Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award ... Oh my!

Deirdre over at Writing Anam Cara, has honored me with a Thinking Blogger Award. I don't know what to say, except Thank You! This award comes from someone I greatly admire ... someone who I feel is a natural writer ... and one of the most honest voices I've heard. She tells it like it is, simply, openly and to the point. Here's to you Deirdre!!

Now I have the honor of giving awards to 5 bloggers who have consistantly made me think, consider and reconsider. It's a hard task. There are so many excellent blogs out there. I wish I had time to read them all. There are some blogs on this list that have already received this award from others, but they speak to my head, heart and soul and above all keep me using my brain. I'm greatful that they are out there!!

Visual-Voice - Susan got me thinking about starting my own blog after I met her at the National Cathedral in Washington where we were both attending an Insight Meditation workshop. Her spectacular photography and inspirational words speak of spirit and compassion. She asks big questions that have stopped me in my tracks.

Tongue In Cheek - Filled with whimsy, positive thoughts, beautiful words and images. When I feel low, I visit this blog. My attitude is quickly readjusted!!

Beyond The Fields We Know - Lovely images and inspirational words about the natural world and the simple things in life. Reading this blog is a wonderful way for me to start a day.

Paris Parfait - Tara has a wonderful worldly blog asking tough questions about world issues and politics. She joyfully shares her personal world in Paris and her fabulous antiques in beautifully presented photos.

Becca's Byline - Becca has already received this award several times. Her inspirational posts about writing keep me tapping the keys. Plus she's one compassionate lady!!

These bloggers can continue the meme by presenting awards to their five most thought provoking choices of blogs. Some already have.

The Thinking Blogger Award Rules:

If you were named above and choose to carry this meme forward, remember to tag only those bloggers who stimulate your cortex … or something like that.

Please make sure you pass the rules to the blogs you are tagging.

If, and only if, you have been tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

Optional: Proudly display your 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Yellowstone ... Controversy?

Winter Landscape, Yellowstone Park, February, 2007

It seems my post of Adventures of a Wolf Watcher has drawn some fire. But that is what makes for interesting blogging. There is nothing like a good discussion. Whether we all agree or not is of little importance. The point is that we talk ... listen ... share our views. The older I get the more I appreciate how many differing views there are about just about everything.

In her posting of March 22, 2007, Watch Wolves Watch You, Skyblu launches an attack at two blogs, one of them mine (on the site go to "Don't Believe It's True? Click Here"). Skyblu's opinion of visitors to and the management of Yellowstone is scathing. Read it for yourself.

Ranting can be good. Ranting can make you feel better. But what ranting doesn't do is make you think clearly and it often doesn't paint a sane picture of the ranter. Believe me, I know, I've been there!

Skyblu's frustration is evident and she probably wouldn't believe me, but I agree with much of what she has to say. Yellowstone National Park is NOT wilderness ... the wolves are "wild" but they are habituated to humans ... they are collared so that they can be tracked and studied ... the National Park Service charges an entrance fee to the park and there are "guides" that you pay who will find the wolves for you or just about any other animal, mineral or vegetable that you are interested in viewing.

My husband and I went on our trip arranged by Natural Habitat Adventures. The guides, qualified biologists, were great in every way ... respectful of the animals as well as the 10 other individuals in our group. We talked often of the reality of wilderness, living simply, living wild, what the government is doing to help or hinder the situation, what each of us can do to change the ways of this screwy world and how we can be agents of change. We did do some hiking off the road to see the wolves. Most of us in the group with the exception of one person, were well over the age of 40. One was 80+. We did not harass the animals, throw our trash out the van windows or behave poorly in any other way.

Yes, I hated the snowmobiles and noise they create, even the "quieter" ones allowed within the park. I hate that the wolves are collared. I hate that the wolves were eradicated from the park in the first place and I hate that we, human beings, with our big brains have the hutzpah to think we can reintroduce wolves back into the area and expect them to be wild, when all we do is manage, manage, manage. But personally, I don't know a better way and I was there to see for myself what we have done.

I chose to go on this trip because I had never seen Yellowstone, and yes, I LOVE NATURE! I am a naturalist and have been a guide at the Ivy Creek Natural Area in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I ushered small groups of school children and adults through the area to show them what "wilderness" is all about in this neck of woods, on the East Coast of America, where urban growth is off the charts and isn't seeing a slowdown. The "Board of Supervisors" here in Albemarle County seems to approve, almost weekly, one more subdivision of 5oo homes. We don't have enough water for the people who already live here. There are big plans to expand one of the reservoirs and pipe water from it into another ... but it's years in the making and no one actually knows how well that will really work and whether it will be enough for the population by the time it is finally in use.

We need to accept that the world is a different place than it was and that it will never be the same again. We are in a planetary crisis. There are simply too many of us humans and we all to often seem to think we know what is good for the rest of the masses. This is not the time for ranting. This is a time for discussion, for teaching, for learning and for being respectful not only to wolves or polar bears, but to a other people. Change comes with education, hard work and acceptance of what we have to deal with.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yellowstone Continued ...

Hot springs, Yellowstone Park, February 2007

These are not like the hot springs found in the western region of Virginia, where people go to "take the waters." These are really hot ... boiling hot ... you don't want to fall in hot.

Old Faithfull, February 2007

Coyotes, ravens and magpies feeding on an elk carcass, February 2007

These photos cannot in any way replicate the experience of being in Yellowstone. I wish I could take you there and show you what I saw. The excitement that the landscape provides along with the animals is stunning. On the day we left the park, heading south to the Grand Tetons, we traveled in a snow coach ... a van that moves on treads like a tank, rather than on wheels. We moved at about 35 mph while the snow was came down at about one foot an hour. It was like being in the most beautiful Christmas card in the world, with caps of snow weighing down the branches of Douglas Fir and other evergreens. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

Big Horn Sheep, Yellowstone Park, February, 2007

Bull Elk, Yellowstone Park, February 2007

Bison in the road, Yellowstone Park, February, 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

Adventures of a Wolf Watcher

Observing the Oxbow Pack, Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007

Our first few days in the park were spent in and around the Lamar Valley in the northeastern corner of the park. We stayed in a comfortable motel in Cooke City, a tiny end-of-the-road town just outside the park, altitude around 8,000 feet. I called it "Testosterone City," because it is a snowmobiler's haven, with people coming from all over creation to ride their motorized sleds through the mountains outside the park boundaries. Sadly, days before we arrived, 5 of them had been killed in a backcountry avalanche, conditions no doubt exacerbated by the noisy vibrations of their machines. Mornings and evenings in town reverberate with the sound of revving engines as strapping men, outfitted in cold weather garb, prepare for fast paced tours through some the world's most exquisite landscapes.

As "wolf watchers," our days started at 5 AM, with breakfast at 6:15, in the van and on the road by 7 or so. We had brought clothing to keep us warm at temperatures well below zero, but like the rest of the country, Yellowstone was suffering from "crazy weather syndrome." The mornings were cold with temps in the teens but by midday it was well up into the thirties and at lower elevations in the forties.

Our guides, Scott and Paul, both highly qualified biologists, know their subjects well, having been involved in research projects involving the park's wolf population. As I sit here at my computer, Scott is somewhere out in the backcountry tracking the wolves through their daily rounds, recording data that will further our knowledge of wolf behavior. Some members in each of the individual packs wear radio collars and on this trip we were guided daily to locations by other scientists picking up signals from the collared wolves. Once in the targeted area, the skilled eyes of Scott and Paul honed in on our subjects.

The first day out we spent the morning observing the Druid Pack, waiting off in the distance, to feed on an elk they had killed just before dawn. Unfortunately, the kill was almost in the road and when we arrived photographers with giant telephoto lenses and other wolf watchers like us, lined the road, waiting for an opportunity to watch the wolves feeding. The group that I was with moved off down the road to another location where we observed the same pack across the Lamar River, basking in the sun, waiting for the crowd of gawkers to leave. Later in the morning park rangers moved the carcass away from the road, but still the wolves hung back. Coyotes, ravens, magpies and eagles were not shy and feasted most of the day.

A member of the Druid Pack waiting to feed, February, 2007

Years ago when I was working in photography, I carried multiple cameras, big lenses, tripods and the rest of the gear neeeded for excellent photo making. These days that gear remains sitting in a closet while I go armed only with a digital point and shoot camera, prefering not to lug lots of equipment around. I also find that if I'm not trying to figure out how to get the best shot, I can experience whatever the subject is, whether it's a wolf or flower, in all of its glory without missing a thing. This photo was taken with that camera through a spotting scope that the guides provided for us. The pack was probably a half to a full mile away and all the observing we did, like bird watching, was done through the scopes and binoculars.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm Back!

Mammoth Springs Area, Yellowstone Park, February 2007

I'm back from an unforgettable trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming. It was a life altering trip for me ... a time when I was able to to once again connect to the things that are important to me ... the natural world, the great outdoors and this fabulous, one-of-a-kind planet we all call home. In recent years, as I've grown older and taken on added responsibilities, it's been easy to forget where my heart truly resides.

Although I live in one of the most beautiful spots on the east coast with lots of it's own wildlife and beautiful views, the world, as it speeds around me, has become surreal. Fast food, strip malls and road rage can be found just a few miles from my front door. It is disheartening to say the least and I am convinced that I must live a much simpler life. No, I don't plan on moving to the back woods. I want to learn how to live here, where I am, and to reduce my impact on the earth. It's hard ... it won't be easy ... but it's worth doing. I have two grandchildren, who after all, will be here long after I'm gone.

I'll be sharing more photos and words about what I saw and learned over time. In the meantime, I'm glad to be back and hope all is well with all of you!!