Thursday, July 31, 2008

This Week's Quicky....

Down to the last week of the Freshwater Wetlands Systems module of the Florida Master Naturalist program. Tonight I deliver a brief interpretive program on invasive plants and animals and our group project is due for presentation on Saturday. Next week I start the Coastal Systems module -- so no rest for me! Below are a couple more "Florida Project" photos. Enjoy!

Black Creek - Clay County, Florida

Red bellied woodpecker performing tricks on our backyard feeder.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Busy Times...

Just a quick fly-by to drop a couple of words... I've been taking the Freshwater Wetlands Systems course for the Florida Master Naturalist Program, and will be taking the Coastal Systems course next, and so will be pretty tied down time-wise for the next six weeks. Bottom line: very little time to post much of anything. Will do my best to at least get a few photos up per week (I can always make time for my camera).... Here are a couple of my flying buddies:

A Zebra Longwing (Florida's State Butterfly) in our garden

A wood stork with a prize from the duckweed. Jacksonville Zoo

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Florida Project

Before the European settlement of Florida more than 50% of my adopted home state was freshwater wetlands -- wetlands that provided habitat for all manner of native flora and fauna, that provided natural flood control, that cleansed the groundwater aquifers of pollutants, that created natural beauty that was appreciated by too few for too long.

A "strand" swamp - Jennings State Forrest, Middleburg. Florida

Since the arrival of our ancestors, more than 30% of the formerly existing wetlands have been drained for residential development, "flood control", and agricultural use. The process continues, particularly along the coastal and recreational corridors. As I think back across the 22 years that we have lived in east-central and northeast Florida, the amount of human encroachment on the natural environment of the Sunshine State is astonishing. As a northern invader myself, I understand the allure of Florida -- it's warmth and economic opportunity. Admittedly, I have to keep my hypocracy tucked into a back pocket when I turn a critical eye and voice or vote upon those who would continue the development trend of the last century. But I have learned to love this place -- this ecology -- all places and native environments, really, but Florida all the more because I live here, and have learned to appreciate it's simple, original, natural gifts. Thus The Florida Project. My own effort, as a single voice, as a member of larger organizations, as a citizen-voter, as a professional, as an artist, a photographer, a songwriter -- to make some small impact to preserve, at least in memory, some piece of this miraculous natural geography.
Black Creek -- a tannic "back-water" river -- northeast Florida

I'm not at all sure what the end-product of this will be -- a book, a blog, a consortium of existing nonprofit organizations, a CD, a documentary, some combination or all of the above. But something it will be. Made out of the threads of my spare time for now as I continue to meet the calling of an important and very meaningful career, something it will be... it is far too important for it not to be. Stand by -- and let's see what happens.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday In The Garden

I went to church this morning. The altar of my choosing (my choice as I believe religion to be a singularly personal determination) was the leafy edifice of my backyard gardens. My blessings there are almost, now, too numerous to count. I was ministered to by the energy and elegance of hummingbirds...

I was inspired by the naturally perfect choir of mocking birds and cardinals, singing ethereal anthems of sheer joy, dressed in their liturgical cassocks of gray, white, brown and crimson.

I was comforted by the prayers of butterflies, baptizing themselves in the sweet nectar of our phlox, porterweed, lantana and pentas.

And I gave an offering of corn, peanuts, and black seed -- eagerly collected by the phalanx of squirrels living in oaks, magnolias an pines of our neighborhood.

My Sunday morning peace is found in the lessons learned in our suburban Florida backyard where we have built (are building, actually) a small sanctuary - a tiny place of shelter for ourselves and a few of the other creatures who have risen from the earth according to nature's grand design. Hallelujah and Amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nature's Fireworks

I am one of those unusual Americans who just doesn't much care for the usual fourth of July fireworks displays -- especially the neighborhood another-spent-bottle-rocket-on-the-roof kind that started on our street before July even turned its page on the calendar. I startle easily - always have. Never cared for sudden explosive noise. I don't like the crowds. I'd like to think that the celebration of our patriotism can be rooted in something other than recalling the sounds and sights of warfare. That's not to say that I won't be flying old glory on the front of the house -- we do at every opportunity. I just prefer my freworks to be of a subtler, more peaceful, serene and natural variety. Like this....

My choice for celebrating our Independence Day is to honor those who gave their lives for my freedom by sharing the gifts of beauty and creativity that their sacrifice provided me the opportunity to capture. God bless America! Have a safe and happy 4th no matter how you choose to spend it, or wherever you are.