Sunday, June 28, 2015

Another Soggy Sunday

Man, it has been a wet June! We had an all-day soaking rain yesterday, around 2 inches, which brought our rain surplus to 6 and some inches. Considering we started the month with a 2-inch rain deficit, that's some serious rain for this area! The upside to that is that it's been cooler and I haven't had to turn on the air conditioners as much, and I get to wake up to the smell of fresh air flowing in my open windows. To me, that's heaven.

I had today off, just a single, so I walked through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on the way to the grocery store, and I got some scenes of the soggy mood of the day. Enjoy!

A baby bunny "hiding" in the grass on the Dykeman Walking Trail next to the ball fields
Walking through the wetlands on the Dykeman Walking Trail
A mushroom on the Upland Trail on the way up to the meadow
A Groundhog keeping a wary eye on me up on the upland meadow
A moody view of one of my favorite scenes up on the meadow
Looking at Blue Mountain from the top of the upland meadow
Mushrooms at the eastern end of the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Scenes from the Macro-World

It took me a little longer than usual to get to the grocery store this morning; I spent much of my time bent over, kneeling, or outright crawling to get very close to some rather small subjects. I knew from the first Eastern Comma butterfly I spotted that this was going to be a macro shoot today. Ah, the things you discover when you get down to ground level!

An Eastern Comma butterfly along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Day Lilies in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A Cabbage White butterfly in the wetland area
A Bumblebee visiting some Canadian Thistle by the duck pond
A Ladybug by the duck pond
Yellow Wood Sorrel up on the upland meadow
Daisy Fleabane with a tiny green visitor on the upland meadow
A Clouded Sulphur butterfly on the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Brief Visit

We're still stuck in that stretch of oppressive humidity, so I didn't plan on being outside much today. But I did need to run down to the local CVS, and while there I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the Brookside Avenue wetland, which is just behind the store. If you remember, this is the wetland I took you on a tour of last month. The recent hot and humid weather certainly has added some green to the area, and the ground underfoot is a lot wetter than it was in May. The Canada Geese are gone, but the Red-winged Blackbirds and the Grackles were certainly putting up a fuss at my presence. Also there were lots of butterflies and dragonflies, but I only managed to find one butterfly who sat still long enough to get a decent photo. So come along while I take a quick jaunt through the wetland.

A view of the water collection pond
One of the many waterways in the wetland
A water meadow in the wetland
A Red Admiral butterfly sipping on some young Joe Pye Weed blossoms
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, June 15, 2015


We have a warm front sitting right over us, and it has stalled and will stay stationary for several days. Which means that we are stuck in a tropical soup - temperatures get into the upper 80s (around 31º C) in the afternoons, which may not seem so tropical to some, but when the dew point is in the mid 70s (23º - 24º C) that indicates some fairly saturated air; it leads to unpredictable downpours and thunderstorms, especially once the sun heats things up a little. One local TV station's meteorological department labels any dew point 70º and above as "oppressive". I can't disagree! When you walk out the door, even in the early mornings when the temperature is in the balmy low 70s, you're still soaked in sweat within 5 minutes. It's not weather that I enjoy.

The effect of this weather on the foliage and flora around here is to make things even more lush. And of course the later wild perrenials are starting to bloom as well, and the weather has given them an extra little oomph in color and growth. A walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning proves my point. Enjoy!

Threatening clouds over Shippensburg, PA
Yarrow growing along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Moth Mullein in the Dykeman Spring wetland
On the Walking Trail north of the railroad tunnel
On the Walking Trail in the heart of the wetland
A baby Painted Turtle, about the size of my thumb, on the trail in the wetland
Deptford Pinks growing on the fringes of the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Trying To Stay Cool

Today we went back to hot, humid, and hazy Summer weather. I had been planning to take a nice hike today to visit Conodoguinet Creek and come back into town via Middle Spring Creek. But by 9:00 it was already hazy and I figured today wasn't a good day for a long hike. But I need to be outdoors, no matter how hot, and I really don't like air conditioning unless I absolutely have to use it, so I headed over to the shade of the Dykeman Spring Nature Park and the cooling waters of the creek and the duck ponds there. And of course I took the camera with me. Enjoy!

A view of the creek from the red bridge. The flash flooding from Monday's storm knocked away those logs/branches, which used to form a dam across the creek there
Ratty's pool, on the creek beside the nature trail. I always associate this spot with Water Rat and his home in "The Wind in the Willows"
Sedges beside the north duck pond
The red bridge over the creek
The Day Lilies are starting to bloom along the nature trail in the park
An old trestle left over from the days when the railroad came through on what's now the Dykeman Walking Trail
Yellow Wood Sorrel with a tiny visitor on the Dykeman Walking Trail
The "bridges" over the creek, between the ball fields
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sumer is icumen in

Summer is certainly settling in in central Pennsylvania. We're into the cycle where it gets hotter and more humid every day until a front moves through with violent thunderstorms to clear the air, followed by less humid and cooler air, and then the cycle starts again. We had a vicious storm pound us Monday evening - rain so hard the sound of it on the roof of the garden center where I work made even yelled conversation impossible, thunder and lightning, damaging winds... The wind was so wild that the fork lift that I thought I'd parked far enough under the canopy to stay dry got wet anyhow, and I ended up suffering a wet butt from the seat for the rest of my shift.

So now, two days later and my first day off since the storm, I did my usual amble through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on my way to the grocery store and noticed a lot of tree limbs down and evidence of flooding in and around the creek. I also noticed that the warm temperatures and the increased dampness raised a lot of fungi in the forested parts of the park, and if possible the place was even more lush than my photo essay showed last week. Yup, Summer is definitely arriving (the modern English translation of the 13th Century Middle English of the title). Take a look!

A swamp boardwalk in the wetlands area of the park
Fungi growing along the trail in the wetlands area of the park
Wild Strawberry, aka Indian Strawberry, growing along the Upland Trail
More fungi, this time along the Upland Trail
A Red-tailed Hawk having lunch on the upland meadow; she'd caught either a baby Groundhog or a rabbit
And it's already time for the first haying up on the meadow!
Of course you know I couldn't finish without including the song that provided the title of this post. Click here to read the Wikipedia article about the song and for the lyrics.

Photos and text © 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Friday, June 05, 2015


According to all the weather forecasters June 1 is the beginning of meteorological Summer, not the Summer Solstice on June 21. Makes sense to me; after all, isn't the solstice called Midsummer Day in English tradition? In any event, the end of May got very hot and humid, and then June got cooler but the actual rain finally came, so Mama Gaia's green Summer robe has gotten very lush indeed. A walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning certainly bore that out.

Along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Wet leaves in the Dykeman Spring wetland
The red bridge over the creek i the wetland area
Mama and baby Mallards on the north duck pond
Virginia Creeper and English Ivy on the forest floor along the Upland Trail
A Long Dash skipper on Red Clover in the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A Christian Nation? The Founding Fathers Didn't Think So! (Re-post)

[This is part 2 of my reposts on the issue of religion in the US. This is from 2011 and answers the argument by a large religious bloc on the right that we were founded as a Christian nation on Christian principles, and that the Bible is the real foundation of our government. As this article will show, the facts prove otherwise.]

There's a claim by the Christian Right and some members of the Tea Party movement that the United States was consciously and deliberately created as a Christian nation to spread the Gospel to the new world and create a beacon of light and salvation to the rest of the world. They haven't much evidence to back up this claim; just some scattered quotes from people like George Washington, made in their private capacity and not as spokespersons for the government or the nation.

Granted, we had plenty of people settle here in the early days in a quest to believe and practice those beliefs away from the oppression of the established churches of Europe, but they weren't the only people to leave Europe and settle here. There were plenty of people who were only nominal members of any church, or followers of the Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire who emphasized reason as the primary source of authority and knowledge. Or they were just farmers and trappers and whatnot who had no real use for religion in their life and were happy to go about their daily lives and work without need for religion. There was a lot of philosophical diversity in the early colonies which became the United States.

And in fact the the lawyers and merchants who formed the intellectual class from whom the founding fathers of this nation emerged were mostly followers of the Enlightenment, men such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Hancock, the Adamses of Boston, and Benjamin Franklin, self-declared Deists who believed in a higher power but denied the legitimacy of any formal religion. Even that ultimate gentleman farmer cum soldier, George Washington, considered himself a Deist. And it was these people who wrote our founding documents and created a purely secular, not religious, government.

The U.S. Constitution is the rock-solid foundation of the government of the United States; it establishes and guides our whole form of governance, from the legislative to the judicial to the administrative. It is, to use a Judeo-Christian reference, the Ten Commandments of the nation. It was written by men dedicated to reason and the Age of Enlightenment (principally James Madison, who himself was a protegé of Thomas Jefferson, probably the prime advocate of Enlightenment thinking, along with Benjamin Franklin, among the founding fathers), and it never mentions God, Jesus Christ, the Church, or the Bible. Never. Not even once. It only actually mentions matters pertaining to religion once, in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The key phrase in that amendment is known in U.S. jurisprudence as the Establishment Clause - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." - which at the very beginning of our national existence says that the government cannot sponsor or enforce a religious belief and practice on the American people. There are people who argue that it does no such thing, that the amendment only says that the government can't favor one religion over the other. But the evidence, from the very records of the Constitutional Convention itself, along with the writings of the men who wrote the document, says otherwise.

The Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released an annotated Constitution, and the Columbia University Law School has put a hyperlinked version online, which you can find here. The annotations quote the debates and discussions entered into at the convention, as well as the documents which express the ideas of those attending. The annotation page for the First Amendment can be found here, but I want to include passages from the "overview" section along with the footnotes for that section (included in brackets after the passage) that speak directly to the matter.
Madison’s original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read: “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed." [1 Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).]

The language was altered in the House to read: “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience." [The committee appointed to consider Madison’s proposals, and on which Madison served, with Vining as chairman, had rewritten the religion section to read: “No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.” After some debate during which Madison suggested that the word “national” might be inserted before the word “religion” as “point[ing] the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent,” the House adopted a substitute reading: “Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 729–31 (August 15, 1789). On August 20, on motion of Fisher Ames, the language of the clause as quoted in the text was adopted. Id. at 766. According to Madison’s biographer, “[t]here can be little doubt that this was written by Madison.” I. Brant, James Madison—Father of the Constitution 1787–1800 at 271 (1950).]

In the Senate, the section adopted read: “Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, . . ." [This text, taken from the Senate Journal of September 9, 1789, appears in 2 B. Schwartz (ed.), The Bill of Rights: A Documentary History 1153 (1971). It was at this point that the religion clauses were joined with the freedom of expression clauses.]

It was in the conference committee of the two bodies, chaired by Madison, that the present language was written with its some[p.970]what more indefinite “respecting” phraseology. [1 Annals of Congress 913 (September 24, 1789). The Senate concurred the same day. See I. Brant, James Madison—Father of the Constitution 1787–1800, 271–72 (1950).]

Debate in Congress lends little assistance in interpreting the religion clauses; Madison’s position, as well as that of Jefferson who influenced him, is fairly clear... [During House debate, Madison told his fellow Members that “he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 730 (August 15, 1789). That his conception of “establishment” was quite broad is revealed in his veto as President in 1811 of a bill which in granting land reserved a parcel for a Baptist Church in Salem, Mississippi; the action, explained President Madison, “comprises a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.”’ 8 The Writings of James Madison (G. Hunt. ed.) 132–33 (1904). Madison’s views were no doubt influenced by the fight in the Virginia legislature in 1784–1785 in which he successfully led the opposition to a tax to support teachers of religion in Virginia and in the course of which he drafted his “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” setting forth his thoughts. Id. at 183–91; I. Brant, James Madison—The Nationalist 1780–1787, 343–55 (1948). Acting on the momentum of this effort, Madison secured passage of Jefferson’s “Bill for Religious Liberty”. Id. at 354; D. Malone, Jefferson the Virginian 274–280 (1948). The theme of the writings of both was that it was wrong to offer public support of any religion in particular or of religion in general.]
Obviously Madison and the others were intent on keeping the U.S. government out of the business of religion. Note especially this quote from Madison in the Annals of Congress:
During House debate, Madison told his fellow Members that “he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 730 (August 15, 1789).
This is a clear declaration of a hands-off policy toward religion by the government, expressed by the architects of the document which is the foundation of that government.

There have been many acts by the government which have highlighted the thinking of these founding fathers, a philosophy that has come to be known as the "separation of Church and State", but perhaps one of the clearest actions on that philosophy came early in the history of the U.S. government with the 1797 treaty with Tripoli in the Barbary States of north Africa.

Joel Barlow was the consul-general to the Barbary states of Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis; he was assigned by Commissioner Plenipotentiary of the U.S. David Humphries to broker a treaty with Tripoli in 1796. Most of the treaty concerns trade agreements, tariffs, rights-of-way for shipping, etc.; mundane stuff. But Article 11 of the treaty makes a bold statement regarding the attitude of the U.S. toward the religion of Tripoli and the other Barbary States:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
There it is, right out in the open in black and white on an official document of the U.S. government: "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." In 1796, only seven years after the ratification of the Constitution. You can't get any clearer than that.

There's been an argument advanced that Article 11 says no such thing in the original Arabic document, and that it was a late insertion by the Dey of Algiers to allay the fears of the Pasha of Tripoli. But that's irrelevant, a straw man put up by opponents of church-state separation. No matter what the Arabic document says, Joel Barlow's English translation - including that eleventh article - is what was presented to President John Adams, who then presented it to the Senate, in printed copy and read aloud on the floor of the Senate. These were men who were in at the beginning of the nation, many of them former members of the Continental Congress, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and members of the Congress which wrote the Constitution. They ratified the treaty by unanimous vote on June 7, 1797, and President Adams signed it. They had all heard and read that phrase - "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." - and no one objected; in fact no one said anything at all about it. Why? Because this is what they believed.

So those who would want to rewrite our history to conform to their particular, sectarian ideology, led most notably by David Barton (who interestingly has no degree in history but rather a bachelor's degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University) and his Wallbuilders organization, haven't a leg to stand on. By their own private writings and in the national documents they inspired and helped create, the "Founding Fathers" of the United States were not intent on creating a "Christian nation", but rather a fully secular government with a clear hands-off policy toward religion. There's really no question of that at all.

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger. Images owned by the United States and are public domain.