Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday Music: License to Kill (Bob Dylan)

Last week Bob Dylan turned 75 (May 24). Here is a video of one of several powerful songs from his 1981 album Infidels. I find it especially poignant on this Memorial Day, hoping that as we honor those who have fought for our country, we will also listen to "a woman on my block who just sits there in a cold chill saying, 'Who's gonna take away, his license to kill?'"


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Flashback: Memorial Day Thoughts

While I am working on another project, I am re-posting some past essays, This one is from 2010. Like then, I'll be working on Memorial Day this year. I hope you will take some time to reflect on ways we can remember past wars without instigating new ones. War always wreaks untold havoc when we unleash it.

I'll be spending Memorial Day at work since I'll be on duty at the hospital. I wanted to stop today and share some thoughts on the holiday.

I don’t recall much being made of Memorial Day when I was growing up. It was barely on my radar. I suppose there were Memorial Day sales, but as a holiday it was not high up on the list. Several years ago, Alison, a young colleague at work started talking about her childhood memories of Memorial Day. “I was always excited about the holiday, because I would get brand new clothes. My mamma would always take me shopping. She would tell me, ‘We were going out to get your Memorial Day dress.’ That was the big thing about Memorial Day.” She was a young African American woman talking to me and Kevin, another colleague who was white. Kevin and I looked at one another in mild amusement. We had never heard of such a Memorial Day tradition.

“You mean ya’ll didn’t get new clothes on Memorial Day?”

Kevin and I said no we didn’t.

“I wonder if my mamma was just telling me that. I sure thought new clothes were a Memorial Day tradition.”

It got to my young black colleague so that she went to another black co-worker to ask her about it. Alison returned later with a big smile on her face. "I asked Phyllis about it – she said it was a black thang.” We all three laughed about it.

That incident led me to ponder how and what we remember, and how we mark special days of observance. A quick look at the history of Memorial Day reveals the difference in how I, Kevin, and Alison had grown up observing the holiday. Memorial Day first came to be observed to commemorate Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I it became a day to honor Americans who have died in all wars. In my white southern heritage, Memorial Day had no strong observance because it was not a thing that my white ancestors would have particularly wanted to honor or remember. To our black neighbors’ ancestors, however, Memorial Day would have signified a new beginning, new hope and opportunity (even though it took 100 more years for Civil Rights to be enacted). It makes perfect sense that our black neighbors would have celebrated with new clothes for a new beginning.

How then should we observe the day in the 21st century, after so many other wars have given us so many other soldiers killed in the service of our country? On Memorial Day it is certainly fitting to remember those soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for our country. It is also fitting to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy in this country. We would be remiss, however, if we did not pause to consider the price all of our soldiers pay during wartime. Rather than glorifying the fight, we should consider what our brave soldiers actually endure. We do not honor our soldiers by holding on to fantasies about the glories of war. By really understanding what it is we ask our soldiers to do, perhaps we would not be so quick to enter into armed conflict.

Nancy Sherman of Georgetown University writes of the invisible wounds of war in an article, "What Good Soldiers Bear". The article appeared in America magazine and was written after interviews with soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well stated and insightful, I recommend the article which you can find by clicking here.

For another reflection on the origins of Memorial Day, check out this 2011 op ed piece in the New York Times, Forgetting Why We Remember, by David W. Blight.


Photo by Mark Wilson (Getty Images)


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Cahaba River

lilies stand
like silent egrets
river flows

Photo by Hal Arnold: The Cahaba Lily grows only in the Cahaba River


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Flashback: Living in a New Light

While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. This one is from April 4, 2010.

Adam lay ibounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thoght he not too long.
      ~ Anonymous (15th century ode)

The Easter vigil at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church was a night of symbol and ritual. The new fire was kindled outside, the Paschal Candle lit, and then came the procession into the darkened sanctuary. As I stood there in the darkness, there were only two sources of light available. There was the Paschal Candle at the front of the church. The second light came as a surprise. Halfway back, emanating from the darkness was an illumined apple with a bite taken out of it. It was the unmistakable Macintosh logo shining in the darkness (I later learned that a technician was digitally recording the choral music that night – the reason for the laptop in the sanctuary).

Of course the apple has been a deeply ingrained symbol since long before Macintosh acquired it. It has served as a symbol of the despair that followed disobedience in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It has also been a symbol that celebrates knowledge. How many times have we seen those happy back-to-school images that include a stack of books, smiling children, and that familiar apple for the teacher?

As I stood there in the darkness of the night, awaiting the coming of Easter, I thought about how that apple is the reason we are gathered here to remember the Paschal mystery, and to celebrate our redemption. The bishop spoke that night of how we all have dreams that die – things do not turn out the way we had hoped – and how we must let those dreams die in order to find new resurrected life. He described that life as a creative fire carrying us onward and beyond. As I stood there between the apple and the Paschal Candle, I felt that I knew about dreams that die, new life that arises, and fire that carries us forward.

The anonymous medieval poet certainly knew the drama and hope of redemption. A traditional interpretation of the poem quoted above is that Adam, as a result of the apple, was trapped in Limbo for 4,000 years until being liberated by Christ’s cosmic redemption that included the harrowing of Hell. It can also allude to humankind being in bondage to sin until the coming of Christ. To me, the power of that poem is in re-imagining bondage and hope. Consider that before the apple in the garden, Adam was just as bound by Eden’s bliss. It was a bliss that included a lack of consciousness and a lack of struggle; where 4,000 years could pass as a long weekend. The poet has the wisdom to speak of that fortunate fall which brought us life as we know it, with all of its joys and sorrows. The ode that begins in bondage ends in thanksgiving:

Blessed be the time
That appil that take was.
Therefore we moun singen
‘Deo gracias.’

Like the anonymous poet, whose identity I wish we knew but whose anonymity makes him or her truly one of us, I stood there in the darkness of the Easter vigil celebrating two lights. The apple’s light of consciousness and struggle, and the Paschal light of hope and redemption. “Therefore we may sing, ‘Thanks be to God.’”


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Finding America at the Corner of 20th and 2nd

The following essay of mine appeared on David Sher's blog, ComebackTown "to begin a conversation about a better Birmingham":

We are bombarded with news of political discord at the local, state, and national level. One can get disheartened watching news broadcasts these days, wondering if we can safely navigate the political shoals ahead. Recently I found a place where everything seemed to be working, in spite of what the news media may report...(continue reading here.) 


Photo: Downtown Birmingham, by James Willamor


Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Music: Porch Light (Aoife O'Donovan)

Penny Nash shared this wonderful music on her blog, Penelopepiscopal. As she describes it:

New England Conservatory educated Aoife O'Donovan has a new album out: In the Magic Hour. She's one of my faves. Here she is playing a song from that album, Porch Light. Playing with her on this video are Anthony DaCosta on guitar and Steve Nistor on drums.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Cahaba Lilies

Cahaba lilies
find their life in one river,
their hope in one stream

Photo: Cahaba Lilies by Hal Arnold


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Flashback: The Distraught Man

While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. This one is from April 25, 2011.

The kingdom of God is like a man who became distraught when he could not find his USB thumb drive. “Every time I am finished with the thumb drive, I always place it in the left hand corner of the top drawer of the cabinet beside the computer,” the man said, “but now when I need it, it is not to be found!”

The man then searched through the drawer. When he could not find the thumb drive, he emptied the drawer completely. He found many things that were no longer needed, but the thumb drive was not there.

“What am I to do?” the man asked with increasing alarm. For the thumb drive had 8 gigabytes of memory, therefore all manner of important information was contained therein. There were photos of family and many pictures taken in various places. Other files held great numbers of music recordings stored for future listening. There were also files upon files of essays and writings; there were works in progress, and there was important information for projects at work.

The man then began to straighten up everything around the desk, which was not in his nature, in order to see if the thumb drive had been inadvertently set to one side on the computer desk. When that yielded no results (except to provide a very clean orderly desk top, which was not in the man’s nature) the man then pulled out the computer desk and searched on the floor and along the wall behind the desk. Next he went to the cabinet and searched throughout, to no avail.

“What if the thumb drive inadvertently dropped from its usual place in the top drawer into the waste basket?" The man was somewhat relieved that the garbage truck had not run last Friday because it was Good Friday, so he went out to the garbage pails and sorted through the refuse contained therein, still to no avail.

“Perhaps, I was negligent the last time I used the thumb drive – I might have put it in my pocket instead.” Heartened by the possibility, the man then went through all the pockets of his pants, those in the dirty laundry and also those yet hanging in the closet. Yea he searched even through shirt pockets and jackets that he had not worn in months, but what could he do except search, for so much was contained within that thumb drive.

When his wife came home, he said, “Lo, but I am distraught!” and he recounted his day to her. Every suggestion she had had already been tried by the man. Then she said, “We will ask our daughter when she comes home from school if she has seen it.”

When his daughter arrived, the man asked her if she had seen his thumb drive. “Oh yes,” she said, “I borrowed it to do some work for school. Here it is on the end table.”

Then great was the man’s rejoicing, for so much that he had invested in that USB was now in his hands again! He was exceedingly glad and relieved, and he also had a new appreciation for that lady in the Bible who lost her coin.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Music: Inka Dinka Doo (Jimmy Durante)

Has there ever been a greater showman that Jimmy Durante? He was pure showmanship -- upbeat, entertaining, and contagious! In this movie clip from the 1944 movie, Two Girls and a Sailor, you also get to see the legendary Harry James and his orchestra. Durante actually wrote the music for "Inka Dinka Doo" (Ben Ryan wrote the lyrics). It became a major hit record for Jimmy Durante after the song debuted in the 1934 movie, Palooka.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Swamp Thistle


useless weed, 
the thorny thistle
proudly blooms

Photo by Gerald D. Tang: Monarch Butterfly on Swamp Thistle


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Could the Universe Be a Simulation Like The Matrix?

Who dreams our lives I do not know,
Nor in what land it is we meet. 

                                  ~ Kathleen Raine*

The Matrix was a hit feature film that portrayed a world that is actually a computer simulation. It was so popular that it spawned two sequels.  When I saw the first Matrix movie, to me it was the best representation of classic Gnosticism that I had ever seen.  The Gnostics saw the material world as an evil impediment to the truth. Some saw our souls as being trapped in the world we think is real, and that only through special knowledge can we escape to the spiritual world which is the real world. You can see, then, why I was fascinated by the modern Matrix analogy.

An Intriguing Question

Now none other than astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is examining the question in a panel discussion among scientists: Is it is possible that the universe that we perceive could actually be a simulation? It was the topic for discussion in this year’s Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the Natural Museum of History, with Tyson hosting the debate. [The entire panel discussion can be seen here]

The notion of whether the universe is a simulation is interesting and that it is being discussed among some leading scientists makes it all the more fascinating.  I am more intrigued, however, by the fact that this whole question of the nature of reality is a recurring one, going back eons. Gnosticism, which flourished during the first and second centuries in the early Christian era, viewed the material world as evil and a creation of a lesser god (the demiurge). They saw human beings as being kept in bondage to the material world and thus requiring special divine knowledge in order to escape from that material bondage. They understood that their knowledge of spiritual reality would allow them to escape the material world when they died.

Then there was Chuang Tzu (c. 369 BC – c. 286 BC) who asked questions about whether what we know of life is a delusion. There is the famous story of his dreaming that he was a butterfly, then upon awaking asking if the dream were not the real thing and was his “waking” experience actually a butterfly dreaming it was a man?

Of course there is also the concept in Hinduism and Buddhism that our ultimate goal is to escape the wheel of reincarnation, or the wheel of suffering. They obviously envision a reality that is beyond the world of the senses where we find ourselves now. We in the West have also had our differing views as to the nature of reality.

Plato vs. Aristotle

Plato saw the world as but a shadow of the Ideal. Neoplatonism, following Plato’s school of thought has had its influence on western philosophy with its metaphysical questions, notions about the true nature of the world we perceive with our senses and whether the real is actually what we perceive.  It had great influence on religion and philosophy in medieval Europe, but then the pendulum swung back to a more “sensible” view.  Scholars began to re-discover Aristotle whose analytic reasoning and trust in logic would give rise to the modern scientific method. Surprisingly, it was the Islamic scholars who preserved Aristotelian thought and it was Thomas Aquinas who brought that Aristotelian logic to Western Europe.

Richard Rubenstein’s book, Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages, points out how refreshing it was to the people when Aquinas, following the lead of Islamic scholar, Averroes,  brought Aristotle to the forefront in philosophical thought. Rubenstein said that people were weary of Neoplatonism and were glad to have Aristotelian reassurance that what they could see and feel with their senses was, in fact, the real world.

What is Real?

So why do we keep coming back to this question of how can we know what is real? I wonder if some of it has to do with the social structures we set for ourselves. Do we subconsciously realize that our sociopolitical structures are inadequate? Does living in the sociopolitical world we have created strike us as so definitely not the “real” world that probing the nature and ontology of the universe becomes a metaphor for our experience of living within these smaller systems of our own creation? Or, does our questioning the nature of reality arise from the fact that we see the vastness of the universe which is so far beyond our comprehension? 

The question itself is as fascinating as any speculation of an answer.


* From Raine's poem, "I Cannot Weep." Kathleen Raine died in 2003 at the age of 95. Her obituary in The Telegraph stated that "she wrote in the romantic, visionary tradition of John Clare, Blake and Yeats, which valued above all things nature and the power of the imagination."


Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Music: A Song that Changed the Course of Music

From “This Song Changed the Course of Music” By Kile Smith (WRTI, “your classical and jazz source”):

It was 201 years ago that Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote a song that would alter the course of music history…. “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel,” an unassuming title for Schubert’s first masterpiece and the start of an entire genre of music…

There had been songs before, of course. But art songs—in particular, German Lieder—were new. Not drawn from opera, they were self-contained concert dramas for voice and piano, setting poems steeped in romantic philosophy. They place the self-aware, if flawed, individual against nature or society, where it shines in all its glory—or despair.

Deceptively simple, Schubert’s harmonic agitation and melodic rage reflect Gretchen’s turmoil, while the wheel inexorably turns. (Read the entire piece here)

From NPR:

"The most amazing thing is that a 17-year-old boy can somehow enter into the female pysche with such an incredible amount of understanding as if he himself had experienced such feelings," Johnson says. And those feelings explode with operatic intensity half-way through the song when Gretchen stops the spinning wheel cold and screams "Sein kuss!" (His kiss!).


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Revisiting Our Town (a Mother's Day Memory)

Fredonia State University of New York photo

It may have been the first play I ever saw and it is certainly my earliest recollection of live theater. I must have been around 7 years old. While I did not follow the story line at such a young age, it was all such a fascinating experience. I knew many of the actors who were in the senior class at Dadeville High School and I knew the director, Mary Kinnaird. She was the high school English teacher and she also happened to be my mother. The play was Our Town, by Thornton Wilder.

It must have been quite a big night for the town as well. I recall my mother saying years later that as they were working out the logistics she mentioned to the high school principal the matter of paying royalties out of the proceeds from the play. “Royalties?” he said with astonishment, “I never heard of doing a senior play that required paying royalties!” That became the routine, however, as my mother continued to produce the high school senior plays over the years. She guided future students in a variety of plays that included I remember Mama, Cheaper by the Dozen, You Can't Take It with You, and Pygmalion.

The Play is the Thing

Our Town was first performed in 1938 and found immediate success on Broadway, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Thornton Wilder. The play has had continued success down through the years as a classic American play. From that high school performance that I witnessed years ago, I was left with vivid memories.

Even though I saw the play at a very young age, I can still recall some of the scenes. I remember the stage manager who kept the audience informed about the action on stage, the paperboy delivering the morning news; I remember the actors using step ladders to simulate looking out upstairs windows in neighboring houses; and I remember the lovely Emily who was played by high school senior, Carol Jane Meigs. I can still see her in that white dress bidding a tearful good-bye to Grover’s Corners as she played the part of Emily.
Perhaps the reason I have had Our Town on my mind is that Mother’s Day is approaching as well as my mother’s birthday. She would have been 95 years old on May 10 if she were still living.  I decided that I would honor my mother's memory by viewing the play that she directed so many years ago.

Since it is one of the most frequently performed plays in the country, I was hoping to find a recording of it.  Upon visiting the public library, I was excited to find a DVD recording of a 1996 production that had aired on Showtime and on PBS. It was directed by Joanne Woodward, and starred her husband, Paul Newman, as the stage manager. I happily checked out the DVD and viewed it a few days later when I had a quiet span of time to give to the viewing.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, the play presents ordinary scenes from the lives of people in a small ordinary town, Grover’s Corners, in New Hampshire. In the words of the stage manager, “This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and our dying.” As I watched the play unfold on the screen, I had another play going on inside my head. I was re-envisioning that spring night in 1962 when the Dadeville High School production took place. I loved the way the audience was drawn into the play at the bidding of the stage manager; I was intrigued by the minimalist stage setting which allowed closer attention to the conversation; and I was amazed that this very production had taken place in the small town of Dadeville, Alabama.

The Gift of Live Theater

With a population of around 3,000 people, my hometown of Dadeville was comparable to Grover’s Corners, which the play tells us had a population of 2,642. The people I knew growing up lived according to the customs of the day, not unlike the people depicted in Thornton Wilder’s play. As I watched the drama of Our Town play out, I realized that my mother’s production of the play was great gift. It was a gift to the graduating seniors to be involved in such a production and it was a larger gift to the community to give the people a chance to look thoughtfully at their lives for just a moment.

The stage manager put it this way: “Now there are some things we all know, but we don't take'm out and look at'm very often. We all know that something is eternal...everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being.”

In Act III, Emily, who had died in childbirth observed, “It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.” She made that observation after having been given the chance to revisit the world for one day. She had chosen what she remembered as a happy day, her 12th birthday.

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?” she asked while looking on her family’s interactions on the day she chose to return to life.

“No,” replied the stage manager, “saints and poets, maybe — they do some.”

“In Our Living and Our Dying”

I cannot say how the townsfolk reacted after that production of Our Town. I’m sure they all thought it was a nice play, and I’m sure parents were proud of the production that their high school children had accomplished. I have to think that some, at least, took time to reflect upon the life that they were living. I know that the actual lives of the actors played out in ways that were similar to the characters on stage. Some died too young; most went on to ordinary lives of marriages and mortgages. There were also disruptions that lay just ahead: the assassination of a president, the war in Vietnam, the civil rights struggle, Woodstock – all of these cultural markers of my generation were yet to be encountered by that small tight-knit community.

All of these years later, I am all the more impressed and thankful for the role my mother played in bringing good things to a small mill town in the South. One of the characters in Our Town said, “There isn't much culture...Robinson Crusoe and the Bible; Handel's 'Largo,' we all know that: and Whistler's 'Mother' -- those are just about as far as we go.” We didn’t have a lot of culture in our little town either, but there was one high school English teacher who brought gifts from Thornton Wilder, George Bernard Shaw, and other playwrights to enrich the lives of students and others in the community. 

In her annual production of those senior high school plays, my mother gave the town a few moments to listen to “the saints and the poets.” She enabled us all to ever so briefly recall the truth that “There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being.”


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Ancient Ruins

fog moves in
on ancient ruins
new grass grows

Photo : Dounarwyse Castle, a 13th century ruin on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.
(from Scotland Past and Present Facebook page)


Friday, May 6, 2016

Writing with Emily Dickinson

Last month at the Gifts of a Wordsmith poetry workshop, Emily Dickinson was the focus. It was part of the The Big Read Birmingham project in which the Birmingham Public Library teamed up with Birmingham-Southern College to “to enhance understanding of the work of poet Emily Dickinson.”  

Each participant at the poetry workshop was given a copy of The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson.  We read some poems by Dickinson and then took part in writing a poem patterned after her style.

One of the things about Dickinson is that she would often give concrete descriptions to abstract concepts by making a simple comparison to a physical object. “Hope is the thing with feathers” is one such example.

For our poetry assignment, we were asked to first list three abstract terms. I wrote down:


Once we had our list of abstract concepts, we spent some time thinking of solid objects that can be easily described in concrete terms. I jotted down a few:

Tree              Flower                Man
Rock             Mountain          Woman
Chair            River

The next step was to pick one of our abstract terms and compare it to something solid and objective. Here is what I came up with in my Dickinson-inspired piece:


Respite is a tree
That grows down in the meadow
Casting shade in summer
And shadow in the fall.

Respite is a steady woman
Who sees through pomp and pretense.
She pulls the chair up close;
She shakes her head and smiles.

Respite is a rock
Emerging from the hillside.
Some will sit,
Some will trip.
Everyone will stop.

Once we had all read our poems, we were instructed to replace our abstract term with another abstract term.  For this exercise, each of us was handed an 3 x 5 card with a word to substitute the one we used in composing our poem. The word I was handed was “desire,” and you can see below how that one word changes the poem:


Desire is a tree
That grows in the meadow
Casting shade in summer
And shadow in the fall

Desire is a steady woman
Who sees through pomp and pretense.
She pulls the chair up close;
She shakes her head and smiles.

Desire is a rock
Emerging from the hillside.
Some will sit,
Some will trip.
Everyone will stop.

Desire seemed to work well in the poem. What do you think?

*    *    *

Poetry Event Happening May 10

The Gifts of a Wordsmith group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Central Library in downtown Birmingham, Ala. This coming Tuesday (May 10), Gifts of a Wordsmith will present a poetry reading in which each will share something of what we have written. All are welcome to come hear our selections.

The festivities will take place from 6:00 to 7:45 pm in the Boardroom on the 4th floor of the downtown Birmingham Public Library. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

For information, e-mail or call 226-3670.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Birding at Turkey Creek (A Photo Essay)

Back in March, I joined the Birmingham Audubon Society for a field trip to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve about 15 miles north of Birmingham out Highway 79. The director, Charles Yeager, gave us a brief introduction and history of the preserve. It covers 466 acres and was purchased by Alabama’s Forever Wild program and was established through a partnership with Forever Wild and the Freshwater Land Trust. Yeager said that three tons of garbage was hauled out of the area before it could be made ready for visitors, opening its gates to the public in 2009.

Birmingham Audubon Society photo
The Turkey Creek Nature preserve is home to a number of endangered species. There are three endangered species of fish: the Vermilion Darter, the Watercress Darter and the Rush Darter. The Vermilion Darter occurs only in Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world. It is also home to a threatened bat species (long-eared bat), an endangered bat species (grey bat), an endangered turtle (flattened musk turtle), and an endangered flower (eared cone-flower).

Of course, the original inhabitants of the area were the Native American tribes. One of the first white settlers at Turkey Creek was David Hanby, a blacksmith who set up a mill and blacksmith shop. He was an entrepreneur who made the needed household and farming tools for farmers who came to settle the area. There is currently an archaeological dig at the preserve which has located the site for Hanby’s smith shop.

Photo from the TCNP Facebook sight

The Sights

On our hike along Turkey Creek, we were first greeted by a barred owl, who sat on a tree branch just past the entry gate. He was the only creature who stopped for a photo shoot, with several of us getting some nice shots. We also saw a beautiful blue heron coming up from the water. He flew overhead a couple of times, perhaps checking to see if we had gone yet, but did not stop of pictures. Other birds sighted were phoebes, ruby-crowned kinglets, and a sapsucker. One person sighted both a pileated and a downy Woodpecker. We also caught sight of a couple of hawk soaring aloft just above the treetops.

In addition to the birds, there were many sights of natural beauty along the way. Yeager told us that Turkey Creek flows over a fossilized creek bed and was actually formed before the Appalachian Mountain range emerged. 

The creek is fed by numerous streams flowing out from the rocks and ledges, making it some of the purest, cleanest water around. 

Here is a view of the creek looking down from the ridge as the trail begins to ascend to higher elevations.

If you look closely, you can spot a young anole, sometimes referred to as an American chameleon, climbing up the rock.

This hawk weed’s blossom was closed up when we first passed by, but on our way back, it had opened up in the sunlight.

   There was a beautiful ground cover of these purple flowers
along the lower ridge just above the creek.

Lovely patches of mosses and lichen were found in the rocky area beside the falls. Here one can see lichen, green moss, reindeer moss (a type of lichen), and prickly pear cactus, all growing together. 

More Reindeer moss, or reindeer lichen. A lichen is an organism that consists of fungus and unicellular algae living in symbiosis. 

An old moss-covered tree trunk leans out over the water.

This beautiful area serves as a popular swimming hole 
during the summer months.

Dramatic rock outcroppings  can be seen along the way.

Water drips from several places on the rock cliffs above the creek.

A Few Parting Shots

* All photos were taken by Charles Kinnaird unless otherwise noted

*    *    *    *

Details about Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

The following information about Turkey Creek is taken from the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham Southern College which is in partnership with the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve:

Turkey Creek offers: 
  • Stunning beauty and unique habitats
  • A five-mile national recreational trail system
  • One of the state's top swimming spots
  • A home for three federally endangered fish species
  • One of Jefferson County's first settlements
  • Hands-on educational opportunities
  • Group and individual picnic areas
  • Annual events for the community and public 

Hours and Directions

TCNP is open Wednesday-Sunday the following hours:
8 a.m.-4 p.m. November-March
8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March-November
Pedestrian only hours: Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 a.m.

Find us at:
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
3906 Turkey Creek Road
Pinson, AL 35126

Charles Yeager
Turkey Creek Preserve Manager
Phone- (205) 680-4116

From downtown Birmingham:
Take 1-20 E/1-59 N
Take the Tallapoosa Street exit/#128
Merge onto AL-79 N/Tallapoosa Street
Continue on AL-79 N for 11.9 miles
Turn left on Narrows Road at the intersection of AL-79 and AL-151
Turn right onto Turkey Creek Road

From Huntsville:
Take US-231 S for approximately 60 miles to AL-79 S
Continue on AL-79 S for 23.5 miles
Turn right onto Narrows Road at the intersection of AL-79 and AL-151
Turn right onto Turkey Creek Road

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