Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Community on a Tree

A tree in the forest is an expression of community. This is true of every one. Do you have a favorite tree? The next time you visit your favorite tree (or any tree that catches your eye capturing your attention) take time to notice what’s growing on and around it, and what different kinds of insects and animals visit it while you’re there. 

This is a yellow birch tree (Betula Allegheniensis) along the path to Haystack Mountain near the town of Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondack Park. What I could see is that wood sorrel, various mosses, and lung lichen were growing on its trunk. 

Side note: Lung lichen is very sensitive to pollution and only thrives where air quality is excellent. If the air is good for lung lichen then it’s good for your lungs too.

I imagined the fungus-root (mycorrhizal) connections that link this tree with other trees in the forest beneath my feet. Some kinds of fungi connect with tree roots throughout the forest. Fungi gift trees with access to water and nutrients, also allowing for tree to tree communication. Trees gift fungi with carbon produced through photosynthesis.

I wondered what finches might visit this tree sometime during the Winter to enjoy its nourishing seeds.

Yellow Birch of Haystack Mountain; the spirit in me welcomes and respects as a neighbor the spirit in you. Thank you.

Monday, October 11, 2021

A Good Mountain Day

 Here are a couple pics from a little impromptu nature interpretation at the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg in New York’s Adirondack Park. What does it mean that dinosaurs were among the first to tread on these mountains 147 million years ago and wooly mammoths & saber-toothed tigers were among the first to set foot on these ancient rocks when the glaciers retreated 20-12,000 years ago? (No wrong answer; what does it mean to YOU when you set foot here?)

 I’m thankful to have shared the mountain trail with so many today; especially Erin (my spouse) and Lynn & Glo (Erin’s parents). Photo credit:Erin Hanlon.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Hacking Harmony with the Wildlife

A happy harvest of hackberries from the lower branches while titmice, robins, and waxwings work the canopy feels like a moment of harmony with wild nature along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Athens, PA. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tired Trees

The leaves of our deciduous neighbors are looking tired under this September sky. Like marathon athletes who've run their course with endurance since Spring, in a final push they'll go out in a blaze of Autumn glory during the month to come. After that we'll have entered the season of rest for our tree neighbors. If you're feeling exhausted and in need of some rest, go spend some time in the forest; you'll be in good company.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Nightlife Neighbors

Check out the antenna’s on this moth! What human senses do you find that you use most in navigating your world? Can you imagine being able to confidently make your way through the pitch-black night with feathery organs like these antennae which this moth will use to navigate by following chemical and pheromone trails in its environment? 

Take time this week to watch some of your favorite animals. See if you can notice the ways they use some of the same senses you do, and some of the ways they sense the world differently than you.

Thursday, September 2, 2021


While I wander in the woods I often wonder who might be watching me;

Perhaps an owl tucked within the branches of a conifer tree or a bobcat crouched among logs and leaf-litter.

If I'm feeling spiritual I might welcome the comforting thought that I'm always living within the loving gaze of the Great Spirit.

This recent adventure now has me wondering if the fungi are watching me too!

Happy wanderings to all.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Harebell in the Rain on Marble Mountain

If you ask me, I think rainy day hikes are some of the best. I hiked up Marble Mountain in New York’s Adirondack Park in search of a flower called Harebell and I was not disappointed. As rain dripped down all around and misty fog pressed in from all sides, I reached the Marble Mountain Vista soaking wet; equal parts rain and sweat from the exertion put into the climb. Once there I was greeted by these happy blue flowers drooping from long slender stems at an exposed rocky outcrop. I imagined they might make a good hat for a fairy.

Perhaps, like me, you revel in a good rainy day hike.

Or perhaps you can identify with the small insects that can be seen resting inside of a Harebell flower as if it were their umbrella.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Indian Pipe Gratitude

 Indian Pipe is a freeloader among plants. 

It’s becoming common knowledge that the vast majority of forest plants and trees are connected with mycorrhizae; fungal strands that gift vegetation with nutrients and water and in return are gifted with carbon produced by it’s plant and tree partners through photosynthesis. Mycorrhizae also behaves as a storehouse for excess carbon and nutrients as well as a resource allocator for the forest. I’m this system, all mycorrhizae give nutrients and share energy where it’s needed. All plants contribute carbon produced through photosynthesis…except for the plant called Indian Pipe and a few others.

Indian pipe is the freeloader, getting nutrients and water from it’s mycorrhizal partner and getting carbon from surrounding forest plants and trees through its mycorrhizal partner. Indian Pipe gets without giving to the system that supports it. 

While it may feel natural for us humans to come down harshly on Indian Pipe’s selfish behavior (so judgy!), what if Indian Pipe’s status as the plant without chlorophyll is no fault of its own. What if that’s just how it’s evolved? 

What if the whole ‘balance of nature’ thing is not as simple as ‘give and take.’ What if there’s gratitude at work here as well (at least from our human perspective). 

The fact is, short of gifting the forest with its decomposed stem at the end of its growing season, Indian Pipe receives gifts it has no way of repaying. 

Indian Pipe reminds me of the gratitude I feel for all the gifts I’ve received that I’ll never be able to repay; and there are many! (The love of family and friends, all of wild nature’s gifts to me, and the list goes on.)

Perhaps Indian Pipe can remind us all to live in gratitude for the gifts received that we’ll never be able to repay. That’s okay. It’s healthy. It’s good.

Live in gratitude, neighbors.

Friday, August 13, 2021

It's a Leaf...Or is it?

This time of year, every leaf is worth a closer look; sometimes because leaves can be home for a multitude of different interesting insects, and sometimes because the insects themselves are leaf-mimics, as in the case of this Planthopper I found on a boxelder branch along the Diahoga Trail in Athens, Pennsylvania.

Can you see it perched on the branch in the center of the frame?

Here's for a much closer look.

This is one among many leaf-mimic insects. I wonder what leaf-mimic insects are making a living in a shrub, tree, or forest near you. There's one way to find out. Go, enjoy the gift of nature, and see for yourself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Odonates, a Celebration of Nature's Diversity

Nature is a celebration of diversity, and this past week I found myself enjoying the diversity within a particular order of insects known as Odonates. Within odonates are dragonflies and damselflies. This time of year there are more than a hundred species that can be found hovering, flying, and perching around ponds and other wet areas in the northeastern United States, including where I live in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Here are a couple of my favorite finds from this past week:

This damselfly who goes by the name Slender Spreadwings was perched among tall grasses near the pond at Roundtop Park. It remained perched much of the time, but would make short flights low through the grasses to catch small flying insects passing by. I found the elegant wing and body structure and those aqua-blue eyes totally captivating!

This dragonfly who goes by the name Prince Baskettail was my most challenging photo subject. I watched it along the shores of Mt. Pisgah State Park for 30 minutes and it never landed during that time. It flew high and fast making quick turns to catch flying insects. Only when it would occasionally fly closer to the ground was I able to get some decent photos of it. I took a hundred pictures of this dragonfly in flight, and only three came out good. Here is one of them.

Whether you're out observing dragonflies, butterflies, birds, trees, fungi, something else, or some combination, I hope that you're able to take some time to appreciate nature's celebration of diversity too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Who's That Cicada?

Many of the birds in our Pennsylvania landscape have quieted down since we're now post-breeding season. Most young birds have fledged and many adults have stopped defending a territory. While the birds are becoming quiet, a great chorus of insects has emerged. Many of the insect songsters you're likely to hear during the months of August and September include thousands of different species of grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and cicadas. 

If you'd like to learn more about these insects and their calls I recommend visiting and then taking to the forests and fields to enjoy these wonderful creatures for yourself.

Here is a cicada I happened upon shortly after it emerged from it's 2-5 years of feeding off of tree roots underground. Based on the cicada's I've been hearing in my north-central Pennsylvania area during the past couple of weeks there's a likely probability that this one was either a dog-day cicada or a Linne's cicada.

Here's a cicada in my hand. This is me showing you that you've nothing to fear from these strange creatures. They won't bite. Their straw-like mouthparts are made for drinking plant juices.

Here's the shed exoskeleton of a cicada that I photographed along the Diahoga Trail this-morning. Those who are familiar with the Diahoga Trail may be able to pinpoint the exact tree by looking at the background and find the shed exoskeleton for yourself!

Wishing you a fantastic multitude of wonderful buggy days in the months ahead.


Monday, July 26, 2021

Caterpillar's Wisdom: Personal Transformation is Worth Investing In

Io Moth Caterpillar
Personal transformation is worth investing in. For Lepidopterans (butterflies, moths, and their larval form, caterpillars) the continuation of their species is dependent upon each of its members undergoing a personal transformation called complete metamorphosis. After filling up on favored food plants over the course of several months, caterpillars undergo the most extreme form of personal transformation in the world. Within the chrysalis or cocoon, all body parts are broken down and then re-organized into a totally new form. What was once caterpillar emerges from chrysalis as butterfly and from cocoon as moth. Flight doesn't happen without personal transformation. The next season of life cannot happen without personal transformation.
Monarch Butterfly

One thing I imagine our lepidopteran neighbors trying to teach is that personal transformation is worth investing in. People are capable of changing, growing, and transforming physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. Take a lesson from a lepidopteran. Invest time and energy in your personal transformation. When you do, you'll be empowered to spread your wings into the next season of your life, wherever the path may lead.

While you're at it, return your gratitude for this gift of inspiration by building neighborly relationships with the caterpillars, butterflies, and moths who live near you. Landscape with native plants and refrain from using harmful chemicals on the land that you manage. Your lepidopteran neighbors will thank you.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

In a word...WOW!

If I could summarize yesterday's nature events in a word, the best word I can think of might be WOW! Given the opportunity to lead a dragonfly adventure at Riverfront Park, some dragonfly as well as mycorrhizal fungi interpretation to Athens UMC's Sunday Church service, and to bring more mycorrhizal fun to Church in the Wild's Sunday afternoon gathering, my heart is full. Thanks to all who participated in each of these nature events. I hope that together we'll grow in our connection with nature and in the compassion and care each of us extend to our wild neighbors and to our human neighbors.