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Posts tagged ‘nature photos’

Feeling Lucky: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

“If you are lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!”

Wikipedia Image

Wikipedia Image

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

You know Saint Patrick, right?  He lived in the fifth century and used the shamrock as a metaphor to explain the Holy Trinity.  He is also credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland.  Now, most naturalists agree there were never any snakes in Ireland, but does that really matter?

This day seems a good time for me to take note of all that makes me feel lucky.

Mom and GrandmaI am part Irish through my mom’s mom.  It is a great legacy through two great women.  I love the memories that come to mind of them, especially when I am wearing green in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.  That both Mom and Grandma enjoyed gardening, I thought of them especially the other day when I noticed some shamrocks sprouting near my apartment.


I also feel lucky that this year’s El Nino is ending the drought in California.  Well, that might be an overstatement—perhaps I have kissed the Blarney Stone? The truth is that the nearly 20 storms that have come through my area this year have provided enough rain to almost reach our norm for the year.  That is a good start at helping to break the drought.

IMG_9024The weather has been glorious lately—making it seem like spring with flowers blooming all over.  I was able to take a short trip to Death Valley to witness the Superbloom erupting there this spring, a maybe once a decade event.  It was wonderful!  But I am also lucky that flowers are showing the wonder of nature all over town.

You just have to take the minute to notice them!






In general, I am just lucky to be as healthy and happy as I am. Sure I am not thrilled with the current political rhetoric that is igniting fear and hate throughout the country, but I am hopeful that truth, charity and community responsibility will eventually generate a wise outcome.  That hope makes me feel lucky to live in America where even crazy people can run for office and crazier people can vote for them.

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 115Saugaro NP Rincon & West 124In my day-to-day life, I have good family and friends.  I have plans for a couple more trips this spring to enjoy Nature.  One later this week—in fact—where I might see some desert blooms!  I have recently discovered some new authors I am enjoying like Stan Jones and R. Allen Chappell and rediscovering others who are worth re-reading like Stieg Larsson and Alice Walker.  I am working on some projects—and completion is in sight.  My federal tax refund just showed up in my account, Cadbury mini-chocolate eggs are just so good, and a neighbor’s cat was enjoying the sunshine on my patio earlier today.  Overall, gratitude and appreciation regularly help make my life better in every way possible.


 What are you feeling lucky about today?

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 A Little Irish Wisdom

 “May the road rise to meet you.  May the wind be always at your back.  May the sun shine warm about your face  and rains fall soft upon your fields.  And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

“Health and a long life to you.  Land without rent to you.  A child every year to you.  And if you can’t go to heaven, may you at least die in Ireland.”

“May God grant you many years to live, For sure he must be knowing the earth has angels all too few, and heaven is overflowing.”

“May the roof above us never fall in, and may the friends gathered below it never fall out.”

“May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.”

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.”

“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light.  May good luck pursue you each morning and night.”

“Bless you and yours as well as the cottage you live in.  May the roof overhead be well thatched, and those inside be well matched.”

“May those who love us love us, and those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.  And if he doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so we’ll know them by their limping.”

“Praise the child and you praise the mother.”

 “’Tis better to buy a small bouquet and give to your friend this very day than a bushel of roses white and red to lay on his coffin after he’s dead.”

 “Humor to a man is like a feather pillow.  It is filled with what is easy to get but gives great comfort.”

 “God is good, but never dance in a small boat.”

 “Life is like a cup of tea.  It’s all in how you make it.”

 “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

 “May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.  May your heart be as light as a song.  May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all the year long.”

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.”

 “May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head.  May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.”

“May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends.  And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.”

“May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.”

 “May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.”

 “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing at all.”  George Bernard Shaw

 “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go” Oscar Wilde


Weekly Photo Challenge:  Serenity

Don’t you just love dictionaries?  The first definition offered for serenity is always “the state of being serene.”  Then some synonyms are provided like calmness and tranquility.  For me, being serene goes beyond being calm and thoughtful, beyond tranquility.  There is an element of spiritual awareness that emerges, but also a sense of expectation.

This feeling, this state of mind, is part of what I seek when I venture into Nature.  In Nature, I can look outward to the wonders of the world and inward to my appreciation of my place in that world.  The hectic and mundane fall away, and I am left embracing the moment but also looking to my place in the future. I feel serene at those moments.

Hindus offer the respectful greeting “Namaste,” when meeting anyone: relative, friend or stranger.  The greeting simply acknowledges “I bow to the divine in you.”  What a great assumption.  Madeleine L’Engle—in her daily devotional Glimpses of Grace that I am reading this year–reflected on “Namaste” as part of today’s reading.  She stressed spiritual connections as well as responsibility when truly embracing our world.  In her words, “God created, and it was joy: time, space, matter. There is, and we are part of that is-ness, part of that becoming. That is our calling: co-creation.”

To me, that sense of oneness with life, that awareness of appreciation and that acceptance of responsibility even an interdependence with all life, is at the heart of serenity.  And I find that sense of serenity and peace most often in Nature.  These photos are from a day in and around Zion National Park last spring.





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“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter—a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”   Henri Matisse

“Peace is not a relationship of nations.  It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul.  Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”  Jawaharlal Nehru

“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity/”  Thich Nhat Hanh

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”  Thomas Szasz

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“I think the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.”  Luis Barragan

Spring Delight! A Visit to the Western Sierra Nevada

This post is dedicated to my dad, Raymond Ross.  I have visited Yosemite and Sequoia with him in the past, and he would have loved to have gone on this trip with me.  He has been on my mind a lot this weekend.  This is the first Father’s Day since he died.  I miss him greatly.  You are with me, Dad, whenever I take Nature Pictures! Happy Father’s Day!


100_0987Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite nature destinations.  I have traveled there many times over the years, and I am always overwhelmed by its natural wonders. Given its proximity, I also visited Sequoia National Park in the past for short little excursions.  If asked back then of my impression of Sequoia National Park, I would have said, “Tree, Big Trees.”  And that impression is certainly correct.  Giant Sequoias are the star attraction of that national park. However, my visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in May 2014 emphasized for me that these parks offer much more than big trees, no matter how impressive those trees are.

Map from National Park Brochure

Map from National Park Brochure


Sequoia National Park was created on 25 September 1890, making it the second oldest national park in the country, second to Yellowstone.  At that time, preserving areas for their scenic and recreational value was not a popular idea. Instead, Sequoia National Park was preserved to save the big trees from logging.  As John Muir noted when confronted with the idea of logging the Giant Sequoias, “[We] may as well sell the rain clouds and [allow] the snow and the rivers to be cut up and carried away, if that were possible.”  A week later General Grant National Park was named, eventually merging with Kings Canyon National Park when it was established in 1940.  Since 1943, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have been jointly managed.

Map of Sequoia & Kings Canyon in Park Newspaper

Map of Sequoia & Kings Canyon in Park Newspaper


The Giant Sequoias are impressive trees!  In fact, they are labeled the Earth’s largest living tree by sheer volume of wood.  As the Parks’ brochure explains, “At least one tree species lives longer, one has a greater diameter, three grow taller, but none is larger.”  Grant Grove and Cedar Grove are in Kings Canyon while Giant Forest is in Sequoia.  However, there are about 75 groves of these giant trees on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the only place where these trees grow naturally.

General Sherman in National Park Brochure

General Sherman in National Park Brochure

The oldest tree in the parks is the General Grant, estimated at 3,000 years old.  But it’s the second largest tree, measuring 267-feet-tall and nearly 29 feet wide at the base.  The largest tree in these parks is the 275-foot tall General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest.  The details describing the General Sherman are also staggering:

  • The trunk weighs an estimated 1,385 tons
  • The trunk circumference at the ground is nearly 103 feet
  • Its largest branch is almost 7 feet in diameter
  • The tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old
  • Every year, this tree grows enough new wood to produce a 60-foot-tall tree of usual size

1400787923474 (2)

Although the General Grant and General Sherman are the most well-known trees in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, all the giants sequoias are breath-taking and inspiring, worthy of being the cornerstone of these national parks. The Dogwood Blossoms popping up in the forest were also delightful!

IMG_20140522_124558_hdr (2)

big tree














100_1352100_1394A friend and I visited Sequoia National Park in March 2014, experiencing the trees through the last stages of winter.  And they are impressive in the snow!  But we were equally impressed with the trees when we returned in May 2014. This spring trip took us back to Sequoia National Park but also into Kings Canyon National Park.  In the spring, it is impossible not to notice the steep canyon cut by the majestic Kings River. Highway 180 runs along the river down to the very bottom of the canyon.  At vista points, most of the impressive peaks of the Sierra Nevada can be seen in the distance.  My Whitney, however, the highest peak (14,505 feet) in the contiguous United States can only be seen from the western slopes from remote back country, accessible only on foot or horseback.  [NOTE: We did not go hiking or back-packing!]






Stock Photo

Stock Photo

Black Bear National Park Newspaper

Black Bear National Park Newspaper

As we moved from forest to foothills, we found several wonderful meadows that would have been perfect for a bear sighting, but not one Black Bear cooperated.  By the end of the day, we really thought we were seeing some off in the distance.  We even saw a couple Marmots, but their lumbering gait helped them escape having a photo taken.   Fortunately, a few deer were cooperative. As we continued driving, the High Sierra Vistas were breath-taking, even if the sky was a bit cloudy.
















IMG_3282Driving through the foothills of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in the spring is delightful because of all the flowers!  This part of the visit is what was missing from our winter sojourn.  I especially loved the Yucca in bloom almost everywhere we looked—no wonder they are commonly called The Lord’s Candlestick.  Other flowers also punctuated the roadsides.  We watched a hawk soar for several minutes on the thermals and some quail scurry across the road in the late afternoon.  Occasional birds and lizards came into view, but mostly we were able to listen to birds chirping in the undergrowth.

It was a glorious day!

































Are You Shy? (A Photo A Week Challenge: Shy)

When the word SHY is applied to people, it typically brings to mind someone who is fearful or hesitant, wanting to avoid the spotlight, a wallflower hiding on the sidelines.  The shy person is quiet and timid in an effort to be overlooked, to stay safe.  Of course, not all people who do not jump immediately into the fray are shy, or—more specifically—being shy shoes not always carry negative connotations.  For some of us, what appears as a shy façade is merely us preferring solitude, being an introvert who does not clamor for the spotlight.  A person who is comfortable with silence and reflection.

In the animal world, being shy is often attributed to animals who also do not jump eagerly into the spotlight.  But maybe those animals we label shy, scared or timid are really being rather sane and sensible, even wise.  After all, if you are out there in the open, you might become lunch for someone or something bigger and stronger.

As an introvert myself who happens to enjoy taking pictures, especially out in nature, I delight in catching glimpses of the shy animals that cross my path.  But that does not happen real often.  I do enjoy the challenge!

A Cow Playing Hide & Seek

A Cow Playing Hide & Seek

A Swallow Choosing to Stay Home!

A Swallow Choosing to Stay Home!

A Bunny Hiding in Plain Sight

A Bunny Hiding in Plain Sight

A Squirrel Insisting "You Can't Catch Me!"

A Squirrel Insisting “You Can’t Catch Me!”

Self Portrait of an Introvert

Self Portrait of an Introvert

Okay!  Maybe This Cat Is More Suspicious Than Shy--Is There Really a Difference?

Okay! Maybe This Cat Is More Suspicious Than Shy–Is There Really a Difference?


“Don’t try to be what you’re not.  If you’re nervous, be nervous. If you’re shy, be shy.”  Adriana Lima

“We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. If just depends on the day.”   Brad Meltzer

“It is a good idea to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presence may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought.”  James Douglas

“Soft is the music that would charm forever.  The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.”  William Wordsworth

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experience.”  Emerson

“I’m not shy.  I’m just very good at figuring out who’s worth talking to.”   Anonymous

“Some of us are timid.  We think we have something to lose so we don’t try for that next hill.”   Maya Angelou

“People think I am shy because I do not talk or participate much in conversations; truth is I don’t really give a damn what they’re talking about.”   Anonymous

This “Are You Shy?” post is my entry for Nancy Merrill Photography’s A Photo a Week Challenge:  Shy.  


I have always considered myself a Roadside Naturalist.

pink tree along I-5christio umbrellas along I-5Some roads are noted for their wonderful views, such as California’s Big Sur Coastline and the 17-Mile Drive outside of Monterey.  But even roads like I-5 can let you find a gorgeous tree in pink splendor or Highway 395 can drive you past autumn colors.  The noted artist Christo even planned his Umbrellas Exhibit—in both California and Japan—along common roadways.  No matter where I go, if I pay attention, I can usually find some glorious aspect of Nature to appreciate.

Lone pIne monterey

big sur

Bishop road

In fact, Nature and Solitude are such rejuvenating forces that I used to take Nature Solitude Treks every spring.  The frequency of those trips, however, stopped when I moved into administrative work and no longer had May as a regular time off.  And then I had a series of major surgeries starting in 2006 and my chances to get out into Nature dwindled even further.  I still valued Nature and sought it out, just with less planned intention.

Drive to Flagstaff 013This spring, I finally took another Nature Solitude Trek, this time traveling over 6500 miles and stopping at national parks and wildlife refuges along the way. I did not complete major hikes or camp out under the stars.  In fact, most places I visited I made sure had scenic drives as part of their layouts and options.  It is amazing how much Nature you can enjoy, literally, along the side of the road.  Some of those roads were bumpy unpaved dirt roads while others were interstates, and still others were county back roads.  But they allowed me to get close to Nature, even though I cannot walk very fast or very far anymore.

Below are some of the photos taken from the car that show the Nature I encountered along the many, many roads I traveled on this trip.  It was a glorious time.  And not one flat tire or speeding ticket!


Zion & Kolob Canyons 016

Zion & Kolob Canyons 120

bull close


Bryce NP, red rock canyon 006

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 117

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 100


Coral Reef National Park 093

Coral Reef National Park 123

Coral Reef National Park 094


Canyonlands Needles & I 70 206

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 216

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 213

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 293


CO national mon 2 & River Park 057

CO national mon 2 & River Park 062

CO national mon 2 & River Park 009


Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 048


Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 009


Bosque de Apache outside Albu 007

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 211

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 148

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 161

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 223


Saugaro NP Rincon & West 156

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 325

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 078

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 018

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 114


(Actually two little trips before and after my big driving trip in Spring 2014)












This trip immersed me into the overwhelming and rejuvenating power of Nature and Solitude. In today’s world, when we are urged to see multi-tasking as an expectation, when the Internet and social media bring us news and oddities alike in the blink of an eye, and when reality shows focus so often on people doing stupid things rather than on a delight of Nature, my escape into Nature was a real treat.  This trip confirmed that the best way to approach Nature is as a child excited by the ant and butterfly alike, curious about birds and squirrels and whatever catches her eye.  This trip reminded me of the power of wonder and mindfulness to help keep me balanced and spiritually aware. As a result of this trip, I remembered some simple truths that can help me lead an engaged, wonder-filled life, no matter how hectic my life gets:

  • Don’t multi-task your life away. If something is so unimportant that you need to be doing something else at the same time, why do it at all?
  • Slow down and look around.  You will never notice the natural wonders around you if you just keep rushing to the next item on your to-do list.
  • Be like a child and capture the wonder of each moment—it is the only way to build memories.
  • Express your gratitude and appreciation for nature, life, relationships often.

What truths about life help keep you grounded and sane?

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“Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.”   Basho

“ah, sweet spontaneous earth…”    e. e. cummings

“We need the tonic of wildness—we can never have enough of nature.”  Thoreau

“The spirits of the road beckoned, and I could do no more work at all.”   Basho

“Silence alone is worthy to be heard.”  Thoreau

“Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.”  Omar Khayyam

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  W. B. Yeats

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  Emerson

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”   Betty Smith

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”    Franz Kafka

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”   Goethe

“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”  Charles Chaplin

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”   Socrates

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”    G. K. Chesterton

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”    Aristotle

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”     Buddha

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”    G. K. Chesterton

“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”   Neil Armstrong

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”  Albert Schweitzer

NATURE CALLS: Musings of a Roadside Naturalist (1996)*

I have never hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon nor climbed past Yosemite’s Vernal Falls. I have not camped out in the wilds, ridden rapids or climbed steep canyon walls looking for petroglyphs.  But I have stood in dinosaur footprints, waded in the Colorado River, and walked through the ruins at Chaco National Park.  As I see it, such wanderings qualify me as a naturalist, even though I don’t often stray far from the roadside.  What matters is that I seek Nature’s comfort and spirituality.

monument valley 2Fortunately, this quest is not difficult.  At the beginning of every summer, I take off for a Nature and Solitude Retreat, just to rejuvenate my soul. On those trips I head for the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or maybe Canyon de Chelly. One year I toured the Acoma Pueblo; this year I visited Monument Valley. But I could just as easily delight over a drive along Route 66 or down the Big Sur Coastline.  Where I go does not matter—as long as I focus on Nature.

monument valley 3

Cactus along Route 66, Arizona

Cactus along Route 66, Arizona

Big Sur Coast, California

Big Sur Coast, California

red tail hawkpeacock arboretumI don’t even have to go on a trip to experience that refreshing connection.  At least once a week, I spot a red-tailed hawk circling over my morning commute.  Any weekend I can breeze through the Los Angeles County Arboretum, finding peacocks on display or some new flower in bloom. On the morning of the Northridge Earthquake, at about 6 am, most of us from my Chatsworth apartment complex were still sitting out by the cracked pool, avoiding the shattered darkness of our homes.  But as the morning brightened, there it was:  a tree in bloom, offering a silent protest against the morning’s jarring destruction.  Even the mocking birds were chattering away like it was any other day. How could my spirits not be lifted?

Morning of Northridge Earthquake

Morning of Northridge Earthquake

sunflower vaseBut being aware of my natural surroundings is not automatic.  I am often rushed and pre-occupied. If I can forget a loved one’s birthday, I can certainly block out the Wonders of Nature without much effort.  Therefore, I try to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. Although an obvious cliché, it’s still good advice. For a start, I try to consciously put nature on my agenda. At night, instead of watching the same old reruns again and again, I take a walk and notice the moon and the stars.  It’s best to make a wish!  Or I try to get up fifteen minutes early to feed the birds outside the window or to notice the bright blue sky before the smog settles in for the day. The colors and sounds and textures of Nature are always there, if only we take the time to notice.  Even the little things help, like putting a fresh flower on my office desk.

horses in NVWhenever I do plan activities away from home, I always keep Nature in mind. It’s easy to do; after all, Nature is just waiting to be explored. For example, for me, a trip to Las Vegas is not complete unless I also visit Red Rock Canyon that lies about 20 minutes outside the city. On my last trip, I was lucky:  I won $20 and saw a herd of wild mustang that calls that area home. Another time, I ventured a bit further—maybe two hours—to the Valley of Fire. Yes, it is as spectacular as it sounds.  I especially like the rock formation called Elephant Rock.

Wood Duck, Lithia Park

Wood Duck, Lithia Park

The point is that everywhere has some natural setting to escape to. Whenever I travel, I check for parks through cities, counties, and universities. For example, there’s a great arboretum at Washington State University in Seattle and some extensive rose gardens in Portland, Oregon. Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon, is a wondrous place.  Perfect for leisurely strolls. If you get there early enough, you may awaken the many ducks and swans that make the ponds their home. Bring bread crumbs!

Finding such places to visit is easy enough by checking tour books and maps of the area. Of course, AAA is a great source for such materials. But I also contact the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, since “birders” tend to know the prettiest areas to visit. In fact, any locals you can talk to will often give great advice. Without it, I never would have discovered a back road to Gold Beach, Oregon. But is proved to be a stupendous drive, full of gorgeous wildflowers and numerous butterflies.

Desert Sunrise

Desert Sunrise

Knowing where to find Nature is not the only thing that allows for a grand adventure.  I also need enough time. Time to wait, to notice, to watch. It’s hard to really enjoy Nature if you have to watch the clock so you can rush off to an appointment.  To allow a leisurely pace, I usually figure I need a four or five hour block of play time. The plan usually includes watching a sunrise or sunset, but such scheduling is not always possible.

sunrise 2

quailI do try, however, to schedule times during early mornings and late afternoons because I am interested in more than just scenery.  Those are the times when more animals and birds are active. For example, outside Tucson, Arizona, I once shared an evening picnic area with a large covey of quail, some persistent jays and a squirrel.


yellow headed blackbird 1yellow headed blackbird 2Anytime of day, however, can give me a slice of Nature to make my own. For example, it was about noon on a hot desert afternoon when I say a coyote.  He was too hot to care that I was following him along the road for a mile or so.  Eventually he slowly wandered away into the brush, but he was forever captured on the pages of my journal—along with the yellow-headed blackbirds I fed at a parking area in Yellowstone National Park, the bear I saw at a distance at Yosemite National Park, and the golden eagle I watched along the highway as it soared against an azure sky in New Mexico.

utah praire dogFinally, to make the most of my sojourns into Nature, I always bring along two things:  a camera and a journal.  Binoculars are a nice addition as well.  These items help me capture my thoughts, ideas, and experiences for later reflection.  Besides, sitting quietly for the few minutes it takes ti write that journal entry or to contemplate the best photo angle is often all it take to entice birds and animals back into action.  Sometimes right at my feet.  For example, on an afternoon in Bryce Canyon National Park, I took the time to entice a prairie dog out into the meadow with me. This species is an endangered animal that lives only in Utah, making the encounter all the more special.

bryce 5

Patience is such a great companion.  But perhaps the best tool for an effective Nature Adventure is simply a fine-tuned sense of Wonder.  As Albert Einstein says, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead, his eyes are closed.”  When I look with my heart as well as my eyes, I am never disappointed.

I invite you to be a Roadside Naturalist whenever you can.  It is a great adventure!

Where are your favorite places to travel and enjoy Nature?

*END NOTE:  I first wrote this piece about being a Roadside Naturalist 18 years ago.  This year, when I once again took a long driving trip into Nature, I was still contemplating Nature, Wonder and Spirituality. Thus, I decided to share my earlier musing via my blog.

Topic V: Valley of Fire



Barbara at Valley of FireMy sister Barbara moved to Las Vegas last year, giving me a new travel destination.  On my visit there in November 2013, we took a trek to Valley of Fire State Park.  It is a gorgeous place, lots of red rock canyons and impressive rock formations.  While area rocks include shale, limestone and conglomerates, the park’s name comes from the massive red sandstone formations that dominate the area.  The “fire” aspect comes from the glow said to bounce off the formations when the sun is just right during sunrise and sunset.  I need to plan another trip and make sure I visit at those times.  But no matter what time of day, the place is remarkable.  



Details about Valley of Fire State Park further demonstrate how impressive the area is—and has been for years and years: 

  • Part of the Mojave Desert
  • Covers an area of nearly 42,000 acres
  • Rock formations indicate the area is 150 million years old
  • Believed to have been occupied from 300 BC to 1150 AD
  • Home to petroglyphs from about 3,000 years ago
  • Some petrified logs have lodged in the area from a long ago storm or flash flood
  • The area is relatively temperate with mild winters, about 4 inches of annual rainfall and a (deceptive)  average temperature of 75 degrees





















There is even a formation named Elephant Rock.  How great is that?  Can you see the quiet giant in the rocks?

elephant rock

elephant rock cropped

100_1110100_1115Dedicated in 1935, Valley of Fire is the oldest state park in Nevada.  It was named a National Landmark in 1968.  There is an informative visitor’s center and a range of hiking trails.  I especially love any chance to see petroglyphs up close; they are such a reminder of those who lived and loved and hunted in this area long ago.  Their stamina and courage are always a good reminder that our lives—by comparison—are never that bad.  These petroglyphs are in a natural basin named Mouse’s Tank after a renegade in the 1890’s who used the basin as a hideout.  


petroglyphs close

If you ever get to Las Vegas, forgo the casinos and visit this magnificent state park.  It is easy to reach, being only 55 miles from the city and 6 miles from Lake Mead.  You will not be disappointed.  In fact, you may have seen parts of Valley of Fire without realizing it.  Many car companies have used the locale as a setting for their car commercials.  The television show Airwolf (1984-1987) used Valley of Fire as the secret hiding place for the show’s super helicopter; the show just called the area Valley of God.  Some of the movies that were shot at this state park include The Professionals (1966) with Burt Lancaster, an odd sci-fi film Cherry 2000 (1987) with Melanie Griffith, the Mars scenes from Total Recall (1990) with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a scene from Tranformers (2007) with Shia LeBeouf., and the scene of an RV crash in Domino (2005) with Keira Knightley.  Of course, my favorite is its use in Star Trek Generations (1994) when Picard and Kirk head to Veridian III to stop Soran.  In Kirk’s death scene, there are some fleeting vistas of Valley of Fire.  

What places in Nature do you like to visit?

What thoughts about life come to mind when you are experiencing Nature, enjoying its beauty and silence?




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“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”    White Elk

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”    Chief Seattle, 1854

“What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”   Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior & Orator

“And while I stood there, I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of things in the spirit and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.”   Black Elk

“O Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.”   Cherokee Prayer

“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its building of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”  Sun Bear, Chippewa

“There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled, which leads to an unknown secret place.  The old people come literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. Their teepees were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly.  He can see more clearly the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.”   Chief Luther Standing Bear


Autumn, Appreciation & Apple Pie


multi leavesFor one thing, the colorful leaves are stupendous.  But it is not just their colors.  I love what they represent:  the beauty inherent in change, the excitement of moving on, the importance of preparing for a new beginning. By their very presence, the colors say slow down and notice the beautiful details that erupt unexpectedly around us. They suggest that we, too, should slow down and give into the change that is inevitable every year.  We need to move on, no matter what is holding us back.  Although cold and snow are on the way, spring is not too far behind.  Enjoy this moment of transition and abundance. 

red leaves 3

red leaves 2

yellow leaves

red leaves side

dads fall tree 4

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, autumn is the perfect time to start reflecting on the year thus far and cataloging what all there is to be grateful for. 

Here are some of the things on my gratitude list:

Bishop 2One of the best things about this time of year is all the fall colors that delight the senses as well as the chance to escape into nature and enjoy the season.   

The cooler weather is such a great time of year.  What is better than needing to snuggle under an extra blanket?  And taking walks in the cool brisk air?

I really like my Kindle.  I was not sure I would, but it is convenient, helpful, and easy to use.  It gives me the feel of reading a real book as I flip the pages.  And I can even watch an occasional Star Trek or X-Files episode at night when I want to unwind. 

I am happier in my work over the last six months, and that is letting me take more time off to just do simple things like bake brownies and take treks into Nature and sleep in a bit on nice cool mornings.  Naps are good too.

dad as groucho marxDad is generally healthy and definitely aware and alert, so I get to build new memories with him on every visit—and I am able to visit weekly.  I made him trick or treat for some of the Halloween candy that he loves!   

Christmas is just around the corner—and I love, love, love Christmas! I am even planning a Christmas Open House, taking it on the road to be closer to my dad, so he can attend. Soon I will be pulling out the decorations and ornaments, thankful for all the memories they hold—and the hope of the season! 

But I am not crazy about shopping and crowds and wasting time standing in lines.  So I will just avoid the malls and order any gifts I am going to give online.  One of the good things about technology being so intimately integrated into our lives is that I can avoid hassle and congestion.  And the gifts I will give are the ones I WANT to give, not the oh-I-probably-should-give-something-because-everyone-else-is-this-time-of-year gifts.  Realizing that the gifts are not the season is something else to be thankful for.

I am developing a relaxation and reflection routine that will help keep me calm, aware, and appreciative.  Of course, this enhanced outlook reminds me that it is okay to move away from situations and people that bring frustration, stress and negativity into my life.

I always tend to read for escape—murder mysteries mostly.  And I enjoy that.  But I am also making time for reading “better” books, like Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.  Making that time in my schedule means I have been successful slowing down, not rushing around and overbooking my time.  Taking care of myself this way is a good thing.  I appreciate the balance and spirituality that are more conscious elements of my life these days.

Chocolate.  How can chocolate not be on my list?  It is luscious and healthy—just read what those doctor’s reports say about dark chocolate.  And this time of year, as part of the holiday celebration, I buy some good German Chocolates as well as the truffles and chocolate pecan clusters that Mom always loved.  And hot chocolate in the cooler weather is just perfection. 

My list is incomplete, but the list itself does not really matter.  It is the act of appreciation, of gratitude that matters.  Being appreciative puts things into perspective, helps show what is really important—and those reminders say the great big world is wonderful, but it is the little things, the relationships, the time with people that matter. Enjoy life.  Do not take yourself so seriously.  Take responsibility for what you do, but remember that you can say no to things and people that bring you down.  And remember to laugh—a good chuckle works wonders. And enjoy the beautiful colors that make the world so glorious in these cool autumn days. 

dads fall trees 3

In conclusion, I am sharing a comment on autumn and appreciation from an old Calvin & Hobbes (1995):  

 calvin love fall

calvin appreciate

calvin melancholy

calvin apple pie

What is your take on this time of year?  What are you thinking about lately?  What are you grateful for?  Me, I am adding apple pie—warm with some ice cream on top—to my list!  Why is it that Hobbes is always right?

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 “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”   George Eliot

 “It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.”   P. D. James

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”   Jim Bishop

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”   Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.”   Faith Baldwin

 “Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”   Lauren DeStefano

“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”    Lee Maynard

“I was drinking in the surroundings: air so crisp you could snap it with your fingers and greens in every lush shade imaginable offset by autumnal flashes of red and yellow.”    Wendy Delsol

Bishop 1

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Quick:  What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word horizon?

For me, what thundered across my mind was a cowboy riding off into the sunset.  Then a ship appeared, getting smaller and smaller as it sailed off for lands unknown.  If the images stopped there, the connotation might seem to focus on departure, ending, some unknown future, maybe even loneliness

But the truth is that HORIZON carries a much more positive message. Horizon is hope, expectation, transition, possibility, progress.  The horizon marks a liminal moment marking change or passage from one place or emotion to another.  Some dash across that horizon racing to tomorrow as quickly as possible; others tend to linger, stalled by something—fear, apprehension, contemplation—perhaps daunted by expectation.  Fortunately, the horizon is magnetic, always pulling us forward. Horizon is akin to a spiritual journey leading the traveler to new adventures and people, future prospects, potential improvements. . . to the next horizon.

Here are a few of my photos that capture the horizon as if it were a static moment in time.  What new beginnings do they conjure up for you?  Which quote below clarifies what horizon means for your life?  I wish you all a world of beautiful horizons to strive for, to capture the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

Mary's Lake Yellowstone

mono lake reflection



bixby bridge ca


face rock

flower and fence

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“[My father] had a name for the bottom of the sky–‘the hem of heaven.’”   Nancy Horan

 “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”   Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.”  Dag Hammarskjold

“Between two worlds life hovers like a star, twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge.”    Lord Byron

“Do not be in a hurry to succeed.  What would you have to live for afterwards?  Better make the horizon your goal; it will always be ahead of you.”   William Makepeace Thackeray

“A dream is the bearer of a new possibility, the enlarged horizon, the great hope.”    Howard Thurman

“One of the reasons that I accepted, once asked to do Star Trek, was to give a single child a chance to see the long thought, to see themselves some 400 years hence.  It occurred to me that we must ensure that we keep in front of children the ever-changing horizon.”   Avery Brooks

“We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.”   Konrad Adenauer

“When we look up, it widens our horizons. We see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries. No differences of caste or religion or race.”    Julia Gregson

“Hope is the moonlight filtering through the trees,
Hope is the silent prayer that we make in distress,
Hope is the promise that we make to ourselves,
Hope is the happiness that we visualize,
Hope is the horizon that we reach, if we try!” 
Balroop Singh   

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

“My teacher asked my favorite color. I said ‘Rainbow.’  I was punished to stand out of my class.”   Saket Assertive

On any given day, I am likely to give a different answer to the question, “What is your favorite color?” I guess you could say I am fickle.  I love the dark violet blue of the sky just after sunset. My favorite flowers tend to be purple (iris, Texas bluebonnet, lilacs), but oh those glorious pink roses.  The soft grey of wolves and pussy willows and kittens is amazing.  And when I see a big yellow dog, reminiscent of my long ago dog Murphy, my heart literally skips a beat.  I also love green, even speculating in the past that it was possibly God’s favorite color.

Today, my favorite color is ORANGE.  In all its shades and hues:  peach, terra cotta, sienna, vermillion, tangerine, amber, and coral just to name a few.  Orange is less vibrant than red but exudes more warmth than yellow.  It is earthy, enticing, and energetic.  According to one website, orange is associated with enthusiasm and creativity, vitality and endurance, curiosity and change. No wonder orange is a hue that speaks to me!

leaves 2

orange rose

bryce national canyon

poppies blurry

butterfly on ice plant

monument valley


angel arch

tulip fields

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I love quotes, but who would’ve thought I could find some about “ORANGE”?

 “There is no blue without yellow and without orange.”  Vincent Van Gogh

“Orange is the happiest color.”   Frank Sinatra

 “If love were a color, it’d be orange. Not because that’s a romantic color, but because it’s the sweetest.”  Jarod Kintz

“Orange is one of God’s favorite colors— He stuck it right there between red and yellow as the second color in the rainbow. He decorates entire forests with shades of orange every autumn. It shows up in sunrises at the start of the day, sunsets at the end of the day, and in the glow of the moon at the right time of night.”   Reggie Joiner

 “Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.”  Wassily Kandinsky

 “The woman had told the truth. The flowers were the color of sunset. And not the yellowish tinge of a lazy sun either, but the intense orange of a sun refusing to set on anyone else’s terms.”  Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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 This is my first time completing a weekly photo challenge.  I was inspired by the entries of two bloggers I follow: Tricia Booker Photography and  de Wets Wild.

This was fun!  What is your favorite color?

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