An Early April Day of Spiritual Renewal!

Some days stand higher than most. April 3, 2022 was one of those. March 24, just 13 days after “graduating” from intensive outpatient physical therapy from my November 8, 2021 total left shoulder replacement, I suffered a lacunar stroke. A scary reminder that life is fleeting and fragile. By April 3, I felt buoyed by steady progress toward regaining command over the fine motor skills in my right hand and feeling more secure with stability in my right leg. I was climbing confidently from the emotional depths from suffering the Stroke and facing the spectre of my own mortality. This Great Blue Heron Post expresses the joy and healing owing to family, place, and everyday Nature…and pays tribute to Nature-Inspired Life and Living. April 3 exemplified what I now attribute, in large measure, to Nature-Inspired Aging and Healing!

A New Day

 

Often I celebrate a new day from my patio and backyard. We visited our daughter and her family over the Christmas Holiday period 2014 in Madison, Alabama. Retirement was just over the horizon. Judy (my wife of then 42 years) saw many advantages in retiring near Katy and her two sons. We scheduled some time with a realator. When he showed us a vacant lot on a four-acre pond (I reverently call it Big Blue Lake!), a great blue heron (a totem and avatar of my long-deceased father) stood regally at the lot’s shoreline. I knew immediately that this is where we would build. Dad convinced me!

April 3, 2022 at 7:23 and 7:25 AM, and on most mornings, I found full confirmation that we made the right choice when we bought the lot, built our reitrement home, and took possession Decemebr 15, 2015, ultimiately relocating permanently January 2018. Sure, we are in the suburbs, yet we bring Nature to us and enjoy the open space afforded by the pond.

 

My third book, co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit, is Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everday Nature. I enjoy the rich Nature and wildness nearby in nothern Alabama, yet I relish the everyday Nature that I find right at my back doorstep — my Special Place!

Within a few minutes slanting rays of sun cast new light on our pondscape. Nature appreciation is not a one and done. Her beauty, magic, wonder, and awe unfurl continuously. Retirement has gifted me with more time to observe and enjoy.

 

By 7:27 AM, morning had fully introduced the new day. I just can’t imagine how any Nature enthusiast could disdain the dawn and abhor early rising.

 

Early rising extends over a couple of weeks for this Japanese maple, as leaves and new stems ready its fresh crown, awaiting a season of life. By 9:25 AM, this early April day is in full gear.

 

Another of our Japanese maples is sprouting leaves and flowers. There is no time to waste!

 

After 4.5 months of intense physical therapy recovering from left shoulder replacement (11/8), my March 24 stroke knocked me off my feet…emotionally, not literally. On this lovely morning, ten days beyond the stroke, I felt the buoyancy of progress from aggressive occupational and physical therapy. The doctors agreed that I would make a full recovery. I saw and now have faith in the veractiy of their prognosis. This morning’s inspirational dawn and morning fueled my optimism.

 

Grandsons Amplify the Enjoyment

 

Our two Alabama grandsons arrived late morning, lifting me to a new and welcome post-stroke high. I see, through them, the certainty that my stroke is a pothole…a setback. Granted, the stroke served to remind me that life is fleeting and fragile, yet the grandkids signal clearly that every day merits full engagement. There is no higher calling than grandparenting. There is no element of grandparenting more noble than sharing the joy of Nature with them. The stroke, just ten days prior, relegated my role this day to recorder. A bit hunched (below left) I carefully navigated each surface irregularity.

 

Judy put eight-year-old Sam to work, first toting a soil mix to re-cover exposed roots on a soft touch holly. Sam said, “I like the feel of soil on my hands.” He understands that soil is the essence of gardening.

Perhaps some day he can read, understand, and appreciate Aldo Leopold’s view of soil and land:

Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals… When a change occurs in one part of the circuit, many other parts must adjust themselves to it… Evolutionary changes, however, are usually slow and local. Man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity and scope.

I often mention soil health and soil fertility in these postings. Leopold defined soil fertility as the ability of the soil to receive, store, and release energy. It is hard to conceive of a more succinct definition of soil health.

Sam is doing his part to assure soil health, whether he yet comprehends it.

 

Jack (14 years) and Sam assisted Judy in planting two calla lillies. Jack provided the muscle, Sam the finesse. Seeing Sam beaming beside the plant transported me to my own early youth when my maternal grandmother introduced me to gardening, tending soil and plants. The experience spans my lifetime. If Sam remembers this morning seven decades hence, then my own life has merit.

 

When planting the calla lillies, we disturbed a green tree frog snuggled within a previously opened bag of gardening soil. Although we built our home on a barren lot of exposed subsoil just six years ago, we now manage an oasis of a few trees, numerous shrubs, and an increasing number of perrenials (like these callas), all supported by rich, fertile, healthy, soil — soil that we have “manufactured.” The frog is evidence that we now have a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my orders was to “not overdue it,” which is exactly what I was doing below!

 

As we approached lunchtime, Sam and I examined catkins (the male flowers) on the adjoining lot. The ones below left are spent, having already released their pollen. The ones below right are locked and loaded, fully pollen-charged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below left Sam shook the branch at my signal to release a yellow cloud! Sam is partially hidden within the pine boughs below right.

 

I explained to him that the female flowers are elsewhere in the tree, and that during the following summer (2023) the fertilized (with pollen) flower would produce a mature seed-bearing pine cone. Sam grasps one of last summer’s mature cones below right.

 

 

 

 

 

By 12:15 PM we had returned to our perch on the stairs to watch Jack fish. The pond is yet another element of our rich home ecosystem. We thrilled watching Jack land an 18-inch grass carp. I am certain that Jack will remember the carp into the deep future, perhaps when he is fishing with my great, great grandkids! He also caught three bluegill and a ten-inch bass.

 

Great Blue Heron Visit

 

As Sam and I watched Jack fish, our resident great blue heron landed several hundred feet along the shoreline to our right. Big Blue slowly and silently fished along the shore toward our perch. He had struck twice without reward. Then he paused and assumed the ready position (below right).

 

He leaned forward, eyes locked on his prey, with neck coiled, his striking mechanism taut. In a blur he struck, this time emerging successfully with a 3-4 inch sunny. He deftly flipped the small meal and swallowed it head first. I refused to contemplate the unpleasantness of entering the digestive track still alive and well. Nature is a hard-knock place for those creatures not at the food chain apex. Our notion of Nature as all peace, tranquility, and love dissipates when we carefully observe her reality.

 

The heron passed directly along our frontage within the next one-half hour, still patiently fishing. Below left he strode just five feet from our setting Canada goose, snug on her nest at about day 14 of incubation. We’ll be looking for the hatch at the 23-28 day period. The goose is ever-vigilant. She knows at some level that eggs and goslings offer tempting meals to other resident and wandering predators, including the large snapping turtle surfacing in the photo just 15 feet off-shore. Shortly thereafter Big Blue nailed a second sunny before passing Jack’s tackle box on the wall (photo below right).

 

What a day for an outdoorsman sidelined from my woods rambles. I relished being able to observe Nature within the grasp of family…in my own backyard. I planted memories for two of my five grandchildren. The day punctured the festering incipient gloom of mortality and the sense of self-pity that accompanied the stroke. I felt hope and saw full recovery (and a reason for it) within reach!

May the measure of my own worth in life be in the memories of my children and grandchildren…and, too, in the aggregate of days like April 3, 2022.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • 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 (Richard Louv).
  • Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant (Robert Louis Stevenson).
  • Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity (Horace Mann).

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.

 

Aftermath of January 1, 2022 Tornado at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

January 1, 2022, a cold-front-triggered tornado cut a quarter-mile swath across the east-central end of Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge just 14 miles from my Madison, AL home. I share on-site photographs (from March 1 and 15, 2022) and reflections on Nature’s fury and the renewal that will follow.

Here is my February 16, 2022 Blog Post on the strange and wild weather as the double-barreled storm system that dropped two Madison County tornadoes January first and nearly six inches of snow the next day: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/02/16/48-hours-from-tornado-warnings-to-winter-storm-warnings-trial/

 

A Violent Frontal Passage, Soothed by a Blanket of Snow

I snapped this photo at my home pre-dawn January 3.

 

I’ve driven past the forest where the tornado struck dozens of times as I drove into the Refuge for my periodic mushroom foraging and Nature-exploration forays. This shot looks north from Jolly B. Rd. at its intersection with a gravel road that circuits Blackwell Swamp. From this point the road travels due north, eventually swings a 90-degree turn to the east, then heads due south along the opposite side of the swamp, which in some places is open water. The loop then comes around the south end of the swamp returning to this point. The full circuit covers 7.8 miles.

 

I made my first visit New Year (2022) visit to the Refuge January 8, when I noticed the damage, completely closing the road to the north with downed trees from the flattened mature forest of mixed pine and hardwood. Refuge crews spent weeks clearing the road with heavy equipment, finishing their arduous cleanup toward the end of February. I found the road cleared (the gate still locked) March first, enabling me to park and walk the quarter-mile to the far (north) side of the tornado’s swath. All photos within this Post came from March 1 (clear blue skies) or from my subsequent visit March 15 (cloudy sky).

Biblical Fury and Power

The view below left is looking east over the open-water heart of the swamp some two miles south of the tornado swath. The narrowing upper end of the open water is visible through the tornado debris below right.

Tornado

 

I visited the site March 1, 2022 with camera in hand, recording this four-minute video of images and my reflections:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. Psalm 57:12

Some might view the swath through an interpretive lens that portrays destruction, devastation, and disaster. As I observed in the video through a differents lens, this violent natural force also acts as a mechanism for forest renewal. The forest was not destroyed, but instead was interupted. Many of the trees fell victim to the wind, yet under and within the jumbled debris, a forest remains albeit with an altered canopy. See my April 6, 2022 Blog Post reporting recovery from four tornadoes that hit Alabama State Parks since April 2011: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/04/06/a-25-month-retrospective-on-tornado-damage-at-joe-wheeler-state-park/

John Muir noted that to a forest or any of Nature’s realms the human perception of beauty means little: None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild. The quarter-mile tornado swath at the Refuge remains wild. In fact, the disturbance in one measure has elevated the degree or scale of wildness. The tumbled debris renders the swath impenetrable to happy woodland ramblers like me. The swath will serve as wonderful habitat for non-humans: birds, small mammals, reptiles, among others. If I were to live another two decades, the swath’s resurgent forest will rise to a height of 50 feet, yet the decaying jack-strawed tornado-downed trunks will still prevent my entry and passage. Imagine all of the mushrooms that will flourish beyond my reach!

I counted 65 rings where the clean-up crew cut this loblolly at 20 feet above what had been ground level.

TornadoTornado

 

I see no need for detailed narrative. The eastward view below left shows the northern end of open water north of Blackwell Swamp beyond the swath. That’s fellow Nature-enthusiast Jim Chamberlain below right to provide scale to the jumble of downed trees. The camera faces to the northwest; the tornado moved from left to right.

TornadoTornado

 

From where we parked at the cabled entrance (below left), the scene to the north could have been a clearcut, a common forest renewal practice to regenerate commercially important, shade intolerant loblolly pine. Upon inspection, the forest had not been clearcut, but had been blown flat by the howling tempest. Three-quarters of the way to the northern edge of the swath (below right), the relatively untouched forest ahead remains standing.

TornadoTornado

 

At the northern edge, the view below left looks southward into the swath. The perspective below right is to the east, showing the ragged edge of the swath where on the right side nothing remains standing.

TornadoTornado

 

 

 

A closer look depicts how, when a twister hits a housing development, a destroyed home may sit within a few dozen feet of one relatively undamaged.

Tornado

 

I tried to imagine the storm’s unfathomable power and fury. Always impressed with Alfred Noyes’s imagery in The Highwayman, I pondered whether he expressed what the storm represented. His words fell far short:

The wind was a torrent of darkness
Among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon
Tossed upon cloudy seas

The romantic ballad was less about the weather, instead using the wind only as a mood-generating element for his tale of the two ill-fated lovers. Perhaps Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald came closer:

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
‘Twas the witch of November come stealin’
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin’
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind

The hurricane west wind certainly proved deadly and catastrophic for the good ship and crew (a bone to be chewed). 

Once again, I offer Jim Chamberlain as scale for the storm’s fury.

TornadoTornado

 

 

 

 

 

Despite our strongly felt kinship and oneness with nature, all the evidence suggests that nature doesn’t care one whit about us. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happen without the slightest consideration for human inhabitants. Alan Lightman

Sometimes the difference between life and death is the luck of the draw.

Tornado

 

All poets adore explosions, thunderstorms, tornadoes, conflagrations, ruins, scenes of spectacular carnage. The poetic imagination is therefore not at all a desirable quality in a chief of state. W.H. Auden.

To the poet’s liking, this loblolly shattered spectacularly, stands now as a tortured snag rather than a naked spar.

Tornado

 

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. Psalm 57:1-2

Before I ventured into the tornado swath March 1, I found a recently fallen red oak that I believe was brought down by strong winds associated with the cell that spawned the tornado just three miles to the north. This oak weathered many prior winds, retaining its vertical main crown position even though supported by its thin rind of only 3-4-inches. The laws of gravity and physics prevailed — force exceeded strength. I found external evidence of internal decay and a hollow core only in form of the 4-5-inch opening a foot above the ground in the standing hollow trunk below right. Were I still in the timber-buying business of my early professional days, I trust my then keener-eye would have noticed the evidence of defect. Woe to the buyer who placed high value on the nonexistent lumber that this oak would have furnished. I’ve said frequently that nothing in Nature is static…and many aspects of Nature lie hidden in plain sight.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Borrowed from my April 6, 2022, Post on the four Alabama State Park tornadoes since 2011, this view of the healing Monte Sano State Park tornado swath from an EF-0 twister that hit November 2016 depicts significant vegetative recovery. The swath at the Refuge will likewise recover. Nature has been healing her own wounds since life first appeared, since the first winds blew, and since the first tree fell in the first forest.

Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal. John Muir

The universe is an infinite storm of beauty. John Muir

Monte Sano SP

 

We understand tornadoes scientifically, but it still feels supernatural. The randomness makes it feel supernatural. Michael Koryta

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature’s power and fury can reach beyond our imagination.
  • A fine line separates forest devastation from forest renewal.
  • Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal — John Muir

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksTornado

 

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.

 

Sunrises and Sunsets Over the Period of My Stroke Convalescence

Life’s circumstances, I’ve learned, alter the tone and content of these Great Blue Heron Posts. Normally I offer photographs, observations, and reflections on my Nature-ramblings, generally in sylvan settings in Alabama or whever my ramblings take me.

However, March 24, 2022 struck a low blow to my psyche and, for the near-term, modified my postings — I suffered an out-of-the-blue stroke! Nearby Nature and my immersion in her beauty, magic, wonder, and awe saw me through what could have been a dark period. I offer in this Post some amazing, life-lifting sunrises and sunsets across the first 24-day period of my convalescence.

How could I have anticipated that just two hours after these sunrise solar rays introduced a spring day of hope and promise, that an ill wind would spoil my morning coffee on the patio?

LegendwoodLegendwood

 

The Stroke

As Judy and I sat on the patio, my mind signaled an impending disturbance in the force. Thoughts had difficulty translating to spoken words, which surprisingly emerged slurred and muddled. Binoculars did not secure firmly in my right hand, whose index finger could not adjust the focus knob. Whose right arm did not hold horizontal, but felt limp. Whose right hand drooped.

Judy immediately declared, while I sat dumbfounded, that it was time to head to the ER. She assisted me indoors as I stumbled on the two steps, my right foot striking the riser as it failed to secure the tread. We made it to the ER within 30 minutes of the onset. I’ll spare you the details of accelerated admitance and treatment. Suffice it to say that the urgent declaration of “stroke crisis” for an arriving 70-year-old incites action! I admit to fear…for life, well-being, and future. I confess to emotional weakness and flux. I was scared…I remain, three-and-a-half weeks later, as I draft this text, concerned. Allow me now to say that the hospital kept me overnight, releasing me the second evening. Those 36 hours seemed without end.

I photographed the goose on her nest just 75-feet from our patio 90-mintues before the stroke. I am sure that she gave no thought to my misfortune…she had weightier matters to consider…the seven eggs beneath her. And I, to the contrary, had little else but my own well-being on my mind. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Were the entire human population to extinguish tomorrow, all of Nature would give little thought to, and would pay scant notice of, our misfortune.

 

I am continuing occupational and physical therapy, religiously. I have rehabilitated to 90 percent of normal function. My right hand is once again more dominant, although eating (fork and spoon dexterity) can still be exhausting. While OT and PT are critical, I attribute my emotional and psychological recovery, in large part, to occular medicinal Nature. I’ve capitalized on our perch above the four-acre-pond that we share with neighbors, watching and photographing sunrises and sunsets, and observing the rich Nature of bird life in our little oasis of perennials, shrubs, and trees.

Because during my period of convalescence I have not been able to wander woodsward, I must rely upon a more domesticated Nature for this Great Blue Heron Post. I offer a selection of mostly sunrise and sunset photos and reflections beginning on that fateful March 24 morning and extending through early dawn April 17.

I won’t provide much in the way of narrative. The photos speak the essence and language of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual rehabilitation quite eloquently.

I managed some decent spring-bursting-forth photos March 27 and 28, worthy on their own, yet not relevant to this sky-themed Post. I accompanied Judy to our grandson Sam’s (age 8) soccer game March 29, carefully walking to the field with aid of trekking pole and Judy. The late afternoon (5:44) sun fading behind thickening cirro-stratus portended the inch-and-a-half of rain that fell the next day.

 

Therapeutic Dawns and Sunsets

Dawn two days hence (March 31, 6:31 AM) captured the fragmented cloud litter trailing the prior day’s departed frontal boundary.

 

April 3, 2022 (7:23 and 7:25 AM) dawned more brightly. Who could not feel the rush of promise, the healing spring sky, the glow of spring?!

 

A few minutes later, sunshine warmed the air and touched my soul.

 

Nature’s Spiritual Essence

April 6 at 5:55 PM, solar rays penetrated the cumulo-stratus. I recall a friend during my Penn State faculty days referring to these as Jacob’s Ladder. Another term is Rays of God. Both colloquial monikers for crepuscular rays suggest a spiritual element. I cannot agree more…they seem heaven-sent.

 

April 9, dawn brightened with stratus scudding across the eastern sky at 6:18 and 6:19 AM.

 

By 6:40 AM, old sol was about to break the horizon and the lingering stratus. Cirrus bands, already sunlit, glow above the stratus.

 

Mid-day (11:56 AM) fair-weather cumulus clouds held sway above the soccer fields at nearby Dublin Park, where our eight-year-old grandson Sam competed in an early spring-season game. This constituted one of my first ventures from my neighborhood since the stroke that did not involve medical treatment. Just the same, the outdoor time did provide important emotional, spiritual, and soul healing.

 

 

April 4, during our early morning neighborhood walk, civil twilight brightened the eastern horizon at 6:25 and 6:26 AM, hinting at the glorious day ahead.

 

Sunsets Can Rival Dawns

By 7:10 PM civil dusk ushered the day to an equally aesthetic end.

 

Three evenings later, clouds advancing from the west at 6:35 and 6:40 PM portended a rough night. Frontal rain began by 8:30 PM, eventually pelting us with 2.39″!

 

The April 16 sunset (6:46 and 6:47 PM) promised only fair weather.

 

I snapped these photos during nautical twilight April 17 (5:57 and 5:58 AM) with a three-second exposure. I’ve learned that an iPhone can pull color and character from what appears to be a darkened landscape. I couldn’t resist the butterweed patch at woods-edge. A basal flood lamp along the wall illuminated the stones…without throwing its light into the butterweed. Suburban lights brought the effect of weak daylight to the cloudy sky above the forest.

 

I admit that the stroke affected my mental well-being, occasionally slipping me into a deepening feeling of mortality, an imminent end-of-the-line. However, across those 24 day following the event, my outlook lifted. I saw regular progress regaining my right hand fine motor skills and increasing dexterity, as well as greater right leg stability and overall equilibrium. Toss in a series of beautifully bookended days, support of friends and family, Judy’s never-ending love and care, and my close-to-home immergence in Nature’s rich elixir of spring days with magnificent sunrises and sunsets. How could I be anything but upbeat and confident in all that lies ahead!

I am convinced that the spirit of John Muir lies within me:

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

His sentiment lifts me. I know that my own minor pitfall is nothing compared to the spinning, rolling, cyclical turns of Nature that sustain all life. I will relish and enjoy the inspiring Nature of Life and Living so long as I continue to witness dawns and sunrises.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I will relish and enjoy the inspiring Nature of Life and Living so long as I witness dawns and sunrises. 
  • The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. John Muir
  • I believe in the incredible force and power of Nature-Inspired Life, Living, and Healing!

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 Morning Perspective at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 28-30, 2022, I participated in the Focus on Nature (Nature Photography) Workshop at Joe Wheeler State Park. I offer photographs and reflections from my solitary hike beginning at dawn January 30. This Post highlights a 180-degree early morning perspective on the Awesome Trail and some tree form oddities from the entire weekend. I write these Posts to learn, understand, and cherish.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding — Leonardo da Vinci

Awesome Trail 180-Degree Perspective

 

I entered the Awesome Trail (see map below, or online: https://www.alapark.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/JWSP%20-%20Trail%20Map.pdf) from its First Creek Boat Ramp Trailhead.

 

Because of time constraints I ventured only 0.75 miles before turning. Except for dropping south from the trailhead, most of my trek took me eastbound. Both views below are to the east from roughly where I turned around. Lake Wheeler’s Weaver Branch Inlet (see map) is to the right. The early morning sun is casting longs shadows behind me over my shoulders. With this series of 180-degree photos I will pan clockwise.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The view is now to the southeast, across the Weaver Branch arm. The Park Lodge and Marina lie to the right beyond sight. The absence of hardwood foliage makes this my favorite season to hike all trails along the water.

Joe Wheeler

 

I’ve swung to the southwest looking across First Creek at the far shore.

Joe Wheeler

 

The photo below swings beyond due west toward the trail head and the shallow end of the First Creek Inlet. I’m taken with the variations of image, impact, and beauty derived from standing in-place and pivoting the camera view. The effects are particularly strong at either end of winter days, when shadows are long and prominent. During the growing season, sunlight reaches the forest floor only as flecks and dapples.

Joe Wheeler

 

The sun-striped forest floor reminds me that change is a constant in Nature, whether diurnal, seasonal, or decadal, and beyond. Sometimes, as in this case, time means little. I simply pivoted in-place, creating change by shifting my position of view relative to sunlight and shadow.

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

 

I seek intellectual and creative stimulation by finding and photographing tree form curiosities and oddities, speculating on the cause of the peculiar shapes and forms, and communicating what I’ve ascertained to readers of these Posts.

Wisdom is timeless. Leonardo da Vinci wrote 500 years ago statements that are as true today as they were then:

It’s not enough that you believe what you see. You must also understand what you see.

This vertical pole-sized yellow poplar grows from a base previously laid to just 30 degrees from horizontal by a fallen tree or large branch. The force responsible shattered, crushed, or snapped the sapling’s top at that point. The wound served as an infection court for wood decay fungi that have actively decayed and hollowed the severely leaning trunk. I should have felt within the vertical stem to see whether decay is extending vertically as well. I suspect that it is.

Jow Wheeler

 

Some would see this survivor as an Indian marker tree, manipulated by Native Americans to point to something of importance. However, I reject the idea with certainty. Native Americans have not occupied this area for 150 years. The yellow poplar suffered its physical indignity just a few decades ago. Natural forces pointed this tree in the direction acheived by random forces.

Joe Wheeler

 

Not technically a tree, this large woody grapevine (a species of the genus Vitis) is typical of the seeming random shapes and forms I see wherever I’ve encountered large main canopy aerial wanderers. Reaching well into the main canopy, these vines grow with the tree. This one is rooted at least ten feet beyond the oak. Picture it sprouting and beginning its life at about the same time that the acorn germinated. The growing young vine found the young oak, grasped it, and proceeded to grow vertically with the oak. The oak performs the hard work of reaching for sunlight, providing the strong and rigid trunk and branchwork. The vine clings tightly to the growing tree, reaching with the tree to maximize its own sunlight capture.

Joe Wheeler

 

I’ve mentioned previously in these Posts that I am still seeking to identify the mutual benefit to the tree of having the vine co-occupy the canopy courtesy of the tree. I shall continue my quest for answers. There may be no benefit. Perhaps the vine is an unavoidable pest/competitor and that the evolutionary advantage goes to oak genotypes better able to tolerate the grape-nuisance. I’ve also wondered whether the grapevine-infested trees encourage the acorn-gatherer/cacher (e.g., squirrels and jays) populations to more effectively place acorns every fall into suitable germination sites. I shall continue to seek answers through my own observations…and keeping an eye for relevant scientific literature.

Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity — da Vinci

Like the yellow poplar, this hackberry suffered physical injury. A falling tree or another large object hit a major side branch or fork of the hackberry. The broken stub offered entry to a decay fungus that continues to decompose wood within the trunk, assuring that life ahead will be hollow, empty, and likely abbreviated!

Joe Wheeler

 

Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets — da Vinci

Similar circumstances led to this black cherry with a hollowed stem.

Joe Wheeler

 

These two black cherry trees also suffered physical damage from above. Both are retaining life by contorting to reach available sunlight, in each case by reaching beyond their forest edge location. Black cherry is shade intolerant. Had they been located within a closed forest and suffered similarly, they could not have survived. Life within our forests is tough and demanding. The rule of survival of the fittest (best adapted) applies. Importantly, these individuals, while not thriving, have reached the seed-production stage. Their contorted shape is injury-induced…not attributable to a genetic, inheritable weakness. If even a single progeny survives, they have achieved a measure of success in the goal of extending life into next generations.

The average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking — da Vinci

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I learn more from seeking answers raised by my Nature wanderings, ponderings, and writings than I do by venturing with the mindset that I already have the answers. Learning is a contact sport.

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions — da Vinci

If you find from your own experience that something is a fact and it contradicts what some authority has written down, then you must abandon the authority and base your reasoning on your own findings — da Vinci

Self-immersion in Nature is one means to my self-fullfillment, and the vehicle through which I learn, enjoy, and satisfy my quest to understand and share my passion for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding — da Vinci

Learning is the only thing that never disappoints us — da Vinci

We must experience Nature to develop our perceptions of what she is and how she performs.

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions — da Vinci

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself — da Vinci
  • What we see in Nature depends upon how we look…and at what depth.
  • It’s not enough that you believe what you see. You must also understand what you see — da Vinci

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 BooksJow 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.

 

Late January Sunsets at Joe Wheeler State Park

Preface

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

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

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

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

— Dylan Thomas

 

Original Unaltered Post

 

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

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

Friday January 28, 2022

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Saturday January 29

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

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

— Dylan Thomas

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

Joe Wheeler

 

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

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

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.