early enough daily to know that astronomical dawn hints at its arrival only to spring birds, whose faith in the new day, and some sixth sense of anticipation that I do not share, signal their morning romance-induced song-burst. We began our walk at the onset of nautical dawn, when the band of sky-brightening is visible in the ESE sky. Although most of our route confines us within a suburban development, we passed a vacant lot bounded to the east by a woodlot at 6:15. At the tail end of nautical dawn, the sky has begun to blaze.

Nautical Dawn

 

Big Blue Lake

 

Four minutes make a visible difference as we near civil dawn at 6:19 AM.

Big Blue Lake

 

Civil Dawn

No other point along our route permitted unobstructed view of the new day’s sky. We returned home where I assumed my flat-on-my-back sky-viewing position atop our garden wall near the edge of Big Blue Lake (my name for the four-acre pond on whose northern shore we reside). This series of photos begins at 6:42 AM and runs four minutes to just before the official sunrise. Over those few minutes, dawn transitioned from lovely to just shy of spectacular. Applying the old adage of “You should quit while you’re ahead,” I ceased snapping photos when the progress shifted into its waning phase. I won’t offer much commentary. A photo is, in fact, worth a thousand words… photo language is far richer than my own feeble and unworthy verbiage.

Cirrus and altocumulus clouds provided the matrix upon which advancing dawn marched its colors toward sunrise. Cirrus are the wispy, paint-stroke clouds high above… 20,000 feet and higher, composed of ice crystals (even on hot summer days). Altocumulus are mid-level cotton balls from 6,500 to 20,000. The two types are clearly distinguishable in this series of dawn photos, these first two at 6:42.

Big Blue Lake

Big Blue Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change accompanied the swing of the second hand, these two at 6:43.

Big Blue Lake

 

I witnessed subtle image alterations depending upon how I pointed the camera… perspectives not apparent through the viewfinder. Upon viewing later, the photo below left reminded me of the view from high Earth orbit, as though looking down on an ocean partially obscured by a cloud deck, again at 6:43. The image below right took me back to looking up (out), the cirrus once more visible beyond the altocumulus.

Big Blue Lake

 

By 6:44 and 6:45 (below) the cirrus has further brightened as the altocumulus glows a little more deeply.

Big Blue Lake

 

The morning spectacle reached its zenith at 6:46, two minutes before sunrise, below the same perspective in full color and black and white.

Big Blue LakeBig Blue Lake

 

 

This dawn series calls Joyce Kilmer’s verse to mind:

“Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

Or a sunrise; a sunset; a snowy woods; a cloud-draped mountain; and infinite other snapshots of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe!

Big Blue Lake

 

As so often is the case, John Muir anticipated my dawn-sky reflections:

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

Thirty minutes of quiet dawn sky contemplation can encapsulate a lifetime of Nature-Inspiration:

  • Exquisite colors
  • Fanciful patterns
  • Unlimited peace, tranquility, and promise

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksBig Blue Lake

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.