Odds and Ends…and Beginnings

Since I now have a Facebook account, I have been posting many of my photographs there to share with my immediate family instead of on my blog. I feel like I have rather neglected my Blog family, though, so I thought I’d catch you up with some of my favorite shots.

This one is simply a prairie beauty, the Fringed Gentian. Take a moment to read D.H. Lawrence’s poem Bavarian Gentians – he captures the dark, sensual mystery of this flower quite well. 

I found the gentians while on a walk with my son and future daughter-in-law. They represent the Beginnings in the title of this post. 

My son has asked me to do a special photo shoot of them next month down at Starved Rock in Illinois. I’m excited (and a little nervous!) about that.

Steve & I had a wonderful late summer road ramble last Saturday. We’re planning a 12-day camping trip for next month, possibly to Superior National Forest in MN. I’m looking forward to photographing more Fall color, mushrooms, and another Great Lake. 

And work continues at the Conservation Foundation. I try to get outside locally to remind myself why it’s important to preserve the natural spaces around here. 

Thanks for visiting this blog and Happy Fall! I hope you get outside often to enjoy the changing season. 

All photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2017. All rights reserved.

An American Adventure: Part Seventeen

Cave Tour and Home Again

You’re a sixteen year old boy who has just moved to South Dakota in 1890. There’s a cave in your backyard…and your mother is still in Iowa. What would you do? Grab a candle and some string and start spelunking! Alvin McDonald spend three years exploring the cave and keeping a daily journal of his discoveries. While presenting his findings at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he contracted typhoid fever and died at the end of the year. He was just 20 years old.

This cave’s natural entrance is only about ten inches in diameter. Depending on the pressure difference between the outside air and the cave air, it is either “breathing” in or out from this orifice. This Spirit Wind figures prominently in the creation story of the Lakota people. How were you breathed into being?

This cave differs from the others I’ve visited (Mammoth Cave, KY; Carlsbad Caverns, NM; Cave of the Mounds, WI) in that its formations are mostly boxwork, rather than stalactites and stalagmites. Boxwork is kind of like what you’d see if you built a castle of sugar cubes and mortared it with cement. The sugar cubes dissolve, and what is left is a kind of honeycomb of borders, criss-crossing each other. The calcite “mortar” that filled cracks in the limestone and dolomite is what remains. These structures were formed at the genesis of the cave, and not later by the action of dripping moisture, so they are speleogens rather than speleothems. (My new word for this section of the trip!) The ranger asked us what we thought it looked like. My first response was “a Jackson Pollack painting”.  

They also rather resemble cobwebs, giving the dimly illuminated cave interior an aspect of Gothic horror. Creepy and fascinating!

Cave tours are absolutely spellbinding, but they don’t make good photography hikes. Watching my head and my footing, looking around at the surroundings, asking questions and trying not to hold up the single-file line of tourists took too much concentration for me to get many pictures.

I was reminded of the phenomenal bat program at dusk at Carlsbad Caverns, but learned that Wind Cave doesn’t have one. The number of bats is far less and the egress far smaller than the natural arena at Carlsbad. (If you’d like to read about that experience and see a photo of the natural entrance at Carlsbad Caverns, click HERE.)

So, early the next morning, we headed home across the tall grass prairie of South Dakota, past Badlands (which we will return to see), through Minnesota, across the Mississippi River, and back to our Wisconsin home on the conservation prairie. The lawn hadn’t been cut yet this year and was absolutely lush and about waist high. It made us almost giddy! A good old Midwestern thunderstorm washed my car of all the insects and dirt we’d accumulated on our trip.

Five thousand miles, eight National Parks and Monuments, five hundred photographs, and four new brake pads later…I’m back at the computer, dreading the news about what is happening to our public land. I am so glad to have had an opportunity to walk in those places, to breath, to see, to sleep under the stars. I hold a hope in my heart that my children and my future grandchildren will have the opportunity to get to know the America that I visited on this journey, and that it will endure in its character. I may never know what they will inherit, but I will try to do my part to protect it.

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

THE BeZINE, Vol.2, Issue 12, Environment/Environmental Justice

This is what I’ve been working on. Besides editing, I wrote 3 pieces and Steve wrote one. Please click on the Be Zine link and enjoy all the contributions! I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about sharing. This is a hugely important arena, encompassing life, health, and EVERYTHING!

The BeZine

September 15, 2016

The Environment is a complex array of interconnections and interbeing (as Thich Nhat Hahn would say). Steve & I have various metaphors for this. He likes to refer to “his bowling pins”. He imagines setting up a toy set of pins on a lawn and bowling at them. When they scatter, you set them back up exactly where they landed and bowl again. This takes you all over the neighborhood in endless permutations. I think of “trophic cascades”, changes in an ecosystem that originate at an extinction or other dramatic altering of balance, similar perhaps to “the domino effect” but less linear. However you try to wrap your brain around it, the nature of Life on this planet is intricate and incomprehensible. We are wise to approach it with the utmost humility. Because we are intrinsically involved, however, we must not fear to engage. We are already…

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Tell Me: What IS Environmental Justice?

As a Contributing Editors of The Be Zine , we are currently accepting submissions for the September 15 issue (submission deadline Sept. 10) that will focus on Environmental Justice, which is also the theme of our 100 Thousand Poets (and friends) for Change virtual event on September 24. In order to propel the discussion into deeper focus from the outset, we invite and encourage contributing authors to ponder a few things about their perspective and their voice on this topic.

When we talk about Justice, it is sometimes assumed that people will agree on what is ‘the right thing to do’. However, as with anything else, our decision-making about Justice is influenced by our values, by the things that we deem ‘special’, ‘important’, or ‘sacred’. I propose that there are (at least) three categories of valued environments, or ‘Holy Ground’: Nature, Place and Community. Think about these three different arenas and how you see Justice being applied to them.

For example, if Community is your value, you may feel that Environmental Justice has to do with how people are impacted and how human activity creates change. If Place is your value, then questions about Justice probably will involve a particular area with borders of a physical or conceptual nature. It may be that feelings of injustice are felt in terms of ‘This, not That’ or ‘Us, not Them’ or in a desire to see a Place resist change. If Nature is your value, then you may see Justice in more fluid terms as the balance of resources between producers/consumers and prey/predator is in a state of constant flux with perhaps no ultimate goal.

So, as you sit down to write about Environment Justice in your unique voice, identify your values. Perhaps use the lenses of Nature, Place and Community to focus. What is important to you? Why? How does it affect your decision-making? What factors impact this ‘sacred’ ground? How do different cultural models or systems impact your cherished home? What feelings arise in you – what empathy for Living Things or Living Habitats? What fears?

Thank you for spending time with these concepts and these questions. Your presence, your life energy, your embodiment of love is a gift that we are privileged and honored to receive. Please, share your thoughts, your words and pictures with us!

— Priscilla Galasso and Steve Wiencek

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: Over the Top

Lately, the world seems to have fallen to new depths of misery. I’m sure ten examples have just popped into your mind. Into this awareness, I want to insert illustrations of the fact that at the same time, the world is more awesome than we can imagine.  You’re having an experience that is very pleasant; you’re smiling; you’re happy.  Suddenly, something happens that kicks it into another level.  For example, my brother’s wedding reception. It takes place at the Winchester Mystery House, which is already very interesting and fun. Then, the Hora Loca begins to play and a new element is introduced….

 

Hora Loco dancer

We were not expecting that! Or that my 80-year old mother would join her on the dance floor.  Here’s another…

I was working 5 different part-time jobs when I was offered a job as the Administrative Assistant at a conservation foundation. That meant that I would work in a farmhouse with just one other employee (the Executive Director) and help protect the natural environment. I took my camera to the top of one of the hills on our lands. It was the first day of June last year. The weather was perfect. The vistas were lush. And I was getting paid. Then, this swallowtail came by to welcome me. 

Vivid

The goodness of the real world transcends suffering, I have found. But you have to be open to receiving it as such. A simple, new breath can be the cherry on top of everything. Breathing in, I am alive. Breathing out, I am grateful. 

Cherry On Top