How Nature Can Inspire Us, Teach Us, and Keep Us Happy!

Exploring a New Partnership

 

I’m announcing a new collaborative between Great Blue Heron and We Get Outdoors (based in South Africa). As a first product of our partnership exploration, we are pleased to present my nearly 90-minute interview (recorded late 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGlRWUUSTS0), conducted expertly by Rob Yates (We Get Outdoors Co-Founder and consummate outdoors enthusiast). Interview Title: How Nature Can Inspire Us, Teach Us, and Keep Us Happy!

I offer each one of these Great Blue Heron Posts in the spirit of Inspiring, Teaching, and Keeping fellow outdoor enthusiasts Happy!

That’s me on the left looking into the south side of Huntsville, AL from the utility overlook on Blevins Gap, enjoying getting into the outdoors.

Blevins Gap

We-Get-Outdoors-Img_2

[From We Get Outdoors Website]

Our Formal Mission Statements

We Get Outdoors Mission: We are committed to preserving the outdoors for future generations. We want YOU to be part of the story and to come on the journey with us. It’s time to become an outdoor ambassador.
The WGO mission resonates beautifully with my own retirement mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.
We all are resident to planet Earth, this mote of dust in the vast darkness of space, whether residing in South Africa or Madison, Alabama! Rob and I are personally aligned as well, sharing deep passion for ensuring that we all care for this Blessed planet. Look for more collaborative initiatives from us.
My family; humanity’s future!
We Get Outdoors
The future lies in our hands.

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, Blogs, and video interviews 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.

Continued Progress on Monte Sano State Park Wells Memorial Trail Video

November 7, 2021, retired videographer Bill Heslip and I recorded B-roll video for our summer 2022 17-20-minute video project to present the Land Legacy Tale of the Wells Memorial Trail at Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville, Alabama. I’ve published prior Posts on this remarkable story of 40 acres gifted and memorialized for William Arthur Wells, a local boy, a former Civilian Conservation Corps worker on what is now the Park, and a Navy Sailor who perished in the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/10/05/contemplating-a-video-tale-of-the-william-arthur-wells-memorial-trail-monte-sano-state-park/

Don’t look for a lot of detail with this current Post. My purpose is to capture the autumnal beauty and diversity of this special place. Bill and I timed our visit perfectly (fortuity and serendipity prevailed) for fall glory.

Monte Sano

 

 

Low angle sunlight, a yellowing forest canopy, and thinning foliage allowed forest floor illumination and depth of field.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Everywhere I looked revealed a Kodak-moment! As Bill recorded, I relished having the time to look around as well as up and down.

Monte Sano

 

I never tire of putting my five essential verbs of forest enjoyment to practice: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

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

Too infrequently woods-walkers hurry through the forest intent only upon reaching a destination. I prefer walking in the forest to experience the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe that lie hidden in plain sight.

Monte Sano

 

The special conditions, and the luxury of time to immerse completely, opened all five of my portals: body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. I floated through the canopy!

Monte Sano

 

Bill sought images both ordinary and unusual. This 18-inch diameter hickory had nearly blown over perhaps a decade ago. I say “nearly” because some neighbor tree held fast, halting the hickory before its roots had completely broken free. The tree still lives, and each year it better secures its 40-degree-lean anchorage. Will it survive this winter; the next summer thunderstorm; the next decade; longer?

Monte Sano

 

Bill captured the B-roll video, not knowing whether or how he might employ the footage.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Shagbark hickory offers deep texture among the world of tall straight trunks of species with smooth-barked boles.

Monte Sano

 

Life and Death in the Forest

Vibrant forces within this dead standing hickory are at work to return its mass to the soil. Bill is filming the diverse mushrooms that align its vertical trunk. Mushrooms are the spore-producing structures of the decay fungi breaking down the wood, eventually weakening the structure that has held the tree erect for decades. The dead hickory lifts into the canopy from the upper right corner of the image below right. Note its spindly top, the reult of death already bringing its upper branches to the ground.

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve preached incessantly to Bill and others who will listen, that life and death engage without end in our forests. We want the video to honestly represent that all is not peace, tranquility, and blissful life in the forest…that competition among trees is fierce…that essential resources of light, moisture, and nutrients are finite. What one tree acquires is unavailable to another. The winner evidences no remorse; to the victor go the spoils. Individual trees have no need to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion as they go about the business of thriving, surviving, and sustaining their lineage. Below Bill is documenting the continuing cycle of life, death, renewal, and recycling.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Fungi act as ubiquitous decomposers, their mushrooms sprouting from the end of a dead trunk cut to clear the trail (below left) and from a downed branch (right).

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Moss occupies the surface of woody debris across the forest floor.

Monte Sano

 

Other Features of Interest

Grape vine foliage gathers light high in the forest canopy, having grown the 100+ feet in height as the tree developed vertically, year by year. The tree and vine are the same age.

Monte Sano

 

I completed my doctoral field research in southwest New York and northwest Pennsylvania in 1986, evaluating soil-site factors in second growth Allegheny hardwood forests. Four decades ago the literature acknowledged that total tree height in even-aged stands expressed site quality better by far than any other factor such as diameter, stocking, merchantable height, or basal area. Recent literature collaborates the wisdom upon which I designed my research and the findings I published:

Tree height is relatively independent of tree density for most forest tree species. Simply put, trees grow taller on good sites, and they grow shorter on poor sites. Therefore, tree height is a more reliable measure of the site’s inherent productivity than most other measures. Forest Measurements: An Applied Approach (2016, Joan DeYoung)

Over the three-and-one-half decades since, tall trees strike a chord with me. The yellow poplar and associated species along the Wells and Sinks trails are among the tallest hardwoods I have encountered anywhere in my travels. I measured one poplar in this stand last summer at 174 feet. My measurement, while the best I could do with my instrument from the ground, is by no means official. Nevertheless, how does it compare to official, verified heights of trees in the eastern US? National Parks Traveler (October 24, 2012, Jim Burnett) reported on the two tallest estern tree individuals, both in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: white pine at 188.9′ and yellow poplar at 191.9′. The Great Smoky Mountains poplar is the tallest broadleaf tree in all of temperate North America, surpassing a documented black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) in Olympic National Park.

Monte Sano

 

Already in late afternoon shadow, Bill is capturing some handheld footage as we depart for the trailhead.

Monte Sano

 

My heart soars when I wander through these hardwood coves. My spirit correlates directly with site quality. I have long been a champion of excellence, whether in athletics, business, or ecological performance. The towering poplars have competed effectively for rich, yet still finite moisture, nutrients, and sunlight. I hike the Wells and Sinks trails in awe of these cove hardwoods and the intense competition and evolutionary prowess that produce what I consider a magnificent southern Appalachian cathedral forest. I feel un unapologetic sacred connection to this very special place. Bill and I will do all we can to capture the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe that characterize the spirituality permeating this wonderful living memorial to a young man who gave his last full measure in service to our Great Nation.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every tree and every parcel of land has a story to tell.
  • Oftentimes, the intersection of human and natural history brings the power of passion to the tale.
  • This land came to us out of eternity — when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here, preserved forevermore in tribute to William Arthur Wells. 

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

I returned to Cheaha State Park October 20, 2021, for an Alabama State Parks Foundation evening reception and dinner, and next day Board meeting. I am pleased to offer photos and reflections from explorations that afternoon with Mandy Pearson, Park Naturalist. We visited the recently opened Interpretive Center and hiked parts of two new trails. I’ve published eight previous Great Blue Heron Posts on Cheaha. The most recent: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/03/20/non-flowering-plants-atop-the-mountain-at-cheaha-ee-aa-annual-conference/ For the other seven, go to my web site Blog tab (http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/) and search for ‘Cheaha.’

Having grown up in the central Appalachians, those ancient mountains live deep in my body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. Among Alabama’s 21 State Parks, Cheaha acts as a beacon calling me back to what feels like my roots. These southern Appalachians soothe and comfort me, restore my sense of well-being, and rekindle memories otherwise dormant.

Judy and I checked into the Bald Rock Lodge at a little after noon (below).

Cheaha

 

Interpretive Center

We rendezvoused with Mandy at the Interpretive Center at Lake Cheaha, which sits 800 feet below Cheaha’s 2,407-foot summit.

 

The Interpretive Center, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, had served as the lake’s bath house before being converted this past summer to its new use. The “CCC Boys,” who also built the Bald Rock Lodge, sure mastered the craft of exquisite stone masonry! Little could they imagine that more than eight decades hence their stonework, backdropped by a cerulean sky, would inspire visitors from all fifty states and beyond.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the CCC, memorializing his intent:

I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to be used in simple work…More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work.

Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.

The balance of men and nature FDR sought lives on resolutely today at Cheaha State Park.

Cheaha

 

The new Interpretive Center will serve park visitors for generations to come.

CheahaCheaha

 

The Lake and its Cheaha backdrop, as I hinted above, transport me back in time…and 600 miles northward along the spine of the Appalachians. My third book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits (co-authored with Jennifer Wilhoit), carries an apt subtitle: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. Cheaha is one of those special places for which I feel deep passion. Muir foreshadowed my own sentiments:

We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

Cheaha

 

Tim Haney Sensory Trail

 

Tim Haney retired in 2021 from his post as Alabama State Parks’ Operational Supervisor for the North Region. He began his State Parks career in 1977. Cheaha recently established a trail in Tim’s honor. The Sensory Trail focuses hikers on understanding and connecting to multiple facets of Nature along the way. I’ve hiked with Tim, and I have admired and appreciated his own intimate harmony with trees, flowers, fauna, soil, rocks, water…the entire ecosystem.

CheahaCheaha

 

 

Among many other highlights along the trail, this station reminded us that living forests…vibrant ecosystems…include both life and death, a continuing cycle of carbon, water, organic matter, and nutrients.

Cheaha

 

Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy Trail

 

From an online National Library of Medicine site:

Current literature supports the comprehensive health benefits of exposure to nature and green environments on human systems. The aim of this state-of-the-art review is to elucidate empirical research conducted on the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing) in transcontinental Japan and China. Furthermore, we aim to encourage healthcare professionals to conduct longitudinal research in Western cultures regarding the clinically therapeutic effects of Shinrin-Yoku and, for healthcare providers/students to consider practicing Shinrin-Yoku to decrease undue stress and potential burnout.

This new trail introduces hikers to the Shinrin concept, also known as forest bathing, a form of nature therapy. Because our afternoon window permitted only skimming the interpretive signage along both new trails, I will dedicate time to full immersion on my next Cheaha visit.

Cheaha

 

My routine forest strolling pace allows plenty of time for seeking the Nature-magic that lies hidden in plain sight. However, what I gleaned from the signage suggests ratcheting down the pace another notch. My own Nature wanderings involve close observation. Observation, I’ve found, requires concentrated effort.

Observation and perception are two different things; the observing eye is stronger; the perceiving eye is weaker (Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings).

From shinrinyoku-united.org:

A Shinrin-Yoku forest bathing walk consists of a series of activities & sits, designed to help the participants to bathe in the surroundings, the environment and energy of the forest, allowing them to slow down, breathe, and refocus on their body, while connecting to their various senses.

Admittedly, slowing to the Shinrin forest pace may not be easy for me. However, as I contemplate the notion, I may already practice a variant of forest bathing. I do observe deeply, capture photographs, then do my contemplative forest bathing at home as I sort and organize images, reflect upon the images, and then develop a cogent tale…a story of the visit that draws connections, illustrates Nature in action, and offers lessons for living, learning, serving, and leading.

Cheaha

 

I did pay a lot of attention as I traversed the Shinrin-Yoku trail. In all honesty, I trundled along at my standard pace, except stopping to read a sign or two. Lichen-coated rocks and emerging fall yellows caught my eye.

Cheaha

 

I suppose the true Shinrin practitioner would have found a spot to lie flat, gazing into the high-canopy foliar show (left). No such spot below right among the pavement of shattered stones and downed woody debris!

Cheaha

 

The Shinrin Trail brought us to the rimrock looking west some 800 feet above Cheaha Lake.

Cheaha

 

Another perfect spot, within the context of forest bathing, to sit awhile, encouraging me to bathe in the surroundings, the environment and energy of the forest…to slow down, breathe, and refocus…while connecting to…various senses. I cannot argue with the wisdom of Shinrin. In fact, I often do just that…sit and quietly absorb the essence of special places. Yet, here is where I fall short of the Shinrin ideal. Normally, I sit in contemplation with my senses alert to keen observation, until I urge myself to get back to my feet in search of the next focus of concentration and observation. My shortfall? I fail to sit in relaxed absorption, resisting the urge to forge ahead, allowing myself to become infused within the place…to permit me to free my body, mind, soul, spirit, and heart to float among the elements of Nature…to experience where I wander on a level unfamiliar to me.

CheahaCheaha

 

And now, I must concede that I might not be able to take that next Shinrin step. I may not be willing to give my subconscious free reign, allowing myself to float among the forest vapors. In fact, I know that given the kind place I would choose to sit in Shinrin reflection, a near-certain result would be Steve slipping into nap time! Okay, I won’t know until I try. I commit to you that I will push myself in the Shinrin direction. I’ll report back to you.

With or without Shinrin, I will always take time to notice things as simple as this dead and decaying tree along the Shinrin Trail, emblematic of the ongoing cycle of life and death.

Cheaha

 

In Defiance of Fall

Death and renewal, year after year after year, is a forest ecosystem theme now and forevermore. The yellow beyond the shattered stump above and below right is golden aster, still flowering, an act of renewal in a season of senescence. Likewise, a purple aster is flowering in defiance of the imminent autumn.

CheahaCheaha

 

I find magic in our forests whenever and wherever I roam. Even without practicing Shinrin-Yoku, I believe I experience our forests far deeper and more meaningfully than the average hiker I encounter. I attribute the difference to employing what I term my Five Essential Verbs for maximizing benefit from my Nature wanderings: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

    • I find Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe because I know they lie hidden within view — belief enables me to look and see
    • Really look, with eyes open to my surroundings, external to electronic devices and the distractions of meaningless noise and data
    • Staying alert to see deeply, beyond the superficial
    • See clearly, with comprehension, to find meaning and evoke feelings
    • Feel emphatically enough to spur action

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Cheaha Mountain State Park is a special gem.
  • We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us (John Muir).
  • Two new interpretive trails at Cheaha spotlight the System’s mission element to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment.

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 BooksCheaha

 

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.

 

 

 

Side Highlights on My Hike to Sipsey Wilderness Big Tree

October 30, 2021, I hiked to the Big Tree in Alabama’s Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest. This Post offers photos and reflections on the special sidelights I saw along the way. See my previous related Post offering reflections on the rough and bouldered terrain, torturous blowdowns, and the majesty of the Big Tree: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/12/08/an-eleven-mile-bucket-list-hike-to-the-sipsey-big-tree/

Once more I remind readers that much of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe lies hidden in plain sight. My referenced prior Big Tree Post focused on the more obvious surroundings: deep canyons; shear rock faces; boulder tumbles; too-dense blowdowns; ancient forests; streams and waterfalls. However, I’ve learned that by paying attention to only the obvious we miss so much that merits noticing. This was my first hike with Randy, Tara, and Jonathan. I believe that I helped open their eyes to features, both large and small scale, that they normally do not see. Among those things they had not previously been aware, we stopped to admire all manner of fungi along our route.

Destination

The Big Tree did not disappoint. I shall carry its image, serenity, and sacred spirit with me forevermore. I felt small, insignificant, and humble in its presence. At the same time, inspiration enveloped me. In fact, because of the aura of The Tree, a certain essence permeated the entire route…and all we saw, discussed, and encountered along the way.

Big Tree

 

Magic peeped through the canopy, as a black birch in fall regalia declared autumn to those of us trekking along the forest floor. A golden skylight welcoming us, a glowing beam of promise penetrating the deep forest gloom that those less enchanted with the forest might perceive. Rain-soaked foliage, muted drippings, and saturated air — such is the solace of sheltered canyon forests in these humid climes. For me, forest gloom is an oxymoron. Even on the darkest, cloudiest days, the sun bursts above the clouds. So, too, does the birch proclaim that all is well within and beneath the canopy.

Big Tree

 

I consider myself easily impressed by Nature’s visual (as well as auditory and olfactory) gifts. I want to remain so, effortlessly spellbound by Nature’s ordinary, everyday wonder…all elements sublime upon close inspection. Albert Einstein expressed it well:

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I view every walk in Nature as a sequential inventory and catalog of miracles. Nothing in Nature is ordinary to the observant and curious mind. Einstein implored us to look deeply into Nature:

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

Special Treats

Shear rock faces appear barren and bereft of life…unless we seek hidden treasures. Judy and I fell in love with oak leaf hydrangeas as ornamental landscape plantings when we lived in Auburn, Alabama 1996-2001. I learned during our tenure there that the Sipsey Wilderness is the epicenter of Hydrangea quercifolia‘s natural range. We saw hundreds (thousands?) of individuals along our trek, each one special in its own way. Yet, none rose to the glory of the individual below, perched thirty feet above us on a narrow rock ledge, centered in the magnified photo (right). Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. Any port in a storm will do. Our moderate climate with its ample and reliable rain provides a generally superb growing environment. Throw in a deep, sheltered canyon…and life abounds, even in a seeming-inhospitable crag.

Big Tree

 

We stumbled upon just two small colonies of weak-leaf yucca, a plant I have not seen often in the wild. Its name derives from the fact that its foliage will bend and fold with just its own weight.

Big Tree

 

Fungi Panoply

Two-thirds of an inch of rain had fallen during the three days prior to our hike. Mild conditions had prevailed. Our friends in the fungi kingdom flourish in this kind of early fall weather. We found this mossy, dead and down woody debris covered in pear-shaped puffballs, each one about an inch in diameter. Their meat still pure white, these would have been at peak bite-size edibility, lightly flowered and simmered in butter! Because we were in a formal Wilderness, we foraged nothing. Puffballs are the fruiting bodies (spore-producing organ) of the decay fungi working within the dead log.

Big Tree

 

I thought for sure I had encountered a mushroom (two photos below) not much different from the puffballs. In fact, here’s what I wrote before investigating more carefully: “Similarly structured and functioning, these wolf’s milk mushrooms likewise occupied a dead and down log. The pinkish colors demanded our attention!” Boy, was I due for an awakening — here’s what I found online at TexasMushrooms:

Lycogala epidendrum, commonly known as wolf’s milkgroening’s slime is a cosmopolitan species of myxogastrid amoeba which is often mistaken for a fungus. The aethalia, or fruiting bodies, occur either scattered or in groups on damp rotten wood, especially on large logs, from June to November. These aethalia are small, pink to brown cushion-like globs. They may excrete a pink paste if the outer wall is broken before maturity. When mature, the colour tends to become more brownish. When not fruiting, single celled individuals move about as very small, red amoeba-like organisms called plasmodia, masses of protoplasm that engulf bacteria, fungal and plant spores, protozoa, and particles of non-living organic matter through phagocytosis.

Quite simply, what I had assumed was another mushroom is a slime mold. My copy of Mushrooms of the Southeast reports:

Wolf’s milk is one of the most widely distributed and well-known slime molds. The fruiting bodies resemble small puffballs. If an immature fruiting body is squeezed or broken open, a slimy pink substance with the consistency of toothpaste oozes out.

Nature presents novices like me a lifetime of learning every time I venture into the wild.

Big Tree

 

My fellow travelers, I believe, could be converted into forest fungi (or slime mold) enthusiasts. They found exquisite beauty in this violet-toothed polypore, another decay fungi, this one sporting a mushroom absolutely unlike either of the two organisms above.

Big Tree

 

Alongside the violet-toothed polypore, we found another mushroom, this one identified by iNaturalist as agaricomycetes. I was pleased to have a positive identity…until I discovered a reference source offering this gem (paraphrased): agaricomycetes is a class of fungi that includes 17 orders, 100 families, 1147 genera, and 20,951 species. Well, it appears I have much to learn!

Big Tree

 

Mosses

I recall in days past hiking the muskeg of southeast Alaska, exploring the Tongass National Forest, and wandering the 400-year-old stand at Heart’s Content Natural Area in northwest Pennsylvania. Mosses abound in water-rich temperate forests. As we trekked the relatively flat riparian forest before reaching our vehicles, we found tree skirt moss rivaling the thick drapes hanging from Sitka Spruce on the lower slopes of Mount Verstovia in Sitka, Alaska (see photo under the two images immediately below) and the other areas I mentioned. These special places are life-rich, luxuriant ecosystems, as are the quiet canyons of our Sipsey Wilderness.

Big Tree

 

Moss-draped Sitka spruce near Sitka, Alaska June 2006.

 

Once again, magic, beauty, wonder, and awe lie within plain sight no matter where I wander. A volume of miracles awaits discovery.

Tree Form Curiosities

 

I asked Tara to rest on this full-basal beech burl to demonstrate scale. Note it moss skirt. I’ve yet to meet a burl that did not intrigue me…nor stand as an object of my fascination.

Big Tree

 

This birch took root atop a boulder, grasped the stone tightly, and reached to mineral soil for life-sustaining nutrients and moisture. How many of us humans have sought secure anchorage, temporary or long-term…whether physical, emotional, or spiritual? I know I have.

Big Tree

 

Sometimes, we take root on quarters that prove only temporarily hospitable, leaving us with no options but to find alternative means of surviving and succeeding. We’ve met and admired human survivors of such circumstances. Black birch, I have discovered, are masters at overcoming what to us appear as bad decisions. This individual, with its flaming yellow/orange foliage suspended over the creek, perseveres.

Big Tree

 

As does this individual perched 20 feet above mineral soil.

Big Tree

 

Bigleaf magnolia boasts the largest simple leaves of any tree native to North America. Josh provided scale for this one.

Big Tree

 

A rather contorted bigleaf magnolia rewarded us. Always on the lookout for wildlife, I was pleasantly surprised to find a hiker-tolerant, bigleaf magnolia antelope along the trail. Einstein observed:

Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.

Imagination hikes every trail at my side…and in my heart.

Big Tree

 

Nature never fails to reward those dedicated to finding gifts that lie hidden in plain sight.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature presents novices like me a lifetime of learning every time I venture into the wild.
  • There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
  • Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Einstein

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 BooksBig Tree

 

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.

 

 

 

Nature Notations from an Early August Day of Biking and Hiking

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

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

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

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

Flint River

[Photos from Prior Visits]

 

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

Hampton Cove

 

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

Hays

[Photo from Prior Visit]

 

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

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

Hays

 

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

Hays

 

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

Hays

 

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

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

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

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

 

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

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

 

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

 

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

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Action for me may be as simple as drafting a relevant Blog Post to present a photo-narrative revealing and translating lessons from Nature to readers. Lessons that might further my retirement mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vegetative Elegance

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

Hays

 

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

Hays

 

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

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

 

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHays

 

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

 

 

 

 

FIVE Essential Verbs

Just when I think I know a little something, I find evidence that I have discerned nothing new. A half-a-millennium ago, Leonardo da Vinci saw the invisible and brought it to life in art and writing. He saw magic, wonder, and truth in Nature:

  • “Simplistically is the ultimate sophistication”
  • “In her (nature’s) inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous”
  • “Nature never breaks her own laws”

I strive to keep things simple in my own writing and speaking. Via my books, within these Blog Posts, and on my web site, I have been urging readers to embrace four essential verbs: http://stevejonesgbh.com/essential-steps/ (Look; See; Feel; and Act). Recently, I have added a fifth — a precursor to the original four: Believe.

We have often heard and sometimes repeated the old adage, “Seeing is believing.” I have begun to reject such notion. Instead, I am now embracing, “Believing is seeing.” Looking reveals nothing unless we believe what we seek could be there. Without belief, I conclude, I will look only half-heartedly; seldom will we see what we do not believe; and such uninspired vision will rarely evoke feeling nor implore action. The photo below captures the truth that life and death in Nature seek balance. All things are cyclical; to every thing there is a season. I see da Vinci’s wisdom in this powerful image: simplicity; nothing wasted; immutable laws of Nature. I believe… and I find.

Distilling the Five Verbs

Have you noticed? Most of our fellow Earth travelers are oblivious to the world around them. They suffer the tyranny of the urgent… slaves to their digital devices… blinded by them. I urge those of you who read these words to release your self-enslaving shackles. Employ your senses; awaken; secure awareness.

Believing: I see lessons in Nature because I know they are there. Unless I believe, much will lie blind to my eye.

Looking: Many people flow through life with open eyes, yet remain unseeing. In the physical company of others, but distractedly somewhere else.

Aldo Leopold lamented our blind isolation from things of Nature: “Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.” Again, we are Blind… unaware.

Seeing: Looking in and of itself is not enough. What constitutes actually seeing? It’s looking purposely, attentively, and deeply. Mentally registering; observing context and meaning. Processing images and drawing conclusions. Most importantly, truly seeing involves perception sufficient to generate feelings of empathy and sparking the strength of commitment.

Feeling: Most of us recall the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A traveler lay robbed and beaten at the side of the road. The first passerby may have looked, but did not see. The second may have seen, but did not feel. The third looked, saw, and felt.

Acting: The Samaritan felt deeply enough to act. Helped the traveler to his feet; shared water; led him to food and shelter.

Looking is necessary but not sufficient. Seeing is essential yet not enough. Feeling is critical, yet still falls short. Only action yields results… makes a difference… changes lives. Little finds traction without belief.

Nothing in Nature succeeds without causal, purposeful action. The heron striking the frog has purpose. The sunflower following the sun’s arc from E to W has purpose. As does the falcon diving for the pigeon. Da Vinci observed, “There is no result in nature without a cause.” Action sustains us.

Rene Descartes wrote 381 years ago, “I think, therefore I am.” Yes, I know, he wrote it in Latin. I confidently assert today that “I believe, therefore I see Nature’s Wisdom. And I learn from her lessons.”

I show my two book covers below — they serve witness to my evolving understanding of Nature and her Wisdom. Although they certainly convey my sincere belief in looking, seeing, feeling, and acting, neither benefits from my January 2018 revelation that believing is a precursor to the original four.

This Blog Post’s Featured Image — I use a photograph that has accompanied at least one prior Post. Big Blue sheltering at a willow along our Big Blue Lake shoreline — nothing is more symbolic of my belief in and embrace of Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading.