Welcome to my nature blog!

Welcome to my nature blog!

Monday, November 9, 2015


I love the word “saunter.”  Saunter.  It rolls out of the mouth slow and mellow.  In his essay, Walking, Henry David Thoreau suggested there is an art to taking a walk; that is learning to saunter.  To saunter may feel to some to indicate the activity of a vagabond – a homeless person roaming from place to place. Thoreau suggested that to saunter, or “go forth on the shortest walk” should be an adventure and a crusade.  In his eyes, those who sit in their houses all the time are the vagrants.

 “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station [in] which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”  George Washington Carver

Many people have never thought much about tuning in to nature, but learning to do this is not difficult.  Our lives are so busy with obligations and fast - paced social networking activities, it is easy to sit inside and ignore nature.  Forcing yourself to take time for a walk outside is how you tune into nature. 

In spring and summer the world is full of green things.  The color green is said to be gentle on the eyes.  Is it a coincidence that God made so much green at a time of year that encompasses the newness of the earth?  In fall and winter, the colors are much different.  Fall yellows, oranges and reds are inspiring and comforting.  Winter whites and blues may seem drab, but these colors in nature evoke calmness.

You don’t have to find a solitary location or official hiking trail to enjoy the peace of nature.  It can be found in your backyard, on a street corner, or in a local park.  The trick, as Thoreau puts it, is to free ourselves from all worldly engagements.  He points out that legs are not made to sit upon, but to walk upon.

When I walk or hike, I am on a crusade; a crusade to find the best part of nature, the ultimate spot in the wild, and peace.  When I find it, I suck it into my heart so I will never forget it. 

Walking for me is direct contact with God, and this contact leads me to answers and solutions in my life. I agree with Anne Frank when she said, “The best remedy for those who are afraid or unhappy is to go outside.  Somewhere where they can be quiet and alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy amidst the simple beauty of nature.”

According to Thoreau, to become a walker requires a “direct dispensation from heaven,” and he challenges those he feels are not fit to take a walk.  I don’t know if he was serious when he said this, “If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again – if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man – then you are ready for a walk.”  It  sounds like he was challenging us, saying not everyone could become a walker.

So, are you ready to go for a walk?  I hope so. Get out there and enjoy your natural surroundings, find peace, and defy Mr. Henry David Thoreau!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I’ve planted my share of milkweed over the years, but not like you would think.  As an outdoor-loving child that liked to explore and touch and investigate, the milkweed plant was one of my favorites.  I don’t remember the first time I actually knew the name of the tall plant with milk in its veins and those wonderful pods that would explode with white silky threads.  My small hands routinely rubbed that white sticky substance between my fingers (and yes, I am sure I tasted it!), and pulled open those green pods excited to touch what was inside. 

The seeds with wings were intriguing to me, but I am not sure I was aware that when I blew them into the wind, I was actually “planting” them.  How sad today, that it is difficult for a child explorer like me to even find a milkweed plant, much less experience the fun of blowing the seeds into the wind.  How very sad too that the loss of this plant could mean the loss of another of nature’s marvels, the monarch butterfly. 

The milkweed plant is the only plant where monarchs lay eggs.  Monarch caterpillars feed on the toxic leaves and become “toxic” themselves to protect from predators.  This same toxin also prevents monarch butterflies from most predators.  Nature has a way of protecting them, but our own thoughtlessness, unless we make some changes, can destroy them.

The wings of a monarch remind me of a map.  Each black line describes a road that leads to the trip of a lifetime!  Most of us will never travel 3000 miles from home, but some monarchs do.  Maybe that was nature’s intention in the design of the wings; to show us a road map that reminds us of how this amazing insect flies thousands of miles in migration from Canada and the United States to Mexico.  How can we not want to protect something that is so delicate yet strong enough to survive this trip?

Homero Aridjis, a Mexican poet and environmentalist describes his home town during the migration:

“In Contepec that morning, thousands of monarch butterflies were crossing the village.The air, like a river, bore currents of butterflies through the streets, above the houses, between the trees and people as they made their way south.”

His description is truly a picture of what it must be like to experience this.  Two decades ago, over a billion monarchs could be found in the forests of Mexico in winter.  Today those only number about 33 million.  All of us need to be alarmed at the 90% loss of such a wonderful and important insect.

It doesn’t take much to observe that the loss of habitat in Mexico, and loss of the host plant for monarch caterpillars in our country is the cause of the decline.  Our country’s role is in the destruction of milkweed for farming interests.  There may not be a place for milkweed where crops are grown, but there are many places where it can be planted to help save the monarchs; along roadways, prairies, and backyards. All of us can be a part of bringing back the milkweed plant.

So why should we care?  A teacher in Minnesota asked her ninth grade class this question when studying the decline of monarchs.  Here is one answer from a student that says it all.

“Monarchs show me what it is like to be prosperous and having abundance, something that I want personally.  When everything is good, there are plenty of milkweeds, and plenty of habitat in Mexico.  When I witness things going bad, with the logging of their habitat in Mexico, and loss of habitat in our country, then I move from a sense of prosperity to one of loss.  Like the poet John Dunn said – No man is an island. Every man’s death diminishes me -   And every factor that threatens the monarch, affects me and diminishes me.”

I don’t want my children and grandchildren to experience a diminished life from the loss of a species or any part of nature in their lifetimes.  I don’t want anyone to experience that.  Each of us should feel the responsibility of preserving something that has been on this earth for millions of years. No one wants milkweed and monarch destruction to occur on “our watch.”  One simple solution is to make an effort to restore the critical milkweed plant.  If you don’t have a backyard to plant it in, find a place where you can have permission to grow it.  Promote it in your own area through highway departments and public places.

Then, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the milkweed you planted.  Open up and explore one of those ripened green pods and feel the silky white membranes with a brown seed attached that float in the wind when you release them.  Be satisfied that you dispatched some milkweed seeds on their way to grow into a plant that will save the monarch butterfly.

·       Study and research the type of milkweed that should be planted in your own area.
·       Post your thoughts on this blog, and other social media to share with others what you are doing to help monarchs. 
·       Find websites with more information like Monarch Watch, and this one in Missouri.  http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property/wildlife-your-property/backyard-wildlife/backyard-habitat-monarch-butterflies
·       For fun!  Solve this puzzle and be the first to reply in this blog if you find the answer!
                Where on earth can you find “white” monarchs?

Thursday, August 27, 2015


“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
― Albert Einstein

Anyone that has routinely studied our natural surroundings by “getting out there,” has a Naturalist’s Eye.  Naturalists love to spend time observing and recording natural events; an endangered flower on the prairie, an eagle “watching us” in a park, and a flock of thousands of snow geese landing on a lake.  Yes, we’ve done all that and much more as Missouri Master Naturalists. 

While Master Naturalists have available considerable training opportunities from many experts, it is with our eyes that we become Naturalists.  Our eyes lead us out to prairies, woods and lakes filling our minds with mysterious experiences that become education.    Our eyes are open to conservation needs, and that spurs our hands to actively pursue projects to protect nature. Our eyes are the windows through which our hearts receive love and devotion to nature, so we can share it each in our own particular way.

The person who said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” regarding art must have had a Naturalist’s eye.  Many famous painters worked outdoors to capture natural forms.  John James Audubon could not have created his famous watercolors of birds without spending so much time observing them in their natural habitats.  Claude Monet’s outdoor paintings hang in many famous museums worldwide.  He attributed his eye for nature to be his most important accomplishment when he said of himself; “My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects.” Monet was known for dragging his contemporaries, Renior, Sisley and Brazille, also famous artists, on his outdoor excursions. Such famous artists, all with the eye of a naturalist, brought nature to others.  Who would challenge that these famous artists were not “naturalists?” 

Who is better to become an advocate for conservation of natural resources than those who love and study nature than a Master Naturalist?  Each of us has particular interests and talents, along with the drive to preserve and protect our natural surroundings.  Each of us finds a way to share our knowledge by unobtrusive measures to those whose minds are open to learning along with us.   Each of us has our eyes open waiting for the beauty of nature to inspire us.  After all, anyone who does not “stand in rapt awe” at the sight of a tiny bug, a delicate flower, or a red sunset, must be those who truly have their eyes closed. 

Master Naturalist chapters are available in most states.  Check in your own area to see if you can find a local chapter.  It is a great way to add your voice to conservation and preservation of your natural surroundings.