September 2023 Red Oak Lightning Strike Revisited May 2024!

Discovering A Lightning-Struck Mighty Oak


I often discover evidence of Nature’s fury when I wander the forests of northern Alabama. I conduct forensic forestry, mentally recreating the time and nature of the circumstances and events leading to what lies before me. This photo essay reports a situation I encountered on September 16, 2023, offers my reflections and follows with my subsequent observations and photographs from my return visit on May 28, 2024.

On September 16, 2023, I visited the riparian forest along HGH Road in Madison County’s central reaches of Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Always on the alert for signs of Nature’s forces at work, I found this 30-inch diameter red oak struck by lightning in the prior week’s thunderstorms. Bark stripped from ground to canopy top, spears of trunk surface wood shattered, the tree expresses the unfathomable power of a single lightning bolt.

HGH Road


The oak’s foliage high above me showed no sign of wilting, suggesting that the tree could survive. Time would tell. I’ve seen trees scarred from base to crown that survived a powerful strike decades ago. How will this one fare?

This 31-second video hints at the violent underside of Nature’s incredible magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration. I am convinced that to fully appreciate Nature’s beauty, we must sense, comprehend, understand, and witness the beast. Two sides of the same coin: Beauty and the Beast! I believe the strike will prove fatal. I’ve noted its location so that I may return to confirm its fate…or survival.


Assessing the Oak’s Fate Eight Months Hence


After the intervening dormant season, I returned to the once mighty oak May 28, 2024. I approaches the tree with baited breath. The tree stands as tall as it did in September. At first glance it remains a monarch, its 30-inch diameter larger than any of its neighbors.



Its scarred and stripped bark reaches, as it did in September, from its base to the crown.


However, the crown is barren. I feel a sense of loss that the tree did not survive the fatal blast. A weak counter to my feeling of loss is the faint satisfaction that my September prediction of demise bore true. I hope I am not projecting a sense of disciplinary (forestry) smugness in the photograph at right.
















Forestry is a science. Forestry practice (forest management) involves both art and science. The art involves seeing what is objectively and quantitatively unknowable. I brought a lifetime of forestry science and practice to my September assessment, yet I visited the oak in May absolutely uncertain of what I would find. What I do know is that Nature operates according to laws established by forces existing long before man walked on Earth. Leonardo da Vinci observed that obvious truth 500 years ago:

Nature never breaks her own laws.

The oak could not counter Nature’s own laws. All of us who practice forestry and applied ecology (my disciplinary fields; BS and PhD) must remember that Nature rules. Our education and knowledge are limited; we can never know all. Although I got this one correct (i.e. the tree died), I am far from all-knowing. Regardless, I will continue to play the forestry forensics game. I will win some; I will lose many. As a consequence of engaging, I will learn and perhaps improve my batting average.

Albert Einstein echoed the advice I have self-adopted:

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

I focused my first book, Nature Based Leadership, on the lessons Nature offers for leading. My second book, Nature Inspired Learning and Leading, suggests applying her wisdom to both leading and learning. I believe that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is written indelibly in and is inspired compellingly by Nature.

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations:

  • Nature never breaks her own laws. (Leonardo da Vinci)
  • Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)
  • Our education and knowledge are limited; we can never know all. (Yours truly)

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


Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at


A 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 by 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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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 sauntering and exploring 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 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 grandkids, 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





My first three 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. The three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship with the natural world…and the broader implications for society. Order any of the three from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

My fourth book, published by Dutton Land and Cattle Company, Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story, is available for purchase directly from me.