Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Amphibian Selfie!

 I consider myself the APP in this situation.  Connected to the frog by a thumb-belly connector, the frog positioned himself in such a way that compelled me to push the shutter button. Thus, an amphibian selfie.
 A side view of the same frog, but this time I made the decision on my own. :)
 My wife, Bib, sitting on a giant oak limb.  Click on the photo for an enlargement in which you can see the large patches of Goldfields (below) in the background.
 Another of my favorites, in the mustard family, is the Lacepod.  Looks especially nice when backlit.
 The majority of the Seep Spring Monkeyflower were still closed under cloudy skies, and actually looked wilted.  But I did manage to get a pair that were open.  All in all, I saw only around a dozen
species of blooming wildflowers.  In previous outings when I hit peak blooming time I'd get over a hundred.  We had a great day anyway.  This place is aways beautiful, even in mid-summer and fall when the streams and waterfalls have dried up and most flowers have long since gone to seed.  I'll have one more post on last Saturday's trip before moving on to a new topic.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


 Why not?  Went to Table Mountain yesterday to photograph wildflowers, but for reasons I'll explain later, these first two photos made a more lasting impression on me than the wildflowers.  An unusual and productive day. More tomorrow.  [Mar. 28, actually the day after tomorrow.]
This merger of two streams on Table Mountain got my attention.  Saw very few wildflowers and decided that maybe the peak of flower blooming is a couple or three weeks away.  I'll try again in mid-April.  This Y reminded me of the junction of the Little Colorado and the main Colorado in northeastern Arizona.  A totally different habitat, of course, but all river junctions interest me and remind me of each other.  Another one I love and will see again in May is the junction of two great rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the great Lewis and Clark expedition began and where Annie Dillard grew up.  A special city where my daughter is currently an art professor.  Looking forward to the road trip.
Another Table Mountain icon, this beautiful Valley Oak is along the trail leading to the first big waterfall that we usually visit at Table Mountain.  The better known one near the parking lot had lost some of its former grandeur, and is usually surrounded by people (and litter), so this one seemed more photogenic to me.
Owl Clover was the prettiest flower I saw on this day and was one of the few species that was fully open under the clouds.  The poppies (no photos) and Bitterroot (below) were not open.  Too cool and cloudy I suppose.  I'll be back.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Words Will Come

 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.
Mar. 28, four days later, here I am again.  The arrival of blooming Shelton's Violet made my walk up to the FRC water tank a pleasure.  My mind was already wandering toward the planned Saturday trip to Table Mountain.  In preparation for what I might see and what I would specifically look for, I reviewed previous Table Mountain posts on this blog.  Got a chuckle when I discovered a comment posted back in 2015.  A guy from South Africa commented that the "real" Table Mountain, the one in his country, was the superior nature experience.  I wondered if he had actually visited ours, or if he deduced that from the photos on my blog.  At any rate, I don't see it as competition and feel a bit sorry for anyone who does.
I go to Table Mountain for the total experience, not just the flowers.  So, this excellent specimen of bear poop on the road up to FRC's water tanks reminded me of the scatological possibilities at Table Mountain.  I know the cows will not disappoint.
THere was a trickle of a stream meandering down the hill in the dirt road leading to the water tanks.  It is fed by leaks and/or overflows, I'm not sure which.  But there's enough water to support Watercress (above).  A scrawny specimen, but Watercress nevertheless.
This friendly Pacific Chorus Frog did not resist being picked up, nor did he jump out of my hand.  I held him for a couple of minutes and got photos from different angles before placing him where I caught him.
Last, a harbinger of the next wave of wildflowers at this site, some new leaves of Lupine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring has sprung!

 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.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Is there still love in the air?

 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'."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Silent Springs?

 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!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Frosted Grass

 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.