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Posts tagged ‘Utah’

EARTH: Weekly Photo Challenge

“It is wholesome and necessary things for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”  Rachel Carson

Earth is such a glorious paradox. It is everywhere, so common and typical but—at the same time—so unique, showing beauty and variety specific to each place.  Earth can run alongside a road or stretch across an open field; it can reach the heights of a mountain or stay close to the ground, supporting blossoms.  No matter where Earth is, it is worthy of celebration.  Over the last several years, I have enjoyed Earth across several states as pictured below.








This post is my response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth.

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“I’m fascinated by beautiful scenery and what we have here on this Earth.”  Matt Lanter

“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and winds long to play with your hair.”   Kahlil Gibran

“Earth’s crammed with heaven. . .  but only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”   Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”  Henry David Thoreau

Traveling “That Ribbon of Highway”

Traveling “That Ribbon of Highway” (Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:  This Land Is My Land, 2 Verses)

Coral Reef National Park 259I have always liked Woody Guthrie’s ballad “This Land Is Your Land” that he wrote in 1940.  I was aware of the song from the 1960s when Peter, Paul & Mary sang it.  It moved me in great part because of the intimacy of the lyrics.  The beauty of this great country is truly yours, mine, ours, there for all to appreciate.  Even as a kid, I was aware that not everyone took the time to admire all the beauty around us. But it is always there.


Coral Reef National Park 288As an adult, I travel by car as often as possible because it allows me a closer connection to the myriad of landscapes across the country.  I like the sense of freedom and solitude such drives give me.  Since the roads—paved or not—stretch from coast to coast across all terrains, I can visit most anywhere.  I prefer country roads over city streets, because there I am more apt to see nature, get the feel for the open road, and glimpse the vast panoramas of land and sky.

ribbon of highway

Here—with a little creative editing—is my favorite verse from the Guthrie’s song.

“As I was [traveling] that ribbon of highway

I saw above me the endless skyway. . . .

While all around me a voice was sounding

This land was made for you and me.”

The photos are from some of my recent travels, demonstrating the freedom, beauty and diversity of American highways.  I live in California and am often drawn to the Southwest for some adventures as well.  What are your favorite places to be out on the open road, on “that ribbon of highway”?


Yosemite National Park




Sequoia National Park



Kings Canyon National Park





Eastern Sierra





Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park



See Canyon, Near Avila Beach




Big Sur Hills & Coastline





Drive to Mendota 063

MO & KS drive to Dodge City 004

Drive to KC in rain 004


Bosque de Apache outside Albu 010

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 047

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 248


Saugaro NP Rincon & West 009

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 227

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 325


CO national mon 2 & River Park 048

CO national mon 2 & River Park 062

CO national mon 2 & River Park 070

CO national mon 2 & River Park 127

Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 048


Coral Reef National Park

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Coral Reef National Park 123

Canyonlands National Park, Needles

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Canyonlands Needles & I 70 216

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 217

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 293

Zion & Kolob Canyons National Park

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As an adult, while I truly love the great beauty and diversity of this land of ours, I am equally aware of our country’s problems.  Guthrie was aware of the discrepancies in society as well, motivating a satirical if not cynical view to “This Land Is Your Land.”  He wrote the famed lyrics, in part, as a political protest.  Bruce Springsteen performed the song live in the 1980s, acknowledging the harsh realities evident in society that some say question the validity of the lyrics.  But through all the problems, the beauty and potential of America still shine through.  As Springsteen says in his opening comments, it’s “about one of the most beautiful songs ever written about America.” 

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 001I have visited Bryce Canyon National Park several times over the years.  Each visit is always unique, regardless of extraneous variables such as season, weather, and even park construction projects.  A major part of the grand spectacle comes from the many contrasts inherent in this place.  Although one of the smallest national parks at 56.2 square miles, its high elevations (8,000-9,000 feet) mean the park occupies three different climate zones as it ascends 2,000 feet.  In addition, the drive into Bryce Canyon National Park is deceptive: visitors first encounter meadows and sparse forests that hide the stupendous vistas that eventually erupt, offering 200 miles of visibility.

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mid view with clouds

Of course, there is also the fact that Bryce Canyon National Park is not really a canyon. Instead, the area is comprised of a series of amphitheaters, each one cut 1,000 feet into the sandstone cliffs. Its 18-mile scenic drive takes visitors to numerous scenic overlooks and hiking trails, providing dramatic overviews of the park’s stark vistas and red cliffs.

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Bryce Vista River

Bryce Maybe Sunset Pt after storm


Utah Prairie Dog

Utah Prairie Dog

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inspiration pt vista

inspiration point close


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BNP geo maps

Bryce Fairview PtThis magnificent park is one of many national parks scattered throughout Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. This four-state area is part of the expansive geological feature called the Colorado Plateau that—millions of years ago (mya)—was formed from sedimentary buildup, tectonic activity and ongoing erosion.  Bryce Canyon National Park, however, is one of the areas that was initially situated at the bottom of an inland sea.  The combination of this area’s special features—initially underwater, ongoing wind erosion complemented by the impact of freezing temperatures and annual rainfall—gives rise to park’s the most unique feature: hoodoos.

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 134Hoodoos are bulbous spires eroded out of the sandstone cliffs that are unique in the world to this national park in southern Utah.  These statuesque rock features look almost human as they populate the cliffs and terraces.  In 1936, Indian Dick was recorded sharing part of a Paiute Legend about the formation of this area and it ghostly apparitions:

“Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. . . . Coyote turned them all into rocks.  You can see them in that place now; some standing in rows; some sitting down; some holding onto others. You can see their faces, with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks. . . . The name of that place is Agka-ku-wass-a-wits (Red Painted Faces).”

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hoodoo 3

I love to sit and observe these hoodoos.  They seem so human that I swear I can hear their whispers as they huddle against the wind.  Some of the works by my favorite artists show individuals at one with nature who would be at peace wandering the trails that meander through these impressive cliffs.

Bryce Hoodoo Vista pano

Although these artists did not live in Utah, their work captures the spirit and people of the Southwest and along with the hoodoos themselves  remind me that past and present, nature and families, history and culture intertwine together in this special place called Bryce Canyon National Park.

Carole Grigg, Cherokee, Oregon

Carole Grigg, Cherokee, Oregon

R. C. Gorman, Navajo, California & New Mexico

R. C. Gorman, Navajo, California & New Mexico

R. C. Gorman

R. C. Gorman

Amado Pena, Yaqui, Arizona & Texas

Amado Pena, Yaqui, Arizona & Texas

Bryce Hoodoo 3

Bryce Hoodoo 5

If you have never been, consider visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.  It is a truly wondrous place.  Although native tribes had populated the area for centuries, this wondrous location was officially named Bryce Canyon National Park after a Mormon pioneer named Ebenezer Bryce.  The area was first preserved as a National Monument in 1923, becoming a National Park in 1928.  As a visitor brochure explains, “This dynamic mesmerizing place is like no other.”

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A Bumpy Trek to Angel Arch

100_0988Grand Canyon hazy day 152I am a creature of habit.  I love to travel to national parks, and if I find one that fascinates me I am apt to go back again and again.  Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon are two of my favorite destinations.  Each visit has enough differences (time of year, weather, my perspective) to make each trip unique.  However, the basics of the location do not really change.

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 280Another place I have visited several times now is Canyonlands National Park (Utah). Canyonlands was established in 1964 with the promise “to preserve an area. . . [of] scenic, scientific, and archeological features for the inspiration, benefit and use of the public.”  This park is comprised of four districts created by the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Although these sections appear relatively close on a map, there is no one road that connects them to each other.  The entrances to the various locations can be anywhere from two- to six-hour drives apart.  Each section offers wondrous beauty and several hiking opportunities.  The sections are named The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze, and River Trips.

I first visited Canyonlands in the late 1990s, taking several days to view various sections of the park.  This spring, I returned to The Needles Section for a second visit that I will share in a future blog posting.  At the time, I could not help but think back to my first visit, when I took a four-wheel drive tour to visit Angel Arch.  I had hoped to get out to that specific feature again, but it is no longer possible, at least not in a way that I can maneuver.  In 2004, access was limited to those who will make the strenuous nearly 18 mile round-trip hike out to Angel Arch.  Well, there is no way I can make that hike these days!

angel 5

Given this change in policy to better preserve this wilderness area, my first trip to Angel Arch will have to suffice as my only visit to this glorious feature.  Fortunately, it was a great trip!  At the time, there were three ways to gain access to Angel Arch.  One could hike to the area; this is the option that is still available today.  But private cars could also drive to the area, but four-wheel drive was needed as well as permits to limit the number of vehicles per day.  I took the third option by signing up for a four-wheel drive tour to Angel Arch.  When I made my reservations, I asked to be placed on the tour with the fewest participants.  I never have liked crowds.

Besides the driver, there were four of us on this specific trip. And we were a great combination.  All of us were in academia in some way.  I taught English and was an avid bird watcher.  Others represented the fields of history and biology with some expertise in wildflowers.  The guide/driver had never had such a small group before, so he was ecstatic.  Our size allowed him to take a vehicle he rarely used.  Instead of an open-air truck of some sort that sat up to about 15, we were in an enclosed Land Rover of some kind. It even had air conditioning! And rather than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, he picked up the makings for a gourmet fare from his wife who prepared meals at a hotel in Moab that provided meals for lots of local tours.  She had prepared more than she needed and we were such a small group, so she shared.  We had fresh made guacamole and a shrimp salad for lunch.



drive 3The wild drive out to Angel Arch bumped along Salt Creek Road.  A different tourist on a different trip offered a description of this route that sounds very accurate:  The vehicle veered “off the paved highway and headed up the Salt Creek ‘Road’—part tire-grooved sand, part splashing pools, part unforgiving step-stone slickrock.  On a four-wheel-drive scale of one to four, with four as the toughest, this route rates a three.”  This route follows an old cowboy trail along a winding canyon.  Water is present year-round, so the area hosts a variety of wildflowers in later spring and summer. The landscape was phenomenal.  But I do remember that at times we almost stalled out and other times we seemed to be climbing almost straight up and over boulders.  As long as I was not driving, this was fun!

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flower by rock

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vista 1

vista 7We stopped at various points to see the sights and stretch our legs.  The trip itself promised to take up most of the day.

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angel 1car areaEventually we pulled into a level area where we stopped to eat, close enough to walk a short distance to a good view of Angel Arch.  It was heavenly!  The Arch itself reaches up 150 feet and stretches over an expanse that measures 120 by 135 feet.  First discovered in 1955, the Angel Arch has become one of the most well-known sculptures in the area. At first several names were used to describe this glorious sculpture, but Chaffee C. Young’s name of “Angel Arch” was finally accepted as the most descriptive.  It is easy to see this angel, frozen in time, her wings back as she rests and enjoys the vista, perhaps offering up a prayer or a song of celebration.

angel 2

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angel 3

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I fully understand the concern that stopped the access of all motorized vehicles into the area around Angel Arch in 2004.  An attempt in 2011 to reverse that decision was not successful.  I think I would be fighting to keep access free from motorized vehicles.  But I sure am glad I had the chance to take the four-wheel drive tour out to Angel Arch years ago.  It turned into a great once-in-a-life-time adventure!




KOLOB CANYONS (Zion National Park)

Zion & Kolob Canyons 120Zion National Park is comprised of two sections: Zion Zion & Kolob Canyons 145Canyon, which is the larger and most popular section that was first protected in 1909, and Kolob Canyons, which was incorporated into the national park in 1956.  Kolob Canyons was initially named as its own national monument in 1937 before merging with Zion almost 20 years later. The road through this section of Zion was initiated in the 1960s.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 123

Horse Ranch Mountain

Horse Ranch Mountain

Today, Kolob Canyons still stands apart, located about 40 miles north of Zion Canyon. There is no one park road directly connecting the two sections. Instead, visitors reach Kolob Canyons at exit 40 off Interstate 15.  It is about an hour’s drive from Zion’s south entrance off Highway 9 to Kolob Canyons’ entrance. Because of this separation, fewer visitors make their way to Kolob Canyons, even though it is just as spectacular as Zion Canyon.

Paria Pt & Tucupit Pt.

Paria Pt & Tucupit Pt.

Kolob Vista 1 pano see text

Hanging Valley, Timber Top Mountain & Shuntavi Butte

Kolob Vista 2 pano see text

Nagunt Mesa, Elephant Arch & Hanging Valley

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 135

Zion & Kolob Canyons 133

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 125Although there is not a lot of evidence about the earliest settlers in the Kolob Canyons, the Anasazi or “Ancient Ones” left traces until around 1200 A.D.  When priests traveled through the area in 1776, the Paiutes were already longtime residents, growing crops, gathering seeds, and hunting small animals.  The Paiutes are still in the area today, but there numbers are very small.  The Mormons moved into the area in the 1850s, establishing farms and ranches as well as cutting timber, raising cattle and sheep, and diverting water for irrigation elsewhere.  The Mormons gave the area its name.  In their scriptures, Kolob means the star nearest to the residence of God.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 124Zion & Kolob Canyons 122When you visit the area, you will see that Kolob Canyons is well named: The area is truly spectacular.  Even though the area sits just miles from the interstate, you will feel like you are truly out in the wilds.  The scenic drive through the park ascends 1100 feet in five miles with moderately steep grades and many curves. Part of the drive follows an earthquake fault line that separates the gray Kaibab limestone cliffs from the reds and beige of the Navajo sandstone.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 138

Kolob Vista 1Just as in Zion Canyon, the primary carving agent for the deep canyons is water; in these canyons,  Taylor Creek and La Verkin Creek worked their wonders through the canyons.  The cliffs are comprised of colorful rock layers of sandstones, siltstones, limestones, and lava.  Arched alcoves and arches grace the walls. My favorite is Elephant Arch.  Pinyon and pine forests dot the landscapes as do occasional sage, oak, and aspen.

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Kolob Flower 1

Kolob Arch Photo from landscapeimagery.com

Kolob Arch Photo from landscapeimagery.com

At the right time of year, wildflowers add color and variety along the 10.6 mile scenic route (round trip). Mule deer are most likely to be seen in the fall and winter. There are several hiking trails throughout this section of the park.  The most strenuous hike is 14.4 miles roundtrip to see Kolob Arch, possibly the largest free-standing arch in the world.  I have never made that hike, but I am sure the arch is impressive.

Kolob Flowers 2

Kolob Flowers 3

Kolob Flowers 5

Kolob Elephant ArchCan you see the elephants in this Elephant Arch feature?  Visitors do have to look with a bit of imagination to see the herd, but they are there.

Kolob Elephant Arch Close

[Look at upper right corner for eye and trunk.  Then herd is in foreground, ears and trunks looking out!]



Zion National Park

The first time I visited Zion National Park was an accident—and I saw virtually nothing.  I had been on a trip, visiting various places in the Southwest.  Towards the end of the trip, after visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim, I was ready to head home.  I decided that instead of just driving straight to my hotel room in Las Vegas, I would take a detour to the Grand Canyon North Rim for a short afternoon visit.

But the North Rim was gorgeous, and a storm was moving across the canyon from the South Rim.  How could I not stay longer to watch that unfold?  But that delay meant that I was en route to my Las Vegas hotel room about 10 pm rather than earlier in the day.  It was dark.  It was cloudy.  It was raining.  I was blindly following my AAA Triptik that said the next turn was to pick up Highway 9 en route to Interstate 15.

Highway 9 took me right through Zion National Park via the 1.1 mile tunnel at the east entrance.  In the pitch black of that night with no highway lights whatsoever, that tunnel felt about 10 miles long.  All I saw of the park was some red dirt and an occasional frog that jumped across the road.

purple flowerindian paint brushA couple years later I planned a real trip to Zion National Park.  The light spring rains helped the wildflowers pop up everywhere.  And back then, I was able to drive all throughout the park, stopping at the various overlooks and trailheads.

white flower

Zion flowers 5

Zion flowers 3

Great White Throne

Great White Throne

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive runs north with stops at such vantage points as Court of the Patriarchs, The Grotto, Weeping Rock, and the Temple of the Sinawava. At some of these sites, visitors can hike along the Virgin River or sit on its banks to enjoy a picnic lunch.

River Walk by Temple of Sinawava

River Walk by Temple of Sinawava

Court of the Patriarchs

Court of the Patriarchs

The Sentinel

The Sentinel

Tunnel 1tunnel 3Highway 9, also called the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, took me east through the tunnel I had traversed before to the east entrance and the Checkerboard Mesa.  On this trip, I learned that the 1.1 mile tunnel on this route was opened in 1930.  It took 3 years to complete the project at the cost of almost $2,000,000.  Just imagine what it would cost today!

Checkerboard Mesa

Checkerboard Mesa

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Zion Virgin R 3Zion flowers 6A picnic by the Virgin River is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.  The flowers and butterflies are delightful. I could spend all day here!

Zion Virgin R 2

Zion Virgin R

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butterfly 1

west temple and tower of virgins joint 2Zion flowers 4This Spring, I returned to Zion National Park.  It is still bold and dramatic.  The canyon runs for fifteen miles and reaches an elevation close to 9,000 feet.  The area cover 146,597 acres; that’s 229 square miles.  The Zion Mount Carmel Highway twists and turns back on itself as it runs east through the park showcasing the sheer cliffs, high plateaus, and intricate alcoves and arches.  The contrast of the deep green of the pinyon, pine, and juniper forests and occasional wildflowers against the red slopes is impressive.

Zion big vista

It is no wonder that the area was named a National Monument by President William Howard Taft in 1909.  The goal was to preserve the “brilliantly colored strata of unique composition” and “extraordinary examples of canyon erosion.” In 1919, the area was upgraded to a National Park and its name was changed from Mukuntuweap to Zion, under the stupid* idea at the time that non-native names would better promote visitors.  It is the Virgin River that has cut this marvelous canyon that is almost a half-mile deep.  No wonder John Wesley Powel declared in 1895, “All this is the music of waters.”

Zion & Kolob Canyons 004Zion & Kolob Canyons 007On this most recent trip, it was crowded. In 2011, more than 2.8 million visitors were recorded at the park.  The number has surely increased in three years.  During this visit, there was virtually no designated parking space left anywhere.  Because of this increase in visits, Zion National Park now limits where private cars can drive from April to October. A free shuttle takes visitors to the overlooks and trailheads along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 017Zion & Kolob Canyons 016This spring, I was able to ignore the crowds by staying a roadside naturalist.  I drove the Zion Mount Carmel Highway from the south to the east entrance, enjoying all the twists and turns of that route and the passage through the tunnel.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 058Zion & Kolob Canyons 062Parking and some limited hiking was still possible at Checkerboard Mesa.  I figure my next trip will be sometime between November and April, so I can once again drive to all the great overlooks and pathways myself—and maybe avoid some crowds.

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buffalo 2buffalo groupOutside the park at the east entrance, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised to see a small herd of buffalo ambling along.  We were not quite so pleased to see signs for a local restaurant advertising buffalo steak and jerky on the menu. [I’m not a vegetarian, but I prefer to delude myself and see my meat only in supermarkets, not wandering in a field!]

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 076bull closeIn another field, a massive bull seemed to welcome any visitors who ventured near the fence.

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ZNP 4 the grand arch

En route back to our hotel, we drove back through the park to marvel once again at the massive red cliffs.

Zion pano 3


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Zion & Kolob Canyons 114If you have never visited this magnificent park, it is well worth the trip.  The cliffs and plateaus are substantial, ancient, vibrant, spiritual.  The landscape has been emerging for over 150 million years. Inhabitants started populating the area in small family groups roughly 8,000 years ago. Whenever I experience Zion National Park, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the grandeur of nature and am thus encouraged to reflect on my place in the universe and the spirituality that connects us all.  As Clarence E. Dutton expounds:  “There is an eloquence to these forms which stirs the imagination. . , and kindles in the mind a glowing response. . . . [It is hard to] exceed the wondrous beauty of Zion Valley.”   

Zion Temples

*Sorry.  The stupid label is mine.  Our government has done some stupid things over the years.  There is no denying that.  At least Zion National Park and other areas have been preserved.

Note:  Zion National Park has a second section called Kolob Canyons.  I will write about my visit there at a later time.

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“There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”  Mitch Albom

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

“A comely sight indeed it is to see a world of blossoms on an apple tree.”  John Bunyan

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no colour in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”  John Calvin

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”  Joseph Campbell

“I thank God for most this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural, which is infinite.”  e. e. cummings

“The magic begins in you.  Feel your own energy and realize similar energy exists within the Earth, stones, plants, water, wind, fire, colours, and animals.”  Scott Cunningham

“Everything in our world, even a drop of dew, is a microcosm of the universe.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature is the art of God eternal.”  Dante

“The snow, the wind, the sun and the sounds of nature, can all be reminders to you that you’re an integral part of the natural world.”  Wayne Dyer

“A man is related to all nature.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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