Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Feather in the Circle

We can all benefit from understanding how events in our lives paint the walls of our individual worlds in different colors, so that we can further understand how one's perception of an object or idea may very well be diametrically opposed to another person's perception.  It is this understanding that is the first step in breaking down the walls that separate us from each other and from the natural world around us, and it is the first lesson in the GLADE's leadership curriculum.
I got the idea for this activity in a wonderful book of Native American teachings called Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm, and modified it to meet my curricular needs.  (It is a story in itself how this book came into my hands, but I'll save that for another blog entry.)   There is a wise short story in the book called The Story of Jumping Mouse, which I occasionally use in outdoor education opportunities, but today I want to share:

                                        A Feather in the Circle
                                        ECOLEAD Activity #1

1.  Place a feather in the center of the circle of people, or pass it around the circle. (Remember that most bird feathers are illegal to possess.  I recommend using a game bird such as the Wild Turkey.)

2.  Have each of the participants share the "one word" that comes to mind when they "see" the feather.(responses will range from light to dark, freedom to lost, bird to alone, etc.)

3.  Discuss the responses.
4. Facilitation:  I have placed a feather in the middle of our circle, and each of you responded in different ways.  Why? 
It is important for us to realize that each and every one of our previous experiences in life in some way affects the "way" in which we perceive this feather.  For instance, one of you may be near-sighted and the feather does not appear in sharp focus, as it does for others.  One of you may be seeing only one side of the feather, while another may see the opposite side.   So, physical differences can influence the "way" in which you see the object.
But it doesn't stop there.  One of you may have had first hand experience with a Wild Turkey, perhaps you successfully shot one of these birds during hunting season.  In that case, there is an emotional experience tied to your "way" of perceiving the feather, and it is very different from the experience that the person next to you may have had with the same species while watching it spread its tail feathers in a courtship display.  Or a third person may have had no experience at all associated with Wild Turkeys or their feathers.
Because of our different experiences in life, any particular object or event may appear totally different when viewed by different people.  For instance,  I hate roller coasters, but some of you undoubtedly love them, and some don't care one way or another.  I love snakes and spiders, but some of you fear them greatly.  How did that come to be?   Through our own unique experiences in life, which paint the way we perceive everything in the entire world!

Summer 1986
Even with a concrete, tangible object, there are many, many ways of "seeing".  But, what if the idea were an abstraction? an idea? a concept? a feeling?   Then the whole process becomes even more complicated when we try to communicate it to the other members of our group.  And, the number of different perceptions and the difficulty in communicating them becomes infinitely more complex as we increase the number of people in our group.  Imagine looking at these perceptions and communicating them among all the peoples of the world.....  Guess that why it's so chaotic out there!
So, in GLADE, this is our beginning point of reference.  All the events of your life, totally unique to you, have led you to this point of convergence, where you will spend a week with these people....... in this metaphorical circle.  Although we are very different from one another, we have been brought to this place in time, where we will learn and share with one another, and we will find and explore that which has brought us together. 
We need every one of your perceptives to fully understand what it means for us to work together toward a common vision of a better world.  We know one thing for sure, we share a love for nature and the outdoors. So we will strive to become keen sensors and observers..... eager to experience and share what Nature has to teach us about ourselves and the world around us.  We await the winds that will carry us to a more lofty perch.
Summer, 1986

p.s.  Readers,  just a reminder that all the events and experiences of your life have led you to this blog today, so join in on the conversation!  We need the input of all to "see" the way clearly to a just sustainable world for all....

Monday, September 27, 2010

From Where I Stand

Being an environmental educator for 34 years, I have advocated for alternative energy use, habitat restoration, wilderness preservation, as well as justice issues relating to conservation, and  have incorporated these issues into science and gifted curriculum.

But this interaction within the public school system is clearly not enough to enact the changes that we need in this area of public policy. We need hands on, experiential learning environments for our young people to develop the ideas that will lead us into a just sustainable future.

Working with secondary students in the areas of science and gifted education has allowed me to touch the future in many ways that are unseen during the years in which I share my classrooms and expertise. I suspect that many of my students have the potential to create ideas that can become the foundations for true sustainability.  My former students Marla Marcum and Tory Pegram, among others, have confirmed my suspicions.

Now that the magnitude of our environmental degradation and the lack of just sustainability everywhere is rapidly demanding action, I envision many youth conservation and justice leadership projects that bring together diverse, bright, young people from all over the world to help them acquire in-depth awareness of social and environmental issues, and more importantly, the leadership skills necessary to infuse our society with just democratic principles and sustainable conservation practices.

Knowledge, awareness,  critical thinking skills, and effective leadership  among our very brightest will unleash a myriad of possible solutions to our current and future challenges. This knowledge, awareness, critical thinking skills, and effective grass roots leadership training instilled in innovative "leadership academies" will ensure that young people will return to their communities as committed citizens, engaging in the areas of just environmental public policy, alternative energy sources, climate change, habitat preservation/restoration projects, poverty, injustice, water and land use challenges, and many other related issues.

I  am the Director of one such prototype model of a community-based, service learning, mentor-backed habitat restoration project called the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems. This residential project is funded by a grant from the TogetherGreen Program, a National Audubon Society project funded by Toyota Motors with additional funding from the Greater Ozarks Audubon, Missouri State University, and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. It recruits 16 bio-regionally based high ability students each year to participate in an effort to increase biodiversity by restoring habitat that once supported two of Missouri's endangered species, Swainson's Warbler and Bachman's Sparrow.  It's most compelling mission, however, is to develop within these young people the desire to lead, and to take an active role in sustaining and creating diverse habitat and responsible stewardship in this beautiful place called the Ozarks.

In the coming year, I will be engaging in an effort to put in writing the key components that I see as necessary in order to develop community-based conservation leaders.  Although my writings may seem random and repetitive here at Conservation Conversations, I hope that ultimately I can distill this raw material into an informative guide for planners, educators, and conservationists interested in the future of leadership development. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Flower Power

GLADE curriculum planners believe that it is very wise during our lives to become appreciative of and connected with the myriad expressions of life around us. Many learning activities within GLADE draw upon this idea.

Nothing seems to transform young naturalists more than connecting with a wild, wonderful, and living creature on a personal level. It is in this experience, where intellect meets emotion, that love for Nature blossoms. A bird in the hand has that power, so GLADE uses bird mist netting and banding to touch young lives in a remarkable way. But there are infinite natural examples where Nature becomes the teacher, and, with a touch of facilitation, it takes the learner to the place where passion lies. In that moment, where intellect gives way to emotion for just an instant, all is made new.

Rudbeckia sp., Black-eyed Susan, is a member of the family Asteraceae (composite group of flowers). The biology of the composite is complex, but let’s make it simple. Within each individual composite “flower” is the simultaneous blooming of many flowers, all with the essential flower parts for reproduction of the species, differentiated into disc and ray flowers, and displaying its stunning beauty in a resulting synergy of form, color, structure, and shape.

Any representative of the composite family2 can be used to teach characteristics of effective human groups.

This is how I do it in GLADE.

1. Place a “flower” in the middle of the circle, or pass it around the circle of participants. Ask the individuals to describe the object in one word only. (Responses will range, but you’ll usually get “flower” or “yellow” or other simple responses. You might get some profound responses, too.)

2. After all the participants respond, pick up the object and praise the responses, but then say “Let’s look closer”. Explain to participants that within each individual composite “flower” are the simultaneous blooming of many flowers, all with the essential flower parts for reproduction of the species, differentiated into disc and ray flowers, and displaying its stunning beauty in a resulting synergy. Pull individual flowers out and pass them around for the participants to see firsthand the pistil, stamens, etc. of each flower.

3. Then take it to the next step: “Notice that they all bloom at once. There is no “one” flower that decides to blossom on its own, and if it did, it certainly would not be a beautiful flower. No, this is a large number of individual flowers, all feeling a “natural impulse” to grow. Each flower supports the other, providing a strong framework for “reaching to the sky” Each individual flower fills its specific niche in the whole, and continues moving toward the common goal, the spread of the seed so that the process can repeat itself. It’s synergy, pure and simple.” And that’s how it works with humans, too.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead

4. This “flower” can serve as a living example for human beings. We first must feel our own natural impulse to grow into responsible and caring human beings. We must then find those who share our collective vision for a better world. We must put aside our differences in order to support individuals, realizing that the odds of us all succeeding are greatly improved by taking care of each other. We each have our niche, and are responsible to the group to speak up or take action when the collective vision calls for it. Therefore, we are all leaders, our group is “leaderful”. When our collective vision is fulfilled, we spread seeds that can sprout in “fertile ground” and expand our vision of a just, sustainable and healthy world.

5. Follow up activity:

a. Arrange the students in a circle in a large grassy area. Ask them to sit down. Once seated completely, ask them to stand up. (a few laughs and “whats?”). “Now standing up by yourself can be pretty easy, but standing up with another person can be trickier”.

b. Have them pair up, sit down, and try to stand up together, face to face, with arms or hands connected.

c. When successful with 2, try 4. Remember to try to stand up face to face, with the entire circle connected by hands and/or arms.

d. Complete the exercise with the entire group. (12-16 is ideal) There will be many failed attempts, lots of laughter, and finally success. Here’s a message that I use to facilitate the process, but not until many unsuccessful and funny minutes have passed. “You know, people, sometimes you just have to back away for a moment to observe, and then see for the “first” time what has always been there.” (I say this because the flower example makes them think that they must be in a circle to solve the challenge. Some groups can do it in a circle, but most find an easier configuration.) Some groups find wonderful “inside circles and outside circles” configured in a way that they are all face to face, connected and circular. (that’s my favorite way to solve it) There are many solutions…. DON’T GIVE HINTS! JUST ENCOURAGE, especially the quieter members of the group, because the answer must come from within the group in order to empower them and transfer the lessons effectively to the remaining activities.

6. Processing: After each activity it is important to reflect upon the exercise to move the group forward to a more mature state. I do this by asking 3 questions:

a. What happened during the activity? Let participants speak freely. Encourage quiet members to speak. Politely encourage dominant members to allow others to speak. Point out the person(s) whose ideas or encouraging comments lead to solution of the challenge. Try to achieve a positive consensus.

b. What does it mean? Again, let participants speak freely. Encourage quiet members to speak. Politely encourage dominant members to allow others to speak. Try to achieve a positive consensus.

c. Where do we go from here? ? Again, let participants speak freely. Encourage quiet members to speak. Politely encourage dominant members to allow others to speak. Try to achieve a positive consensus.

d. Reinforce the power of an individual’s role in the collective vision. Try to encourage active listening, so that the group can hear and respond to that “quiet person” who has the “key insight” to move the group to better understanding and toward the common goal. “We do not have a single leader, rather, we are LEADERFUL.” And in each of the following activities:

Reiterate, Reinforce, Encourage, Empower, Enact!

And, that is grassroots leadership training, GLADE style!

1 Engaging Communities of the Ozark in Leadership and Environmental Awareness Development

2 I usually use a marigold or a zinnia, as they are easily dissected into parts

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This I Believe

"Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent." Edward R. Murrow, 1951.

As a secondary gifted instructor, I was always trying to uncover meaningful activities for my students: activities that they could take with them into the real world, that had to potential to guide them down the path, and to help them regain their balance when necessary. This is where the "This I Believe" project hit the mark.

In 1951, Edward R. Murrow created a unique radio broadcast where well-known, as well as ordinary, people from around the nation and world took the time to reflect upon and write down their core values and beliefs. These were then condensed down to a 350-500 word essay, and delivered on radio by the individuals who wrote them.

The project was revived by NPR and is still going strong at the This I Believe website. Guidelines are archived there, and one can still submit their essay. Collections of essays are heard on NPR, found on CDs and logged in books.

When a teacher gives an assignment that requires a great deal of difficult critical thinking and personal insight, it is always best to join the students in the process. This guarantees that they will put the necessary time and effort into the process. And so, I offer my "This I Believe" essay. It has everything to do with what I do and who I am. It is a starting point for me as I begin a year-long process of reflection: in hopes of discovering my own voice within the conservation movement.

This I Believe Essay

written on December 3, 2008

I am thrilled by the sight of birds.
I’ve looked for birds all across America and abroad, and I’ve actually fit my curious pastime into every family vacation. I have birded in Scotland, where the islands are covered with magnificent sea birds, and in Costa Rica, where a plethora of distinct habitats provide countless avian niches. I bird in ordinary places, too. Each trip to the grocery store or the mailbox is an adventure, adding excitement to my life.

But that does not tell the whole story. I have discovered that birds have become an integral part of my belief-value system, adding purpose to my life.

I believe that the more we open our minds to learn about and care for the bird species that inhabit every corner of the earth, the more likely we are to open our minds and hearts to all forms of life on Earth, including the lives of our own human brothers and sisters.

I could tell you that the tiny warblers migrating through the Ozarks each spring are jewels that display every color of the rainbow in shimmering iridescence and striking brilliance. It's the same with our fellow humans, whose cultures, religions, customs, and lifestyles are also precious gems, mirroring Nature and painting the Earth in rainbow hues.

I recently became part of an effort to train environmental leaders for the future through TogetherGreen, a nationwide National Audubon Society program funded by Toyota Motors. Our grant resulted in G.L.A.D.E., the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems. The avian connection with the academy is the drab, secretive Swainson’s Warbler, whose numbers have plummeted in the White River watershed of southwest Missouri after its Giant Cane riparian home has been destroyed by human activities.
During the academy, “green” leaders in grades 10 and 11 are restoring Swainson’s Warbler habitat by replanting Giant Cane in strategic locations. These teens practice a science that places great value on a drab, secretive, brown bird, and they take significant action to provide proper habitat for it. The Swainson's Warbler is hardly a poster species for a great environmental movement, but that is just the point.

I believe that a society that teaches its children to care for and value inconspicuous species will reap the rewards in positive, altruistic adults that value each other and all life on Earth. Mahatma Gandhi once said the “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated". Jesus of Nazareth asserted: “as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

So, the Swainson’s Warbler, along with countless other threatened and endangered species should be placed on the human species’ “least of these” list. After all, we share the Breath of Life together with all living things, including all the warblers and all the humans. Each has a necessary niche; to gain nourishment from and to give support to all Life surrounding it.

Life is a miraculous gift and a wise teacher. Nature provides infinite examples that can guide us to a sustainable future: a future that will nurture many generations of our grandchildren. It will take a great deal of human ingenuity and humility, but, rest assured, it is possible if we come together, and then, display our finest feathers.
I believe, like my beloved birds, that we can fly with grace and beauty, to a high precipice, where we can look out upon the whole Earth and cherish the gift of life with which we alone have been entrusted.

*photo of Swainson's Warbler from

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Engaging Communities of the Ozark in Leadership and Environmental Awareness Development* Part 2

We who live in the Ozarks believe that it is one of the best kept secrets in America. Don't tell anyone, but we have clean air, clear water, beautiful forests, lakes, caves, prairies, and streams. Our cost of living is practically the lowest in the nation, and our economy is diversified with tourism playing a large role in the balance. So, as a conservationist, our case is not nearly as hard to sell as it might be in other parts of the country.That is not to say that we don't have our problems. We have extremely vulnerable water due to the Karst nature of our terrain. We have the scars of overdevelopment and the remains of mountains, whose tops have been leveled for commercial development.
This is all the more reason why we need projects like GLADE, the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems. And, of course, we'd like for GLADE to become a model for other communities. And so I begin Part 2 of my "Rehearsal for Success" presentation. I begin where Part 1 left off.

GLADE empowers youth and produces concerned, active citizens. One of our alum currently serves on the Sparta, Missouri, park board as the small town plans its very first municipal park. JJ has big plans for a native plant garden at the entrance to the park, and two other GLADE alum have already placed Bluebird nest boxes around the perimeter of the park. Advanced Biology students at the high school will monitor the nests, and contribute their data through their engagement in citizen science.
Exposure to GLADE curriculum results in responsible guardianship of our natural resources. GLADE alum Sarah and Amy have developed and constructed the largest rain garden project in Springfield, Missouri, designed to eliminate an extensive, environmental runoff problem in their school's parking lot.
GLADE's leadership model encourages youth to make positive contributions to their communities by offering its participants grants to develop conservation action plans in their own rural towns. Our young people have set up school-wide recycling programs, water retension projects, reuseable grocery bag programs, lakeshore clean ups, children's library gardens, grow native gardens, bluebird nest box trails, and more.

The young people of the Ozarks are our most precious resource. Our investment in them is critical to the well-being of our wildlife, land, and water resources. They are our flowers, if you will, and we, as a supportive and responsible adult community, must provide them with the fertile ground, the roots, and the stems to support their continued blossoming.
The GLADE project can turn promising fledglings into fully fledged and responsible leaders.

Leadership develops across many disciplines. Did I mention that possibly the only reason Edwin Hubble was able to achieve on such a grand scale is that he had an platform to develop and display his leadership. He was an athlete. He held the state record for high jump and won 7 gold and 3 silver medals in a single track/field meet after he moved to Illinois in 1905.
Not all of our brilliant rural young people have the opportunities that athletes have in the Ozarks. They may dream of being scientists and community leaders, but in remote areas of the Ozarks, they need programs like GLADE to encourage and support their dreams.

The years will pass quickly, and our future will reveal itself. Here are two possible scenarios for the Ozarks. One, a land with clear streams and clear heads providing vibrant, community-based leadership, and one in which the very things that we value have disappeared , and our most promising young leaders trapped in poverty without the skills needed to move forward.

Let's be sure that we guard and nourish our precious resources: our lands, our waters, our wildlife. And most importantly of all, let's nourish and prepare our young people to be our leaders of tomorrow.
Just as sure as the seasons change in the Ozarks, we will need perennial support for the GLADE project. $1000/year will provide the GLADE experience for 1 young leader/year for as many years as you are willing to support the project. Please consider a long term INVESTMENT* in GLADE.

*ECOLEAD - Engaging Communities of the Ozarks in Leadership and Environment Awareness Development - rights reserved by the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society GLADE project.
*poverty in the Ozarks photo from the movie "Winter's Bone". Be sure to see it when it comes to your town.
*for more info, contact grswick (at)

Engaging Communities of the Ozarks in Leadership and Environmental Awareness Development* Pt. 1

GLADE, the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems, has the ability to bring people and organizations together with a shared vision of active, young, community-based leaders. It was created in the Ozarks, developed in the Ozarks, and takes place in the Ozarks. We now enter a challenging time with our goal to become independent of TogetherGreen funding by the fall of 2012.

Have you ever heard of the Hubble Telescope? I suspect that most of you have because of the beautiful pictures of outer space that it has miraculously sent back to Earth.
Did you know that the Hubble Telescope was named after Edwin Hubble, one of our own here in the Ozarks?
Edwin Hubble was born in the small, rural community of Marshfield, Missouri, in 1889. During his life of research, he profoundly changed the way we look at our own world when he discovered that a multitude of galaxies exist beyond our own Milky Way. Rising from his humble beginnings in the rural Ozarks, he rose to become one of the greatest scientists in the world.

So what does this have to do with the GLADE project? Leadership crosses over many disciplines, and developing strong, responsible leaders is critical to survival of our nation. How can GLADE facilitate the emergence of community-based leadership?

The GLADE Logic Model

  1. Academic Rigor---->Conservation Researchers, Field Experts----->Wise Use of Resources

  2. Hard Work--------->Habitat Restoration Project------------>Productive, Active Citizens

  3. Leadership Training----->Niche-based Leadership---->Skilled, Community-based Leaders


Throughout the week university professors, MDC specialists, water quality personnel, and other professionals in the conservation field share their time and expertise with the students on a one-on-one basis,providing direct exposure and knowledge of the wildlife, land, and water resources of the Ozarks. GLADE participants, future community leaders will take this set of skills back to their hometowns, increasing the chances of a future Ozarks communities reflecting committment to core values.

The work ethic instilled by the GLADE project is hard to deny. For the past two years, students have toiled in upper 90's temperatures and endured heat advisories for the entire region. In spite of this, they enthusiastically engaged in a 2 acre Giant Cane riparian habitat restoration on a single day of the academy each year. This action both protects the waters and increases the biodiversity of the habitat so that the quality of life in the Ozarks is enhanced.

The Leadership Training aspect of GLADE incorporates the latest theories and practices in the world of business. Our niche-based approach allows each individual to flourish and rise to the occasion when there is a need for his/her input in the group process. Over the course of the week, each individual develops a committment to the group, and is connected by a common vision. In this leadership model the benefits of teamwork and shared responsibility are emphasized, and the values of integrity, honesty, and respect are solidly reinforced.

(to be continued.)

*ECOLEAD -Engaging Communities of the Ozarks in Leadership and Environmental Awareness Development- rights reserved by GLADE project.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zen and the Art of Conservation

I returned home from Shepherdstown, WV, where Hurricane Earl veered to the east, only to find that over 10" of rain had fallen across the Ozarks. The official total for my community was 8.25 inches. The clear, rippling rivers and streams became murky, and sediment-filled flood waters rapidly made their way downstream.

The corresponding plant growth following the heavy rains was predictable and exponential in its intensity. My suburban lawn responded in different ways, depending upon the make up of its plant species. When we purchased the home a decade ago, the monocultured fescue sod in the front yard gave the home a fresh green, albeit sterile look. The back yard was prairie remnants of the old Bingham farm with its highly diverse and well adapted flora. Today, the front yard appears brown and lifeless. Where fescue once dominated the landscape, hardy invaders are making their way into the landscape in a variety of forms, colors, and sizes. Then there's the backyard! Even prairie wild flowers remain. Green as can be, every species that one finds on the Weed Killer label flourishes in abundance! Goldfinches munch on crab grass seed stalks; their brilliant yellows enhanced by the golden light of the morning sun.
I digress. The people that became my new friends last week were truly remarkable, with liquid wisdom flowing from their words and actions. Daniel Dermitzel, a self-described urban farmer, comes to mind. In describing the act of hoeing the garden, he conveyed so much about living in the willful act of joining the hoe in a rhythmic dance. He searched for the words to describe it, but we both knew the essence of what he was talking about.

In the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Persig experienced the same sensation with a complex machine (tool, if you will) while caring for and riding on his motorcycle in a cross country father/son journey of self-discovery. Those "tools" that we use, and value, whether they be hoes, motorcycles, binoculars, cameras, or self-designed curriculum plans, become an extension of our authentic selves, revealing much about our inner dialogue, our dreams, our purpose.
I know that my mower is one of the worst contributors to air pollution, climate change, and who knows what else, but when I am mowing, my mind enters a zone where thoughts come into ever sharpening focus. My task becomes secondary to the ramblings of my mind.
Yes, here in the Ozarks the grass has quickly grown. During the retreat near DC, an analogous event occurred. Metaphorical torrential rains fell, and grass grew unimpeded. The waters overflowed the banks, and my thoughts tumbled across the rocks. It was only when I let go, that I found that my waters moved downstream with effortless action, and, with patience and perseverence, actually smoothed out the edges of the rocks.

I always find myself in the middle of things. That's where I choose to be. The mid-point between urban and rural, front yard and backyard, elementary kids and high school kids, water and land, Persig's rational and romantic, past and future. Wherever I wander, I am innately drawn to the conversion zone. I guess that's why I love beaches, merging land and water. Or trees and mountaintops, both bridging earth to sky, or art when it joins science, and vice versa. Or when the past meets the future. ....... now....

Our green coalition is one that embraces all and shares a common vision of a just sustainable world. Since conservation is about people, we stand midway between the forces of continued unsustainability and an irresistible, biodiverse, dynamic, and living planet Earth. We reach our hands out, hoping that others will extend theirs to us.

It's not for the faint at heart. May we all have the courage to endure the torrential rains, and the passion to envision the rainbow at the end of the storm.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Stirring of the Waters

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour"
~ William Blake - Auguries of Innocence*

It was Friday morning. The winds relented as the eye of the hurricane passed directly over us. I looked into a mirror, another human soul*, where I could clearly peer into my own soul. This ephemeral moment was in sharp contrast to the force of relentless winds that churned the waters throughout the week, bringing long hidden sediments to the surface.

Solace filled the empty space.
Its silence was deafening.
A gentle breeze vaporized the remnants of a tear trickling down my cheek. I plunged into the deafening silence. In an instant, or was it a lifetime, I emerged, drifting upward and outward on the thermals, as swirling winds of social and environmental change engulfed me.

This was not Hurricane Earl, even though he conveyed a similar message to all things wild and free just a short distance to our east*. This was a hurricane of a different sort, a magnificent storm at the crossroads of human intellect and emotion, where souls are exposed to the elements, to be cleansed and purified.

A giant wave appeared. I scurried to reach its crest, balancing precariously on its lip. The view was awe-inspiring, and the ground swell was overwhelming. In that instant I made a promise to myself and those surrounding me to ride the crest of this wave until it breaks upon the shoreline of humanity and washes away the ignorance and cynicism that paint the walls of our world.

Here at Conservation Conversations, it is simply the rebirth of a blogger who is feeling a stirring in the waters. No longer will complacency rule my day. I hope all of you will join me in conservation conversations right here.

Subscribe through the RSS feed, and/or visit often. I look forward to hearing from you.

*for complete poem, go to Art of Europe.

*Thanks to Heather Ristow for reflecting to me the kindness, passion, and hope that dwells within all of us who are driven by the passion to steer this incredible earthly community toward just sustainability for all things alive.

*within the Native American medicine wheel, the east is often portrayed as the pathway to illumination

*photo from wikipedia: Hurricane Earl