Category Nature & Ecology

Benefits of Healthy Ecosystems

What is the value of an intact ecosystem? Why should somebody who is struggling to make ends meet in their land management change what they're doing? When will they reap the rewards and in what ways? Or what do they risk losing if they don't begin to pivot to more ecologically sound practices? This is the second post from my Appalachian Biodiversity series.
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Appalachian Biodiversity

A view from a ridge top in Floyd
This post is based on a presentation I made to Sustain Floyd on Appalachian Biodiversity. It was my pitch for them to take on conservation and ecology issues here in Floyd, Virginia. As I work to break it into manageable sized posts, I understand why I have not had time or energy to post anything since August: The presentation contains at least five posts worth of content! So, this is only one portion of the full presentation. I will be adding more episodes and posts from this presentation. This post covers Appalachian biodiversity as a whole and offers a broad overview of the ecological stakes.
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Remember the Ocelot

Ocelot, photo by Leonardo Prest Mercon Ro, licensed via iStock
Extinctions and endangered species are on my mind this week. Who have we lost? And what are we poised to lose? The monarch butterfly flutters top of mind, but so too the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha), the wood bison, and a small spotted cat I believe once used to hunt the forested mountains of Appalachia: the ocelot.
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When You Heal the Earth, You Heal Yourself

Last year, the Siberian American shaman, Jade Grigori, gave me a key shamanic teaching: that when you seek to heal yourself, you must heal the Earth, because we are the Earth. This short essay revisits some of that original conversation from May 2021, and shares some insights from my own issues with physical pain and its surprising responsiveness to my campaigns to cut down the Asian bittersweet vines strangling our woods.
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Straining to See the Appalachian Forest for the Trees

Witch hazel growing along a hickory oak forest beside a stream in Floyd, VA
The journey to create more wild beauty on our property and help conserve Appalachia is full of twists and turns: learning the Latin names, absorbing the The Nature Conservancy's evaluation of Appalachia, “alongside the Amazon Rainforest and the Kenyan grasslands as one of the most globally important landscapes for tackling climate change and conserving biodiversity,” remembering the abundant landscape enjoyed by First Nations peoples, working with the NRCS to try to understand the ecology on our property, the Natural Communities Classification of Ecological Groups and Community Types, The Nature Conservancy's resilient landscapes mapping tool, removing invasives (including Asian bittersweet, stiltgrass, and fescue grass), planting wildflower meadows, the monarch butterfly's addition to the Endangered Species List, planning a native pollinator garden, and the dedication to keep looking out at the long view while I dig in the soil at my feet.
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Why Native Plants Matter

Native "common greenbrier" (Smilax rotundifolia)
If you care about flowers for the pollinators, supporting ecological biodiversity, clean water and air, healthy soil, low-maintenance landscaping, or climate change, native plants are you allies! This is a bit of background, a look at invasives, and some how-to's.
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To Coax More Wild Beauty from this Place

As I dove head first into love with the wild world, I’ve become aware of a longing. Where this longing comes from I am not sure, although surely it has a sturdy shelter in my own heart. It is fed by the magical interactions you encounter when you slow down and listen deeply to the wild world with an open mind. I find myself longing to create a more diverse native ecosystem on this piece of property where we built our house, to coax more wild beauty from this place.
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The Magical Mystery Tour

The frog pond at Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary
I took a tour of Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary this weekend, and so that is part of the magical mystery tour. But deeper still, there is a living landscape opening up beneath my feet as I step, as I am called, (even enchanted!) back outside into the living world, remembering things like native ecologies, principles of permaculture and biodynamic farming, imaginal dances with nature, and even the longer geologic spans of life's evolution on this planet. I believe we are headed back to the Garden, a new Eden, bringing our tools and technology along the way. But more on that in the time to come as I experiment with the ideas unfolding around me -- I can't wait to discover what there is to discover!
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Borer Bees III: Carpenter Bee as Native Pollinator

The Least of These
This is a deeper dive into carpenter bee ecology, supplemented by first-hand observations and my own speculations. We look at native flowering cycles in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, remember the American chestnut, and consider the resources for climate change offered by such a widely adaptable generalist pollinator as the carpenter bee. More deeply, we acknowledge the transformative power in relating with a bee-ing for its own sake.
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The Least of These, Our Insect Teachers

Butterfly on my toe
Let’s face it, most of us, most of the time, assume insects are simply too tiny and primitive to interact with in any meaningful way except to objectify as pest, mindless bug, or at best, ecological agent (e.g., pollinator, predator, or even food). After working with bees and wasps, I’m convinced there is so much more to them, and I have updates on my carpenter bee saga to share in the next few posts. But here, I want to look at age-old attitudes toward insects and their surprising lack of representation even among indigenous wisdom traditions where you would expect to find them.
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Consider the Borer Bee

Borer bees can be the bane of homeowners with wood siding and other exterior wood. Accordingly, a multi-million dollar industry has arisen around killing and deterring them. But I discovered this month there is much more at stake as I tried to get a group of borer bees to move using the method I shared in my last post, "Talking to the Bees." The stakes, I came to see, have to do with our relationship with native species. This shocking insight led me to discover the relatively smaller but well-established industry of adorable bee houses which reflect a growing realization about the importance of native pollinators.
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Talking to the Bees

Talking to the Bees, Photo by David Hablützel from Pexels:
Quite by accident, I discovered that I can relocate the nests of bees, wasps, and hornets through mental communication alone. I'm sharing the backstory and the method for any who would like to try it. It offers an effective and miraculous way to approach so-called dangerous pests, as well as a doorway into a richer relationship with the non-human natural world.
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Cancer Is A Symptom III: Dastardly and Immoral Deeds

With this post, we come to the end of my series on cancer. The topic here, the deeply immoral decisions that expose us to powerful cancer-causing agents, reaches far beyond just cancer itself. We're going to explore the troubling realm of DU weapons before we take a look at ways to pivot from a natural response of depression or reactionary activism to strengthening the heart as a muscle, as a defense against depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and hopelessness.
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Cancer Is A Symptom II: With Roots in the Heart

Cancer is a symptom of our dissociation from the wisdom of the heart. This is an invitation to come back to a deeper radiance that can shelter us from harm. It will require that you confront some painful truths about the ways we all, usually unconsciously, participate in worldviews that sacrifice wonder and love for the sake of profits, assets, and convenience. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the relationship with our food animals, like the endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, source of the delicacies of maguro sushi and sashimi.
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Cancer Is A Symptom

Baby lying a carpet
I believe the epidemic of cancer is a symptom of a psychic or sensory deadness that fails to register toxins in our environment. We don't dodge or avoid them when we should, and our societies continue to tolerate toxins in our industries. Retraining our senses is a powerful first step to eliminating the widespread incidence of cancer.
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