Mushroom Rambling Early October in Two Distinct Alabama Forest Types

Bottomland Hardwood Forest along the Tennessee River in Madison County, Alabama

October 9, 2021, a friend and I roamed a mature bottomland hardwood forest searching for mushrooms that we anticipated would be flourishing after nearly three inches of rain fell the week prior. We were not disappointed.

We hit the jackpot with honey mushrooms (Armlillaria mellea and Armillaria tabescens). From MushroomExpert.com, The classic “honey mushroom,” Armillaria mellea, was first named from Europe in the 18th Century; here in North America it turns out to be limited to roughly the eastern half of North America, from about the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and the East Coast—although it has also been reported from northern California. It grows in tightly packed clusters, usually on the wood of hardwoods. We spotted a 30-inch diameter standing dead red oak as soon as we entered the forest, its entire basal circumference sprouting dense clusters of fresh honeys.

Wheeler NWR

 

We celebrated our good fortune. However, I reminded myself that my forest pathology course during undergraduate forestry school highlighted Armillaria mellea as a serious hardwood forest pathogen. From an NC State University online article on soil-borne pathogens: Armillaria mellea, and probably other closely related species, is one of the most common fungi in forest soil. They live on the coarse roots and lower stems of conifers and broad-leaved trees. As parasites, the fungi cause mortality, wood decay, and growth reduction. They infect and kill trees that have been already weakened. The fungi also infect healthy trees, either killing them outright or predisposing them to attacks by other fungi or insects. I recall focusing on the disease and the signs and symptons of infection. I simply can not remember anything about its reproductive structure. I knew nothing about its mushrooms, much less their edibility!

WNWR. Wheeler NWR

 

We also found abundant clusters of ringless honey mushrooms (Armillaria tabescens), below clustering around two different snags already well decayed. Like the mellea, the tabescens were at their peak freshness. Both species added color and beauty to the late summer otherwise dull forest floor.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

The close-up below left reveals the beauty of this small cluster. During the week following our foraging trip, I noticed tabescens in my neighborhood woodlot fading rapidly, transitioning to the post-ripeness condition below right. This apparent rate of in-the-wild-spoiling concerns me. I wonder whether it means that the honey mushroom season is short. I will continue to montior and learn.

HGH Road

HGH Road

 

We also found a single (seven pound) hen of the woods. From MushroomExpert.com: Grifola frondosa, sometimes called the “hen of the woods” and the “maitake,” is a soft-fleshed polypore recognized by its smoky brown, wavy caps, which are organized in large clusters of rosettes arising from a single, branched stem structure. It is usually found near the bases of oaks, where it causes a butt rot. The site characterizes this fungus as weakly parasitic (growing on live trees) and extensively saprobic, feeding on dead wood.

WNWRHGH Road

 

These two photographs present the hen in full sunlight on the tailgate. The left image is the cluster top; the lighter color below right is its underside.

HGH Road

 

 

 

I found the lightly battered and fried hen scrumptious!

HGH Road

 

Because I had recently learned more online about turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor), a weak parasite and primarily a decomposer of dead wood. Prior to this trip I could not definitively identify turkey tail. This time I am certain; the two images are, indeed, turkey tail! Although too tough to eat, turkey tail is widely hailed for its medicinal benefits. The web is rich with more information.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

We also found one small colony of five seasonally very late chanterelles, still surprisingly fresh. I failed to snap their photograph. Likewise, in the excitement of the moment I neglected to capture an image of a sugarberry tree’s lower trunk just covered with oyster mushrooms! Except for that lapse in forager photo-chronicling responsibility, we enjoyed (with one caveat) a great three-hour woods rambling. The caveat — mosquitoes can be voracious during early autumn in these wetland forests when temperatures reach the low eighties. Even though I wore mosquito netting over my face, combined with liberally applied bug spray, the pesky little critters harrassed us incessently. As I draft my reflections eight days later, the morning temperature is 42 degrees. Summer is now fading into the rearview mirror! A dormant season of woods wandering and mushroom foraging lies ahead.

 

 

Riparian Hardwood Forest — Bradford Creek Greenway

 

October 10, 2021 I biked loops (totaling just under 18 miles) along the Bradford Creek Greenway, a Nature Preserve jointly held by the City of Madison and the Land Trust of North Alabama. The Greenway follows Bradford Creek and its associated riparian forest. I saw honey mushrooms all along the  trail. These are ringless honeys.

HGH Road

HGH Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also discovered one patch of bulbous honey mushrooms (Armillaria gallica), another edible species of the Armillaria genus.

HGH Road

 

Note the light honey-colored topside (left) and the bulbous base (right).

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

I found several colonies of the distinctively shaped sulfur-tipped coral (Ramaria formosa), an inedible softball size coral fungus. Mushrooms of the Southeast: …a distinctive fungus and one of the larger corals in our region. It is poisonous and can cause serious gastrointestinal issues.

HGH Road

 

Although the mosquitoes did not interfere with biking, every time I stopped to snap a photo or examine mushrooms, they emerged to greet me. A small price to pay for the exquisite pleasure of getting into the out there!

 

The Dance of Life

I subscribe by email to Father Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation. Week forty-one 2021, on contemplating creation, is particularly relevant to the abundance and diversity of forest life within our rich riparian forests of north Alabama. Rohr’s Dance of Life essay would fit nicely and applicably within many of my Posts for several reasons:

  • I write almost exclusively about Nature and Nature-Inspired Life and Living, and this excerpted essay does just that.
  • Most of my Posts posit some element of spirituality and sacred connection to Nature.
  • My first four Essential Verbs for Nature exploration, echoed by Rohr, are Believe; Look; See; and Feel.
  • I hold that every tree and each parcel of land have stories to tell; Rohr asserts that every living thing has its own creation song, its own language, and its own story.
  • Like Rohr, I am consumed by this achingly beautiful and complete sense of kinship with the entire creation.

Rohr’s Dance of Life: Father Richard views Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) as a prime example of someone who discovered within himself the universal connectedness of creation. Francis addressed animals and nature as spiritual beings who are part of reality’s harmony. [1] Today, we share wisdom about tuning into creation’s harmony from Sherri Mitchell (Penobscot), an attorney and activist for environmental protection and human rights.

Sherri Mitchell: Every living thing has its own creation song, its own language, and its own story. In order to live harmoniously with the rest of creation, we must be willing to listen to and respect all of the harmonies that are moving around us….

We must tune in to our ability to see beyond the physical reality that surrounds us, and awaken to the vast unseen world that exists. Then we can begin to see beyond sight and to hear beyond sound. We see the underlying structures that support our world, and life begins to take on new shape, new meaning. When we live as multisensory beings, we find that we are able to comprehend the language of every living thing. We hear the voices of the trees, and understand the buzzing of the bees. And we come to realize that it is the interwoven substance of these floating rhythms that holds us in delicate balance with all life. Then, our life and our place in creation begins to make sense in a whole new way. Our vision expands to see the overall order of our path, and our hearing tunes in to a whole new source of information. . . . When we merge our internal rhythms with the rhythms of creation, we develop grace in our movement, and without thought or effort we are able to slide into the perfectly choreographed dance of life.

I remember my first moment of conscious engagement with this dance. . . . It was a warm early-summer day and I was seated in a meditative state in my back yard. . . . As I was sitting there, I noticed a tiny ant crawling across a blade of grass. As I watched the ant move along, his little body began to light up. Then, the blade of grass that he was walking on lit up. As I sat there and watched, the entire area surrounding me began to light up. . . . I sat very still, quietly marveling over this newfound sight, afraid to move and lose it. . . . While I sat there breathing with the world around me, the firm lines of my being began to fade. I felt myself expanding and merging with all that I was observing. There was suddenly no separation between me, the ant, the grass, the trees, and the birds. We were breathing with one breath, beating with the pulse of one heart. I was consumed by this achingly beautiful and complete sense of kinship with the entire creation.

I close by repeating two short sentences from Sherri Mitchell: We must tune in to our ability to see beyond the physical reality that surrounds us, and awaken to the vast unseen world that exists. Then we can begin to see beyond sight and to hear beyond sound. My retirement wanderings and Nature-Inspired Life and Living musings have led me to a place of peace and deeper and deeper observation and reflection. I am learning to see beyond sight and hear beyond sound!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • My own connections to Nature, whether towering tree or diverse mushrooms, are sacred and spiritual.
  • Like Father Rohr, I am consumed by an achingly beautiful and complete sense of kinship with the entire creation.
  • Immersed in Nature, I am learning to see beyond sight and hear beyond sound.

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 BooksWheeler NWR

 

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.

 

 

Heart’s Content in NW Pennsylvania (Part One)

Venturing into a Pennsylvania Old Growth Forest

 

September 7, 2021 I hiked and explored the Heart’s Content Scenic Area, a 400-year-old remnant of the original forest that covered the Allegheny Plateau when European settlers arrived in the 18th Century, within the Allegheny National Forest of northwest Pennsylvania. This Post focuses on the origin and species composition of this ancient forest, which lies just forty miles west of where I conducted my 1985-86 doctoral research on soil-site relationships in the second-growth Allegheny Hardwoods forest type. I thrilled at returning to these Allegheny Hardwoods. I left a bit of my heart and soul here on the Allegheny Plateau, having spent many months establishing my research design, selecting suitable stands, and conducting extensive sampling and data collection.

I could have lingered far longer than just the morning on Septrember 7, but left time to hike in the nearby Hickory Creek Wilderness, which is second-growth Allegheny Hardwoods, just like my research sites. Because I want to include lots of photos, I won’t burden you with a great deal of text, yet, enough to make my points and offer pertinent observations and reflections.

 

Four-Century Relic Forest

 

Signage is excellent at this Registered Natural Landmark.

Heart's Content

 

Too often the forest products industry is painted with a broad brush, vilified by those who attribute forest destruction to greedy industrialists. Yet, 100 years ago, leaders in the local lumber industry donated the first 20-acre parcel of this relic forest for preservation. The lumbermen of that period did not strip the original forests as an act of intentional devastation. Instead, they were meeting the young country’s nearly insatiable demand for lumber, charcoal, chemicals, pulpwood, firewood, poles, masts, railroad ties, fenceposts, and…the product list goes on. I worked as a forester 1973-85 in the paper and allied products manufacturing industry. The company, Union Camp Corporation, espoused a deep land ethic and practiced responsible forest stewardship devoutly on its 2.1 million acres of company forests across the six southeastern states.

Heart's Content

 

Some unacquainted with the reality of ancient eastern hardwood forests may have an image of vast stands of towering trees with full canopies, dark and shaded understories, and the ground open and free of fallen trees. Such could not be further from the true condition. Picture instead, a major forest disturbance (e.g., widespread blowdown followed by fire) in the late 16th century. Seed-in-place, distributed seed from undisturbed stands nearby, and root and stump sprouting quickly populated the devastated forest. Over the subsequent few years, tens or even hundreds of thousands of seedlings and sprouts occupied each acre. Fierce competition for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight reduced stocking at a predictable pace, until at age 400 years, the stand contains, from my non-empirical observations, not much more than a dozen of the individual 400-year-old trees per acre. The stand today is a jumble of very large standing live trees, dead snags, and large quantities of dead and down woody debris (i.e. logs and tops in various stages of decay). Scattered crown openings left from fallen and dead standing trees yield a patchwork of deep shade, bright overhead lighting, and dappled forest floor sunlight. The Heart’s Content Natural Area is not an unbroken forest of large trees and deep shade.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Let’s look at how this forest may have developed over its first century after the major 16th century disturbance.

Ninety Years of Allegheny Hardwood Forest Renewal

Wisely, US Forest Service researchers began a long-term monitoring study on the Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Area, Allegheny National Forest, in 1928. Note: the entire photo sequence is courtesy of the US Forest Service (Copyright USFS). The forest scientists arranged and oversaw timber harvesting on an old growth forest that year. Cutting was in progress below left. The image below right (1929), taken from the same photo point at exactly the same angle, shows the site at the end of the first growing season post-harvest. Note the proliferation of young seedlings and sprouts.

Tionesta

 

At ages ten and twenty (1937 and 1947) the tens of thousands of stems per acre is transitioning from a nearly impenetrable thicket to a stand of saplings with spacing sufficient for a forester to walk through and measure individuals. I have said in prior Blog Posts that Nature is a meritocracy. The 1937 and 1947 survivors (I am estimating that less than five percent of the tree seedlings/sprouts in the 1929 stand remain at age 20) are stronger, faster growing individuals that simply outperformed those no longer extant. To the victors go the spoils. The competition occurs both within and between species. Affirmative action does not operate in natural systems. There are no offices of ecosystem equity to set quotos nor monitor diversity, inclusion, and equity. Species by species, Nature simply performs her relentless pursuit of sustainable growth and reproduction, generation to generation, among all living creatures…as she has operated for 3.7 billion years.

Tionesta

 

By ages 30 and 40 (1958 and 1968), the forest has changed remarkably, reaching a stage allowing us to more easily follow individual trees from one period to the next. Note the man standing to the left in the 1958 image. The large black cherry tree is reigning over its neighbors, capturing more and more site resources. There are those who today claim in speudo-scientific mainstream publications that the forest is a community of interconnected, caring, and collaborating trees and associated organisms. I encourage readers to carefully study specific stems in this sequence over time. I see no evidence that the survivors give a rip about the stems falling behind, weakening, dying, and tipping to the forest floor.

Tionesta

 

We are now at ages 56 and 60 (1984 and 1988). Our large black cherry continues to thrive; fewer and fewer stems remain. Our seedling thicket has reached a condition such that most casual hikers might think it an undisturbed forest.

Tionesta

 

By ages 70 and 80 (1998 and 2008), our dominant cherry is a regal denizen, a magnificent leader of this second growth forest. Dead and down woody debris signals that competition remains fierce. Note that even the distant forest now reveals fewer and fewer stems per acre.

TionestaTionesta

 

The most recent image (2018) shows a 90-year-old forest, one most observers would term mature. Striking a chord with me, these photos are a reminder that I conducted my doctoral research in 80-90-year-old second growth Allegheny hardwood stands, similar to this one, just 40-50 miles from Tionesta.

 

Perhaps there are other long term forest development photo-sequences in the eastern US. If so, I am unaware. I am grateful that Dr. Susan Stout, retired Project Leader at the USFS Warren Forestry Lab and Research Forester Emerita, made these photos available to me. I can think of no better way to impress upon people the dynamic nature of forest ecosystems. Many people, upon entering the 2018 forest, would think that such forests are static and have looked this way for centuries. Today, as I work with landowning entities of all sorts (e.g., the Alabama State Park System, North Alabama Land Trust, and Camp McDowell), I encourage those responsible to begin photo-sequencing special places on their properties.

Stand Composition after 400 Years

I cannot say what the 90-year-old Tionesta forest will look like 300 years from now. Rather than venture into such speculation, let’s examine the Heart’s Content forest as I found it in early September 2021. A hemlock and red oak (each at least three feet in diameter) stand shoulder to shoulder below left. The trees are solid, tall, regal, seeming permanent. What force could possibly topple them? These two ancient sentries may remain standing for decades or longer, yet, I know that even they will ultimately yield to some force of Nature. Nothing in our forests is static; nothing is permanent.

Signaling the impermanence of even the mighty, two like-sized decaying trunks lie side by side below right. Old growth is characterized by large trees and lots of dead and down woody debris, scattered openings, and multi-tiered canopies.

Heart's Content

 

Rather than offer an exhaustive commentary, I present here images of species within the protected forest. Hemlock and white pine account for more than half of the living, standing dead, and down trees…at least fifty percent of the species composition.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Red maple survives as scattered individuals. The white ash, while still holding its bark, is recently dead from emerald ash borer, a tragic development from New York south to Tennessee, now southward-bound for Alabama to infest and kill our green and white ash.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Thanks to interpretive signage, many of these images (yellow birch below left) come pre-labeled! Black birch stands below right.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Black cherry and American beech are common.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

I repeat this image from near the beginning of this Post, this time in simple black and white. It seems appropriate to portray an ancient forest this way, following the B&W images of the 90-year photo sequence.

Heart's Content

 

As I said earlier, I could have stayed the entire day, absorbing the essence of this ancient forest. I will draw this Post to closure with a few pertinent John Muir quotes:

Wilderness is a necessity… there must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer two observations:

  • The best way to know a forest is to understand its origin and development.
  • Muir nailed it: The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

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 BooksHeart's Content

 

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.

 

 

Tribute to a Forestry Legend: Jim Finley

A Tribute to a Friend and Colleague

Sunday morning, October 3, 2021, I learned that long time friend Dr. James (Jim) Finley lost his life Saturday morning while working in his woodlot in central Pennsylvania. Jim, a fellow forestry faculty member at Penn State University, and I collaborated on many projects during my nine years at that university (1987-96). We partnered in developing and delivering Cooperative Extension programs for the state’s 750,000 (as of 2020) individual family forestland owners, who today collectively own 12 million forested acres (70 percent of the state’s forestland). Our goal was to encourage, enable, and inspire those owners to embrace and apply the tenets and practice of informed and responsible forest stewardship.

Over my now one-half century of forestry-oriented professional life, I have never known anyone more dedicated to the applied science of forestry and better able to translate his knowledge, whether in the classroom and or on the ground, to lay forest landowners. Jim epitomized one of my own axioms: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Jim cared!

In these Posts I often mention that Nature’s many truths and tales lie hidden in plain sight. I don’t recall Jim saying that in so many words, yet, I learned by working with him over countless hours, that he operated by that fundamental truth. Time after time, I saw Jim systematically, casually, and expertly lift the curtain to reveal a forest’s deepest secrets.

Excerpted from the Penn State Center for Private Forests website (https://ecosystems.psu.edu/research/centers/private-forests/news/remembering-jim-finley):

The Center for Private Forests at Penn State is deeply saddened to share the sudden and tragic loss of our co-founder and Council Chair Dr. Jim Finley, Ibberson Chair and Professor Emeritus of Private Forest Management and Human Dimen­sions and Natural Resources, on October 2, 2021. Jim’s decades of work informed our understanding of forests, private forest landowners, and all the people who care for the woods.

So, I dedicate this Post to my friend, one of my professional and life heroes, and already sorely missed colleague, Jim Finley:

May be an image of 1 person, nature and tree

Photo from the Pennsylvania Forestry Association Facebook page.

A Moment in Time

Regardless of how the end might come, within the forest or among people, Jim’s passing has once more reminded me that living within the moment and with (and for) the ones we love will never be more important than here and now. The forest…and life…are rich with moments of peace, tranquility, love, and beauty. Be aware that moments are flying by at 60-minutes-per-hour. Don’t let them rush past with you unaware of how precious each one is. I try to remind myself that each hike could be my last. That every embrace of a loved one may not be followed by another.

In early September 2021, I visited the 400-year-old forest at Heart’s Content Scenic Area in northwest Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Natuinal Forest. I photographed a pair of four-foot diameter forest denizens, reminding me that nothing is permanent. The massive foreground white pine is recently dead (its bark still clinging to the trunk); the hemlock behind it still thrives. Such is the continuing cycle of life and death within the forest…and among people.

Heart's Content

I saw Jim as a figurative mighty oak (or a majestic white pine or hemlock like those at Heart’s Content) in his field of forest stewardship education, standing tall, seeming permanent, always steadfast, deeply rooted, and dedicated to his overlapping professional and personal missions. However, like all trees in the forest, including the white pine above, none of us is permanent…we are all fragile and our lives are fleeting.

I can’t recall the last time that Jim and I shared a woodland hike. I had no thought about it being our last. Had we known, perhaps we would have gone a mile further. Life is fleeting and fragile…each moment precious and worth cherishing. Jim and Linda visited Judy and me in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2007, eleven years after we had departed Penn State — we’re standing below on six-feet-thick overflow ice on June 11, when we made another set of memories.

 

Who could have imagined that Jim, a consumate woodsman, would walk into his own woodlot that early October morning for the last time? Fate; pre-destiny for this man of deep faith? John Muir fittingly offers an exclamation point to all I have attempted to communicate with my tribute to Jim:

Savor the moments in life that make your heart glow. Chase after and find the moments that will take your breath away. In the end, it is only those milestones on life’s journey that matter.

Oh, if only I could spend one more day wandering a forest…any forest…discovering with Jim what lies hidden within.

 

Closing Thoughts and Reflections

Three conclusions and lessons:

  • My own connections to Nature and special people are sacred…and intertwined.
  • We should live life aware that every hug and every walk in the woods may be our last.
  • Muir: Savor the moments in life that make your heart glow. Chase after and find the moments that will take your breath away. In the end, it is only those milestones on life’s journey that matter.

I draw comfort knowing that Jim took his last breath in a place he loved, doing what he enjoyed, where he already had a lifelong spiritual connection to God.

Contemplating a Video Tale of the William Arthur Wells Memorial Trail: Monte Sano State Park

Retired videographer Bill Heslip and I are at the early stage of developing a 13-20-minute video telling the Land Legacy Tale of the William Arthur Wells Memorial Trail at Monte Sano State Park.

We interviewed Robert (Bob) Wells the morning of June 25, 2021 at his home in Meridianville, Alabama, just north of Huntsville. Bob donated the 40-acre cathedral forest parcel to the State Park System with the condition that the trail through it be named in honor of his older brother (William Arthur) who died at the WWII Naval Battle at Leyte Gulf in October 1944. Two of my prior Posts provide detail about Bob, his brother, the gift, and the incredible cove forest through which the trail wanders.

Dec 4, 2019: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/12/04/memory-and-legacy-for-a-sailor-and-hero/

May 19, 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/05/19/earth-day-visit-to-the-cathedral-forest-along-the-wells-memorial-trail-at-monte-sano-state-park/

After interviewing Bob we left for Bill’s first visit to the trail. We’ll return multiple times over the coming seasons to record sights, scenes, and my reflections as a forester and applied ecologist. The trail is perhaps my favorite across Alabama’s 21 State Parks.

 

Monte Sano

 

The Legacy Tale stirs deep emotions as I reflect on a young man who, like my own WWII veteran Dad, enlisted to join the War effort. Here is Arthur (high school letter sweater) with his parents, both clinging to him as though knowing in those troubled times that clinging may not be enough.

Monte Sano

 

Arthur joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (in CCC uniform below left) after high school. One of his duty assignments, prophetically, detailed him to Monte Sano State Park. With the onset of WWII, Arthur enlisted in the Navy (in uniform below right) bound for the South Pacific.

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cathedral forest did not disappoint Bill (and his wife Becky, below left). The yellow poplar along the trail towers above them. The photo below right peers downhill, deeper into the cove. I feel the spirit of Arthur when I contemplate the place, the gift, and its sentiment. I wonder whether during his Monte Sano CCC days did Arthur venture into this cove. Did he somehow feel the future echoes of the legacy…a chill along the back of his neck.

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

Following the interview, Bill captured Bob and Catherine strolling through the backyard.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Bob sat in a rocking chair for the interview, under the shade of a tree he had planted years earlier. After returning to his office Bob searched for a few photos of Arthur.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

One of the items he found was the newspaper article for the trail dedication.

Monte Sano

 

I thought of Bob’s brother, whom he had last seen nearly a year before Arthur’s ship went down, as we enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the magnificent cathedral cove forest along the trail.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

I’ve written often that every parcel of forest, and even every tree, has a story to tell…often evoking deep spirit, passion, and sentiment. I cannot hike this trail without feeling the spirit of a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country I relish today. A young man of my father’s generation…the Greatest Generation. A young man…a patriot, unlike the snowflakes of today who whine and complain about our nation’s faults (past and present), seemingly ignorant that no other nation on the face of the Earth is a better place to live. A better place to live for all Americans. I view the cathedral forest as a symbol for our liberty, freedom, and equality of opportunity for which Arthur gave his life.

God Bless America!

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: “©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 BooksMonte Sano

 

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 Summer Rambling in a Soggy Bottomland Forest

One and two-thirds inches of rain had fallen over the 36 hours ending late morning August 19, 1921, late summer conditions perfect for mushroom growth and development in the hardwood bottomlands along the Tennessee River in Limestone County Alabama, just fifteen miles from my home in Madison. I entered a forest still dripping as clouds thinned, slogging in nearly knee-high rubber boots, eyes peeled for fungal kingdom spore production organs…mushrooms! The mosquitoes and I love these maturing riparian hardwood forests. Well, they like living there, lying in wait for a blood-rich fur-free biped to wander past.

In the Kingdom of Fungi (Flora, Fauna, and Funga)

 

I’ve observed previously in my Posts that when I earned my forestry degree (1973), fungi sat within the plant kingdom, among the non-flowering plants. Shortly thereafter, fungi ascended to their own distinct kingdom, an epic promotion! Contrast that shift to the 2006 fall of Pluto from planet to simply a dwarf planet. The once proud planet fell from grace: Pride goeth before the fall.

HGH Road

 

My purpose with this Post is to show the rich diversity of fungi and associated life I encountered and photographed on a soggy mid-August late afternoon in a bottomland hardwood stand. Here is violet-toothed polypore heavily colonizing a downed red oak, depicting the ongoing cycle of life and death.

HGH Road

 

Closer inspection evidenced the dense mycelia growth, hidden from view, that surely resides within the dead wood. The close-up below right corroborates the violet-toothed moniker.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

The Grand Circle of Life and Death

I have often mentioned and presented photo-evidence of Nature’s grand circle of life and death. John Muir, ever the uber-observer and elegant synthesizer of Nature’s ways offered this relevant conclusion:

One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature — inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.

Within this mature bottomland hardwood forest at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge a main canopy occupant (I am uncertain whether it is an oak or hickory) stands 3-5 years dead (my estimate based upon bark shedding and all but the largest crown branches already fallen). Nearby trees are sending leafy stems into the still evident canopy opening…and will close the void within another summer or two.

HGH Road

 

Much of the bark has sloughed from the trunk and lies as thick mulch at its base. Wood-boring beetles and decay fungi are weakening the stem so that near term, a fresh breeze will reintroduce its biomass to the ground and, in time, incorporate it into the soil. A fleshy polypore mushroom is disseminating countless spores to spread the fungal species via wind to other dead and dying woody biomass.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

This black staining polypore produced considerable weight in its fruiting bodies (mushrooms). From mushroomknowhow.com:

Black staining polypore mushrooms are parasitic and saprobic in their nature. This means that they parasitize or feed on dead or decaying tree matter. They can grow either on the ground (on or around the roots of trees) and on the stumps or logs of dead or decaying deciduous trees such as oaks, beeches and maples. The species is found exclusively in North America, although close relatives of these polypores known as Meripulus giganteus can be found in Northern Europe as well. Their peak season is late July to November.

When handled, especially the undersides, the surface bruises with dark splotches where touched.

HGH Road

 

The species is described as edible. I’ve found that only the outer 1.5-2 inches of the fans are palatable (the remainder too tough and fibrous). Their fragrance is strong and earthy. I clean and finely chop the harvested edges, boil with seasonings to create a stock for a thick rice soup. Delicious, but only if you are 100 percent certain of identity. Please don’t rely upon my photos to base your species identification.

HGH Road

 

I stumbled upon two fresh clusters of chicken of the woods, considered by many as culinary delights. From ediblewildfood.com:

Chicken of the woods is parasitic and saprobic on living and dead oaks (also sometimes on the wood of other hardwoods). It causes a reddish brown cubical heart rot, with thin areas of white mycelium visible in the cracks of the wood. It is considered an annual favourite. These mushrooms do not appear until well after the fungus has attacked the tree. Originally described in 1789 by French botanist and mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard, this spectacular polypore was given its current name in 1920 by the famous American mycologist William Alphonso Murrill (1869 – 1967). This fungi typically grows in large clusters in the summer and fall.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Such a thrill to find those orange to peach beauties. I harvested perhaps half of each cluster, cleaned, sliced into 8-10 square-inch filets, battered, and fried like chicken. Delectable! Again, be absolutely certain before consuming any wild-foraged mushroom.

I switch gears now to some attractive and interesting non-edibles. First, here is Stereum versicolor, a woody, fan-shaped mushroom that is strictly saprobic, consuming dead woody tissue.

HGH Road

 

This is a white jelly fungus, a gelatinous decay fungus. I’ve read that some of the jellies are edible. I have not ventured into that zone of certainty.

HGH Road

 

This mushroom’s name, indigo milk cap, is descriptive, enhanced by its background of green moss.

HGH Road

 

 

 

I’m not sure what to say about this dog’s nose fungus (Peridoxylon petersii). I found little about it online, other than several sites showing an image alongside a closeup of a dog’s nose. The look and even the cold wet feel do indeed resemble a canine proboscis! Shall I throw this find into the forest fungus oddity category?

HGH Road

 

Another fungi curiosity is devil’s dipstick (also known as demon fingers, dog stinkhorn, elegant stinkhorn, and headless stinkhorn). From NC State Cooperative Extension online:

Elegant stinkhorn (Mutinus elegans) is a foul smelling fungus found anywhere woody material is rotting – old stumps and branches, mulch, lawns. The ‘horn’ is the visible fruiting body of the network of mycelia that has been growing through the woody material, breaking it down and releasing nutrients to other plants. At some point, this network ‘decides’ it is time to reproduce and creates a white egg like structure that is partially above ground. It is from this structure that the pink to orange columnar fruiting body develops. This development can take only a few hours. The top of the structure is covered in a slimy, greenish brown mass of spores that smells of rotting meat or worse. The smell attracts insects which become covered in the slimy spores and deposit them away from the ‘parent’ mycelia. This is a very unusual occurrence within the fungus world. Most rely on wind to disperse their minute spores.

HGH Road

 

Let’s shift from foul and repugnant to tasty! This delightful mushroom is a red chanterelle. I harvest, clean, slice into strips and sauté with butter, add a little salt and pepper, and either eat fresh with meat, rice, eggs, pizza, and sundry other dishes, or freeze for future use.

HGH Road

 

This flame chanterelle is another species of the same genus (Cantharellus). The bulk of my 30-35 pounds of frozen Cantharellus are smooth chanterelles, whose peak season extended from late June through late July. Yes, that’s a poison ivy leaf in the below left image. Unfortunately, poison ivy is a common ground cover, standing up to two feet, in the bottomland hardwood stands where I’ve found the greatest yields of chanterelles. I try to avoid direct contact with my hands as I harvest. Wearing calf-high rubber boots protects my lower legs. However, upon returning home, I immediately toss my outer clothes into the washing machine and head for the shower before cleaning and processing the harvest. All of that is a small price to pay for my woodland adventures and foraging bounty.

HGH Road

 

Burls, Mosses, Flowers, and Butterflies

Although I’ve concentrated most of this Post on the fungi kingdom, I must include some other observations. This three foot diameter willow oak sported a huge basal burl, a growth abnormality likely resulting from physical injury or fungal infection stimulating unregulated wood cell production. A human comparison is a benign tumor. Large burls such as this one are prized by wood workers who cherish their spectacular grain patterns.

HGH Road

 

I could not resist photographing this moss-adorned and lichen-splotched sapling backdropped by a three-foot diameter oak.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

 

Snow squarestem in full flower lined a gravel access road entering the forest. An eastern tiger swallowtail visited the squarestem, allowing me to snap a quick photo. Summer in our riparian forests offers all manner of bounty…abundant soul-sustenance, as well as victual delights for the palate.

HGH Road

 

Long ago I read Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962), a best-seller, presenting a species-by-species accounting of his foraging for wild edibles. I was eleven years old, a budding outdoor enthusiast who devoured the book’s content, imagining that I might learn to live off the land. Gibbon’s once said:

My love affair with nature is so deep that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker, or nature tourist. I crave a more real and meaningful relationship. The spicy teas and tasty delicacies I prepare from wild ingredients are the bread and wine in which I have communion and fellowship with nature, and with the Author of that nature.

Clearly, my communion and fellowship with Nature depend on far more than the few species of edible wild mushrooms that I recognize, harvest, and consume. My relationship with Nature extends from body to heart, soul, mind, and spirit…a communion far stronger and rewarding to my own Life and Living. A summer woodland hike through a southern bottomland hardwood forest yields delight and satisfaction beyond measure.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” I say the same of communing with Nature.
  • Like Euell Gibbons, “My love affair with nature is so deep that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker.”
  • 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 an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHGH Road

 

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

 

 

Lessons from Nature: Nature is a Meritocracy

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

Setting the Stage

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

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

Jolly B Road

 

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

Nature Observations

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

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

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

Jolly B Road

 

Leonardo da Vinci:

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

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

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

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Charles Darwin:

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

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

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Nature is a Meritocracy

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

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

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

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

I add a fourth of my own creation:

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

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

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

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

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

Natural Laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UAF UAF

 

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

Oak Mountain

 

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

The Law of Simplicity

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

Southern Sanctuary

John Muir expressed the essence of the intricate beauty and wonder of manifold and compounded simplicity: When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. Nature constructs its masterpieces without overhead and bureaucracy. Nothing about Nature is top heavy; she tolerates no administrative bloat. Nature needs no Office of Ecosystem Efficacy.

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

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

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

I’ll end by repeating da Vinci:

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature’s infinite storm of beauty Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHGH Road

 

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

 

Summer 2021: Ten Weeks of North Alabama Cloud Magic

I have enjoyed a lifelong fascination with weather that has only deepened with retirement, when now I can devote more time to wandering about with eyes to the sky. My weather and cloud addiction began at the dawn of my recollection. Five years ago, I wrote in Nature Based Leadership, my first book, of a vivid sky-memory I still carry from 67 years ago when from my high chair perch I saw something astounding:

I have a vague recollection (from sixty years ago) of sitting in my high chair, watching the sliver of sky that I could see through the kitchen window, rapidly (dizzyingly) transition from blue to very dark as clouds raced across. Even then, I puzzled over what I had seen. Nothing else emerges from the memory. Did a storm follow, or did the blue return? Perhaps Mom placed food in front of me, and the window view—with its curiously rapid cloud covering—slipped into a lower priority. Regardless, the memory is clear. I still puzzle over how nearly-instantaneously the clouds advanced. Given how much more deeply I now understand weather, I suppose that the visual memory is flawed or far too blurry to interpret. I observed and interpreted then through the visual and intellectual lenses of a three-year old, and through those same lenses, stored the memory. How closely does what I recall seeing six decades later match the actual image visible through the parted curtain? The image I carry now is remarkable, like nothing I have seen since. I close my eyes, and the memory is vivid and real, yet it makes no sense through the perception of a sixty-five year old weather fanatic. What we see depends clearly on what tools, understanding, and knowledge we bring to the observation. And time adjusts the memory of what we see.

At age 70 my weather fanaticism directs my eyes heavenward. I don’t miss much. Forty-nine years since our wedding day, Judy tolerates my nearly constant urging that she look at this or that cloud formation, approaching storm, or atmospheric nuance. Because it’s been a good cloud-summer to-date (August 15, 2021), allow me to hit the cloud and sky highlights from June 2 through August 14, roughly 10 weeks, a fifth of the year.

This is not my first Post focusing on the firmament. Here are three, a sampling…not an exhaustive list:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/10/17/the-tumbling-mirth-of-sun-split-clouds-sky-gazing-on-a-12-day-national-parks-journey/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/11/07/cheaha-state-park-mid-october-skies-and-clouds/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/02/03/dawn-sky-glory-december-19-2020/

June 2021

I could have backed into May or even January, yet, the number of archive-worthy sky photos is already at 34 for just this ten-week-cloud Post. June through mid-August strikes me as a good arbitrary view and review window. The image below on June 2 at 5:06 pm is SSW from my patio. A thunderstorm cluster along an advancing cold front pushed these turbulent clouds rapidly from the northwest as heavy rains soon enveloped us, dropping 1.45″ that evening. I like the ominous darkness and the sliver of bright clear sky retreating to the lower left.

 

Two days later I visited Huntsville’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, enjoying the spring-like temperature and bright blue of the system ushered south by the cold front and rain. That’s Jobala Pond reflecting the cerulean sky below right. Experimenting with my iPhone camera when first acquired, I would lie flat on my back to capture the view directly overhead. By June of 2021, I had learned to reverse the camera to selfie setting, hold it horizontal, and away from me enough to keep the bill of my ball cap out of the image, and release the shutter. Voilà, a sky shot from the comfort of standing (below left)! The blue dot puzzles me — an anomaly associated with the direct view into the 1:24 PM overhead sun, I suppose.

 

It’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all. – Joni Mitchell

The secret to capturing memorable sky and cloud photos is simply being outside. June 8 I biked several loops on Madison, Alabama’s Bradford Creek Greenway, just ten minutes drive from my home. An extensive deck of altostratus had been drifting northward as I pedaled. At 9:30 AM I stopped to capture the thin band of blue retreating toward the northern horizon (below right). The deck was not threatening nor did it portend imminent rain. I often take a break on a trailside bench beneath a massive red oak (below left), which most days offers a branch-framed sky-view.

 

 

 

 

 

Eighty percent of success is showing up. Woody Allen

Half the battle is just showing up. Stephen Hawking

I make fifty cents for showing up…and the other fifty cents for my performance. Steve Jobs

 

June 21, a day after the summer solstice, I photographed cumulus building at 2:40 PM from my patio, the view directly south. I measured two-tenths of an inch from resultant showers. Some people delight in living in the nearly constant sunshine of the southwest US. I could not survive without vibrant moisture-rich weather. Blossoming cumulus, dark-bottomed, columns of rain reaching downward as first a shadow, then a spreading torrent, with lightning flashing and thunder resounding provide me with some of the best entertainment on the planet. A full dose of Nature-Inspired Life and Living, combined with my scientist’s zeal to observe, monitor, learn, and revel in Nature’s power.

 

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

A day later, June 22, I returned to the Bradford Creek Greenway, stopping at 9:58 AM to appreciate the much more tranquil sky above the same oak tree. Could the blue be any more intense?

Cloud and Sky

 

I biked the Hampton Cove Greenway June 24, pausing at 10:20 AM at the terminus five miles east of Owens Crossroads. Rich agricultural valleys, nestled between heavily forested ridges, are rapidly transitioning to housing developments as Huntsville expands. While the two images include both the corn and new homes crops, the sky is the central focus. I commend those who anticipated the suburban growth and paved the way with the lengthening greenway. When the corn yields its final acre to subdivision, the greenway will continue to provide a necessary conduit for sky-addict bikers to enjoy Nature’s gifts of overhead beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.

 

Showing up isn’t limited to just places. Time is also a variable to explore and exploit. June 25 at 4:22 AM (yes, I am always up before dawn), I photographed this translucent cloud layer backlit by the full moon. The iPhone employed a three-second exposure. At that moment the eastern sky showed no hint of the coming dawn.

 

The moon will light the clouds, just as the tides shall shape the sand. – Anthony T. Hincks

June 27 at 8:05 AM (left) and 8:08 (right) my patio perch offered nice sun-play backlighting morning cumulus. The left image presents a rainbow prism above the cloud and the other a spectacular margin and a wedge-shaft of solar rays. Some people ask why I get up so early. I hide my incredulity that anyone would not choose to rise early!

 

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? – It is the same the angels breathe. ― Mark Twain

June 27, 2021 the sun set at 8:05 PM here in Madison, Alabama. I snapped this photo at 8:16 PM directly opposite the sunset (which just five days after the solstice is, for all practical purposes, due west). These anti-crepuscular rays are converging due east to the antisolar point. Without dipping into the optical physics, the sun’s rays are parallel even though they appear to radiate outward from the solar point and converge inward to the antisolar point. Picture how a long road straight-away converges to a common vanishing point; the same is true of the sun’s rays.

 

July 1, 2021 my bike ride took me back to the Bradford Creek Greenway, where I paused beneath my favorite oak tree at 8:07 AM to capture an overhanging branch and a memorable cirrus against a perfect blue.

 

July 9 at 4:24 PM from my patio I spotted some distant thunderheads peaking through a nearer opening in the stratocumulus. Radar revealed echoes from these storms some 70 miles to the south. Such radar verification allows me to better estimate location for the images I see. I think about my current reliance upon weather radar for improving my decisions about hitting the bike trail or heading to my mushroom foraging forests. I wonder, too, about how many people even see such a cloud-window as this, much less read it to recognize a distant thunderstorm. Funny thing that the more I learn about weather, the more that I appreciate it. Learning and understanding weather (or anything of Nature and science) more deeply certainly adds volume to my knowledge base, yet, increases the universe of related things I do not know and understand. Toby Keith echoed my sentiment when he sang I Wish I Didn’t Know Now What I Didn’t Know Then.

 

Morning cumulus often show off, sending puffs vertically into sunlight peering above the eastern horizon, like this one on July 10 at 5:45 AM. This one suggests movement from left to right (I verified through observation). Cumulus clouds build vertically, often encountering winds of increasing velocity with height. The pink top of this one is being sported along more quickly than the gray below it drifting more slowly.

 

July 21 at 8:50 PM, I captured this line of thunderheads to the south with a 3-second shutter. For all practical purposes, we were at full dark, the clouds illuminated by urban lights.

 

Cumulus never fail to entertain me. These few individuals July 27 at 4:37 PM hinted at developing into showers and thunderstorms. They never broke through the threshold beyond fair weather galleons.

 

Who reports the works and ways of the clouds, those wondrous creations coming into being every day like freshly upheaved mountains? John Muir

July 30, a vigorous thunderstorm cluster powered southward at 6:09 PM (left, view to north) and at 6:14 PM (right, view to southwest). These ragged gust front underbelly clouds evidenced turbulence in advance of the rain shield, which dropped 0.42″ of rain.

 

Be comforted, dear soul, there is always light behind clouds. – Louisa May Alcott

Thirty-nine years of my life had passed before I understood that clouds were not my enemy; that they were beautiful, and that I needed them. I suppose this, for me, marked the beginning of wisdom. Life is short. – Limani David

August 4 at 6:00 AM crepuscular rays reached into the rapidly retreating night, far to the west. Dawn arrives with promise and hope on mornings such as this, its good tidings foretold in every ray.

 

August 13, 6:03 AM, an alto cumulus deck ushered in the new day. I can’t imagine choosing sleep, oblivious to such a grand entrance.

 

That same day, thunderstorms 60-70 miles south of us peeked through our broken mid-level partial cloud cover at 5:28 PM. The casual observer would not have caught sight of the storms (below left) without drawing them closer with telephoto (below right). I have fond and still deep memories of camping with my family as a boy, fishing for catfish along the river after dark, watching far distant thunderheads, lightning illuminating their cauliflower tops from within. Because darkness lagged several hours beyond these images I was denied seeing the storms light from within.

 

You must not blame me if I talk to the clouds. – Thoreau

A powerful storm drifted our way from the west just 30 minutes later, nearing close enough for audible thunder at 6:01 PM, producing a roll cloud headed in my direction. I sat watching, waiting for the imminent wind and rain…in vain. As occasionally happens with heat-of-the-day thunderstorms, the sinking sun and rain-cooled air associated with the storm combined to stabilize the atmosphere, shutting down the convective energy. This storm fizzled without sharing a drop of rain.

 

 

 

 

 

I felt blessed to see a shimmer of color August 14, 6:47 PM as this narrow, chimney-like cumulus rose to my ESE, its top shearing to the north, dropping enough virga (precipitation evaporating before hitting the ground) under the shearing overhang to create a small rainbow arc (visible in the below right expanded view).

 

Try to be a rainbow, in someone else’s cloud. – Maya Angelo

Two and three minutes later (6:49 and 6:50 PM), the virga rainbow arc shifted almost imperceptibly to the cloud’s lower right.

 

Fittingly, the ten-week cloud series ends August 14 (6:50 PM) with a spectacular floating-city cumulus platform rising to my south.

 

Now, if God made the clouds so beautiful, did He not mean us to gaze upon them and be thankful for them?Alfred Rowland

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • What we see in Nature depends clearly on what tools, understanding, and knowledge we bring to the observation.
  • A lifelong weather addict, I find inspiration for life and living in clouds.
  • Wherever I roam, I keep an eye to the sky for beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

September 2020 September 2020

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  • big bluestem and indiangrass blend
  • switchgrass and eastern gamagrass

The design will overlay cover crop alternatives.

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

Nature Notations from an Early August Day of Biking and Hiking

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

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

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

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

Flint River

[Photos from Prior Visits]

 

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

Hampton Cove

 

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

Hays

[Photo from Prior Visit]

 

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

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

Hays

 

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

Hays

 

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

Hays

 

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

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

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

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

 

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

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

 

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

 

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

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vegetative Elegance

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

Hays

 

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

Hays

 

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

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

 

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHays

 

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

 

 

 

 

Contemplating a Video of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

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

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

Southern Sanctuary

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Glory Under the Firmament

 

Margaret Anne recently communicated her gift-motivation:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Life Abounds

 

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

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

 

Marian photographed this black swallowtail as we hiked.

 

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

 

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

 

Tree Form Curiosities

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Special Magic of Flowers and Moss

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Closing Comments

 

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

 

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

 

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksSouthern Sanctuary

 

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