What Makes This Hombre Happy?

Pittsburgh South Vo-Tech public school field trip participants - May 2004, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Every time I scroll down, through our Media Library, all of maybe 900 images, saved to one day share with you, I pause for 2.2 seconds at this one. I don’t believe you know how happy this one makes me.

I was a Biology teacher at South-Vocational Technical High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For those of you from Sri Lanka, Kansas, Georgia, PRChina, Estonia, Britain, Israel, Slovenia and Peru, our school was an 8-hour drive west of New York City. It was once the world’s steel capital. When steel mills shuttered closed in 1980-1981, many left town, those that stayed endured decades of struggle and reduced situations.

The kids in my Biology classes? Most were from income-challenged homes, almost none had ever left the city, and almost none had ever been in a place like this one, Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. The Park’s 7,000 +/- acres were wild, undeveloped and rich in wildlife.

I had 5 classes then, with some 130 students. We went on 2-3 Wetland Study field trips, and from that first day in September, I told my students that only those who 1) Cooperated 2) Did Their Work and 3) Tried Their Best, would be selected to go with us. The ‘List’ of who was selected to go usually was announced in February of each year, and additions and subtractions were made as time went by.

There were times when tough (Very!) kids (Gang members and such) approached me, when the bell rang ending class, and once they made sure that no one saw, begged me to go, to have their name put on the ‘List.’ In this photo you see here, one of those more than tough kids in shown. I am amazed still, that that student turned around their performance those 4 months before the field trip, and cooperated 100% on those wilderness trails and on the bus going and coming! Amazed!!

One of those shown was a teacher who came along to insure that all went well. TBTold, that the first and only time that an adult, parent or student, ever accompanied us.

This memory, and those of our other field trips make me proud, very proud of myself. Make me Happy, very. Why?

Most of these kids had it rough, endured lives that were extremely tough, with near full absence of happy life experiences. They loved those hours, as well as the pizza parlor lunch that we enjoyed when we returned to the South Side of Pittsburgh. They loved the outdoors. They loved finally visiting wetlands, forest, meadow, fen and loved those trails, those mysterious trails.

These 16-year olds and 17-year olds were pleased, very pleased that they had pushed their boundaries, extended their personal space placing them, most for the first time, out of Allegheny County and here in Beaver County.  It was a learning experience, that a ‘County Line’ was not a hard boundary, but an imaginary line, that was imminently crossable.

More pleased than that, throughout those hours on the Wetland Trail and on other park trails, they savored the beauty of wild habitat, unfettered habitat, and we discussed why we needed to nurture it, ’til the time when they could return, with their own children, and again take in the sights, smells, sensations. They’d teach their children of the Park, and the need to keep it just as they found it that day.,

I remember, smile, for I was instrumental in launching new, responsible nature lovers, who to this day, will not abuse the Land, but will love it, and will search it for its wonders and such.

Back to Me and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Success.

Jeff

License To Kill?

Fly on Jewelweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA

When we see them, don’t we stop and gaze? Robber flies look so confident, so fierce. I often puzzle over the competing thoughts upon seeing a robber fly. On the one hand we view them as formidable killers, and yet at the same time we don’t speed away from them, instead we approach them. Some of us have shared sidewalks with killers, and we knew to keep a good distance from them, as we heeded the warnings of our parents to stay away from New York City cops, then.

I’ve never seen a Robber Fly capture a butterfly, although I suppose they do. Have you ever seen a Robber fly with butterfly prey? The sight of a Robber Fly with a Monarch butterfly or a Zebra Heliconian butterfly would sadden us all, no?

The insects of our gardens, parks and wild habitat live as they do, with no obvious concern about the possible appearance of a Robber Fly. I think of that often, again reminiscing back to the streets of my childhood home, and the Connected guys who shared them with us.

This Robber Fly was dining on an insect, while comfortably perched on a large leaf in Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Worried, it? No, no, no.

Jeff

One Of His Most Loved Images

Fly on Jewelweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA

Ever wonder what images long term nature photographers love the most? Me, I’ve been seriously photographing wildlife and native plant life since about 1990. Of the estimated 100,000 images I’ve captured, this tiny fly, nectaring on a Jewelweed blossom, remans one of my favorites.

Why? It is one of the most soothing, calming pics I think that I’ve ever taken. Do you agree?

Seen and captured at Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jeff

Garden Nostalgia

 Jeff Zablow's Perennial Beds Pittsburgh, PA, 7/10/07

You too? So many of us have warm, fond memories of gardens we established . . . and later moved away from. Memories of trillions of hearty blooms, eye pleasing designs, butterflies, bees, Ruby throated hummingbirds and more. A rose garden that my wife Frieda A”H ( OBM ) loved, for we chose herirloom roses that really were old-fashioned aromatic. Moments spent on the Victorian granite bench, oblivious to the world about, just together.

Beebalm, Shasta daisy, irises, many different salvia, oak leaf hydrangea, and so much more. A crazy beautiful back garden, much hidden from the rest of the neighborhood’s view, or from the world.

This garden, done before I became enamored of Doug Tallamy’s plant natives thinking, was in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (northeastern USA). Those butterflies must have come to us, daily, from quite a distance, drawn by the sweet aroma of our nectar pumping flower beds.

I sort of like sharing this post with you, for the memories of a real, successful garden warm you, much.

Jeff

What Happened in 2004?

Pittsburgh South Vo-Tech public school field trip participants - May 2004, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Our field trip, kids from South Vo-Tech High School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in May 2004. Thirteen (13) students and one teacher seen here. Me? I’m taking the picture. Each year I’d be sure to shoot my kids on our Wetland Studies field trips. The following year, I’d show my pics as slides, on our trusty tripod-legged screen. Those shown would gain near Oscar-night fame throughout the school, and that was so special for them, for they’d surely never again be lauded on a ‘big screen’ again.

We’d search out all that we could find in the 2 or 3 Pennsylvania State Parks we’d visit. Butterflies for sure. Wildflowers, trees, ferns, more. Birds. Lizards, snakes. We’d talk about the amazing community that it all fostered.

How, what do you think those experiences nurtured in my students? Good kids, few if any college-bound. How did such benefit our forever wild lands? Our conservation of flora and fauna in our cities, suburbs and undeveloped refuges?

Did I leave any legacy back in Pittsburgh? I’m asking what you think.

Jeff