Sunday, February 5, 2017

Walking to see and feel

Shagbark Hickory
When going in to nature, do not go first to capture photographs, or even to write. Go first to see and feel. The pictures and words will come on their own.

Today I took my own advice, left the iPhone at home, and went for a walk of a couple hours down to the river and back. It was wonderful.


Harpeth River



Moon caught in the branches

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Spring's Harbinger

Today the first wildflower of the year, Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa), appeared as a tangible reminder that springtime is coming. This tiny, aptly-named wildflower is always the first in our woods. It is also sometimes called Pepper-and-Salt because of the appearance of its flowers. They say its roots are edible, but I've never tried them. I usually see the first flowers about this time of year, but they'll continue blooming throughout early spring.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


A hummingbird in flight
is not at all
like a cardinal,
a wren,
a turkey,
or a goose. 
Yet each bird takes flight
and perfectly
as it should.

Complain or delight if you want,
the bird will still take flight,
and you were not made to be any of these.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Subtle Beauty

In nature I am drawn not so much to the spectacular as to the sublime. A sunfleck on maple leaves can be just as beautiful as nature's more majestic beauty. Awe is not limited to mountain tops and sunsets. Wild beauty surrounds us everywhere we go.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hidden Danger

After a long hiatus, I'm back. I almost decided to drop Wild Saunter due to lack of interest on both sides (writer & reader). We'll see how it goes. 

I thought this plant currently blooming in our woods was interesting. Maybe you will, too. 

One of the last species to bloom in autumn, White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is a poisonous wildflower in the Aster family. Its aromatic blossoms are visited by a variety of late season insects. Generally avoided by deer, White Snakeroot contains a toxin that is poisonous to livestock, especially in overgrazed areas where there's little else to eat. The plant's toxin can be passed to humans through consuming either the meat or milk of an affected animal. Unaware of this plant's properties, many pioneers settling in the Appalachians in the 18th & early 19th centuries died as a result. This "milk sickness" was probably the cause of death for Abraham Lincoln's mother in 1818. Native people used the powerful plant medicinally in small amounts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dragonflies Dance in Midair

in midair,
cruising through summer,
devouring mosquitos 
and looking pretty.

Suddenly appearing
as if from thin air
these tiny, delicate acrobats
bring forth wonder. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Collective Wisdom

I learn from writing, but I learn much more from reading. I only have one brain, and writing helps. Through the magic of reading, however, I can learn from many minds. Reading is one of the best ways we can tap into our collective wisdom. To ignore this is foolish at best and maybe even arrogant at its worst.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Right before my eyes 
in the morning sun 
a pale brown chip of wood,
or maybe it's a leaf,
tilts in the breeze
folding itself in half 
slowly opening 
and folding again 
until suddenly it
lifts into the air 
and flies away
a butterfly unseen. 

And now transformed my eyes see
clearly the beauty 
for what it really is
— a metamorphosis of vision. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Best Sunscreen

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, but trees make the best sunscreen. 

#WildSaunter #Trees #Sunshine #Sunscreen #sunshineonmyshoulders #johndenver

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Trees in Our Forest

This afternoon I pulled out my well-read copy of Bernd Heinrich's book, The Trees in My Forest. I think I may eventually have to write my own version of "the trees in our forest." To be honest, I don't feel like I know them well enough, but the project could be a way to know them better.

Weird Weather

So I hear this is the second year in a row Texas has been hit with 500 year flooding. That's kind of weird, huh? The death and destruction is tragic. 

Also, there was record breaking flooding in Europe this week, killing at least 15 in France, Germany, Romania, and Belgium. The Louvre art museum in Paris hastily moved thousands of stored pieces to upper levels of the building to protect it from the flooding river Seine. The Mona Lisa was already safely on an upper floor. 

I could go on and on with this list of environmental disasters, but over half my friends are already irritated. They like it when I share pretty pictures of nature, but they take another view when I suggest we should do something to save it or in any way change our ways. It's even worse if I suggest we reverence and bear responsibility for the care of creation. At that point I'm obviously in league with the crazy environmentalists. 

It's okay. And I think I get where you're coming from. And I'm sure we'll adapt to climate change. Or not.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Continually I am amazed by the life of our forest. Life's richness and diversity, untiring enthusiasm and creativity, and timeless ceaseless change inspire always.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ubiquitous Beauty

Beauty is everywhere. 

Or at least it is for those with the time and inclination to see.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


In late spring in Tennessee all the world is green and beautiful. A simple woodland walk is an immersion into a world so green and alive it is virtually pulsing with chlorophyll, the lifeblood of the forest.

Green and beautiful before me. 
Green beauty behind. 
Green and beautiful above me. 
Green beauty below. 
All is green. 
I walk in beauty. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Beauty, Science, and Thanksgiving: A First Glance

Do you ever find yourself with a new book and realize you're going to read it over and over until it becomes a part of you? I'm only in the middle of Robin Wall Kimmerer's thoughts and reflections in Braiding Sweetgrass, and I already know it's going to be that kind of book for me. You should expect to hear more from me on this. She truly is a poet-scientist.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Beauty Enough

Following a rain, a luminous glow reveals the inconspicuous beauty of a cluster of Boxelder flowers. Surely these delicate ornaments usually go unnoticed, but I am beginning to think such unobserved grace and loveliness fills our world whether we notice or not. 

This raises the question of why there should there be such unnecessary beauty? What good comes of unseen charm? Does it exist simply on the chance that I may see? Is there an advantage to being beautiful if there is no admirer? Is the purpose of the Boxelder's beauty simply to delight the eye of an unseen Creator? Does beauty exist simply for its won sake?

I don't know. I am no theologian, and I am certainly no philosopher, but I think maybe it is enough for me to know that such beauty exists, and to know it not only exists, but is common. Maybe the beauty of common Boxelder is enough.

Friday, March 25, 2016


You can pick it, but you cannot own a wildflower. Wild things cannot be possessed. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Where Wild Lives

All of wild nature lies right outside your door. Nature is not confined to some place "out there" away from us. One doesn't need exotic lands, the grandeur of a national park, or even a  few acres of city park to experience nature firsthand. For those who care to look, nature is revealed in the wind blowing dandelion seeds, the robin listening for an earthworm lunch in the lawn, or the ever-changing phases of the moon. Within walking distance of where you sit, there are wonders you've never really seen before. You should go introduce yourself. Learn of the green world. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Riven: A Lament Seeking Understanding

riven: [past participle of rive] torn apart, split, rent, severed, cleft, torn asunder. 

We as a people are riven. We are divided among ourselves by race, culture, politics, and money. Whether intentionally or ignorantly, we build and reinforce walls to separate us. Our frequent response to fear is to kill. 

We are fractured at every level. We are riven whether you're looking at race, religion, nation, community, or even family. We are torn and have come to believe this is the natural way of things. Maybe we have forgotten what it is to be whole. 

We are cleft from the land that nurtured us. We have forgotten our ties to the earth and fool ourselves into thinking we are somehow independent of the rest of creation. We have forgotten our wild nature, and believe the environment is only a political topic.

We have severed ourselves from our heritage. We believe only in the newest, fastest, shiniest technologies. We reject old ways merely because they are old, as if standing the test of time meant nothing. Our society has come to consider the educated young geek somehow smarter and better than the plumber or housekeeper who sacrificed to create his opportunities. 

We believe our church or religion is better because, well, it just is. We believe other food, other languages, other music, other perspectives are fundamentally inferior to our own. We cannot spend time together in a meal, a discussion, or just listening to a song. We no longer assume positive intent in others, and we judge motivations before we know facts. We are not diverse, but divided. Unity and harmony are forgotten in the wars against our enemies. And then we don't understand why our enemies are growing more numerous every day.

We are a riven people. We are torn asunder, bleeding, and ripped apart by our own hands. Tattered and torn we long for that which would make us whole again, if only we could remember what it is. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Beautiful Weeds

Some people see only a weed, but I prefer to look more closely. Lamium purpureum is the purple broadleaf coming up in many lawns right now. Although this European immigrant it is commonly known as Red (or Purple) Dead Nettle, this small herb is a member of the mint family. It spreads invasively in sunny lawns, so it is regarded by most American homeowners as a weed. Personally, I can't help but marvel at their tiny yet intricate purple blossoms.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Filling the Margins

Looking at a mushroom I am overwhelmed to consider the dazzling diversity of life found in our small forest. I can't even begin to comprehend the breadth of life that must be displayed across our great planet. Life is relentless. Life persists even in the margins, like the colorful illuminations in ancient books. When we think we've found a lifeless spot, it's usually because we haven't looked closely enough. Life is ubiquitous. Life finds a way everywhere. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Whatever else may happen,
there is a peace in standing silent in a twilight wood listening to Spring Peepers sing their love songs from an unseen forest pool. 

Last year's age-softened beech leaves cushion the ground beneath my feet. Cool air flows around me like water around a rock in a stream. All is hushed except the singing frogs. And then above them a deep soft voice flows from the trees. 

An owl spirit
summons the night
and my senses settle
calm among the branches
holding above me the silver half-circle
of a first quarter moon. 

I breath slowly, listening.
My air joins the wind
and lifts my praise.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finding by Not Seeking

Even the most familiar path can take me to unexpected places. Sometimes I just need to explore, off trail, going nowhere in particular, rambling about aimlessly, noticing mayapples just poking out of the ground beneath cottony white clouds sailing the blue sky above. My fingers and eyes roam mossy rocks, logs, and cradle-knolls. Being in the forest without purpose almost always leads to discovery. It's as if by not looking for anything I am receptive to everything. Sometimes the best way to find something is by not looking for it. 

Orientation: a guiding question

Why is the world so beautiful? There's a lot wrong with the world today. Scary things. Horrible things I can never forget. A lot of stuff I can't fix. Stuff we must confront. But I am drawn back to this question: Why is the world so beautiful? And I surrender to wonder and go looking for it as an explorer on a quest. Sometimes discovery is more about new vision than new places.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Serendipitous Beauty

Even if I live to be very old, I will always be captivated by the waking of wildflowers in spring. If anything, my wonder increases with each new year. Beauty and serendipity turn out to be fairly common.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

When to Plant a Tree

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” I'm still learning this myself, but you're missing the point if you can't see this applies to more than trees. Of course, if you're about to do something stupid like planting a pine tree beneath a power line, then procrastination is good. The trick is knowing the difference. Some things take a lifetime to learn. Maybe that's why we're told to listen to our elders.

A Virginia Pine planted in our yard yesterday as part of a project to plant 50,000 trees
across the state sponsored by the Tennessee Environmental Council

Saturday, February 27, 2016


I need to start writing again. I think I cannot not write. And I think we all have an inner need to create. It's different for everyone, but to stifle this urge is like trying to stop a flower from blooming; success would kill the beauty. 

Friday, February 26, 2016


Any path worth taking 
in days of wildflowers and sunshine 
is worth walking in all seasons. 

Beauty is year-round and weatherproof 
for those who are willing to see.