Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

The title comes from the notion that my extended family gathers every Thanksgiving at my oldest brother’s house for a meal and remembrance of God’s goodness to us. That is what feasts in the Old Testament were about, sacrificing animals to recognize and acknowledge one’s sin followed by celebration and feasting with family and friends over God’s goodness to forgive, provide, and protect.

Recently, because of growth within our family, we have had several additional gatherings for meet and greet. The latest one was planned for Independence Day, 2019. That comes under thankfulness for protection within this great country. Anyone thinking we could have what we do without God’s blessing is foolish, and anyone who implicates God in the evil that sinful men and women of this country have promulgated is without any sense. We are blessed and we don’t deserve it, therefore, God has been good to us. <-Period, read it?

On the way over the mountain, my wife and I stopped at the small westbound I-40 rest area in the highest gap for lunch. On our way to the bathroom, we saw several bunches of planted flowers. The edge of the woods had many wildflowers, notably Solomon’s Seal gone to seed. The entrance to the restrooms is the most busy corridor in the rest area, but it also has a dry ledge for mud builders. I took pictures and described to two ladies why it was a barn swallow instead of a cliff swallow, tree swallow, or swift. (Besides facial pattern the forked tail is a big give away.) Several Swallowtails landed among the plantain to warm their blood in the cool, sunny air. The traffic is close and noisy, people are coming and going, and the creatures just accommodate and adapt as needs be. I am sure some adapt by staying well out of range, but I was amazed at how others live so close.

20190704_123920
2 Beauties
20190704_123950
Barn Swallows
20190704_131917
Built on the Rock
20190704_125326
Eastern Swallowtail

Speaking of accommodating, my oldest brother and sister-in-law are very accommodating to have a family party. I think we are sensing the passing of the years, the incredible blessing of extended family, and the need to connect more often and more deeply. I was so busy talking and playing and eating that I almost forgot to take pictures. My wife and I counted 30 souls in attendance, the majority under 15. Many of my children and theirs were not able to attend. They have 15 grandchildren and I have 6.

20190704_205329
A Story, I’ll be bound
20190704_205444
Whack it hard! The “Birdie” is in motion just above her head over the white SUV.
20190704_205428
Get ready…seriously.

The next day, my older brother and I decided to go on a hike while my wife visited her sisters. The grandchildren wanted to go, but the pictures below reveal why that wouldn’t be safe. My brother wanted to visit a tristate marker on the way. It was a very unheralded spot, tying a point on a map to an actual location in the real world. Lines have thickness on paper, but lines in the world have only one dimension, length. It may seem as trivial to most, but the connection between the two is most fascinating, particularly as you stand over the spot.

20190705_090453
Grandchildren saying ‘goodbye’
20190705_102838
Another Tri-state intersection: The arch says, “Tristate Corner Paradise Point Resort”
20190705_102430
Which state is the camera in? And which way is north?

My brother had been to Foster Falls previously in winter when there was abundant rain. I was not surprised to find it simply dripping. This is the way of streams and falls on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. The pool was quite deep and must be well sealed to keep so much water with so little input. It was a beautiful sight, nonetheless.

After the falls, we walked about a mile along the base of the cliff, reconnoitering the sport climbing for a possible future push. I attempted a few pictures but the quality was sub-par due to contrast of shade at the base and full sunlight on the cliff. With the heat it would be best attacked in Fall. The walk back along the sandstone caprock was significantly flat with sandy spots and intermittent seeps, all dry and baked this summer day. And yet a succulent was thriving on the rocky, shallow depressions, Fameflower. My sister-in-law, who is very knowledgeable about wildflowers, named it and described it from this picture I texted her. She said she had never actually seen one in bloom in nature owing to the fact that it only blooms a few hours in the mid-day heat. You frequently don’t know what you are looking at until someone points it out later. I saw 10 or more blooms at the edge of thicker grasses, but only stopped to take a picture of this one because of its extra-ordinarily stressed environment- kinda a “bloom where you’re planted” scenario. It turns out that they are just tough as nails and out compete other plants for such sites.

20190705_113404
Foster Falls- capstone, shallow soil, and infrequent rain result in a boom or bust flow
20190705_115538
Mud Daubers? Cliff Swallows? Dried Mud? No, it’s pitted limestone!
20190705_134604
Topview of Foster Falls
20190705_140223
Phemeranthus calcaricus, Limestone Fameflower
20190705_140504
Natural Pavement, aka Sandstone Cap; Unnatural Meadow, aka Powerline Right-of-way

We made it home late that night, tired but blessed by the family time and brushes with nature.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Two weeks ago my climbing partner and I were making a short approach to a crag. I chose to come to the top of the cliff and set up a toprope. He went down through the crack to the base of the outcrop. When I was ready to rappel down, he said, “Watch the snake below you about ten feet above the ground.” I asked for further explanation. A moment later my partner said, “He fell.” I looked down just in time to see the snake smack the ground. This snake was climbing perhaps a 5.9 section of a 5.11 climb. We climbed a few pitches, watching this 5 foot Black Snake search for holds. After a while it gave up on the direct approach and moved up a slanted ledge toward the top of the cliff. While I was climbing, my partner commented that it had climbed into a bush high up on the ledge. We took no more notice for a while.

A little later while I was belaying my partner, I saw the snake 30′ up on a branch, reaching out to the cliff. It was at nearly full extension with just the last 6″ wrapped around the branch. I could discern the possible path that the snake had crawled out of the bush onto a far branch of the tree, to the trunk, and out to the end of the branch to the cliff. After much searching on the cliff for a hold, it slowly released hold on the branch, and soon afterward fell 30′ to a boulder below. I thought surely this killed the snake. However, I did observe the center of the snake strike the rock and the head flopped onto the leaf mulched ground beside it. It lay still. After my partner came down, I went over and poked it with a stick. It coiled up to strike. A few minutes later it crawled into a crack low on the ledge, and then back out followed by a shorter Black Snake. The shorter one tried climbing the wall several times, searching different holds to go up. It was more cautious that its climbing partner backing down instead of falling.

At one point I took a long stick and removed the shorter snake from a climb that I wanted to try. It got back on the climb shortly after I ascended. As I descended the climb I ask my belayer to stop at a small crack/ledge filled with miniature rhododendron bushes. The crack was no more than 4″ wide. There under one of the bushes was a fairly new bird’s nest without a bird or eggs. I suspected that this nest was the goal.

We moved to the right of the crag only glancing back occasionally to see the progress of the snakes. Now, nearly 2 hours since we had arrived, the larger snake was coming down from the top of the cliff and succeeded at getting into the crack where the nest was without falling. It must have been a disappointment to find no eggs for breakfast (late evening though it were). I would guess that they had visited the nest previously and consumed the eggs but had no idea that there would not be more eggs when they returned. So much effort with no return. Well, we certainly enjoyed the show!

20190604_185716

“Shorty” about 10′ up

20190604_185814

Check out the tail hold, full body contact, tense core, use of multiple holds, and hold searching

20190604_175240

Ledge Traverse

20190604_185827

Another “try hard”

20190604_182720

Climbing Partners in matching outfits

Read Full Post »

It has been 3 1/2 months since I went climbing, and it was two months before that. This is beginning to not look like a hobby. Oh well, I was thankful to get out today, and perhaps we have a plan to be more regular without overwhelming our schedules.

Being a little warmer, mid-80’s in the valley, we went to a crag where a creek cascades between two cliffs and most climbs are in the shade. It is about a mile walk in, down hill, meaning, of course, that it is a fairly stout walk out after climbing. At least the walk in doesn’t exhaust you before climbing. I knew that my finger strength was still good because I regularly do doorframe pull-ups, but I have not persisted in endurance training activities for my arms. I expected to do single hard moves and then be exhausted. Surprisingly, I did somewhat better than that, though I definitely felt the burn too soon. We completed 4 pitches and worked on a 5/12a project. Gonna have to increase the endurance before that one goes down.

thumbnail-1
“On Belay?” Ready to start a sport lead of a 5.10b
thumbnail-11
Jigsaw 5.8
thumbnail-6
Overhung, shady, and frequently damp (Frazier Magnolia in the foreground)
thumbnail-10
Belay lock position
thumbnail-14
Height is not a problem when you are properly tied in
thumbnail-13
At the rings at treetop level
thumbnail-8
The aesthetic cooling factor
thumbnail-2
Wall with roof and tree
thumbnail-4
Galax is so bright green and lively looking in Spring
thumbnail-7
Beautiful and cold
thumbnail-3
Grow where you’re planted
thumbnail
Hanging out at the crag 

Read Full Post »

I like big adventures as much as the next person: A trip to an exotic, far off place; a expedition into an unknown place of exploration; a purpose driven service for others. But daily life rarely presents such big adventures unless you can re-orient your perspective to sum all of the small discoveries and opportunities into the whole. Following are a few very small joys in which I partook in the last week. They are neither big nor even the best of the week, but they are the ones for which I had a camera and the appropriate occasion to use it.

I walked out in the yard on a pleasant Spring evening, beyond the large hedge bush, where I had forgotten that I had transplanted a daylily last fall because of crowding where it was formerly. There was a bright surprise on the other side of the bush. Spruce or forest green is my favorite color, but a light golden yellow is a close second. (I never know what to call this color. It’s not gold leaf; it’s too orange to be yellow and too yellow to be orange; it doesn’t quite seem like amber.)

thumbnail-4
Twin Beauties

My wife is a particularly  good cook and all the better because she tries new dishes. My palate is never bored. After a new and good dinner the other evening, I pushed back from the table a bit to savor the moment, noticing the patterns of pinewood, stainless wear, and Corelleware. Oak grain is perhaps my favorite and most interesting grain though admittedly curly maple is quite intricate. Walnut grain is rich. Pine knots are the most interesting part pine grain. When placed in pairs on a veneer such as a plywood, the parallel knots can may interesting pictures of faces. Patterns on forks and plates can be gaudy for my taste but French curves are tasteful if not overdone. For instance, consider the persistence of Paisley’s, a French curve derivative.

thumbnail-3
Unity and Contrast of patterns, colors, and materials

Mallard Ducks are common and “garden variety”, but have you ever looked closely at the decorations on a male Mallard? I reminds me of the verse: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.” (Luke 12:27) Conversely, I only saw two Mallard’s paddling upstream against the current. Where are the thousands of birds and the teaming fish in the river? Once migrating flocks blackened the skies. What have we done?

thumbnail-1
From orange, webbed feet to yellow, dabbling bill, he’s a well decorated flier

One of the activities my wife and I do most consistently beyond chores is walking on our local Greenway. This is where we saw the ducks. Only a few moments later, my wife was asking me what kind of tree was beside the way. This got me to looking up a little more than usual. Though I do like to look up in the trees, I usually do it more when sitting or lying. As the picture reveals I saw a little different variety on a large oak trunk near the path, a few feet above usual line of sight. I told my wife to come back and see it. She exclaimed and gave it wider berth. I stayed behind to snap a few pictures. I had more close up pictures but black is black and the context of trunk and path seemed more informative.

thumbnail
For perspective: approximately 4 1/2 feet Black Snake

I am thankful to God for occasional brushes with small joys in nature and relationships and comforts to keep life interesting. Catalog your small joys like the old hymn says: “Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your many blessings; see what God hath done.”

Read Full Post »

In my years of teaching Earth Science, I have discovered that one concept seems to tie more physical phenomena together than any other. Frequently it is the cause of what is observed and often it is the connecting thread between interactions of matter and energy. So I thought to give a few examples of why it is so often the correct answer to questions in Earth Science:

Earth Science is all about density
What will go up and what will come down
That convective cell propensity

Uneven heating of the atmosphere
Solar gain and wind and pressure change
Forced aloft forms clouds, sinking air clear

Heat, salt, and wind stir up the oceans
Many upwellings from the great deep
Gyres and thermohalocline motions

Far below the roots of the mountains
Plates form rifts, volcanoes, and trenches
Float on plastic and magma fountains

In the stars war gravity and fusion
Caldera of rarified plasma
Spots and flares in boiling confusion

Thus mass divided by volume seen
In many small and grandiose ways
And from its study much knowledge glean

 

Read Full Post »

It was not a record snow. Those seem to be more in the neighborhood of 18″ in 1993, the 1960’s, 1925, 1911, or something, depending on whether you mean 24 hour total, storm total, and where exactly. Tracing such records is dizzying and hard to do. But a solid 14″ on the hard surface of my yard where there is gravel and scant, short grass is good enough for me.  I have a picture of it when it was 13″, because the 14″ measurement picture was blurred by condensation on the lens.

I think that one of the changes with age is my way of enjoying the snow. Some people don’t really seem to enjoy it unless they are sliding on it. I, too, used to love to do that on anything slick: sled, shovel, skis, shoes (boots really, but I couldn’t resist 5 s’s in a row).

But now I like most of all to take a long walk to the point of fatigue and take pictures of anything that looks beautiful or unique. I find much peace and exhilaration mixed together when it is snowing. It is quiet and yet screams at the senses, bright and yet darkly overcast, beautifully sculpting and yet messy, sanguine and yet melancholy. The wind, flakes, and sound absorption isolate you and yet your neighbors come out to greet you and lend a hand if you are stuck.

I apologize to my friend whose picture I took, twice. It seems that the snow flake that I did not see and obscures part of the clock was inconveniently on his face moments later. I walked 2 miles over to his apartment and then we walked a mile back up into town. We are both school teachers and don’t have anywhere we have to be at the moment.

I am thankful to God for hearing my prayer for it to not rain last night, since that would have certainly caused significant flooding. It melts away slowly today, running down the gutter at the bottom of my driveway. It was a beautiful, big snow.

101_1605

The Homeplace draped in liquid lace

101_1606

It’s hard to keep firewood dry.

101_1609

I had a better picture of this, but the flash reflecting off of the snowflakes was a pleasant surprise.

101_1614

It really was 14, later.

101_1616

Wind Sculpting

101_1619

Nice contrasts

101_1620

Working hard for a day off!

101_1623

Companionship is always good.

101_1625

It looks intense.

101_1627

Good architecture shines even when covered.

101_1629

In a small town near you

101_1632

Iconic, Historic Courthouse

101_1634

Go, but not too fast

101_1637

No one in attendance this week

101_1640

I forgot to tell him to turn off the flash.

101_1642

Snowtime

101_1647

“I moved down from Wisconsin to get away from this.”

101_1649

We have a few pieces of snow equipment in our small, Southern town.

Decorated Snowy Lightpole

Pass Go, collect $200, and have a Merry, White Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Keeping the Thanksgiving tradition alive on a day after hike is one of the enjoyable ways of renewing our family relationships. I find that the quieter, slower pace and distance between hikers perpetuates more personal conversation. It’s when I really catch up with where family members are at. And I met one new extended family member, too.

The best time to see waterfalls and cascades is when there is plenty of water. This must have been a record rainfall year. Chuck said the area is 10 inches above normal so far. And there had been a big storm just two days before.

The hike we took was on Rhododendron Creek in Greenbriar. I’m told it is not an official trail, but given the traffic, it might as well be. Toward the end of the 2.6 mile stroll we came to cemetery that had numerous Whaley’s in it. There was a curious story about how two distant cousins in my family meet, genealogically speaking.

When we got back to the road, my niece and I ran about 1.3 miles down the gravel to retrieve the cars. I am so happy that I can begin to run again. It was a pleasant hike all around.

101_1552

Ready for a hike even on a damp day

101_1554

Every little stream full to overflowing

101_1555

Hi-ho, hi-ho!

101_1558

I like to slow it down a little

101_1559

Plenty of water

101_1561

The crew at a destination

101_1564101_1566

101_1573

A very bushy lichen (Anyone help with the ID?)

101_1574

101_1579

Leon and Chuck

101_1590

To read and see my brother’s description of this and another hike, click on Chuck’s Description of the Hike 

While at one of the seven cascades, my niece decided to take a selfie. As she described it in her e-mail with the attached picture, this is the picture with my ‘crazy uncle’. That crazy uncle was trying to go see the next cascade up that was hidden in the rhododendron above. My nephew followed and you can see the site below.

 

Emily with me in background

My Niece’s Photo Bombed Selfie

101_1575

‘Crazy Uncle’ Cascade

Some people reading this blog may say that Leon (aka ‘crazy uncle’) seems to think that he has to tag on a thanksgiving or praise to God at the end of a blog entry. I don’t always, but if you look at the title and subtitle of this blog, you will see that it reminds me that He is the one worthy of praise and thanksgiving for our existence, provision, and salvation. I intend never to stop praising His glorious name, and enjoying and thanking Him for His provision of all things good and beautiful. Among those provisions are good health, the beauty of creation, and the warmth of family.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »