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.

 

An Eleven-mile Bucket List Hike to the Sipsey Big Tree

October 30, 2021, friends and I hiked an eleven-mile circuit to see The Big Tree (State Champion Yellow Poplar) in Alabama’s Bankhead National Forest’s Sipsey Wilderness. I offer reflections on the rough and bouldered terrain, torturous blowdowns, and the majesty of the Big Tree. I reflect upon the hike with threads of bittersweet nostalgia and melancholy.

Allow me to begin at the end. We rushed along the streamside riparian forests, within a quarter mile of the trailhead, long after I had abandoned any thought of returning home by dinner time. Note: the three of us accompanying Randy had miles earlier began to refer to him good-naturedly as “Quarter-Mile Randy.” No matter what landmark, trail juncture, or notable feature we approached, Randy assured us that it lay “just a quarter-mile” ahead! The official sunset that evening occurred at 6:41 PM; the orb sunk beneath the tree canopy and then the hills through which the creek flowed well before then. Randy led us below left as light waned. We had just a few minutes earlier circumvented the last of the impenetrable blowdowns (Randy skirting it below right). His muddy backside evidenced the slipping and sliding we had done throughout the day. We reached our vehicles as darkness enveloped us, a good seven-tenths of a mile from where Randy had told us just a quarter mile to go!

Big Tree

Big Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt elation at reaching our vehicles before resorting to our flashlights. I admit also to near-exhaustion from a hike that 30 years ago I would have simply considered a nice effort. We hiked October 30, just eight days before my scheduled full left shoulder replacement. I could neither employ my right arm for trekking pole support nor use that arm to steady myself along slippery, rugged, or steep sections. Upon reflection (as I draft this, I am two-and-a-half weeks post-surgery), I realize that for the first time in my adult life, I felt vulnerable, reaching near (exceeding?) my physical limitations. I believe that the stress of uncertainty in my physical constraints contributed to my exhaustion.

 

Belying my Impressions from Forty Years Ago

A New Understanding and Awakened Eyes

 

I served as Union Camp Corporation’s Alabama Land Manager 1981-85, responsible for 320,000 acres (500 square miles) of company-owned forestland in the state, two-thirds of it lying south of Alabama’s Black Belt, concentrated in a six-county area of south-central Alabama. Primarily coastal plain (piedmont for the acreage north of Montgomery), our lands were modestly hilly to somewhat flat. During those years, I developed an impression of Alabama’s forests and terrain far different from what I’ve experienced since retirement here in northern Alabama’s southern Appalachian Ridge and Valley, Cumberland Plateau, and Highland Rim regions. I’ve learned that these regions are deeply eroded (geologically), steep-sloped, and laced with numerous streams and drainages. I had carried with me since departing UCC for my doctoral studies in 1985 a picture of Alabama forests as gentle lands, typified by the coastal plain and piedmont.

I’ve learned since retiring that such is not the case in north Alabama. I’ve hiked extensively (and written about it in subsequent Posts) from Oak Mountain to Cheaha to DeSoto to Sand and Lookout Mountains to Monte Sano and elsewhere, that these ancient worn-down mountains, highlands, and plateaus can challenge me at this stage of life.

To the Big Tree

We encountered building-size limestone boulders early in our trek to the Big Tree. Pitted by chemical weathering, the boulders are remnant rimrock. We walked among such massive fractured and detached standing stones along most of the day’s journey. The rocks and these valleys and canyons are ancient. They came to us out of eternity…long after the youngest of us who have hiked to the Big Tree is gone, these landscape elements will still be here. Human time is nothing to a limestone boulder, and canyon, or the streams that reside here.

Big TreeBig Tree

 

Nor does the duration of a man’s life mean anything to canyon walls still anchored as basement rock. Cliffs bounded us as we progressed. Occasionally they dipped to streamside. These are not the coastal plain flatwoods of my forest industry days. I passed in muted respect for these sheltered canyons. In addition to vulnerable, I felt small and insignificant. As a former manager of vast acreages and a past university president, the essence and spirit of this wild country humbled me, shrunk me to a speck. At times I wanted to sink into a small stone niche to watch, listen, feel, and retreat from all but a solemn respect and awe for this place of wonder. I thought of John Muir.

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

At times I sensed that I did not truly belong here, that I was the interloper.

The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.

Big Tree

 

This was not the stereotypical southern forests I remembered. Although I struggled with the rough topography, 12-year-old Jonathan (Randy’s grandson) moved effortlessly through the canyon. That’s him below right.

Big TreeBig Tree

 

In many places boulders had tumbled to streamside.

Big Tree

 

These two house-sized boulders framed our trailside view of the stream.

Big Tree

 

From Rock Barriers to Blowdown Impediments

I offer this photo as a segue, leading me from a focus on rocks to a complementary obstacle to our passage — blowdowns. The tree below has not fallen, but is leaning, eventually earth-bound, a future blowdown.

Big Tree

 

I know I climbed over, through, and around dozens of blowdowns, some massive-crowned beech, poplars, oaks, and others. I remind readers that trail maintenance within a designated Wilderness can be done only with raw muscle, hand tools, and hard labor. No chainsaws or motorized equipment. Imagine hiking several miles, carrying crosscut saws to remove this 30-inch diameter oak. On each encounter we chose among our alternatives: climb over, crawl under, or bushwhack around it.

Big Tree

 

I’ve observed often that life and death operate hand in hand in our forests. The old growth forest in the canyon heading up into the Big Tree’s canyon has recently (within the past 2-4 years) suffered a great deal of blowdown. Stasis does not exist in any living system. Tara is demonstrating quite well the arduous transit from one side of this beech blowdown to another. Now, picture a 70-year-old man with a bum shoulder scrambling (can one scramble in slow motion?) through this obstacle!

Big Tree

 

I regret that I did not capture more images of the frequent, haphazardly placed blowdowns.

 

The Destination

Old growth blowdown obstacles proved nearly impenetrable to my left-shoulder-impeded scrambling. Every time I celebrated a tortured passage, we encountered yet another. Our fearless leader finally said, “Just a quarter-mile to go.” A half-mile later, he said, “I see its top.” I limped into the canyon head, the Big Tree towering above the blind headwall. I sat in awe…resting and eating several granola bars.

As of 2021, the Alabama State Champion Tree Directory shows the Big Tree circumference at 263″ (diameter 6.98′); height at 172′; and crown spread at 102′. The Big Tree’s crown area covers 19,120 square feet, an area of 0.44 acres. Although the national champion yellow poplar scores higher in aggregate, ours certainly ranks among the country’s largest. The national winner, resident of Bedford County Virginia, boasts a 362″ circumference (9.60′ diameter); 139′ height; and 78′ crown spread. Ours is 33 feet taller and its crown spread reaches 24 feet wider. I found nothing on the internet in way of comparison photos. I can’t imagine another yellow poplar that reigns over such a uniquely isolated canyon head as the Big Tree, which singularly owns and commands its three-sided, protected fortress.

Jonathon’s position of recline upon reaching the Big Tree expresses my own feeling.

Big Tree

 

I could attempt to describe my sense of awe and humility standing beside the Big Tree, yet even if given a month, I would fall short of Muir’s words:

Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.

I’d rather be in the mountains thinking of God, than in church thinking about the mountains.

I stood there knowing that this first visit to this special place would be my last. Although tired and somewhat worried about our return to the vehicles, I tried to absorb the moment. I plan to carry the place with me all the days of my life. Remembering prior travels, I can close my eyes and see again the California coastal redwoods, the Yosemite sequoias, the Pacific rainforest Douglas fir, the deep cove remnant old growth hardwoods of the Great Smoky Mountains, among others. The Big Tree and its isolated canyon have likewise secured their pages in my tree-memory portfolio!

Big Tree

 

Fall colors enrich my memory.

Big TreeBig Tree

 

 

 

 

 

This online file photo from mid-winter more clearly expresses the tree’s full 172′ height.

Stock Photo from Web

 

The canyon alone, even were it absent the Big Tree, is a special niche.

Big Tree

 

Its waterfall suggests a deeper peace, reminds us of the continuing flow of life, and punctuates the land’s declaration that this is the end…and also the beginning. I did not want to leave, yet knew that I must.Big Tree

 

Leaving this sacred place, I wondered whether I would (or could) return. In fact, I was relieved that Randy elected to work our way back to the trailhead via a less harsh, yet longer return. I admittedly felt, for the first time in my life, uncertain whether I could retrace my inbound route with an impaired (and terribly painful) left shoulder, and gimpy knees (osteoarthritis). I felt a deep melancholy, a fear that my life-window for exploring Nature’s magic and mystery was closing. That the universe of new trails to journey was narrowing.

Big Tree

 

As darkness deepened, we exited the trail. I realized soberly that the day will come when I take my final hike…period, as we all must. Countering my brief deep woe when we began the long and uncertain return hike, I felt absolute joy at having visited the Big Tree and returned to my transportation.

Another Muir quote seems apt:

Most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.

I am content that on this day I was truly in the world. I write and speak often that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is compellingly inspired by Nature. Such was the case October 30, 2021. Too often, people view a hike as a destination…a passage through the forest. For me, this entire journey served as a destination, each step ventured into and within a forest…not passed through the wildness. I view it through a lens of melancholy…a reminder that I have perhaps passed into a different stage of life…one less daring, gentler, and slowed to a deeper focus on the subtleties instead of the adventurous. I chalk this hike up as the last of a different kind of forest journey. From this day forward, I will change gears, reduce my expectations, and enjoy Nature at a different pace and a lower level of difficulty.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature rewards most handsomely when we hike into and within the forest, rather than through it.
  • Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike. John Muir.
  • Special places reside in our body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began authoring books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksBig Tree

 

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

 

Early October Foray at Monte Sano State park

At the north Alabama intersection of late summer and early fall, October 4, 2021, I hiked the Wells Memorial and Sinks Trails at nearby Monte Sano State Park with my two Alabama grandsons Jack and Sam. We explored the deep-cove cathedral forest with towering yellow poplars, admired some tree form oddities, and examined other non-tree curiosities we discovered along the way.

Wells Memorial and Sinks Trails

 

As morning clouds thinned that damp morning, we stopped at the overlook, standing at 1,600-feet, the boys’ backs to the ENE. We drove from there to the new mountain bike pavilion, trailhead for the Sinks Trail.

Monte Sano

 

We dropped from there to the Wells Memorial Trail, transiting the loop to Keith and connecting back to Sinks. The deep cove forest trail is dedicated to the memory of William Arthur Wells, a former Monte Sano State Park CCC worker who joined the US Navy at the onset of WWII and died at the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. The trail passes through my favorite grove at Monte Sano. I’ve written frequently about this memorial trail: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/10/05/contemplating-a-video-tale-of-the-william-arthur-wells-memorial-trail-monte-sano-state-park/

Monte Sano

 

The boys posed at a cluster of basswood trees that originated from stump sprouts many decades ago.

Monte Sano

 

Tree Form Oddities

 

Always on the lookout for tree form oddities and curiosities, we discovered this critter peering at us from around a black oak. Although we had visited the grove many times, this was the creature’s first appearance! A turtle? Dragon? Kin of ET? The woods present mysteries aplenty to those willing to lighten up, who invite their keen imagination to accompany them. I seldom leave home without mine. I know a little mirth enriches the learning experience…keeps the young at heart entertained, sparks their curiosity, and rewards their explorations. The scientist within me recognizes that the protuberant growth is an old broken branch stub morphed by callous tissue overgrowing (somewhat out of control) the old wound. How dull it would be to have left my imagination at home, or worse yet, to have abandoned it in my youth.

 

Sam ventured hesitantly close to this gnarled red oak, enchanted (and not just a little unnerved) by the tree’s emergence from The Hobbit or Sleepy Hollow! Long ago injured and infected with decay fungi, this massively-burled oak is simply striving to stay vertical as its heartwood rots, maintaining life and producing acorns to continue its lineage with future generations that may escape early-life injury, and grow unimpaired and without what we foresters consider commercial defect and disfigurement.

Allow me to paraphrase a relevant John Muir quote:

God never made an ugly tree (Muir said ‘landscape’). All that sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not far away we spotted a five-foot-diameter circumferential white oak burl 20 feet above ground. I view such burls as akin to a benign cancer triggered by bacterial, viral, fungal, or some combination of agents introduced decades ago via injury, perhaps as casual a wound as a woodpecker searching for grubs.

Monte Sano

 

I pondered aloud with the boys how many hikers and bikers pass within sight of these curiosities without notice. What else do they miss? All manner of woods magic lies hidden in plain sight.

Monte Sano

 

I wondered whether J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis saw magic in forests and places they visited, stimulating the enchantment of their writing. I am convinced that imaginative minds see the wonder in plain sight. What I see does not create the fantasy so much as what I imagine allows me to see the wizardry that is in plain sight.

Again, John Muir:

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

Non-Tree Features

 

We stumbled upon what is my lifetime favorite type of fern, the maidenhair. I offer several reasons why it is special to me. It is not common here, nor have I found it in abundance wherever we’ve lived. Maidenhair, although hardy, appears delicate, with its very small and lace-like fronds. Its fan-shaped leaves typically clustered on wiry black stems add another distinct characteristic. And I like clump-style ferns.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

 

Having risen to the level of accomplished novice aficionado (a triple oxymoron?) of wild edible mushrooms, even when I am not foraging, I delight in seeing species I know are edible, including honey (left) and oyster.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Sam spotted this angle-winged katydid. He paused as we hiked, pointing to his left. Jack and I looked some distance trailside, thinking he was directing our attention at a tree well off the path. Instead, he corrected us, the katydid perched just three inches from his finger. I complimented his observation skills, applauded his interest, and identified the insect with iNaturalist. I can think of few things more rewarding to Pap than seeing the boys express interest in and pay attention to Nature.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods:

The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

 

We discover more than we anticipate every time we enter the forest. John Muir said it well:

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

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable (Richard Louv).
  • I can think of few things more rewarding than seeing my grandchildren express interest in and pay attention to Nature.
  • The power of imagination makes us infinite (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: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksMonte Sano

 

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

 

 

 

Heart’s Content in NW Pennsylvania (Part Two)

The Special Nature of an Old Growth Allegheny Hardwood Forest

 

September 7, 2021 I hiked and explored the Heart’s Content Scenic Area (a 400-year-old remnant of the original forest that covered the Allegheny Plateau when European settlers arrived in the 18th Century) in the Allegheny National Forest of northwest Pennsylvania. This preserved area is located just 40 miles west of where I conducted my 1985-86 doctoral research on soil-site relationships for second-growth Allegheny hardwoods. This was my first return to the Allegheny in 35 years!

I issued a first Post from this visit October 14, 2021, focusing on the origin chronology of the 90-100-year-old second growth forests of my doctoral research, and the species composition within this ancient forest: http://stevejonesgbh.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=9643&action=edit

This Post focuses on the special Nature of this ancient forest.

We have all read some of the earliest European settlers’ accounts of the deep forests greeting them when they arrived on our North American shores: forests dark and foreboding, foul and repugnant; teeming wtih wild beasts and savages. Perhaps some 17th century New England forests were dark and foreboding. Such is not the case today at Heart’s Content. The stand beyond the entrance sign below looks rather dark, yet, dappled sulight is penetrating the forest. The trail (below right) wends through patches of sunlight and deep shade.

Heart's Content

Heart's Content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunlight brightens the trunks of a massive hemlock (left) and red oak, both 3-4 feet in diameter.

Heart's Content

 

Large dead and down woody debris characterizes the forest floor. The hemlock log below left measures four feet at what would have been breast-high when the tree stood. Sunlight is spotlighting the log and dappling the diverse woody debris below right. Old growth characteristics in our eastern forests include some large individuals, a great deal of dead and down woody debris, scattered crown openings, ansd multi-tiered crown structure. The two photos evidence all elements.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

The ancient main canopy individuals, across all species, reach straight and tall (see the hemlock and oak photos above) to their first branches, suggesting that for at least the stand’s first century-plus, full stocking provided sunlight only to the active high crowns. The white pine (left below) is typical of the ancient Heart’s Content individuals. The white pine below right stands near the parking area, likely planted nearly a century ago when officials dedicated the preserve. The differences in appearance are distinct, reflecting available sunshine during that first century following establishment. The old growth tree competed fiercely for sunlight above its elongating primary shoots, hemmed in on all sides by adjacent trees, the tip to some extent shaded. The planted white pine below right presents a form referred to as a cabbage pine. White pine weevils ruthlessly lay eggs in the terminal and lateral shoots that recieve full sunlight. Year after year, weevils infested the primary shoots of this pine, restricting the expression of single stem apical dominance. Each successive year resulted in compound forking, leading to its squat cabbage-like form. Dense lateral competition for most species “trains” the winners (those that out-compete their neighbors) to grow straight and true, striving vertically for the full sunlight above. The cabbage pine has no commercial timber value, yet, it contributes unlimited benefits: aesthetic, wildlife cover, and seed production for critter-consumption. I viewed it as a curioisity and a tool for learning and interpretation.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Nothing lives without end. The dance of life and death is continuous. Yes, the forest can live on and on, yet, individual trees die even as the forest persists. The massive hemlocks below fell from the canopy decades ago, slowly yielding their biomass to decay organisms, inexorably reincorporating into the forest floor, and from there recycling to living and emerging shrubs and trees.

Heart's Content

 

Mosses are abundant, carpenting and enshrouding downed debris. Fungi mycelium account for large quantities of biomass within the decaying woody debris. A few orange mushrooms dot the mossy log below right. Life and death embrace in the great circle of forest ecosystems, a reality more easily grasped in such ancient forests.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

The 3-4-foot diameter hemlock and white pine below left (white pine in foreground) stood shoulder to shoulder across four centuries. The pine is recently dead, its bark still clinging. The pine has already begun its return to the soil. Its crown is needle-free. Fungi, I am certain, have already found entrance to the wood through unseen fissues in the dead bark. Within a few years, the bark will slough, mushrooms with decorate the trunk, the small branches will break and fall. In time, gravity will prevail and the tree will find the forest floor.

Heart's Content

 

The introduced emerald ash borer entered our eastern forests from Asia, first detected in Michigan in 2002, and now reported in 35 states, including Alabama. The pests’ mortality front is racing southward across Tennessee heading our way. The photo below right shows the canopy void from an original growth white ash. The borer does not show deference to the elderly. During my two days exploring forests in northwest and west-central Pennsylvania, I found no living ash.

Heart's Content

 

How tragic that our white and green ash will go the way of American chestnut (chestnut blight) and our emblematic elm (Dutch elm disease).

Heart's Content

Heart's Content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Curiosities

 

Not all disease organisms lead to imminent death. The American beech below has a circumferential canker, likely caused by viral, fungal, or bacterial action introduced by a physical injury. From forestpathology.org:

A canker is an infectious disease of the phloem and cambium on stems, branches or twigs of trees.  A patch of phloem and cambium is killed, the underlying wood dies as a result, and the killing often progresses over time. Cankers are often sunken if they grow slowly because the shoot continues to grow around it. Also, callus may be produced around the canker that makes it appear more sunken.

There are some diseases usually considered with other groups that are cankers, as well as injuries that can be confused with cankers:

  • Bacterial cankers.  These are covered with bacterial diseases.
  • Canker rots. Some basidiomycetes that decay wood in the stem may also kill patches of sapwood and bark. We consider most of them along with stem-decay fungi.
  • Stem rusts. These cause cankers, but we consider them separately with the rusts.
  • Foliage diseases, shoot and tip blights. Some of these kinds of diseases also can involve small cankers of twigs, branches, and even main stems; they are considered under foliage diseases.
  • Winter injury or sunscald. These kill patches of bark, and can be confused with cankers.  Also, canker pathogens can infect living tissues at the margins, so they can become cankers.

I am fascinated, as I have professed often in these Posts, with tree form oddities and curiosities, like the American beech below.

Heart's Content

 

If the white pine and hemlock earlier were standing shoulder to shoulder across the four centuries, the white pine and American beech below are in centuries-long warm ebrace. Yet another forest curiosity. Now for a not-so-warm commentary on the stupidity and ignorance of the human psyche. Why do we insignifcant, supposedly intelligent humans, behave as idiot pissants when confronted by a smooth-barked beech? Why, with pocketknife in-hand, do some ignorant oafs insist upon leaving the mark of their fleeting existence upon a tree in a 400-year-old forest cathedral? Why not strive to leave some small corner of the world better through wisdom, knowledge, passion, and hard work! As I frequently remind my grandkids, “You can’t fix stupid!”

Heart's Content

 

The eastern newt seemed quite content here in Heart’s Content, living and thriving among the decay, dampness, and nutrient-rich oasis of 400 years worth of bountiful life and its associated dead and down woody debris. How considerate (no arrogance and studpidity in this amphibian species) of the eastern newt to announce his neon-presence so splendidly!

heart's Content

 

I express my gratitude for those who preserved and donated the original 20 acres of old growth for preservation across time, so that we may believe, look, see, feel, and act in response. May we continue to be worthy and deserving recipients of the gift and foresight…and pass such benevolence on to future generations.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • We prepare most readily for the future when we understand the past.
  • So readily apparent in old growth, all forests engage in a continuous cycle of life and death.
  • Just as others before us preserved special places in Nature, we all must do our part to lay the foundation for generations yet to come.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

Reading the Fragility of Forest Permanence!

Standing Tall is Never Permanent

 

September 25, 2021, I bushwhacked through a rich bottomland hardwood stand on the eastern end of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Huntsville, Alabama. The photos of the magnificent cherrybark oak immediately below came from a visit to the same riparian forest last winter. I present this cherrybark oak as emblematic of a forest monarch in preface to the images of three other large oaks, not now standing so tall and permanent in the same bottomland forest.

HGH Road HGH Road

 

I want to share with you the three treefall discoveries that I made September 25, prompting me to develop this Post to demonstrate and reflect upon the forces of physics, the ravages of time, the implications of place, and the consequences of chance and fate for life in our forests.

A Tree Hits the Mark

I’ll set the stage for the first discovery by presenting this winter season yellow poplar in a nearby stand, forked at some 25-30 feet above ground.

HGH Road

 

Now let’s switch to this 30-inch-diameter red oak from my recent wanderings on the Refuge. The toppled oak’s root and lifted soil mass lie about 35 feet from where I am standing. The tree, down 2-3 years, appears to have been healthy, its wood solid, its trunk unblemished, and its top (behind me) full. I stood at a position where the bucket sits in the next photo.

 

Just beyond the bucket, the then falling oak, with a fork much like the poplar pictured above, encountered a neighboring 24-inch-diameter oak, the point of impact being the fork, dead-center. The falling tree had tremendous, likely maximum, momentum (definition: the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity) when it slammed into the stalwart neighbor. Like a sledge hammer pounding an iron wedge into a round of firewood, the falling tree split neatly apart, the split extending at least fifteen feet down the bole. The bucket rests in the split.

 

These two images show the standing tree and the split it forced.

 

The two trees stood 35 feet apart. Were we to swing a 35-foot arc from the base of the fallen tree, the perimeter would be 220 feet. What are the chances that a 30-inch-diameter mighty oak, standing tall, somewhat isolated from other domiant canopy trees, and seeming permanent, would fall… and, in exactly the one direction at precisely the right distance to have the fork impact at the intersection of peak momentum and maximum fork-vulnerability?

 

Across my retirement wanderings I have seen many examples of two alternative results from the one above. So often, the falling giant compels the standing neighbor to absorb the full impact and momentum, bringing it, too, crashing to the ground. I could not find a good photo depicting such a tree-domino outcome in my archive. In the other common outcome, the falling tree, because of distance or relative mass, remains leaning against the neighbor for a day, a week, a year, or many years. Physics rule the forest. I ventured upon this 24-inch red oak at Wheeler national Wildlife Refuge October 22, 2021.

HGH Road

 

The oak’s crown still carries its green foliage, kept alive by that portion of the root mass not wrenched from the ground. Who knows how long the tree will live…or remain leaning.

 

I draw two lessons to this point: No one person or thing remains forever. Nature operates by her own laws (applied physics) within a context of random occurences and chaotic pulses of time, place, and force. I ponder, why these two trees and these results? Right place right time; wrong place wrong time? Why any of us, whenever…and wherever?

Weakness Yields to Force

Other results seem less random…more predictable, within limits. Nearby I came across yet another 30-inch oak, this one snapped at 10-feet above its base. Hollow to the core, this oak felt the ravages of inexorable internal decay for decades, until the thinning rind of solid wood could no longer withstand the forces (physics) of crown and bole mass acting in response to wind, surpassing an inevitable threshold.

 

The tree’s time had come. And so, the time comes for all of us. The fallen mass of the tree extends 100 feet beyond the standing ten-foot trunk snag. Although one could say with certainty that eventually the rind would fail, who could say when, under what force combination, or in what direction?

 

As Leonadro da Vinci said 500 years ago, Nature never breaks her own laws.

Strength Yields to Force

And another nearby example of a mighty oak falling. This one fought mightily, clinging with all of its strength to the soil that nourished it and provided anchorage to its roos. Its trunk did not break at some point of weakness; its roots did not sever, releasing the oak’s incredible mass in a thundering instant. Instead, every root maintained its strength as the tree’s bulk pulled all roots through the wet and shallow surface soil, slowing losing purchase, allowing the tree to slip to the ground. I envision this tree falling in slow motion, contray to the earth-shattering force of the first and second oaks.

 

 

We will all reach a conclusion, as will every tree in the forest. When and under what circustances? In a crushing crescendo, or a gentle transition? I suppose that none of us can know…or should know.

Dylan Thomas, in Do Not 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.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature operates by her own laws within a context of random occurrences and chaotic pulses of time, place, and force.
  • Nothing in Nature is static or permanent; life is fragile and fleeting.
  • Wherever I roam, Nature inspires and rewards my heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksJolly B

 

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.

 

Mushroom Rambling Early October in Two Distinct Alabama Forest Types

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

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

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

Wheeler NWR

 

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

WNWR. Wheeler NWR

 

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

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

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

HGH Road

HGH Road

 

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

WNWRHGH Road

 

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

HGH Road

 

 

 

I found the lightly battered and fried hen scrumptious!

HGH Road

 

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

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

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

 

 

Riparian Hardwood Forest — Bradford Creek Greenway

 

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

HGH Road

HGH Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

HGH Road

 

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

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

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

HGH Road

 

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

 

The Dance of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksWheeler NWR

 

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

 

 

Summer 2021: Ten Weeks of North Alabama Cloud Magic

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

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

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

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

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

June 2021

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Eighty percent of success is showing up. Woody Allen

Half the battle is just showing up. Stephen Hawking

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

 

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

 

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

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

Cloud and Sky

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

Contemplating a Video of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

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

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

Southern Sanctuary

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Glory Under the Firmament

 

Margaret Anne recently communicated her gift-motivation:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Life Abounds

 

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

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

 

Marian photographed this black swallowtail as we hiked.

 

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

 

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

 

Tree Form Curiosities

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Special Magic of Flowers and Moss

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Closing Comments

 

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

 

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

 

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksSouthern Sanctuary

 

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

 

Evitts Creek Three Ponds

I admit to a decades-long Nature-love-affair with West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness and Wyoming’s Teton Mountains, among other sweet spots. Although not rising to love-affair status, my relationship to a handful of other places rates as lifelong friendships. I recall fishing with Dad at Evitts Creek Ponds at pre-school age some 65 years ago. I revisited the ponds May 24, 2021, stirring a few vivid memories and forcing me to discern changes from long ago. Spring 1970 my Systematic Botany lab traveled several times to the ponds in search of spring ephemerals as the season progressed from winter dormancy to a succession of species flowering before the mid-May semester close.

Three Ponds

 

My History with the Three Ponds

I left western Maryland to complete undergraduate studies out of state in late summer 1971, returning occasionally over the years to visit family and friends. When visits overlapped with spring wildflower season I would visit the three ponds. I believe that my May 2021 hike followed a two decade absence from the property. Once I entered the higher education senior administrative ranks (president at four different universities), I drifted professionally from my natural resources roots. Retirement has blessedly returned me to my passion-zone for Nature-Inspired Life and Living, releasing me from the distraction of business back at the respective university. I am now free of that burden. I can savor and relish total immersion in whatever natural area I visit, hence my celebration at returning to the three ponds, even with persistent rain that morning.

I’ll guide you across the diverse sites and soils I traversed to illustrate why professor Glenn O. Workman (Doc) brought his students here. We’ll begin with the location, oriented NE to SW along the left bank of Evitts Creek (Google Map aerial view): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.662306,-78.717083,663m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en-US

I’ve been unable to ferret the story explaining what prompted this DNR/Soil Conservation Project prior to the days of my youth. The mowed berm of the ponds (below left; view from the first pond to the SW) strikes me as little changed from my earliest fishing visits. I recall fishing along the hillside shoreline (below right), which I remember having far less forest and brush cover.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Below left is the view to the NE from the second pond. I do not remember the creekside border of trees (center left of that view). The 18-inch-long snapping turtle (below right) cruised along the surface of the third pond. I did not capture a clear image of the several hefty largemouth bass I saw as I hiked past the ponds.

Three Ponds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fields and pond margins provided conditions for early spring meadow habitat flowers, all distinct from what Doc knew we would find blooming within the forests.

The Forest

A small stream (likely seasonal) entered the southwest corner of the third pond. This leaning sycamore stands just 40 feet from its channel on rich alluvial soil. The sylvan hollow adjacent to the drainage area, with high overhead canopy and deep shade likewise harbored its own set of spring ephemerals for our course lab visits, to include trilliums, trout lily, bluebells, and other species common to moist, rich, and sheltered sites. Speaking of shelter, I made it on my exit from the woods to the tree’s protective overhanging trunk (below right) just as a heavy shower arrived. I enjoyed the rain-show there for 10-15 minutes.

Three Ponds

 

A 24-inch diameter white oak with its mossy trunk stood in a draw (see the leafy debris to its left from a recent freshet) entering the small stream from the east. The perspective below right of the same tree illustrates the slope lifting away convexly (from right to left) to the north. The slope therefore faces to the south (a south aspect), a hotter and drier slope position, less favorable to tree growth, particularly on the shaley soils here in Allegany County.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

I followed the slope to the ridge top running east/west south of the ponds. I came across a hickory tree (below left) eager to point the way to a destination undisclosed to us human travelers. An Indian Marker Tree — no. Perhaps it is a tree-spirit marker tree? I like that mystical (and mythical) suggestion. Nearby, the chestnut oak (below right), just 10-12 inches in  diameter, has the most deeply furrowed bark I have ever seen. Like some small dogs I have met, this tree’s bark stands out from its peers! These two trees are certainly unique…but why? Why is a hickory pointing to the right on my Blog Post page? Why does this chestnut oak have such a deeply furrowed brow? I can only surmise. Rather than I surmising for you, I suggest that you put your own imagination to work. I say often that every parcel of land…every tree…has a story to tell. What is your story for these two forest denizens?

Three Ponds

 

Traipsing up the convex south-facing slope, I saw clear evidence of its xeric nature. Stocking (the density of trees per acres) declined; heights shortened; species composition shifted to predominantly white and chestnut oaks;  mosses and lichens increasingly covered the forest floor.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Lichens and mosses flourished in cushiony mounds.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Lowbush blueberry and rattlesnake weed likewise are quite content on these excessively well-drained, inherently low fertility upper west- and south-facing slopes.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Yet, even these relatively poor sites evidence the continuing cycle of life and death. The wood ear mushrooms (below left) are the fruiting bodies of the fungi consuming the dead branch lying on the forest floor. I have since found enough wood ear mushrooms here in Alabama to attest to their culinary attributes. Wood peckers are foraging for beetle larvae on the downed Virginia pine stem below right.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Among the prior autumn’s leaf litter, the flowers of an oak root parasite (AKA cancer root, bear corn, squaw root) are sprouting.

Three Ponds

 

 

 

 

 

As I said earlier in the Post, as a youngster I would walk along and fish from the shear far-side of the ponds. I stayed on the Evitts Creek side on this visit for two reasons. I believe that the brush and tree growth is more of a thicket than it was then. Secondly, I am far less sure-footed and nimble now! I am not in the mood to tumble into the drink!

Three Ponds

 

I owe much of my thirst for Nature-knowledge to Doc Workman, who remains my hero and career-long mentor. We have stayed close over the fifty-plus years since that systematic botany course. A few years ago Judy and I helped endow a named Allegany College of Maryland forestry scholarship in his honor. I urge readers to consider contributing to the endowed fund.

Charitable donations can be made to the Dr. Glenn O. Workman, Jr. Scholarship with checks made payable to the Allegany College of Maryland Foundation and mailed to the following address:

      Allegany College of Maryland Foundation, Inc.

      12401 Willowbrook Road, SE

      Cumberland, MD  21502

I have occasionally used this axiom over my career: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Doc cared…and that made all the difference in the world…for me and for those I’ve touched over my own career! Help me carry Doc’s legacy forward through the annual scholarship.

 

I view Doc through both the lens of an 18-year-old forestry freshman and the eyes of a former president of four universities. Life has been kind to me by placing me with mentors who mattered…and who cared.

 

See my November 2017 Post paying tribute to Doc: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2017/11/28/sowing-seeds-tomorrow/

Again, Please consider furthering Doc’s legacy. I now see a man in his low 90s, yet, I will always remember and salute the 40-year-old dynamo who provided wind beneath my wings.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • We all are time travelers; I’ve covered six and one-half decades since my first visit to this place of deep Nature-memories.
  • I relish stirring fond ancient recollections in places of long ago familiarity. 
  • Perhaps my words and photos will inspire others to visit and reflect upon such places. 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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