Welcome to my nature blog!

Welcome to my nature blog!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Door to Happiness and Peace

Crown Beard on the Prairie

I love the color yellow.  It’s always been my favorite color, but for years I denied it.  I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because a lot of people do not like yellow. So I gave in to peer pressure and said my favorite color was blue.  Blue is the opposite of yellow on the color palette so I secretly took pleasure in pretending that blue was my favorite. But always, when I had a chance to choose between two things, one of them being yellow, I always chose it.  For me, yellow is the door to happiness and peace.

I have many yellow things around me.  My front door is a beautiful golden yellow that reminds me of the sunrise.  I have yellow pillows and accents throughout my house. I have a yellow camera!  Whenever I am trying to decide on what to plant in my flower gardens, it always turns out there will be yellow. 

Gray Headed Cone
There are so many yellow things in nature, and I seek them out on local prairies.  The glorious gold finch and singing meadowlark. Gray headed cone flowers swaying in the wind.  Tall compass plants that amaze me by pointing their faces to the north. Late summer is my favorite time to walk the prairies because they are filled with blankets of yellow.

Walking a prairie full of yellow flowers of all sizes and heights, is a pleasure I can’t recommend enough.  If you need to refresh yourself and get clear of the everyday hubbub, you need to get outside and observe nature.  Most of the yellow is gone from the prairies at this time of year.  So I try to capture with my camera moments in nature that give me peace.  Then, when I am not able to get out, I can look through the photographs of the things that gave me great happiness.  It’s medicinal.  And for me, yellow is the best medicine and cure all for everything that ails me.

So there is my confession, I love the color yellow.  I will not deny it anymore.  It is said that the color yellow represents clarity of thought, wisdom, orderliness and energy.  It really does give me energy.  But yellow also has a calming effect.  I’ve always said, “There is a reason yellow rhymes with mellow.”

My wish for you is that you will find your “mellow” color and that you will spend some time searching for it in natural surroundings.  Whatever your favorite color is, enjoy and savor it, let it bring you happiness and peace.  But until you have a chance to get out there, please feel free to use some of my photographs here to help you find that extra bit of “stillness and tranquility” you need today.  And try to accept my favorite color, and put a little yellow in your life!
Butter Weed

Monday, November 20, 2017


This time of year makes us think about what we are thankful for.  I have many blessings to be thankful for; my faith in a God who blesses me every day, my wonderful family and friends, and my love of nature.

I am so blessed to be able to sit and just take in my natural surroundings: the almost secret life of a twisty vine, grasses swishing in the wind, water flowing along under a bright blue sky. I might look like I am loafing at times, but I am very busy. I’ve spent my life studying nature and still do not know enough, except how much I love studying it.  There are so many mysteries in nature to unfold. There are so many intricate dynamics.  There are so many blessings of nature to be thankful for.

On a recent hike, I took this photo of a tiny curly vine.  How many people would walk right by and overlook this?  I found it fascinating and unique.  It reminds me of all the twists and turns in our lives, circles and spins. Nature has to deal with all the twists and turns also; outside forces that can destroy, and inside factors from just the natural life cycle of a plant. But I am so grateful I got to observe its short life because I was there.

I love to walk through prairies and forests and observe native grasses silently swaying in the wind.  Sometimes I sit for hours in a remote place just to absorb the beauty and wonder. There is nothing more rewarding than watching the feathery seeds of little blue stem sparkling in the sun.  I am thankful that I got observe this beauty because I was there.

Water is also very important to my well-being.  I love hiking along a beautiful stream or floating along in my kayak.  The sounds of nature are all around you, but the gurgling, swishing, bubbling water sounds can put my soul to rest.  I try to capture these moments with my camera, but cannot really do it justice.  Still, I am thankful I got to take the shot because I was there.

We all have so much to be thankful for, yet it seems we only really think about it at this time of year.  My challenge to myself this next year is to think of something to be thankful for every day, and to find a way to express that gratefulness both to my creator and to those around me who make my life so good.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


"What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew."  

                                                           -Robert Browning

There are many things in the world that can make you feel small: a big train barreling toward you, the Grand Canyon, a photograph of the universe.  Today while I was out photographing flowers, it was a drop of dew.  A single drop of dew made me feel small.

Through the camera lens, the drop of dew looked isolated and cool.  I began to think about my place in the world and how important, or unimportant, I am.  What have I contributed to the world?  What have been my great accomplishments?  What difference have I made?

It’s easy to feel down when you have been sick, and maybe this is why I began questioning myself today.  After all, the cancer that I am trying to expel from my body right now with chemo therapy started as a minute single cell.  Having a disease like cancer can make you feel very small and alone. 

When I think of a drop of dew, and how small it is compared to all the water in the world, it is easy to equate that to how small each of us is compared to the universe.  But everything in the world has a size and a place.  Everything is connected.  Everything has a purpose. 
Instead if considering the smallness of the drop of dew, 

I began to think about how one drop of water can fall from that leaf into a puddle on the ground.  Then that puddle can flow into a creek, the creek into a river, and the river into the sea.  The sea is full of tiny drops of water, each one necessary to the whole.  We are all necessary. 

With my camera, I try to capture the beauty of all of nature and share it with others.  And that is enough for me to be a necessary part of this planet.  I hope I never stop trying to present the beauty I see all around me and that I am forever thankful for a God that created each drop of dew that sat on a leaf, fell into a puddle, and eventually flowed into the sea. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016


After retiring two years ago, I have been able to enjoy many new and some long-awaited pursuits.  I love photography, hiking, exploring, traveling and of course, writing.  But one of my biggest joys is floating on local rivers in my kayak.  A friend introduced me to kayaking and we shared some remarkable time on a clear quiet lake.  It was like cocaine to my spirit.  It awakened something inside me that is hard to explain.  Floating on the water, quietly paddling along, listening to the harmony of nature has renewed my life and rejuvenated my well being.  It struck a chord in my heart reminding me of how music, any kind, can bring quality to my life.

Since that time, another friend has offered numerous opportunities to go paddling.  I get a high on every trip and feel compelled to write about it here.  I sincerely hope that by explaining how the music of the river has affected me, you too, will be inspired to pursue a part of our natural world that fulfills your wandering soul.

The music I hear on the river can be legato (smooth) or it can be forte (played loudly.)  The water is sometimes cool and serene, and other times it is hot and raucous. Floating along allowing the current to drift you over a multicolored pebbled bottom can relax you into a nature induced coma.  I always hear a medley of bird calls, frogs, and all things that buzz along the river.  I am amazed by the soft timbre of a whooshing heron’s wings. I love to greet a curious dragonfly that hovers with wings beating to its own musical rhythm. The light “plop” of a turtle into the water off a nearby log relaxes the tempo of my blood pressure.

Some rivers have fast waters with numerous obstacles waiting to claim your kayak. Paddling over boulders and through narrow rushes of water wakes up the human motivation to feel alive.  I am A Capella, alone in my quest to conquer the river.  In these places, in between quick decisions, the composition can be heard in the bubbling and gurgling waters.  Because I am a novice kayaker, there are times I can hear some riffles well before reaching them, and the anticipation feels like a loud drum with tympanums is inside my chest.   

The music of the river, with nature as the conductor, is a song cycle with a single theme – inspiration.   Whether you can get into a canoe or kayak on the river, or just spend some time near a lake or river, you are sure to hear music in the water if you listen.  Mother Nature provides encore after encore through each season, revitalizing our spirits with her songs. I wish you the peace of music in nature wherever your wanderlust takes you.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokémon: A NATURAL Phenomenon?

This is a nature blog, however, just this once I ask for indulgence.  I’ll get to why this pertains to nature in a bit.  If you own a smart phone, you probably already know about a new phenomenon called Pokémon Go.  If you do not own one of these devices, or you do not “play” online games on your phone, or you live in a cave, you probably are as confused as I have been this last week.  

With my family on vacation in the Mid-West, I was surrounded by people walking and talking while holding their cell phones out in front of themselves.  Now, this is not totally unusual, that is a sight you can see every day, anywhere.  But you may have noticed MORE people doing this lately. 

This is because of the new game, Pokémon Go.  Everywhere you go, they are there, 21 million walking cell-zombies paying attention only to what is on their small screens.  What are they doing?  Chasing, finding and capturing Pokémon characters placed in real-world locations using GPS. 

They even talk a different language.  “Hey I evolved my Rattata into a Raticate, but I keep seeing a zillion Rattatas.  Oh, I see, I need to evolve them for XP!”  Or this, “I did a twelve candy Pidgey evolution and got 1000 XP!”

What does it mean?  If you spend a little time with a Pokémon user, you will learn some of the lingo. But, I am not writing this to help people learn about Pokémon, I really do have a point about how it can become a natural phenomenon.

To some of these people, this is a real competition, and they are risking their lives in search of these finds.  Police departments and other authorities across the country, including the National Parks Association, are issuing warnings because public safety is at risk at times.  A number of people have been injured while playing the game, due to failure to pay attention to their surroundings. Yesterday at the St. Louis Zoo, people were asked (in fun) to stop playing Pokémon before boarding the train!

How does all this pertain to nature?  Now I will get to that.  What I see is opportunities.  Opportunities for people who generally stayed inside hooked on electronic devices to get out and interact with natural surroundings. Pokémon are found everywhere, including parks and outdoor recreational areas.  I see opportunities for fitness.  Pokémon requires walking, literally, to “hatch” the eggs of the creature they seek.  And finally, I see opportunities for the public to learn more about issues related real plants and animals. 

Studies are already being done to see if similar games can be built around the Pokémon concept to get people out there in search of real species. Imagine a similar game that helps people learn about preserving our pollinators.  Can you see a game where people learn to identify bird species?  And finally, imagine a game that sends people in search of endangered species where they learn about the habitats they require.

Engaging the public in learning more about issues related to real plants and animals and biodiversity really appeals to us naturalists.  So before you condemn those 21 million cell-zombies for getting in your way and clogging up our natural areas, re-think it.  What if 21 million people began caring for our world?  Oh what a force that would be!  It’s a start, and I will end this blog on that hopeful note.  I feel a need for a walk.  I have to hatch an egg.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Recently I had the opportunity to attend a bio blitz on Linden Prairie in Missouri.  A prairie bio blitz is a coming together of like-minded people with the intent to learn more about a natural area.  Learning more about prairies gives us reasons to help conserve and preserve them.

Linden Prairie is owned by Missouri Prairie Foundation and this year is the 50th anniversary of MPF’s presence in Missouri.   This prairie and others in Missouri are the last of their kind.  Prairies once covered 15 million acres in Missouri.  Today, there are less than 90 thousand acres of prairie left, most of it in small parcels.

So what happens when native prairies disappear?  One very important issue is that pollinators also disappear.  For us, that means crops may not be pollinated, and that means less food.  For this reason alone, we need to protect lands like this. 

But to me it is so much more.  Walking the prairie at day is like nothing else you can do.  The grasses, wildflowers, and wildlife seem to crowd around you.  Walking the prairie at night you have opportunities to see and hear wildlife that only can be found at night.  These experiences speak of times long ago when bison roamed without fences, and they remind us of our country’s first people who walked on this same land. 

There is a heartiness on the prairie.  Maybe it is because we can imagine how difficult life must have been back then, for native species and for mankind who dared to attempt to live there. 

Friday, February 5, 2016



Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization. –Aldo Leopold

I spent some time in a workshop this week, the Leopold Education Project.  As a naturalist, it would be difficult not to love Leopold, and I have since the first time I read A Sand County Almanac.  But I came away with a different understanding in this workshop.  In being reminded of my love for wilderness, which I relate to solitude, I saw a side of Leopold I had not considered before.  His efforts to encompass all of nature into one community, and treat all natural things with the same respect, are reminders of how and why we seek wilderness and solitude.

When Leopold speaks of wilderness, he agrees it is an “adversary to be conquered.” Pioneers traveled dangerously across our adversary continent seeking favorable grounds to set up a home.  Outdoor enthusiasts seek to conquer wilderness by traveling through it and living to tell about it.  Mankind today seeks to conquer outer space as our next frontier.  We have conquered our wilderness areas, trampling on the raw materials we found in order to set up cities and communities. We have traversed the land single handedly using up all resources, and lived to tell about it.  And we have populated the wilderness of space with our satellites and space ships. But in Leopold’s words, “that same raw stuff is something to be loved and cherished, because it gives definition and meaning to life.”

That is what I found in this recent study of Leopold; definition and meaning to life. I always agreed that ethical use of land could only come from love and admiration for land.  In this study, I heard Leopold’s definition of land ethics as it relates to philosophical values, and I discovered that this is why I seek wilderness and solitude.  It had not occurred to me before to define why I loved to seek out and protect wild places, but I think this yearning is in all of us.  There is a certain peace found in the study of nature and therefore the study of our origins as Leopold puts it.

“We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.”  Aldo Leopold

Reading again some of Leopold’s wonderful descriptions of wilderness moments he experienced, reminded me of my own moments of wildness. Here is one of my favorite quotes of his:  “A dawn wind stirs on the great marsh.  With almost imperceptible slowness it rolls a bank of fog across the wide morass.  Like the white ghost of a glacier the mists advance, riding over phalanxes of tamarack, sliding across bog-meadows heavy with dew.  A single silence hangs from horizon to horizon.”   His writing is inspirational to me because I have experienced sitting in a place just like this, feeling, tasting, and breathing in the mists, and being thankful for the silence of the moment. 

But my recent revelation is in the why.  Why have I sought out wild places and solitude?  I discovered that it is, and has always been for me, giving meaning to my life.  When I sit quietly alone among the tall grass of a prairie and use my senses to listen, smell and see the sights all around me, I live.  When I walk a forest trail, absorbing the freedom to wander at my own pace, I live.  When I sit on a beach and ponder where the waves go when they hit the shore, I live.

Wilderness and solitude are to me a way to live life to its fullest.  Only by living among the wild-ness of nature can I survive living in the modern world.  Everything I learn from studying natural communities, gives me methods to deal with human influences on my world.  Most importantly, taking time to find wilderness and solitude renews my spirit, increases my faith, and energizes my psyche.

I come away from my nature encounters full and satisfied.  I have a deeper understanding of why I should play a role in preserving each piece of the natural communities God has given us.  Leopold says finding the cultural value of wilderness boils down to a question of intellectual humility, “It is only the scholar who understands why the raw wilderness gives definition and meaning to the human enterprise.”

I know I will never be called a scholar.  But I also know that, regardless, I will continue to seek out wilderness and solitude as a way to keep increasing my love of nature.  From this love of nature will come enough knowledge to at least be counted among the naturalists of this world.