Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

anotherriverlunchshot.jpgCaroline Quine was in town this week to visit her family in Akron and she and I thought it would be fun to perform together if we could. We were hoping to do a few of the tunes we used to play in college and some of the songs off of Arrow Creek if she could make it up here to one of my shows. I had a Thursday night date at Basslake Tavern that worked perfectly so she and her immediate family Douglas, Hazel and Pearl came up to spend a few nights here in the valley with Mj and I. It was incredibly supportive of Douglas and their two teenage girls to take a few days of summer vacation in order for mom to sing a couple songs with her old buddy Steve. Consequently I was hoping we could do a few things that would provide a good time. Thursday afternoon we went canoeing/kayaking down the wild and scenic Grand River. My buddy Tom who runs Raccoon Run Canoe rentals estimated our trip to be about two to two and a half hours. We got in the water about 1:15 and it seemed that I should have plenty of time to get back to set up for our performance. A length of a river trip depends on several things; skill level, how hard you paddle and on water levels. This time of year the Grand can drop really fast and when that happens a two-hour trip can become a five-hour trip. And that is what happened. We had two canoes and one kayak for the five of us and as we neared the mid way point I knew I was not going to be able to make my schedule. I decided to take the kayak and sprint down the stream for the next 4 or 5 miles to our take out. So I paddled ahead and left everyone to enjoy themselves at a more leisurely pace. Now I spent most of my time on the river between October and May and I almost never get on the river in the warmer months. And Tom is one of my go to guys for finding out what is happening on the river during the summer. He was telling me that it is not too unusual to see bear along the Grand when the berries are ripe, and we know that there are several eagle nests on the river. I didn’t see the eagles this trip but I could hear the juveniles caring on begging for food at one of the nest sites. I came upon a deer drinking at streamside, I glided under a great blue heron, had an oriole fly by and I noticed an otters den. Small-mouth bass were chasing minnows and a host of other wonderful life and death dramas were going on around me. It was really hot and the sun was bright, and it wasn’t long before I noticed I had missed a strip of skin on my right leg with the sunblock. (It amazes me how that stuff works) I started paying attention to the course I was taking down stream looking to take advantage of the shade and at that time I noticed something that made my heart sink. I realized that there was not a single sycamore tree along the river that was fully leafed out. I have several sycamore trees in my yard and knew that there was an anthracnose affecting them. I have been so busy at work and at home that I hadn’t thought about what effect this was having along the river. Sycamores are those big white trees that grow along waterways through out the Midwest, and I wrote about them briefly in an early essay on the wood that we cut into lumber. They are the largest and dominant plant along our streams and are the anchor of that ecosystem. Among other things they shade the stream and keep the water cool, and there are a host of aquatic creatures that depend on moderate water temperatures. As with all things the connectivity factor is often over looked. If rocks are the bones of the river and the water is the blood, then sycamores must be the heart, pumping moisture back into the atmosphere through transporation. My rivers heart appeared to be broken. These have always been one of my favorite trees for so many reasons and to be paddling by mile after mile of them in decline was just emotionally devastating. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the global ecology is rapidly changing, not only from things like climate change but also in the introduction of regional non native plants and animals, the rebounding populations of certain species and the rapid decline of others. I remember when I was a youngster a line of four large American Elm trees dying in our back yard from Dutch Elm blight, and how upset my father was about this. When I got older I heard about the decline of the American Chestnut. Both situations were regarded as such tragedies. The elms lined the streets in many cities and towns across the Midwest, and when they died these tree-lined streets were forever changed. Chestnut was regarded as a remarkable rot resistant wood that was easy to work with. It was regarded as the red wood of the east. In recent years there has been a great deal of awareness about emerald ash borer and the demise of the American ash trees. I have ash flooring in my house. I can’t help but wonder if in years to come it will be regarded as a rare wood. I had no idea, or should I say I hadn’t thought about the impact of this anthracnose on sycamore. But it was like seeing a part of the river dying. I don’t know what the prognosis is. I don’t know if this means certain fatality for these trees or not. I had an unbelievable feeling of helplessness as I kayaked down the river. It was like the times when I have sat and talked with someone I cared for after a break up or a loss. Where I have been trying to reassure myself as well as my friend that they will live through the crisis while knowing they will never quite be the same. Sycamore Anthracnose is a type of fungus and if you want to know more about it you can visit P6120002.jpg

The first gig of the year at the Firehouse Winery, I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and Lorry. They like my music and they wanted to know if I was a teacher or had a degree in a philosophy. We started talking and the next thing you know Ken was telling me he was had an apiary. I haven't had any bees in years. Today Ken and lorry stopped in with a hive of beens for me and Yippie Skippie boys I am in business!
Location location location! It would be a rare individual that does not have an idea what bird migration is about, but an even rarer one who completely understands it I suppose to most folks the term bird migration conjures up images of giant flocks of waterfowl or shore birds that they have seen on Nature or Nova or they might recall the image of a flock of geese. To me I have this process similar to the dictionary where I go down a mental checklist of definitions or images. I don’t go too far down the list associated with bird migration until I see or think of warblers. They are these lovely little jewels that fly around in the treetops and sub canopy in the spring. They appear in this part of the world around the 10th of May. There are all sorts of warblers with their own special beak and behavioral adaptations to make the best of where they happened to hang out. And some are exceptionally beautiful. I never really learned warblers. Maybe I didn’t have the time, the mentor or maybe the predisposition. Well let me say I never thoroughly learned them. I knew and still know some of the more common ones, yellow rumped or butter butts as they are called, or the hooded warbler, another very showy bird. I used to see them all the time when I was leading the occasional bird hike back in Greene County. Whatever the reason I always appreciated the ability of bird enthusiast to not only identify what seems to be an endless array of bird by sight but often also by sound or call. Generally you can tell dedicated birders or at least people who hang out with dedicated birders. At the sake of profiling let’s just say when they are in the field they have a certain look. And that is OK cause most enthusiasts do. The majority of outdoor activity surveys I am familiar with have confirmed that wildlife observation is one of the nation’s top, if not the top recreational activity. These are surveys conducted by a whole host of conservation organizations. They lump casual wildlife observation right in there with the die-hard nature geeks. (Don’t worry I haven’t offended anyone, although I don’t fit the bill of a birder, I am enough of a nature geek to get by with using this self descriptive term) Good birders are a dedicated bunch. They will drive miles to see the unusual occurrence of a bird that is out of range. They spend tons of money on gear and clothing, eco tourism and the whole stick, not to mention birdseed, feeder’s houses and so on. A few years ago a fascinating lady left the park system nearly a million bucks to build a bird sanctuary. So I have wanted to go check out a couple Ohio birding hot spots to see what we should try to accomplish. It had been years since I had been over to the Crane Creek Area of Ohio, which is a known birding Mecca, and I jumped at the suggestion that my friend Ann had regarding a birding road-trip. She was in charge of scheduling the next outing for our social/enrichment club. It is called the Society for Intellectual Stimulation. We coordinated our schedules with another of our SIS members Dan and off we went abirding. Not only do Dan and Ann know about birds, they know their bird business and they also know the business of birds. What organization does what for whom and who is better at providing what services. It was very cool to get the inside from a couple pros. I haven’t been on a bird trip in years and it was a gas. First of all the companionship was great, secondly Ann brought all this dark chocolate and double stuffed Oreos! Now granted my sources of indulgences are often from a bottle and not appropriately consumed while driving or early in the morning. Hmmm although there has been a time or two when I have lived out the theme of that great old song that says lord forgive us and protect us we’ve been drinking whiskey for breakfast! Anyway back to birding….wired by chocolate, motivate by good conversation and ramped up on several cups of java we were on the boardwalk armed with binocs and talking our fool heads off. In a matter of minutes we had seen more species than I could keep track of, and seen a half a dozen stalwart of the birding community. Now I have my theories on successional evolution and how resource managers have to think in big historical terms when we are managing resources in Ohio. I wanted to check some things out with regards to the facility design but I was also going to reaffirm the significance of the geology and the geographic location of these birding hotspots. In other words I think we can make a pretty cool area with this donated money but I wanted to see just what we might expect with regards to bird utilization… There is a reason that those places are there. They are located on major flyways that birds have utilized for years, and people took advantage of them for hunting purposes for years, and some decades ago, some people got something’s right and protected some relatively small chunks of property that is incredibly valuable bird real-estate! As the old mantra goes, Location Location Location. And I was seeing it again for the first time in years. We left Crane Creek, stopped in the little visitor center, got lunch, ran up to Ottawa, hit that visitor center, checked out an eagle on the nest with it’s baby and ate more chocolate. Gee what fun! The mission was a success on all fronts, but I couldn’t help but think how bird watching can be like an art form. Wait, before I say this I must also say it can be and is often approached as a science. More people might better appreciate it if it was more like an art form… Let me explain my analogy. An artist is always looking for sources of inspiration, some come as a big flashy spotting, but others have to be looked for and then recognized for what they are. And suddenly there it is a little jewel of color and light flitting, flitting, flitting and then it is gone. And while it can mean so much to the individual, it can mean so much to so many when shared. And even the most common and routine occurrence may have beauty and value for those not quite so accomplished. Keep looking you might spot a warbler.
Flood Wood This week I hired a sawyer to bring up his portable saw mill and cut up about 2,000 board foot of lumber. These were logs that were the result of the flood. I had several trees that were damaged or washed down from up stream. In the initial clean up we hauled away 6 large dump trucks full of wood that I couldn’t use or salvage, but the big clear logs I saved. I also had to take a few trees down when we went to rebuild the house, which resulted in some additional logs as well. So for nearly two years two piles of logs have been out by the barn, one a pile for either fence posts or firewood, and the other for milling into lumber. The largest tree that we cut down was a big sycamore. The butt log is close to three feet across. I couldn’t move it much farther than from where fell, so it is still up by the house. There were however several ten foot logs that came out of that tree. I have always loved sycamore trees. Their distinctive white, green and brown bark, huge size and tendency to have hollow cavities just give them a great deal of character. Some times children mirror our value and behavior, and when Philip was just a toddler, he was always asking if this or that tree was a big old sycamore. So I guess my fascination for these big riverside plants was passed on to him. There was one large sycamore at the Narrows Reserve on the Little Miami River that I walked by hundreds of times. It’s giant root system hung out over and extended down into the water making wonderful habitat for the fish and animals in the stream. The portion of the root system that was out of the water was utilized by other animals for hiding places and homes. This was a giant tree, maybe 10-foot around. They get really big. Supposedly a fellow had a black smith shop set up in a hollow one along the Ohio River, and during the civil war there is a story of four confederate spies hiding inside a hollow sycamore… with their horses. There are no giants like this in Ohio any more but maybe some day there will be again. Anyway I used to wonder what all the big tree on the Little Miami had seen. Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton surely walked underneath it as well as Tecumseh and Blue Jacket on their way to and from Kentucky into the heartland of Ohio. If trees could talk, what stories they could tell? Once I was leading a guided hike with a group of second graders down the river and noticed a black rat snake’s head looking out from one of the root hollows. I thought the kids might like to take a look at it, so I got down on my stomach and gently pulled him out. The snake kept coming and coming until all of his nearly six foot body was wrapped around my arms. So I guess you could say that sycamores can have lovely little surprises! That is what I found when researching what I could do with the wood from this beautiful tree I had to cut down. I have heating my house with wood in years past, and have cut split and burned a lot of wood. I have come to realize that there is a lot of scrap and wasted wood available for burning and to me it seems a shame to simply burn up a tree that could be used for so much more. I didn’t know much about sycamore wood other that it has a high water content when it is green. In doing a little looking on the internet, I discovered that when it is quarter sawn it has a spectacular grain and used to be called American lace wood. I also found out that years ago it was commonly used for guitars and instruments. Now I was on to something. I could get one of my guitar building buddies to make me a guitar from some quarter sawn sycamore. That seemed like a great idea. So that was what I was thinking when I asked my new friend Alan to bring his portable saw mill down and saw up my logs. I also thought I might be able to panel the inside of the barn and maybe make some furniture with some of the wood as well. After we got the mill set up we started cutting, first slabbing off the bark and squaring up the log. And then we began cutting off boards. It is remarkable how exciting it can be as the grain patterns in the boards are revealed with each cut. The quarter-sawed material was spectacular. In addition to the sycamore we also cut some ash and elm logs. Which is partially stacked on my trailer waiting to be moved into the barn. Where it will air dry for several months before being used for whatever it ultimately will be. The last time I did this sort of thing was when we remodeled the house and will milled an ash tree into flooring. Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote about that experience and I hope to record soon: This Old Wooden Floor SWM 2008 I remember very well the fall day we cut it down The ash tree standing by the barn We laid it on the ground Matty came to help me out just to settle up a score We cut the her into 8 foot logs to make this old wood floor **** Charles brought his sawmill the logs we cut to boards I stacked them up inside the barn and stored it all indoors In the spring I went to Hartsgrove to old Joe's drying kiln He dried the planks we hauled them off to an Amish Mill **** I picked em up and brought them home Boards planned down so true The clearest ash you'd ever seen was milled to tongue and groove David cut and nailed em down and we sanded them so smooth Coated them with Waterlox when this old floor was new It looked so fine when we were done My God it looked so good It was the pride of MJ's home this old floor of wood In the summer of 2006 there came a great big flood The water rose and when it fell left a foot of silt and mud Friends they came from all around to see what we might need We had to gut the our whole house right down to studs and beams **** Al and Andrew cut the nails from each and every board I stacked it up and once again I hauled this old wood floor Off to Ricky's Warehouse, on the other end of town And there is sat for 6 long months until we could put it down No one would believe it but every word I say is true When we nailed it down a second time it looked mighty good Now the children sitting at my feet ask me to once more Tell them all the story of this old wooded floor If the dogs may scratch I don’t care As they run out the door So many things I’ve been through with old wooden floor I say a prayer for every hand that touched this old wood floor.
This was an interview with me that focused on Arrow Creek and my approach to writing and pruduction The whole article is on my press page or you can go directly to it by cutting and pasting this link. Singer/songwriter Steve Madewell uses dramatic textures to enhance song experiences Written by Carson James To these ears, Steve Madewell is a painter as well as a musician. Too often in this genre, we give such an emphasis on the craft of songwriting that we neglect the creativity needed for the arrangements. Not so with Madewell. Here is an artist who spent as much time and effort into making every track on his album Arrow Creek sparkle like his words. Let’s take a trip into Madewell’s world, one that spans historical events and geographical territories.....
The Sense of Wonder NAI Talk - April 15, 2008 The Sense of Wonder People have asked me where do I get inspirations and ideas for songs. Partially from spending a few years doing environmental education programs. I recently did a talk for the National Association of Interpretive Naturalist Region 4 workshop. And it was one of those presentations that will get better if I do it again. You might recognize interpretive naturalists as the folks who lead nature walks at parks and nature centers. However they do a great deal more. This is a partial narrative from that presentation and kind of give insight into these experiences and how I think: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon. I am very flattered to be a part of the NAI and I am truly happy to be here. I feel that what you contribute to our collective conservation efforts is so very very important. What I hope to do today is to share some observations that I collected for this presentation. And like many things of this nature some of these concepts maybe rather obvious, and others maybe a bit more elusive. But my hope is that I can offer these up to you and perhaps they maybe of value in the course of your life's work. Oh and should you have any questions or comments or if you take issue at any point with what I maybe saying, or if an analogy is not clear, please by all means feel free to interject your thoughts. I would welcome your comments and having spent a little time around interpreters, I have not found them to be a shy bunch. Currently I work as the Deputy Director of Lake Metroparks, and I have been involved with park administration for well over twenty-five years. However when I entered the field it was never my goal to get into the administrative side of the business. I have always enjoyed being outside and in some regards I feel it is unfortunate that I am mostly in doors. It simply had never occurred to me to consider a career in the field of conservation until I had a summer job at Nature Center. I grew up in an out door sort of family. My father was, and still is at 84 a gardener, a hunter and a fisherman. Some of my earliest memories are of working in the garden and the excitement of going fishing. I can vividly recall looking into a bucket full of water at a bluegill waving his fins when I was between two and three years old. So you folks who are doing programs for young children. I can tell you that some of those experiences are certainly retained. Dad was predominately a stream fisherman. We would go fishing, wading in the small streams across SW Ohio. He would set me up with a fishing pole, strap a small pail of worms around my neck tell me not to step in water so deep I couldn't see my tennis shoes and that if I needed him he would be around the next bend. I generally wouldn't see him for the rest of the day. He is also a Euell Gibbons kind of guy, hunting mushrooms and used to pull the car off of the road stop to gather wild apples and other edibles. A behavior that was passed on to me (much to the chagrin of my family) It is interesting how our mind can recall certain things. Whatever reason at the moment they occur they have some sort of impact that will always be with us. I remember Pop holding a no deposit no return glass bottle when they first came out, and saying "This make no sense". I also remember driving around the ever growing suburbs of Dayton and Dad pointing to shopping centers and saying, "I used to hunt rabbits there". So I grew up with a conservation ethic al be it perhaps not in a traditional sense. It wasn't one of supporting the local park system although we used them. The only time I had been to a nature center was in third grade. But if I were to distill the ethic I grew up with it might be best described as " waste is not a good thing", and “the world will feed you if you know it and take care of it”. Like a lot of kids growing up in a rather rural setting I was outside a great deal of the time. Generally speaking I was really bored in school and felt somewhat trapped. I started playing guitar in jr high and I like to think music gave me a focus that kept me out of any real trouble. Although that might be a relative statement as I nearly got expelled for making gun powder with supplies we pilfered from the Chem Lab and I was involved in one pretty bad tractor wreck. I was just riding on the tractor that Mike Maynard drove into a house on the last day of school my sophomore year. But that is another story. I went to the now defunct Western College of Miami University which was an interdisciplinary college. The college was based on three core courses Natural Systems, Social Systems and Creativity and Culture. And the simple premise that these three areas of study were related and empowered by the synergy of their inter actions. The first physics problem I worked on was calculating how many tons of sulfuric acid was being produced and spewed in to the air by Dayton Power and Light every week. I found the inundation of negative environmental material thrown at me my freshmen year to be over whelming and incredibly depressing. And that was the summer I got the job at a nature center. Though it wasn't a very glamorous one. I was literally hired to baby sit the children of Hispanic migrant workers. I believe that the Nature Center had gotten a grant to provide summer programs to these children and I was primarily hired to look after 45-60 kids, some of which could not speak English for three or four hours a day. Some times there was a morning group and an evening group. This was three or four days a week and I was to keep them from interfering with the regular activities of the center. What did I do with them? Well I felt compelled to instill a value for the nature center and to do activities that were non intrusive. It was really pretty cool. These kids were jazzed to be there and their observation skills knew no boundaries. I don't think they had been dulled up by watching endless television. I didn’t know anything about environmental education and they didn’t know anything about nature centers so we were perfect for each other. We had limited structure and we learned together and it was amazing what they discovered and what they taught me. I had read a book called The Lives of Children by George Dennison which was about an alternative approach to education. It had a premise of losing time to gain time and that is what I did with these children. We approached each day with a very open structure. We celebrated an experience of mutual discovery. One of the boys, was the “Alpha male” of the group if you know what I am talking about. His English was very good so I gave him the job of being my interpreter. The summer job at the nature center was a great experience in so many ways and this really was a pivotal time in my life. First I knew that I had had a miserable educational experience in jr. high and high school and I recognized that I simply didn't learn the way that I had been taught. Secondly I knew that I was deeply concerned about the environment. And finally here I was having this experience at this nature center where there was a different approach to education, oriented toward things that I cared about and according to all the regular staff there, I seemed to be good at it. So that summer experience between my first and second year of college provided me with an insight that perhaps there was something I could do to help bring a greater awareness to people regarding what we were doing to our world. After that I knew I wanted to be involved with environmental conservation in some way. The Topic So with that bit of a personal intro and narrative I would like to move on to the topic at hand But before I do can I ask is there anyone here that feels that this career is a calling? I recognize that the field has matured and developed, And often times when this begins to happen with career tracks things change. And I was hoping that some new entries into the field could give me a read on this. Do you feel that it is a privilege to be in this field? At the time I got my first full time position I remember reading that there were as many as 85 applications for every entry level position. We were in the height of what I call the John Denver era when there were a lot of people who wanted to work in the great out of doors. After 30 years I still think of this career as a calling and I still feel it is a privilege to work in this field. I am proud of my job and my contribution and I sincerely hope you are too. I would also like to ask, how often do you stop and think about what you are doing and why you are doing it? Recently I had a chance to reflect on this in the process of preparing for a presentation. The why and how I got into this field and why I have stayed in it. I mean, as I am sure most of you know it certainly is not the money, especially early on in a conservation career. It wasn't always the working conditions either. I have had offices in attics, closest, trailers, modified garages. As an aside what is it about naturalist and offices? Do you think that every agency has administrator that thinks “They don’t want to be inside so they are going to be miserable anyway so let’s stick em in the basement.” Actually it is a testament to the commitment to the field. And it wasn't always the hours. I can recall many instances where I have sent staff home after realizing that they had not taken a day off in over a week. And I bet you have heard from your friends and family, wow what a great job you have! But what do you do in the winter time? Well it is a great job and a great field! I was thinking about this and much more when about 18 months ago I was asked if I would address the Bishops Retreat of the northern Ohio Diocese of the Episcopal Church. When I got the call I asked the Bishop what he wanted me to talk about. He said "Could you just share your views on nature?" I said OK and I blurted out how about a talk on the Spirituality of Landscape? I hung up the phone and I thought “Now what the Hell does that mean?” Needless to say I was very flattered by the request. But this was a little different than most speaking request I get. This was not an invitation to speak on a park project, or the mechanics of some sort of program. As I set about preparing for the talk I spent some time evaluating what had transpired in my career that had resulted in this invitation. Now please understand that I don't really regard myself an expert on anything. I have the pleasure and good fortune to have worked work with some wonderful staff and have some very special and gifted friends. And I am not by the way an Episcopalian. And I find some humor in the light that I grew up in a fundamental Baptist home. (I stopped going to church when I was 16 or so for number of different reasons.) I was being asked to address a group of Episcopal priest on spirituality and I consider my self a pedestrian. I think I was 22 when I realized that I am really a pedestrian. And when I tell people that most of the time it works, but every now and again I have to explain what a pedestrian is. Now I must admit though I have kind of back slided here the past few years and don't walk nearly as much as I should. So in the process of preparing for that talk I realized that what I do have and what I sincerely I hope I can always hang on to is the ability to be easily distracted and endlessly and enamored with the wonders of the world around us. And this wonderment with the endless connectivity of nature has shaped my career. In preparing for that presentation on the Spirituality of Place I realized that this attribute was responsible for pulling me along in this field, and was more than likely the reason why I was asked to do that talk. I am willing to guess it is something that all of us in this room share and that is The Sense Of Wonder So what is The Sense Of Wonder? Well I am not sure but I suspect that if I were in school right now I would be diagnosed with ADD. And I find it a little funny that the perhaps very condition that I am crediting with my success is one that has turned out to be so vexing for many students and children today. And just as an aside I can't help but wonder if maybe someday we might realize at least with some kids maybe it is not a problem with the child but maybe it is our system. Anyway, some time after the Spirituality of Place presentation, which by the way had two parts. I did a talk and then that evening I did a one and half hour concert of original tunes that are stories set in or told in a nature setting. I mentioned to Ann Bugeda and Dan Best that I had an done interesting and enjoyable Presentation, and in a day or so, Dan ships me an NAI program presentation form. And here we are. I think there was a little apprehension about me doing the same talk, probably because of the title, which I understand. But really I think a great deal of what we do in this field is actually quite spiritual. And while I do not advocate a spirituality to any deity I do believe in the connectivity of all things in the universe. Anyway, I redirected and began to prepare for this presentation and in doing so rediscovered the title of a delightful little book I had read quite some time ago. The Book Are you folks familiar with Rachel Carson's books? She actually wrote several. By training she was a marine biologist and worked for the Federal Government for a number of years. I am sure that many of you are familiar with the book Silent Spring. Some claim that Leopold began the modern conservation movement with his book A Sand County Almanac and some give credit to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring for starting the modern environmental movement. Early in my own career in this field it was Silent Spring that had a major impact on me. I found the Almanac just a little too slow, and while I recognized it as a valuable work it didn't call out to me with the same urgency and need as Carlson's book. Some of you might know Ralph Ramey? Interestingly enough though, in recent years I have found that I have developed an appreciation for a philosophy that Rachel put forth in a book not nearly as well known as Silent Spring. It is a simple little piece she wrote for, or should I say, wrote with her grand nephew Roger Christie. It is called The Sense Of Wonder. I read it some time ago and I can't say that when I did I didn’t model my life or behavior around its message. I simply read it in a few minutes and sat it down. And there is sat until I found the title on some neglected corner of my head. What I can tell you is that there is a philosophy in this little book that is quite profound. And as I have gotten older I realize the power of this approach to experiencing and sharing nature. And perhaps even living life (as a better pedestrian) In essence it is about joy and wonder and less about science. Her believe was this is the way to prepare the “soil” for future educational growth and learning. And it actually goes in the face of a widely held belief that I have heard time and time again in educational circles and that is “we value what we name.” Carson really de emphasizes this practice and instead focuses on the value of the experience. Interestingly enough I found this quote in another source Avoid falling into the trap of the naturalist where one tries to catalog and list everything and fails to see the beauty of the landscape. Try instead the approach of an artist and take in the entire image. At this point I would like to take a moment if I can to tell you that what you do is important. And consequently it is important that you do it well. I believe that heaven forbid if any of us in this room left this existence we would leave this world knowing that we have had an impact on people that we have worked with, people who have attended our programs, people whom we have never met who have enjoyed projects we have worked on. I know that because I have an understanding of the power of the work that we do in this field. And I have seen it in many many ways. We never really know the capacity of the people we are dealing with, what that young person may grow up to be or what that senior citizen might choose to do with their estate. Just a couple short stories to illustrate this point: (Major donations Chuck Grantham and Robert Bateman Me and Dr. Mastin.) So you really don't know the manifestation of your actions. So it is important that interpreters especially approach there work with sincerity and enthusiasm. And in doing so you will find reward in the work that you do. Now why is your work so important? Well clearly you are the messengers of the conservation community, carrying the banners promoting the value of our natural heritage, the importance of biological diversity, and the need to seek sustainable practices and so on. But you do more. With the transitory nature of today's society I believe that people are looking for some sort of stability in the world around them. Parks and Nature Centers provide some form of stability in a world of constant development and change. I also believe that people need to feel some sort of assurance that there are things beyond our control or that have the resiliency to withstand the folly of our actions. People are looking for opportunities to forget about the demands from their daily work and the ability to find beauty in the world around them. And that perhaps the remaining wild and distant places are somehow mysteriously tied to the beauty they maybe able to find in their back yard or in their local neighbor nature center or park. And they need this awareness because it helps offset a phenomena I call emotional fatigue. I honestly believe that good interpretive work can provide a passport to a world that includes hope and optimism and can increase individuals and consequently our societies capacity to care and respond. We are bombarded with so much negativity until it is easy to get to a point where we are simply numb. It is not that we don't care, we really aren’t sure if it matters if we do. I believe people are looking for a rejuvenation of or to find this same Sense of Wonder. And you hold the key to open this world for many people. How to find and hold on to The Sense Of Wonder First of all I think it is important to place things in a bigger perspective. What ever the topic relate it to the next bigger level and let folks know that you do not know every thing. Elevate the view of the topic until you reach a level where there is a common perspective and everyone in on a level of discovery. I like to step back and look at how things fit within the three big systems that enable life as we know it energy flows, water cycles and geologic systems. If you can do this it is a great way to bring a bigger perspective to a specific topic. There is a tremendous amount of power in the world around us that can be harvested to help illustrate any point. And this connectivity is critical to encourage a big picture in which to hang future discoveries in. I also like to examine what has happened to make this moment possible historically, maybe socially, and certainly from an ecological perspective. In our field the cause is bigger than any individual or any one individuals’ message and we all carry a little piece of the load. When we tie our message to a bigger perspective we might individually lose importance but our message has become a part of a much bigger message. I have been involved in my own form of interpretation for over thirty years. And by many standards I have been blessed with a fairly successful career in conservation. Over the years I have developed and presented a host of programs, supervised a number interpretive operations, had the privilege of being involved with the conceptual development and building of several nature and educational centers and of course participated in many interpretive programs with my kids. Early on I learned a number of things while being involved in interpretive programming that have served me well in a number of ways including in my capacities of development and government relations and land negotiations. These are things that I have found People respond to enthusiasm, sincerity and honesty People also respond to a cause or belief. If you sincerely and honestly believe in a cause and your enthusiastically present it people will enthusiastically respond to you. When that happens it is a marvelous buzz! And I have learned some things that do not work as well. I have created a little grouping of these things that I am calling the buzz killers. So as you might imagine I believe in order to do your job most effectively you want to Avoid The Buzz Killers Now there are several quotes I will take from Rachel Carson's book to illustrate the point. Avoiding The Buzz Killers I can tell you these are all things that I have done myself and I have also witnessed in other programs. I have put them into a few large categories The first of which I call Needing to be the expert "I have made no conscious efforts to name plants or animals, not to explain to him but I have expressed my own pleasure at what we see." His value system was not based on the scientific knowledge that his great aunt had. His value system was based on what he could sense. Several examples of this that comes to mind My favorite is the fishing guide who says Oh You should have been here yesterday. Steve and Paul Story. Oh that was just Colts Foot it is a non native plant Oh that is just a Great Blue Heron they are all over the place anymore. Dwelling on negative outcomes In some instances it might be better to focus on what we don't know and instead look for understanding and in site Another Buzz Killer is Failing to recognize the value systems of others “Many Children perhaps because they themselves are smaller and closer to the ground than we are notice and delight in the small and inconspicuous.” Phil and the Red Tail Hawk /The Whale story in California How many enriching interpretive opportunities have been lost because someone is afraid to share what they know because their value system might be different than the group leader and destroying the participation of others with a different knowledge base in the group Barry Lopez story Ever been on a forced hike? Deck Hunter the forced walk I believe in allowing children to wonder down the hallway and there may so many rooms to explore. Buzz kill # 3 The We They Trap Interpretive Programs are no place to harbor the personal agenda. I have seen many wonderful settings destroyed by an individuals frustration with their employers, government etc. This is one earth Dwelling on the negative and looking for someone to blame is not a solution to any problem. Story of the goose hunters on the east coast and the bird watchers. This work is too important to alienate people Focus on the positive and remember the bull dozer operator gets time and a half on sat. And finally trying to Reduce the mystery of life to black and white “The value of the game of identification depends on how you play it. If it becomes an end in itself I count it of little use. It is possible to compile extensive lists of creatures seen and identified without ever once having caught a breath taking glimpses of the wonder of life.” Avoid reducing the mysteries of interaction into black and white. It doesn’t always work. The story of the population shifts and dynamics of deer turkey and eagles in the eastern US. Failing to recognize the resilience of nature discredits us. “Understanding the why and understanding the why may change. Shifts in our understanding and the resilience of nature anthropomorphism are all areas where we are shifting our understanding "It is not half so important to know as it feel" The challenge of a good interpreter is to be able to make the connection back to the theme at hand through the observations they have made, not to try to control the observations. “Hatchets are in the hammer family.” When I stopped taking my field books I think we need to be advocates of being plugged in and environmentally aware all the time, and that mean being open not just plugged in when we are at the park or nature center or in a program. And perhaps a better way of doing this is to try to draw connections to nature where ever we are with or without a field book and whenever and wherever the sense of wonder takes us. And just a word on avoiding burn out. You have to be true to yourself know your limitations. It is important for you to be effective at what you are doing as opposed to assuming a role that is not for you. Don't be afraid to try but for heavens sake the world need effective people on all levels. The cause is bigger than the individual. And the cause's needs and the way you help meet those needs are to take care of yourself. So what I am telling you is It is not only important for you to avoid the buzz killers for not only your program participants but it is important to avoid these to prevent burn out for you. One of the ways that I have worked to combat burn out and fatigue has been to invent or discover new ways of exploring my commitment to the environment and my desire to share this commitment with others. It is so easy when you are in a cause driven profession to have that cause become your lifestyle and suddenly your lifestyle becomes your work. When this happens it is nearly impossible to segregate work from any down time or recreation. At first this effort manifested it's self in developing new interpretive or educational programs in broader topics and activities. (embellish) Then in different administrative pursuits until I actually got so far removed from the field that I lost the direct recharge I used to receive delivering programs. I started to conduct business meetings outside in parks, or scheduling canoe outings or hikes instead of lunches or breakfast meetings. Then I started taking community leaders and elected officials fly fishing to introduce them to the regions local resources. Finally in recent years I began to incorporate natural resource elements in the songs that I am writing and performing. IT has given me a completely different method of outreach. You have a marvelous profession that is so critical to the world we live in. Remember to reward yourself by allowing yourself to enjoy the interaction you have each and every day and the beauty of the world in which we live. Seek out those opportunities to incorporate new ways of experiencing the world around you and your ability to explore and share the world around you and maintaining the Sense of Wonder.
Keelin’ Over I always thought that was an interesting term but I don’t know why. I have had virtually no exposure to the world of sail boats and sailors, and this is a nautical word. I read a book a few years ago about the Essex. The ship that the story Moby Dick was in part based around and there is a great description of a whaling boat keeling over as it left harbor. I think the name of the book is In The Heart of The Sea. The keel of a sailing vessel is a rather large affair that is part of the underside of the boat and is the counter weight for all of the sails and the rigging. Sometime keels are filled with lead and are very heavy. If a boat were to get laid on it’s side or even completely turned upside down the weight of the keel can right the boat and pull it back over. The implication of the term appears to be two things, one the act of falling over or being turned upside down, and also the process of being pulled back up or righted. I can only image how dramatic the act of a big sailing vessel getting laid completely on it’s side and then pulling itself upright must be. So that is the term I have used to describe a couple of my own little experiences here in the past 6 months because on two occasions I have been laid down and been righted back up. Keelin’ Over The first time this occurred was the night of the Western Reserve Hospice fund raising performance in September. This also happened to be the quiet little CD release party for Arrow Creek. I had originally hoped to have had Arrow Creek done two years earlier, but I ran into some difficulties which caused me to postpone any recording for a while. About 6 months later I started moving forward again and then shortly after that the flood came. All recording was again put on hold for about a year as I worked with a host of people to gut, elevate and rebuild the house. I can say without reservation it has been some pretty rough hoeing since 2005. After getting the house livable in the spring of 2007 I began working where I had left off with the recording. I maintained a pretty demanding work schedule for 12 weeks or so up until the CD release in order to get the disc mixed, out and back in time for this performance. When I say demanding, I mean between my job, continuing work on the house to repair the flood damage and working on the recording/editing/mixing process I am talking about three of four 18 hour days a week and at least 14 hours for every other day. I was also performing two or three times a week. Of course getting the CD off to the production house was one thing, trying to make sure it got back in time was another, and that had it's own set of challenges. (Which by the way the shipment arrived at my house on the day of my show!) And there was the process of planning and promoting that event, which was a small wine and cheese tasting affair which included the usual host of coordination and preparation tasks. But it all came off without a hitch and at the end of the evening, after every thing was done and all the gear torn down and I was back home, I sat back in a chair on the porch and simply punched out. I could describe what I experienced but I don’t see the need or value of going into that detail. Let’s just say, I believe, and have been told that it was quite possible I could have died had it not been for a couple people smacking my face and telling me to come back. I did go and check things out with my Dr. and everything came back clear, although we mutually concluded that I hadn’t been a model of ideal living that particular day. And there was no denying the schedule I had been keeping was really out of hand. I just figured I needed a break. Especially when you put things in the context of the past few years. Emotionally I wasn’t shook up at all, but physically I wasn’t quite right for several days. I have not maintained any religious affiliation since high school, but I have maintain a certain level of spirituality. And I always marvel at folks who clearly have greater religious convictions than I but seem to have no faith. At this stage of the game I am fairly comfortable with the consequences of being alive. And don’t get me wrong I am not volunteering to call it a game. But I do believe things are what they are and it is better to swim with the current than to fight it, and that particular experience was big enough to re affirm my believe that sometimes it better to take it all in instead of trying to run away. Well let’s fast forward things a few months. I have several really big projects going on at work that are on go all the time. In addition there is the basic personnel supervision issues that go with the territory. The house is still not done and I am pretty burned out on that whole scene especially the odds and ends of the finishing esthetics. I am just getting ready to launch into a major landscaping component of the whole project, which I happen to be dreading because a) it is expensive, and b) will take all summer. Yet somehow I have still been writing a fair amount of new material and I would really like to get back into a recording mode. Unfortunately I am finding it difficult to find the time to make that happen. A week or so ago I came home with intentions of wrapping up several small projects, one for work and one for music. That plan got derailed and I wound up running around dealing with a bunch of other stuff. To be truthful I was pretty ramped up about this because it wasn’t where my head and heart were at. The long and the short of it is after getting a few errands done I took a walk down to the creek and spoke with my neighbor for about 30 minutes. As I walked back to the house I started getting really dizzy. I went in kicked off my shoes, lay down on the floor and passed out for a short while. Mj called the squad and when they got there my pulse was 38 but everything else seemed to be OK. They hauled me off to the ER and I have to say it was great service all around. Again I checked out OK and again I went to my regular care giver and seem to be fine. I did go around with a 24 hr heart monitor strapped on for a day and I will go in for a CT and a ultrasound but the general suspicion is everything will be OK. So I am looking at things trying to figure out how to minimize internal conflict, balance external priorities, and maintain some sort of awareness on eating, sleeping and drinking properly. I will let you know what I find out. But I can pretty much say "Gee what fun is that?"
Nearly thirty years ago a friend of mine John Humpston was telling me about filling out his application to graduate from Ohio state. He had left the religious affiliation line blank and it was returned to him stamped incomplete, so he wrote in “pedestrian”. The admin types accepted that and John graduated. When he told me that story I decided that I wanted to be a pedestrian too. Since that time I have actually developed some fairly complex ideas associated with what it means to be a pedestrian. I spoke at the Bishops retreat for the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Ohio last winter, and shared some of my ideas about the Spirituality of Place and landscape. Basically I said you don’t get an idea of what is going on somewhere until you get out and walk, and you sure don’t know who you are if you don’t know something about where you are from. (I said a little more than that, like an hour and a half worth). Anyway the beauty of being a pedestrian is you can get to the lowest common denominator. I like that, it's slow but there are merits to that too. Being a reductionist of sorts I belief that there are three primary systems that interact that enable life as we know it. Energy flows (or cycles if you happen to believe that the universe is a closed system) water cycles and mineral cycles or geologic processes. I like to feel that I am interacting with these big systems. When I am standing in a stream of moving water, I feel like I am in the vortex of all three. The water is moving due to the effects of weather, the weather is the result of energy flows, and of course the moving water is eroding the rock on which I am standing. Of course fly fishing is the excuse that I predominately use to go stand in streams, and don’t get me wrong, fly fishing certainly has it’s own zen thing going on for me too, but fishing is not the end game. That is an interaction of mechanics and the merger or interactions of two worlds and one just happens to above the surface of the water and the other below it. But if the water isn’t moving it isn’t the same. It is not the big hit that I sometimes get from just being there in middle of the dynamic interaction between earth energy and water. If I get emails of interest either directly or posted on my little comments page I will share more of my thoughts on this. But mean while back to John Humpston. John had a sign in his bathroom that said “Preserve Wild Life Throw A Party!” I adopted that as a motto for too long too, like 25 years too long, and realized, there has got to be a better way to help animals! This kind of living is killing me. Who knows, maybe some day I will give up on being a pedestrian, but for right now I am still walking. I got notice of this blog post while I was up in Chicago. Mj and I went up for the weekend to just get out of town. What a nice city. I can't help but think Ohio has so screwed up in not having any resonable mass transit. We had a great time taking the trains to about anywhere we wanted to go. One stop was agumented with a short walke to Tommys Guitar Cafe. A guitar shop that sold killer bugers! Great art museum too! I couldn't help but feel the vibrance of the city downtown. While I hate to drive through it, downtown Chi town is fun. One of the most wonderful things was the art in front of our hotel. Running the risk of illustrating my amazing lack of sophistication in not knowing the name of the sculpture, let me say the stainless steel coffee bean is a wonderful peice of art. When you witness people all around an object that is clearly bring excitment and joy, how can anyone doubt the value of art? It was superb, and I guess that alone should motivate me to look up the proper name of the piece! Cheers!
I was cleaning up the barn computer the other day and found an early mix of Arrow Creek. Kinda cool with some percussion and a second guitar. Just for grins I posted it on Folk Alley If you want to give it a listen go to

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