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

Monkey Pea and Me?

Monkey Pea wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck State Park, GA

I’ve seen Monkey Pea plants occasionally these 5 years I’ve scoured Georgia for butterflies. This plant here introduced itself to me in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge on the Georgia coast. I set out to find butterflies, but when a wildflower glows, I often stop and shoot it.

We’re now 5 full months in our home in North Macon, Georgia, squarely located in the Georgia Piedmont. As plants appear in our sizable backyard, we are charmed by some, puzzled by others, and displeased when alien plants show up. Just days ago, a newbie chose to flourish. It looked promising, so I photographed it, and sent an image along to my fav authority, Ellen. After staking one up, and tieing it to the stake, back came the response, our possible new star of the garden was not what we wanted at all, the non-native Chamberbitter!

Our good news (??) is we now have Monkey Pea, and we throw out to y’all, are we in luck? Is Monkey Pea a boon or a bust. Does it boost butterfly traffic, and does it behave itself? Is it native?

Jeff

Why Think About Scouring The Enormous West?

Lupine Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Arizona

Daydreaming about how much of the Americans West I’ve not seen, and will never see. What fraction of Americans have visited wingedbeauty.com over these years? I’m in no rush to calculate that. We know that an incredible number of Americans do not think about flora and fauna, nor do they yearn to see photos of butterflies, wildflowers, moths, trees, mushrooms, bees, flies, mantids, vines and more.

I do. I think about all of those things, and I Love to find them and I Love to share what I find with you, just so long as I am able to share images that are worthy of your timed interest.

What brought this on? This image. A wildflower I met in White Tank Mountains Regional Park, just west of Phoenix, Arizona. Like some (most?) of you, this look brings up a pull on me, to go there, and to go to other Arizona destinations, as for example the Chiracauca Mountains in southeast Arizona that are renowned for species of blue butterflies.

America’s west is bigger than big, and will I have the time, money and get up and go to work it for images that will get your Comments & Likes?

Scouring the America west of the Mississippi . . . a man can dream? No? Peggy? Kenne? Melanie? Sherrie? Mr. Pyle himself? Nancy? The Princess of Whidbey Island? Javier?

Jeff

Armed Thistle (HolyLand)

Severe Thistle With Flower Buds photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

This thistle so reminds me of my youth. Then, there were guys in Brooklyn who you knew were rough guys. We called them “rocks.” I never messed with them, they wearing black leather jackets, adorned with sizable metal studs, their hair was heavily greased, and they always hung in groups. To this day, I don’t know how tough they were, but then, it made no sense testing out that unanswered question.

In Israel, this HolyLand Thistle plant totally reminds me of those ‘Fonzy’ characters back in Canarsie, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Flatbush Brooklyn. This 6 foot to 7 foot tall Thistle was covered with severe, saber sharp thorns. No creature I can think of would want to brush up against it. When you first come upon this plant, you stop and wonder, you foolishly hope that this Thistle cannot pick itself up and charge toward you. At least you are thankful that it is anchored in place.

I wondered too why a HolyLand wild flowering plant was so armed with near-deadly knife-like thorns. Why?

It was not in bloom then, and I regretted that I did not see it in flower.

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