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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

The glory and splendor of a tree is an awesome sight.

You know what I’m saying. We’ve all been there, standing in awe, gazing up, marveling upon a tall, straight, full tree as it sways in the breeze, gently singing its soothing song of peace and goodness to the land. The creatures of the earth and birds of all sizes, designs and colors finding refuge in its thick, life-sustaining foliage.

We look upon the Maple – the Beech – the Sycamore and the mighty Oak as they rise upwards – 60 – 80 – even a hundred feet towards the light, and we marvel at their strength and beauty.  They stand firm and steady against the winds, rains and hails that batter them. Their roots go down deep into the ground, 20 -40 even 80 feet to anchor them securely to the earth, holding them tight against the storms of life.

They stand alone – firmly and confidently.

But, even with such strength and depth, sometimes, under the power of the assault, they bend and give – their roots slowly breaking apart from the earth and when the storm blows hard, even those deep roots cannot bear the strain and they pull up from the earth and a mighty tree falls, crashing to the ground in a loud, agonizing roar of despair. And the world groans.

mondaymeme2013-09-09Towering above all other trees, straight and majestic, rise the  Sequoia Redwoods.  They stretch upwards, reaching high into the heavens. Not 80, not a 100, not even 200 feet, but over 300 feet they rise! Greater than the length of a football field! Imagine laying a single tree across the entire length of the Super Bowl and then raising it up to reach into the sky.

Some reach into the heavens taller than the Statue of Liberty, exceeding heights of 375 feet. They obtain massive circumferences with diameters in excess of twenty feet;  laden with heavy, coarse bark 20 inches thick that defies modern engineering by miraculously pumping over 250 gallons of water a day upwards into the heights to feed its rich foliage in the heavens.

Not only are they the tallest trees in the world – they are the largest living things in the world, and they live for hundreds – even thousands of years.

When the storms come, they are the first and the last to be battered. Rising above all those below, they receive the strongest attack – feel the harshest assault as the winds and gales toss and rip at their crowning heads, bending them to the power of their might. Smaller trees, far below, bend, crack, snap and break, pulling out from the earth, not able to withstand the rage and fury of the storm.

When the storm subsides – the Redwood stands firm and proud, rejoicing in its glory.

How?

Why does this giant of the earth not succumb to the storm?

How does it remain standing two – three – even four times taller than those that could not bear the storm’s fury?

The answer can only lie in its roots – which must go deeper into the earth than all the other trees. Ah! There is a lesson for us here! In order to become strong we must reach deep into the earth, clinging hard to withstand the storms of this world.

But – upon examination – we are in awe – we are dumbfounded – we are aghast!

The roots only go into the earth four – five – six feet. They are shallow – This massive monster of nature, towering over 300 feet and weighting over 3,000,000 pounds – is anchored to the earth by a mere five feet! How can this be? It defies logic – physics – engineering – and life as we understand it.

What is its secret to survival and majesty?

So we look closer and we find the secret – it was there all along.

The roots, although not deep, spread out hundreds of feet around the tree. They intertwine, tangle, knot and lock with the roots of the other trees around it, that are doing the same thing, until for miles it’s a single woven mat of thick, living roots. They support and hold one another firmly in place. If one weakens, the others grab and lock themselves around it to hold it and keep it upright.

But there’s more. The roots actually begin fusing together, forming common roots that share, feed and give life to one another.

Once established – the Redwood tree is not solitary – stand-alone but is part of a community – united – bound together – supporting and sustaining one another. Only internal decay within a tree can destroy it.

I wonder – what would our world be like – if we were Redwoods?

Until Next Time:

Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

DK LeVick

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Recently, I was asked, “Just what is a river rat, anyway?”

In the fly-leaf of ‘Journeys Across Niagara’, I describe myself as growing up on the Upper Niagara River, as a ‘river rat’—(I didn’t think anyone actually read fly-leafs anymore.)

Well, let’s go to the source for the answer—Wikipedia:

“…a large, herbivorous, semiaquatic rodent and the only member of the family Myocastoridae. Originally native to subtropical and temperate South America, it has since been introduced to North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, primarily by fur ranchers. Although it is still valued for its fur in some regions, its destructive feeding and burrowing behaviors make this invasive species a pest throughout most of its range. There are two commonly used names in the English language for Myocastor coypus. The name “nutria” (or local derivatives such as “nutria- or nutra- rat”) is generally used in North America… In Italy the popular name is “nutria”, but it is also called castorino (“little beaver”), by which its fur is known.”

Quoting from Elvira Woodruff, The Christmas Doll (2000):

“To her horror, she discovered that the rope she was holding was not a rope at all, but a tail. And attached to the tail was a large river rat that scrambled frantically in midair, thrashing to get away.”

Whoa – let’s just wait a minute there fella– ‘a large rodent’?– ‘an invasive pest’? that ain’t a gonna do it.  ‘A semiaquatic rat’ called “little beaver”?   That’s not what I want on my tombstone. What do they know?  Who reads the lousy Wikipedia anyway? And,we all know how shallow internet research is, — don’t we? (see ‘Research-the Writer’s Mantra’).

Let’s check another source – one that understands real people. How about the Urban Dictionary?

 “Someone who either lives or represents El Rio, California. Usually low life wannabe gangsters who frequent Wal-Mart stores and attempt to steal sh_ _ only to be caught and think they are bad ass mofos. They start fights only to run away from it.”

Say what? I’m either a hairy wet rodent or a Wal-Mart wannabe gangsta?

Well—how much can a dictionary that calls itself ‘urban’ know anyway? Bet they never even seen a real river.

Ok – let’s go to the master book of definitions itself – Webster’s Merriam Dictionary.

Nothing. No entry – it’s not in the dictionary.

They’re kidding right? Now, I don’t even exist? Wait – here’s something in the Expanded Webster Merriam (so, I do exist – I’m just rare):

“…one who spends his leisure time on or along a river.”

Ok, that’s getting closer, but, it’s rather bland, isn’t it?

Wait a minute…what do we have here? This looks more like it:

Trademark Search > Trademark Category > Clothing Products > WHAT IS A RIVER RAT? DEFINITION OF A RIVER RAT (RI-VER RAT) N. Mammal, Unique and rare breed. Thrives best on or near water. Usually travels in groups, but may be spotted alone. Capable of consuming mass quantities of adult beverages. Peaceful by nature, respects others, loves life. Heavily concentrated in Louisiana, but can be found worldwide. WARNING: APPROACH WITH CAUTION IF PROVOKED.” Legal Source

Now we’re getting somewhere, or as Betty Bryant wrote in ‘Here Comes the Showboat!’ (1994):

“While other children were learning how to walk, I was learning how to swim, and I knew how to set a trotline, gig a frog, catch a crawfish, and strip the mud vein out of a carp by the time I was four. Dad called me a river rat.”

That a girl, Betty! Ride that boat!

Being a ‘rat’ on the Niagara River (actually it’s not a river at all, but a ‘strait’, see ‘The Niagara River – a Wonder of Creation’) I wasn’t in wonder of the mighty Niagara Falls, located downriver. I feared it greatly, viewing it as a threat—as the ultimate and final judgment for my escapades.  More than once, I found myself fighting to escape the swift current, carrying me to that huge, misty cloud ahead, as various capers went astray. Rather than captivating me, like it did the crowds of  ‘ohhing‘ and ‘ahhing‘ tourists, it scared the living daylights out of me. I’d look downriver and loath that huge cloud on the horizon, knowing that while I tinkered and toyed along the length of the river, it was always there, beckoning and calling to me with open arms to enter its eternal embrace.

Not that I ever did anything stupid, you understand. Things just seemed to happen for no reason of my own. It was the ‘river gods’. They were out to get me. It’s true. I’ll give you an example and you’ll see what I mean. How about an ordinary Bass fishing trip?

Navy Island is a small island that sits off of Grand Island, in the middle of the Niagara River, just a short distance above the brink of the mighty Niagara Falls.

The current along the island is fast, around 8 to 12 miles per hour, picking up speed as it approaches the abyss ahead. It’s also home to one of the best Smallmouth Bass drifts in the entire river (some great Musky fishing too). Get in a boat, shoot to the upper tip of the island, put the motor in neutral and drift the length of the island and you’ll tangle with some of the most beautiful three to five-pound smallies anywhere.  Great fishing – if you have a boat, but make sure your motor is running  – you wouldn’t want to stall here! The picture below shows the downriver end of Grand Island, with Navy Island off to the left and the Falls above it.)

Well, at the time of this fishing trip, I was 16 years wise and did, in fact, have a small, 12 foot aluminum Jon boat with an old, beat up 18 horse outboard on it. It was dinged up pretty bad and wasn’t much as far as boats on the Niagara go, but it worked, and to me it was the Queen Mary luxury liner. Unfortunately, at that time, it was sitting on the bottom of Lake Erie at a place called Sturgeon Point, after a Coast Guard Officer emptied a full clip of .45 hollow point bullets into it (but that’s another story).

Meanwhile, it was the peak of the Smallmouth bite and I was determined not to be left out. I managed to get possession of a 10 foot inflatable rubber raft that had a 3 ½ HP motor on it, a friend used on a small, inland lake. I tested it out – the raft didn’t leak and the motor ran good – so I was going bass fishing.

At daybreak, on the shore of Grand Island, I pumped up the raft with a foot pump, fastened the motor to the mount, loaded up all my gear, and pushed off for Navy Island. It was slow going, cutting across the swift current, to cover the  half mile to the upper tip of Navy Island, but I finally made it and was elated and feeling quite pleased with myself that I was going to get in on the fishing. I cast out a chartreuse Mister Twister, topped off with a live crawfish, and got ready for the action as I started the first drift.

It didn’t happen.

Unless I was trolling for birds, the drift was too fast for the lure to sink as it skipped across the surface. I put on a half ounce drop sinker—no go. One ounce – no good. Two ounces – still not working. The inflated raft, riding on top of the surface, having no hull friction below the waterline, skimmed across the surface – like a surfboard catching a wave at Maui. By now, I’d drifted down to the end of the island and it was time to motor back up to start another drift. Those 3 ½ horses barely moved me against the current, but after enough time to read “Crime and Punishment” a couple of times through, I arrived back at the head of the Island, ready for another drift, and – I had a plan. The slow journey back up the river had given me plenty of time to figure out a solution. I untied the anchor rope from the five-pound mushroom anchor, and strung the rope through the hole of the anchor. I then tied one end of the rope to one side of the back of the raft and the other end to the opposite side, with the anchor riding free in the middle. Ready to start the drift, I tossed the anchor overboard. It quickly sunk and I could feel it bouncing along the bottom of the river as the raft drifted.

It worked great! The dragging anchor slowed the raft down to enable the perfect drift, and if the smallies cooperated, it was going to be a great fishing day!

I had boated (rafted?) a nice three-pounder and was setting the hook on a second one, when all hell broke loose. The anchor snagged the bottom of the river and didn’t bounce – but held fast.  With the raft anchored firm on the river’s bottom while being pushed hard by the current on the river’s surface, the ten-foot raft instantly became a five-foot raft as it buckled in the middle, with the back half going completely underwater – motor and all.With half the raft underwater, and the river claiming the rest, inch by inch, everything that was in – went out – into the river and either sunk or floated, carried off by the current. Tackle box, rods, lunch – everything. When the bait box of crawfish went down, I had a fleeting thought of seeing the largest smallie in Niagara inhaling it and flipping me a “Thank you” with a smirk on its face.

But I was losing the raft fast. In a panic, I began sawing through the anchor rope with my pocket knife. When the last strand finally let go, the back of the raft popped up out of the water, like a jack-in-the-box. Whew—tragedy averted! Everything was gone, but the motor was still mounted on the back of the raft. Thank God!

Yanking on the starter cord, it didn’t start. Again – nothing; and again—and again. Nothing. Not a purr. Not a putt. Not a cough. Water ran out of the housing. Looking around, no boats were anywhere in sight. The shore of Navy Island was only about 70 feet away, but the raft was surfing by it and would soon be past the Island. Again I panicked—once past the Island, there was nothing between me and those thundering cataracts downriver. Looking ahead, I could see that ominous cloud on the horizon and I swear it was grinning.

Holding the rope in one hand, I dove into the river and began swimming for Navy Island. I knew if I didn’t reach the shore before the current carried me past the Island, I’d be fish food. I swam as hard as I could. But swim like I did, I was losing ground. The raft was flying with the current – and was taking me with it. I let go of the rope and swam like the devil for the island (believe me, the devil can swim).

Nothing in my life ever felt as good as when I felt ground under my feet as I was about to past the end of the island.

Pulling myself onto the shore, I sat there, watching the raft skimming along the surface, until I couldn’t see it any more.  After fulfilling my need to scream and kick a bunch of trees and rocks, I started waving and hollering for help. Finally, another fisherman came along (having a real boat), who gave me a ride back to Grand Island.

I never did know what happened to the raft.

So you see, it wasn’t anything on my part that caused me to fear and dislike the Falls – it was those river gods that didn’t like me and were out to get me. You can see that—right?

Later in life, I made amends with the Falls. Upon going down into the gorge below the cataracts, I was in wonder of the great canyon, the awesome rapids and the lush beauty of this glorious place that was right under my nose all these years. I was consumed by the mystery of it. I realized Niagara was actually two rivers, the “Upper” and the “Lower” Niagara, and they were as different as night is from day. One is an open faucet, emptying the ‘Great Lakes’, with a roar and thunder in a cloud of mist. The other is a living monument, craving across the earth, leaving a trail of beauty and attitude.

Much has been written about Niagara over the years, most about the mighty cataracts—little about the Niagara Gorge. This is truly amazing, when one considers the beauty, the challenge and the extensive, exciting history that engulfs the lower river  .          

Regardless of where on Niagara – Upper, Lower or the Cataracts themselves, my heart resides in the River, watching—listening to the “water”. When the time comes for me to depart this life, my ashes will finally fold into those beckoning arms of Niagara, and like the ‘Hermit of Niagara’, I’ll be ‘one with the water‘…

Until Next Time:

Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

DK Levick

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Is there anyone in the world – who hasn’t heard of Niagara Falls?

Well – I’m sure there is, in the deepest jungles of Africa and Brazil, and on the remote steppes of Mongolia and the grassy plains of the Yellow River – and on various desert islands across the oceans – there can be found lonely people wandering about who have never heard of Niagara Falls.

But, everyone else walking on the face of the planet, has heard that somewhere, within North America, there exists a magnificent waterfall, called Niagara.  In fact, millions upon millions have seen it, standing in awe at its immense power and majesty.

No – they’re not the tallest or even the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, (actually, there are about 500 waterfalls in the world that are taller than Niagara (Angel Falls in Venezuela is the tallest, at 3,212 feet), but most have little water flowing over them)…

Iguazu Falls – Brazil

…but they are the most known and visited. The combination of height and volume separates Niagara from all the others and makes them the spectacular wonder that they are.

Over 28 million people visit Niagara’s waterfalls each year. Since 1825, the world’s leading statesmen, monarchs, authors, painters, scientists, politicians, celebrities, business leaders and people from all walks, colors and languages have journeyed to stand in awe of the majestic falls and hear them roar their song of glory.

The Niagara River and Niagara Falls have been known outside of North America since the late 17th century, when Father Louis Hennepin, a French priest, at the request of King Louis XIV, accompanied the explorer La Salle, and first witnessed them in 1679. He wrote about his travels in ‘A New Discovery’ of a Vast Country in America (1688). While his painting of the Falls contained some exaggerations and distortions, it was widely circulated in Europe and became the icon of the “new world”.

But, what are the Falls and from where do they draw their strength?

Let’s take a journey down the Niagara River.

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This weeks blog post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-licious Blog Tour. The topic for this week is “A  World without Books”.  I’m not going to talk about what a world would be without books as just think of ‘Hell’ and subject closed.  So I’m going to talk about the Paradigm that’s occurring in book publishing that is changing how we look at, feel and think about ‘books’ today with an opposite concern of a world of books without any controls on it.  Please see http://peacefrompieces.blogspot.com/ for the addresses of the other bloggers discussing this subject also.  Thank you and leave your comments and thoughts below.

Every week there’s a half a dozen blogs and articles written about the changing publishing world and the future of books. There are as many opinions as there are writers and they’re scattered across the landscape like Saguaro cacti in the deserts of the Southwest.

Will paper books survive? Will ebooks reign supreme? Will publishing houses go bankrupt? Will libraries close their doors? And on and on.

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This past Friday, June 15th,  the great Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls.

What is the history of those daring men and women who challenged Niagara over the years?

In tribute to Wallenda’s feat, I’m rerunning a post I did a while back about them.

Enjoy! 

   Ahhh –  Niagara, nature’s majestic triumph,

                                                             God’s glorious gift to humanity,                                                                                                              

Home of those….

CRAZY MEN AND WOMEN IN TIGHTS!

For strange – unknown reasons, NIAGARA has been (and remains) a mystic magnet, pulling in people who have thoughts of fame and fortune or just plain weird and crazy thoughts about becoming a part of the drama of the mighty cataracts – and some fulfill their dream and remain forever in Niagara’s lore (and depths).

“The pictures we liked the best (meaning those we argued the most about) were of those daredevils who’d done those bad-ass tricks and stunts over the Falls. While those pictures were exciting, they made us feel cheated as well, because the cops didn’t let anyone do cool things like that anymore.” Kevin; ‘Bridges – a Tale of Niagara’

Beginning in 1827 (see last week’s post “the ‘Pirate’ ship, the buffalo and the loss of innocence”) and right up to the present, people have challenged Niagara.  Whether it’s the surging brink itself, the powerful whirlpool, the steep walls of the gorge above or the raging rapids below – there’s been a steady stream of human fodder offering themselves to the water god in exchange for a moment of glory. Cowabunga!! 

The age of the Niagara stuntmen had begun!

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It was appalling how quickly the ‘takers’ had converged on the river.

Overnight taverns, hotels, mills and souvenirs shops had sprouted up everywhere, each vying for the best location and view of the mighty Falls to fill their insatiable selfishness and greed.

It was only a few short years earlier that a trip to Niagara, to experience the great cataracts, was both difficult and dangerous, available only to the hardy and the adventurous. Access to Niagara was overland, either by carriage, horseback or on foot. The journey was long, tedious and bruising.  Routes were few, roads were bone jarring and treacherous, taking days to cover only a few miles.

But it was worth it, to see the majesty of creation in its fullest glory and radiance, untouched, unspoiled, unblemished by human intervention. Just the pure beauty and splender of nature.

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Silently the moon hides, the earth is black.

So black you cannot see the hand held in front of your face. The sky opens and the moon winks from behind the clouds offering you the silhouettes of the trees.

The moon likes playing with the earth.

The ground is cold and damp but warms quickly from your body as you sit on a cushion of leaves and dew-laden grass. The crisp pungent odor of earth mingled with fallen leaves rises from the ground – the perfume of the forest.  You breathe in, pulling the fragrance deep into your soul. It mixes with your blood, flows through your body filling it with the essence of earth. “From dust you came and to dust shall you return“. You merge with the forest.

You are alive. The forest knows you and it welcomes you.

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