...an unpaid sabbatical. Just call it a break. I've fallen well short of my original goals for this blog and am too busy to continue at this time. Thanks for the comments and feedback people have given me by email and other means. I will continue to find solace in nature walks, with or without camera and notebook, but I will take at least a two-month break from posting here.
I have been teaching since 1965 and have recently joined the English Department as an Associate Faculty member at Feather River College. Recently taught Nature Literature in America and am currently teaching Interpersonal Communication and Basic Reading and Writing.
I took these photos a few days ago to celebrate the arrival of Spring. But, I couldn't find the words. Now I'm contemplating a trip to Table Mountain tomorrow, hoping to find a break in the rain. That's what I'll be thinking about tonight, so I still can't find the words. But, the words will come.
I haven't posted since the end of January, and had a spotty stretch before that. On March 8, while attending a gathering in celebration of International Women's Day (bottom photo here), I saw the tiny Spring Whitlow Grass all over the place, hiding in the grass. One would have to know it was there to notice it. After all, who besides me always looks at the ground while walking around? That encounter Whitlow Grass, actually a member of the Mustard Family, stirred my urge to resume blogging regularly. But, I got distracted by an over-booked teaching schedule, and the urge didn't strike again until March 16. On that day, I decided to introduce one of my classes to nature writing. I said let's take a walk, each going alone in his or her chosen direction and write about the first natural object you see that interests you. Tree, bird, bug, worm, whatever. You just have to look until you get motivated to stop and take notes or draw a sketch. They were asked to report to the next class with a 100-word description. I did the same and walked up a hill above my office. Lo and behold, I found a Chorus Frog out in the open (above on my left hand) and Whitlow Grass (below) along the sides of the dirt road.
On the next day, I looked up Whitlow Grass on this blog and discovered the last time I wrote about it was March 15 2015. Two years ago almost to the day! Even on that day, I promised to write more about it, but was immediately distracted by a trip to Table Mountain. I posted several days' worth of Table Mountain photos before I got back to the Whitlow Grass where my story about it continued.
Here's a shot someone took of the Women's Day gathering from a hill or deck above it. Not sure which. I'm the guy with the white hair just to the right of the center. I hope that now I've finally got around to this, I'll be more regular. For instance, on that walk up the hill I also saw the first blooming Shelton's Violets of the season. Will see if I can post those tomorrow and get this thing going again.
I came across a quote from John Fugelsang that seemed to me fitting for the season we're in. I've added a bit in brackets that I think is in the same spirit. Despite the gloomy prospect suggested, my "audacity of hope" is maintained, so far, by photos such as these taken locally over the past few springs. They are all on my Valentine's Day list for blogposts over the next few weeks. First, the quote:
"Only in America can you be Pro-Death Penalty, Pro-War, Pro-Unmanned Drones, Pro-Torture [and I'd add Pro-Human-caused Global Warming Denial] & still call yourself 'Pro-Life'."
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is often credited with launching the Environmental Movement. Yesterday's political show, culminating a truly ugly and scary year of politics, has me wondering how many of the things I've posted in this blog over the past 6 years will still exist after the next four. We have elected an amoral egomaniac, yet a significant segment of the American populace is celebrating. Take a good look at the orchid pictured above. An incredible beauty, yet small and not brightly-colored. It is probably often trampled by people unaware of its existence. Some of them undoubtedly pursuing photographs of bigger and brighter flowers. Some trampled by the wheels of ORV's and the boots of "outdoorsmen."
The butterfly, a nature lovers' icon. Will people ever realize that when it flaps its wings in Quincy it has far-reaching consequences as will its absence?
Will people ever see the beauty of insects in love and rise up to save them?
Will people who flock to see the amazing flora of Butterfly Valley Botanical Area every spring ever realize that one square mile is not enough? Our parks should not become mere remnants. They need to become models and harbingers of recovery.
These roses, folded from South Carolina sweetgrass adorn our kitchen counter. Icons of a culture of African Americans that exists along the coastal islands of our Southeastern states, they and their culture could disappear under more Trump hotels. UNLESS WE RESIST!
I was getting a little tired of frost these past few days. I want snow. I want our watersheds to recover. Since the frost has made my early-morning departures more difficult - frosted windshields that I can't get to before unfreezing my truck doors - I have failed to notice the beauty of the frost. But today, when I walked out to start my wife's car, the beauty of the frost broke through. I went back inside to get my camera.
For a moment, I thought "this is it. I need to keep the camera by my side and get back to blogging on a regular basis." However, after a few minutes of contemplating a walk in the woods for more photos, I had to face my ambivalence. My ambivalence about where to focus my creative energies.
Among my favorite Christmas gifts were items from Austin Kleon. I got his "Steal Like an Artist" 2017 calendar and the book for which it is named, and also another of Kleon's books, "Show Your Work." My work, as far as this blog is concerned, has been mostly nature photography and musings about what I learn from being in nature. However, lately I've been much more conscious of possible links between my evolution as a teacher and my experiences with nature. On the "back burner" is a memoir focused on my experiences with education, both formal and informal. As a teacher and as a student, as a child and as a parent. So, like the frost in the photo below, I'm on the fence. I think I
will be posting fragments of this memoir as it develops. My first chapter will compare memories of things I learned before starting pubic school with memories of my first grade experience. My most enduring memories of the latter are centered around a few absurd questions such as "What comes after yellow?" "How high can you count?" and "Did I ask you to draw that?" Although I'm focusing on things that happened in school, I am sure that Mother Nature will intrude frequently. I am thankful for my wife's choice of Christmas gifts and for Austin Kleon's ideas which he has invited me to steal.
This morning, in our cold house (waiting for chimney repair), I walked by one of our bookshelves and spotted my son's art piece, 300 matches linked without the use of any adhesive. My first impulse was to chuckle at remembered "got a match?" jokes. Then I got a more serious feeling about things we take for granted. I read a couple of online histories of the development of matches. Now I think discovering how to make matches ranks right up there with the paper clip as one of the great, under-appreciated inventions of Homo sapiens. I was on my way outside with these thoughts when I
slipped on our icy front steps. I took my sense of balance for granted, then had a painful fall. Just in case it never snows again, at least during the Trump administration, I went back inside to get my camera to take a picture of our first snow that might last a day or two.
Looks like our young lab doesn't take the snow for granted. When let outside, he went nuts, jumping and spinning and rolling. Like any kid, he soon wanted to come back inside where it was warm - at least warm to him. It'll be about a week before our stove chimney gets fixed, so it seems rather cold to me. Solution? Put on warm clothing. Duh!
I wandered around outside for a while, hoping to find some amazing, aesthetically exciting frost crystals, but these two photos of shrub branches were the best I could do. Even the frost on my truck's windshield was uninteresting.
Before giving up on photography for the morning, I circled the house once and found this attractive, frosted brach of White Fir off the back deck, and then decided to post one more photo of the Camel Cricket that will hopefully spend the winter in my woodpile. (See previous two blog entries.)
The deciduous leaves had mostly fallen, the air was cold, and I had started stacking my firewood when I uncovered a Camel Cricket. There must have been some heat generated by decomposing leaves because this cricket was very alert and jumped over three feet. However, like certain cats and snakes, once caught and held it calms down and seems to trust its captor.
My son and I played with this one a little before returning it to the wood pile. My mind wandered to all the critters hibernating, or just remaining dormant inside crevices, beneath the surface leaves, or even inches to feet below the surface. I thought of the Oak Treehoppers that were clinging to branches only a few days earlier, but whose eggs and larvae will spend the winter inside the root systems of the oaks, only to emerge again toward the end of next summer. I took these photos a month ago, but I was reminded of them - as they lay dormant in m computer - when I photographed various fungi and lichens this past Thursday. Most of the fungi take advantage of other species' death by springing to life and helping with decomposition. The lichens, living mostly off air and water, live on lifeless substrates like rocks and on tree bark among other places. The ones that live on relatively permanent substrates, like granite, or the bark of oaks, may live for centuries. The ones that live on softer bark, like that of pines and firs, and on softer rocks, might live only a year or two or a few decades. They tolerate extreme cold and live through winters buried under snow and ice.
I hope this camel cricket has the tenacity to live through the winter in my wood pile. I'd like to see it again next spring.