Sunday, October 27, 2013


"Now the year itself begins to be ripe, ripened by the frost, like a persimmon." — Henry David Thoreau (Journal, Oct 4, 1859)

Scout Camping

Troop 17's campsite
Our Scouts had a great time at their Fall Camporee this weekend. Scouting is a wonderful way for young men to learn several important life-skills. This happens best in the shared experiences of camping. Scouts learn teamwork and individual responsibility. They learn to care for themselves in all kinds of circumstances. An appreciation of wild places leads to a desire to care for the environment. And moments of quiet reflection leave space for contemplating the important things of life. In today's fast paced world, not many activities can give you all that. Here a few snapshots from our weekend.
Archery merit badge
Lake view
Camporee grounds
Closing campfire
Quiet moment staring into the fire
Breakfast burritos

Monday, October 21, 2013


The fluttering leaves in the forest whisper a message I cannot quite discern. I strain to hear more clearly...


Nature's Alchemy

Again and again and again
I pull the rake across the yard,
swooshing together a heap
of leaves from the tulip poplar by the barn.

No longer summer green,
the mottled leaves
are now yellow and brown,
the color of box turtles.

Leaf upon leaf upon leaf
I pile them up in a crib
where they will sleep all winter,
hibernating in a den beneath a bare tree.

But the dawning of spring will reveal
a transformation that has taken place
in the mound of poplar leaves
on the edge of the woods.

And in those early days of spring
I will carry these leaves transfigured
into the garden, mixing humus and soil,
so that by nature's alchemy,
what once was tulip poplar will become tomatoes and okra for our table.

Tulip poplar compost

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Simplicity in All Things

“Simplicity in all things is the secret of the wilderness and one of its most valuable lessons. It is what we leave behind that is important. I think the matter of simplicity goes further than just food, equipment, and unnecessary gadgets; it goes into the matter of thoughts and objectives as well. When in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost” -- Sigurd Olson

Walking past mushroom

Fallen Leaf from the Past

A brief walk in a damp autumn woods, and like a fallen leaf, my mind is at rest. The colors, sounds, smells, and cool air all combine to renew my spirit and breathe fresh life into my body. And somehow autumn days reconnect me to my past, also. I don't know how this happens, but a walk in the autumn woods can transport me back to the fields and forests of my youth in northern Delaware. The ancient beeches here become the giant trees I loved as a kid. As if by some deep memory, my path takes me through a forest that was long ago and far away. If I let my mind wander, I half expect to round the corner and find an ancient fieldstone barn or hear a noisy flock of geese flying overhead. The forest behind our house is continuous with the woods I grew up in so many years ago. And I walk through it still.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Northern Visitor

I am hearing our first White-throated Sparrow this morning, a clear sign that soon it will be flannel shirt weather.

I must admit that when I first hear one of these little birds, I always think to myself, "there's old Sam Peabody." I love the high, clear call of the White-throat, and its song is always welcome music. The beautiful, rhythmic whistle of this northern visitor is a worthy substitute for the now departed Wood Thrush. No matter the season, the woods always has its own pretty music.


(Listen here)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Walk Unexpectantly

I have learned that it is good simply to wander without intention or expectation. Perhaps it leaves me more open to possibility when there is margin in my hours and I can saunter without agenda.

Trailside Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) at Creech Hollow Lake
Trailside Nodding Ladies' Tresses
(Spiranthes cernua) at Creech Hollow Lake

"You must walk sometimes perfectly free -- not prying nor inquisitive -- not bent on seeing things -- Throw away a whole day for a single expansion." -- Henry David Thoreau, Journal, August 21, 1851.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Joining the Chorus

The forest canopy is like a stained-glass window sometimes. Or is it the other way around?

One leaf at a time, fall colors
replace summer green.
I lift mine eyes into the trees.
The canopy over me
becomes stained-glass window.
My celebrant eyes
become lost in the wild
profusion of praise.

Humbly, silently,
my praise is lifted into the wondrous chorus above.


Sharing Breakfast

Our breakfast nook
Beth and I had our breakfast at the picnic table this morning, enjoying the cool autumnal morning. On days like this it is simply a delight to be outside. Afterwards we watched in wonder as a yellow jacket finished up the honey left around the rim of Beth's yogurt cup and then flew away.

Yellow Jacket

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Autumnal Transformations

Old Tulip PoplarsIn these autumn woods,
green turning yellow above
and yellow turning brown below,
leaves pile up on the floor,
adding rustling and swishing
and a deep, earthy perfume
to my walk among the trees.

And my spirit is refreshed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Watching Twilight

Sitting in my chair between a walnut and a persimmon tree at twilight, I watch the ever-changing sky colors as the branches above me turn to silhouette. I am reminded that there are subtle beauties in this world that can never be captured, neither in words or photograph. I find this heartening. Some things should never be possessed.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Immersion Therapy

Watching my step in a stream crossing
Stream crossing
Why do I love backpacking? Is it the physical challenge, the satisfaction of finding a brilliant solution to a logistic puzzle, or the inspiring beauty of nature? Yes.

I enjoy the physical and logistical challenge, but for me the real appeal of backpacking lies in nature. To a greater degree than possible through day hiking or car camping, backpacking is a total immersion in the natural world. This is true whether you're walking through a vast wilderness or a local state park.

Last week I spent 2 nights and 2 days just down the road wandering alone through Montgomery Bell State Park. During that time I journeyed 34 miles by connecting various loops and covering the same ground more than once. My time there was marvelously refreshing, leaving a peace and calm that has lasted for days. I definitely need to do this more often.

Here a few pictures from the trip. I hope they inspire you to go for a quick getaway. As you can see, the forest is slowly transforming into autumn.
Wildcat Creek
Wildcat Creek
Early autumnal fire
Harvestman on sassafras leaf
Harvestman on sassafras leaf
Dried fern
Dried fern leaves
Stream reflection
Stream reflections
Trailside mushroom
Strawberry Bush, or Hearts-A-Bustin' (Euonymus americanus)
Strawberry Bush, or Hearts-A-Bustin' (Euonymus americanus)
Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua)
Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua)
Maple, Creech Hollow Lake
Maple, Creech Hollow Lake
Maple leaves and Club Moss
Maple leaves and club moss
Club Moss and Tulip Poplar leaves
Club moss and Tulip Poplar leaves
Creech Hollow Lake
Creech Hollow Lake
Possibly Jack-o-Lantern mushroom
Possibly Jack-o-lantern mushroom

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Walk upon the Earth

I can't stop thinking about the truth in these words. I picked up this quote via a Facebook post from "On Being with Krista Tippett" today. These simple words are powerful. I think I should intentionally make these thoughts part of my meditation for the next few days.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Miracle of Mindfulness

The view ahead

Seeing in High Definition

Staring at a magazine ad for an 85 inch high definition television while eating my simple breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and coffee, I can't help but wonder if we've gone a little crazy. I can't help but think we're hungry for making our digital images seem "more real" when reality is all around us. I look up and notice that our sliding glass door is probably a little bigger than the advertised television, and the image is real-life clear. What's more, when I finish my breakfast, I can walk over to it, slide back the glass, and enter an ever greater reality. I'm not trying criticize people with big TVs; I'm just wondering out loud about priorities.
Catalpa speciosa
Catalpa speciosa

Friday, October 4, 2013

Urban Green

Even in a city park, one can find quiet places to read or just sit and enjoy being outdoors. How about you? Is there a park near your daily travels? When's the last time you stopped for a visit?
Sevier Park, Nashville, Tenn.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back from the Woods

Nature is good for the restless mind. 2 nights and 2 days alone in the woods along with 34 total miles on the trail leaves me feeling peaceful and calm. I am so grateful to have a wife like Beth who understands my need to do this. I'll post more pictures once I get them sorted and edited. For now, here's a quick shot of a stream crossing. Yes, you can even take such pictures when you're traveling solo.

Stream Crossing in Wildcat Hollow

Pick a Pretty Spot for Lunch

Pick a pretty spot for lunch and your soul will be fed along with your stomach. Today, this was my lunchtime view as I rested and enjoyed a fresh pasta salad. More than just calories to keep me going, this lunch was a delight to be savored.

My lunch yesterday, on the other hand, was cheese whiz on tortillas eaten hurriedly on a random trailside log. I hadn't planned a lunch stop, just figuring I'd "eat when I'm hungry." But never getting the signal for hunger, I had pushed myself too long when I realized I was running on empty and needed to eat. Rather than refreshment, lunch became just another task, and it was all I could do to eat it.

And so I learned a valuable lesson about stopping for lunch. Don't treat it like it's a racetrack pit-stop. Make lunch an occasion to be anticipated and enjoyed, and it will pay you back in ways that cannot be counted in calories and carbohydrates.
Lunch stop on the trail at Montgomery Bell State Park.
This photo was taken with my iPhone. My camera battery had died and I didn't bring a spare.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Trail is Calling

The trail is calling, and I must go (to paraphrase John Muir).

When I get off work tonight, Beth is going to drive me out to Montgomery Bell State Park and drop me off for a couple days of solo backpacking. It may not be the most spectacular or well-known trail in Tennessee, but it is beautiful nonetheless.

See you in a few days.