Dreams are powerful tools that can help guide anyone to success and happiness. They represent some cherished aspiration, an ultimate ideal of achievement.

The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.

A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memorial Day Reverie

It was one of those days when moments crystallize like the antithesis of frost in the sticky sunlight of an early summer afternoon. Lying on my side in my hammock, a cool breeze slowly dried muggy sweat on my back. The sun had just dropped below the horizon of the garage roof, finally casting my hammock into shadowy respite.
Hanging an arm and a leg over the edge, my hand draped across the smooth stomach of my pointer lying on my sleeping bag beneath me. I caressed her lazily, and she nuzzled my hand every few minutes, sneaking a lick from my salty skin when I seemed to care the least. Letting my fingers linger for a moment over her velvet nose, I slid my hand back under her ears to scratch her neck, and my fingers fell upon the plastic clasp of her shock collar. As if so many adolescent years of practice had given my thumb and forefinger perfect memory, the nerves in my fingers fired before any thought, dropping her collar silently onto my sleeping bag.
Looking up to my face, she rolled onto her back, pushing her paw wantonly against my forearm. We stared at each other for a few seconds as the late afternoon breeze swirled tulip poplar petals around us in the grass. I stared into her amber eyes as she lazily gazed back, teasing myself as I always do, wondering what lies behind those eyes I love so much.
The flutter of a pigeon caught her attention and she was off again, chasing a more instinctual love. I watched her pink frothy tongue sway from side to side as she followed the birds with maniacal intent for a few minutes. Then I rolled over and closed my eyes, thinking back to so many days past…
Lying in the sun, our sweaty legs entangled, I stared through your hair into the shadows of your eyes. Waiting, we patiently stared in silence. As the sun sunk lower in the sky, the trees reached up into the light, casting dancing shadows across your face. Beneath a veil of cotton, my fingers danced across the softest skin while we waited for the breeze.
Finally, a murmur swept across the grass and swirled around us, washing away the afternoon heat. With simple surprise in your eyes, your bra fell to the side, and rolling onto my chest, you kissed me with the purest passion. Sun-dappled hair danced across my face as I traced the chill of the breeze across your back.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hang In There Folks

The last two months have been quite the flurry. I have been able to catch up with friends, rethink some decisions past and some to come, and plan what I hope to be some amazing months ahead of me.

I will be leaving for Peru in like nine days. I will be there from June 1st, until December 20th, performing ornithological research with a Doctorate student from Oxford University. I hope to keep this blog up to date once a week, however, it may take me awhile to get settled in enough to stay on top of it.

I have been finding myself well since being home. During several hikes alone or with friends, I have caught myself imagining a future here, one with my family, and more sessile friends. I don't know where I will ever find to rest indefintely. I do know I am growing weary of so much moving though...

Here are a few photos from my time back east. Hopefully the next time I post, it will be from Peru.

I hiked from East to Bethlehem, Pa with Silas, as part of his work with a local conservation organization that is creating a trail that follows the historic canal along the Lehigh River. Soaked and growing tired, this sight welcomed us as we entered Bethlehem, thirteen miles later.

After a long day of driving with Nick, we arrived to Burlington, Vermont as the day began to fade. As a rosey hue filtered through the living room, we grabbed drums and jackets, and headed to the park. It was a wonderful closing to a day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Visiting the Big Apple

The subway doors close us into a steamy car together, and I immediately feel my ears redden in the heat. As the car accelerates, and the cars grow quieter, I hear Michael Jackson’s Thriller filter through from the back of the car, where I see a tall thin boy in a white t-shirt with jet black hair pulled back strutting around and clapping to the music. A small boy at his side dressed in camo mimics his actions until the taller boy steps to the side of the car, leaving an open space where the small boy is standing.
Together they yell, “Five, Six, SEVEN, EIGHT,” and the little boy jumps into step with the music, dancing in a circle, warming up his feet momentarily.
He quickly drops his hands to the floor and begins an impressive, yet amateur break-dancing sequence. His camo shirt slides up over his shoulders as he pushes up into a back arch, exposing his milk chocolate stomach for a second before his feet leave the ground a second later and he is left in a handstand while still partially in a back arch.
Several of the surrounding passengers smile at the spectacle as the taller boy encourages some applause before taking the dance area. Some passengers step in front of my view, but I see his hands flying around above their heads, and then his feet just as quickly. After about ten seconds straight of feet and hands flying above passengers’ heads, the boy pops back up and returns to a stationary spot against the car door just as the floor begins to quiver and shake as we approach the next stop.
“1st Ave.,” is all I hear over the music. I watch the tall boy wipe some sweat from his forehead as I step off the hot and crowded train.

Once I get away and over the streets clogged with cars and aggressive motorists, and people leaving their terriers shit on the sidewalk, for the first time I feel comfortable enough to be myself in such an atmosphere, and I am even finding some amiable aspects of this city.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Spring Thunderstorm at Home

I sat outside last night in the rain. I had attempted to sit outside as the thunderstorm approached our house, but as I walked across the yard in a cool wind with a fresh pot of tea in hand, the first drops hit my arm. A loud murmur swept up the hollow from across the street, and I took off at a run for our house as a downpour engulfed our yard.
Retreating to the cover of my porch, I sat with my back against our front door as rain blew in around me, wetting my legs, and the back of my Mac. I listened to the rain splashing on the road and smacking upon the fresh maple leaves as lightning crystallized the thunderstorm momentarily in bright flashes.

Lights from around the corner swept up the road and past my house as cars passed, casting light on the rain hitting the flooded road. The hush of the thunderstorm quickly regained the night as each car passed slowly in the heavy rain. The storm passed over the ridge across the hollow from my house, casting violent lightning and thunder into the night for over an hour.
Despite the violence of such storms, I find an exhilarating quiet in such events. I meditated on the sounds passing around me as the storm swept across the ridge above my house. I kept my eyes wide open to the night, awaiting each lightning flash eagerly. Watching such storms pass is like watching a secret slideshow. You sit and listen in the darkness, then suddenly the night is momentarily obliterated, and the storm casts light on the scene it is creating around you. One second you may see toads hopping across the road in search of each other, another moment snowy petals blown from an apple tree across the street are crystallized in the air as the tree leans to one side under the breath of the storm.

Once, when I was still quite young during a July thunderstorm, I saw a deer staring out into the field from beneath an apple tree. I sat in the ensuing darkness, straining my eyes to pick the form out of the void beneath the tree. A minute later, the next flash of lightning showed only an empty spot, and the deer was nowhere to be seen.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Returning Home - Part Three, Old Scary Spots, and New Turkeys Trots

Continuing uphill, I pass into another logged section of forest, choked with slash and briars. I jump from slash pile to slash pile, walking along refuse logs as far as I can in silence, until I either loose my balance or run out of slash. Squirrels that I hadn’t noticed shoot into the trees and chide me from safety after I crash back down onto the leaf-covered forest floor.
At the edge of this logged plot, I return back to forest, and am welcomed by an old ‘NO DUMPING’ sign.

Over years, the maple tree the sign is nailed to has slowly began enveloping the sign as though it were wound from a broken branch. The bark seems to be pouring over the sign in slow motion like thick taffy. Given enough time, it will be gone.
Behind the sign I see an old shack I visited some time ago. I approached slowly, gazing nervously at the large hole going beneath the cabin, from where I heard an alarming noise during high school that sent me running. Having found bear scat this winter, and hearing wolves last week, I felt even more trepidation at approaching this hole.

I stood twenty or so feet away with knife in hand, and snapped a few shots before, shining a light down into the hole. It appeared to be vacant. There were no footprints or animal hair. I walked on, somewhat disappointed.
Following another deer trail from the cabin, I descend another slope, dropping down into another micro-drainage adjacent to the one I had just left. Remarking to myself over the freshness of these prints, I begin to envision walking up on some deer, and then motion up ahead catches my eye. A moment of confusion overcomes me as I see a dark object with a red head and beady black eyes slowly trot away from me behind a fallen log, and I just as quickly realize I walked up on three male turkeys.
I began to trot behind them, skirting fallen logs as much as possible. I followed them for several hundred yards unsure as to how alarmed they really were. Finally I came around a corner within forty yards of them, and their desperation was apparent. Running full out with necks outstretched, they entered another old, eroded springbed full of large rocks, choked with saplings.
I ducked under a few hemlock branches on the edge of the flow, and began hopping anxiously from rock to rock as fast as I could. One gobbler turned towards me, ran a few steps and exploded into flight, and a second did the same a couple seconds later. I picked up my pace to a full out sprint towards the final gobbler, sure it would fly away any moment. The faster I ran, the more nervous it became, zigzagging in confusion through the thick saplings. I was perhaps less than twenty yards from the turkey when it exploded from the ground, wings cracking against the surrounding trees. It looked much larger than I expected in flight.
Silence quickly returned to the forest, until my breathing was all I heard. I smiled at the quaking saplings. Turkeys in the Bald Hills were relatively unheard of growing up, and anyone who claimed they saw some was regarded with considerable skepticism. I felt a little remorse in chasing the turkeys, for they may have broken a few primary flight feathers while taking off in such a tight spot, but the pleasure in knowing they were at least present in these woods again quickly overcame such feelings.
I followed the flight path of the turkeys for a while before turning, back uphill towards the ridge. My feet were growing tired, so it was time for a cold porter back at home.

Waking Up, Reaching Out, and Letting Go this Spring

Shortly after I woke up this morning I walked outside with my dog, and squinted up into the sky, surveying the promise of the day. Scanning the bright yet cloudy sky, I began to catalogue all the birdsongs surrounding me: A grackle in the neighbor’s locust tree, a robin in the by our driveway maple, a pileated woodpecker lower in the locust tree, a starling flying by, etc. I walked to my car for my binoculars after hearing several unknown songs I had been listening to for several days now across the road in a few large oaks.
My neighbor waved glibly to me as I stood in their driveway, looking down momentarily from my binos. Returning focus to my binos, I chuckled, recounting how it is only when I have binoculars glued to my face with apparent concentration and diligence in my stature that people seem to never mind a trespasser. After identifying a cape may warbler gleaning insects from the undersides of glowing maple leaves, (a first-ever sighting for me), I walked up the street towards another warbler song coming from a yet unknown species in the tall oaks.
Cars swerved around me on their way to church, and I got dirty looks from mothers dressed in their Sunday’s best, leaning over to glare through the car window as they passed me lying on my back along side the road. Staring through binoculars can become extremely uncomfortable and taxing on your neck if the birds are directly above you, and it just so happened that the best place to spot the warblers up high in the oaks above me was by lying on my back on some gravel along side the road.
I watched one bird glean insects from the oak foliage for twenty minutes before it finally showed itself as a black and white warbler as it shook an oak pollen tangle with its beak, and flew out into the sun to catch a fleeing insect in mid air.
After identifying 5 species of warblers in one hour within 100 yards of each other, I walked back to the house for some breakfast with a pleasant outlook on the day’s promise. For me, spring is in full swing today. When the warblers have returned to their breeding grounds from several thousand miles to the South, I know it is time to shove my winter hats and long underwear to the bottom of my backpack.
The coming of spring brings at least some change of life to all of earth. For a smaller population of humans, it brings about a poignant change in lifestyle. Each spring, thousands of researchers take to their offices of sorts, referred to candidly as ‘the field’.
For the majority of scientific history, humans have been on the search, seeking knowledge about this world that we live in. However, recently the majority of scientific research has focused on aspects of climate change. In the face of this phenomenon, scientists now must put this search on hold to take a stern look in the mirror. Scientists are now examining the effects that humans have wrought on the rest of the world.
Human impacts are diverse and pervasive throughout virtually all ecosystems known to date. The media coverage has brought such effects to the forefront of human thought under the title of climate change. While we have long known how strongly our actions can impact our surroundings, humans have only just began electing to change after realizing such actions may be compromising the longevity of our species.
In recent years, we have at least begun to recognize and affirm that there is indeed a need for remediation of our lifestyles. In this short article, I hope to inspire everyone to disregard the definition of humanity that media dictates to us on a daily basis. Science has simply shed light on the dark path we are headed down. However, science alone cannot change the direction we are headed.
This spring, go out and discover the world around you, for it will most assuredly open a window into your own life and actions, allowing you to see how you can make your life (and future lives) better by changing simple things you do throughout your day.

With the late-spring night thunderstorms and a hopeful goodbye to morning frost for nine months, we hear the angels of the forest return to the chorus. We are often awoken in the early morning light to the redundant rounds of robin song, or mockingbirds chiding us for our slumber. I have recently found myself more regularly finding measure in men and women I meet by how they choose to greet the first sound they hear in the morning. I have found that people either roll over beneath the covers, lamenting the end of the night, or their arms stretch out from their cocoon, greeting the new day.
While I do not wish to berate those who return to the night, I do admit some skepticism regarding the life choices someone may be making if they cannot begin each new day reaching out to draw it towards them. I am obviously biased in this matter, for it is the beginning of each new day in which I find precious sanctity. I believe this is one reason such an affinity for the life of birds has impacted my life so strongly.
So many mornings of my life have been composed of solitude, void of other humans who have elected to remain in bed while the day has already begun. In such quiet, removed from such toiling, all that resides beyond the focus of humanity emerges, as though I were being welcomed into a life void of humanity altogether. In such pristine moments, I feel my humanity melt away. It is in creeping across logs and wet leaves, in meeting eyes with a fiery orange box turtle beneath a fallen log, in staring at a wood thrush I have flushed from nest, in watching a warbler tug at oak pollen tangles for hidden insects, and it is in watching a peach-faced cape may warbler smack an insect off a maple leaf with its wing, and snatch it out of the air. It is in such moments when secrets of our sylvan family are unveiled that I see just how shortsighted our species has become after staring through a blurry ethnocentric lens for far too long.
In winter we say ‘tis the season, to be kind or something like that. Well, I say spring ‘tis the season’ to let go of your humanity a little more than you are used to. Take a walk through the forest in your bare feet. Walk slowly as an animal would, and you may learn just why they walk in such a way. Forget about the expectations society chains around your neck. Enter the forest this spring to visit your long forgotten kin, and revel in such freedom of letting go.
Some people resist such thoughts, calling out blasphemy to anyone who wishes to shirk their humanity. I would argue vehemently against this point, recalling that I emerge from such excursions with the extent of my humanity in complete clarity. Many sociologists promote achieving a greater worldview through intercultural experiences, and state that it is through experiencing other cultures that we better understand our own. In this same vein of thought, I am human and will always be human, but when I am able to examine the world around me beyond this lens, a whole new world comes into focus. This is no different than traveling to a new county, state, region, or country and experiencing how their way of life differs, which in return brings greater meaning to your way of life.

So this Spring, as nature reopens its eyes and looks up to the blue sky through blinking flower petals, takes a deep breath with a passing thunderstorm, and sings out in avian voices flitting through the trees, I challenge everyone to wake up and reach out from beneath the chains of your humanity. Go out! Greet the day, and find what it is that lies in confusion beyond your focus. Perhaps you will find a window into your own life, and learn just what it means to be a human in this day of age on this earth.