Creatures of Habit

Year after year, we find ourselves being drawn back to the same wild places. Our senses are awakened with the smells, sounds, and sights that remind us of why we continue to return..

The Spring Ritual has arrived…

“Creatures of Habit” from Nature’s Eye Media on Vimeo.

 

Landscape Beholders

Author: Emily Courtney

South African landscape

Recently, I found an old copy of Emerson’s Essays. I began my writing about Nature’s Eye inspired by a quote from Emerson, but admittedly I’m not overly familiar with much of his writing, so I was excited to delve into it more deeply. He wrote on subjects ranging from history to art, love to spirituality, intellect to character, and of course, nature. I naturally skipped to the Nature essay first, and, inevitably, came across a quote that struck me:

“The difference between landscape and landscape is small, but there is great difference in the beholders.”

This sparked a long and winding string of thoughts and musings. Initially I balked, thinking, “there’s vast difference between landscapes! How could he come to that conclusion?!” I re-read the surrounding paragraph a few times to see if maybe I’d missed something in the context. As it sunk in, a particular moment from a college course came rushing back to me, when a professor had pointed out how subtly landscapes can change in space. He demonstrated how change in elevation as slight as a couple of feet could alter soil types and plant communities. I began to wonder if maybe Emerson knew this, too. It made me think about all the different landscapes I have seen: mountains, river valleys, prairies, deserts. They do seem different to me, but there is a commonality. There is a horizon. There is the earth itself, and the sky. All landscapes share common elements to their composition. It’s all nature, and the beauty of nature is consistent everywhere she resides. Perhaps that was his point.

However, that wasn’t the end of his thought, and I wonder if possibly his ultimate meaning was less about the landscapes themselves and more about how we, the beholders, relate to them. All of our life experiences boil down to perception. The way we perceive the world around us ultimately determines how we experience life. It is circular, however, as our perceptions are also shaped by our experiences. The crux of the line seems to be that we all have different perceptions and that translates to how we perceive nature as well. For some reason, Emerson felt it was important to convey that.

Perhaps it’s because he knew that there would come a time when people would have to agree upon a value to place on wild places. He knew we would have to decide what a landscape is worth, or how many dollars to assign to a mountain, and he knew that each person that beheld such places would value them differently. Maybe he knew that our perceptions of nature would shape how we cared for it. Knowing that some beholders of landscapes were also stewards of them, he may have hoped to inspire cooperation between conservationists.

The truth of Emerson’s sentiment can clearly be seen in current conservation and land management, with a wide range of perspectives bringing a variety of different approaches to the field. Each individual biologist, conservationist, land manager, farmer or rancher, has their own unique appreciation for nature. At some point in their life, they looked out across a landscape and decided it was worth caring for. Whatever they saw, whatever their perception was, it influenced their future work. Different managers can approach the same property and have completely different ideas about the best way to manage it. There are disputes over land use, where one beholder will see the perfect landscape for a farm, the other will see a forest. There is no one right way in conservation, and I think that’s the beauty of Emerson’s thought; that he allowed space for everyone’s different perceptions. Embracing the different perceptions of nature and ideas for conservation can be a great thing in our field. Nature thrives on variety. Having a variety of management practices used on properties and a variety of land use alternatives chosen across landscapes is a positive direction.

At the end of the day, I can’t know for sure what Emerson intended, or the purpose behind what he wrote. I can only read his words and let them ripple through my mind, creating a waterfall of my own thoughts. It seems to me that he wanted to bring to our attention that we all perceive nature differently, but that nature’s beauty is a constant, immune to the whims of our perceptions. I think he also wanted us to consider how we might work together, despite those different perceptions. Or, perhaps he simply meant that we can each take in a scenic view of a mountain and appreciate it in our own way. Intended or not, his words inspired a newfound appreciation for the varied perceptions each of us have as landscape beholders.

Companion

Author: Emily Courtney

black lab duck dog

Should I wake him up? His hand light block thingy usually makes that noise and wakes him up but sometimes he pokes it and it stops and he keeps sleeping. Maybe I should just nudge him a little. He snores so loud. I know we should be going today. He pulled out all of his stuff last night, those weird tall boot things, his collar with the noise makers on it, my vest, that magic stick that makes the loud boom and knocks the quacky birds out of the sky. Still haven’t figured out how that works… Today’s the day, for sure. He was talking to me so excited last night, he’d be so disappointed if he overslept… Just a little nudge… That did it, we’re up now, oh pets and ear scratches, I did good! Oh yeah, who’s a good girl? I’m a good girl. Okay out of bed. What now, Dad? Oh. He wants me to eat that stuff. Hmph. Any other day, fine, but today I know he’s having a bacon biscuit and if I give him the eyes he’ll give me some, so I think I’ll pass on the little fake food pebbles. Ugh he’s insisting. Okay, okay, just a nibble.

Now where’d he go? Door is open, must be out here putting stuff in the truck. Oh yeah, nice and brisk this morning! He’ll be happy about that. Oh there he is! Hey Dad! Did you get my vest? I’m ready to go, are you ready? Can I get in the truck? Oh, back inside, okay. Oh yeah, warm up your biscuit, right. I’ll wait. Is it nice and warm? Bacon nice and crispy? Looks tasty. I’ll just sit here and watch you eat that and lick my lips. Oh yeah, there’s my bite, mmm so fluffy. Ok? Ready? Load up! I know those words! Let’s go!

I wonder where we’re going today. Short ride or long ride. Well, either way, nothing to see back here. Might as well settle in and rest up. What was that? Did we stop? Oh hey Dad, are we here? Must have dozed off… Just a stretch… I’m ready, Dad, I’m ready! Let’s do this! Oh yeah, my vest! Paws through, don’t catch my fur in there, there! Okay, vest on, time to work. The next part is the worst part. Just don’t think about it, just do it and get it over with. It’s just what you have to do to get to the fun part. Just get in the boat and think about a quacky bird in your mouth. Okay, load up he says, I’m going, I’m going. My vest will protect my insides from the icy air. Just think about the quacky birds and how happy it makes him…

Made it! Boat ride over. Dad, are there icicles on my nose? Okay, you want me to get in the big box thingy now? Gladly. There’s a heater in there. Wait, where are you going now? Oh yeah, the plastic quacky bird things. Still don’t understand that either. Does he put those out there just to try to confuse me? Oh well. I’ll just wait here. I wish he had turned the heater on before he left… It’s ok, though. I’m tough. I gotta be ready for the water. Actually, it’s best not to think about that either. Just do it when the time comes and focus on the quacky bird. Oh, he’s coming back now. Good. Hey, Dad! Hey! I’m so happy to be here with you, Dad! This is our favorite spot, huh? Calm down, I know, I just can’t help it sometimes. Oh, ear rubs, I’ll sit still as long as you like if you keep that up. No don’t stop… Oh, I guess you have to do your noise maker things now. I think I have it figured out. He makes it sound like there’s sick quacky birds, then the other quacky birds come to see what’s wrong with them. I don’t know, but here come some. Nah, those are too high in the sky. I don’t know why, but when they’re that high he won’t point the magic stick at them. Oh, I think they’re gonna fly lower. Yeah, looks like he’s getting ready. Ok, watch them close. If one falls, you gotta watch it. He doesn’t always know where it is…

Gosh, I forget how loud that is. Alright, it’s my time. I saw it fall, I think he’s pointing me about right. Just jump in. QUACKY BIRD!!! Cold water, cold water, quacky bird, sniff it out, come on quacky bird, cold water, just keep paddling, quacky bird, quacky bird, sniff it out, cold water, quacky bird, keep going, almost there, cold, cold, bird, smell bird, bird, smell bird, QUACKY BIRD! I GOT IT! Okay, gotta get back. Paddle fast. Don’t drop quacky bird. Don’t squeeze it too tight. Paddle, paddle. Find the ramp. I made it! Look, Dad! I got the quacky bird for you! Oh, he’s so happy! Yes, this is worth the boat ride. This is our favorite thing. Let’s do it again, Dad.

 

Dedicated to our girl Milli, and all the companions that have served us well and moved on, may they forever have a bird to retrieve and a warm blind to return to.

milli with mallards

Nature’s Eye Corporate Office Grand Opening

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When we first began our journey as a company, we equated ourselves to one acorn, in kind with our logo. Indeed we were just a singular entity, doing the work that is our passion. Little did we know then that we were actually planting that one acorn as a seed that would sprout and grow into vastly branched tree of companies.  Nature’s Eye now operates as a parent company, encompassing subsidiaries ranging from property development and real estate, to media services and publication. Through our growth, we have held true north and remained focused on our vision of making the greatest impact on conservation possible, leading others to do the same by living and promoting a Nature Based Life.

As we reached this point of growth, we realized we needed a central location for our corporate office, from which each of our branches could operate. We needed to be connected to the community, and Lufkin’s business and social pulse, and we found a prime space in the historic downtown district. In addition to providing a hub for our corporate operations, and a home base for community events, it will allow us to utilize our Showcase Farm property and lodge for other purposes. Our Mossy Oak Properties of Texas – Lufkin agent offices will remain at the Showcase Farm location.

Recently, we hosted a Grand Opening event at the office, in conjunction with a launch party for our merge with The Journey Magazine. Keep a lookout for a feature on the event in the November issue of the magazine, and read our journal entry on the merger here. We’re excited to share this new phase of our journey with you, and hope you’ll follow along by subscribing here and across all of our social media platforms. And of course, by stopping by to see us at our new corporate office in downtown Lufkin!

Nature’s Eye Corporate

106 East Lufkin Avenue

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Grow Where You’re Planted

We have a saying at Nature’s Eye to “grow where you’re planted.” It’s a guiding principle that harkens back to our roots in a literal sense, of planting an acorn that will grow into a mighty oak. The deeper meaning, however, is more figurative and can refer to any aspect of life, from spirituality, to family and friend relationships, to business. We plant seeds in all of these areas of our lives, and the more we put into them, the more they can grow into something that can be impactful and leave a legacy after we are gone; much like an oak tree. We have been so fortunate to be able to share this journey with people who identify with the same culture and exude the same passion. We are all cut from the same cloth to live a nature based life. Over the past 17 months, The Journey Magazine and Nature’s Eye teams have worked side-by-side sharing the stories and culture of East Texas through the pages of The Journey Magazine. Beginning with the October 2018 issue, the Nature’s Eye and Journey teams have merged in a collaborative effort to bring you a fresh, new look in The Journey Magazine. The strength and beauty of The Journey Magazine has grown out of the communities we call home, and we draw our greatest inspiration from our hometown roots. Through this new venture, our vision is to bring our stories to an even broader audience, and to bring even more of the world to the pages of the magazine. This collaboration is also bringing a new strength to the Nature’s Eye Media team. We’re not only excited to share a nature based lifestyle magazine with you, but to also offer media services to help you plant seeds and grow where you’re planted.  You can read the official press release about the merger here.

This new chapter has also allowed us the opportunity to update our online presence. You can now find us at naturebasedlife.com. This is our home base where you will find links to all of our brands and subsidiary websites, as well as this journal.

Another exciting piece of news, the merged teams will operate from the new Nature’s Eye Corporate Office in downtown Lufkin, Texas. Watch for the journal entry on that coming soon!

IMG_2100   OctoberPoster

The Butterfly Effect

butterfly_sunflower

Author: Emily Courtney

I’ve always thought it was incredibly interesting that a butterfly was chosen to illustrate Edward Lorenz’s theory. As fantastic and enthralling as chaos theory is, I find butterflies fascinating because of a much different phenomenon: that all life on this planet hinges on the work of these creatures that most people rarely give a thought to. Maybe it’s the irony of it, or the inherent humility, but it’s one of my favorite aspects of the grand design of nature.

Pollination, like many other inner workings of nature, is simultaneously intricately complex and startlingly simple. To consider that a flower produces these tiny particles of pollen, that are sticky and will adhere to an insect’s legs, then be carried to another flower, and those particles contain the material necessary to initiate reproduction; it all seems like something that someone could have fabricated out of their imagination for a children’s book.

Butterflies and bees are the chief characters in this drama, but many other insects play similar roles. Some do so intentionally, some ignorantly, but nonetheless, the deed is accomplished in some way, all over the world, within a multitude of different ecosystems. Even hummingbirds and flies can be pollinators. Whoever the carrier, pollinators are the catalyst for the processes that make all other life on earth possible. By pollinating plants, they are ensuring the propagation of food sources for the vast majority of the planet’s population. They are creating a vital link in their ecosystem’s food chain, and all just in their own day’s work.

In Texas, monarch butterflies are the focus of much of the conversation surrounding pollinators and their habitat. Monarchs migrate through Texas from their breeding grounds in northern parts of the continent and their overwintering home in Mexico. In recent years, a significant decline in their population has prompted a response of aggressive conservation efforts from federal and state agencies, as well as private and local organizations. In 2016, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) published a “Texas Monarch and Native Pollinator Conservation Plan”, in which the agency designated, along with the monarch, 30 other native pollinators (including bees, butterflies, and moths) as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). The plan noted that all of these species of pollinators were dependent upon similar habitat types, which are in decline in Texas. Monarch butterflies rely on milkweeds (Asclepias species) as host plants for egg-laying and larval development. Loss of this one particular type of plant is considered one of the main factors contributing to population decline. Flowering plants that serve as food sources for monarchs, as well as other pollinators, are also disappearing. These habitats are in need of restoration throughout Texas and the rest of the monarch’s flyway.

TPWD’s plan included preserving current habitat, and the perpetuation of further floral resources and larval host plants on public lands. It also called for engaging private landowners to include monarchs and other pollinators as part of their nongame wildlife species section in management plans, and hopefully follow through with implementation of pollinator habitat alongside their other management regimes. Pollinator habitat is a qualifying Wildlife Management Use that will qualify a property for a 1-D-1 Agricultural Tax Valuation.

The plan also outlined an extensive education and outreach program, which seems to be in full swing. There is a wealth of information on the TPWD website: pollinator fact sheets, publications on management recommendations, lists of native pollinator plants and identification guides, as well as resources and organizations with which you can get involved to aid in conservation efforts. If you are serious about becoming a champion for the cause of pollinator conservation, or just think you might be interested in planting a pollinator-friendly garden, tpwd.texas.gov/monarch is a great place to start. There is much more information than I can concisely summarize here, but I will share a few of the general guidelines.

Implementing pollinator habitat is simple and can easily be done in backyard spaces or on multiple acres. Pollinators, like all wildlife, need food, water, and shelter. Cultivating a garden or habitat space with certain conditions can increase the numbers and diversity of pollinators that will visit your space, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the pollination they carry out.

  • Provide a wide variety of plant species (flowering plants, herbs, different colors and shapes)
  • Plan your species so that you will have something blooming throughout the growing season.
  • Plant in uneven layers or bunches to mimic natural landscapes and achieve more efficient pollen distribution.
  • Provide water, preferably a running water feature to prevent attracting mosquitoes, with an edge or surface where the pollinators can light.
  • Provide shelter in the form of downed wood, bee boxes, or clean patches of soil.
  • Avoid using any insecticides or pesticides around your home, and opt for compost over commercial fertilizer.

Including accommodations for these vital insects around our yards and properties is one of the most beneficial things we can do for wildlife, the environment, and ourselves. It is indeed fascinating to consider the effects these tiny pollinators have on the world. Each species in an ecosystem is connected to and dependent upon every other, and pollinators seem to drive that point home more than any other group or species. There truly seems to be a parallel to Lorenz’s theory, in that the reverberations of what they do can be felt around the globe. Not to mention that, without them, we would be in chaos.

Wise Use

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

I remember one of the first times I had a deep philosophical debate with myself about the land ethic. It was during one of my college courses, as we were learning about the modern conservation movement and how the term itself came to be defined. We learned that Gifford Pinchot provided our most widely accepted definition, saying, “Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men.” I rolled that definition around for a bit, but I kept getting stuck on one part: “wise use.” I thought that sounded really good in theory, but I also knew that not all use is wise. Further, I knew I sometimes felt no use at all is the wisest choice.

Conservation versus preservation is a debate as old as the concept of conservation itself. They could be described as twins, fighting for the affection of the same parent, or opposite sides of the same coin. Pinchot’s philosophy was that resources could be infinitely sustainable, if his concept of conservation were carried out properly, therefore superseding the need for preservation. President Theodore Roosevelt hired Pinchot as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and his work in that role made him to be known as the father of American forestry. He shaped our ideas about sustainable use of the land and forest resources and together with Roosevelt created a legacy of conservation that has endured to this day. They created the model for the agencies that still manage our federal lands and the policies that govern them. Pinchot believed that the greatest benefit of saving wilderness was it’s continued usefulness. He truly believed in infinite sustainability, and dedicated his life to creating and perpetuating a system of wise use.

However, there were figures at the time that stood in opposition to Pinchot’s philosophy and held that some wildernesses should be preserved in their most untouched state at all costs. They believed that any use, even wise use, would alter the landscape from its original state and would therefore result in the loss of that wilderness. The most notable of these was John Muir. Muir was, and probably remains, the staunchest preservationist ever to walk the earth. Regarded by many as an eccentric, he felt very deeply about the land and wilderness, and seemed to foster a deeper connection to it than any other human could boast. Many consider Muir to be the father of the preservationist philosophy and environmentalism. He was noted as saying things like “I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness.” And that’s what he spent his life doing. When he wasn’t out exploring the wilderness, he was writing, speaking, and working with organizations, imploring people to appreciate nature the way he did, hoping to move them enough that they would care to help protect it. He helped found the Sierra Club, and lobbied for many political measures involving the protection and use of lands and resources. His writings are credited as being one of the most influential forces in stirring public support for the first national parks. The Yosemite Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains were his first love, and would not exist as a national park today without his steadfast work and commitment to that cause. He fought so resolutely to save the places he loved because he believed that once wilderness is lost, it’s lost.  

As I reflect on the lives and legacies of these two men, I can’t help but think they both really wanted the same thing. I realize that they both were only trying to protect the resources of our country. They understood that we stumbled upon an Eden on this continent, and though they had differing philosophies on how to go about it, both wanted to make sure the beauty and splendor of it would endure for future generations. Both were desperate to protect the riches of this land from destruction or development. Pinchot wanted to use the resources, but he wanted them to be useful for all the generations to come. He wanted to use the timber, but also to always plant more trees, and he was always looking to designate more and more acres as national forest land. Muir spent his entire life either living in nature, writing about his love for it, or campaigning to protect it. He was so desperate, that even he had to make compromises when it came to the national parks.

As a strict preservationist, Muir was disappointed to see the amount of development that occurred during the early years of Yellowstone and Yosemite’s establishment as parks. The roads, hotels, and train stations that sprung up seemed to him a far cry from the pristine wilderness he had lobbied to protect. However, he came to realize that they were a necessary evil. In order to garner support for their protection and achieve their status as national parks, the public had to be able to see them and appreciate their majesty. It’s a “catch-22” for many of our national parks, monuments, recreation areas, and other sites. In order for them to be preserved, they must endure some level of development in order to demonstrate their worthiness for preservation.

When examining the debate between preservation and conservation, it seems like there should be a compromise, but when it comes down to it, the realization emerges that conservation actually is the compromise between preservation and the reckless, wasteful, shortsighted use that preceded the modern conservation movement. But then I always come back to my original quandary about wise use. Who is to say what wise use actually is? And if we can’t use resources wisely, then should we not use them at all? I believe that when Pinchot first conjured up the thought, wise use was something that could actually be achieved. By his definition, in order to practice conservation, wisdom must also be possessed. I believe that he and Roosevelt were both wise men. They both had a sincere love for the land and a genuine desire to provide caring stewardship. However, history hasn’t given us another pair quite like that since, and wisdom is becoming more and more scarce. It’s more important now than ever that those making the decisions about the use of our land and resources possess the wisdom to practice true conservation. Without it, we risk the legacy of Roosevelt and Pinchot and the millions of acres of national forests and other public lands they established, and the wildlife that inhabit them. We risk the legacy of Muir and his parks, and the inimitable wildernesses that once lost, can never be regained.