Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stories in Nature 1

It does not matter where you saunter in Nature, but you will encounter a story just waiting to be interpreted. Walk the edges of a wetland. Wander through a forest. Find your way through a field. There is a story awaiting you. At times you may need to alter your perspective and get on your knees or lie down. Other stories require you to crane your neck high.

We are use to reading stories from paper or the "ink" of an electronic device. These are easy stories. They roll off the page quickly. They require much less thought. Reading Nature is another story-- pardon the pun. To read Nature you must engage your mind and curiosity. You must use deductive reasoning as a nature detective.  You must ask many questions. We all learned in school about the "W" questions-- who, what, when, where, and why-- and don't forget "how".  Are there lessons to be learned within the story?

Story #1 Fallen Tree Trunk      ©Joni L. James

Story #2 Fallen Log      ©Joni L. James

Here are stories I discovered a few days ago. Can you identify the objects? What story/stories do you think are waiting to be read? What story could you create? (Please post a comment below).

When I find tracks, signs, and remains, I often wonder about the events and dramas that occurred in my absence. I can attempt to piece a story together through my knowledge of wildlife, weather, plants, ecosystems, tracks, and signs. Perhaps I will interpret it with accuracy or perhaps not. But what ultimately occurs, is that I learn something and deepen my connection to Nature. And that is the best ending to the story.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let the Trees Teach Us (Autumn): Thoreau's Journal Anniversary

Today is the 174 year anniversary of the beginning of one of the most momentous journals in history. On October 22, 1837, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal--

“What are you doing now?” he asked. “Do you keep a
journal?” So I make my first entry to-day.

To be alone I find it necessary to escape the present,—I avoid
myself. How could I be alone in the Roman emperor’s chamber
of mirrors? I seek a garret. The spiders must not be disturbed,
nor the floor swept, not the lumber arranged.

Oct. 24. Every part of nature teaches that the passing
away of one life is the making room for another. The
oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind
a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life
to an infant forest . The pine leaves a sandy and sterile
soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould.
So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil
of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap.

I have spent many hours recently photographing and enjoying the autumn forest nearby. I traveled to Morgan-Monroe State Forest to immerse my senses in the beauty of autumn. I spent time at Cherry Lake photographing near the water's edge. Cherry Lake was a mirror of colorful reflections. The multitude of colors, ripples in the lake surface, and spent leaves that rode the subtle current, transformed Cherry Lake into a nebula of inner and outer space. Mesmerizing abstract images were everywhere. 

              Autumn Nebula                                             ©Joni L. James

I so love this time of year. The air resonated with blue jays, crows, red-bellied woodpeckers, and the drip of leaves which had released their grip from the trees. The sound of a light "tick" broke the quiet as a leaf landed amongst the other spent lives below or on the lake surface. At times a breeze traveled through the forest and a congregation of them would flutter downward.

Autumn Maples                                                      ©Joni L. James
 Trees have much to teach us. They are an apt symbol for our lives. Trees show us how to live. Just as with people, there is great diversity among species of trees in the forest. Living in communities, they are interdependent upon other life forms and the resources around them. And yet they have much in common.

Autumn Dogwood                                             ©Joni L. James
Trees share their bodies with other creatures such as woodpeckers, owls, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, as well as a myriad of insects, bacteria, and fungi. They allow other lives to live with them in their space and they provide food for many. They share their bounty whether it is fruit, seeds, nuts, flowers, or sap.

Autumn Reflections                                ©Joni L. James

During their lives, trees endure many challenges from wounds, pollution, clearcuts, disease, chainsaws, wind, lightning, insects, and more. Many lose their homes or are removed from their homes. They are resilient. They are flexible in the strong winds and they adapt to the tragedies that befall them. Some trees survive and some don't. Those trees who do, often find their bodies altered in some way.

Leaves on the Final Ride                           ©Joni L. James
Yes, trees show us how to live. But they also show us how to die. Trees cycle through seasons each year, yet there are seasons within seasons. They witness the births and deaths of those around them. Often what affects one, affects the neighbors and families in close proximity. Each year the leaves of the trees must release themselves from their lofty positions. They cycle through seasons within seasons too. Leaves are shed. They surrender and let go. They join the thousands below.

Surrender--Beech & Maple Leaves on Lake Surface         ©Joni L. James
One day the tree will die. Each death may be swift or slow. But through the process they will  still be giving. Giving of themselves to other life forms. Creating conditions for others to thrive or be born. The tree will transition and release their hold on the soil. They are onward to a new adventure-- one of rebirth.

Death of Trees                                             ©Joni L. James
As Thoreau stated in his journal entry, "As I live now so shall I reap." Let the trees teach you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Burkhart Creek Park Wetland Development

Recently I visited Burkhart Creek Park to check on the construction of the wetland. This is an area that was a wetland already but is being "enhanced" I do not have the history about it but when I find out, I will pass the info on here on my blog. These three photos below were taken on September 30, 2011.

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                          ©Joni L. James

Wetlands are my favorite habitat/ecosystem. There is such plant & animal diversity in these areas. I am excited and pleased that a wetland is being constructed here. I look forward to watching it develop and flourish. It will be a great place to photograph and study/observe. Below is an image I photographed on August 30, 2011 before construction. You can see wetland vegetation such as the willow trees, sycamores, and sedges & rushes.

                                          ©Joni L. James

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sycamore Land Trust: Beanblossom Bottoms Trail Native Seed Collection Workday

I woke at 6:30 a.m. yesterday to the coolest (I believe) morning so far since last spring-- 42 degrees. I drove to Bean Blossom Bottoms in Monroe County to assist in collecting native plant seeds and volunteer my photography services for Sycamore Land Trust. The seeds we collected today are to be used to restore the wetland area along the trail where they are eradicating invasive reed canarygrass.

Bean Blossom Bottoms consists of 570+ acres (with a two-mile loop of wooden pucheon and boardwalk) of diverse habitats which include emergent marsh, sedge meadows, hardwood forests, and old fields reverting to forest. Trees and shrubs in the bottomland include red osier dogwood, pin oak, American sycamore, green ash, buttonbush, white oak, and shellbark hickory. It is an Indiana Nature Preserve and certified as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.

Seeds from woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and several sedges were harvested. It was a gorgeous morning with plenty of wind and cool temperatures. The sunshine was comforting as we began collecting along the boardwalk and beyond.

                                                        ©Joni L. James

                                           (A stand of woolgrass at BBB- Bean Blossom Bottoms)

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                          (Closer view of woolgrass at BBB-- windy day)

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                                           (Buttonbush seed heads)

My task (as well as a few other volunteers) was to collect woolgrass seeds. Once I would locate an inflorescence that had fully gone to seed, it was easy to strip the fine wooly seeds from the spiklets. Shaken or rolled between my fingers the seeds were like a downy powder or flour. Collecting was a meditation. For over three hours we harvested what will become new life in another area of the bottoms.

Sycanore Land Trust (SLT) is dedicated to preserving our disappearing landscape. I invite you to visit their website and become involved. If you value our local landscapes and their beauty speaks to you--- speak to SLT.