Thursday, April 18, 2019

A wandering adventure

"Bring your own blindfold," said Mark, as we departed the town of Wellsboro, traveling to an undisclosed location that is home to some Pennsylvania rare and endangered plant species. No, there were no blindfolds; this was Mark's way of using a little humor to stress the importance of keeping the locations of rare plants confidential.

The three of us had a great time wandering through the woods (thankfully one of us knew where we were and where we were headed!) and getting a look at some rare species along the way. While we wandered my mind also wandered about themes of worship and about love.

Worship and love; these are two central elements having to do with being a disciple of Jesus that stand out as prominent in my life at present.

As I take time for worship, orienting my life in relationship with God, I want to grow into a heightened awareness of the unique ways that all forms of life praise God simply by being what each has been created to be and by doing what each has been made to do; birds by flying, fish by swimming, trees by reaching trunk and branches skyward, and young orchids, by taking nutrients from various types of fungus in the soil and eventually maturing into the ability to make their own energy from sunlight like most other plants.

Jesus is recorded as saying that the most important commandment is this; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength...and love your neighbor as yourself."

As I consider all that has life as a neighbor, and especially the rare plants which Mark was kind enough to show Dan and I today; and considering that one of the major pressures that led to the endangerment of at least one of the species of plants pictured below is habitat loss, it seems important to note that the best way to love these rare plants (to treat each as a neighbor) is not to smother them with care and concern and certainly not to move them into a more protected location. The best way to love these rare plants is to give  them space.

As God who is at work within us prepares our hearts and minds to love our fellow human beings and all that has life I am hopeful that we will be empowered to appreciate these rare plants for their beautiful and unique qualities as well as the praise each sends forth and to love them by giving them the space each needs to thrive.

(Left to Right: Me, Dan, and our guide for the day, Mark)

(pitcher plant)

(Jewel-leaved orchid)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A serious affinity for chocolate

I met someone the other day who has a serious affinity for chocolate; so much so that it seems late-night snacks of Hershey’s bars were in effect. I even had a small stash of individually packaged Snickers mini’s that vanished when I wasn’t looking (they were stolen!). This individual ate so much chocolate (my chocolate) that they were, as they say, “climbing the walls” full of sugar energy.

Well, this individual was quite literally climbing the walls between the kitchen and the attic!

The house mouse is a non-native species to North America that may have a tendency to become invasive, resulting in the extirpation of native North American species where populations of the house mouse have become well established.

I can think of at least one other species that may exhibit a strong affinity for chocolate, is not native to North America, and may have a tendency to become invasive, resulting in the extirpation of native North American species where populations have become well established. Do you know who it is?

The greatest command that Jesus gives is to love God with all of our faculties and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Here are some photos documenting our catch-in-the-kitchen-and-release-in-the-forest experience with one of our wild neighbors from yesterday evening into today.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Growing HOPE for a sustainable Tioga County Homeless Initiative

Darren explained to me that the land use around the Tioga County Homeless Initiatives shelter is soon to be an operation in permaculture. Permaculture, he said, is when all of the green space available is used to grow things that can be eaten or sold.

I was there this evening with Tony to drop off the dinner meal to the shelter that was made by Bonnie. One of the first things I noticed upon our arrival was all of the garden space that is being prepared there. Take a look at the pictures below; there is the raised garden beds in the back yard, the grow room (with reflective panels and solar lighting), and last but not least, the worm farm which has been affectionately named "Wormville."

Things are set to be a very interesting growing season this year on the property owned by TCHI and it's because Darren, who has experience in different types of farming operations, has volunteered his time, energy, and creativity to help the Tioga County Homeless Initiative to take steps towards increased financial and ecological sustainability.

Talk about living into community with all that has life! This should allow for at least two very important things to happen simultaneously; one, for shelter residents to enjoy healthy homegrown food out of garden spaces they have helped tend, and two, a reduced carbon footprint as TCHI does their part to extend kindness to all that has life.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to hearing more about this permaculture operation as the story unfolds, and as a resident of Tioga County I'm hoping that I am able to give some of my time to help with the gardening.

(Tony on the left and Darren on the right)

Monday, April 15, 2019

A bumble in need

I found this bumble bee upside down on the sidewalk today. At first I feared that it might have come into contact with deadly lawn treatments; but thankfully that wasn't the problem. It was just too cold and windy today. After several days of relative warmth today the temperatures took a plunge, just enough to cause the insects who have emerged from their wintering sites to be slowed into a state of torpor.

I placed the arm of my jacket near the ground and the little bumble was able to slowly crawl onto it. The warmth from my body radiating through the jacket was just enough to bring some life back into this little insect; but I didn't want to warm it up too much because I knew that would increase its metabolism and I didn't see very many flowers around. It certainly was not a day to be flying from flower to flower as it would on a warmer day.

So I gave it a space of temporary refuge under a bucket in the back yard. I placed rocks around it to hold the bucket in place so the wind would not blow it over. I left an open crack on one side where the bucket meets the ground so the little bumble can emerge when it wants to.

When I pause to consider what perilous times these are for pollinators and how vulnerable this bumble was on the sidewalk these words of Jesus flash through my mind, "whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do it to me." I do believe that when we take time to give ourselves in service to our wild neighbors, especially those most vulnerable, we give ourselves in service to the Lord of all creation himself, Jesus Christ.

I hope we will all be given opportunities this week to take time to care for the most vulnerable of our wild neighbors.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Power to change, love for all

Today I’m reflecting on the well-known and popular (for good reason) scripture John 3:16 with regard to wildlife and wild spaces. It was the combination of this-morning's Tiadaghton Audubon Society birdwalk at Hills Creek State Park (photos attached) and my morning reading from the Bible that led me to this reflection today.

“God loved the world so much that God gave God’s Only son, so that whoever believes in him may experience eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Here “the world” means all of the great mass of life on planet earth in all of its beauty and diversity (mountains, valleys, oceans, birds, trees, flowers, insects...the whole and all of its parts with none left out).

“Eternal life,” means at least two things; life without end, and the FULLNESS of life.

What this means is that, according to the Bible, our experience of the fullness of life can only happen within the scope of God’s love for the whole earth and all of its inhabitants.

Furthermore, in Paul's letter to the Colossians he writes that “God made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)

Somehow God makes peace even with wildlife and wild spaces by means of Christ's blood on the cross. In Christian tradition the power to experience a changed heart and transformed life is received as a gift through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Christ becomes a victim of the same sin (failure to love) and death that we all experience and emerged from the grave having overcome both.This most powerful power in the universe is the love that leads me to pray the following prayer:

“Change the desires of my heart O God, so it beats in tune with yours. And let this change you’ve brought about within me find expression in my living.”

Do we trust God to change the desires of our hearts? Do we believe that God loves us and wants the best for us?

In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are given the most profound example of what God's love looks like, and we are given the reality of God's presence. This reality of God's presence has the power to change the hearts of people and empower people to work towards establishing peace on earth; peace among people and peace between people and everything that has life on planet earth.

“God loved the world so much that God gave God’s Only son, so that whoever believes in him may experience eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I'm not saying that God doesn't love the world and all of its wild inhabitants in other ways, but I am suggesting that one of the most profound ways that God loves the world is by changing the hearts of people (by the grace of God in Jesus) who have the power to change the world so wildlife and wild spaces can thrive (and in doing so experience the fullness of life).

Some years ago God set my heart ablaze with love for all that has life; as I have striven to follow the example of Jesus in the ways I live as a neighbor to wild creatures and wild spaces every day this is my prayer:

“Change the desires of my heart O God, so it beats in tune with yours. And let this change you’ve brought about within me find expression in my living.”

(Most of this morning's bird walk participants)


(redback salamander)

(same redback salamander)

(winter firefly: no bioluminescence in this species, but a relative to two other PA species of firefly who do)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Young of the year!

"There are two little ones!" I said to Jamin, as he and I watched the eagle nest from the other side of the creek. Sure enough, two little fuzzy headed bald eagles could be seen from our vantage point. The one adult was clearly keeping a close watch on its surroundings and being faithful to tend its young until its mate returns with a meal. We never did see the other adult, but then again we were only there for about 15 minutes.

After that I had the joy of watching over the local heron rookery with my new acquaintance, Jamin.

Later in the afternoon I had plans to visit a woman who is currently in Broad Acres Nursing Home. I had a nice conversation and time of prayer with Beverly and Kathy, and one of the high points of my visit was in sharing my photos of the morning's experiences of nesting birds which inspired each of them to share stories of their experiences with animals both wild and domestic.

There is so much joy to be had in living into community with people out on the trail as well as in confined spaces, and finding ways to experience and reflect upon the beauty and wonder of wild spaces and wild creatures. To do it all in Jesus' name is the best of all! We can do anything good in Jesus' name when it is done in the spirit of love and inclusion which Jesus modeled in his life and ministry.

One more nice surprise was opening my delivery from Vistaprint when I got home; a Creek and Canyon Wildlife Tours hat to wear when I'm leading a tour, and 500 Creek and Canyon Wildlife Tours postcard sized ads which are soon to be distributed to various places around Tioga County! If today's adventure is any indication (eagles and herons is just the beginning!) its going to be a very good year for Wildlife Tours!

A wandering adventure

"Bring your own blindfold," said Mark, as we departed the town of Wellsboro, traveling to an undisclosed location that is home to ...