Governor Kay Ivey’s Exciting April 2021 State Park System Announcement at Oak Mountain State Park

I retired full time to Madison, AL January 2018, following 12 years (1973-1985) practicing forestry with a Fortune 500 paper and allied forest products manufacturing company and 33 years serving nine universities. I recall saying during the heart of my career that I just could not imagine ever retiring. I admit to some serious adjustment during the first few months after letting go. However, I have found rewarding, satisfying, and fulfilling pursuits related to my passion for Nature-Inspired Life and Living, to include researching, writing, and publishing these Posts. Also high among those pursuits is participating as a Charter Board Member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation.

I visited Oak Mountain State Park April 14-16 to attend the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board spring meeting and to be there for Governor Ivey’s address at the Park Pavilion (And, to enjoy three half-day hikes!). I decided upon my Board appointment to never attend a Park-located Foundation Board meeting without planning an extra day or two to explore that Park. I hiked to Indian Overlook on Shackleford Ridge the morning after the Board meeting (photo below).

 

 

My April 27, 2021 Post (http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/04/27/fifty-shades-of-april-green-at-oak-mountain-state-park/) highlighted the magic of the Park’s fifty-shades-of-green spring forest palette. I am focusing today’s Post on other than my ancillary hikes and explorations. I will expand with photos and reflections on the natural wonders with subsequent Posts.

Today I offer the essence of Governor Ivey and the State Legislature’s Commitment to Alabama’s State Parks, and the extraordinary economic, social, and environmental benefits they provide to our State and its citizens. Governor Ivey made her remarks at the main pavilion near Park headquarters mid-morning April 15. The setting could not have been more grand. Partly cloudy, comfortable breeze, open water, and fifty shades of spring green.

Oak MountainOak Mountain

 

I urge you to view Gov Ivey’s four-minute video announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTAGBP6zSUI

All of us on the Board rejoiced. The news was everything we had anticipated relative to memorializing the productive partnership involving the Parks, our Foundation, and private enterprise… and more. The more is summarized below.

A Montgomery newspaper article provided a written summary: “A constitutional amendment that would allow the state to borrow $80 million to improve state parks passed its first vote in the Alabama Legislature on Wednesday.

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Christopher Blankenship told Alabama Daily News that the bonds would be used to expand and improve campgrounds and recreational areas.

“As we’ve seen this past year with COVID, state parks and outdoor recreation have been extremely important to people for their physical and mental health,” Blankenship said. “We saw great increases in usage at our parks, and also the federal wild properties in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.”

Blankenship told the Senate and House General Fund budget committees on Wednesday that attendance was up about 1.2 million for a total of 6.2 million visitors to state parks last year.

Alabama voters approved a $110 million bond issue in 1998 to help improve state parks and historical sites. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, says now that that bond issue is almost paid off, the state can enter into this new one.

“Because interest rates are so low today, we’re able to use the same amount that we’re paying out now, redo new bonds and put $80 million into the existing parks, which is going to be a tremendous asset to our state and to our tourism and across our state,” Ledbetter told ADN.

House bills 565 and 573 are the constitutional amendment and enabling legislation sponsored by Ledbetter. They passed the committee on Wednesday with no opposition. The Senate bills, 362 and 383, also passed committee with no opposition.

Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, sponsors the Senate version of the plan, which has 24 co-sponsors. He said the bond issue is about making the parks self-sufficient and providing amenities that will give a return on investment.

“We feel as though making these investments will lead to even more improvements that can be made in a quicker amount of time and will bring in even more visitors and more money to the parks so that they can continue to do that over and over,” Scofield told ADN.

An amendment was added to both House and Senate bills that would allow any potential overage on the bond issue to go to various properties operated by the Alabama Forestry Commission.

A fiscal note on the bill says the bond issue would increase General Fund spending by about $5.5 million per year for 20 years, but House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, explained that it really isn’t an increase since it is replacing the bond issue that has now been paid out.

A brochure provided by the ADCNR  (https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:a5c6edd8-9589-4c90-be7d-14df0bcdb513#pageNum=1) lists their renovation plans, which include expanding campgrounds, modernizing day-use areas, adding cabins or swimming pools and providing internet connectivity to overnight accommodations.

Blankenship said the renovations will provide capabilities for modern-day desires.

“To bring them up to a standard that people have come to expect now and as the landscape is changing with motor homes and they’re becoming more advanced and require more from our campgrounds,” Blankenship said.

State parks are not funded by the State General Fund, but rather through fees. They generate 80-90% of their revenue directly through entrance, rental, lodging, golf and other recreational fees.

From 2011-2015, around $15 million was transferred from the parks budget to the state general fund and in 2015, five state parks had to shut down due to lack of funds.

In 2016 Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment that would prevent future reallocating of state park funds for other uses in the state’s budgets.

Scofield said in committee that the amendment passed in 2016 has helped with maintenance costs of the parks but is not able to provide the necessary funds to make the renovations they want to make in a quick enough manner.

“Money is staying in the parks system but it is just slower than anticipated,” Scofield said.

There are 21 state parks in Alabama that have an estimated $375 million economic impact for the state, according to the ADCNR brochure.

If the constitutional amendment is passed by both chambers then Alabama voters will likely vote on it in the 2022 election.

Scofield, who has three state parks in his district, said his constituents support improving the parks and he believes Alabama voters will approve the bond issue easily.

“Our parks play an important role in making sure that we are providing outdoor activities for the citizens of Alabama, even though you might not have a state park located in your area, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one near for a day trip,” Scofield said.

Since it’s a constitutional amendment, Gov. Kay Ivey does not have to sign off on the bill. However, Ivey Press Secretary Gina Maiola told ADN that Ivey supports the initiative.”

Urgent Update to this Post: Commissioner Blankenship communicated this message to the Foundation Board May 5, 2021:

Last week, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill that will put a proposed Constitutional Amendment on the ballot that would allow the state to sell up to $80 million in bonds for renovation, acquisition and capital improvements for Alabama State Parks under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This CA will be on the ballot for the statewide primary in May 2022. I am very excited about this step in our plan. I would like to thank Speaker McCutcheon, Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter and Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield for championing the State Parks and effectively shepherding this legislation through the process.

A companion bill was also passed that will increase funds we receive for general maintenance from $5 million annually to $7 million annually with a CPI adjustment every year. 

The bond projects coupled with the private partnerships forged through the ASP Foundations Capital Campaign that we kicked off on April 15 with Governor Ivey, Buffalo Rock and the Alabama Power Foundation, position us for a great deal of important work to make our Alabama State Parks first class!

As a Board member, citizen of Alabama, and a lifelong Earth Stewardship enthusiast I am thrilled that our State Parks System is poised to elevate its commitment to and practice of conservation, Nature-based recreation, and environmental education. I am overjoyed that Foundation Board Founding Chair, Dr. Dan Hendricks (below), invited me to join the then-fledgling Board.

Oak Mountain

 

I commend and salute Dan, Park System Director Greg Lein (below left), and Commissioner Chris Blankenship (below right) for their extraordinary leadership, vision, and dedication to the cause.

Park System Commitment to Education

The Park System Mission is succinct and powerful:

To acquire and preserve natural areas; to develop, furnish, operate and maintain recreational facilities; and to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment.

I love all facets of the mission, but I must admit to deepest passion for the education element. Environmental education fits hand-in-glove with my personal 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. That is what motivates my weekly Posts on Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

I hope my efforts have played some small role in the System’s commitment to expanding and strengthening its education mission. I learn a great deal interacting with our Park Naturalists. I hiked the afternoon of April 14 upon my arrival, and then several more hours on the trails after the April 15 Board meeting with Oak Mountain Naturalist Lauren Muncher (below right) and Central District Environmental Educator Scottie Jackson (left). Scottie has broad responsibility for education at Oak Mountain, Cheaha, and Wind Creek. The Central District position is new, as is having an environmental educator (Scottie) assigned to Wind Creek.

Oak MountainOak Mountain

 

We also now have an environmental educator assigned for the first time to Joe Wheeler State Park, and the search for a first time Naturalist position at Monte Sano State Park is underway.

Lauren and Scottie bring unbridled enthusiasm, passion, and good humor to extending the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment. Both are committed to the task, creative, and eager to learn. We spent time together on-site in the spirit of learning and in challenging each other to imagine new ways of spreading the gospel of informed and responsible stewardship of our corner of this pale blue orb. I am buoyed by both the act of expanding environmental education staff… and by the quality of personnel.

Oak MountainOak Mountain

 

I found it fitting that Lauren and Scottie paused (and posed) standing atop a Civilian Conservation Corps culvert constructed in the 1930s. They know and understand that human and natural history are intertwined on all 21 Alabama State Parks and across the entire 48,000-acre Park System. They appreciate that the results of their efforts will reach across the next eight decades and beyond. They want to…and will…make a difference. I applaud their zeal to touch the future!

Oak Mountain

 

Nature inspires, even as it humbles. Whether the view from atop Shackleford Ridge (beginning of this Post) or the serene image from the front porch of the cabin where I stayed on the Park’s Tranquility Lake (below), Nature is an elixir that stirs my soul. And, a salve that brings greater meaning to my life.

Oak Mountain

 

And, when I contemplate the people of vision and passion who established the Alabama State Park System decades ago, or consider today’s leaders and educators who are lighting the torch for the next century, I am humbled. Humbled…and happy…to play some small role. To influence stewardship of some corner of this world through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work.

 

Alabama State Park Foundation Board

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • Our Parks are treasures… returning economic, recreation, and environmental benefits.
  • I celebrate our State’s commitment to responsible and informed Earth Stewardship.
  • Hats-off to Park System leadership for strengthening environmental education.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksOak Mountain

 

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

 

 

Fifty Shades of April Green at Oak Mountain State Park

Nature’s Beauty, Magic, Wonder, and Awe are Regionally Relative

Only reluctantly did I decide to include this open source autumn-glory image of a sugar maple forest along an unidentified New England lake. Hesitant because its unmatched beauty argues somewhat against the entire premise of my Post — that here in north Alabama, our spring forests’  fifty shades of green rivals the magic of our own fall colors. Note: I shamelessly did a little word play with the recent blockbuster series Fifty Shades of Grey. You’ll be pleased to know that, unlike the sordid series, my Posts are PG!

(Internet Stock Image)

Continuing, I admit that New England’s autumn colors epitomize seasonal stunning. Our oak, sweetgum, hickory, and poplar forests will always fall (pardon the incidental pun) short.

 

Chapman Preserve Chapman Preserve

 

So, I don’t apply the New England standard to my north Alabama autumn enjoyment. I draw parallel to the ultimate majesty of the Tetons. They stir my soul. Who can best them?

Tetons

 

Yet, I don’t permit the splendor of the Tetons to diminish my love of our southern Appalachians (Oak Mountain below).

 

Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe are relative. I partition my appreciation ranking in terms of where I’m exploring wildness. Stephen Stills captured my Nature-appreciation sentiment with his lyrics, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” I love our Alabama wildness right here… easily accessible and within reach. And I love its exquisite vernal elegance, all fifty shades of green! Our southern wildness, across the seasons, stirs my soul and fills my heart. I’ll continue unabashedly to love the one I’m with!

Fifty Shades of Spring Green

 

I captured all of the images below during my April 14-16 wanderings at Oak Mountain State Park. I won’t burden you with excessive text, scientific explanation, or emotional expression. Whether the steady, year-round green of loblolly, Virginia, and shortleaf pines or the full range of green springing from new leaves, oak flowers, or developing maple samaras, multiple shades and hues paint every vista. I offer images from across the several Oak Mountain lakes, along the Park Headquarters parking lot, and from Indian Overlook atop Shackleford Ridge.

Oak Mountain

 

Throw in the mix of cloud cover, and some blue sky after my first day with persistent showers and light rain and the result accentuates the many shades.

Oak Mountain

 

The parking lot does not elevate the view. Instead, it provides the open space vista necessary to expose the forest-edge green mosaic.

Oak Mountain

 

This view adds the near-shore forest edge framing the opposite shore’s varying greens.

Oak Mountain

 

The strata of firmament, shoreline forest profile, and lake surface caught my attention and amplified the simple spring beauty. I didn’t need to fly to Jackson, Wyoming, rent a car, and drive north into Grand Teton National Park. Nor did my enjoyment require driving 1,300 miles to southeast Maine! I invested driving only two hours to the Park, staying two nights in a Park cabin on Tranquility Lake, and hiking multiple trails. Heaven on Earth within easy (and inexpensive) reach of my doorstep.

Oak Mountain

 

Friday morning I hiked from my cabin to Maggie’s Glen, then climbed the trail to Shackleford Ridge, Oak Mountain

 

I found absolute wonder of various sorts along the route, including some great spring wildflowers, on which I’ll report in subsequent Posts. My focus with this one is Fifty Shades of Green! The view from Indian Overlook did not disappoint. Occasionally, for future posterity, I feel compelled to provide evidence that I made the trek, hence the photo below left. The view below right is not tarnished by my own mug.

Oak Mountain

 

Here’s Tranquility Lake, site of the cabin where I stayed for two nights. Both nights, at least two barred owls called and caterwauled in full throat shortly after nightfall. Only loons and whippoorwills rival that special nighttime magic and thrill. Among all my fifty-shades photos from Oak Mountain, none surpasses my front porch Tranquility view with placid water, shoreline forest, stunning sky, and surface reflections… and the deeper internal reflections the scene spurred as I contemplated Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

Oak Mountain

 

Although forest profiles best evidence the multiple shades and hues, subtle differences appeared within the deep forest.

Oak Mountain

 

Now, a few days later as I draft this Post, spring has matured beyond the pronounced fifty shades of green as summer muscles the spring season aside with full canopy foliage. Every place within our Alabama Nature changes complexion diurnally, seasonally, and across the years. Returning time and again to any one place, I never fail to discover a new dimension…a changed face…a special nuance. And, I learn that I have changed with it. Never do I tire of reveling in Nature-exploration. With each visit I feel higher inspiration, deeper humility, and greater commitment to Earth Stewardship and Enjoyment.

John Muir nailed it: In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.

Alabama State Park System

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my fifty-shades-of-green reflections:

  • Nature’s magic shifts with the seasons.
  • So much lies hidden in plain sight.
  • Muir’s wisdom: And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksOak Mountain

 

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

 

 

Tall Trees in Monte Sano State Park’s Cathedral Forest

Thirty-Four-inch Yellow Poplar

I’m continuing to explore our north Alabama forests and their sylvan residents from the ground up with my newly acquired instruments for measuring tree heights. March 12, 2021, I led Jerry Weisenfeld, Alabama State Parks Advertising and Marketing Manager, along the Arthur Wells Memorial and Sinks Trails at Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville, Alabama. I love these trails for the spectacular cathedral grove within the lower slopes and rich limestone-sink soils in protected coves. These soils are extremely fertile and deep. Trees are sheltered on the lower slopes and concave sites from winds that may ravage nearby ridge tops.

We identified a particularly tall yellow poplar for our first measurement. At 34-inch diameter breast high (DBH, 4.5 feet above ground on the uphill side), the tree towered above us. We stretched our tape out 100 feet, then used a clinometer to measure percent sight-line to its base and top. This individual stands at 140′. That’s roughly a 14-story building, a testament to the incredible productive capacity of these remarkably rich soils and ideal site location!

Monte Sano

 

This vertically-giant yellow poplar stands among other tall members of its own species. Below right Jim uses the clinometer to measure the percent line of sight to the tree’s top. The percent scale works well at 100 feet from the base. A reading of percent converts directly to tree height in feet.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

The stand is fully stocked. The canopy is crowded. Little light reaches the summer forest floor.

Monte Sano

 

Yellow poplar efficiently captures sunlight high above the forest floor with crowns much smaller in diameter than species of white oak or beech, for example.

Thirty-Six-inch Yellow Poplar

Jerry and I wandered from the lower sink elevation to a terrace 30-40 feet higher, but still on a protected lower slope position. We identified another yellow poplar, this one a bit fatter at 36-inch DBH. Still towering, this one fell ten feet shorter at 130′. Viewing the ground from a 13-story roof ledge would be no less terrifying for me than standing atop a 14-story building. This yellow poplar stands just ten feet off the Wells Trail (below right).

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

 

That’s it below at 100 feet away, seeming far distant with my iPhone camera, which in my hands does not capture forest distance and depth very well.

Monte Sano

 

The view below left is at 60 degrees into the canopy. That’s our 130-footer dead center. And below right the vertical view into the crowns.

Monte Sano

 

As I complete this Post on April 19, we have moved into nearly full foliage, making height measurements next to impossible until next dormant season. The leafy canopy obscures any given tree. We cannot measure when the top is not visible.

Twenty-Five-inch Chestnut Oak

 

We ascended from the lower slopes and sinks onto the plateau top, where we chose a chestnut oak to measure. Keep in mind that being on the relatively flat plateau is not the same as rising onto a narrow ridge line, with steeply convex upper slopes, sites that are generally among our least productive, especially if they face west through south. Chestnut oaks often populate those harsh sites. This one occupies a more favorable site, albeit not on par with the lower slopes where we measured the two poplars. We measured this oak at 95 feet, certainly not unimpressive for a chestnut oak.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Reaching 9.5 stories high, this specimen is among the tallest chestnut oaks I have ever encountered. Oaks demand more crown space than our more efficient yellow poplars. Therefore, we can observe that the relative density of a comparable diameter chestnut oak exceeds that of a yellow poplar. I’ll dig deeper into the concept of relative density in subsequent Posts.

Monte Sano

 

I see and learn more with each hike through our forests. In no small way I regret that the season of crown observation and study has reached a summer halt. Nevertheless, I’ll find plenty of other avenues of exploration during the growing season.

The Sinks

Departing from isolating individual trees, let’s take a look at the sinks and the associated forest. The major sink along the Sinks Trail actually swallows all surface water that during storms and heavy rainfall flows into the great sink-of-no-outflow. Limestone outcrops below left provide the first hint. The towering forest occupies the bowl-shaped topography above and to the left of the limestone ledge. The ledge below right descends to the pit bottom where the surface flow disappears. For a sense of scale, the trunk that has fallen into the pit is close to 30 feet long and two feet in diameter on its larger end.

Monte Sano

 

 

The bowl extends below to the right side of the pit image.

Monte Sano

 

The stand of predominantly yellow poplar reaches 110 to 130 feet above. These stands by eastern forest standards are jaw-dropping.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

A die-hard forester, I am no longer in awe only of trees and their merchantable value.

And Nearby Spring Wildflowers

In fact, I have never been blind to values beyond timber. I have been, even during my forest industry days, a spring wildflower enthusiast. Blood root has long been among my favorites. Its pure white beauty, early-season appearance, and its fondness for deep fertile soils and associated majestic forests stir my spirit and soul.

Monte Sano

 

The far less spectacular harbinger of spring added a more subtle expression of the spring spirit.

 

And, we encountered a dense stand of bluebell leaves, but only a few precocious flowers daring to open so early.

Monte Sano

 

Another early ephemeral is cutleaf toothwort

Monte Sano

 

So, whether towering eastern hardwoods or rich-site early spring ephemerals, I am thrilled to enter the cathedral forest of Monte Sano State Park.

Alabama State Parks: A 21-Pearl Necklace from the Gulf to Alabama’s Southern Appalachians and the Tennessee Valley

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my mid-March explorations within the rich sink sites along the Wells and Sinks Trails at Monte Sano State Park:

  • Trees exploit rich, moist, and deep soils 
  • Cathedral forests stir my soul and lift my spirit
  • John Muir observed: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”

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.

 

 

 

A Different Perspective on the Early March Forests at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

March 7, 2021, I once again visited the bottomland forests on the eastern end of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve begun to focus my attention during my wanderings more and more on the forest canopy, the photosynthesis engines of our incredible terrestrial ecosystems. I’ve discovered that my iPhone’s “selfie function” serves a purpose far more valuable than taking my own mug shot. I reverse the shutter direction, hold the phone horizontally at waist level, extend my arm far enough to remove my cap’s bill from the image, and snap a photo vertically of the crown above me. The images are pure magic; here’s one among others that I’ll reflect on later in this Blog Post.

 

Look for more such images as I continue my forest wanderings. I’m finding glee, inspiration, and magic by gazing above. Each image stirs me to think deeply about Nature’s art, as well as the science of my forestry and applied ecology disciplinary roots.

View from the Tennessee River

 

I wandered that day west of the bottomland forest onto a causeway from where I photographed the forest profile to the west across fields intentionally winter-flooded for migratory waterfowl.

Refuge RoadRefuge Road

 

Here’s the nearer forest northeast and southeast of where I stood, providing a similar and closer profile of the forest where I captured the many crown images deeper in this Blog Post. Although the images belie the reality, these forests contain dominant trees reaching heights in excess of 100 feet.

Refuge Road

 

This image of a strip of bottomland hardwoods, drawn in with the telephoto function, gives a truer representation of vertical scale.

Refuge Road

 

The Hardwood Bottomland Forest Up Close

 

All but the most elevated sites within the bottomland forests retain some surface water this time of year. This is typical inundation; most areas I can explore without encountering depths greater than 3-6 inches.

Interior

 

I swung the camera at the same photo point first to 30 degrees (below left), then to 60 degrees, placing the afternoon sun behind the tree’s upper bole. The crown architecture varies by species. Merriam-Webster defines dendritic as resembling or having dendrites, that is, branching like a tree. Dendritic is a common pattern employed by Nature for gathering, whether it’s the tree accessing sunlight in the canopy, tree roots exploiting the soil below ground for its bounty of moisture, nutrients, and aeration, or animal nervous systems feeding information to our brain, or our circulatory system returning blood to the heart, or a stream network collecting water into trickles, runs, creeks, and rivers, routing surface flow to the oceans. The dendritic network system functions well enough that Nature has universally adopted it, and dictionary writers have used tree branching to define the term.

Interior

 

I see poetry, art, and a spirit-presence in the tree-top backlit by the sun (above right). I observe often in these Posts that I prefer Nature paintings that look like the real thing, and I see no better artwork than Nature’s own images (photographs that remind me of artwork). I would hang the image above right, properly matted and framed, on my office wall!

A New Perspective: A Growing Fascination with the Canopy

 

The power of my new-found discovery of the forest canopy is what now directs my attention into the canopy above me as I explore the forest realm. I realize that the canopy exploration season will pause with full leaf-out. I am drafting these words April 10, a time of rapid foliation. I am trying to squeeze leafless canopy appreciation into these final 7-10 days before the show ends. Yes, I will continue to gaze vertically during the growing season, but I expect relative disappointment. Regardless, I promise to report back to you as the growing season unfolds. Although the water-saturated site above is common within the hardwood bottoms, I am devoting the remainder of these photos to an upland (perhaps five elevation feet higher), better-drained, loblolly pine-dominated stand.

Refuge Road

 

Here’s the 60-degree view into the crowns reaching 100-plus feet into the heavens.

Refuge Road

 

And, the vertical views below peer up and into a pine-dominated, stand of loblolly and mixed hardwoods. Note that the individual pine crowns do not touch their neighbors, in contrast to the more common conception that the entire canopy is a vast network of overlapping and interlacing branches. The hardwood branches that from this perspective appear interlaced are, instead, sub-dominant canopy hardwoods below the dominant pine crowns.

Jolly B Road

 

I plan to study crown structure more intensely next fall and winter. In the meantime I’ll begin discerning what I can of our fully-foliated summer forests.

Jolly B Road

 

I decided to isolate a single nearly two-foot diameter loblolly, among the larger individuals, and shoot up along its high-reaching trunk, which supports the crown far above. This view typifies what the forestry field terms crown shyness. Its extended branches simply do not touch the adjacent pine neighbors. The trees demand reasonable social distancing. To be clear, the trees are practicing what has been genetically hard-wired into them. If the adjacent crowns interlaced across this boundary, any stem-bole wind-bowing and rocking would result in branch/foliage friction, wounding, and breaking.

Jolly B Road

 

Bear with me as I deepen my knowledge and understanding through observation and digging into the literature.

Another Tree Story

I often observe in these Posts that every tree (and every stand and forest parcel) has a story to tell. This oak earlier in its life forked within a foot of the ground. Two or three decades ago, the fork nearer to the camera broke away leaving a wound where the twin severed from the remaining stem. The twin snapped long enough ago that no decaying evidence of it is evident on the ground nearby. Since the event, the surviving stem has slowly calloused over the wound. Within another decade or so, the visible hole will have healed over, likely leaving a base hollowed from decay introduced at the time of breakage.

Jolly B Road

 

Spring Emerges

 

This spring beauty, one of earliest spring ephemerals, greeted me March 7, marking for me the first unofficial day of the season!

Jolly B Road

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my early March trek through the bottomland forest:

  • The forest’s visible action occurs high above us.
  • Her invisible dynamism lies beneath our feet in the soil.
  • The forest is a living miracle of  science and beauty. 

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 BooksJolly B 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.

 

A New (for me) Tree Growth Phenomenon

I’ll begin this Post with the teaser photograph immediately below, offering it without explanatory text, which you’ll see after the A First Time Encounter heading.

HGH Road

 

A forester, I’ve long found fascination in tree form… whether the veneer-quality cherrybark oak below left, or the distorted, burly Bigfoot oak below right. I’ve included these photos in previous Posts. So, I won’t include any location or explanatory text. My real intent is to lead to revealing more about the unique curiosity in the photo above.

HGH Road

Common Oddities on Living Trees

 

The two photos above capture the range of tree form I’ve encountered across my Alabama forest wanderings, and that I have discussed in prior Posts. These two curiosities below result from non-fatal viral or fungal infections and the resultant growth abnormalities.

HGH RoadTree Form Oddities

 

As does this odd form associated with a broken and now calloused-over branch stub.

 

And, this curiosity originated with a severed (e.g., wind breakage) companion bole (a twin stem), which left an infection court (the wound) for decay fungi that are actively hollowing the trunk and misshaping the base.

Jolly B

 

I now have a full portfolio of odd tree forms and curiosities, including the spherical two-foot diameter burl below left and the primitive spirit face below right. Both are viral or fungal-triggered growth abnormalities.

Monte Sano

Less Common Curiosities

 

Root grafts with an adjacent living tree of the same species maintain active growth in the remaining rind of this yellow poplar stump, which is root-grafted to a large and vibrant yellow poplar tree just off-camera. The pole-sized (12-inch root collar diameter) trunk fell long enough ago that even its decaying remains are no longer present.

 

This poplar lost its twin fork (again, wind?) likely decades previous. The raw wound continues to callous and within another decade the scar will have closed. Decay fungi are nearly certain to be consuming interior wood.

 

These two beech stumps (eight and twelve inches diameter, respectively) enjoy root grafts with a mature beech nearby.

 

Some in our contemporary popular literature attribute such oddities to a caring and nurturing parent tree, one that shows love and compassion for the unfortunate smaller neighbor. I say “rubbish.” Physical contact (above or below ground) of like species often results in a grafted union. I simply will not accept that such union has its basis in affection, love, emotional embrace or any form of tree-attributed anthropomorphism. In this case, the larger neighbor feels no sense of commitment, obligation, or adoptive spirit for the still-living stump. Instead, I believe that the reasons and explanations are physiological.

The plant physiology literature continues to explore the mechanism and its underlying evolutionary advantages. For example, some have postulated about the advantage to the vibrant living beech-neighbor via its grafted root-union with the above two stump-trees. Here’s my own assessment. By grafting to roots of the two stump-trees, the vibrant survivor now taps soil resources (water, nutrients, soil aeration) accessed and gathered from both its own original roots as well as the root system of the two stump-trees. I don’t buy the mother-love emotion rationale. So, rather than an act of commensalism (mutually advantageous partnership), the larger tree has out-competed the smaller (weaker) individuals, accelerating their demise… and now, via the graft union, the victor has appropriated the victims’ roots for its own purposes. All is fair in love and war… and, this is brutal combat. Love and peace are a myth among trees competing for scarce resources. Simply, to the victor go the spoils. Another iteration of Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

A First-Time Encounter

 

I have previously seen all of the examples above in my five decades of forest wanderings… some more frequently than others, but none have I seen rarely enough for me to dedicate an entire Post to its revelation and discussion. However, this one that I encountered February 24, 2021, within the bottomland hardwood forests on the eastern end of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge spurred this Blog Post. The trunk and the 30x30x30″ cube are southern red oak. This adjacent growth anomaly brought to mind a piece of furniture lying on the forest floor, a portable barked-artifact that could be moved and repositioned. However, rest assured, it is securely anchored. I believe that, like the two beech stumps, this table owes its origin to a broken stump with roots grafted to the surviving southern red oak tree.

HGH Road

 

I offer four quarter-views to complete the 360 perspective. I feel somewhat like the magician giving a full-round view of the box his assistant has just entered… after he has closed the lid and before he begins sawing the container into two halves. I don’t want the reader to think I have hidden some secret facet of this forest anomaly.

HGH Road

 

I examined it time and again, marveling at its mystery.

HGH Road

 

Yet, isn’t almost everything in Nature a mystery of sorts? I recently found an apt Albert Einstein quote: It’s not that one thing is a miracle, but that the whole thing is a miracle. If not a miracle, then certainly a wonder, just one more element of Nature’s capacity to intrigue, inspire, and lift us. This barked-table…this astounding growth abnormality…falls within Nature’s trick-bag, her infinite reservoir of magic that stirs my imagination and stimulates the forest scientist within me to ponder and seek to understand.

I know from both my science discipline and my lifelong Nature addiction that nothing she presents should surprise me. Leonardo da Vinci observed 500 years ago:

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.

Although this particular curiosity puzzles me, I know that the effect falls within Nature’s own laws. Again, da Vinci:

Necessity is the theme and the inventress, the eternal curb and law of nature. Nature never breaks her own laws.

As I’ve written many times during the frequent occasions when I’ve pondered Nature’s causes and effects, I’ve often wished I could travel back in time in decadal increments, returning to the series of events leading to creating phenomenon like this barked-table anomaly.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from contemplating Nature’s odd handiwork:

  • Nature’s capacity to intrigue and inspire is without limit
  • Grand mystery awaits the observant student of Nature
  • The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding Nature

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

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.

 

 

Adding a New Dimension to my Tree Appreciation

I’ve observed since my undergraduate forestry education that trees grow taller on richer sites, a fact that doesn’t require a bachelors degree to confirm. The central Appalachian forests where I worked undergraduate summers clearly evidenced the correlation. Forests on lower concave slopes facing the northeast quadrant (i.e. cove sites) performed best, with white and red oaks, yellow poplar, cucumber trees, black cherry, white ash, basswood, and sugar maple standing fat and reaching tall. Upper convex positions supported chestnut oak, red maple, Virginia pine, beech, and mixed oaks standing far shorter and with fewer and smaller stems per acre. Upper west and south facing slopes performed poorest of all. Fifteen years later, my doctoral research quantified the relationship between such site factors and forest productivity within the Allegheny Hardwood forests of NW PA and SW NY. The same relationships hold in our southern Appalachians. Cove sites win the mountain tree-height medals. Here in north Alabama, our river bottomlands likewise reign supreme.

Since retirement, I’ve wandered our north Alabama wildlands observing much about soil-site and tree relationships, without aid of an instrument for measuring tree height. Alas, I’ve purchased a clinometer (measures vertical percent and degrees) and a 100-foot tape (below left). I celebrate being able to measure standing tree height. It’s so simple — measure 100 feet from the tree base and read percent down to the tree base (I’ve been using it to-date in relatively flat bottomland forests) and up to the center-top. For example, I measured a sweetgum recently: five percent down to base and 108 to the top. Add the two to reveal the tree’s 113-foot height. I plan to often include tree heights in future blog Posts as I continue to explore north Alabama wildness. Standing 100 feet from the base, Jerry Weisenfeld takes a reading to the tree top.

 

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

I offer with this Post some of my early measurements from the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge bottomland hardwood forests (February 24, 2021) and on the Flint River floodplain forests at the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary (February 25, 2021).

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

 

This 21.8-inch diameter shagbark hickory stands at 115 feet. Until procuring the clinometer, I could only estimate with eyes long-removed from my active forestry research days. My once reliable estimating skill had faded with the years. Now I can begin to recalibrate!

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

A 20.3-inch diameter chinkapin oak stands at 110 feet. For rough comparison, that’s equivalent to an 11-story building!

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Yellow poplars are often the tallest trees I encounter. This 32.9-inch diameter specimen stands at 118 feet. As I begin to incorporate height measurements into these Posts, I will reflect more deeply on the relationship between site quality and height, and the ongoing battle among trees for light, water, and nutrients.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Across the Refuge’s bottomland forests, loblolly pine intermixes as microsite shifts towards better drained soils. The loblolly (dead center in photo below), 100 feet from where I stood, is 24.7 inches in diameter and reaches 114 feet above the forest floor. These 100-foot-plus heights are impressive enough when viewed from below. However, I imagine standing on the roof of an 11-story building, gazing with head spinning (I am not comfortable with heights) over the edge to the ground way-too-far below!

HGH Road

 

Rich riparian sites along the Tennessee River, combined with our annual rainfall at 55 inches, produce forests worthy of admiration and inspiration!

Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Although not along the Tennessee River, the Sanctuary is similarly riparian-situated along the Flint River. This 22.0-inch diameter sweetgum reaches 113 feet into the canopy. The two photographs immediately below show the 100-foot tape attached to the base (left) and with the view along the tape back to the base (right). I’ve discovered that my trusty iPhone camera does not depict horizontal distances as I wish. The tree 100-feet away appears as tiny and insignificant.

 

Yet, under it, peering into the crown, the tree stands impressively.

 

I’m fascinated with tree height and the intense competition for available upper-canopy sunlight.

Gazing into the Canopy

 

I am growing fonder and fonder of the vertical forest perspective, gazing directly into the business end of our sylvan citizens. In fact, I vow to spend more time lying on my back looking into the canopy. I’ll make sure the area where I recline is free of snakes, poison ivy, and other distractions!

HGH Road

 

Over the course of my many years in forest practice, I seldom assumed such position. Now, retired, I will do as I please. No worry about appearing to loaf! In fact, I won’t accept the term loafing. Instead, we’ll refer to it as reclined deep contemplation!

HGH Road

 

Contemplation that triggers youthful memories. I recall summer days as a youngster, lying on my back peering skyward, and feeling as though I might fall up into the sky. I feel an echo of those childhood sensations as I now gaze into the canopy, drawing out greater appreciation for the ten-story height, somewhat mimicking a reverse fear of heights, a mirror-version of being on the rooftop looking down. One may think me odd, yet I accept the sensation with glee. Anything I can do mentally to deepen my appreciation for scale assists my embrace of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations:

  • Understanding the forest requires gazing into the canopy
  • Good grounding and rich nourishment make all the difference… in tree height, and in people’s character 
  • A scientist, I multiply my admiration and inspiration with measurement

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

HGH Road

All Three Books

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

 

Reflections on Natural Disasters

 

Reflections on Natural Disasters

 

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

Bradford Creek

 

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

November 2020Oak Mountain

 

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

Joe Wheeler SP

 

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

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

 

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my musings on natural disasters:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksOak Mountain

 

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

 

On Wilderness and Wildness

Prompted by my Nature-ramblings and wanderings, I muse with this Post on the distinctions and commonalities among the terms wildness, wilderness, and Wilderness, about which Nature itself cares little.

Wildness, wilderness, and Wilderness

Merrian-Webster online defines wilderness as: a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings; an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community. M-W online shows little, if any, distinction from wilderness in defining wildness: a sparsely inhabited or uncultivated region or tract: wilderness. The two subtle differences:

  1. Wilderness — uninhabited by humans; wildness — sparsely inhabited
  2. Wilderness — uncultivated and undisturbed by human activity; wildness — uncultivated

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defined statutory Federal Wilderness:

A Wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this chapter an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

So, I will comment and reflect on Alabama Wilderness, wilderness (lower case ‘w’), and wildness. We have three federally-designated Alabama Wilderness areas totaling 41,000 acres: Sipsey; Cheaha; Dugger Mountain. I’ve visited the Sipsey Wilderness and gazed out over the Cheaha Wilderness from the summit of Alabama’s highest peak. Here’s a photo from within the Sipsey. Quite frankly, the image is indistinguishable from countless other ledges I’ve seen across the northern half of our state, including wilderness and wildness.

 

Sipsey Wilderness

 

Here’s a spring waterfall along a well-used trail in DeSoto State Park. Many of our Alabama State Parks offer abundant wildness, at a level sufficient to satisfy my own thirst for Nature.

 

And these cathedral spires (white oak left; yellow poplar right) grace deep forest in Joe Wheeler and Monte Sano State Parks, respectively. Had these individuals been in Wilderness or wilderness, my Nature-addiction would be no less slaked.

Joe WheelerMonte Sano

 

And, this magnificent cherrybark oak stands in a bottomland hardwood forest on the eastern end of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. This land, I am nearly certain, once saw the plow and agricultural production, a far cry from untrammeled by man! Yet, everything about this spot of peace, beauty, and tranquility lifted me. In fact, that it did not meet wildness criteria amplified my appreciation for Nature’s resiliency.

HGH Road

 

Across Alabama’s wildness I find abundant Places of Peace (PoPs)!

Wildness Rebounds from Even Harsh Trammeling

I shift from Alabama to my Land Legacy project site in east-central Ohio. This fully stocked mixed hardwood forest below graces the hill behind the family’s lakeside cottage, surrounded by wildness and beauty. However, the lake is an artifact of strip-mining for coal; the rolling pasture land adjoining the lake is reclaimed from highwall and overburden returned to roughly the original contours. The forest in both images below cover an unconsolidated debris heap abandoned six decades ago. Much of this forest regenerated naturally, including the two red oak stems below right.

Land Legacy

September 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had spent considerable time exploring this stand before I discovered that the sweetgum trees had been planted. Once I noticed the straight planted row of sweetgum below, I paid more attention, seeing clearly then the parallel planted sweetgum rows ascending the debris heap above left. See my November 25, 2020 Post for details: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/11/25/late-september-wanderings-and-ramblings-on-my-ohio-land-legacy-project-site/

September 2020

 

My appetite for wildness doesn’t require Jenny Lake and the Tetons (below)…thank God, it’s a long haul to western Wyoming! A reclaimed strip mine provides a full dose of Nature’s elixir, without the expense of time and travel. Okay, I admit that nothing beats hiking the six-mile Jenny Lake trail! It’s just that I refuse to submit to pining for what is not within my immediate reach. When people ask what place where we’ve lived (13 interstate moves) did we like best, our answer is simple and honest: “Wherever we happened to be be living.” My maternal grandmother counseled all of us to “Bloom where you are planted!” For me that translates to, “Find and Scratch your Nature Itch wherever you seek it.”

Tetons

 

Some 85 years ago, during construction of Wheeler Dam along the Tennessee River near Rogersville, Alabama, crews created a then-modern recreation area to provide leisure activities for the 10,000 workers and families living nearby. Abandoned at least 60 years ago, the site has naturalized, surrounded within wildness. My August 2020 Post tells the tale: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/08/12/long-abandoned-recreation-area-at-joe-wheeler-state-park/

A concrete picnic table, with wooden benches long since rotted, stands below left. English ivy, planted then as landscape ground cover, fully occupies the forest floor.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

Wildness occurs at whatever scale we choose, including the rich diversity of fungi and non-flowering plants occupying dead logs.

DeSoto SP

HGH Road

 

The Great Chain of Being

I subscribe to the Reverend Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, an email-delivered Post. Several weeks ago in his series on Nature, Cosmos, and Connection, he offered reflections relevant to my own Post on Wilderness and Wildness:

I would like to reclaim an ancient, evolving, and very Franciscan metaphor: the Great Chain of Being. This image helps us rightly name the nature of the universe, God, and the self, and to direct our future thinking.

Scholastic theologians tried to communicate a linked and coherent world through this image. The essential and unbreakable links in the chain include the Divine Creator, the angelic heaven, the human, the animal, the world of vegetation, all water, and planet Earth itself with its minerals. In themselves, and in their union together, they proclaim the glory of God and the inherent dignity of all things. This became the basis for calling anything and everything sacred.

What some now call creation spirituality, deep ecology, or holistic gospel actually found a much earlier voice in the spirituality of the ancient Celts, the Rhineland mystics, and, most especially, Saints Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) and Bonaventure (1217–1274). 

The Great Chain of Being of the early Middle Ages was a positive intellectual vision…defined the clarity and beauty of form. It was a cosmic egg of meaning, a vision of Creator and a multitude of creatures that excluded nothing.

Categorizing forests by Wilderness, wilderness, or wildness means nothing to Nature itself. All forests, all creatures, all living organisms, and we humans are all part of the Great Chain of Being. And, as Muir so beautifully stated, we are all part of that “One Great Dewdrop!”

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my musings on wildness, wilderness, and Wilderness:

  • The terms mean nothing to Nature itself
  • Nature is a Cosmic Egg of Life
  • We humans are all part of the Great Chain of Being

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.

 

My Alabama State Parks 2021 Eagle Award

I’ve published more than 250 Great Blue Heron Posts over the past five years, ranging widely from observations in my own backyard to our western USA National Parks to visiting three National Parks in Kazakhstan in 2019. I’ve stayed true to the theme of Nature-Inspired Life and Living, and remain steadfast to 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.

An Unexpected Award for a Labor of Love!

Shorty after retiring permanently to Madison, Alabama January 2018, I accepted appointment as a founding member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board. Since then I’ve published dozens of these Great Blue Heron Posts inspired by my wanderings on many of Alabama’s 21 incredible Parks, encompassing 47,000 acres of Alabama wild! The count includes 16 State Park Posts just since January 2020. The Foundation’s Mission: The Alabama State Parks Foundation hosts a community of people who love our State’s parks. A philanthropic partner of the Parks Administration, the Foundation seeks gifts that will support and enhance park programming, parks facilities, and parks experiences. Members of the Foundation are people dedicated to building and sustaining a great, statewide park system.

The Park System likewise has a mission to which I fully subscribe: Acquire and preserve natural areas; to develop, furnish, operate and maintain recreational facilities; and to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment.

And, my own retirement mission resonates with both: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Lake Lurleen

 

So, I have found a meaningful way to integrate my love of Nature, my passion for making a difference for Earth and its future, and my knack for translating the science of Nature toward inspiring others to learn about and care for her. Volunteering on behalf of the Alabama State Parks System enables me to satisfy my personal retirement mission and serve Nature, the System, and our State.

Here are my three most recent Posts generated by wandering nearby State Parks:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/01/19/fungi-and-non-flowering-plants-mid-december-2020-at-monte-sano-state-park/

Monte Sano

 

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/01/07/tree-form-curiosities-mid-december-2020-at-monte-sano-state-park/

Monte Sano

 

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/12/09/destination-kings-chair-oak-mountain-state-park/

Oak Mountain

 

 

I am honored and humbled to receive one of the ten 2021 Eagle Awards! Here’s Jerry Weisenfeld, Advertising and Marketing Manager for the Alabama State Park System, presenting the Award, fittingly, in the plateau forest near the Monte Sano State Park offices March 12, 2021.

Eagle Award

 

If the above photo of two unmasked adults shaking hands alarms you, please know that we both had received our second vaccinations and we’re standing outside in a fresh breeze. If still upset, please see the photo below:

 

I accepted this Eagle Award with deep satisfaction and humility. Exploring our wildlands, getting to know our State Park gems, and offering my photos and reflections stand as a labor of absolute love!

Eagle Award

 

The crystal sculpture is apt — my heart soars like an eagle!

Here is the State Parks media release that preceded my accepting the Award from Jerry:

The Eagle Award is presented to people and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in support of the parks. For 2020, 10 winners were selected from nominations submitted. Congratulations to all of our 2021 Eagle Award Winners!
1) Randy Householder, of Montgomery, from Alabama Outdoor Adventurer (Community Partner)
2) Hailey Sutton and Christopher Cole, of Montgomery and reporters for WSFA News 12 (Community Partner)
3) Steve Jones, of Huntsville (Park Partner)
4) Shar and Phil Roos with A Year to Volunteer, Joe Wheeler and Buck’s Pocket State Parks (Volunteer in the Park)
5) Pam and Rick Kerheval, Gulf State Park (Volunteer in the Park)
6) Carol and Jim Wehr, Gulf State Park (Volunteer in the Park)
7) David Rogers, DeSoto State Park (Volunteer in the Park)
8) Ed Rogers, of Huntsville (Volunteer in the Park)
9) Garrett Southers, of Scottsboro and Eagle Scout Troop 708 (Youth)
10) Alabama State Senator Tom Whatley, of Lee County (Elected Official)

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reactions in accepting the Award:

  • Reward in satisfaction and fulfillment alone is enough
  • Yet, receiving a significant Award I did not know existed is sweet beyond expression
  • The Eagle Award refuels my engine and inspires me to continue these Posts! 

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 BooksEagle Award

 

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

 

Reflections on My Maturing Love Affair with Nature

Nature-Infatuation

The Weather Channel (TWC) prompted today’s Blog Post, having recently introduced a new tag line, imploring viewers to Get Into… The Out There! The Channel launched Sunday, May 2, 1982. I was then soon-to-celebrate my 31st birthday. I recall as a kid watching Channel 7, WMAL out of Washington D.C. The first on air “weatherman” I remember with clarity from my childhood is Louis Allen. I had long been addicted to weather, watching him on the six o’clock news talking about “the ducks are on the pond,” when conditions promised (threatened) a snowstorm. I vividly remember one winter evening when cameras rolled outside the studio as Mr. Allen shovelled “six inches of partly cloudy,” poking fun at his errant prior day forecast that did not include snow. Allen’s daily five-minute forecast highlighted many school-day evenings for me. What’s that you say? How boring could a boy’s life be! That takes me to another ad currently running on TWC. A calm male voice says, “Some people say talking about the weather is boring; I say not talking about the weather is boring.” I could not agree more.

Big Blue Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purely and simply, I am addicted to weather… and to all of Nature. John Muir long ago captured my sentiment toward weather and Nature:

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.

I love the weather analogy applied to all of Nature… here on Earth and beyond. Muir’s wisdom captivated me from the git-go. How could anyone of my Nature-persuasion not be enveloped by this profound statement:

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

UAF

 

My love for Nature persisted across my five-decade career… and deepened when retirement freed me to focus intently on the object of my lifelong Nature-passion. Wildness lies so easily within reach here in northern Alabama, whether in my own backyard or while exploring the many trails, parks, preserves, refuges, or other protected wildness within 30-60 minutes. No matter where I travel — locally, regionally, across the US, or internationally — I seek ventures into nearby wildness. Pre-retirement, travel usually entailed demanding work-related meetings of one sort or another, tantalizing and torturing me with the wildness in plain sight with no time to explore. I no longer have time to not immerse in nearby wildness wherever I roam. Life is too short for additional regrets.

Local Greenways

 

Late January 2021 through early February 2021 my Nature-inspiration multiplied in a manner I had not anticipated. This past fall (2020) my ophthalmologist informed me that I had developed cataracts. I write this paragraph the day following surgery on the second eye. This afternoon, Judy and I walked through our neighborhood. I observed tree branch geometry and detail I did not know existed. Exquisite patterns and intricate designs… not just a tree in winter silhouette, but a work of art. I hope the thrill of this enhanced vision-appreciation never diminishes. I agree wholeheartedly with Muir’s declaration of amazement. This grand Nature-show is eternal; the whole universe does indeed appear as an infinite storm of beauty!

HGH Road

 

No need to imagine an oak silhouetted against an early March nautical dawn twilight. Just get out there at 5:40am and snap a photo!

 

On Being Not Out of the Woods Yet

My deepening love affair spurs personal umbrage at a common saying. We often hear friends and newscasters comment regarding ailing relatives or celebrities, “He/she is not out of the woods yet,” as though being in the woods is something bad or ominous. I recall reading accounts of early European impressions of the New England forests: dark and foreboding; foul and repugnant; populated by terrifying beasts. Okay, from that perspective, being out of the woods might be a good thing. Instead, I’ll lean toward Muir’s take on the forests through which he roamed:

Going to the woods is going home.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

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

Henry David Thoreau expressed a similar attitude toward forest wildness:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

And, today’s Weather Channel tag line concurs:

Get Into… The Out There!

Lake LurleenJoe Wheeler

 

I hope never to be out of the woods. Nature’s woodland elixir salves my body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

Monte Sano

 

Every time I venture into the forest I find more than I sought!

The Soul of Nature — My sacred Connection

 

My love affair with Nature runs deeper than the aesthetic and scientific. I have strong sacred and spiritual connections to wildness, symbolized by the Chapel of the Transfiguration within Grand Teton National Park.

Tetons

 

And what Nature-enthusiast could not sense the presence of God in such a glorious dawning!

Big Blue Lake

 

Or embrace the awe of sitting atop even one of our minor southern Appalachian ridge tops at Oak Mountain State Park. Not rivaling even the least of our Rocky Mountain peaks, King’s Chair (below) is what I have here in Alabama. I seek to unveil Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and Awe wherever I am.

Oak Mountain

 

And, no matter where I am, I glory in big trees. This white oak stands in a cathedral grove within Monte Sano State Park.

Monte Sano

 

Nature delivers so much more than I seek. May you find whatever you seek… wherever you look. John Muir made no bones about it:

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations relevant to my maturing love affair with Nature:

  • Get Into… The Out There!
  • In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.
  • Muir — the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksOak Mountain

 

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