What's Blooming

Ongoing post with pictures of nature in the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia and the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


The term "surfing the Internet" is now long out of vogue, but the concept the phrase expresses remains one of the most powerful aspects of the world wide web. Today, while reading an online newsletter about technical issues with Windows, I clicked an inviting link to a talk about new technology for displaying video information. That talk was on a site (www.ted.com) where I soon found myself listening, watching Eve Ensler, Paul Staments, Michael Pollan and others. Along with all the great ideas presented, I was struck by two things consistent among all the speakers.

First, while many of the speakers talked about some of the very darkest sides of human nature or what we humans have done to this earth we rely upon, they did not dwell on the negative. Rather, they had all moved through the darkness of the storm to find solutions, and through those solutions they became personally empowered. The solutions didn't require massive government programs or giant corporations, they were available to individuals. By making a difference on 100 acres or in a small village or putting masses of information into a form usable by a school child, these people are making a difference and they focus on that difference, on the success and progress and potential.

Something else all of these speakers shared is passion. Yes, they've all had success and will likely continue to have success. But, I rather suspect, the passion came first. Passion is not very common in our society. My orchid and wildflower friends have it when they are in the field behind a camera or talking about their adventures and finds. I see fly-fisherman/woman who have it and golfers and businessmen.

Many people are passionate about this or that, or say they are. Real passion though is probably rare. Or maybe it is just expressed in different ways by different people. Somehow though, I think real passion is rooted in something that Joseph Campbell would call the hero's journey. Real passion goes beyond a personal drive and fanaticism.

Greater pens than mine have written of the lack of passion, the loss of personal focus and integrity, the damage and inevitable ruin of a society when gain and wealth and power become the dominate measure of success. As we experience the biggest (and very much predicted) global economic melt down, perhaps it is time to look not outward, but inward. Are we any different than the wall street banker? Perhaps in scale, but in motive, ethic?

The Bible says "without a vision, the people perish." Later it adds that a vision that is based all on possessions is also poison. Here's a couple of things Aldo Leopold had to say that are worth thinking about. Think about these things and remember, the fix to the worlds problems isn't in Washington or New York. It is in those people with the passion to change their own lives and influence the people around them. Wisdom from Aldo Leopold:

"We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive."

"Do we realize that industry, which has been our good servant, might make a poor master?"

"[W]e seem ultimately always thrown back on individual ethics as the basis of conservation policy. It is hard to make a man, by pressure of law or money, do a thing which does not spring naturally from his own personal sense of right and wrong."

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fall color

For many people, Fall is their favorite season. I too love the beautiful colors and the first crisp, cool nights after the late summer heat.

This year has been a little different with cool weather in August and September and down right cold weather this first few days of October. The weather seems so unusual and yet it is probably closer to normal than the past couple of fall seasons. I can remember seeing a couple of inches of snow fall in Blacksburg on September 15 back in the dark ages of 1968.

When I first moved to Bath County 16 years ago, a September or early October frost wasn't that unusual. Much of this area is likely to see frost tonight which will speed the change in color. Already many maples have changed and all have some color. By this weekend, the mountain roads will be a living painting like this photo taken last year on the road over the backside of Warm Springs Mountain to Clifton Forge--the road locals call airport road.

This weekend I plan to head over to White Sulphur Springs to the National Fish Hatchery for the annual Freshwater Folk Festival. The people at the hatchery are doing some amazing work in trying to save our freshwater mussels in addition to all the trout they raise. Now they are planning to add hiking trails, an amphitheater and other educational facilities.

If you plan to wander into the mountains this weekend for some leaf peeping, add a stop in White Sulphur to you trip. There are other festivals in the area and any road you take coming and going will be beautiful. I plan to head up to Cranberry Glades and across the Scenic Highway Saturday afternoon. A favorite fall trip for my daughter and I.

I see that another bog is slipping off a mountain near a wind project in the British Isles. But still, the focus on opposition to commercial wind turbines is on bats and birds and view sheds. More on what I see as an equally big issue next week. Enjoy your weekend. If you can't get out to see the mountains in fall, message me and I'll point you to some photos and short video clips we'll take this weekend.