"Coloring the Conservation Conversation--One Word at a Time!"

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Love for a Song

We are enamored with the quest for unconditionally reciprocated love. The idea of some measure of affection given back for what is doled out. The barter--bits of affection for pieces of adoration. It is--I think--what we all need. We crave the meadowlark's ringing song; desire the greening of spring from our sun-starved souls down to our bare-toed roots. We seek the winding path and wander until we find the sweet spots--blackwater cypress swamp, tallgrass prairie sweep; the place where moonlight glancing off of tide-slicked stones made you weep.  We look for measures of love and some forest-dwelling thrush heaps it on us in self-harmonizing sonata.  Marvel at the migratory sojourns of birds.  Revel in the blooming expanses of wildflowers. Sink your heart deep into the rhythm of buzzing bees. Find hope in the re-leafed canopies of the tallest trees. Wind and water; storm and surf-they can move us to other ends. Therein is the turn on. The honey sweet seduction. Nature asks only that we notice-- a sunrise here--a sunset there. The  surge--that overwhelming inexplicable thing in a swallow's joyous flight or the dawning of new light that melds heart and head into sensual soul in that moment of truly seeing  --that is love. 



Sunday, December 22, 2013

SNOW Falls for Conservation!


 After weeks of teasing from friends to the north who've been seeing snowy owls perched like pigeons on barn roofs, tractors and everywhere else it seemed, I was growing antsy. Jealousy and envy began to sink in as report after report--many of them on Facebook, extolled the beauty of the great white owls from the arctic. Sure, snowies wander south of their ice-bound tundra haunts on occasion but this irruption (either caused by a dearth of lemming snacks which cause the owls to search southward for food--or a surplus of lemmings that cause a surplus of owls which then wander to find elbow room) was historic. SNOW (the bird-brained acromym for SNowy OWl) was falling everywhere except where I was. 

And then it happened. On Saturday December 7 at 3:44 pm I got the Facebook message from graduate student and friend, Zach Miller. "I'm looking at a snowy owl in Brevard right now. come up!" The message gave the magical address and I pondered my action for a moment--a millisecond really--  and then abandoned the football games I so religiously watch on Saturday afternoon. I asked my almost adult son Colby if he wanted to adventure with me in search of the "Harry Potter owl" and he too abandonned everything to see the magical critter. We bid our adieus  and we were off!  

Over the river and through the woods is an understatement. It was over the lake--past places like Booger Branch Road, Down Shady Grove, onto the old Cherokee path now called Highway 11 and a sharp left onto the snakey highway they call 178--up and down, around and around--through Rocky Bottom, past Scatterbrain's hole in the wall mountain saloon (they stab people there--allegedly), beyond the Horse Pasture over the Little Eastatoe and into NC. I was breaking all kinds of land speed records (and laws) trying to beat the night speeding through the wild wonderful place called Jocassee.  Colby managed to hold lunch down as I sped around hairpin curves and did my best Grand Prix imitation--as much as one can in a Honda Element. As we grew closer I imagined the throngs of birders that would be there--salivating over the sighting. As the nameless robo-techno chick on my smartphone told me where to turn I could see twenty to thirty cars--packed tight into an instant parking lot. It was easy to see that this was the place. It was gonna be a feeding frenzy. But then there were only a few birders I could see gathered out at the edge of a fence line. All those cars were just junkers. Standard stuff for a working farm. There were maybe only a half dozen birders there. Most of the oglers had long since left and I could see the destiny of my desire glowing-- shining white like a ghost on a pile of slash in the midst of a huge field. I almost went head over heels in the muddy muck trying to get there. After collecting myself--pretending to be calm--I was within a couple hundred yards. Eureka! Satisfaction at 30x! Yep. There it sat. Snowy white with yellow eyes blinking and for all intents and purposes--in my backyard.
This Snowy Owl ventured south into the mountains of Western North Carolina

 Okay. Back up. Stop the presses So I stopped chasing rarities a few years ago. I confessed that a few blogs back. Why do you ask, then, would a dyed in the wool-bird-brain like me stop chasing the winged wanderers I love so much? Well, it's not because I stopped loving birds. Nope. It's because there was a change in the way I began to see birds after so many years of intense birding that often took me far away to see neat birds. I'd see the bird, list the birds and then go. In all those birds I listed I left with a longer life list but something was missing. I think the transformation came as I began to think more and more about the conservation side of things. Many of the rarities are sadly doomed in their misdirected wandering but hundreds --even thousands--will seek them out, just to get the tick.  I didn't just want to see more birds I wanted to know more about the birds I was seeing. The SNOW Colby and I ogled on that farm in western NC actually turned out to be woefully malnourished. It was captured and placed into a rehab the day after we went to see it. Fortunately it's recuperating in the hands of capable wildlife rehabilitation professionals. That evening as we watched the ghostly owl fly from slash pile to barn roof to fence post and then out of sight with the falling night we wondered if it would continue to be seen or where other SNOWs might be.

I was inspired by social media and the amazing sighting of the southward bound snowies to put on my chaser's boots again. How could I resist a yellow-eyed, white as snow, razor -taloned visitor from the far north? My son Colby, hardly a hard-core birder,  couldn't resist the chance to see a creature he held dear from his Harry Potter obsession. So we should all wonder whither the wanderers wandering while they are among us. Take advantage of the southern penetration to get to know them better. How do the snowy owls we scramble to see move and behave? Do they simply seek out the nearest open space that looks tundra-like? Is it prey abundance they seek? How does human interaction impact their movement and behavior?  Just as social media has enabled the bird-obsessed to communicate in rapid fire fashion to help us find the rare things here and there, technology has advanced that will hopefully allow us to answer the questions about snowy owls and other wayward wanderers.

And yes--there are folks asking such questions. Ornithologists and conservationists are on the move themselves doing "rocket science" sorta stuff to see where SNOWs go.  And then they're dedicated nature-noticers like Carrie Samis, Education Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. She's one of the faithful bird-brained friends who kept me and the rest of the world connected to the snowy goings-on via Facebook. She's super stoked about connecting the conservation dots with SNOW! She's a skilled naturalist and communicator who knows how to connect the dots so that social media and science come together for conservation. Check out this awesome post as she shares her excitement over the recent irruption of snowy owls and how science and social media are making a difference for  birding and conservation! Here's the link to Carrie's Blog! 


So 'tis the season! Get out and see the SNOWs while you can! Bird conservation is depending on you! Tweet that!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Day's Musings on Migration

Out this morning for a wizzbang warbler wander...
So what did we find? A golden-winged blinging like a tricked out chickadee. A palette of hyperactive redstarts painting the hackberries. A few limey-green Chestnut-sided's cock-tail sure of being cute-- and a short-tailed Tennessee--or maybe two. A few tiny parulas paraded through the trees and a wormy wearing the finest browns stopped longed enough to please. There was a lemon yellow-hooded that blazed like the sun--and by 8:15 y'all the warbler-ing work was done...

Charlie Harper's "Mystery of the Missing Migrants"

As the day closes --evening sun slipping--slipping to somewhere low. There's a skulking thrush whispering in a woodland--somewhere waiting for the first stars to show. A world of winged wanderers will soon begin to stir--turning attention southward-- trusting wings and what they know. A mysterious magnet will direct them through the dark-some pull we don't possess --I marvel at the feathered bundles that pass this arduous test...
Ponder deeply the migrant streams -passing o'er as you dream --and wake to hope the courageous thrush finds forest refuge--big and dark and deep.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Meditation for Baja Arizona

As far as my mind could see across the folds and rifts of land 
Sand drifted to mountains 
or sifted away in sudden rains 
red rim rocks burnished to a bruised purple hue
I longed for a place I had never been
Wanted something unseen 
Visions from eagles' eyes 

a wandering to and fro across a cloud strewn horizon pointing the way to nowhere 
out there 

inside me 
where the wild heart beats and  yearns to soar above it all 

My soul stirred when a canyon wren called 
song tinkling like cool water down my spine 
I carried  the weight of the world with me 
and dropped it when forever flew over on a black hawk's shadow


Monday, July 1, 2013

Low Country Flow

June 30, 2013
Gathering ground a mile a minute
gaining time between sun waking  
and tide rising
Soul soaring on a fish hawk’s crooked wings
racing the day but losing the same
South and East with God’s eye on a seaside sparrow
Pluff mud’s perfume


 Marsh grass green  betraying the shallow places in between 

Resurrection fern don't need no cross to die and rise up

Just rain

Collecting Carolina names along the way
 pushing muddy and slow
A ruin at Yemassee
piecing together some unseen whole
and Edisto wandering wild
Salkehatchie nursing  Ashepoo in




Back uphill past the rivers I go
North against the grain
Galloping over asphalt 
in and out 

and in and out

of rain

Racing the coming night stalking from the west

Another contest gladly lost
Life's clock impossible to reset

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Identifying WITH Birds

I’ve decided to stop identifying birds. Yep you heard me right!  I’m not going to simply put a name on a bird anymore and get on to the next one. Nope. From now on I’m going to identify WITH the birds instead! Yes, by adding a simple four letter modifier I hope to enliven the conservation conversation by thinking more deeply about the birds I see.

Now does that mean that I’m going to dismiss with noting eye rings, wing bars, rump patches and such? No, of course not! I am genetically programmed to run feathered things through my mental ringer and call them by some proper name.  I am now and forever more will be a birder. So yes, I will continue to bird watch. But then the birds I watch deserve so much more than the names we've attached to them. They deserve more than just a glance and a tick mark.  They are each and every one miraculously evolved to do what they do—sing, flit, fly—and so I owe them more; much more.

Having the pleasure of being at the Biggest Week in American Birding again this year, I got to talk about “seeing beyond the bins” in a keynote address to urge birders to think about the birds they see as feathered marvels with stories to tell.  Kim and Kenn Kaufmann  press the conservation issue hard and so I felt at home. As an official  out of the closet “Angry Black Birder” I challenged us as a community of watchers to do more—to not just watch but to get outside of the “birdy box” and think about conservation and how both birds, people and other creatures all fit into the equation.

As throngs of us strolled along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, thousands of high-powered  (and very costly) magnifiers were aimed at the astounding assortment of warblers, vireos, thrushes , tanagers and others that somehow made their way across the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of Lake Erie. 

The legions we watched had amazingly made it to be there through gauntlets of predators, bad weather  and in spite of  the challenge of all the changes that humans put before them –cell towers, skyscrapers and such.  I wondered how many folks were identifying WITH the birds they were seeing and not just simply identifying them.

Consider the yellow warbler, Dendroica petechia (oh…I’m sorry—the fickle fingered gene jockeys have decided that they are now Setophaga petechia—my bad--geesh!). “Sweet -sweet –sweet- sweeter than sweet!”  They were everywhere singing that familiar song, flashing like little feathered flakes of sunshine in and out of the willows and low shrubs . They were in fact the first bird I saw through my binoculars at the Black Swamp Bird    Observatory Headquarters; kind of like a warbler welcoming committee.

The little birds hold the distinction of being the most widespread warbler species in North America, ranging from the Alaskan outback  south to breed across most of the lower 48.  No one will deny the attraction of a yellow warbler. A lemon-yellow living being splashed with streaks of chestnut catches the eye. Combine that  with a distinctive “don’t ignore me” song  and a cute face and you have a bird that begs to be appreciated.   But do we really appreciate it—or any of the birds we see? I mean, they were EVERYWHERE!  I noticed people largely ignoring them.  After all there were  rarer and sexier things to be had—ticked off the list to build the numbers.  When an unusually cooperative mourning warbler made its way onto a vine-strewn and limb-fallen stage, hundreds were astounded that the desirable little grey-hooded skulker  seemed intent on actually being seen. Many of us waited for the show hoping for a glimpse.  I was among the awestruck and may have even drooled a bit as the bird wandered about, finally giving me the soak-em-up -brain-saturating looks I’d been wanting for years.

But the mourning warbler, the yellow warbler—any of the neotropical migrants that we were all there to see should strike us all with awe beyond just the name. After all, each and every one of them that graced our collective magnified fields of view had  somehow survived all that nature and humanity had thrown  at  them over the course of a year and thousands of miles of migration.  Amazing.

My SkyDawg Brother, Douglas Wayne Gray and I talked intensely about these connections as we lead folks through the urban parks of Toledo. Watching birders connect the birds to hemispheres, habitats and humans was an enriching thing. They seemed to appreciate the slower pace and stories we offered. Funny thing is we still “collected” a hearty list of birds but most we listed had something more to go along with the names. Our growing  connection to each other as brothers beyond the binoculars was strengthened through the birds.

Do you ever take the time to watch a warbler, yellow or otherwise, throw back its little beaked head and belt out the story of its life?  Have you ever spied a scarlet tanager  setting a tree aflame and warbling the lore of its wanderings?  Sure, the songs  sound like clear-whistled phrases or “a robin with a sore throat” or however we want to describe them, but really the birds are telling stories. Each note is a declaration of that bird’s being.  Yes, there is territorial imperative and the advertisement for mates but I like to think that somewhere in that avian brain is some memory of the migration it is enduring. Perhaps there’s some pronouncement of all the hazards dodged along the way—a particularly persistent sharp-shinned hawk in the coastal scrub of some barrier Island; a cold rainy headwind; the wetland  that used to be; the mountain of windows that reflected the night sky perfectly but repelled some flock mates to fly no longer. Maybe all of that is somewhere, somehow wrapped up in that bird’s song we watch.

And so as I watch now, whether yellow’s at the Biggest Week with thousands of my fellow birders, or by my lonesome with Prothonotaries  in a blackwater swamp at Beidler Forest, I cannot simply and care-less-ly  just “identify” a bird anymore—by whatever name some taxonomist gives it.  I owe it to the birds I watch  to connect the story of its life to the privilege it gives me of seeing it.  The stories  of survival are worth considering and should move us to do more than just watch.  They  should connect us. Each one should push is to admire and actively  conserve with gratitude in the heart for each and every feathered thing.

Add  each bird’s story to the I.D. and be amazed.  Be careful  though-- a tear might find its way on  your list.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Resurrecting a Legacy-Sand County to Carolina Clay

Imagine trying to somehow speak for a person that you admire--maybe some famous or well-known figure that has shaped your way of thinking--your mode of being. Aldo Leopold is one of those people for me. My parents, Martin Luther King, Rachel Carson--there aren't many more that I can name.  

Aldo was a human being, yes. I'm fully aware of the imperfections that come along with the tag of Homo sapiens as I'm riddled with all the holes that humanity brings with it. But then there are those humans that elevate the "being" to another level--above the flesh and bone--those we revere for some reason or another. Most who know me know my “religion”. That I lean heavily on the words of Leopold for guidance in my life as an ecophyte is no secret. Yes. Me--a black man born of southern clay with a dead white Midwestern man I never met as a mentor. Call me odd. Call me Drew.

Holding someone in such high regard means that speaking in any way to reflect their words or ways can be a daunting challenge.  Such a task lay before me a few days ago as I had the humbling honor of delivering a speech at Wofford College's dedication of a special place. Three ambitious Environmental Studies students, Steven Bearden, Rob Kennedy and Rob Richardson, decided to spend their one month January interim building a scaled-down version of Aldo Leopold's homestead shack in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  THE Shack is an international icon for conservationists. It is a symbol for reclamation and sustainability. It is the land ethic built of boards. 

While the Shoals Shack would represent the same thing it would do so in a different way. And so rather than trying to photocopy Leopold's effort  by reclaiming a rural site or sticking nail by nail to the blueprint, they chose instead to add their own touches and build  in the shadows of an old cotton mill, a place where the hand of man held heavy sway and nature  has been an afterthought for decades. Their goal was not so much to copy as to translate and bring a legacy forward to a new place and a different people.

One of the southern textile islands that spewed spun cotton to the world and contaminants into the air and water, Glendale Mill was the center of a community and a cog in the industrial machine that defined a significant way of southern life for a large portion of the twentieth century. Destroyed by conflagration a few years back, the place is being re-born as The Goodall Shoals Environmental Center. It is an example of nature's power to heal and reclaim. 

 I'm not sure there's been any event at which I've been asked to speak that has created more anxiety. How would I do anything reflecting what Aldo did-- justice? As I sat snow-stranded on a tarmac in Charlotte, NC sinking in the waxing claustrophobia and growing din of dissatisfied travelers (including a persistent peek-a-booing toddler and an understandably cranky infant testing the diaper-soiling-in-a-packed-to-capacity-puddle-jumper world record) my own frustration gave way to inspiration. I pulled out a pen, found an old envelope --and wrote. The words found freedom.  The feelings flowed.  

By the time the day for the talk rolled around, the words spawned in the snow-stranding seemed ready to be set free. A small crowd gathered underneath the chilly overcast. After  talking with  a few folks and a cursory inspection of the  little building,  I found a seat on a bench by the creek  trying to gather my nerve before the event. As I watched the water wind its way past over and down the rocky shoals, my thoughts spun in the rushing rapids and time slipped away with them. 

My good friend John Lane, a Wofford professor and the visionary whose passion for nature, the region and mill culture have helped the Environmental Studies Program and this place come into being, introduced the Shoals Shack—christened “The Aldo” --to the gathering. I call John the Poet Laureate of the Piedmont. 
John Lane at the "Aldo"

His passion for the region and rivers everywhere is well known through his poetry and prose. I think he probably introduced Aldo and the young men who built the Glendale version to the crowd. Maybe said something about how they took recycled items and persistently stayed on task until the job was done. Perhaps he spoke about the bonds that developed between them. I think that this is what was going on because all the while I was well on my way to the sea, lost in the water and the words I wanted to say.  

I’d wandered so far downstream that John had to send someone over to pull me away from the company of the birches to make good on the words I’d written.
I stood in front of the little building-- and let the words loose.  Quoting Leopold’s is always a heady thing for me. I mixed his words with mine and the rhythm somehow seemed right.  The smiles on the faces of those present let me know that maybe I'd done good enough. 

“' 'There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot'. In that declaration of the 'delights and dilemmas'  to come, Aldo Leopold set us down  a wandering  path of wonder  where  A “good oak” spoke ; the call for “intelligent tinkering” gave us permission to horde biodiversity and “thinking like a mountain”  became the mantra for generations to think before they act against nature.  As the Father of modern wildlife conservation recounted his own evolution from an accountant of natural resources to a conscience for seeing the value in all wild things, he and his family reclaimed an old chicken coop and nurtured the burned out farm to a place with possibilities. The family’s reclamation in Sauk Wisconsin, one of the sand counties, became the birthplace of a movement; the crucible in which the Land Ethic was born. That ethic is one that '… simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land... In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.'

Conservation, Aldo said, 'is a state of harmony between men and land.' It was in that elegant and simple phrase that the golden rule vined up and out to embrace wild things and to make humans part, parcel and responsible to nature. It meant that a mutual respect—a thing that some might call love—would came to mean something when we glory in  fallow fields  flashing golden in the filtered fall sun-- or when we try in vain to describe the beauty of a bluebird’s auburn breast burnished against its own brilliance.  Leopold’s claim that 'A thing is right if it tends to preserve the stability, integrity, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong if it tends otherwise.' was his gospel. It should be ours too.

I took the pilgrimage to the Wisconsin River mecca a couple of years ago and as I entered Aldo's aura--his space--water welled in my eyes and a smile creased my face. My heart slowed to some imperceptible beating in the calm of the place but somehow my pulse quickened in the knowledge that I was sharing sacred ground. Bits and pieces of the book kept ringing in my ears. I had a first edition copy of A Sand County Almanac with me, clasping it as a parishioner might a holy tome.  At times it seemed to writhe in my hands—struggling like some wild thing to be free--begging to be heard in unfettered flight.  I couldn’t help but gather the students around me to set the words free. I preached the gospel according to geese and rivers, sunsets and Silphium. I hoped that the words would soar round their heads and roost in their hearts as they had in mine. For some, it seemed so. I ventured into the shack, touched the cold stone of the hearth and felt the worn wood of the mantle. It was no grand place but I felt small in it. I looked through the glassless windows to see things that Leopold only imagined--trees grown to maturity, maple leaves --scarlet and gold--shining in the October overcast like stars; a wounded landscape recovered with prairie grass and wildflowers. On a short hike to the river, I heard the “goose music” and my heart leapt even though the now ubiquitous waterfowl have lost so much of the wild reputation that Leopold lauded.  I knelt and scooped up a handful of soil and let the loose conglomeration slip through my fingers. Sand though it was, it might as well have been gold to me.  I knew that I was holding something that Aldo's boots had surely tread. Maybe at some point he’d fingered the same soil and pondered the possibilities.  I tried to absorb it all-the sights, sounds and smells —the palpable spirit of the place. It wasn’t possible. Just as I find new beauty each time I read Sand County, there will have to be more visits to absorb what the seasons have to offer.   I'm sure I will visit the shack again one day but I will never do so again for the first time.

And so today, as we stand here, for the first time, I hope that you feel a tremor, a pulse, a beating of something that quickens and calms. For this is now sacred ground too. It is sacred because it deems nature to be as important as ourselves; as essential as soil, as sustaining as water or sun. 

As we gather here at Glendale Shoals and the Goodall Environmental Studies Center--here in this fractured Piedmont place—a place where more often seems broken than whole—a place where the soil slicks orange to sticky clay  because the richness was lost long ago to plow and rain and callousness.  A place where the rivers have been corralled and flow slowed to tame the water for our purposes.  A place where forests were broken to become fields of cotton- cotton that would be picked by hands that weren’t part of society’s less than intelligent social tinkering; cotton that would find its way to mills –mills like Glendale --where workers toiled like ants for not much more than bread crumbs to make the looms and shuttles sing with industry--industry that fed the families waiting up on the hill --industry that clothed the world.

And so here we stand on soil that like Aldo Leopold’s, has been worn thin by time and toil. We stand in earshot of Lawson’s Fork Creek, the flow that brought power to the mill and took the dye and dirt downstream.  Aldo saw the possibilities in the tree-bare land as he set forth with his family to re-plant and re-claim the wild things swimming, flying, bounding and burrowing through it.  Someone too, saw the possibilities of this place after all those years of cotton coming and going. Someone saw the possibilities after hell’s fire took brick and timber back to dust on that mid-March night. Someone saw the possibilities for making good on the promise of bringing harmony back to land where the clamor of commerce had been quieted.  Someone saw the possibilities in building this shack, a tribute to reclaiming an ethic to ecology and an oath to the land and the community of wild things and humans. Look around you. See the sycamores—splotch barked and bone white waiting for spring’s permission to burst bud? They are the plant pioneers laying first claim to the integrity of letting nature take back what it lost.  Hear the mockingbird’s triplets claiming the day? There are other feathered things—warblers and maybe one day a woodcock—Leopold’s sky dancer-- waiting to claim the forest and thickets that await redemption.

The water running the shoals sees in this piedmont place what the Wisconsin river saw on that Sand County farm. It is hope. It is possibility. It is something good going and growing to something better.

And so here we stand at the Glendale shack.  More than a building it is the long vision of John Lane drifted like flotsam downstream to dreams swirling and a final rapid falling into a deep pool of reality. In that realization of a place being re-born to different purpose, a passion for this special piedmont place fledged in the nurturing.  The fledglings--nearly fully feathered and out of the nest, took on Professor Lane’s charge to practice conservation with the head and with the heart.

The young men that came here to these Shoals—to the Goodall Center grounds— Steven Bearden, Rob Kennedy and Rob Richardson —came with hammer and saw and purpose and passion.  True to Aldo’s way, they reclaimed what they could—even managed to find old boards from a chicken coop-- to keep the winds at bay and secure the inspiration that will help others see what was, what is and what might be.

We stand not in the midst of wilderness here or on an abandoned farm. No, this is place of human doing—bricks and mortar and metal--triumphs and failures.  We gather in the shadows of what remains--towering chimneys that no longer belch smothering smoke but invite twittering chimney swifts from tropical Peru to stay awhile.   

There is little loose soil here to claim as sandy but the southern piedmont clay on which we stand is no less parent material for rebirth than Sauk County sand. Here within the earshot of children playing, traffic going to and fro and a community’s pride growing, Big Rob, Little Rob and Steven came in the rain and endured the wet and cold. They hammered with nails and screwed and bolted to put the mechanical pins in place. It began with plans and schedules but ended with something else--an emergent something—a life and purpose greater than the sum of all the boards and nails that comprise the structure.
L-R: "Big" Rob Richardson, Steven Bearden, "Little" Rob Kennedy

And yes--there is a heart in this place. What truly holds this “Shoals shack” together is the passion and camaraderie that these three men gave freely and abundantly with a vision borne of love of nature. This love is what an artist’s eye sees in sunsets, what a waterfowler’s ear hears in wheeling, squealing flocks of teal and what a conservationist’s heart feels for saving a living, breathing Piedmont place. It is what visionaries dream of---saving something wild for the next ones that come along. 

Yes, 'there are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot..' We here so gathered at the shoals in the shadow of this place, are kindred who cannot."