Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Wishes

May your trails be difficult, but worth every step of the way. I pray you're hungry and thirsty enough that you know what it is to be satisfied. I hope you experience enough cold to appreciate the warmth of a blanket or a good campfire. And may the heat of summer bring you the joy of refreshing breezes, cool shade, and ice cold spring water. In the spirit of Edward Abbey, "may your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view." Finally, at the end of the day, may you be tired enough and lonesome enough to cherish rest and the company of friends. Life is a journey. Walk well, and travel light. Happy New Year.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Solstice

What is the Winter Solstice but a time to reconnect with nature's seasons and to recognize the longing for warmth and light within our hearts? 


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wild Farmer

Carrying a full bird feeder by its bail as I return it from our seed storage bin to its hook on a Boxelder limb, it occurs to me that I am a farmer. Maybe not in the normal sense, but I am a farmer nonetheless. I am a caretaker of birds, trees, and flowers, and I harvest that which I did not plant. My gain is the simple joy of being with wild things.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Waiting

Standing in the woods,
looking up at the stars
from beneath a large beech tree
near the top of a ridge, 
I stand in silence waiting,
waiting and hoping in the dark,
to feel what Wendell Berry calls 
the "peace of wild things."

I wait with the restless thoughts
I had hoped to leave behind.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Real Wealth

Our home is bejeweled this morning. The sunlit ice crystals are like a million diamonds strewn across the yard by some unseen beneficent hand. I am rich. Although ephemeral and fleeting before the rising sun, this beauty seems to me more real, more solid than any material wealth could ever be. Rich or poor, the frost will be here to adorn my yard. You may scoff, but say I am rich indeed.






Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wild Giants

I am inspired by big, old trees. Even though I have not been lucky enough to see them in person, my imagination is captivated by the giant redwoods and coastal redwoods. Giant sequoias live at high elevations, enduring cold, heavy snows, lightning strikes—and growing bulky and strong, though not so tall as coast redwoods. This individual, the President, is the second most massive tree known on Earth. This photo is from the Dec. 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine.



Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rain

Today I am thankful for rain. We should all be thankful and remember that we don't drink mere water. There's no such thing.

Whether from the kitchen sink, an overpriced plastic bottle, or in our coffee, we drink the rain. And we eat rain. Whether it's the juiciness of an apple, the flavor of a good steak, or the succulence of a perfect green bean, we eat the rain. As surely and completely as the deer, the mushrooms, the wildflowers, or the trees, we depend upon the rain. 

No matter your culture, species, or religious outlook, all living creatures share a need for life-giving rain. I need to be more thankful. In torrents and trickles, water falls from the heavens, and we all drink.




Friday, November 27, 2015

Day After Thanksgiving

Today we are carrying on the spirit of thanksgiving with good food, walks in the woods, birdwatching, and just hanging out together. Why go anywhere?

Thanksgiving Prayer

For the wild beauty
of wrens and rain,
the promise of young oaks
and decomposing logs,
sunrises and moonglow,
I am thankful.

For the shelter of a snug house,
abundant and delicious food 
that appears on our table daily,
easy reliable transportation,
employment that is worthwhile and rewarding,
I am thankful.

For a family that fills our house with joy and laughter,
children that make me proud,
and a wife that delights and inspires me daily,
for all these and more,
blessings beyond any reasonable expectation,
I am thankful.








Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving for the Wild

Here's some insight and (hopefully) some incite from Sigurd Olson 57 years ago.

"Let us therefore not be content until our rivers again run clean, until denuded hills are covered with green trees and the dustbowls with grass and all topsoil is safe from erosion. Let us pledge ourselves anew to the restoration of drained marshland so that some day they too may be full to the brim and alive with songbirds and waterfowl. Let us in the same spirit not only keep our country clean and beautiful but restore the places we have made ugly. Let us keep our wilderness areas as sanctuaries of the spirit. Thanksgiving is an empty gesture unless we realize we too must give." — Sigurd Olson, "Thanksgiving: More than a holiday," Originally published in the November 1958 issue of Outdoor America, Posted online by the Izaak Walton League of America (iwla.org), 11/20/2015. Checkout the whole article at https://www.facebook.com/iwla.org/posts/10153123330301360


Monday, November 23, 2015

Friends and Neighbors

Beech, Maple, Sycamore, Pine—some of my favorite people are trees. And I am fortunate to have many of them as neighbors.



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Overlooked

Simple beauty lies in mundane, insignificant places, but is only enjoyed by those who make time to see.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Seeds

I am profoundly blessed. I am blessed most in things that matter like love, family, good food, and a safe home. Later today I have the freedom to head out to some of America's "purple mountain majesties." This morning while sipping my coffee I watched a chipmunk come to a pile of seed and stuff his cheeks to unreal proportions. He (or she) then ran off to a chipmunky winter cache, no doubt already piled high with seeds. That's how blessed I feel. And I did nothing to deserve it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Unmuted

The other morning I stepped outside the house into a world reduced. By a natural night alchemy, a fog had covered the forest. Even the nearest hills were veiled as if they were no more. And then, from the invisible forest beyond, a melody played clear and pure. I stood in wonder as the music flowed from a single White-throated Sparrow singing to herald the unseen dawn. Wonder will not be muted.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Poor Substitute

Sometimes
in the middle of the night,
between fall and winter,
when summer's leaves are grounded,
I see light streaming through
the blinds in the bathroom window,
and think the moon has risen.

Peaking through the blinds
to admire the moonshine
I realize my mistake.
It's only the neighbor's security light
perched upon a pole
pretending.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Holy Ground

When I am alone and fully awake
in the forest,
I tread lightly, look carefully,
and breath deeply
the beauty before me,
the beauty behind,
above, and below,
each step, each glance,
each breath. 



#Basswood #Forest #Beauty 

Learning Thanksgiving

Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I cleaned out, hung, and filled our bird feeders in the yard. Now this morning I feel like an appreciated host seeing that our neighbors, the Chickadees, the Titmice, and the Nuthatches, all are excited by the newfound bounty. Thanksgiving abounds in a grateful heart.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Stained Glass Windows

For whatever reason—probably reasons beyond my comprehension—beauty seems woven into the fabric of creation. Even my autumn walks confess that the first stained glass windows were around long before any church.






Morning Thanksgiving

I opened the front door this morning and my senses were instantly filled. A White-throat Sparrow recently returned from Canada was singing his traveler's song, a Carolina Wren was lustily proclaiming the joy of being alive, the hilltops were shrouded in fog, a woodpecker tapped tentatively on a dying Boxelder snag, and the forest captured my heart with autumn's rich perfume. Thanksgiving abounds.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Celebrating Rainy Days

Today I went for an afternoon saunter in a light rain. Sometimes rainy days are the best! I wonder why I don't do a better job of getting out in all sorts of weather? All weather has its own beauty. Why not celebrate it?

Halloween selfie. See how I dressed up like a grizzled old man?

Sassafras and Maple

Maple


Morning Color

On the last morning of October, I'm thankful I had time to savor the color. I don't know about you, but I kind of enjoy overcast and rainy days in the fall. The colors seem to stand out even more in subdued light.

Smooth Sumac, Yellow (aka, Tulip) Poplar, and Sycamore

Sumac impression and detail

Smooth Sumac


Monday, October 26, 2015

Beauty Everywhere

Every part of nature has its own beauty. Even poison ivy can be beautiful for those who dare see.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Autumn Observed


When you have a few minutes on an autumn day, the best advice I can give is to find a woods and walk in. Walk into the color. Move around slowly. Look around. Absorb the fall atmosphere. Soak in autumn's ephemeral tints. See and smell and feel the changing of the seasons. Autumnal hues don't last long, and a moment unobserved is lost.

If you are lucky, and probably more easily if you're alone, you may experience something rare, something beyond normal daily life. I'll leave it to you to name your experience, but I urge you never to let go of the mystery.

It may only last a moment, but it will feel something like a combination of harmony, peace, and beauty. Rare as such moments are, genuine encounters with wild beauty transcend our normal life. Or least that's how it seems.

I can't help but wonder, though, if such luminous, transcendent experiences have to be rare? Could it be that such moments are really just times when we're reconnecting to old forgotten relationships? I tend to think the transcendent would be common if only we were open to it. Revelation is often a mere unveiling of what was there all along.




Friday, October 16, 2015

Fight the Disconnect

Go outside. Don't just think outside your boxes; go outside. Recycling, hybrid cars, and worrying about climate disruption is not enough. Despite our current fascination with "green living," unless a bunch of us actually go outside and spend time in nature, our society will become more and more disconnected from the earth. How can our children ever feel the sense of wonder found in wild nature if they never go outside? I'm afraid this problem is bigger and more pervasive than we think it is. I think most of us spend a lot more time than we realize indoors looking at digital screens. Ultimately, our disconnect with nature might be the biggest threat to finding balance and preserving our own habitat.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Timeless Provision

The past returns to us in tastes and smells. Sometimes all it takes for me is one ripe pear and I'm transported to Newark, Delaware, sometime around 1976, as I park my bike against a fence to look for grounded pears beneath an ancient tree.

The tree grew next to a roadside fence marked "No Trespassing" along a winding road through the midst of a game preserve owned by the DuPont family. I remember the pear tree was also near an old stone barn, an ancient barn, the kind familiar to locals scattered throughout the region.

I don't remember if the tree's trunk was inside or outside the fence, but its pears dropped in the soft grass alongside the road, sweet and free for the taking. A long ago farmer may have planted the tree, but it no longer had a caretaker. Nor did it need one. The tree simply was. It was wild and free. And it fed a deep hunger.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Forest Vigil

Listening to howls and calls coming from the dark trees, it occurs to me that if a forest can be a cathedral, then our gargoyles must be the barred owls. Watchers of the wild wood, none may escape their vigil.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Autumn's Brink

Every season has a song. Winter's song is minimalism, creaks and groans, and the rush of wind through trees. Winter's end brings the joy of spring peepers, and spring is full when the melodious, ethereal strains of the Wood Thrush echo through the forest. Katydids and cicadas, complex and full, create a wall of sound made perfect for hot summer nights. Yes, every season has a song, but to my ears, little music has the relaxing, soothing effect of simple cricket song on the brink of autumn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sylvan Elixir

am addicted to 
the air,
the shade,
the shelter,
the presence
of big, old, wild trees. 


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wild and Free

The trees of the forest are wild and free, though anchored to the earth forever in the very spot where by chance they landed when they were but a seed. Happy and blindly optimistic, they grow and grow, stretching hands to the sun, trembling and swaying in leafy praise and adoration to the Giver of life.

How much more so should we count ourselves wild and free? How much more so should we lift our hands and praise our Maker?

Oh, for the faith of a tree! The trust of a seed!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fresh Rain

It is a good and simple joy to sit on the porch celebrating the falling rain. I want to soak it into all my senses. 

Fresh rain, new blessing,
rolling thunder, and 
a curtain of cold, wet drops
veil the surrounding hills
as night settles into the hollow. 

I want to soak it in. I want to feel the wonder of rain.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Buckeye in My Pocket

Off and on I've been known to carry a buckeye in my pocket. Some would say for luck, but I know it's something more. A buckeye in my pocket connects me to my roots.

One time, when my sister and I were little, we collected several buckeyes from the yard of an old house in Petersburg, Indiana. Showing them to our grandfather, he mentioned that some people say carrying a buckeye in your pocket would bring good luck. Naturally my sister gifted grandpa with one of her treasures. Grandpa carried that buckeye in his pocket for years and years, maybe for the rest of his life for all I know. Some would say for luck, but I know for him it was something more. It was a connection. 

Today a friend shared a picture of her son holding a buckeye and asked for help in identification. That eventually led to me pulling out my favorite tree guidebook and reminding myself all about buckeyes and horsechestnuts (they're practically the same thing, and not to be confused with the edible chestnut). All of this was great fun for a nature nerd like me. But the best part, the most significant part, is that it led to me digging through a drawer, a box, and a bookshelf until I found this buckeye.

This evening I've looked at my buckeye, held it my hand, admired its warm color, its pocket polished smoothness. And then, naturally, almost without thinking, I dropped it in my pocket. Some would say for luck. Maybe they're right.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Morning Meditation

Darting, buzzing hummingbirds, cawing crows, chortling wrens, chirping crickets, chatting chickadees, and exultant bluejays. All that has breath gives praise to the Maker of heaven and earth. Sometimes I strive to join my words to the song. But mostly, like the rocks and the trees, I simply stand listening to the heavenly chorus. The song washes over and through my soul. I scarce can take it all in.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bedtime Prayers

When I need help slowing my mind for sleep to catch me, one of my favorite things is to step outside and look at the stars. On a clear night,  like tonight, everything is calm. The peace of the night seeps into me if I give it time. Except for the soothing rhythms of cricket song and a nearby owl, all is quiet.

There is nothing like the stillness found in gazing at the starry heavens. It becomes, for me, a sort of wordless prayer, bedtime prayer. 

So you can count all the sheep you want. I like counting stars.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Beauty and Thundersong

Tonight thundersong fills the twilight
with just enough music to comfort
instead of frighten.

Clouds pile up
and dissipate
only to reform again
through ever changing forms.

Many people see things
in clouds, like clowns and rabbits.
I see only beauty
and don't need imagination
to make it something more.

Without comparison or analogy
I see beauty and hear music
in thunder and cloud,
and know I am blessed
simply to see and listen.

Beauty rides on wings of the wind,
and thundersong fills the twilight.



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Raining at the Beech

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Often in my walks I visit beeches. My favorites are mature trees of a 100 years or more, and I constructed the trail in our woods so it would pass several. Some may think me strange, but a walk in the woods for me is a visit with friends. 

While sauntering today I noticed it was raining beneath a large beech tree. At least it sounded like rain. It was, in fact, a slow but steady shower of beech nuts. The nuts and husks littered the ground beneath every mature beech tree I came to, so I'd say it looks like a good year for beech nuts. This is good because I see no abundance of hickory nuts in the forest this year. 

Also, beechdrops are just now beginning to come up. They'll be blooming now for the next few weeks. I hope to get better pictures of this strange, parasitic wildflower this year. With its lack of green chlorophyll and dull colors, I've found it to be notoriously difficult to photograph. I think I just need to catch good light.

Nuts and parasitic wildflowers—just two more reasons to spend time with beeches at the end of summer.


Beech nuts

Beechdrops, just now beginning to emerge and not yet blooming



Friday, August 28, 2015

Good Bread

End of day. Walking beneath a rising moon, mosquitoes buzz my ears and bite my thumb, fluttering bats patrol the air and eat those same mosquitoes, the last few summer Katydids chirp and sing, shadow engulfs forest color, and I chew on the words of Edward Abbey who insisted “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”

Who would want to live without good bread?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Hiker

"The hiker can go without combing his hair or shaving and will be accepted as perfectly normal. He can get dirty and his friends will still speak to him jovially. His clothes may be in tatters, and people will think nothing of it. If there happens to be a little rock dust on his shirt or trousers, or if his clothes are a trifle torn, so much the better. Of such stuff are hiking heroes made. The hiker doesn’t have to have to talk very much, say witty things, hold a glass in his hands, or laugh lightly at banalities. His is a world of opposites, and no one cares or worries about it." — Ann and Myron Sutton, The Appalachian Trail: Wilderness on the Doorstep, 1967

Troop/Crew 17 at the end of a week in the desert in southwest New Mexico in 2007



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nature's Demons

The field where I likely ran across the seed ticks

For me, going into wild nature is a tonic for my soul, an antidote to the grind of too much modern life. Except for seed ticks, that is. Discovering too late that I've wandered into a hatch of seed ticks is like accidentally taking someone else's medicine and finding it to be poison. A couple hundred seed ticks can ruin an otherwise good August.

Itchy and ill doesn't begin to describe it. I don't know what I'd do if I got them in the middle of a long hike. Benadryl, hydrocortisone, and patience seem to be the only things that help. For some reason, manuals on first aid only talk about treating bites from adult ticks. In my experience, though, any encounter with juvenile ticks (the larva and nymph stages in the tick life-cycle are known as "seed ticks") is far worse. This is mostly a matter of quantity. Seed ticks in the teeny tiny larva stage come by the zillions, and they're basically too small to see. By the time you know you have them it's too late. 

I know this for sure: my future summers must include better prevention and greater vigilance against these tiny demons. It's either that or stay inside.






Saturday, August 22, 2015

We Are the Enemy

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own Government to save the environment.”— Ansel Adams talking with David Sheff (1 May 1983), "Playboy Interview: Ansel Adams," p. 226