Nothing in Nature is Static
Beginning July 12, I embarked upon a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks, and an eight-day, three-National Parks tour of southeastern Kazakhstan. Three days after returning to Madison, Alabama I met with ten Alabama State Parks Naturalists, assistant Naturalists, and staff at DeSoto State Park. The next morning I ventured forth on several trails that I had hiked most recently in mid-April, the morning after three inches of rain during a period when spring rains had already been ample: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/05/15/the-magic-of-waters-thunder-at-desoto-state-park/
We had discussed the prior evening that some visitors assume that a single visit is sufficient for them to “know” a particular Park and its environs. Such is not the case. Nothing in Nature is static… not for a day, a week, a month, a season, a year, a decade. The rate of perceptible change increases exponentially with extended time. Aldo Leopold wrote exquisitely of the seasonal fluxes on his Wisconsin farm (A Sand County Almanac, 1949). Many other environmental writers have done same, although not exceeding Leopold’s prose. I don’t intend to challenge Leopold’s nearly-lyrical supremacy, yet I do dare to demonstrate with text and photos the sweeping differences between my April 18-20 visit to DeSoto and my August 27 trek. On both hikes my boots grew soggy, my clothes saturated, and camera lens foggy. The big difference was that very little rain had fallen at DeSoto since the first of July. The half-inch that had fallen the night before and continued occasionally that morning had wet the vegetation and trail surface without generating surface flow.
Indian Falls ran full in April; nothing flowed over the foreground ledge in August. Water roaring versus near-silence except for canopy drip. Light levels the same.
Above Indian falls the August stream bed carried only the early leaf-drop promise of fall and its autumn rains. Trees here in the south are accustomed to late summer and early fall droughts. They don’t need cool nights and shortened days to trigger leaf senescence, abscission layer forming, and leaf-drop. The April canopy had not yet fully developed; August crowns had already begun to thin.
Even Lodge Falls carried good discharge in April. Not a drop beyond rain-dampened bed-stones in August.
Lost Falls pounded in April; a trickle dripped over the ledge in August. Who says a single visit reveals a Park, much less the hundreds of nooks and crannies within!
Azalea Cascade sits at the end of a several-hundred yard boardwalk through a tunnel of mature hardwood forest. April gifted me with a clear-water pool amidst the boulders, fed by the cascade tumbling from above. August offered bare rock with just a bit of pooled water… a refuge for minnows, crawdads, salamanders, and frogs.
I wrote at length about the very special sandstone glades (from my April visit) in this June 5, 2019 Post: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/05/sandstone-glades-at-desoto-state-park/ The April glades literally flowed with the prior night’s rain (below left), the shallow bedrock generally blocking percolation and forcing surface flow. The August glades (below right) show wet rock, faded vegetation, and an absence of lush growth.
Again, the lower left photo demonstrates surface water and rich greens; the lower right rock surface carries a burden of shed maple leaves. I think of my stints in the more northern eastern US (Upstate New York; Central Pennsylvania; New Hampshire), where fall kicks in the late summer door, ejecting those lazy, hazy, days without quibble or resistance. Here in the south, summer simply begins letting go, backing out the door, exhausted from months of luxurious growing, extended periods of heat, and now diminishing rains… long before fall threatens to enter the neighborhood.
I celebrated seeing lush patches of elf orpine (Diamorpha smallii) in flower (below left; pinkish cluster at rock’s edge). Below right most April vegetation had long since senesced. The prior night’s rain, pooled on the rock, reflects a Virginia pine beyond.
Little difference in lichen and moss growth and luxuriousness appears between the April and August photos (left and right, respectively below). The August overnight rain had freshened both of these non-flowering plants, which are well-adapted to these sites and the associated periodic droughts. The August image evidences the new leaf fall.
Nature’s Weathering of a Trail Marker’s Handiwork
I noticed the handiwork and humor a trail maintenance person had employed re-marking the orange trail, creating a pumpkin on a pine cronartium scar. I retook the photo in August, remembering the artwork and curious to compare the images for any visible four-month weathering. Sure enough, Nature had exacted her own handiwork. Nature, even in her most gentle manner, is relentless. Nothing is static. Nothing escapes her persistent ways. I have become a tireless proponent for the Alabama State Park System to seek funding to begin a systematized plan to establish permanent photo points, GPS-located, azimuth-controlled, and scheduled for re-taking on some routine schedule, perhaps every 3-7 years. People generally believe that forests are unchanging, static forevermore. Photo comparisons tell no lies… and evidence changes, often rapidly, in most cases predictably, and always convincingly. Simple words never match the power of images.
Without the above photos, I would not likely have observed a difference.
Although certainly not the same lichen (both appear to be of the genus Usnea), I see little difference between April (left with newly emerged grape leaves and rhododendron flowers as backdrop) and the late August rain-soaked tandem of lichen and moss (right with a backdrop of dry leaves and needles). I believe the freshening rain served as the great equalizer.
I loved the algae-greened bark furrows on the April bole (left) and embraced seeing the same look in August (right). Common on both is the prior night’s stem-flow sufficient even in the less intense August rain to wet the entire trunk. Nature abhors a vacuum, filling even the most seeming unlikely places with life.
My August trek enlightened with more than just this April-to-August ecological comparison. I’ll save for a subsequent post my observations and reflections on non-flowering plants, the native black birch’s propensity to cling like hell to its rock, some great sandstone glades late summer flowering gems, and the early signs of summer stepping gracefully and graciously aside for autumn.
Thoughts and Reflections
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 (co-authored with Dr. Jennifer J. Wilhoit; 2019) 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. All three are available on Indiebound (https://www.indiebound.org/) and other online sources. 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.
Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:
- Nothing in Nature is static; change is constant, usually predictable, yet difficult to see.
- A single visit to any Alabama State Park opens a glimpse in time… a single snapshot of the wonders that shift day-to-day, week-to-week, season-to-season, and year-to-year.
- To experience a Park deeply, visit time and time again
Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire and Reward you!
Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: https://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/
And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- 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!
Alabama State Parks Foundation
I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76
Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:
Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our first co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529