A 25-month Retrospective on Tornado Damage at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 29, 2022, I co-led a Joe Wheeler State Park half-day tour as part of the Focus on Nature Weekend. We walked the Day Use and Campground areas, devastated by a December 2019 tornado. Both Park use-areas are scheduled to be reopened this spring. I offer photos, observations, and reflections on the Joe Wheeler SP tornado. However, this Alabama State Park is not alone in suffering tornado damage in recent years. Tornados have hit four of our 21 Alabama State Parks since April 27, 2011; I’ll mention those incidents below. This Post does not include any mention of at least two hurricanes that have impacted Gulf State Park over the same period.

Occasionally I muse with numbers…in this case, mulling the odds of four tornados hitting our State Parks over a nine-year period. The 21 Alabama State Parks account for 48,000 acreas, which is one 698th of the state’s total area of 33,548,160 acres. Alabama records an average of 46 tornados annually. Over the nine year period (2011 to 2019), at the annual rate of 46, we would have expected 414 of these severe tornadic storms across the state. Therefore, I conclude that our four tornado State Park touch-downs account for approximately one percent of the period’s tornados, even though our Parks represent just 0.0014 percent of the state’s area. That makes our incidence of tornado impact seem way beyond the law of averages…that we somehow serve as a target, that our Parks attract tornados! I remind us that tornadoes touch more than just a single spot — we must consider the area impacted by a single report.

What I don’t know is:

  • the actual number of tornados over the period
  • the average length of the actual tornados
  • the average width of same

If these three variables were known (perhaps they are) we could calculate the average annual area impacted. Using only the number of tornados yields little to allow me to assess whether our Park incidence rate is relatively high or low. Let’s make some simple assumptions: average width = 0ne-quarter mile; average length = four miles; 640 acres per reported tornado. At 414 tornados over the period, the acreage impacted is 264,960, 0.0079 percent of the state’s area. Given my ignorance-fueled estimate of average tornado width and length, I am less inclined to conclude that our State Parks attract tornados!

Okay, having brought my musings to a close, I am now content that when visiting an Alabama State Park I am not slipping into the bullseye risk zone for being wind-whisked into eternity!

I shall continue, withour fear or deep concern, to give my passion for Nature-learning free reign, leading me into the forest…believing, looking, seeing, feeling, and acting on behalf of Earth Stewardship through my 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. The spirit and vision of John Muir live within me.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can. (Muir)

Joe Wheeler State Park

Let’s shift to Joe Wheeler State Park. I captured this first image in June 2020, the summer after the strike. The storm totaled the Day-Use Area bath house below and closed this area and the campground through all of 2020 and 2021. Park management hope to reopen by mid-March.

 

The view from the slope base in the Day-Use Area looks across the clean-swept tornado path to the far side (and beyond) of the Lake Wheeler inlet. In the immediate aftermath, this entire viewscape was a jumble of twisted and downed trees, along with other storm-tossed infrastructure. Thank God the area stood vacant when the twister ravaged the site.

Joe Wheeler

 

This sweetgum stayed vertical and retained its crown, although stripped of all branches on the windward side (facing the camera).

Joe Wheeler

 

Picnic shelter number two suffered serious  damage. I am not sure whether management’s intent is to repair (I doubt it) or replace. For now its stands as a memorial to wild December weather.

Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler

 

I think that most of us, had we been in the Day-Use Area on a summer afternoon with thunderstorms brewing would have sought shelter among the concrete picnic tables within the shelter. After all, it is identified as a shelter! Nature at her worst operates by brute force, humans beware. Nothing is more critical to outdoor enthusiasts of all manner than tracking pending severe conditions and listening for alerts, watches, and warnings.

John Muir observed Nature through wisdom’s eyes:

One should go to the woods for safety, if for nothing else. [As with all advice, be alert to exceptions.]

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.

What a psalm the storm was singing, and how fresh the smell of the washed earth and leaves, and how sweet the still small voices of the storm!

Monte Sano, Lake Guntersville, and Oak Mountain State Parks Tornados

Monte Sano

I snapped these Monte Sano tornado damage photos below on March 22, 2018. I Published a Blog Post in September 2020, chronicaling the affected forest recovery four growing seasons beyond the tornado: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/09/23/four-year-tornado-forest-recovery-at-monte-sano-state-park/#:~:text=November%2029%2C%202016%2C%20a%20weak%20tornado%20%28EF-0%3B%20winds,four%20full%20growing%20seasons%20since%20the%20November%20storm.

I began that four-year recovery Post with these words: November 29, 2016, a weak tornado (EF-0; winds 40-72 mph or EF-1; 73-112 mph) touched down briefly at the northern bluff-edge of Monte Sano State Park’s North Plateau Trail. 

The view looks to the northeast across valley fields, forests, and the urbanizing landscape.

Monte Sano SP

 

I’m standing on the North Plateau Trail. The campground lies just uphill (to my right). The winds savagely uprooted the oak (below right).

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

Again, Nature is oblivious to human lives and infrastructure. The Monte Sano tornado side-swiped the Park’s campground. Park staff provided this photo they took the afternoon the tornado hit. The RV in the foreground evidences that the twister came perilously close!

Monte Sano

JWSP Staff Photo

 

We are the ones who must be vigilant.

 

Lake Guntersville

The Lake Guntersville State Park tornado struck April 27, 2011, the date of the double-barreled front that, among other blows, devastated Tuscaloosa. The front spawned 65 tornadoes statewide. Nature’s power is both magnificent and terrifying. Above all, we who celebrate her incredible beauty, magic, wonder, and awe, must also understand her ways and respect her fury. Again, we are the ones who must be observant and vigilant.

Tornadoes, not tax fight, may be fatal blow for ...Tornadoes, not tax fight, may be fatal blow for ...

Internet Stock photos

 

Oak Mountain

Oak Mountain State Park suffered tornado damage in April 2021. Then Park Superintendent Kelly Ezell provided these photos that she took the morning after the storm hit.

Oak Mountain

 

I visited the Park within a week (April 14, 2021) for other reasons…and insisted upon a side trip to the tornado-ravaged sector. Most of the damage had been cleared from the Park roads, yet the tree damage is severe within the adjoining forest. I will commit to returning in several growing seasons hence to monitor recovery, which I am sure will be rapid.

Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal. (Muir)

Oak Mountain

 

Again, Nature operates with brute force, but with no malicious intent.

All Nature’s wildness tells the same story: the shocks and outbursts of earthquakes, volcanoes, geysers, roaring, thundering waves and floods, the silent uprush of sap in plants, storms of every sort, each and all, are the orderly, beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart. (Muir)

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Earth has no sorrow that she cannot heal (Muir).
  • Nature’s brutal furiosity is tempered only by her sublime glory (Muir).
  • Nature’s power to humble and inspire is without limit, whether in her grandeur or her violence.

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

 

Late January Sunsets at Joe Wheeler State Park

Preface

I drafted the text of this Post in February, at least a month before posting it March 30 (today), six days after I suffered a stroke March 24. I offer in these prefatory remarks two particulary poignant quotes from my original draft, which I present unaltered following the Preface.

Life on Earth cycles through transitions, whether diurnal, seasonal, or generational. I know I am looking into my own sunset, far removed from my long-ago dawn.

My own days pass ever more quickly. I wonder, will I go gentle into that good night?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

 

Original Unaltered Post

 

January 29 and 30, 2022, I participated in the Focus on Nature Weekend at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park as a volunteer staff member, co-leading one of the three Saturday field trips. I focus this Post on evening and sunset sky photos both Friday and Saturday evenings.

Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.
― Aldo Leopold

Friday January 28, 2022

January 28, 2022, I snapped a forest canopy photograph, backdropped by the late afternoon sky (3:52 PM), dotted with a few cumulus associated with the arctic front ushering some much colder air into north Alabama. Retired Alabama State Park Naturalist Emeritus Mike Ezell and I were just departing the Multi-Use Trail heading to the Day Use area. Snow flurries accompanied our hike on the trail.

Joe Wheeler

 

We wandered along the Lake Wheeler shoreline (4:52 PM) as the sinking sun hid behind the near-horizon cumulus.

Joe Wheeler

 

The photo a minute later picked up the overhang (upper left) of the hilltop picnic shelter at 4:53 PM, when Mike and I departed for the nearby cabins…to what Mike assured me would be a better sunset viewing location.

Joe Wheeler

 

Mike nailed it! At 5:04 PM we caught the sun dropping to the horizon. We could not have selected a better moment to bid farewell to our winter sun.

Joe Wheeler

 

Dropping closer to the shorline, I captured this image, as a snow shower slipping from the north (right of the sun) shortly thereafter captured the orb. Although certainly not on par with the blinding lake effect snow bands we experienced regularly during our winters in Syracuse, NY, I enjoyed the combination of a sunset gift and the unusual sight of an Alabama snow shower.

Joe Wheeler

 

I am blessed to have been included in the Focus on Nature Weekend, which brought me to two sunsets at the Park, the second the following evening.

Saturday January 29

Late afternoon (3:53 PM) found me in the Day Use area, monitoring the sun’s traverse of a crystal sky, and feeling the mid-30s chill.

Joe Wheeler

 

By 5:01 PM the group I co-led had positioned lakeside to enjoy sunset.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The setting sun kissed the horizon at 5:09, then sunk into the forest on the opposite shore of Lake Wheeler.

Joe Wheeler

 

At 5:14 and 5:16, light began fading as the chill deepened.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I love both dawn and sunset, the first a brightening start for a day of promise, and then the gloaming (5:18 and 5:22 PM) that precedes a cold winter’s night. Life on Earth cycles through transitions, whether diurnal, seasonal, or generational. I know I am looking into my own sunset, far removed from my long-ago dawn. Yet I understand that such is the way of life, spurring my own pratice of Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

Joe Wheeler

 

At 5:25 PM, already dark in the forest, the western sky faded rapidly, reminding me that my maternal grandmother observed. “The older I get, the faster time passes.” Today I understand…and agree. My own days pass ever more quickly. I wonder, will I go gentle into that good night?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

Or, will I yield quietly and contentedly as did January 29 as we held vigil, peering westward from the Day Use shoreline?

Joe Wheeler

 

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. – John Muir

By my intimacy with nature I find myself withdrawn from man. My interest in the sun and the moon, in the morning and the evening, compels me to solitude.Henry David Thoreau

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I love both dawn and sunset, the first a brightening start for a day of promise, and then the gloaming.
  • Life on Earth cycles through transitions, whether diurnal, seasonal, or generational.
  • Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. – John Muir

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

 

 

48 Hours: from Tornado Warnings to Winter Storm Warnings (Trial 2)

The Madison, Alabama (my home) weather span of 29 hours and 46 minutes, from New Year’s Day at 4:32 PM to January 2, at 10:18 PM, shifted from tornado watch to severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings to winter weather advisory to winter storm warning! I’ve said often that I could not thrive living where weather is constant and dull. The rapidity of change thrills me. The combination of the scale, scope, and power of change humbles and inspires me. This Post chronicles those nearly 30 hours with photos, observations, and reflections.

I have a lifelong fascination with weather. I wrote extensively about my weather addiction/obsession in Nature Based Leadership (2016), the opening paragraph of Chapter Seven, Snow in the Arc Light:

My elderly mother (now deceased) tells me that her older sister, Geraldine, tried to frighten the toddler me of thunderstorms. Perhaps she feared them herself. Although I do not remember at all, Mom says Geraldine would exclaim with a sense of alarm, “Dark clouds, rain hard, Stevie; time to hide.” Nor do I recall ever being frightened by lightning, thunder, ominous clouds, wind, or any other manifestation of nature’s more threatening moods. Instead, Aunt Geraldine may have unintentionally ignited my lifelong love affair with weather, even adverse conditions.

The two-day period I present in this Post offered considerable grist for my weather mill. New Year’s Day (2022) we reached a high of 75 degrees in Madison, Alabama, as a strong cold front approached from the northwest. Severe thunderstorms and two tornado-warned cells crossed Madison County, my home, that evening. January 2, 2022 offered an early morning high of 57 degrees. The temperature fell into the upper 30s by late afternoon as a low pressure system formed along the trailing cold front. Rain changed over to wind-driven snow by 8:30 PM as the temperature fell to 30 degrees. I’ll walk you through that wild period with photographs and reflections.

January 1, 2022 Tornado Watch to Warning

New Year’s morning (6:24 AM) dawned calmly with alto-cumulus backdropping the hardwood forest at the entrance to my development.  Forecasters hinted at the evening potential for servere weather. By 3:48 PM (below right), the sky hinted that change was imminent…and the NWS had placed us under a tornado watch.

 

Looking west at 4:32 PM, darkening and thickening clouds portended the line of thunderstorms then radar-visible crossing from northeast Mississippi into Alabama.

 

The first storms arrived two hours later, when cell after cell charged from west to east across the Madison area. Two of the individual storms generated tornado warnings. The first one passed far enough to the north that we did not retreat to our shelter. We had less confidence of the second storm’s track, moving east at 55 miles per hour, so we entered the shelter, staying there for ten minutes until the warning sirens stopped wailing. Fortunately, neither tornado-warned storm dropped a twister.

January 2, 2022 Evolving Wnter Storm Warning

Our morning temperature reached 57 degrees, far too warm for me to anticipate much in the way of wintry precipitation, yet the NWS had issued a winter weather advisory. As temperatures fell into the upper 30s and the radar-indicated rain shield expanded over Mississippi and Arkansas, the NWS upgraded the advisory to a winter storm warning. That caught my interest! With the onset of rain at 6:30 PM, I paid more attention to our real time temperature, the nature of falling precipitation, and the radar-depicted rain/snow line.
I noticed our rain transitioning to wet snow at 8:30. The changeover was complete at 8:59 when I snapped these two images. Moderate snow had begun coating all but our stone pathways, which still held heat from the warmer days. The temperature had fallen to just above freezing.

 

 

By 9:50 and 9:51 PM, we had dropped below 32 degrees as snowfall intensified.

 

At 10:18 heavy wind-driven snow covered all surfaces, including the street in front of our home.

 

Ten minutes later, once again in the backyard, the snow had accumulated to two inches, which is equal to our annual average snowfall.

 

At the same time, even our stone walkways are covered with snow.

 

I went to bed shortly thereafter.

Pre-Dawn January 3

 

I snapped these photos at 4:46 AM, long after the snow had ceased. Five inches coated our landscaping. Although still full darkness, the camera captured the reflected light quite well with a three-second exposure.

 

I am a confessed snow fanatic, especially here in the south where it is a rarity. At the time I took these photos, the temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska, where we lived from 2004-08 was 39 degrees below zero, with a snowpack 34 inches deep. One might wonder how I could get so excited about these rather tame Madison, Alabama winter conditions. The answer is simple — this is the best I can hope for in northern Alabama. One of my favorite places in the US is Grand Teton National Park, yet visiting Alabama’s Cheaha State Park fills me with wonder and appreciation. My ratings for scale, scope, and grandeur shift with where I happen to be. I’ve been to Yosemite’s giant sequoias, Callifornia’s redwoods, and the giant douglas firs of Oregon and Washington, yet October 2021, I stood in awe at The Big Tree in Alabama’s Bankhead National Forest.

 

As I write these words on January 7, all traces of snow are gone. In contrast, the Fairbanks snowpack may be all gone by the end of April. Each year we lived there, dirty residual piles of snow remained the fourth of July where the city had dumped snow removed from city streets and parking lots during the long winter. I loved living there, yet I also love living where a single snowstorm can drop 2.5 times the average annual snowfall and the ground be clear within five days!

By Dawn’s Early Light

Dawn brought cloudy but brightening sky (7:15 AM), revealing the snow/wind-coated northwest faces of tree trunks and shrubs.

 

Like so much in the realm of my Nature observation, capturing images is less about my photography prowess (for goodness sake, I use an iPhone!), and much more about getting into the out there, being observant, and understanding what is important to me, whether a snowy landscape, fresh mushrooms, spring wildflowers, or a special forest setting.

Sun Brings Glory

All of the prior images could pass for black and white. Once the skies cleared, color emerged, sharp and brilliant in the light-flooded snow- and sky-scape (11:32 AM). Note that already the stone pathways are once again snow free due to the combination of sun hitting from above and the stones’ warmth melting from below.

 

I publish these photo-essays around the theme of Nature-Inspired Life and Living. Some might wonder how photos and reflections from a suburban landscape can be considered Nature. I submit that Nature is where we seek it, even if that means right here in my backyard. The severe weather and snow do not know whether they are affecting urban or wildland. Moreover, I didn’t care. I do indeed find Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe wherever I happen to be. In my younger Nature-purist days, I would have scoffed at my present relative view of Nature. I would have demanded wildness. Today, I take what I can whether at home or in nearby wildlands. Who can argue with the beauty and magic of this snowy landscape.

 

 

These two images span 29 hours and 46 minutes, from New Year’s Day at 4:32 PM to January 2, at 10:18 PM, from tornado watch to winter storm warning! I said often that I could not thrive living where weather is constant and dull. The rapidity of change thrills me. The combination of the scale, scope, and power of change humbles and inspires me.

 

 

 

I will long remember those 29 hours. The period temporarily sated my weather obsession/addiction, yet I will continue to watch for the next episode. I vow to find and appreciate Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe wherever I am.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I offer these observations:

  • I am a confessed snow fanatic, especially here in the south where it is a rarity.
  • I could not thrive living where weather is constant and dull.
  • I submit that Nature is where I seek it, even if that means right here in my backyard.

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

Cheaha State Park October 20 and 21, 2021: Dusk to Dawn Sequence

I returned to Cheaha State Park October 20, 2021, for an Alabama State Parks Foundation evening reception and dinner, and next day Board meeting. A group of Board members and guests strolled to the Bald Rock Overlook to view sunset prior to our scheduled evening gathering in the Lodge. I think you will enjoy this chronicled series of photographs extending from when we met at the trailhead at 5:43 PM until the post-sunset glow at 6:15.

I returned to the overlook alone in the dark the next morning, enjoying the dawning sequence from 6:20 to 6:39 AM. Unlike most of my Blog Posts, this one offers just a few observations and comments, with parenthetical notations of exact time for each image.

The crew gathered enthusiastically for our leisurely walk on the ADA-accessible boardwalk, stopping occasionally along the way for interpretation (5:43 and 5:45).

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

Dusk

Ten minutes later we reached the overlook, enjoying a splendid evening sky accented with wisps of cirrus signaling the cold front approaching from the west to arrive the next morning. Official sun tables for Cheaha Mountain showed October 20 sunset at 6:03; these images are about ten minutes shy (5:53 and 5:54).

Cheaha

 

The actual exact time of sunset proved rather dull, yet deep colors emerged as the sun, streaming from below the horizon, illuminated the underside of the clouds along the western horizon (6:02 and 6:09).

Cheaha

 

The show deepened as the sun sunk lower. Note in the right image the solar rays reaching from below the horizon (6:10 and 6:12).

Cheaha

 

Colors faded quickly after I captured the final glow. By the time we returned to the Lodge darkness had fallen. We welcomed the roaring fire outside (6:15).

Cheaha

 

What could possibly exceed the fulfillment and inspiration from an evening stroll, an observation deck sunset from Alabama’s highest peak, and an embracing bonfire!

Dawn

I read that sunrise would bless the new day at 6:54 AM. I wanted to be at the overlook with plenty of time to spare. I’ve learned that my iPhone camera, with its three-second exposure, captures available light far better than my eyes. These two photos, taken more than 30 minutes in advance of sunrise, reveal early color and mostly cloudy skies (6:20 and 6:22).

Cheaha

 

The view to the NE (below left) clearly shows Anniston, Alabama. The lower right view is north, midway between Anniston and Talladega. Again, I snapped the images during what appeared to me as nearly full darkness (6:23 and 6:23).

Cheaha

 

Just a few minutes brought noticably greater illumination to the Talladega horizon (below left), the foreground Virginia pines, and even to the boardwalk signage (6:29 and 6:31).

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

Although sunrise would not occur for another 20 minutes, visual detail both near and far rapidly emerged (6:31 and 6:32).

Cheaha

 

Looking back from the overlook, the nature of the forest is apparent. Stunted Virginia pine and oak amount to little more than a shrub layer near the rimrock. Fractured rock, impoverished shallow soils, and exposure to harsh winds prohibit high-forest development. However, I did not visit the overlook pre-dawn to see towering trees and deep forest (6:32 and 6:39)!

Cheaha

 

The aforementioned cold front brought morning showers and even one clap of thunder, reminding me how much I would like to stand at the overlook watching a thunderstorm race across the valley from west to east, yet I knew that I would more than likely have retreated to the safety of the lodge.

Afternoon

The front passed to our south and east by noon, leaving a clear view of Cheaha as we departed early afternoon (1:11 pm).

Cheaha

 

The continuing cycles of weather, sunrise and sunset, and season add infinite variety to my Nature explorations. A sage once posited that variety is the spice of life. So, too, is variety the spice of Nature. I suppose that I could visit Cheaha daily across a year…or a lifetime…and each day marvel at its beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • What could possibly exceed the fulfillment and inspiration from an evening stroll, an observation deck sunset from Alabama’s highest peak, and an embracing bonfire!
  • A sage once posited that variety is the spice of life. So, too, is variety the spice of Nature.
  • I could visit Cheaha daily across a year…or a lifetime…and each day marvel at its 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: “©2022 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.

 

Maryland’s New Germany State Park — Returning after 51 Years

During my freshman/sophomore and sophomore/junior undergraduate summers I worked for the State of Maryland Forest Service performing forest inventory on the Savage River State Forest. Forest Supervisor Warren Groves had arranged housing in a still-functional CCC-constructed cabin at New Germany State Park, a stunning recreation setting surrounded by the State Forest. The Forest’s 55,000 acres reside in Garrett County, at Maryland’s western tip. New Germany stands at 2,500 feet elevation atop the Allegany divide separating the Chesapeake Bay watershed to the east from the Ohio/Mississippi basin to the west. I spent those two inventory summers in forestry student heaven, learning as much under Warren’s applied-science tutelage as I did in those first four semesters in classrooms and labs.

September 9, 2021, I hiked once again in the park, investing a glorious afternoon in woods I had not entered in 51 years. Take a nostalgic virtual hike with me via my photographs and reflections.

Mill and Lake

My hometown of Cumberland, MD lies one county to the east (Allegany) at 700 feet elevation along the Potomac River. I embraced those summers in the noticeably cooler climate afforded by the 1,800 feet vertical difference. My return trip gifted me with the incredibly clear and comforting afternoon (below right). The Swauger mill is long since gone. The interpretive sign and the footer outline of its foundation (just as it was in 1970) remain.

 

New Germany Lake now seems much smaller, although I am sure it is not, one-half century since those great summers of forestry indoctrination and learning. Funny how time and experience alter scale.

 

 

 

I normally leap right into Nature with these Posts, yet I could not resist the special nostalgic look back, nor could I ignore the intersection of human and natural history that defines the Park. The view below looks north (upstream) to the dam.

 

Atop the dam (below left), the bridge crosses the spillway. View is east to the Martin House, where in 1970 the superintendent resided (my recollection). From the east end of the foot bridge, the recreation hall sits to the west of the spillway. The recreation building may or may not have been part of long-range planning in 1970.

 

The physical facility in its current manifestation is impressive, having changed a great deal since those long-ago summers.

The Forest

Like virtually every acre of Maryland forestland (or for that matter, the vast majority of eastern US forestland), the Park’s forests are heavily influenced by European settlement and attempted domestication. I emphasize attempted…so much of the more rugged land, long since abandoned, has re-wilded, erasing the scars of intense human activity (including careless agriculture on vulnerable, erosion-prone sites) and today appearing to most people as wilderness. I recall several features of Savage River State Forest within which the Park is located:

  • Eighty-six square miles of State Forest wildness then seemed large beyond my comprehension.
  • Occasionally our forest inventory transects crossed old, barbed wire fences and remnants of stone walls, suggesting past agriculture on the more gently rolling lands.
  • We frequently passed through white, red, and Scotch pine and Norway spruce plantations established by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s or during the USDA Soil Bank program of the 1950s. Both programs planted trees on old worn-out farmland.
  • Daily, it seems, we observed old American chestnut stumps from salvage logging when the blight, introduced to America from Asia in 1904, raced across the central Appalachians, devastating forests dominated by chestnut.

What is now the dam site and Park core, Broadwater’s farm along Swauger Mill Lake, looked like many other farmsteads in the 1930s. Served by the Village of New Germany Post Office (1883), the farmscape shows rolling pasture, fenceline trees, and on the distant hilltop, a woodlot that evidences frequent cutting for fenceposts, firewood, and other products.

Photo from the New Germany Past and Present self-guided walking tour pamphlet.

Try to imagine the imminent transformation that this then-marginal farmland was about to undergo. From the same pamphlet:

One of the nation’s CCC camps was located in the area that is now New Germany State Park. In the spring of 1933, approximately 125 “CCC boys” arrived at the camp, ready for work. For the first year, the “boys” lived in army tents, while they worked constructing the barracks, mess hall, and other buildings for the camp… Once they finished building the camp, the “boys” went to work on a number of projects at New Germany and the surrounding area.

Among many other projects, they swarmed the immediate adjacent fields planting the conifers I observed scattered across the State Forest. They likely planted the white pine below.

 

Swauger Creek flows from the mill dam through the hemlock forest. I walked southwest on Turnpike Trail, remembering creekside hemlocks much larger than those standing before me. However, that cannot be. The trees today were there 51 years ago and, because I know they have consistently added annual growth rings, they are actually larger now. I wondered whether my then inflated sense of the magic of this special place, within the context of a dream-summer forestry experience, had etched a memory of greater scope and scale than the real stand along the creek in 1970-71. My own now-matured and deeply experienced forest-assessment knowledge and skills are better honed and less influenced by perceived associated aura (the distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing, or place). Regardless, the deep shade, the handsome rhododendrons, and the gurgling stream lifted me back to those halcyon days of focused learning, new adventure, and the thrill of becoming a young adult.

 

I thought of an apt Leonardo da Vinci quote: In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so, with present time. The creek itself had not changed, yet I had traveled 51 years, and here I stood again. Fifty-one years hence the stream will still appear unchanged. My journey will have ended, and yet the stream flows seaward, endlessly. Even the forest will ebb and flow, some trees dying, others replacing them, yet the forest will sustain.

 

Downstream of where I turned to the right toward Hemlock Trail, I spotted a trail bridge crossing Swauger Creek, yet another element of the Park’s charm.

 

Hemlock Trail is aptly named, the trail passing through an unusual upland hemlock stand (below left). Black cherry (my trekking pole leaning against it below right) also occasionally shared the main canopy with the hemlock.

 

Because nothing in Nature is static or permanent, individual trees are dying. The standing well-decayed snag below left, and the taller dead spar below right are now bird, mammal, and insect hotels, staying erect until the decay fungi reduce the structural integrity beyond a threshold, when they will crash or slump to the forest floor.

 

Below left a cluster of windthrown trees create a crown opening sufficient to allow sunlight to reach the ground, stimulating a thicket of birch regeneration. Below right a more recent windthrow opening will spark another patch of reproduction. Over time, the forest will shift to a mosaic of small stands.

 

Spiritual Reflections

I enjoy reading the forested landscape. Every tree and every parcel tells its tale. I am slowly learning the language of interpreting the story. Some elements of the tale are strictly biological science and physics. Other facets are more spiritual. I subscribe to Father Richard Rohr’s Daily online Mediation: From the Center for Action and Contemplation. I appreciate his view of our spiritual relationship to Nature. He often offers words that express what am I feeling more cogently than I could muster. The text below is from Week Forty-One (10/12/21): Contemplating Creation; Sensing Nature:

Fr. Richard explores how a creation-centered spirituality offers a natural openness to the type of sensing that comes from contemplation:

Creation spirituality reveals our human arrogance, and maybe that’s why we are afraid of it. Maybe that’s why we’re afraid to believe that God has spoken to us primarily in what is. Francis of Assisi was basically a hermit. He lived in the middle of nature. And if we want nature to come to life for us, we have to live in the middle of it for a while. When we get away from the voices of human beings, then we really start hearing the voices of animals and trees. They start talking to us, as it were. And we start talking back. Foundational faith, I would call it, the grounding for personal and biblical faith.

I have been blessed to spend several Lents living as a hermit in nature. When we get rid of our watches and all the usual reference points, it is amazing how real and compelling light and darkness become. It’s amazing how real animals become. And it’s amazing how much we notice about what’s happening in a tree each day. It’s almost as if we weren’t seeing it all before, and we wonder if we have ever seen at all. I don’t think that Western civilization realizes what a high price we pay for separating ourselves from the natural world. One of the prices is certainly a lack of a sort of natural contemplation, a natural seeing. My times in the hermitage re-situated me in God’s universe, in God’s providence and plan. I had a feeling of being realigned with what is. I belonged and was thereby saved! Think about it.

So, creation spirituality is, first of all, the natural spirituality of people who have learned how to see. I am beginning to think that much of institutional religion is rather useless if it is not grounded in natural seeing and nature religion.

We probably don’t communicate with something unless we have already experienced its communications to us. I know by the third week I was talking to lizards on my porch at the hermitage, and I have no doubt that somehow some communion was happening. I don’t know how to explain it beyond that. I was reattached, and they were reattached.

When we are at peace, when we are not fighting it, when we are not fixing and controlling this world, when we are not filled with anger, all we can do is start loving and forgiving. Nothing else makes sense when we are alone with God. All we can do is let go; there’s nothing worth holding on to, because there is nothing else we need. It is in that free space, I think, that realignment happens. Francis lived out of such realignment. And I think it is the realignment that he announced to the world in the form of worship and adoration.

I found little to no time during my professional career for such realignment. Even now in retirement I am only just beginning to do so with purpose and focus. I still spend too little time simply sitting, observing, and contemplating in sylvan settings. I resolve to try harder. I want to achieve the state Father Rohr sought, repeating from above:

Nothing else makes sense when we are alone with God. All we can do is let go; there’s nothing worth holding on to, because there is nothing else we need. It is in that free space, I think, that realignment happens.

 

A Postscript of Sorts

Just as we all enjoy seeing an old friend who surprises us when we least expect him, I encountered an old forest friend that I had not anticipated, striped maple, ubiquitous across Savage River State Forest. From a USDA Forest Service online publication:

Acer pensylvanicum, also called moosewood, is a small tree or large shrub identified by its conspicuous vertical white stripes on greenish-brown bark. It grows best on shaded, cool northern slopes of upland valleys where it is common on well drained sandy loams in small forest openings or as an understory tree in mixed hardwoods. This very slow growing maple may live to be 100 and is probably most important as a browse plant for wildlife, although the tree is sometimes planted as an ornamental in heavily shaded areas.

The included range map does not show striped maple in Alabama. I don’t recall seeing the species even here in northern Alabama. So, I was glad to see my old friend at New Germany State Park.

 

Likewise, I reveled in seeing wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia), a species not extending into Alabama. Another species of the genus occurs in our state. So, another long-forgotten friend in western Maryland!

 

 

 

 

 

My third book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (co-authored with Jennifer Wilhoit), dives deeply into how and why making such reacquaintances stirs my soul. Nature reaches me through all five portals: mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Borrowing from Father Richard Rohr, alone in Nature, “All we can do is let go; there’s nothing worth holding on to, because there is nothing else we need.”
  • I feel deep passion for special places in Nature, whether recent acquaintances or revisiting 51 years later.
  • Wherever I roam, Nature inspires and rewards my heart, mind, body, 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 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 authoring 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 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 firsthand 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 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.

 

Early Spring in West-Central Pennsylvania

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

A Rolling Pennsylvania Landscape Under a Cerulean Sky

 

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

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

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

Woodlot Edges

 

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

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

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

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

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

Horse BarnHorse Barn

 

 

 

 

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

Within a Woodlot

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Pastoral Setting

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

A Cerulean Firmament — Heaven Over Earth

 

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

Horse Barn

 

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

All Three Books

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

 

 

Reflections on Natural Disasters

 

Reflections on Natural Disasters

 

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

Bradford Creek

 

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

November 2020Oak Mountain

 

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

Joe Wheeler SP

 

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

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

 

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my musings on natural disasters:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksOak Mountain

 

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

 

Dawn Sky Glory December 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nautical Dawn

 

Big Blue Lake

 

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

Big Blue Lake

 

Civil Dawn

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

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

Big Blue Lake

Big Blue Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Big Blue Lake

 

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

Big Blue Lake

 

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

Big Blue Lake

 

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

Big Blue LakeBig Blue Lake

 

 

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

“Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

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

Big Blue Lake

 

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksBig Blue Lake

 

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