Lessons from Nature: Nature is a Meritocracy

I publish weekly photo-essay Blog Posts on Nature-Inspired Life and Living. I have been doing so routinely since retiring January 1, 2018. Normally my Posts are photo-rich and report on one of my recent Nature wanderings. This one less so. Instead, my intent is to address a critical issue of the day from the multiple perspectives of my disciplinary training in applied ecology, 12 years in the forest products industry, and my 35 years in higher education at nine different universities, holding positions from faculty member through senior administrative leadership.

Setting the Stage

I watch with keen interest as the daily news overflows with opinions about three concept-words gaining favor, germinating initially in higher education, and spreading across American social, economic, and identity constructs: diversity, equity, and inclusion, intimated cure-alls for implied widespread malaise. Not unrelated, I see university after university expanding administrative bloat (yes, I am convinced that most universities are administratively top heavy). I spent nine years rising through the faculty ranks at Penn State University (1987-96). As just one example, Penn State’s web site lists 74 staff members in the university’s Office of Educational Efficacy (advancing inclusion, equity, and diversity). Penn State’s Math Department lists 25 faculty members. In a nation where our K-12 education ranks 25th internationally, what could possibly be three time more staff-worthy than math?

Nature, as my counter point, doesn’t need an office of ecosystem efficacy to orchestrate the intra- and interspecies relationships in this Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge (Alabama) bottomland hardwood forest.

Jolly B Road

 

I advanced from instructor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to tenured faculty at Penn State to senior administrative positions at seven universities (reporting directly to the president at three and serving as CEO at four more). Now retired, I feel increasingly concerned about the direction of higher education and its non-core-curricular tenets metastasizing to all of our social, political, and cultural institutions. I’ve written extensively that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is compelling inspired by Nature. Rather than critique what in my view is wrong with the leanings of our social, political, and cultural institutions, allow me simply to return to Nature.

Nature Observations

I’ve observed forests and Nature my entire life…as a youth, practicing forester, research scientist, university educator and administrator, and now retiree. I often turn to historic figures of considerable intellectual renown for guidance and understanding, including Albert Einstein:

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.

Look deeply into this mixed hardwood, multi-vertically-tiered riparian hardwood forest on the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Visiting this stand across the seasons, I can say with certainty that the more I learn about it, the less I know of its ever-revealing secrets.

Jolly B Road

 

Leonardo da Vinci:

Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity, and I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

While human ingenuity may devise various inventions to the same ends, it will never devise anything more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than nature does, because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.

What could be more beautiful, more simple, and more to the purpose than these towering yellow poplar monarchs along the Wells Memorial Trail at Alabama’s Monte Sano State Park!

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Charles Darwin:

One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.

The magnificent cherrybark oak (below left) is a winner. The oak (below right; left center of photo) succumbed, yielding its crown space and soil resources to adjoining survivors. The stronger live; the weaker die. Both trees are in a bottomland hardwood forest on the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Nature is a Meritocracy

Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines three relevant related concepts:

Survival of the fittest: the natural process by which organisms best adjusted to their environment are most successful in surviving and reproducing.

Natural selection: a natural process that results in the survival and reproductive success of individuals or groups best adjusted to their environment and that leads to the perpetuation of genetic qualities best suited to that particular environment.

Meritocracy: a system, organization, or society in which people are chosen and moved into positions of success, power, and influence on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and merit.

I add a fourth of my own creation:

Natural meritocracy: a natural community of organisms (an ecosystem) in which individual living elements or associations of individuals (plants, animals, fungi, etc.) survive, thrive, and persist on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and merit.

I am convinced that Nature is a meritocracy (a Natural Meritocracy); she cares only about results. Biological diversity is a means, not an end. Nature measures success by which individuals or what combinations and associations of individuals reach the finish line (or benchmark season after season, epoch after epoch). She cares about winners over the long haul. She knows nothing and cares even less about equity, a human cultural construct seeking equal outcomes for all. She checks no boxes for inclusion. The seemingly devastated Mount Saint Helens blast zone repopulated and recovered naturally from the cataclysmic 1980 explosive blast by filling voids as rapidly as possible with the organisms and life-communities adapted to respond to disturbance. Nature does not prescribe specific proportions of pioneer vegetative and animal elements. The successful vegetative colonizers prevail at whatever admixture works most effectively.

There are no participation trophies in Nature…no affirmative action among or within species and life forms. We humans are a strange and perplexing lot. In the United States alone, we have developed manifold policies and regulations pertaining to employment practices for just our one species. Here’s the opening paragraph from the section on the EEOC’s Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices:

Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

I am not disparaging nor minimizing the existence and need for such governmental oversight. I am simply demonstrating that all non human elements of Nature operate quite well within natural laws.

Natural Laws

The Darwin model works both within species and among species, from calamitous events like Saint Helens to an abandoned crop field reverting through a succession of colonizers to mature forest… as annuals, herbaceous perennials, woody shrubs, pioneer tree species, to longer-lived forest trees occupy the site. Nature never violates her own laws…and she applies those laws across complex ecosystems among multiple species. Our universities, in contrast, are devising and implementing complex values, practices, and rules of engagement within a single species…human. What may be missing is acknowledgement that we humans, too, are a part of Nature, whose laws apply to us. John Muir observed that a most basic tenet, a rule of biologic reality, applies to us:

I have never yet happened upon a trace of evidence that seemed to show that any one animal was ever made for another as much as it was made for itself. Not that Nature manifests any such thing as selfish isolation. In the making of every animal the presence of every other animal has been recognized. Indeed, every atom in creation may be said to be acquainted with and married to every other, but with universal union there is a division sufficient in degree for the purposes of the most intense individuality; no matter, therefore, what may be the note which any creature forms in the song of existence, it is made first for itself, then more and more remotely for all the world and worlds.

Human Nature operates toward the individual. Toward a system of meritocracy. A human capitalism if you will. The world’s most successful, longest living democratically engineered society is rooted in recognition of such. These United States emerged under the assumption that all men (human beings) are created under God with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I sense that universities and elements of our broader society are inclined to guarantee happiness (i.e. equity in outcomes rather than equal opportunity). The recent Tokyo Olympics aligned participants along the starting line; finishers completed the race according to their skills and abilities. Olympic competition is a meritocracy. The Olympic organizers do not array competitors by relative ability so that they all cross the finish line at once.

The August 25, 2021 online Admired Leadership post, Genius Simplifies the Complex, offered this related wisdom:

Let me tell you an academic secret: Anyone can make something more complex, but it takes real genius and insight to make it simple. Any time someone offers you what they call wisdom or insight, put it to the simplicity test. If the idea or insight requires a lengthy explanation, a host of charts and diagrams or abstract and dense language it may prove valuable, but it is not yet wisdom. 

Nature is the master architect of simplicity. Leonardo da Vinci extolled Nature’s insistence on simplicity, which I offer for the second time in this Post:

While human ingenuity may devise various inventions to the same ends, it will never devise anything more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than nature does, because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.

Lest the reader leave with the impression that competition is Nature’s only survival mechanism, I refer to a chapter on Relationships Among Organisms in a Community in a book manuscript I have not yet published. The chapter addresses a rich panoply of within- and inter-species relationships, including: parasitism; saprophytism; epiphytism; predation; commensulism; competition; and symbiosis. Each type of relationship operates within a natural meritocracy.

There are no safe places within Nature’s complex web of interdependent relationships. Natural systems do not award participation trophies. Nature’s snowflakes are not some special class of fragile sensitive beings unable or unwilling to cope with the stresses, pressures, and demands of everyday existence. Crying rooms are for infants and toddlers…not for contributing adults. I snowshoed (below left) on the frozen Nenana River just outside the entrance to Alaska’s Denali National Park with the March afternoon temperature at -37 degrees F. I experienced tip-of-nose frostbite. The real world of deep winter has no room for the woke snowflakes of today. The scene below right is along the Chena River in Fairbanks at negative 45. Not a place for some special class of fragile sensitive beings unable or unwilling to cope with the stresses, pressures, and demands of everyday existence.

UAF UAF

 

Nature doesn’t recognize microaggressions; the real world must deal with real problems instead of searching for presumed insult and injury. Below left is campground tornado damage at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park; below right is tornado damage on the northern end of Alabama’s Oak Mountain State Park. A microaggression in my admittedly feeble mind is akin to a nearby camper complaining to Park personnel that a hickory nut dented his BMW. I drafted this section as Hurricane Ida was slamming the Louisiana coast with just-shy-of-Cat-5 winds, a savage beast beyond imagination. Nothing micro about Ida’s devastation.

Oak Mountain

 

Nature does not worry about using the right pronouns. Nature is clear about reproductive reality, i.e. the birds and the bees. Nature disdains Woke as she insists upon actions, results, and performance. Nature does not try; Nature does.

The Law of Simplicity

Complex lifeforms operate by Nature’s laws of ultimate simplicity, in this case at Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. A pipevine swallowtail caterpillar feeds on a Dutchman’s pipevine leaf; a blue dasher dragonfly rests nearby (photo credit: Marian Moore Lewis).

Southern Sanctuary

John Muir expressed the essence of the intricate beauty and wonder of manifold and compounded simplicity: 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. Nature constructs its masterpieces without overhead and bureaucracy. Nothing about Nature is top heavy; she tolerates no administrative bloat. Nature needs no Office of Ecosystem Efficacy.

Leonardo da Vinci saw little value in bureaucracy, endless talk, and philosophizing:  I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. Nature DOES! I wonder what a 74-person Office of Educational Efficacy does in way of educating, inspiring, and enabling future citizens, workers, and leaders?

Yoda likewise implored doing, Do or do not, there is no try.

University offices of educational efficacy and such, Congressional bills with thousands of pages, and bloated governmental bureaucracies — what are they doing? Worse yet, are they simply trying and not doing. Nature abhors a vacuum. I fear that our governmental, educational, and business entities are designing quasi-functional vacuums into their operations…functional vacuums do little more than nothing. Such vacuums spin institutional trying, languishing endlessly to create some perfect vacuum that in itself serves as an end, accomplishing little.

I’ll end by repeating da Vinci:

Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity, and I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature is a Meritocracy…and has been since life on Earth emerged 3.7 billion years ago.
  • Our academic, governmental, and economic institutions can learn much from Natural Laws.
  • Human ingenuity will never devise anything more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than nature does. 

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature’s infinite storm of beauty 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 BooksHGH Road

 

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.

 

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.

 

Dutton Farm Land Legacy Project Expansion: Warm Season Grass Trial with Ohio State University

May 27 and 28, 2021, I met on-site with a research team from Ohio State’s College of Food and Agricultural Sciences to plan a native warm season grass trial on reclaimed strip-mine soils on Dutton Farms, site of my Ohio Land Legacy Project. I’ve previously posted updates on the Project — here’s one from September 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/11/25/late-september-wanderings-and-ramblings-on-my-ohio-land-legacy-project-site/ The richness of these reclaimed strip mine lands buoys my view of Nature’s ultimate resilience when aided by informed and responsible stewardship practice. Every square foot of this view saw full-scale strip mining. The pastures are productive. However, none are populated with native warm season grasses, which perform reliably mid-summer owing to greater drought and heat tolerance. The Dutton family and the Ohio State University (OSU) team are intent upon exploring warm season mixtures for pasture enhancement and resilience.

 

Allow me a brief side trip from May 2021. I remind you that Dutton Land and Cattle (DL&C) is focusing on Akaushi Cattle, a prime quality breed from Japan. These photos depict a bull from this rather docile breed. Rest assured, otherwise I would not be so bold with this big boy (below left).

September 2020 September 2020

 

Ohio State University is Ohio’s Land Grant University (LGU), authorized by the 1862 Morrill Act establishing one such institution in each state to bring modern agricultural knowledge and practices to farmers and producers. The LGUs have broadened and deepened their service over the intervening 159 years. I’ve served five LGUs over my career: Penn State, Auburn, Alabama A&M, NC State, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I consider partnering now with OSU a positive addition to my retirement portfolio. The main campus lies just two hours west of Dutton Farms.

Photo credit: OSU College of Food and Agricultural Sciences web site

 

John Dutton (with folder in his left arm) greeted the OSU team under threatening skies May 28, orienting them to DL&C at the equipment shed.

 

I toured the OSU team May 27, highlighting the strip mining history at the unreclaimed high wall, a stark reminder of the brutal treatment and deep scaring associated with surface mining.

 

After our early start May 28 orientation we visited the proposed native warm season grass trial site, now supporting a nearly mature cover crop of triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). DL&C cares for its soil resources as evidenced by the vibrant triticale.

 

The team quickly dug in (literally), examining the soil. No hesitancy about getting their hands dirty! I enjoyed pleasant memories of my own doctoral research on soil-site relationships for Allegheny Hardwood Forests in southwest NY and northwest PA. I also led tree nutrition and forest fertilization research for Union Camp Corporation company-wide across VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, and AL for four years. I watched the OSU team through a delighted and admittedly rapturous haze of pleasant professional memories. Those were simpler days…before senior administrative positions and four university presidencies led me too far afield of my disciplinary passion. I stood in retirement bliss, once more back to field studies vicariously through this capable and enthusiastic team of young researchers.

 

Dutton Farms soils are compacted, relatively young, and showing clear signs of horizonation. This profile shows a darkening upper several inches owing to organic matter beginning to incorporate by root action and soil micro- and macro-organism recycling. Lots of roots are exploiting that upper layer. The soil at this location looks very much like the soils I have excavated across the DL&C’s core 1,100 acres.

 

We are fortunate that John Dutton is enthusiastic with the warm season grass project. He is eager to learn and put to practice ways to improve DL&C operations, and better steward the land.

 

The equation for meaningful life and living, productive research, and successful business operations includes an essential variable — enthusiasm! John, his family, and the OSU team bring it by the barrelful. I am fortunate to be affiliated with the effort to make DL&C a global exemplar for informed and responsible Earth stewardship, reclaiming abused land from the trash heap, transforming it through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work to productive operation, environmental vibrancy, and aesthetic richness.

 

As the native warm season grass trial progresses I will say more in subsequent Posts. For now, I will mention only that the trial will test two seed combinations:

  • big bluestem and indiangrass blend
  • switchgrass and eastern gamagrass

The design will overlay cover crop alternatives.

I’ve concluded over the years that application adds value to knowledge. The foundation of the Land Grant University concept is the application of knowledge to enterprise and life. The native warm season grass trial is applied research to advance life, living, and enterprise. I am fortunate to be engaged with the continuing stewardship saga of Dutton Land and Cattle!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • The process of learning how best to practice informed and responsible land stewardship is unending.
  • Few actions match the satisfaction and return on applied research and discovery.
  • Nothing beats watching younger professionals enthusiastically learning and advancing science.

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.

 

Nature Notations from an Early August Day of Biking and Hiking

Over the course of my senior executive years (reporting directly to the CEO at three universities; serving as CEO at four) I subscribed to a belief that four levels of fitness are essential to effectively serving, leading, living, and learning. I hold firmly to my conclusion that human capacity, performance, fulfillment, and enjoyment correlate with individual health and well-being…that maintaining fitness across all four dimensions enhances our ability to live fully:

    1. Mental – acuity and sharpness
    2. Physical – health and vitality
    3. Emotional – friends, families, colleagues
    4. Spiritual – embrace of a presence larger than self

I’ve carried these core beliefs and life-guidelines into retirement. In what way does this GBH Post relate to my four levels of fitness theme? August 3, 2021, I began my day walking 45 minutes with Judy (spouse) in our neighborhood as dawn broke. Check boxes 1-4. I’m most alert (mental) to the world around me when I’m outside, especially in the morning. Physical is obvious; emotional is quality time with Judy; and, nothing is more spiritual than welcoming a new day’s dawning.

After breakfast I loaded my bicycle, drove to Owens Cross Roads, parked at the trailhead just east of the Publix and began pedaling south at 7:30 AM (temperature ~67 degrees) on Big Cove Creek Greenway. I wanted to log at least 20 miles. The trail traces through mixed forest and meadow cover along Big Cove Creek on its journey toward the Flint River, which it enters in Hays Nature Preserve, a property of the Land Trust of North Alabama. The Greenway crosses the River on an elevated concrete and steel span. Once out of the Preserve the trail becomes the Flint River Greenway, continuing through meadows, forests, and part of the Hampton Cove Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, once again crossing the river before reaching the parking lot and trailhead at old highway 431.

Flint River

[Photos from Prior Visits]

 

I doubled back to the trailhead, then out and back to the Greenway’s end north of Route 28, then east on the Little Cove Creek Greenway along the north side of the Eastern Bypass out of Owens Crossroads, taking me five miles to the end, a place of beauty framed by meadows, farm fields, and surrounding hills standing up to 500 feet above the valley floor.

Hampton Cove

 

I returned to Publix, adding another out and back to the Hays Nature Preserve parking lot. Total mileage reached 22.3; riding goal accomplished!

Hays

[Photo from Prior Visit]

 

I feel a bit guilty about including the detail, yet, I would love to have had these combined route possibilities presented to me three years ago when seeking options upon arriving at my Madison retirement destination. So, I risk boring you for the cause of informing those with similar interest.

I captured the next five images of the Flint River just off the Flint River Greenway. Still carrying a good early August flow following nearly seven inches of July rains, the River passed from left to right, entertaining me with gurgles and soft ripples. Wild potato vine’s white flowers graced the shoreline, welcoming the morning sun.

Hays

 

A few hundred feet upstream, the river flows (again left to right) beyond a marshy area. Look hard to the far bank mid-photo. Squint if necessary to see a great blue heron. Okay, I can’t see it clearly either without telephoto help — scroll down.

Hays

 

These are magnificent birds, avatar and totem for my Dad, who left me with a deep and abiding love and respect for Nature that has only grown stronger since his death 26 years ago. See this three-minute read for the story of my spiritual connection to the great blue heron: http://stevejonesgbh.com/reflections/

Hays

 

Exchanging my biking clothes for my woods gear at my daughter’s nearby office restroom, I drove the three miles to the east entrance of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, also bordering the Flint River. I wandered into the bottomland hardwood forest and adjacent tupelo swamp. I had no purpose in mind other than, because I was already on that side of Huntsville, to see what secrets the forest might reveal in early August. Our southern forests never disappoint!

Persistent rains have kept the lower areas still saturated with lots of standing water in the tupelo stands, justifying my extra effort trudging through the forest in nearly knee-high rubber boots. I saw lots of wildlife sign (deer and raccoon tracks), but no actual forest critters except for a single squirrel. Okay, I suppose mosquitoes are critters…plentiful voracious critters intent upon finding nourishment at my expense!

I also wanted to see what mushroom varieties were prevalent. I found a scattering of aging chanterelles completing their cycle and recycling back into the forest litter. I spotted one grouping of oyster mushrooms past peak on a fallen log. Some remnant peppery milkcap were also losing their pure white luster, along with one fading bolete. Other fungi species tantalized me, reminding me of my far-too-inadequate mushroom knowledge.

The average daily high and low temperatures for early August are 91 and 70, above my preferred range for deep woods exploration. Looking ahead to more favorable conditions, I shall endeavor to return for another round of biking and hiking by mid-October, when the average temperatures are 76 and 52! Now that sounds inviting for cycling and hiking. In the meantime, I will restrict most of my summer Nature ramblings to our more accommodating morning weather.

 

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

Always alert for tree form oddities and curiosities, I encountered several worthy subjects in the bottomland forest. This warty hickory posed nicely, not at all embarrassed by its blemishes… cankers which I believe are of viral or fungal origin. Given the hordes of mosquitoes buzzing me, I imagined my face undergoing a similar transfiguration! The hickory’s dermal condition is clearly not fatal. The tree reaches high into the canopy and has a full crown. I wondered whether this individual is genetically predisposed to the culprit microorganism. Is this tree  particularly sensitive and reactive to infection? And, does the infection interfere in some way with the tree’s fecundity. As with so much that I uncover through my forest wanderings, I need to learn more. Is there a forest pathologist in the house?

 

Not far away, here’s another hickory with a single, and larger, canker.

 

These Sanctuary bottomlands suffer frequent winter floods and periodic summer flash floods, when the Flint River overtops its banks and rushes through the forest. Perhaps a particularly savage flood snapped a twin from this now 3-foot diameter sycamore decades ago opening a decay fungi infection court, gradually hollowing the entire remaining trunk, even as the tree attempts to callous over the old wounds…a losing endeavor. Regardless, a tree of considerable character with a great story to tell! Such trees bring to mind the opening lines of Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas

I wonder what appearance this tree might project on such a harsh November night along the Flint River! What spirits inhabit these dark woods? Even if none are present, what might we imagine in the eerie darkness?

 

Could Ichabod Crane have experienced forests with trees such as these (What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path) when he spotted the headless horseman?

On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveler in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! – but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle!

Perhaps Mr. Crane felt the nighttime invisible fingers of Vitis (grapevine) air roots as his horse plodded unsteadily forward, sending shivers of fear deep into his soul.

 

I was there in midday light, yet, even then, my mind had little trouble imagining the gloaming amidst a November wind howling a torrent of darkness. I long ago discovered that a vivid imagination enhances vision. I have learned to employ five essential verbs, leading me to see far more than what otherwise presents. So much in Nature lies hidden in plain sight, including lessons for living, learning, serving, and leading. The five verbs — Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act:

    • I find Nature’s Lessons because I know they lie hidden within view — belief prompts and enables me to look and see
    • Really look, with eyes open to my surroundings, external to electronic devices and the distractions of meaningless noise and data
    • Be alert to see deeply, beyond the superficial
    • See clearly, with comprehension, to find meaning and evoke feelings
    • Feel empathically enough to spur action… action manifesting informed and responsible Earth stewardship

Action for me may be as simple as drafting a relevant Blog Post to present a photo-narrative revealing and translating lessons from Nature to readers. Lessons that might further my retirement 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.

Vegetative Elegance

A lifelong enthusiast for woodland spring wildflowers, I have grown to appreciate our summer beauties as well. I encountered abundant black-eyed Susans along Big Cove Creek Greenway. I could not resist photographing this wall of black, yellow, and green… an elegant border back-dropped by trees along the creek with old-field planted loblolly pine beyond. Would I have appreciated the scene without context…without knowing what lies immediately behind the elegant wall? I think not. Occasionally my leisure reading will take me to a location familiar to me, like Call of the Wild or White Fang. Anytime that I can personally authenticate content, the book more effectively draws me into its grasp. The trailside floral arrangement would still provide aesthetic reward, yet, knowing and understanding the integrated whole deepens my appreciation.

Hays

 

A  trailside wall of peppervine obscured what lay beyond in one spot near the Hays Preserve. I turned to iNaturalist for identification. From the Gardening Know How website: peppervine is a perennial climbing vine that is native to the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico. To some it may be known as “buckvine” and “cow itch” but to others it may be known as an expletive because it is very invasive due to its vigorous root system. Another source noted that many people confuse this ubiquitous vine with poison ivy — note the leaves-of-three arrangement.

Hays

 

Cardinal flower, a particularly showy Lobelia, ranks among my summer favorites. The Missouri Botanical Garden website offers informative insight: native perennial which typically grows in moist locations along streams, sloughs, springs, swamps and in low wooded areas. A somewhat short-lived, clump-forming perennial which features erect, terminal spikes of large, cardinal red flowers on unbranched, alternate-leafed stalks rising typically to a height of 2-3′ (infrequently to 4′). Tubular flowers are 2-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. Finely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 4″ long). Late summer bloom period. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, but not cardinals. 

I like the subtle humor of mentioning that the flower does not attract cardinals. The flower does not draw its name from the bird. Instead, both the bird and the flower owe their moniker to the exquisite red robes worn by members of the College of Cardinals within the Catholic Church. The Cardinals (princes of the blood) wear red to symbolize the blood of Christ.

 

Rich summer flower colors magnify my appreciation of time spent in Nature, whether pedaling along a shaded greenway or hiking deep into a bottomland hardwood forest. The vivid colors provide sufficient counter weight to heat, humidity, and hungry mosquitoes. Far too many people choose not to venture into Nature during our southern summers. I take a different tack, refusing to succumb to one season or another. I live in the south where summers can be hot, humid, and long. I accept that reality and embrace the season. I restrict my mid-summer wanderings (biking or hiking) to mornings, a far more agreeable time of day. Just as I chose to experience Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe throughout winters in Fairbanks, Alaska, I elect to embrace the heat and humidity of north Alabama summers.

There will come a day when my own seasons will come to an end. I don’t intend to depart regretting that I accepted sitting on the sidelines for the sake of my own shallow comfort. As we used to say, Man Up!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature wanderings enhance mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.
  • Nature fuels mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit
  • Every season of the year provides unique rewards.

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 BooksHays

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Contemplating a Video of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

June 4, 2021, retired videographer Bill Heslip and I visited the Goldsmith Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary with Margaret Anne Goldsmith and Marian Moore Lewis. Margaret Anne gifted the Sanctuary’s core 300-acres to the City of Huntsville in 2003. Marian authored her seminal book on the Sanctuary, Southern Sanctuary: A Naturalist’s Walk through through the Seasons (2015).

I’m standing at the entrance below with Marian (left) and Margaret Anne (right) on a prior visit.

Southern Sanctuary

 

See my previous Posts on the Sanctuary and its rich story of informed and responsible Earth stewardship:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/06/23/visiting-a-southern-sanctuary-my-orientation-visit/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/06/30/visiting-a-southern-sanctuary-natures-insistence-upon-renewal/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/12/23/late-fall-at-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/02/25/early-february-spectacular-frosty-morning-sky-at-the-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

Read at least one of them to realize how much I care! And I care deeply that the story of the Sanctuary be chronicled through my Blog Posts, which I believe are necessary…but far short of sufficient. Likewise, Marian’s book is an extraordinary building block in the tale. Yet, it, too, falls short of completing the picture. The Huntsville City Archive of the Sanctuary includes a video of Margaret Anne relating the family’s history leading to the gift. Another critical piece of the puzzle. Bill and I want to add another facet of the story.

A Land Legacy Tale at the Intersection of Human and Natural History

Bill and I seek more, an element to complement the Land Legacy Story. We envision a crisp, state of the art video (13-18 minutes) that integrates the human and natural history with the science and sentiment, and bridges to tomorrow in a manner that informs, enlightens, and inspires future citizens into the next century and beyond!

I met Bill when I premiered his similarly-intentioned 13-minutes video on the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve during my spring 2021 University of Alabama in Huntsville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course on the Land Trust of North Alabama: https://youtu.be/G2HIq_ygJvY

Bill is discussing the video project with Margaret Anne and Marian below.

 

 

Glory Under the Firmament

 

Margaret Anne recently communicated her gift-motivation:

Philanthropy is a concept I learned from our ancestors who came to America as immigrants and worked hard and prospered.  They believed in the importance of giving back to the community that had welcomed them and did so through gifts of their assets and service.  I wanted to honor our ancestors and to continue our tradition of family philanthropy in Huntsville with a gift in their name.

The Sanctuary is a place of naturalized beauty and magic. I say naturalized because the pond below was a borrow pit, excavated for gravel and sand for nearby road construction 85 years ago. The reflected sky doesn’t care whether the pond is natural or naturalized!

 

I find absolute fascination and reward in sky-gazing, with or without a pond surface to reflect it. Please ignore the blue dot, a phenomenon of my camera. I suppose there is a fix, but I have not pursued.

 

I’ve grown to accept (and celebrate) that wildness is wildness, whether in its raw natural state, or transformed, tamed, and domesticated land naturalized with protection, care, and stewardship over time. Margaret Anne has translated motivation to action in a way that will keep giving deep (perpetually) into the future:

In major cities around the world, it has been important to include urban oases, parks and green space as development occurs, well known is New York’s Central Park. Setting aside parks can only be accomplished prior to development.  Waiting until development begins is too late. I believe that it is the responsibility of cities and urban planners to require developers to set aside parks and green space. If there are no city requirements, I believe it is the responsibility of developers to include public park areas in their developments.

With Margaret Anne’s property donation, wildness is now assured and the future will bear the fruit of the Sanctuary gift long after Margaret Anne reunites with her ancestors:

As the years pass, the Sanctuary will continue to develop and provide an outdoor classroom for students from our schools and universities to explore and be inspired to write poetry and stories, create fine art and music, and conduct scientific research. The Sanctuary, never static, will be a place ever changing, transforming to the needs of the future. As for me, it is my hope that one day when I meet our ancestors, I will be able to thank them and say, “as you planted for others, I have continued our family tradition of planting for our community and its citizens of tomorrow.”

I once wagered with friends who challenged me to incorporate a truism I often quoted into an interview I was about to have with a local TV news crew: People don’t care how much you know…until they know how much you care. I won the small bet. I love the axiom because I believe in it so deeply, and have so often seen it in action. Margaret Anne (and her forebears) cares!

Animal Life Abounds

 

She expressed recently, Today, 18 years later, the Sanctuary has developed as I had originally envisioned as a wildlife oasis, a refreshing reprieve from city life and the subdivisions and commercial developments that now surround it.

Marian spotted three common water snakes on an old log under a concrete and steel footbridge, one heavy and sturdy enough to withstand the periodic rampages of the Flint River.

 

Marian photographed this black swallowtail as we hiked.

 

She’s also credited with this blue dasher dragonfly (left) and jewelwing damselfly (right).

 

Likewise, Marian managed to bring this osprey in close with her telephoto lens. We watched the bird circle multiple times over the lake off-property near the Sanctuary entrance, stooping twice into the water. We could not discern whether the dives had been productive. We also viewed a great blue heron standing along the shoreline, then rising to fly into the Sanctuary.

 

Tree Form Curiosities

 

I am always alert for odd tree forms. Many people unacquainted with Nature’s ways picture our sylvan friends with vertical stems reaching skyward. Such vertical orientation may have been the germinating seed’s intent, but Nature’s various forces bend, distort, and break the growing shoot. The tree, hard-wired to contend variously with such stressors, assumes patterns of growth that I find worthy of contemplation, understanding, and appreciation. These two water oaks tell a story of life complicated by physical forces of one form or another.

 

Bill is admiring this American beech that had at some point corrected its vertical course following an injury bending it at two-feet above ground. At the place of injury the beech launched a side shoot that now grows alongside the main stem. We marveled at the thick moss draping the trunk and its smaller moss-free side stem.

 

We likewise stopped to examine and photograph this three-pronged sweetgum, also draped with tree moss. There are those who would consider this an Indian marker tree. However, the sweetgum is growing in a forest stand that regenerated naturally on an abandoned agricultural field at least 75 years after Native American habitation. The tuning fork tree form is natural.

 

Special Magic of Flowers and Moss

 

I have been a spring (and early summer) wildflower enthusiast since my freshman-year-of-college systematic botany course with its spring semester field lab focusing on the spring ephemerals. We all enjoyed seeing this ruella wild petunia.

 

 

 

 

And as I’ve matured in retirement to learning more about our complex forest ecosystems, I’ve expanded my interests to pay much more attention to mosses, lichens, ferns, and fungi. This moss-adorned long-dead branch is worthy of art gallery enshrinement.

 

Closing Comments

 

June 26, 2021, Bill and I returned to the Sanctuary to video-interview Marian; weeks later we likewise interviewed Margaret Anne at her office in downtown Huntsville.

 

Bill and I are eager to create our video and contribute it to the archive that completes the Land Legacy Story that is the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Our project may take another year of production. I plan to focus a Great Blue Heron Blog Post on its premier showing.

 

I love constructing these Land Legacy Tales that explore the intersection of human and natural history, developing the compelling case for informed and responsible Earth stewardship!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every parcel of land, including the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, has a legacy story to tell.
  • Such preserved natural places enrich citizens’ lives.
  • I applaud all nature enthusiasts who practice informed and responsible Earth stewardship. 

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 BooksSouthern Sanctuary

 

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.

 

Mid-July Wanderings at DeSoto State Park

July 14 and 15, 2021, brought me to DeSoto State Park for the quarterly Alabama State Parks Foundation Board meeting. Taking advantage of being there for two days and overnight, I hiked all or parts of three trails at the Park: along the West Fork of the Little River, the Lost Falls Trail, and the Talmadge Butler Azalea Cascade Boardwalk Trail. Nature never disappoints, whether the first day’s nearly five-mile circuit or the second morning’s one-mile boardwalk stroll.

Hiking along the West Fork of the Little River

Although I had been to the Park several times previously, this was my first hike along the West Fork of the Little River, which cuts south along the east side of the Park at approximately 1,400 feet elevation, after dropping 104 feet upstream at DeSoto Falls. Downstream the West and East Forks merge before plunging 45 feet (Little River Falls) into the head of the Little River Canyon, Alabama’s deepest at 600 feet from rimrock to the river.

The West Fork below the Lodge (below left) flowed clearly and quietly southward, yet I saw water-borne debris at least 20 vertical feet higher than the current water level. Where I live, 90-miles to the west/northwest, mid-June’s tropical storm Claudette gave us less than an inch of rain. Fort Payne (near the Park) officially recorded 9.83 inches from Claudette, the deluge responsible for the high-hanging West Fork debris. The river-side hike spurred memories of similar size streams and creeks near my western Maryland central Appalachian home. If I were to substitute white pine for the loblolly pine (below right) I am transported 600 miles north.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

Recently retired North Region Operations Supervisor, Alabama State Parks, Tim Haney, joined me for the hike and stands along the river below left. Tim is facing downstream. At the next morning’s Parks Foundation Board meeting, Jim Emison (also on the hike with his grandson Jay) presented Tim with a commemorative plaque acknowledging three and a half years of service as a Founding Member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board of Directors as he retires from the Board and from Alabama State Parks following 44 years of exemplary service to the State Parks System.

DeSoto

DeSoto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-Summer Flowers and a Special Mushroom

Although I consider our woodland spring ephemerals as my lifelong abiding love, I have come to appreciate the forest interior species I encounter as our southern growing season develops into the fall. Here are yellow false foxglove in flower (below left) and galax below right with its resplendent glossy emerald foliage.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

I describe the riverside site as a canyon bottom, deeply shaded, rich and moist, and several very noticeable degrees cooler than the adjoining uplands. The plants seemed to demonstrate their appreciation for the micro-climate with verdant foliage. Like the galax above, also bearing showy foliage, pale Indian plantain presented flower buds just days from opening.

DeSoto

 

This southern bush honeysuckle extended its flower-bearing stems into and across the trail, a tentative touch I interpreted as a greeting. I loved the feeling of sheltered comfort, enhanced by the River’s persistent audible mirth as it descended toward Little River Falls.

DeSoto

 

We hiked during the peak season for chanterelle mushrooms, a culinary delight within the fungi kingdom. This patch grew at the trail edge. Two notes: never consume any wild edibles unless you are 100 percent certain of identity; do not harvest anything (mushrooms, plants, flowers, rocks, etc.) from State Parks. As a selective mushroom forager, I fought the urge to collect, wandering on contented by simply seeing these fine specimens thriving in the canyon.

DeSoto

 

Boulders and Prescribed Fire

After we ascended from the river to the uplands, we entered the Laurel Falls Trail behind the Park store to explore the house-sized boulder field, where Jay snapped a photo of Tim, Jim, and me. The young man who lives within me tried not to think that in aggregate we three exceed 200 years of life on Earth, a period which is nothing to the several hundred million year old rocks framing us.

DeSoto

 

Leaving the boulder zone, we strolled within a forest stand through which Park staff ran a prescribed fire just this past March. Fire is a wonderful management tool when used under ideal conditions, reducing fuel that might otherwise increase wildfire intensity, removing dense understory, enhancing wildlife habitat, and extending visibility within the forest. The larger main canopy trees suffer no damage; many of the targeted understory vegetation has or will succumb. Tim and I stand in front of a long-fallen tree trunk charred by the burn. Below right a chanterelle rises from the charred litter and ashes.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

The now more open forest will be blessed next spring with a burst of spring wildflowers.

 

Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail

 

The next morning before breakfast, three of us (fellow Board member Renee Rice, her niece Rachael Blalock, and I) hiked (really, we intentionally strolled) the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail to Azalea Cascade. We found scarlet beebalm (below right) at the entrance.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

The cascade is a magic place of deep shade, rocks, water, trees, and the sounds of birds, frogs, and stream gurgles. The second photo is Rachael’s, taken from her position (below left) looking back to the boardwalk.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

Both of these are Rachael’s from within the boulder tumble where the cascade emerges.

DeSoto

 

We admired a black birch growing atop a rock ledge, having germinated in accumulated organic debris, extending its roots into the mineral soil along the stream. Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. Any port in a storm will do.

DeSoto

 

The recent deluge and flash response from the azalea cascade stream had washed its bed under the terminal deck clear of litter and debris, exposing tree roots.

DeSoto

 

We found button bush in full flower, a curious spiked display, certainly worthy of a photograph.

 

Smiling Faces Tell the Tale!

 

Rachael’s selfie shows smiling faces, a result of our early morning immersion in a special, reverent place at DeSoto State Park. A place that in some small way reveals the soul of this fifth most-visited natural attraction in Alabama. That’s no small designation within a state that is America’s fourth most biologically diverse.

DeSoto

 

An important element of my retirement Mission is to help people understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship. We three accomplished that end…preparing us for the day ahead…and for all the days and years to follow.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature reveals so much to those willing to seek her truths.
  • I find Nature’s treasures wherever I take the time to seek them.
  • Nature’s wonder and awe lie hidden in plain sight. 

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 BooksDeSoto

 

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.

Brush Creek Park in Beaver County Pennsylvania

May 23, 2021, I visited Beaver County Pennsylvania’s Brush Creek Park with my son (Matt) and grandson (Nathan). We hiked the 3.5-mile loop trail, viewing a dynamic forest populated with species familiar to my early-career forestry practice, teaching, and research days.

 

The only covered bridge in Beaver County, Brush Creek Park’s iconic wooden structure reaches across the creek. I am a lifelong fan of such bridges… their aesthetic elegance, the sound of footfalls echoing within their dry, protected shade, and the special nature of wood, the substance of our native trees. Carbon storage in service to pedestrian, horse, and cart traffic!

 

The trail transected much of the Park property, extending from approximately 900-feet elevation creekside to 1,150 at its highpoint. The trail is wide, evenly graded, and generally smooth. The lower-slope mixed hardwood forest is dominated by black cherry, mixed oaks, hickory, and maples. I love the meandering path through the woods. I felt a bit of melancholy as I fell behind the two generations surging ahead. Sure, I attributed my trailing, in part, to stopping to capture images. Yet, I knew another cause to be aging knees and a more faltering sure-footedness. The melancholy came with recalling years ago that it was I who slowed my pace for Matt to keep up, and occasionally offered a hand or even a shoulder-perch to traverse a similar trail. The Brush Creek Trail completed a loop, not unlike life itself which navigates its own full circuit.

 

The foot-slope soils are deep, fertile, and moisture-rich. I marveled at the massive northern red oak we encountered!

 

I conducted my doctoral research on the black cherry dominated Allegheny Hardwood forests of north-central and northwest Pennsylvania. Here in Beaver County I was at the periphery of the species’ core range, where it excels in growth, form, and value like no other place. Sure, we have black cherry in northern Alabama, but it is more scrub-like and of poor commercial value. My heart rate elevated to be back in black cherry’s preferred range. I suppose to readers who do not share my forestry roots, my emotion- and sentiment-connection to an individual tree species may seem odd. I had not given this near-spiritual relationship much thought prior to drafting this Post. I now see a future Post focusing on this special attraction to black cherry.

 

The trail crosses numerous wet weather drains protected from foot traffic by some well-designed and sturdily-constructed foot bridges.

 

Sugar maple and black cherry stand shoulder to shoulder, 12 and 18-inches diameter, respectively (below left). Black cherry is shade intolerant, flourishing only when its crown reaches into the main canopy. Sugar maple tolerates shade, waiting patiently if necessary in the mid-canopy for some perturbation to free space above. The two crowns bear witness to the unique personalities of black cherry and sugar maple (below right). The black cherry resides in a canopy-dominant position (below right it is the left of the two stems). The sugar maple crown bends out to the photo’s right, most of its crown under the cherry’s full-sunlight position above it.

 

The sugar maple is patient, in large measure, because it is hard-wired to anticipate that its companion species will eventually fade. The black cherry above it may one day suffer the fate of this fallen black cherry, caught by its sturdy hickory neighbor. Somewhere above the fallen denizen a crown opening will soon fill-in, perhaps by a patient sugar maple below it.

Senior Forest Citizens and Tree Form Oddities

 

At creekside we found two ancient sugar maples, both large and coarse. I’m guessing that they have stood sentry by the creek for at least two centuries.

 

This old basswood likewise stands bankside at Brush Creek. These senior citizens, whether basswood or sugar maple, evidence the same coarse, wizened appearance, commanding deep respect and reverence from tree people like me. I felt moved to offer a silent salute and quiet moment of reflection.

 

Life at bankside can be wrought with peril. These three intrepid souls hang on as periodic flooding erodes their perch. They will eventually transition from shoreline shade generators to woody stream debris. Life, whether human or tree, travels full circle with time.

 

Black locust is a pioneer species across its range, colonizing disturbed areas with the first advance of woody species. The woodland we hiked still carries black locust relicts from past clearing, abandonment, and forest regeneration. Among many others we found these two locust skeletons. The remaining mixed species arrived and flourished in the second wave of tree conquest. The locust held on for as long as we can expect of a short-lived pioneer species. It served its purpose… and will once again be prepared to fulfill its mission if and when the current forest suffers some major disturbance.

 

Sweeping change is, in fact, occurring. The emerald ash borer has already swept white ash from the Park. Bark is sloughing from the 18-inch ash (below left). A canopy void exists (below right) where its crown has shed leaves, twigs, and branches. Once more, the cycle spins.

 

The borer’s larvae leave excavated galleries as they eat the living cambium beneath the bark. I mourn the loss of our white and green ashes as this introduced insect pest sweeps inexorably southward toward our Alabama forests. Our eastern USA hardwoods have suffered immeasurably from chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease, eliminating two foundation hardwood species. We now face a similar fate for our ashes. Nature will fill the void with other native species, but oh the price we pay for such devastating introduced insects and diseases.

 

Intersection of Human and Natural History

 

At the trail’s highest reach we discovered this stone foundation that I suppose housed former residents from the days when the property was part of a working enterprise composed of cropland, pasture, and woodlots. Ah, if only these stones and the trees could talk! I’ve said often that every parcel, stand, and tree has a story to tell, enriched at the intersection of human and natural history.

 

The bridge and its stone foundation likewise tell a story and, probably hold some secrets. Now, courtesy of a three-generation hike, Nathan has a story to share and perhaps lead a similar hike with a fourth generation…and beyond.

 

I am grateful for the chance to visit yet another special place…with special people.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature and our own lives move in circles and cycles… some stirring melancholy.
  • I embrace my mission to share Nature and her tales with family… and beyond.
  • Wherever I roam, Nature inspires and teaches lessons for life and living.

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.

Dutton Farm May Skies and Viewscapes

I returned to my Land Legacy Story project site, Dutton Farms near Flushing in east central Ohio, May 26-28, 2021. We scheduled the visit to correspond with the first annual Farm Day for the Dutton Land and Cattle enterprise. I had last been to the project site in September 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/11/25/late-september-wanderings-and-ramblings-on-my-ohio-land-legacy-project-site/

I will not cover the intent and Nature of the project in this Post. Watch for a subsequent Post reflecting on a Warm Season Grass trial we will establish on the property with faculty and graduate students from The Ohio State University College of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Farm Day

May 27, 2021, I helped (a tertiary role at best) host the first Annual Farm Day by taking the mic (no, that’s not me below left) to brief attendees on the land’s tale of 1850-1925 abusive agriculture; mid-20th century strip mining; current period of land reclamation to health and vitality through informed and responsible stewardship practices. A story of recovery and rehabilitation…a metamorphosis from wasteland to viable agricultural enterprise. The family (below right) is committed to stewardship across the three generations represented. I am pleased to be playing some small part in telling their Land Legacy Story for posterity and as a means of encouraging others to do same.

 

Three-day Skies and Vistas

My purpose with this Post is to highlight some elements of the Nature-Inspired Life and Living I experienced across those three days on-site. I arrived at the Dutton’s May 26 mid-day. I introduced a fellow retired forester (a former senior player with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry who lives within an hour to the north) to the Land Legacy Story on-site. Understanding the past treatment (85 percent of the 1,100 acres were stripped for coal at least once) is best accomplished, I’ve found, by first visiting the remaining high wall on the northeast side of the property. The old scar reminds us of the harsh past in ways that the reclaimed acreage belies. Even the high wall, however, expresses an aesthetic that we both appreciated that day. Nature has remarkable healing powers.

 

Later that afternoon we stopped by the Dutton’s recreational retreat, with everything in sight having been stripped and rehabilitated. To the uninitiated, few would imagine the blasting, scooping, dust, noise, and earth movers, followed by reshaping, seeding, and recovery.

 

These photos, too, present a landscape entirely stripped. It’s impossible to deny the pastoral beauty and appeal of the recovered land.

 

By late evening many of the invited guests, stakeholders, and international experts tracking the success and future of this unique enterprise had arrived. The gentlemen among our small group at the Cabin came from New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. I snapped the two photos in waning light at 8:58 and 9:01 PM.

 

By 9:30 AM May 27, the sky had cleared. I have never experienced a morning at the cabin that was not photo-worthy. I heard no echoes of the explosives and massive equipment that shaped this place of present-day peace, tranquility, and beauty.

 

Following a full day of demonstration, planning, and dreaming, dusk once again settled over the property. I snapped my final photo of the day at 9:02 PM May 27.

 

Dutton sunrises seldom disappoint. This 6:33 AM May 28 view is roughly aligned with the prior evening’s gloaming perspective. I grew up just 150 miles east of here in western Maryland. Because the westerlies assured that most of our weather came generally from west to east, I often heard, “Pink in the morning; sailors take warning. Pink at night; sailors delight.” A pinkish sunrise greeted me.

 

 

Less than three hours later, at 9:12 and 9:13 AM, the old weather wisdom had brought darkening and thickening clouds. I watched the weather radar as the bulk of the associated precipitation skirted to our south. A lifelong weather enthusiast, I welcomed the fearsome-looking (but toothless for us) clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gathered at the warm season grass trial site (watch for a subsequent Post) amid periods of light rain. I snapped this photo at 10:31 AM over the maturing cover crop of Triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye). I like the pale green under the wavy stratus.

 

Nitrogen-fixing Pasture Plants

 

Pasture clovers are nutritious and fix nitrogen. The forage specialists among us (others, not me) found pleasant satisfaction in seeing both birdsfoot trefoil (left) and black medick (right).

 

And purple crown vetch.

 

Happy and Healthy Animal Residents

 

The first day we interrupted a female painted turtle depositing eggs just above the cabin. We also spotted over the course of our visit a pair of great blue herons along the shoreline. The 1,100-acre site is ecologically diverse and rich.

 

I draw a sense of hope from the Dutton Farms story of Nature’s resilience and recovery when directed by the wisdom, knowledge, and hard work of dedicated, informed, and responsible Earth stewardship.

I stand in awe as I reflect upon the wonder and magic of three rather ordinary early summer days on an east-central Ohio farm recovering from a century-and-half of harsh treatment and degradation. I’m reminded of one of Albert Einstein’s Nature observations:

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

Every time I visit Dutton Farms I feel the dual senses of humility and inspiration. I am grateful for the chance to chronicle the tale of land resurrection.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my late May visit:

  • Even the mundane among Nature’s days fills me with wonder.
  • Nothing lifts me more than seeing Nature recover from harsh treatment!
  • Earth stewardship is a transcendent (and necessary) action.

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.

 

 

 

Evitts Creek Three Ponds

I admit to a decades-long Nature-love-affair with West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness and Wyoming’s Teton Mountains, among other sweet spots. Although not rising to love-affair status, my relationship to a handful of other places rates as lifelong friendships. I recall fishing with Dad at Evitts Creek Ponds at pre-school age some 65 years ago. I revisited the ponds May 24, 2021, stirring a few vivid memories and forcing me to discern changes from long ago. Spring 1970 my Systematic Botany lab traveled several times to the ponds in search of spring ephemerals as the season progressed from winter dormancy to a succession of species flowering before the mid-May semester close.

Three Ponds

 

My History with the Three Ponds

I left western Maryland to complete undergraduate studies out of state in late summer 1971, returning occasionally over the years to visit family and friends. When visits overlapped with spring wildflower season I would visit the three ponds. I believe that my May 2021 hike followed a two decade absence from the property. Once I entered the higher education senior administrative ranks (president at four different universities), I drifted professionally from my natural resources roots. Retirement has blessedly returned me to my passion-zone for Nature-Inspired Life and Living, releasing me from the distraction of business back at the respective university. I am now free of that burden. I can savor and relish total immersion in whatever natural area I visit, hence my celebration at returning to the three ponds, even with persistent rain that morning.

I’ll guide you across the diverse sites and soils I traversed to illustrate why professor Glenn O. Workman (Doc) brought his students here. We’ll begin with the location, oriented NE to SW along the left bank of Evitts Creek (Google Map aerial view): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.662306,-78.717083,663m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en-US

I’ve been unable to ferret the story explaining what prompted this DNR/Soil Conservation Project prior to the days of my youth. The mowed berm of the ponds (below left; view from the first pond to the SW) strikes me as little changed from my earliest fishing visits. I recall fishing along the hillside shoreline (below right), which I remember having far less forest and brush cover.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Below left is the view to the NE from the second pond. I do not remember the creekside border of trees (center left of that view). The 18-inch-long snapping turtle (below right) cruised along the surface of the third pond. I did not capture a clear image of the several hefty largemouth bass I saw as I hiked past the ponds.

Three Ponds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fields and pond margins provided conditions for early spring meadow habitat flowers, all distinct from what Doc knew we would find blooming within the forests.

The Forest

A small stream (likely seasonal) entered the southwest corner of the third pond. This leaning sycamore stands just 40 feet from its channel on rich alluvial soil. The sylvan hollow adjacent to the drainage area, with high overhead canopy and deep shade likewise harbored its own set of spring ephemerals for our course lab visits, to include trilliums, trout lily, bluebells, and other species common to moist, rich, and sheltered sites. Speaking of shelter, I made it on my exit from the woods to the tree’s protective overhanging trunk (below right) just as a heavy shower arrived. I enjoyed the rain-show there for 10-15 minutes.

Three Ponds

 

A 24-inch diameter white oak with its mossy trunk stood in a draw (see the leafy debris to its left from a recent freshet) entering the small stream from the east. The perspective below right of the same tree illustrates the slope lifting away convexly (from right to left) to the north. The slope therefore faces to the south (a south aspect), a hotter and drier slope position, less favorable to tree growth, particularly on the shaley soils here in Allegany County.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

I followed the slope to the ridge top running east/west south of the ponds. I came across a hickory tree (below left) eager to point the way to a destination undisclosed to us human travelers. An Indian Marker Tree — no. Perhaps it is a tree-spirit marker tree? I like that mystical (and mythical) suggestion. Nearby, the chestnut oak (below right), just 10-12 inches in  diameter, has the most deeply furrowed bark I have ever seen. Like some small dogs I have met, this tree’s bark stands out from its peers! These two trees are certainly unique…but why? Why is a hickory pointing to the right on my Blog Post page? Why does this chestnut oak have such a deeply furrowed brow? I can only surmise. Rather than I surmising for you, I suggest that you put your own imagination to work. I say often that every parcel of land…every tree…has a story to tell. What is your story for these two forest denizens?

Three Ponds

 

Traipsing up the convex south-facing slope, I saw clear evidence of its xeric nature. Stocking (the density of trees per acres) declined; heights shortened; species composition shifted to predominantly white and chestnut oaks;  mosses and lichens increasingly covered the forest floor.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Lichens and mosses flourished in cushiony mounds.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Lowbush blueberry and rattlesnake weed likewise are quite content on these excessively well-drained, inherently low fertility upper west- and south-facing slopes.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Yet, even these relatively poor sites evidence the continuing cycle of life and death. The wood ear mushrooms (below left) are the fruiting bodies of the fungi consuming the dead branch lying on the forest floor. I have since found enough wood ear mushrooms here in Alabama to attest to their culinary attributes. Wood peckers are foraging for beetle larvae on the downed Virginia pine stem below right.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Among the prior autumn’s leaf litter, the flowers of an oak root parasite (AKA cancer root, bear corn, squaw root) are sprouting.

Three Ponds

 

 

 

 

 

As I said earlier in the Post, as a youngster I would walk along and fish from the shear far-side of the ponds. I stayed on the Evitts Creek side on this visit for two reasons. I believe that the brush and tree growth is more of a thicket than it was then. Secondly, I am far less sure-footed and nimble now! I am not in the mood to tumble into the drink!

Three Ponds

 

I owe much of my thirst for Nature-knowledge to Doc Workman, who remains my hero and career-long mentor. We have stayed close over the fifty-plus years since that systematic botany course. A few years ago Judy and I helped endow a named Allegany College of Maryland forestry scholarship in his honor. I urge readers to consider contributing to the endowed fund.

Charitable donations can be made to the Dr. Glenn O. Workman, Jr. Scholarship with checks made payable to the Allegany College of Maryland Foundation and mailed to the following address:

      Allegany College of Maryland Foundation, Inc.

      12401 Willowbrook Road, SE

      Cumberland, MD  21502

I have occasionally used this axiom over my career: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Doc cared…and that made all the difference in the world…for me and for those I’ve touched over my own career! Help me carry Doc’s legacy forward through the annual scholarship.

 

I view Doc through both the lens of an 18-year-old forestry freshman and the eyes of a former president of four universities. Life has been kind to me by placing me with mentors who mattered…and who cared.

 

See my November 2017 Post paying tribute to Doc: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2017/11/28/sowing-seeds-tomorrow/

Again, Please consider furthering Doc’s legacy. I now see a man in his low 90s, yet, I will always remember and salute the 40-year-old dynamo who provided wind beneath my wings.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • We all are time travelers; I’ve covered six and one-half decades since my first visit to this place of deep Nature-memories.
  • I relish stirring fond ancient recollections in places of long ago familiarity. 
  • Perhaps my words and photos will inspire others to visit and reflect upon such places. 

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.

 

 

DeSoto State Park Addition Upstream of DeSoto Falls

July 15, 2021, in conjunction with the quarterly Alabama State Parks Foundation Board meeting, I attended the official on-site announcement of an additional 157 acres to Desoto State Park. The tract lies just upstream of DeSoto Falls on the port (left) side of the West Fork of the Little River. This view looks across the river from the ceremony site. The addition lies upstream (to our left) on that opposite side of the river.

DeSoto

 

Relative to the 48,000 acres of existing State Parks, 157 acres may sound meager. However, 157 acres (well, 160 acres to be exact) is equivalent to a square block of land with one-half-mile sides! We have all heard references to the back forty… the addition is just shy of four back forties! I’ve published several of these Great Blue Heron Posts highlighting a particular 40-acre parcel donated a few years ago to Monte Sano State Park. Here’s one that exemplifies how significant even a single forty can be: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/12/04/memory-and-legacy-for-a-sailor-and-hero/

DeSoto State Park covered 3,502 acres, now 3,659! That’s a 4.5 percent increase, which also seems a bit unimpressive. However, it adds more than 1,000 feet of river frontage, an addition that is aesthetically, environmentally, and recreationally quite significant! That’s how Conservation Department Commissioner Chris Blankenship described the addition at the lectern (below left) and in responding to media (below right).

 

DeSoto

DeSoto

 

 

 

 

 

The early afternoon weekday ceremony attracted an appreciative audience (below left in shorts), including Randy Owen (below right), lead singer for the internationally known country group Alabama, home-based in nearby Fort Payne.

 

 

Another view from the site validates my wonder and appreciation for the West Fork of the Little River, tranquil here just a few hundred feet from where it drops 104 feet over the falls. Absolute peace and tranquility beneath a cerulean firmament.

DeSoto

 

That peace and tranquility drifts serenely away over the next couple of hundred feet (below left)…until the drifting accelerates, tumbles, foams, and drops (below right).

DeSotoDeSoto

 

The sky doesn’t notice, hanging royally over both the languid and the tempestuous. The river carried a good mid-July flow owing to ample July rains.

DeSoto

 

However, the falls showed a more violent face when I visited April 23, 2019 after extended heavy rains! It roared its appreciation for downpours, water volume, terrain, and gravity. The power of water increases exponentially, in this image orders of magnitude greater than during my July 15 visit. I felt a sense of pleasurable terror, a feeling of my own nothingness in a world where Nature rules.

 

The DeSoto Falls plunge basin (the semi-circular cliffs and deep pool beneath the falls) evidences the power of epic events, forces well above and beyond the still impressive July 15 flow. I recall visiting a creek in New Hampshire where the summer before had brought a real frog-strangler, a nearly stationary thunderstorm that sat in place for hours. The resultant flooding washed out bridges and destroyed buildings creekside. My host, a biology faculty member at the university I served as president, told me with full confidence that this unprecedented flood was attributable to human-induced climate change, a clarion call to action. I stood bankside marveling at the scouring from the prior season’s flood reaching far above the then rather calm water level. I could see clearly that the flash flood was one of note. However, I also noticed that in the stream channel and all along its course, huge, automobile- home-size rounded boulders rested in place awaiting the next major torrent. The evidence suggested to me that the prior year’s flood was nothing new to this stream. Those rocks told a tale…that this stream writes its signature in form of periodic flash floods, events that occur routinely over centuries, even if not within the time horizon of current human inhabitants.

DeSoto

 

Nature is docile by and large, even as she can be wildly variable. I have lived twice near Syracuse, New York, for which 11-13,000 years ago its current footprint lay under a mile-thick continental ice sheet. The climate warmed; the ice melted; the land is still rebounding (isostatic rebound) from the crust-depressing weight of the ice sheet. Whether the terrain-shaping event is periodic continental glaciation (separated by tens of millennia) or epic flash flooding every few score years, the landscape signature owes to the anomalies and not to the docile flow of the West Fork July 15. Unless we can read Nature’s language we might erroneously attribute each and every storm, drought, cold spell, heat wave, and perturbation as a direct result of human-induced climate change. From Wikipedia, In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they stay the same. I believe Karr’s 170-year-old wisdom applies to climate.

John Muir’s Wisdom Remains Timeless

DeSoto State Park Naturalist Brittany Hughes organized the stair-riser mosaic ascending from the falls observation point.

DeSoto

 

The mosaic treats visitors to one of my (and Brittany’s) favorite John Muir quotes  — Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. My wanderings in Nature do just that…heal and give strength to my own body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. We are blessed in Alabama to have 21 State parks totaling 48,000 acres, with at least one Park easily within reach of every Alabama citizen, from Gulf Coast, to Appalachian Mountains, to the Tennessee River. Among those Parks, DeSoto is special, according to the Alabama Tourism Department, the fifth most visited Park and Natural Destination in Alabama (May 2021 Report):

  1. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
  2. Little River Canyon National Preserve
  3. Oak Mountain State Park
  4.  Wind Creek State Park
  5. DeSoto State Park

Note: July 16, 2021, Outdoor Alabama (The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) posted an article about the ceremony: https://www.outdooralabama.com/articles/desoto-state-park-adds-157-acres-adjacent-little-river . I do not know how long the article will be accessible.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • We in Alabama are blessed to have a State Park System still evolving and growing.
  • Assuring our collective Future-Nature requires investing now.
  • Exploring nature enriches my life, healing and giving strength to my own body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. 

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 BooksDeSoto

 

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.