Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Indian plum - Redmond Watershed Preserve. Lainey Piland photo

Spring is here! On Monday, we welcomed the verdant season of rebirth, reawakening, and renewal. The air is warmer and sweeter, birds are singing the dawn chorus, and a slow blush of green is beginning to overtake the tired browns of winter.

Have you ever wondered why we call this season spring? This Mental Floss article explains:
Starting in the 14th century, that time of year was called “springing time”—a reference to plants “springing” from the ground. In the 15th century this got shortened to “spring-time,” and then further shortened in the 16th century to just “spring.”
A few weeks ago, after a long hiatus from any forays into the forest, I went for a short walk through the Watershed Preserve in Redmond to scope things out. Well before the first day of the spring season, I found that things in the forest were already springing! Namely, the indian plum and red huckleberry. These plants, along with skunk cabbage and salmonberry, are always among the first to show new green leaves, buds, and blossoms.

Red huckleberry.

Indian plum

Before too long, we will have trillium springing forth! Stay tuned for the annual trillium hunt coming in the next few weeks!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Going Green: Lights out for climate during Earth Hour 2017

Ready... set... lights out! Well, not just yet. Make plans to turn off your lights for Earth Hour on March 25th at 8:30pm local time to demonstrate your solidarity in the fight against climate change. With more than 170 countries and millions of individuals participating, Earth Hour is truly a global event during which we can come together and commit to fighting this problem affecting us all.

The need for action and solidarity in the fight against climate change has never been greater. In 2016, a year that was globally the hottest on record (surpassing the longstanding record set way back in 2015), atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit 405 parts per million (ppm). No human being in the history of our species has lived on this planet with carbon dioxide levels that high, until now. It seems like just yesterday we passed the 400ppm milestone, and now we find ourselves on a rapidly warming planet, staring down the likelihood of reaching 410ppm this year or next - a number well above the "safe" upper limit of 350ppm that would allow us to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

It is well-established that CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat and warms the planet. It is also well-established that human activity is causing CO2 levels to increase. We know what the problem is, we know what's causing it... now where are our solutions?

Take a look in the mirror. Look out your window at your neighborhood, at your city. Look to your state capitol. These are the people, are the places, from which climate action and solutions will arise. These are the places in which you need to become involved. As we face a new administration in Washington DC that is distressingly unwilling to acknowledge the reality of climate change - which is in fact, actively rolling back any progress our nation has made on the issue - actions at the individual, community, and state level are ever more important, and will likely lead the fight on climate change going forward.

So, coming back to Earth Hour... how will shutting off our lights for an hour help fight climate change? When it comes to Earth Hour, it's not the act of turning your lights off for an hour that really matters - it's the commitment behind it. It's acknowledging that climate change is an issue, that it affects every corner of our planet, and that you are dedicated to being part of the solution - not just for an hour, but for as long as it takes to tackle the problem. Which in all likelihood, will be the rest of our lives.

Now the next question is, what do I do during Earth Hour? The lights are out, the candles are lit... now what? Do whatever it is that will build community, inspire solutions, and encourage you to make efforts in your own life. Write something. Read something. Meditate. Get friends together. Call or write your representatives. Participate in an Earth Hour event near you. Make plans to host an Earth Hour event next year (in years past, events in the Seattle area have included a prayer vigil at St. James Cathedral, or for something completely different, a glow-in-the-dark Bingo/root beer/recycling event hosted by the City of Bothell). Write your City Council and encourage your city's participation in Earth Hour next year.

The state of our climate is dire, but there is hope to be found in the actions we can all take within our sphere of influence - a sphere which is much larger than you may realize.

My Earth Hour two years ago: reading Orion Magazine by candlelight.

For more information on reducing your carbon footprint, check out the Going Green page here on the blog.

Related posts:
Environmental Issues: Washington State Climate Change Update
400: A sobering milestone
In the News: National Climate Assessment 2014 
In the News: Maps Show a Sweltering Future for the U.S.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Trillium: the first bloom of these flowers is seven years in the making! Lainey Piland photo

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
-Lao Tzu

There is scarcely a better illustration of those words than the film below. This time-lapse was filmed by Neil Bromhall over the course of eight months, and captures the transformation of an acorn into an oak tree sapling. Since no human on earth is patient enough to sit and watch this event unfold in real time (confession: I was getting antsy after the first minute with little action), we can watch eight months worth of work condensed into just three minutes:

In eight months, a seed can be transformed into a tree. In nine months, a single cell can become a human. It sounds like a long time to wait while we're in the midst of it, but when one considers the amazing transformation that occurs, this time frame then appears unbelievably brief.

This is a good reminder to be patient: miraculous things can happen over the course of a few months... we don't need to do everything all at once, but as long as we keep moving forward, we'll get there before we know it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Mount Rainier... Tahoma... seen from the summit of Mount Si. Lainey Piland photo

Mount Rainier National Park celebrated its 118th birthday on March 2nd. Those of us who live in the area look to the familiar white mountain on the horizon to orient ourselves, to determine the weather (is the mountain out today?), and to define our sense of home. But how many of us have actually visited the National Park? I think I visited when I was very young, but I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that my relationship with the mountain has overall been a long-distance one.

Join me in watching the film below to see just what we're missing out on. This is one of those three-hour long nature relaxation films, but if you're short on time, skip ahead in the video and you'll be treated to several different scenes around Mount Rainier: a peaceful lakeshore, a gurgling stream, an alpine meadow with breezes whispering amidst the grasses and wildflowers... scenes of pure bliss that can only get better when experienced in person!

How grateful are we that this unique piece of nature was protected as a National Park 118 years ago...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Nootka rose on a rainy day at Deception Pass State Park. Lainey Piland photo

"Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes - every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man."    ~ Orison Swett Marden
These days, I find myself grasping at every connection with nature that comes my way. I'm feeling the effects of setting aside the hikes and outdoor experiences more adventurous than a lap around the block during this last trimester of my pregnancy. I miss the rare mountain air, the hush of the forest, the feeling of raindrops splattering onto my hood from branches overhead.

In preparation for the big delivery day, I've been reading up on mindfulness practices to hopefully make things more manageable when the time comes, just ten weeks from now. The more I read, the more I realize how the time I've spent exploring in the outdoors has already helped me begin to develop some of the attitudes and practices of mindfulness.

There are times I've gotten lost in examining wildflowers, watching a hummingbird at the feeder in my backyard, listening to the sound of a breeze whispering through hemlock trees or watching gentle waves lap against the shore of an alpine lake. In devoting one's entire focused attention to a particular sight or sound, you can ground yourself in the present moment, observing it mindfully and intentionally. It's amazing how refreshed you feel after such a reverie, where time seems to have stretched a little further than it normally does and you look around with eyes newly opened to the beautiful intricacies in the world around us that normally escape our attention.

It is these beautiful intricacies that have so far helped me through the last few months bereft of outdoor adventures. Every birdsong, every dramatic view of a stormy sky, every whiff of fresh air wafting under my nose reminds me of the adventures I've enjoyed in past years, and the joys I can look forward to returning to in just a few short months. This brings to mind some well-loved words from Thoureau:
"But I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity in my mood, and seemed to foresee my recovery. In the midst of a gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every sight and sound around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me... Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me." - from Walden

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Photo captured from the Robson Bight camera on

Sometimes we need to escape to the outdoors, but find ourselves stuck in the office, or stuck at home thanks to poor weather or the obligations of our busy lives. In these situations, I'm especially grateful for those who endeavor to bring the outdoors to us, such as the people at Here, you can browse through a multitude of webcams that can take you from the beaches of Hawaii to the Redwood forest, to the nests of eagles and hummingbirds, to the arctic circle for a glimpse of the aurora.

However, if you're looking for peace and tranquility, you can't do much better than the Orcalab webcam at Robson Bight in British Columbia. Here you can gaze on tranquil waters, catch a colorful sunset, listen to waves lapping on the shore, hear the sound of eagles chattering or frogs singing. Perhaps you may even catch sight of an orca! It's a blissful scene... take a few minutes to enjoy:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Musings: Behind the Scenes of my Vantage Point

This post was inspired by Light... read on to find out more. 

Maple cathedral, Saint Edward State Park. Lainey Piland photo

There's always some self-doubt and second guessing involved. The trees begin leaning in at the right angles, the ravine sweeps and curves in that familiar way. Click, click. I squint at the screen of my camera and frown. Nope, this isn't it. I follow the trail another hundred feet or so, curve around a corner and stand on my tiptoes to aim my lens over a thicket of salmonberry brambles that grow taller and make this endeavor slightly more difficult with each succeeding year. Click, click. Again, I look at the camera screen and this time everything is perfect: the maple trees arching overhead, sheltering the salmonberry and devil's club-filled ravine below, where the trickling seasonal stream meanders through, unseen.

Of all the trails, nature preserves, and parks I've wandered and photographed, this right here is my favorite vantage point: two square feet of muddy trail clinging to the hillside above the ravine on the South Canyon Trail in Saint Edward State Park. From this vantage point, one has the perfect view of the place I like to call the Maple Cathedral.

Craning to look above the salmonberry, you feel as though you've flung open the heavy doors of some high and holy place: a cathedral formed by bigleaf maples leaning from their anchors on the steep slope, trunks and branches curved to form a vaulted ceiling above the lush ravine far below. Birdsong fills the canopy and echoes through the void in a song more melodious than could be produced by any church choir or pipe organ. It's a view that makes you say "Oh" as you stand in awe, feeling both gloriously empty and lavishly full at the same time. You draw a breath as though it's the first one to ever fill your lungs. Heaven.

I've visited this place many times, in all seasons, and still when I hit those magic coordinates I feel the same overwhelming reaction. The photo above was captured on April 2nd of last year, and shows my Maple Cathedral in the full glow of late afternoon. Although the maples were still bare from the winter and hadn't leafed out yet, the ravine below was filled with salmonberry resplendent in the vivid green leaves of spring, and they caught the afternoon light in a spectacular way.

It can be challenging to take good photographs in the forest on sunny days such as this one, where there is a harsh contrast between light and shadow. Your pictures end up looking like stripes of black shadow interspersed with stripes of glaring green foliage or washed-out tree bark. I was fortunate to arrive at my favorite vantage point during a time when the light was more hospitable and offered a softer, glowing image. It was a rewarding moment to capture.

This Nature Nerd is not a photographer, but loves to tote her hefty Nikon D5000 on all of her adventures in the outdoors to capture some of the beautiful, breathtaking, or interesting sights that exist in nature and share them with others here on the blog. Earlier photos on the blog were all taken with my iPhone 4, but a few years ago I was gifted with the Nikon, and it has been my beloved companion (okay, along with my husband...) on the majority of my adventures. But I know that a digital SLR does not a photographer make, so I'm always shooting with humility and am pleasantly surprised when I can come away with photos like the one above that are actually representative of the scene I witnessed in person. Of course, having a naturally photogenic subject such as my favorite vantage point certainly helps in those endeavors!

So now let's get back to the inspiration for this post. Recently I learned about the Vantage Point project, where photographers share a photo from a special vantage point and the story behind it. The project was created by Light, a company that makes the most intriguing camera I've ever seen. Take a look at the gallery - there are photos from all over the world! I'm glad to contribute a photo from my favorite little corner of the planet. And while you're at it... click on over to the Light website and take a gander at their cutting-edge Light L16 camera that utilizes folded optics technology to create DSLR-quality photos in a small, streamlined design. Look at all those lenses - how cool is that?! With its high-quality images and compact design, this looks like an ideal camera for a nature-wandering blogger who also loves to take photos! Hmmm...

A rare shot of the Nature Nerd behind the scenes. On a rainy hike to Blue Lake, with my beloved camera stuffed under my jacket in an attempt to keep it dry.