About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water. After twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live and work in the Ozarks and visit the mountain often. These are stories about the Ozark Wilderness written from a women deeply influenced by this special place.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Scarlet among Black and White

    The fog hung thick in the trees. Around noon, the fog momentarily lifted and a chorus of birds sang out. I slowly opened the front door and watched as birds gathered in the tops of hickory trees. Without thick foliage to hide among, they were easy to spot. I quickly retrieved my binoculars and sat on the doorstep bird-watching. I don’t feed the birds, because it is can be harmful for wild birds to become dependent upon humans. Therefore, my feathered friends seldom come here to party. This visit was a special treat.
    Upon close examination I determined that the flock was made up of a variety of different birds. Many of them were black-and-white warblers as well as other warblers species. I also identified a blue bird, humming bird, Carolina wren, and some nuthatches and flycatchers. I heard vireos and downy woodpeckers in the distance.
    Then, high in a tree top I saw the red silhouette of a graceful bird: the scarlet tanager. Unlike many songbirds, the tanager is not round but lean. His unmistakable red feathers glimmer vibrantly in contrast to his starch black wings. As I watched him perched, he eyed me. Then he sung his unique and varying tune, not his common "chick-burr" call. His elegant song echoed high above the chirping and twittering of the warblers.
    Then just as quickly as they had come, they all flew onward; leaving a quite emptiness in the naked branches. Soon the mist swirled back into the forest, and only the rain’s song remained. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

We are so blessed to live on such a beautiful planet! On Earth Day I always make a resolution! This year I will try to drive less and carpool more! Please, will you make an Earth Day resolution with me?
For me, earth day has always been a time for contemplation; a day for questioning my future and my past. This week I debated the toll our human population has had on the earth. Overpopulation is undoubtedly an issue but it is one that is either solved by death or lack of life. My cat gave birth to three kittens yesterday. Since she is the survivor, the only cat alive after a year, I rejoiced in their life. Still, I pondered the booming feline population elsewhere. In the face of ecological and economic disasters, life and death lead ambiguous rolls. This year has been filled with disasters: the earthquake in Haiti, radiation in Japan, tornadoes in North Carolina, and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, in my world, life trucked on as usual. I recycle, compost, garden, conserve, and use solar power, but then I drive sixty miles into town in my gasoline engine. And even if I am driving to an earth day celebration, I know the earth frowns.  
So I took a walk after a spring rain. and contemplated life and death, right and wrong, God and Earth. I think about all the little things I do or don’t do to help or hinder the earth. While walking, I listened to a vireo singing from the ticket across the pond. The vireos always sound troubled, asking themselves questions and then answering or coming to conclusions. The bird asks himself a series of questions. Then his tone changes as if answering himself or coming to a conclusion. This vireo sounded troubled as he contemplated a list of important matters and came to an only partially satisfying conclusion, his tones ending in higher or lower notes. I relate and feel akin to this small bird. I too asked more questions than I answered.  Today is such an important day, I am lost in questions. But what can I do or not do for something as grand as the earth? There I go again, chirping like the vireos, questioning everything. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MUD

Last night’s rainstorms lead to mud this morning. Two types of mud. The water made the soft soil muddy and since the lightening kept Zane and me restless, I drank coffee first thing. Sipping on muddy water, watching my son play in a mud puddle, I pondered the lesson I was teaching him, or not teaching him. So many parents say, “Stay out of the mud, yuck!” Then we wonder why people grow up to be disrespectful of the earth. If you start out by telling a small child that something is gross and they shouldn’t touch it, you can’t expect them to later learn to love and respect it. So I say, “Splash in the mud, yeah!”

Monday, April 11, 2011

April Storms

       Subconsciously I listen to the thunder and lightening building in my dreams. Then the splashing of the first raindrop wakes the mother in me. It sounds like hail. Sitting up I remember all the loose ends left in the yard: the stroller, rolled down windows, and forgotten toys. I leap out of bed. Flashes of light lead me downstairs, through the new moon’s night. Outside the rain feels cool against my naked skin. The earth is still dry beneath my feet. I move quickly in the darkness, paying attention to my surroundings when the storm’s flashing lights let me see. As I stand up in the back of the truck, I feel the storm building. Like eyes on the back of my neck, I know a lightening bolt is watching me. I stand tall and face the sky, letting raindrops fall on my face. The flash. The boom. Dashing inside, I feel the change. The tension releases and rain falls harder. Again the lightening leads me upstairs and into bed. I lie there listening to the rain, returning as if from a dream, dampened.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Swallow Tails Along the Buffalo

           We drove down an access road that leads to the headwaters of the Buffalo near, just west of Owls' Knob. The Rue Anemone is dotting the forest floor, while redbuds and dogwoods blooms lace the canopy. Ferns are uncoiling, buckeye is flourishing, and the leaves of maples, elms, and sumac are budding. Violets, buttercups, and bellwort speckle the emerging greenery with purple and yellow.
           The clear water glimmers an aqua color only seen in spring, before the algae makes the river appear green. The mild sun and warm winds stir up the butterflies. Yellow Swallow Tails and Zebra Swallow Tails dance and frolic along the shore in swarms. Their flighty wings do not take a moment's rest for the wind keeps them struggling.
           Often in summer, butterflies will dance together or collect upon the stain of a spilled soda. But today they were busy, tracing the waterline, examining the rapids, and visiting every budding leaf and bloom. I sat among them with my camera, but they couldn't wait for technology. They would not be captured in a frame. Such beauty can not be contained.
        
a yellow swallow tail beside the buffalo river
                  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Education and Avatar

I grew up close to the soil, the insects, the animals, and the elements. As we grew together, I learned about them as if they were part of my family; therefore, for all my life I had an ingrained respect for all living things. However, in this age of technology and urbanization we, and especially our children, are being drawn further and further from the earth and its fundamental role in our survival. Most people don’t recognize the beauty in the world all around us, it is so common place, we don’t see its magic.
Tonight I watched the movie Avatar. It reminded me of “Emerald Forest.” (A movie about the rainforest destruction from the 80's.) The message has been told time and time again: don’t destroy the natives, don’t cut down the rain forest, everything is connected! The moral is an environmental one. But no one listens. Avatar takes a different approach, an approach I wasn’t expecting at first. It turns the rain forest into a magical world we can’t help but in awe of and its natives into mystical people who don’t just believe in the forest but rely on it in concrete ways. It transposes the rainforest struggle onto another, unseen, planet.  I find this both encouraging and discouraging. It is encouraging in the sense that some producers will never give up and will face all odds to get their message across. In another sense it is sad that people won’t (and maybe still don’t) get the massage that is right in front of them, so they need it to be glorified into this magical world to appreciate. In the end of Avatar the natives keep their land (though their home-tree has been destroyed). But that is just Hollywood. In real life the natives all die or become civilianized. In real life the rain forest continues to disappear. If there is a mineral which is worth a million dollars a kilogram anywhere in the universe, you bet the greedy will send out troops to bomb every living thing in a thousand light years to get at it. We know the true power of greed.
So what do we do? What should you do? What should I do?   
Personally, I have fought the system. Like “” said, “I fought the law and the law won.” Now I have a new mission. I am a teacher. Education is an investment in the future, educating children gives enlightenment to the next generation. The future is bleak. Yet, our only hope is in the future—in hands of children and the people who educate them. So I work at the Ozark Natural Science Center. On a weekly basis I take 5th graders into the Ozark wilderness and teach them about nature. Once they understand the glorious world they live in, they might appreciate for what it is. Maybe even respect it. Only through appreciation and respect for the earth can we preserve and save the purity of our planet. I believe the best way to foster these values is through knowledge and familiarity. And as we all know: it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks but a child is like a sponge.
However, this is just what I am doing. Of course, it can not be your path, for we can not all walk the exactly same path. You must (and many of you already have) find your own path. You have to do something.
I just hope that you are conscious of the situation we face.
I hope you recognize the beauty of the earth.
I hope you realize we all are dependent upon it!