Sunday, May 31, 2015

Scenes from the Macro World

Today while walking through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park I was drawn to small things that needed to be shot in macro mode; there are an awful lot of small creatures and flowers and such which crawl under the radar and yet contribute to the general scene. Here are a few I captured today.

Crown Vetch along the Dykeman Walking Trail
An Orchard Orb-weaver spider (Leucauge venusta) by the Dykeman Walking Trail
Multiflora Roses beside the Dykeman Walking Trail
A small moth on the Upland Trail
Daisy Fleabane in the upland meadow
Yellow Hawkweed in the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Lively Experiment (Re-post)

[Note: Lately I've been thinking about the recent moves by the religious right to try to assert dominance over the national scene, so I've decided to re-post two previous blog posts dealing with the issue of religion in American history. The first is a response to the move by the Indiana legislature and others to redefine "religious freedom" as the freedom to discriminate against those who aren't of their own particular belief. This was first published in 2008 and published again in December of 2009. I no longer live in Rhode Island, but to me this article represents the true spirit of freedom of religion and should be relevant wherever we live in the US. In a couple of days I'll re-publish another article on the uninformed idea that the US was created as a "Christian nation". Both of these articles got much positive response on this blog, but when published on the old they stirred up a bit of controversy.]

Rhode Island has a history of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. It was originally a sanctuary for those fleeing the despotism of the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony; Roger Williams, founding father of the American Baptist movement, settled on the mainland at the head of Narragansett Bay, while Anne Hutchinson and her followers settled on Aquidneck Island (officially known as Rhode Island). In 1663 the two entities united as a single colony and were granted a charter by Charles II, the charter itself being written by Dr. John Clarke of Newport.

The key phrase in that charter declared: "... that it is much on their hearts (if they may be permitted), to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained... with a full liberty in religious concerns." The charter further declared: "... that our royal will and pleasure is, that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences of opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concerns..."

The freedom of conscience guaranteed in the charter created in Rhode Island, and especially in Newport, a truly amazing religious diversity that added to the cultural wealth of its society. The Society of Friends (Quakers) became a major presence in Newport (which was the capital city of the colony, and later the state, until well into the 19th Century), and their Great Meeting House (built in 1699) eventually became the host of the New England Yearly Meeting of the Society (the New England Yearly Meeting was one of the sources of the Abolition movement).

In 1658 fifteen Jewish families moved to Newport after hearing of the colony's "lively experiment" and founded the Congregation Jeshuat Israel. In 1759 the congregation purchased land and hired famed colonial architect Peter Harrison to design Touro Synagogue (named after Isaac Touro, the congregation's first spiritual leader). The synagogue was finished and dedicated in 1763, and is still standing today. Touro Synagogue also played a major role in establishing religious freedom in the newly established United States when a member of the congregation wrote to George Washington, who replied with his famous "To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport" , which stated that the government of the United States "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance..."

The Quaker and Jewish presences in Newport aren't the only result of that colonial charter, just the most famous. Newport is dotted with old buildings that, at the start of their history, served as houses of worship for small gatherings of believers: the Union Congregational Church on Division St., the first free African-American church in America; the Sabbatarian Meeting House on Touro St., now the home of the Newport Historical Society; The John Clarke Memorial Church on Spring St., one of the first churches of the American Baptist movement (and now pastored by a good friend of mine, Paul Hanson, a very genial, easy-going guy with a dry, wicked sense of humor); St. Paul's Methodist on Marlborough St., the first Methodist church to sport a steeple; and a score of other former churches which, like the Union Congregational church, have since been converted to residences.

Because of the vision of the founders of the colony, and because of the guarantee of freedom of conscience written into their colonial charter at their request, Newport has a rich spiritual heritage and holds a major place in the development of the concept of religious freedom in the history of the United States. It's something we take pride in here, and something we celebrate.

But look back at that original charter, that guarantee that within the colony no one would be pressured, harassed, punished, or otherwise disturbed because they enjoyed freedom of religious belief. How refreshing that is! And how far from the current state of affairs in the contemporary US, where we have a major effort being launched by religious despots, direct descendants of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, to impose their beliefs and their methods of governance on the people and the government of the United States. People who consider freedom of conscience to be "slack", "lax", "lazy", and most important of all, a sin. People who think that those who believe differently than they must either be converted or punished and removed from "their" society. People who would re-write our history to accommodate their own vision of what that history should have been. People who view any kind of diversity as evil.

The colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations gained great benefit from their practice of freedom of conscience. Given the present situation, I think it's time that our entire country revived that "lively experiment." What say you?

Photos & text © 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

"Either war is finished, or we are." - Herman Wouk,  War and Remembrance 

"War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children."
- Jimmy Carter, Nobel Lecture, December 10, 2002

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, January 10, 1946

"If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of these two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both."
- Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Photo © 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Morning

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. 
~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. 
~Henry David Thoreau

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. ~Walt Whitman

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,
I keep it staying at Home—
With a bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome.
~Emily Dickinson

I’ve always regarded nature as the clothing of God. ~Alan Hovhaness

Nature is my medicine. ~Sara Moss-Wolfe

The great pulsation of nature beats too in my breast, and when I carol aloud, I am answered by a thousand-fold echo. I hear a thousand nightingales. Spring hath sent them to awaken Earth from her morning slumber, and Earth trembles with ecstasy, her flowers are hymns, which she sings in inspiration to the sun... 
 ~Heinrich Heine

Photos © 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Creek

Where's a cool place to go on an unseasonably warm and humid day? Down to the creek! That's Middle Spring Creek, called Branch Creek in town. Here are three cooling views I took this morning.

And here's a video slideshow I put together last year following the creek from Dykeman Spring down to close to its confluence with Conodoguinet Creek, set to hammered dulcimer virtuoso Malcolm Dalglish's "Spring Water at Jerry's Run", from his 1985 recording "Jogging the Memory". Enjoy!

Photos © 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, May 18, 2015


Nature has always been my sanctuary. Starting when I was a child, I would always feel most at peace out in the woods and fields, anywhere outdoors and away from everyday life. To quote John Muir, my favorite naturalist and environmentalist:
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 

“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”  

“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray, where nature heals and gives strength to body and soul alike.” 

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”  

“No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening - still all is Beauty!” 
I've always been lucky in that wherever I've lived Nature was within easy reach - in the hills and trails around Loch Raven where I grew up in Maryland, and in the salt marshes and inlets and the rocky coast in and around Newport, RI. And here in Shippensburg, PA I live a 5 minute walk from a nature preserve. So if you wonder why you get pictures from the Dykeman Spring Nature Park every week, it's because it's part of my daily path, and at least once a week I spend some sitting-down-and-meditating time there. It's my local sanctuary, my church, my meditation center. And yes, here are some more pictures, taken this morning.

Hobblebush, also known as Nannyberry, growing along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Locust blossoms along the Dykeman Walking Trail
A family of Mallards on the north duck pond
Daisy Fleabane in the upland meadow
An island of trees in a sea of grass on the upland meadow
A panoramic view of Blue Mountain from the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another Wetland

There are three wetland areas in Shippensburg borough. The Dykeman Spring wetland and the wetland behind the shopping center on South Fayette St. both feed Branch Creek/Middle Spring Creek, but the wetland running beside Brookside Ave. has an interesting function. Burd Run comes down off of South Mountain, but by the time it gets to Shippensburg around Walnut Bottom Rd. and South Conestoga Drive it has pretty much dried up. Just north of that dry spot is the Brookside Ave. wetland, where the local aquifer comes to the surface and acts as a second feed for Burd Run for the rest of its run north to Middle Spring Creek. I found it a couple of years ago while chasing a geocache in the area, but today was the first time I did a dedicated photo shoot there. The area is a labyrinth of little streamlets eventually emptying into Burd Run, and in the center of the wetland is a man-made collection pond. The wetland is green and lush, and plays host to many birds, most notably Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese, as well as lots of Red-winged Blackbirds and Tree Swallows; in fact there are at least a dozen Tree Swallow houses set up in the area. So come walk through this gorgeous wetland with me.

The Brookside Ave. entrance to the wetland
A Mama Mallard and her chicks on one of the streamlets in the wetland
One of the many streamlets in the wetland
The central collection pond in the wetland
Mama Canada Goose on her nest
Burd Run refilled by the wetland
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More May Flowers

Spring moves on apace. The blossoming trees have dropped their blooms and sprouted leaves and are much more green and full. Now the Spring wildflowers are popping up all over the place. The color seems to have dropped from the ceiling to decorate the floor.

Dame's Rocket is springing up all along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Swamp Buttercup is blooming in the Dykeman Spring wetland
Blackberry blossoms in the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Friday, May 08, 2015

All Creatures Great and Small

On today's walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on the way to the grocery store it became evident that the critters are out and stirring. The place was loud with bird song - Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, both House and Carolina Wrens, Cardinals, Robins, Song Sparrows... Unfortunately most of them stayed out of reach of my camera, although I did manage to catch a male Oriole at the very outer limit of my zoom lens. There were also lots of other creatures - turtles, rabbits, and such. And to top it off, up on the upland meadow the butterfly population is booming, mostly the Spring appearances like the Cabbage and Mustard Whites, Spring Azures, Painted Ladies; I managed to get a shot of an Eastern Tailed-Blue, a relative of the Spring Azure. So come on, let's take a walk.

Baltimore Orioles like to hang out way up in the tops of trees; I just barely caught this one at the end of the range of my zoom
A Painted Turtle dozing in the Dykeman Spring wetland
Two Eastern Cottontails on the Dykeman Walking Trail
A huge and ancient Snapping Turtle coming up for air in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A young Green Frog in the grass by the northern duck pond
A trio of handsome Mallard drakes in the grass beside the northern duck pond
A Tailed-Blue butterfly on the upland meadow
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

May Flowers

Today has been a gorgeous Spring day, and fortunately I have a day off to enjoy it. I wandered through the increasingly fragrant and colorful Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning, wrapping myself in Mama Gaia's bounty. There was lots of birdsong, and I saw one Oriole and heard several others singing in different parts of the park, but what got my attention most was the increasing amount of blooming going on. So wander with me through the park and enjoy a great Spring morning's worth of wildflowers.

Heal-all growing in the Dykeman Spring wetland
Common Blue Violet growing on the forest floor along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Barberry blossoms by the duck ponds
Apple blossoms along the Meadow Trail
The Redbuds along the eastern edge of the upland meadow are blooming
© 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger