The Stranger in the Woods…So Much to Ponder

30687200I’ve just finished reading The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. It’s the compelling true story of a twenty-year-old who drove his white 1985 Subaru Brat into central Maine, dropped his keys on the center console, exited the vehicle, started walking without knowing where he was going, and disappeared into the forest. He had a tent and a backpack, but no compass, no map. Christopher Knight, who came to be known as the North Pond Hermit, would remain in the woods for the next 27 years, until he was finally captured by authorities and brought to account for stealing food and other provisions from neighbors who lived not all that far from his well-concealed camp. Never lighting a fire and making sure to obscure every shiny pot, pan, propane tank, and clothespin from the prying eyes of hikers or over-flying aircraft, he managed to survive and his camp remained undetected through the challenges of brutal winters, muddy taiga, and northern mosquitos and blackflies.

Interspersed throughout the tale are reflections on silence and solitude; noisiness and busyness; the restorative power of nature; and the need for or aversion to community. The experiences, shared by author Michael Finkel, of ascetics, solitaries, anchorites, recluses and introverts were illuminating companions to Knight’s story as were the observations from psychologists and biologists who have made a study of the alone ones among us.

In the coming days, I’ll be re-reading and reflecting upon the book, but for now, I’d like to share one passage (of a great many) that I found intriguing:

“In an attempt to gain some empirical understanding of solitude, a cognitive neuroscientist at New York University placed more than twenty Buddhist monks and nuns inside magnetic resonance imaging machines, tracking blood flow to their brains while they meditated. Other neuroscientists conducted similar studies. The results remain preliminary, but it appears that when the human brain experiences a self-consciously chosen silence, as opposed to sleep, the brain does not slow down. It remains as active as ever. What changes is where the brain is functioning.

“Language and hearing are seated in the cerebral cortex, the folded gray matter that covers the first couple of millimeters of the outer brain like wrapping paper. When one experiences silence, absent even reading, the cerebral cortex typically rests. Meanwhile, deeper and more ancient brain structures seem to be activated–the subcortical zones. People who live busy, noisy lives are rarely granted access to these areas. Silence, it appears, is not the opposite of sound. It is another world altogether, literally offering a deeper level of thought, a journey to the bedrock of the self.”

Celebrating America’s National Parks Honored with 2017 IPA Award

23915845_1664407703581353_5732276055968733023_n (1)Two years ago today, I was celebrating the fact that I’d completed 35 chapters and an 11-page Notes section for Celebrating America’s National Parks, a book on which I was collaborating with photographer Clyde Butcher and designer David Griffin. I had just the last little bits to edit and all the pages to proof and then I would be on to trimming the tree. I’ve just learned that the book (released in 2016) has placed first in the category “Professional Book–Nature” in the 2017 International Photography Awards Competition.

Celebrating America’s National Parks is the second book I’ve written that has received an award. The first was one I co-authored: The Goddess Revival: A Biblical Response to God(dess) Spirituality (reprinted in 2010). That volume was honored as a Christianity Today Book of the Year.

I am now at work on The Rockery: Theology, Nature and the Arts as Spiritual Ambassadors for the Christian Faith. I’ll be searching for an agent and publisher as the new year opens and would love to hear from anyone who might be interested in learning more about this project. You’ll find me at: dfghailson@gmail.com or 484-437-6455.

 

Cape Fear Raptor Center

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Chirper, an Eastern screech owl, in the care of the Cape Fear Raptor Center.

I had the pleasure this week of visiting with some of the birds that are under the care of the Cape Fear Raptor Center in Rocky Point, North Carolina. The organization educates the public on the importance of these extraordinary creatures and provides rehabilitation services to injured raptors with the goal of releasing them back to their natural habitats. The CFRC will hold its Third Annual Owl Howl on November 4, 2017 (rain date November 11) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Brunswick Riverwalk in Belville, North Carolina. The fundraiser will feature raptors, raffles, local vendors, food, and entertainment.

Follow this link for more information on the CFRC:

http://www.capefearraptorcenter.org/.

All photos: DFG Hailson.

Gently Wakened

Oh, how I enjoy being gently wakened by a soft breeze and a sound river of birdsong just as the sun is rising! Our Creator knit us together in our mothers’ wombs and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He delights in bringing this treat of peace and pleasure for our senses before us each morning. How superior is this to the “alarm”! How grateful I am to be safe and secure from all alarms as I am leaning on the everlasting arms!

Accompanying image: Song Thrush, John Gould, Birds of Great Britain (1862-73).

Topsail’s Turtles

9fc7ae_d9c507061d5647d0b866be3c658cfb88 (1)Topsail’s Turtles, Episode 2 of Wild Life! Wild Places!, on Pet Life Radio, is now available for listening. In this program, I take you to North Carolina where I am helping monitor sea turtle activity on Topsail, one of the state’s barrier islands. Topsail is a northern rookery for the threatened species that is the Loggerhead; Green Sea Turtles are found here as well, but in smaller numbers. Because of all the threats–from predation to plastics, marine debris to mechanized fishing—it is estimated that only one in a thousand sea turtle hatchlings will survive a year; only one in 5,000 to 10,000 will survive to maturity.img_1925-2
In this episode, I introduce you to the seven species of sea turtles and explain what happens during incubation and hatching. I also discuss where sea turtles tend to hang out, and I catalogue what threats they face in the wild. Shared in this program as well is the history of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center through which I received training for service as a beach monitor. By the end of the show, you’ll know about turtle tracks, false crawls, boils, nest sitters and rampers. You’ll also know why the northern rookeries are so crucial to the continuation of sea turtles and you’ll have a list of simple things you can do to help ensure that sea turtles will have a future.
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Featured photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All others by DFG Hailson (http:www.dfghailsonphotography.com.
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Celebrating America’s National Parks

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Celebrating America’s National Parks, a book on which I collaborated with Florida-based photographer, Clyde Butcher (his images, my words) was released in 2016.

This volume features parks ranging from Maine’s Acadia to Alaska’s Denali to Florida’s Everglades. Shared alongside Clyde’s images, that he captured over a span of 50 years, are the fascinating details I discovered on the histories and heroes, flora and fauna, landscapes and legends of each of the included parks. In these pages, readers learn about the most sublime of earthly spectacles, that is the Grand Canyon, the hoodoo-iferous terrain that is found in Bryce Canyon, and much more.

BOOK DETAILS: Size: 9″ X 9 1/2″, Pages: 192, Reproduction: quad-tone, Images: 108 Full Page, 16 Double Page Spreads.

Also available is a limited edition collector’s set, a signed and numbered run of 250 with a silver gelatin print of the 8 ½” X 5” “Moon Over the Tetons.”

An Apology, Some News and An Invitation

12311041_1021968221158641_4652747578821482897_nI apologize for neglecting this blog in recent days. I’ve been holed up writing and editing but will soon resume posting on this site.

Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades, a book I edited, has just been released, and The National Parks, a book on which I collaborated with photographer Clyde Butcher (his photographs, my words), will be released in 2016. On the new Donna F G Hailson Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/donnafghailson/), I’ll be posting articles; blog links; book updates; announcements re speaking engagements; and previews from The Rockery, the next book on which I’ll be focusing. I hope you’ll visit the Donna F G Hailson Facebook page, enjoy what you find there,  “like” the page, and share it with others.

Featured image: The Great Florida Marsh by Martin Johnson Heade (1886)