Welcome to my nature blog!

Welcome to my nature blog!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Sometimes I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world.  God gave me a true love of the natural world, and everyday I find a prize:  a gorgeous sunrise or cloud formation, a soft supple petal on a flower, the extraordinary flight of an eagle.  And just recently, I was allowed the wonder of frost flowers blooming on the forest floor.

Frost flowers are an enigma, something I was not sure I believed in, having searched for them a long time.  It is easier not to believe in something you cannot see than to accept it exists but you are not smart enough or lucky enough to find it.  But my turn finally came.

My husband and I visited Flag Springs Conservation area last weekend.  We left early in the morning hoping to see some eagles on the way.  We got to Flag Springs around 9:30 a.m. with overcast skies and temperatures in the low twenties.  Along the side of the road, I began to see what looked like feathers on the ground. I wondered out loud why there were chicken feathers in this remote area.  My husband said the magic words that made me stop the car, "It looks like ice to me."

Evan though I had doubted their existence,  I had studied frost flowers hoping to learn some secret method of discovery. They typically occur the night of the first cold snap.  I understood the concept of water expanding when it freezes.  It made sense that they disappeared with the light of day and the sun's melting rays.  After all my studying and searching, there before me, the forest floor was covered with blooming frost flowers.

As is true with all natural things, sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time.  The lacy ribbons invited me to capture them with my camera, while my husband waited patiently in the car.

I am finally at peace with the visions of frost flowers that used to float through my dreams.  I have photographed them, touched their cold lacy ribbons, and watched as the sun quickly melted them away.   I happily join the ranks of the lucky ones who have seen and touched real frost flowers.  Secretly, I gloat that I am  likely the only human to have observed the beauty of a particular frost flower. However, I am also willing to share my experience and photographs with you in the hope that you will dream of them like I did, and next year you will find yourself outside on a cold winter morning in search of your own frost flower experience.


Sunday, November 14, 2010


In late fall and early winter I love to find a patch of grasses on a sunny day, and just sit, watch, and reflect.  I used to hate winter with what I perceived to be its bleakness.  I would long for spring and the first showing of green things pushing up through the soil and on the tips of trees.  Winter used to give me the “blues” but I have learned to turn the blues into something golden. I once was lost in winter, but now I am found. I used to be blind, but now I see.  Amazing grass did that for me.

Grasses are a great contradiction - delicate but hardy – from seed head to root.  The feathery seeds ready to be carried in the wind belie the strong roots that can dig down ten feet into the ground in search of water. In the right conditions, some grasses can grow to ten feet high, and reseed year after year.  The root systems in native grasses actually add organic matter to the soil.

Native grasses provide habitat for insects, mammals and birds all year round. If you have enough time and sit quietly, you will see many visitors to your grassy area.  In fall, blue damsel flies stick out in a field of yellow stalks as they grab on and wave in the wind.  In winter, a rabbit timidly peeks through the golden stalks, his curiosity greater than his thoughts of safety.   If you are lucky, you might see a flash of yellow from a meadowlark, or the soft sky blue of a blue bird balancing on a nearby twig. 

Observing these critters amidst the gentle grass gives me time to ponder natural things and the interrelationship of species.  When tall grass prairies covered millions of acres of our land, the Osage understood this relationship.  They believed that knowledge came from observation and awareness.  In their search to understand nature, they realized the need to protect it.  Settlers discovered many uses for prairie grass, including using the intricate root systems found in the soil to build their sod houses.  Today, there are many who work with native prairie grasses to be grown as energy crops to make ethanol.  Amazing!

If you want to perk up this winter, take a hike to a place with native grasses.  Sit a while.  Observe.  Think.  As the silence is broken only by the golden shafts of grass rustling in the wind, and you observe the glowing seeds hanging on but ready to float through the air, I promise you will be refreshed.  You will feel the healing grace God intended for you by observing the wonders of nature found in a stand of amazing grass.

“We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, then when we first begun.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

natural thoughts: Lessons from a Dragonfly

natural thoughts: Lessons from a Dragonfly: "I've spent a lot of time observing dragonflies, They are interesting creatures that seem to be very aware of their surroundings. They appea..."

Lessons from a Dragonfly

I've spent a lot of time observing dragonflies, They are interesting creatures that seem to be very aware of their surroundings.  They appear to be very aware of us humans too.  But is the average person aware of them?  We notice butterflies for their color, and other insects that "bother" us like flies and mosquitoes, but very few people pay attention to dragonflies.  Ancient myths about dragonflies say their iridescent wings bring "self realization" to help us live in the moment.  Are we thinking about how living in the moment can impact natural communities?

Here in the Midwest, we are lucky to have many colorful species to observe.  In fact, dragonflies are considered to be a sign of good luck.  Native Americans considered them symbols of happiness.  Perhaps this folklore grew from the fact that they rid us of pesky flies and mosquitoes.

During my observations, I could not help but feel that while I thought I was watching them, they were actually watching me.  Repeatedly hovering right in front of my face, landing on a nearby twig and turning to stare seemed to be common behavior.  They even seem to "pose" for pictures.  I'm sure this was instinctive behavior because I was invading their space, but it's hard not to apply human characteristics to an insect that has been around 300 million years.  They've had a long time to study us!

Different species appear at different times of year, but all dragonflies are indicators of water quality.  Dragonflies live most of their lives in water, and could not survive in polluted ponds and streams.  So here is the lesson plain and simple:  we protect our water sources, and we protect dragonflies, and we protect ourselves. 

Besides wanting to protect a species that can fly in six different directions and reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour, we should consider the contribution they make to our natural community, and to us humans personally.  When all our indicators of pure water are gone, it will be too late to save our own species too.  

So take some time to observe and study dragonflies and other natural things.  Give some thought to how everything is connected to our own quality of life, and then do something to make a contribution yourself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why? What? Who?

 Why think about nature?  What do we need to learn from nature?  Who should respect nature?  The answers to these questions seem obvious to most of us, but do we really live as if we get it?  In our over-stimulated lives, it is easy to overlook the importance natural things play in our lives.  It’s time to “get back to nature,” and think natural thoughts about our personal impact on this world. 

The first step back to nature is to think about it.  Really think about the importance of our natural world to our existence.  Think about the gulf oil spill.  It may be hundreds or thousands of miles from you personally, but all of us will feel the impact of this spill for the rest of our lives. 

Whether you are a bird watcher or not, you should think about birds as indicators of a healthy environment.  Here in the Midwest, we can expect this spill to have a negative impact on migratory birds.  What other effects can we expect if certain species do not show up here? 

When the oil spill happened, I thought about my personal use of oil.  Was there something I could do to lessen the demand for oil?  Again, obvious answers came to mind: pay more attention to how I use my car.  Make fewer, shorter trips. If each of us did just one thing to decrease our use of oil, imagine the results.

The second step back to nature is to learn as much as we can about our natural environment.  Get out and walk a trail.  Observe the type of grasses, flowers, and trees you see.  Stop taking these things for granted – what would your nature trail look like without them? 

Pick a local species and study it.  Teach your children or your friends about it.  For example, in the fall we see large numbers of Monarch butterflies.  How can such a beautiful, delicate insect fly thousands of miles?

A question like that leads us to the final step of getting back to nature – respect.  You have to respect a butterfly that can fly thousands of miles through a plethora of natural environments. Once you think about and learn how that butterfly accomplishes such a feat, you will have a greater respect for it.  You will never look at a Monarch in the same way again. 

All of these things, thinking, learning, and respecting nature lead us to protecting nature. Protecting nature is as important as breathing. Actually we only breathe because of nature!

I hope my simple blog about natural thoughts will inspire you to, as Albert Einstein put it, “look deeper into nature and you will understand everything better.”