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

Exploring a New Partnership

 

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

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

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

Blevins Gap

We-Get-Outdoors-Img_2

[From We Get Outdoors Website]

Our Formal Mission Statements

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

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

January Mosses, Lichens, Mushrooms at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 29 and 30, 2022, I participated in the Focus on Nature Weekend at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park as a volunteer staff member, co-leading one of the three Saturday field trips. I focus this Post on a sampling of mosses, lichens, and mushrooms I encountered during my wanderings.

The world is a skyscraper! Don’t always stay on the same floor! Go upstairs, go downstairs; visit the lives of other tenants! Visit eagles; visit mushrooms!
― Mehmet Murat ildan

Trees are the forest’s skyscrapers. The moss on this long-dead eastern red cedar is downstairs, residing silently on the forest floor.

Joe Wheeler

 

This moss carpets the State Park road shoulder, adding color to the otherwise drab winter forest. Blue sky beyond complements the green moss and the copper marcescent leaves of understory beech.

Joe Wheeler

 

Moss likewise covers scattered forest floor surface stones. As we all know, Nature abhors a vacuum.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

A leaning deceased black cherry sports mushrooms whose mycelia are consuming the dead wood. Moss and a few pale spots of lichen seem to flourish on the bark surface. A nearby vigorous loblolly pine bears a lush moss basal skirt; lichen extends up the trunk, providing a canvas rich with Nature’s artwork.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

Lichens and mosses find fruitful purchase on black cherry bark. Both individual trees evidence internal decay with holes that provide entry to decay-swollen stem abnormalities that signal significant decay within the stem.

Joe Wheeler

 

Bark-resident lichens (and mosses) are ubiquitous in this stunted black cherry stand near the Park’s water treatment plant.

One could speculate that lichens would be among the last inhabitants to succumb on a dying earth at some distant point in the future.
― Steven L. Stephenson The Kingdom of Fungi: The Biology of Mushrooms, Molds, and Lichens.

Joe Wheeler

 

I recall the magnificent black cherry forests of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Plateau, where I conducted my doctoral research in the heart of black cherry’s core range. Rapid growth on those fertile soils with optimum climate discouraged the lichen vigor I encountered at Joe Wheeler.

The black rock was sharp-edged, hot, and hard as corundum; it seemed not merely alien but impervious to life. Yet on the southern face of almost every rock the lichens grew, yellow, rusty-brown, yellow-green, like patches of dirty paint daubed on the stone.

— Edward Abbey The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time

Joe Wheeler

 

There is a low mist in the woods—
It is a good day to study lichens.
― Henry David Thoreau A Year in Thoreau’s Journal: 1851

Life abounds in and among our forest skyscrapers, whether the tree is a towering white oak or a stunted black cherry. Thousands of trees do not a forest make. Mosses, lichens, fungi and all manner of organisms constitute the forest’s intricate web of life. Think how much the rote forest wanderer misses, whose sole intent is to pass through (instead of within) the forest, oblivious to the magic that lies hidden in plain sight.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Forests are far more than trees and shrubs.
  • We all know that Nature abhors a vacuum — mosses and lichens cover virtually every surface within our forests.
  • Fungi, as evidenced by their mushrooms, are actively decomposing all dead and most dying plants, including the largest of our forest trees. 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksJoe Wheeler

 

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

 

 

Nature Revelations at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN

December 30, 2021, Judy and I visited the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We did not anticipate the Nature-based lessons, revelations, and inspiration associated with distilling this golden elixir. Because the internet is flush with the story of this world famous distillery, I offer only that Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel founded the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in 1866 in his hometown of Lynchburg, Tennessee, where it still operates. His Old No. 7 earned a gold medal at the 1904 World’s Fair.

Owing to serendipity and fortuity, Mr. Daniel chose a perfect birthplace for a would-be distiller. The region is underlain by limestone, which ensures that its waters are limestone-filtered, perfect for making whiskey. The limestone filtering removes iron, yielding a sweeter tasting mineral water. An article in Kentucky Bourbon Country states, Whiskey made from water containing iron would turn black, which is absolutely unappealing. As you will see later, the region is also blessed with forests stocked with two tree species essential to the Jack Daniel’s recipe: white oak and sugar maple.

 

Streamside Location

 

A stream flows in front of the distillery visitors center, supplying ample water for essential tasks (cleaning and washing; not distilling) associated with the primary distilling process.

 

The stream also provides an aesthetic appeal and setting worthy of an international tourist destination. The primary pedestrian entrance crosses the waterway on a suitably attractive bridge.

 

The upstream view (left) and downstream perspective reward the visitor with a touch of Nature demanding a stop on the bridge to absorb the magic of the place.

 

Although I did not see direct evidence, I am certain that legal professionals at the distillery demanded placing this warning to absolve the company of any visitors devoid of common sense foolishly venturing too close to the flowing water, which on the day we visited stood at bankful from recent heavy rains. However, note in the expanded view that the sign does not caution about the risks of falling into the water to be swept away and drowned. Einstein observed an underlying truth respecting those who may venture too close to the slippery banks:

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.

I suppose we might next see McDonald’s placing warnings on coffee cups about the liquid within being hot! No, wait a minute, that’s been in place for a decade or more.

Pardon my interupting this Post with a personal awareness and responsibility side-rant.

Source of Pure Water

The surface stream is a supplemental attraction to the real water star — the sweet-water, limestone-filtered aqua that originates from a cave central to the JD Distillery site. The flow is reliable year-round. Lynchburg, Tennessee receives an average annual rainfall of 57 inches, evenly distributed across the seasons.

 

I find nothing any more remarkable in Nature than fresh springwater rising from the ground, sheltered by natural limestone walls on three sides, creating a welcoming mossy canyon, filled with the pleasant sound of gurgling release.

 

I see the winter landscape, enjoy the sense of life beginning, and imagine the comfort and coolness within on a mid-summer afternoon.

 

I relished experiencing the stream and the springhead.

Distillery Fungus

I had envisioned before our visit that we would find a stream and a spring. What I did not anticipate was a black fungus covering vegetation, rocks, and material infrastructure throughout the distillery proper and its grounds.

From the Indiana State Department of Health online:

What is Baudoinia compniacensis?

Baudoinia compniacensis, also known as Distillery Fungus, Whiskey Fungus, and Warehouse Staining Fungus, is a black fungus that is velvety or crust-like and can reach 1-2 cm in thickness. While it is black in color, this is not Stachybotrys, often referred to as black mold.

Where is Baudoinia compniacensis found?

Baudoinia compniacensis is found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. It has the ability to withstand a large range of temperatures but requires high relative humidity and periodic rain. The fungus can grow on a variety of surfaces, including plants, brick, metal, stainless steel, concrete, and plastic.

The fungus thrives in places where fermentation occurs, such as bakeries and bogs. Distilleries for whiskey, scotch, vodka, brandy, and rum are affected by the fungus too because ethanol is off-gassed in the making of distilled spirits. Baudoinia compniacensis uses the ethanolic vapor to initiate germination and to express proteins in the fungus that allow the fungus to tolerate high temperatures. The fungus can be found at other places where ethanol can off-gas into the environment uncontrolled, including bakeries and bonded warehouses.

Are there human and animal health risks from Baudoinia compniacensis?

Research conducted by ISDH Environmental Public Health Division did not find any reports of
health risks from short or long term exposure to Baudoinia compniacensis.

That off-gassing occurs during the open-tank distilling process is not surprising. However, another important question might be: Why do the supposedly liquid-tight casks leak? The oak barrels are not equivalent to stainless steel vessels. The seams are solid, yet not without some slight permeability…enough for some molecules to escape, especially during the multi-year aging process in warehouses. Huge Star Wars size warehouse cluster dot the countryside around Lynchburg. They, too, are blackened, giving a cold stark, otherworldly feel to the sites.

The casks would leak beyond tolerable were it not for the God-given characteristic of the white oak tree group. The white oak group’s wood pores and vessels clog with tyloses once the tree grows new conductive rings. That is, only the relatively recent rings transport water and nutrients up from the roots and sugars and carbohydrates down from the summer crowns to the roots. The tyloses block the transport mechanism, assuring relative impermeability. Oaks in the red oak group have open vessels from bark to the tree’s core.

So, white oak is essential, whether the distillery is producing whiskey, bourbon, or Scotch. I learned also, that the JD process requires charcoal made from sugar maple to filter JD whiskey during the fermentation step. I won’t attempt to explain the special taste and fragrance imparted by the sugar maple charcoal.

The combination of oak barrel aging and sugar maple charcoal filtration imbue JD with its unique taste and coloration, valued world-wide. I knew in advance that white oak was the species required for the casks, just as it is for wooden ships. I was not aware of the requirement for sugar maple charcoal.

Near the spring stand the blackened trunks of hackberry (left) and sugar maple, trees that aside from the coating seem healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour guide told us that the distillery fungus aided revenuers during prohibition in locating stills. Blackened tree trunks told the tale and revealed the location. These boxelders, along a walkway outside a building housing mix tanks, are likewise blackened.

 

As are these ornamental hollies. The holly foliage is yellowed (chlorotic) and obviously suffering from the thick coating.

 

The black distillery buildings appear to be from a dystopian world arising after armegeddon! I felt like I was on the set of some disaster movie…until I reminded myself that this was nature at play.

 

The loss of ethanol from out-gassing (ethanolic vapors), apparently an unavoidable result of distilling and aging, is referred to as the angels’ share. I am hopeful that JD or some other distilled libation is, in fact, available when we reach the angel stage of our existence!

 

Holiday Spirits

 

Our visit between Christmas and New Year’s coincided with the time of Holiday Spirit, in form here of a festive tree of JD casks.

 

The antique JD delivery truck transported loads of Seasonal Spirits. The same cargo for the later model (right).

 

 

 

 

 

According to our guide, because Lynchburg is in a dry county, the distillery store sells souvenir JD bottles that just happen to be filled with the various JD products. I purchased several of the souvenir bottles, from which I have been occasionally sipping.

 

So much of what sustains and rewards us results from our wide partnership with Nature, whether agricultural production, energy generation, or seafood harvesting. We are often reminded that we are one with Nature. The JD Distillery tour opened my eyes to how inextricably we are linked with the natural world. I had not anticipated that my tour would result in a Post communicating another tale of Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

I’ll close with a few apt quotations from notable persons, from Abe Lincoln to Johnny Carson, all with an abiding affection for liquid sunshine:

Mark Twain:

Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.

It was a place of sin, loose women, whiskey and gambling. It was no place for a good Presbyterian, and I did not long remain one.

Winston Churchhill:

The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.

Johnny Carson:

Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whisky, and a dog to eat the rare steak.

Abraham Lincoln:

Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.

George Bernard Shaw:

Whisky is liquid sunshine.

W.C.Fields:

Drown in a cold vat of whiskey? Death, where is thy sting?

I wonder whether any of these gentlemen thought about the Nature of whiskey?

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I had not anticipated the Nature-based lessons, revelations, and inspiration associated with distilling this golden elixir.
  • Understanding Nature spirited me to see and learn far more than most visitors.
  • Knowing the Nature (and science) of whiskey distilling amplified my appreciation of the finished product!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

An Afternoon Exploring a Riparian Forest with My Two Alabama Grandsons

December 22, 2021, I wandered the riparian forest on the east end of Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife (near Huntsville, Alabama) with my two Alabama grandsons (Jack and Sam). I take Sam and Jack into the wild for the enjoyment it gives me, the learning provided to the three of us, the seeds sown to enrich their lives, and the good they may do for the future of Earth and humanity.

I offer the following quotes from Richard Louv, well-known authority and best-selling author on the topic of re-orienting youth to the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of Nature, and the value-added to life and living:

  • We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.
  • Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.
  • Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.
  • Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and therefore, for learning and creativity.
  • The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.
  • All spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and nature is a window into that wonder.
  • Reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival.

December 22, 2021, my two Alabama grandsons (Jack 14 and Sam 7) hiked HGH Road and visited Blackwell Swamp on the eastern end of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Huntsville, Alabama, just 15 miles from my Madison, AL residence. I measured a little over an inch of rain five days earlier. With blue sky and the temperature near 50, we enjoyed a spectacular afternoon. The winter riparian forest offered many treats for Pap and his two young outdoor enthusiasts: perfect weather; crackling leaves; visibility deep into the forest; no biting insects; active squirrels and woodpeckers; mushrooms galore; plentiful opportunites to explore curiosities and stimulate imagination; escape from digital screens; and tree form oddities along the way.

Here’s looking west with hardwood-dominant riparian forest on both sides of HGH Road.

HGH Road

 

The Refuge boundary lies just 50 feet north of the road at this point, a cultivated field on private land beyond this ancient four-foot diameter oak.

HGH Road

 

I will never tire of big trees, and I trust that the boys will carry the same passion for Nature into their old age. My role is to fan the flame of Nature appreciation. My email signature line quotes Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894):

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. 

Stevenson would have favorably judged my December 22!

HGH Road

 

The tree’s massive crown evidences its long and successful reign over this edge of the forest.

HGH Road

 

Since retiring, I have adopted a personal mission statement:

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

Because good mission statements are succinct, compact, and memorable, I deplore one that attempts to say all. What mine does not say (and doesn’t need to say) is that active imagination is requisite to all educating, learning, and enjoying. One of the 20th Century’s leading intellects, the remarkably mirthful and fun-loving Albert Einstein (1879-1955) recognized the essential role of imagination:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

Likewise, John Muir (1838-1914), one of the period’s most influential naturalists, relied upon his own vivid imagination to better understand and appreciate Nature and wildness:

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

I stopped along the trail when abreast of a tree I had previously photographed, imploring the boys to find a creature not normally found in our forests. Prompted by a few hints, they spotted the elephant, “seeing” its eyes, trunk, and tusks. I subscribe to the notion that so much of Nature’s wonder lies hidden in plain sight.

HGH Road

 

Carl Sagan (1934-96), world renowned astronomer, agreed with the power of imagination:

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

I implored the boys (as I do with all individuals and groups I lead on forest hikes) to follow my essential verbs for Nature examination:

Five Essential Verbs: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

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

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Those wise souls who have preceded us have already expressed the wisdom I embrace and attempt to pass forward:

Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever – Walt Disney (1901-66).

The man who has no imagination has no wings – Muhammad Ali (1942-2016).

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality – Lewis Carroll (1832-98).

Oak bracket fungus mushrooms at the base of this 28-inch living red oak evidence that this otherwise robust-appearing tree suffers decay within. The oak bracket mycelia are hard at work consuming wood within.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Oak bracket continues feeding upon dead wood once a host has succumbed. This large dead oak sports a fresh oak bracket mushroom. My hope is that our woods hikes will stir and inspire within Jack and Sam lifelong interest in our natural world.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school — (Einstein).

HGH Road

 

Sam knows and is impressed by knowing that these gnarly brackets are part of the rich dance of life and death in the forest.

 

Here’s a closer view of both the bottom (left) and top of these impressive mushrooms.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning — (Einstein).

The boys know that I am a wild edible muchroom enthusiast; they witnessed first-hand my excitement when we found these oysters. The boys can now identify oysters.

HGH Road

 

We observed the low sunlight and slanting shadows on this near-solstice winter afternoon. So good to be in the forest this time of year. Its as though it is ours to enjoy without dense aerial and understory foliage, insects, and other obstacles to full enjoyment and appreciation.

HGH Road

 

Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. This four-inch diameter downed branch supports a vibrant community of moss.

HGH Road

 

We left HGH road to explore the west shore of Blackweel Swamp as the sun dipped closer to the horizon, the sun kissing the upper canopy of the loblolly pine trees beyond the boys. I’m told that alligators inhabit the swamp. I have yet to see one. The fact that these primitive reptiles may be present adds a dimension of wildness and adventure to our experience.

HGH Road

 

As we drove north, departing the Refuge, we stopped to view a barred owl bidding us farewell, a fitting end to a fine afternoon.

HGH Road

 

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding — Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519).

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Our greatest duty as adults is to pass the spark of  Nature learning and imagination to the young.
  • Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart (Richard Louv).
  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school (Einstein).

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's 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.

 

 

Mid-Winter Treks at Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

I returned to Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary January 13 and 15, 2022, the first day to dry-run the interpretive hike I co-led on the 15th for 23 participants from the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). I focus this Post on the rich diversity of the Sanctuary, especially its multiple habitats, ecosystems, and ecotones.

I’ve written often about the Sanctuary, most recently: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/01/18/early-november-2021-b-roll-at-the-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

Water Dominance

 

December 28, 2021 through January 8, 2022, I recorded 6.96 inches of rain with my industrial grade-home rain gauge. The Flint River, which borders the Sanctuary, overflowed its banks and inundated the Sanctuary during that drenching. We were fortunate that the intervening week allowed the river to retreat to within its banks. However, Sanctuary lowland soils remained saturated. We had alerted hikers in advance to wear shoes/boots to handle conditions. Cloudy skies prevailed during our 1.5-mile hike. The threatened rain arrived later in the afternoon. That evening and overnight I measured another 1.90 inches.

 

Hidden Spring emerges at the Taylor Road entrance to the Sanctuary, fed from the ridge (visible to the west below left) that stands 800 feet above the Flint River flood plain. The two photos are of Jobala Pond (left) and its outlet stream with a pair of mallard drakes. I’ve pointed out in previous posts that Jobala is a naturalized pond created 80 years ago when highway engineers mined sand and gravel for nearby road construction. The periodic Flint River flooding overtops the pond’s embankment, introducing plant seed and the fish, reptiles, amphibians, and other life that naturalized the borrow pit. Jobala’s waters are clear, evidencing its spring-fed source.

 

A second borrow pit pond lies just 300 feet from Jobala. The January 13, 2022 photo (below left) shows its muddy water, which in all my visits has never been anything but cloudy. Unlike Jobala, this second pond does not have through-flow constantly refreshing its water. Its turbidity appears to be permanent. Some sediments such as clay particles and organic matter can be chemically suspended, never settling and permitting the water to clear. Other causes of permanent turbidity include bottom-feeding fish, mammals like beavers and muscrats, or cattle. Regardless, the second pond does not offer the aesthetic appeal as Jobala, yet we brought the 1 January 15 hike participants to this pond to draw the contrast and explore possible causes. As I’ve often said, every element of Nature has a story to tell, and every story has lessons for life and living.

 

Back in its banks, the Flint Rifer continued to run high. This an arm of the Flint flowing around an island, the far shore. The main channel lies just 200 yards downstream. The island, now isolated by the branch’s full flow, is easily accessible by ankle deep wading during most of the summer. The entire Sanctuary is a dynamic ecosystem, ranging from full flood to quiet calm.

 

The Flint River had rushed across these meadows within the past ten days. Waterlogged soils will persist through the remainer of the winter and well into the spring. The dynamic interaction of water and land through the seasons is part of the Sanctuary’s appeal and richness.

 

Meadow

 

Forest, meadow, distant ridge, and the ebb and flow of seasonal water define the Sanctuary. Ecotones (the boundary zones separating habitat types) enrich the Sanctuary. The forest edge below right supports more species diversity than either the interior forest or the open meadow. The ecotones, from my own appreciation perspective, likewise multiply the landscape aesthetic value. Weave in the seasonal changes, from what some would consider the drab winter view, to the fresh greens of spring, to the deep summer verdancy, to the colors of fall, and the aesthetic mosaic is unsurpassed. Even without knowing the shifting landscape complexion, I love the dormant season, when forest and meadows rest and recover as the river occasionally runs wild.

 

Hikers slip from meadow into forest. The ecotone is less distinct in summer when the separation can be lost in an overwhelming explosion of green. Leonardo da Vinci spoke of edges within paintings:

When you represent in your work shadows which you can only discern with difficulty, and of which you cannot distinguish the edges so that you apprehend them confusedly, you must not make them sharp or definite lest your work should have a wooden effect.

I know little about art, yet I see da Vinci’s wisdom in contrasting the discernable winter boundaries to the softened edges of summer.

 

I made that winter/summer distinction comment above, anticipating that I could demonstrate the difference with a simple photo from summer (June 26, 2021) at the Sanctuary. Having the winter/summer images, one above the other, does depict the winter edges as more distinct. The winter details of meadow elements and tree branching within the hardwood canopies are far more interesting. The summer characteristics are blurred greens with little detail within either the forest or meadow vegetation.

 

I offer two more sweeping vistas of meadow, edge, forst, and distant hills. Leaving more northern climes to retire to north Alabama, I admit to having dreaded the predominance of summer heat and absent winters that awaited me. However, I have grown to cherish the extended season of fall giving way to spring, with a few winter days thrown in for good measure. Our dormant season is complete, and for that I am grateful. I enjoy days like January 13 and 15, when temperatures made for pleasant hiking. Although soils may be saturated, we seldom have to contend with slushy snow. While nothing beats the marvel of a fresh and pristine snowy landscape, driving on slippery roads at this latitude with motorists unaccustomed to the treachery of frozen surfaces would have kept me at home. Perhaps someday I will hike the Sanctuary under snow cover.

 

Firmament

 

To this point, I have not mentioned the sky in this Post. However, a quick look back at the preceding 14 photos will confirm that the sky (January 13 mostly clear; January 15 dull stratus overcast) complements every image. Terra firma and the firmament, two very similar terms for the land and the sky, complete almost every landscape image I have captured. The January 13, 2022, images below placed in my mind that the firmament is an ocean above. I imagined that had this been a warmer day with drier soils, I could have reclined on my back to observe the ocean-sky as though I were on an airliner cruising at 32,000 feet above the Atlantic!

Albert Einstein believed passionately in the power of such imaginings:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

 

 

I shall never lose my imagination…my curiosity about Nature…shaped in my youth and sharpened by my practice of the craft across 70 years. It is the youngster in me that I shall strive to nourish until my final glance into the wild.

Other Life features

 

A 24-inch diameter elm snag stood along an abandoned side-channel of the Flint River. A Dryad’s saddle mushroom cluster sprouts from near the snag’s top, 12 feet from its base, out of my reach.

 

When fresh, Dryad’s saddle is edible. This cluster evidences that the snag serves as a perfect substrate for the mushroom’s decomposing mycelia. Eventually, gravity or a flooding Flint River will dislodge the snag, returning its remaining mass to the continuing cycle of forest organic matter.

 

Trametes lactinea (I found no common names) sprouted profusely from a red oak log along the trail.

 

The mushrooms felt fresh and rubbery, with distinct pores on the underside (right image).

 

A dead sugarberry snag is frequented by pileated woodpeckers, as evidenced by the pile of punky chips at its base and the large rectangular trunkside excavations.

 

Another nearby sugarberry snag likewise carried pileated woodpecker cavities.

 

The dead sugarberry below still hoists its crown, albeit much diminished subsequent to death and decomposition, into the main canopy. Within three years I believe the trunk will yield to decay and gravity, falling to the ground to decay in-place or head downstream with the next flooding.

 

Two streambank sweetgum trees appear to be holding on to each other, resisting the undercutting flood waters that are eroding the bank and shifting the channel. These Flint River active riparian zones are constantly reshaped with each flood, some areas aggrading while others erode. The landscape is in dynamic flux. The sweetgums germinated and grew on a natural streamside levee; a migrating channel has now discovered the levee, cutting into and through it. The two trees will ultimately pay the price, no longer able to find adequate purchase to keep them erect.

 

The Sanctuary is a dynamic, varied ecosystem, blessed with shifting ecotones and rich life.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every element of Nature has a story to tell, and every story has lessons for life and living.
  • I shall never lose my imagination…my curiosity about Nature.
  • Albert Einstein: Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Continued Progress on Monte Sano State Park Wells Memorial Trail Video

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

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

Monte Sano

 

 

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

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

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

Monte Sano

 

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

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

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

Monte Sano

 

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

Monte Sano

 

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

Monte Sano

 

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

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

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

Monte Sano

 

Life and Death in the Forest

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

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

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

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

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

Monte Sano

 

Other Features of Interest

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

Monte Sano

 

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

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

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

Monte Sano

 

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

Monte Sano

 

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

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

Early November 2021 B-Roll at the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

Perfect Autumn Afternoon for Videography

In Meadows

November 2, 2021, retired videographer Bill Heslip and I spent a picture-perfect fall afternoon capturing B-Roll video at Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary for our 17-20-minute video (Summer 2022 release) communicating the land legacy tale for this magnificent natural preserve. The purpose of this Post is to provide an update on the video project I introduced in late August: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/08/25/contemplating-a-video-of-the-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

The Sanctuary is rich with ecotones, an ecology term indicating the transition zone between adjoining ecosystems, in both cases below meadow meets forest edge. The mix favors greater diversity of all life, including plants and animals. Toss in the nearby Flint River and the ridge several miles to the west rising 800 feet above the valley floor; the result is a ridge/valley/riverine ecosystem that warrants recognition, preservation, and celebration.

 

My role during our outing was to assist Bill by pointing out ecological features and their significance…and stay out of the viewfinder! I enjoyed watching Bill at work…and snapping still photos to chronicle our efforts and capture images of the Sanctuary’s magic and wonder.

 

I’ve often thought when visiting the Sanctuary about the tremendous gift that Magaret Anne Goldsmith passed along to many future generations of Huntsville citizens. One objective of our video project is to make sure viewers understand and appreciate that value.

In Forests

Although I appreciate the diverse habitats and ecotones, this old forester’s heart beats a little faster in the Sanctuary’s forests. Still a week shy of maximum fall color, yellows tinted the canopy and gradual leaf-fall allowed increasing levels of sunlight to brighten the forest floor. Oak, sweetgum, hickories, poplar, and other species populate these riparian stands often flooded by the Flint River.

 

 

Peace and Tranquility Amidst Fierce Competition

Cerulean skies add emphasis to the fall canopy. I’ve written often in these Posts that trees battle fiercely for finite sunlight. Popular literature, including some pseudo-scientific writing would have us believe that our forests are utopian Gardens of Eden, where all is tranquil, peaceful, loving, cooperative, communal, and interlaced in the spirit of one big happy ecosystem. Sure, ecosystems do, in fact, operate as interwoven systems, yet each species looks out first and foremost for number one.

John Muir, a consumate student of Nature, observed:

I have never yet happened upon a trace of evidence… to show that any one animal was ever made for another as much as it was made for itself.

My view is that the same holds true for all living organisms: plants, animals, fungi, microbes. Cooperation, symbiosis, commensualism, and other such relationships flourish only to the extent that what benefits others is embraced only to the degree that such interactions benefit the individual.

The trees below are engaged in, if necessary, a battle to the death! Only to us enjoying a fall stroll through the forest is all tranquil, peaceful, loving, cooperative, communal, and interlaced in the spirit of one big happy ecosystem. Even the fawn at pace with the doe is a potential meal for a hungry coyote. A mouse to the owl. A squirrel to the hawk. An insect to the jay or dragon fly. The list goes on; the cycle endures.

 

 

 

 

Bill pauses below to record footage of the results of such competition…dead and down woody debris which is common across these maturing forests.

 

We found this fall equivalent of a vernal pond. I suppose we can term it an autumnal pond. I had measured a little over five inches of rain in in both September and October, ten inches total. No surprise that depressions would be waterlogged. These are oak species not normally restricted to saturated sites. We appreciated the play of color, light, and reflections.

 

Bill saw special attraction in the tangle of grape vines, a common sight within the riparian forest. Most casual forest observers picture these vines growing up into the trees. Few people are aware that these woody vines grow up with the trees. Vine seedlings begin their life with the tree seedlings, accompanying the ash, oaks, sweetgum, and other tree species during the trees’ vertical growth, keeping their own vine-crowns in the ascending tree canopy. Vine and tree are the same age.

 

Along the Tupelo Swamp

We ventured to the edge of the Sanctuary’s tupelo forest. Unlike the oak-populated autumnal pond, these are perennial wetlands. Water tupelo demands such saturated sites. Bill and I want the video to present the full range of ecosystems, ecotones, and habitat types. Contrast the following four photos to meadow and deep forest. The three habitats could not be more different. We’ll also cover the west-side spring, the naturalized Jobala Pond, and the Flint River banks. I am not sure whether the Grand Designer could squeeze more diversity into 400 acres!

 

Here we are at the edge of wildness…in Huntsville, Alabama, which within the next decade will be the state’s largest (population) metropolitan area.

 

The edge of wildness…perhaps instead within wildness itself. We want the video to celebrate the Sanctuary!

Fungi and Forest Curiosities

The designation wildlife sanctuary implies animals, the life-kingdom to which we humans belong, along with birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mammals. Don’t forget insects, arachnids, mites, slugs, crustaceans, and diverse manner of animal life. The Sanctuary includes ubiquitous and varied plant life, the second kingdom. I grew into my forestry profession learning that fungi were part of the plant kingdom. About the same time the university conferred my bachelors degree, the scientists who controlled life classification decisions elevated fungi to its own kingdom. I admit to being all-consumed by completing finals on Friday, driving the 550 miles Saturday from Syracuse, NY to Franklin, VA, moving into our apartment Sunday, and beginning my first professional assignment Monday. Too consumed with beginning career life to participate in my own graduation or take notice of any society-wide celebration of global fungi rising to their higher order life-classification.

Fungi play a major role in the Sanctuary’s endless cycle of life and death. Both mushrooms below are fruiting bodies (reproductive spore producers) for wood decay fungi. Oak bracket (left) and a species of genus Trichaptum (right).

 

I snapped the conk (mushroom) below two weeks earlier (November 16) at the Sanctuary. Growing from the trunk of a diseased American beech, this appears to be a species of Ganaderma, formerly Fomes applanatus (artist conk). The skilled hand with stylus can etch intricate designs into this polypore’s undersurface.

 

An artist’s conk image from the internet.

Internet Image

 

These osage orange fruits (hedge apples) also presented themselves October 16.

 

This circumferential red oak burl is just one of the many tree form oddities and curiosities I’ve documented on the Sanctuary. During our four years living in and exploring Alaska, Judy and I often commented that everywhere we looked, we encountered a Kodak moment, a vista meriting photo-capture. Today, as I wander our southern forests, I find photo-worthy subjects around every corner…and give constant thanks for digital technology!

 

I wonder whether we can distill the Sanctuary’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe to 17-20 minutes!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature’s richness knows no bounds.
  • The Sanctuary packs untold gifts, surprises, and diversity into a mere 400 acres.
  • The value of wildness expands exponentially with its proximity to population centers.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

Dusk

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Dawn

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Afternoon

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

Cheaha

 

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

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

Cheaha State Park October 20 and 21, 2021

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

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

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

Cheaha

 

Interpretive Center

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

 

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

Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the CCC, memorializing his intent:

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

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

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

Cheaha

 

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

CheahaCheaha

 

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

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

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

Cheaha

 

Tim Haney Sensory Trail

 

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

CheahaCheaha

 

 

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

Cheaha

 

Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy Trail

 

From an online National Library of Medicine site:

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

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

Cheaha

 

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

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

From shinrinyoku-united.org:

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

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

Cheaha

 

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

CheahaCheaha

 

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

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

Cheaha

 

In Defiance of Fall

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

CheahaCheaha

 

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

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

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksCheaha

 

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

 

 

 

Fungi from my September 2021 Ramblings in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest

September 7, 2021, I hiked both Heart’s Content and Hickory Creek Wilderness on the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania, just 40 miles west of where I conducted my 1985-86 doctoral research on soil-site relationships for second-growth Allegheny hardwood forests. I published three Great Blue Heron Posts from that fulfilling day in the woods:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/10/14/hearts-content-in-nw-pennsylvania-part-one/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/11/04/hearts-content-in-nw-pennsylvania-part-two/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/11/17/pennsylvanias-hickory-creek-wilderness/

September 8, 2021, I hiked the gorge at McConnell’s Mill State Park, 50 miles north of Pittsburgh. I focus this Post on the wide variety of mushrooms I encountered at the three locations. Rather than offer deep discussion of species, their identification, classification, and specific role in the ecosystem, I present only a quick introduction to their beauty and variety.

Heart’s Content

 

I found this lovely artist conk on a dead American beech. Interestingly, I often encounter what appears to be the same species on beech here in northern Alabama.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

A totally different kind of mushroom, ravenel’s stinkhorn is rather ghastly, fleshy, and quite ephemeral, suddenly emerging and within just afew days going to goo and disappearing.

Heart's Content

 

A brilliant vermillion waxcap brightened the forest floor. I am so grateful I wandered near enough to see this beauty. We tend to think of decay as an ugly process, a breaking down of vibrant living material to the dust of time. Not so, decay organisms can be glorious in their own essential life form…as important, essential, and vibrant in the forest ecosystem as the mighty oak or charismatic macrofauna (like deer and bear). From the online Fungi of Northern Maine: Hygrocybe miniata, commonly known as the vermilion waxcap, is a small, bright red, or red-orange mushroom of the waxcap genus Hygrocybe. It is a cosmopolitan species, which is found worldwide. In Europe, it is found in fields, on sandy heaths, or grassy commons in the autumn (fall). It is found in rainforest and eucalypt forest as well as heathland in Australia. I am fascinated to find such a novel, globally distributed, cosmopolitan species! I suppose a fungal spore can cross oceans (and remain viable in transit!).

Heart's Content

 

I admit failing to identify this small sulfur mushroom growing among a moss carpet on a well-decayed log.

Heart's Content

 

Hickory Creek Wilderness

 

I found a few friends familiar to my Alabama foraging. A late season hanger-on, this chanterelle was one of only a half-dozen I spotted in the Wilderness.

Heart's Content

 

I also found a past-prime chicken of the woods.

Hickory Creek Wilderness

 

My iNaturalist identified this cluster as scarlet waxy cap (Hygrocybe coccinea), sometimes called the scarlet hood, scarlet waxcap, or righteous red waxy cap.

Hickory Creek Wilderness

 

Another oddity, this is fairy wand club or handsome club, a coral mushroom.

Allegheny NF

 

Fomitopsis ochracea evidenced serious brown rot within this chestnut oak. A foot wide, this conk showed a fresh, pure white underside.

Allegheny NF

 

McConnell’s Mill State Park

 

September 8, 2021, I hiked the gorge trails at McConnell’s Mill State Park just 50 miles north of Pittsburgh. I previously published this Post from my day in the gorge: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/11/10/pennsylvanias-mcconnells-mill-state-park-2/

I found only one additional mushroom distinct from those reported above. Another of the species I forage in Alabama, this oyster greeted me along Slippery Rock Creek.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • For those who hike through the forest, intent upon rushing from point A to point B, much will lie hidden in plain sight.
  • For those of us who look closely, intent upon seeing Nature’s wonders, magic will lie at our feet.
  • The forest ecosystem comprises far more than trees, which are no more important than the fungi that enable cycling and renewal.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHeart's Content

 

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