Weekly Photo Challenge: Structure

I’m gonna show my age and admit that when I hear the word “structure”, I can’t help remembering Madeline Kahn in Paper Moon telling Tatum O’Neill that she’s got good ‘bone struck-cha’. 

How my sisters and I giggled over that line!

I do love the resilience of ancient structures, man-made…

…and natural. 

I wonder what structures will crumble in my lifetime, and which will remain for my children’s children. What kind of masonry am I working on now? I work for a Land Trust. I like to think I’m working on building a network of green space that will resist development…forever. 

 
Structure

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ooh, Shiny!

“Hey, look! A plastic castle!”

No thank you. Plastic? Yuck. Man made? Not interested. 

My favorite diversions, distractions, and delightful detours are definitely of the flowers-and-butterflies variety.

Polygonia comma

Gray treefrog

Blue vervain

But to tell you the truth, these things are not merely beautiful bagatelles. These are the elements of a grand eco-system, the intrinsic parts of a working Universe. And so I am trying to be that disciplined, working person that focuses on protecting these habitats. They are not my distraction, then, they are my day plan. 

Ooh, Shiny!

An American Adventure: Part Four

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I was 9 years old and seeing the mountains of Colorado for the first time the last time I was here. Frankly, the only thing I remember of it from back then is the name. It kind of scared me.

 

It is a National Park, a deep gorge, a wild river, a cross-section of geography, and a wilderness where humans are temporary visitors at best. From the Visitor Center parking lot, a glimpse of the scale of  its depth is merely a tease. 

 

After a good night’s sleep, we walked the canyon rim from the campgrounds to the Visitor Center and got a closer look. 

The early morning silence, the delicate frost in the shadows, the warm fragrance of juniper and sage, the glimmer of rushing water at the canyon floor…I had stepped into a holy sanctuary that Sunday morning and wept with awe and joy…and sadness.I feel the threat to wild land as a pain deep in my gut. The river that carved this place is running high this year and being “managed” and diverted and manipulated to provide irrigation and recreation and serve a host of human needs. I don’t know how all the demands are weighed on this issue. My desire is to listen to the place itself, to let it simply Be, and to learn what I can with my brain, my heart, and my soul. 

A volunteer guided us on a wildflower walk later that afternoon and introduced us to Western species new to us. Many of the Gambel oaks had just budded when that late snowstorm hit, and their tiny, crisp, shriveled leaves looked woefully sad. They are a hardy bunch and will hopefully recover, but the acorn yield in the fall will likely be diminished. The colorful blooms along the trail seemed to be not at all harmed. 

This plant tour proved very useful. We saw a lot of Oregon grape, which is quite common and looks a lot like poison oak when it shows up as just three leaves with a reddish tinge. However, it does get additional leaves and yellow flowers which make it obviously distinct.

The campsite we found later in the Manti-La Sal National Forest was covered with it. I was glad to know I wasn’t risking a poison oak rash every time I went in the brush to pee!

Weekly Photo Challenge: EARTH!

I plan to celebrate Earth Day 2017 by helping the conservation foundation I work for plant 5500 trees on 11 acres of land that has been farmed for a long time. White oak, pin oak, red oak and shagbark hickory seedlings will be growing up around monarch and pollinator meadows for years to come. Eventually, the area will resemble more closely the hardwood forests of the area prior to European settlement.

I think a lot about the impact of the human race on our planet. 

I am trying to have a harmonious relationship with the Earth. It’s not easy. So much was put into place before I was born. I feel locked into an abusive and foregone conclusion. I greatly admire those who break out of that and live courageously and radically “off the grid”. I do what I can, beginning with raising my own awareness and spending more time listening and observing. 

How do you get to know a planet? It’s a complex organism. So many moving parts…

And I have been deeply moved. You too?


Earth

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green is Easy on My Eyes

I work for a Conservation Foundation. We try very hard to be green! Protecting watersheds and wildlife habitat while preventing the development of natural lands into human-dominated environments is a labor of passion and commitment for me. Green is not just my favorite color and the highlight in my eyes, it is my preferred world view! Here’s my green gallery:


It IS Easy Being Green!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Local

What a coincidence! Here I am packing up my home and home business and getting ready to move to the place where I have a part-time job with a Conservation Foundation. Why? So that I can live locally with the land that I’m working to conserve. And this week’s word is LOCAL. 

Living where you work, working where you live, eating what grows on the land where you live, using your energy to shape your life — not extravagantly, not wastefully, but sustainably — is important to me.  I think it makes good, common sense. So, here’s a gallery of my office, my new home, and the surrounding area that’s in the land trust. 


Local

Weekly Photo Challenge: Water, Water, Everywhere

“Death Valley is all about water.” So we were told by Jay Snow, the National Park Service ranger, an Okie character with an over-the-top presentation.  It’s the lowest point in the country, parts of it falling below sea-level. It would make sense that gravity would bring a lot of water to that place. And it does. It’s just below the surface of the salt flat. Fascinating! Water does not behave in ways we often assume it will. It remains mysterious, a shape-shifter.  It goes from warm color droplets…

droplet

…to sharp-angled crystals…

snow

…it will eventually dissolve and transform even rock, paper, or scissors.

time cave

Water is life, practically the very definition of it. What would we “dew” without it?

maple drops

droplets

It may threaten to destroy us; at the same time, we can’t live without it. 

mystery 5

For all of these reasons, H2O commands awe, wonder, reverence. We ought to treat it with a great deal of respect and not tamper with it in its natural state unadvisedly or lightly. 

intricate 2

 
H2O

Weekly Photo Challenge: Precious Few

“After a ten-fold drop in the population of the eastern monarch butterfly population over the last decade, a 2016 study predicted an 11%–57% probability that this population will go quasi-extinct over the next 20 years.” Wikipedia

monarch

Monarch butterflies used to be so plentiful. I would see them as a child living in the Midwest and study the way they emerge from their chrysalis in school. The Fall breeze was always full of milkweed seeds floating by. Their habitat was ubiquitous – all that open field land hosted several species of milkweed, the Butterfly Plant. When we moved to California where I went to High School, I would see Monarchs by the thousands at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz hanging in great clusters on the eucalyptus trees.  Then I moved back to the Midwest and noticed how quickly all that open field land, the prairies, was being developed into shopping malls, parking lots and subdivisions.  Here in Milwaukee, we had a Monarch Trail on the County Grounds where there was about 350 acres of open land. Then the city decided to put in a “research park” – meaning technical buildings and apartments – and reduced the Monarch habitat to 11 acres adjacent to the interstate that’s been under construction for 2 years…so far.  Once a common insect, the Monarch Butterfly is becoming increasingly rare on the landscape. The life of this wonder includes the amazing feat of migration, which is also being threatened by climate change.

The age of Kings is just about over, as the modern world encroaches more and more on his kingdom.  I found this one at George W. Mead State Wildlife Area during the weekend of Independence Day. 

monarch prince

I wish you a long life and numerous progeny, Little Prince. 

Rare

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dangerous Curves

The environmentalist in me immediately thought of the graph of carbon emissions from “An Inconvenient Truth” with Al Gore up on a scaffolding trying to get across the frightening point of our increasing threat to our planet. But I don’t have a photo of that.  I do have symbols of how man-made things are eclipsing the natural. I have playground curves with a very small moon…

P1040764

and outdoor art thrown up against the sky…

025

and wheels, which have dominated the environment for about a thousand years now.

Finally, I have a symbol of Natural grace, curvy and sharp and wild. A yucca plant.

cactus curl

I think the most dangerous curves are the ones we humans impose. 

Curve

All That Matters

(this is a featured article in this month’s issue of The Be Zine. Click here to see the whole thing.)

Once upon a time, there were a bunch of Big Brains who decided that living things (which they rarely called ‘living beings’) needed to be neatly organized. Grouping things together based on similarity was important to them for some reason. So they made up categories and named them Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, in succession from broad to specific. Then they had to remember these categories, so they memorized “Kindly Professors Cannot Often Fail Good Students” – apropos of nothing much. (Personally, I think “Kindly People Courageously Offer Fauna/Flora General Sympathy” might make better sense.)

 Meanwhile, some other Big Brains decided that everything in the Universe was made by one Creator and that He gave humans dominion over all the other animal species on Earth and gave every plant for human use. That made them feel they were Most Important among the creatures on the planet. They felt very comfortable with that and valued themselves, and those that looked and acted most like them, very highly. 

As for those creatures who were terribly different from them, well, they were kind of “icky”.

 Well, these Big Brains were very clever. They prospered and multiplied (and divided and conjugated and came up with quantum physics). They learned how to make a Big Impact on the Earth, making things they liked out of the raw materials Earth had. And every year, there were more of them. They liked to be comfortable, so they tried to eliminate things that bothered them. Like locusts. grasshopperAnd dandelions. Dandelion

They liked to be powerful, so they claimed victories over other living things that had power. Like lions. StoryAnd giant sequoias. 

Sequoia sempervirens

Gradually, they noticed that some of the other living things (or Living Beings) were disappearing completely. buffalo Some people thought that was a shame, especially if the thing was useful or furry or had a face. badger Others noticed that when one type of thing was gone, things began to change for the rest as well. bee happy A few Big Brains began to ask some really Tough Questions about why things on the Earth were changing so quickly and whether the Big Impact of humans had anything to do with it.

I can’t tell you the ending of this story. Perhaps the Big Brains will disappear like so many other Living Beings did, scale 2 and Earth will go on without them. intricate 2 Perhaps the Big Brains will become less numerous, less dominant, and Earth will go on with them. horse and rider Perhaps something altogether different will happen. It doesn’t really matter how I tell the story.

What does matter?

Well, here on Earth, ‘matter’ can also mean every Living Being boxy frown and every non-Living Thing.

What we Big Brains decide to do with all matter will matter and will help tell the end of the story. migration stop

© 2016, essay and all photographs by Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved