This Wild Weather! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The Earth's Face (Retrieved from huffington.com, January 16, 2016)

The Earth’s Face (Retrieved from huffington.com, January 16, 2016)

As a society, we must become increasingly concerned about the weather, the environment, our planet, and the sustainability that remains on Earth.  On Christmas Day here in Snellville, Georgia in the United States, the outside high temperature at my home was 76.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  While it was wonderful to enjoy such balmy weather in the winter, we must be reminded that such a temperature is off the chart for this time of year!  Such high temperatures in winter are definitely disturbing and unsettling.  The expected temperature in my area for this time of year is likely between 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so the 76.5 that was reached recently is definite cause for concern.

During the last week of December 2015, it was so warm at my home that I had windows open and the heat was off.  My heat was off for the entire week – in the last week of December!  Rather than turn on the air conditioning – which I simply was unable to bring myself to do – I believed it a better alternative to allow the outside air to flow through the house by opening some windows.  I’m not sure that Mother Nature knows what is going on either; she definitely appears to be confused!

This brings me to the causes of such wild weather.  If we look back even 100 or 150 years ago, we will see a more substantial amount of forest coverage on Earth.  Last year, my son completed a project about international deforestation, and the information he gathered was shocking!  The Amazon rain forest, as well as old growth forests in Columbia, Canada, the United States, and other countries continue to disappear at alarmingly rapid rates.  When I think of the absence of all of those trees, I also think about the decrease in oxygen produced for our consumption, and the increase in carbon dioxide that also contributes to higher air temperatures and the greenhouse effect.

Pollution and acid rain are other factors that negatively affect our environment, increasing air temperatures and damaging or killing trees, respectively.  The United States is a country that has implemented and done much to enforce laws to decrease pollution being cast into the environment.  While more could be done here, it is already more than what is being done in many other highly populated countries around the globe.  In places such as China, Russia, India, Mexico, and other countries, I wonder what, if any, laws regulating pollution exist or which may be enforced at all?

About 25 years ago, I first visited Eastern and Western Europe, studying in Poland for part of one summer.  I recall that the smog and pollution in Warsaw, Poland hung over the city like a large black cloud.  When I first saw it, I thought it unusual that a rain cloud appeared so low over the ground, and concentrated and immobilized directly over the city.  In the next moment, I realized that it was all of the pollution in the air.  It was incredible!

While washing my hair in the shower in my dorm at Krakow, Poland, it was as if brown dye was coming off of my hair – and I have never dyed my hair!  It was sickening to see and realize the great amount of pollution in which the people in Poland lived.  While I stayed in Poland, I made sure to drink imported, bottled spring water, and to occasionally wash the dirt and grime out of my hair with it, as well.  It is no wonder all of the people who had cancer, miscarriages, and other medical conditions in Poland when they are breathing polluted air, and cooking with and drinking polluted water.  It was definitely angering and saddening to think that I could do nothing about it to help those people.

Further, this brings us to sustainability.  How many more resources remain on Earth to sustain people, plants, animals, and to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all into the future?  It is quite possible that Earth is already beyond it’s carrying capacity.  With average yearly temperatures continuing to increase, the Polar ice caps melting, vast forests disappearing, pollution continuing to devastate the environment, further expansion of the holes in the ozone layer, huge oil spills in the oceans, what will be left, not only for us, but for our future generations?  Will there be future generations that will be able to adequately function and survive on Earth?

We, as a people, have contributed to the destruction of our planet.  We are destroying our beautiful habitat.  So much more must be done to save our planet, but I wonder if it may already be too late?  We all have to do our part.  Sometimes, we may wonder how much one person can do, however I believe it is important to do whatever possible.  One person can recycle as much of their waste as possible – plastics, metals, glass, paper, cardboard.  One person can use less electricity, natural gas, and gasoline.  One person can wear a sweater or use a wool blanket rather than cranking up the heat another notch or two.  One person can take fewer and more economical trips driving a vehicle, combining all errands into one trip rather than several on different days.

Certainly, I do not have the power to enforce laws that regulate pollution or that protect our environment, especially when it comes to big companies.  However, I am one who can say that I have done my part, that I have done as much as possible to preserve the environment, and to teach and encourage others to do the same.  I can encourage children and adults to have an appreciation for the outdoors, to learn about the environment, and to be aware of ways to save and protect it.  I can take responsibility for reducing the pollution and energy use that I cause, and to oversee the recycling efforts of my family.

I have to believe that one person can make a difference, even if it is a small difference.  And, I am a person who lives to make whatever positive difference that I can, not only for myself, but for others, as well.  How will you make a positive difference for our environment, for future generations?  What will you do?  Whatever you will do, do it now, before it’s too late!

Beautiful Soco Falls, near Cherokee, North Carolina (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Soco Falls, Cherokee Nation, North Carolina, August 2015

Soco Falls, Cherokee Nation, North Carolina, August 2015

Just off of Highway 19 on the Cherokee Nation, near Cherokee, North Carolina is the beautiful Soco Falls.  Soco Falls is a double waterfall that is worth the short trail walk of five minutes or less to view.

Beautiful Soco Falls on the Cherokee Nation, North Carolina, August 2015

Beautiful Soco Falls on the Cherokee Nation, North Carolina, August 2015

The larger waterfall may be viewed from a deck platform that is well-maintained.  The lower waterfall involves a steeper and more slippery trail walk that is easy for a rugged hiker, though I do not recommend it for novices.

When visiting the Cherokee Nation and/or Cherokee, North Carolina, Soco Falls is a definite attraction to view for its refreshing and re-energizing view of nature’s beauty.

Happy Mother’s Day! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Orange Rose, Snellville, Georgia, May 9, 2015

Orange Rose, Snellville, Georgia, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, moms-to-be, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and anyone who serves in this blessed maternal role!  Please enjoy this photo of a beautiful orange rose that I snapped yesterday in my neighborhood! 🙂

Flowers and Plants Around my Neighborhood (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Flowering Cherry Trees in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Cherry Trees in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

We have had two or three days of rainy weather within the past week that have really brought out the Spring flowers and plants near Atlanta, Georgia. Floral buds are blossoming with fragrant and beautiful flowers.

Red Camelia in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Red Camelia in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Leaf buds are bursting with fresh, new leaves.  The daffodils are already just about done for this year, however the azaleas are just beginning to bloom.  I saw the first azalea flowers in bloom in my neighborhood today – they are on two red flowering bushes.

First Azalea to Flower in my Neighborhood this Year (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

First Azalea to Flower in my Neighborhood this Year (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Please enjoy this collage of photos of some of the my neighborhood flowers, plants, bushes, and trees springing forth the new life that comes with Spring. 🙂

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The View from Underneath a Flowering Cherry Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The View from Underneath a Flowering Cherry Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Fruit Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Fruit Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Shrub in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Shrub in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Holly and Berries in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Holly and Berries in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Patch of Clover in a Neighbor's Yard (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Patch of Clover in a Neighbor’s Yard (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Daffodils in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Daffodils in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Pink Camelias in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Pink Camelias in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Tree Seeds on a Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Tree Seeds on a Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Even the dandelions are out in full force already!

The Yard with the Most Dandelions in my Neighborhood! (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The Yard with the Most Dandelions in my Neighborhood! (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through my neighborhood, seeing many of the flowers and plants that have sprung forth with new life again this Spring.  I can hardly wait until the azaleas are in full bloom!

Camping in the Great Smokies (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

A Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

A Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

Summer is a great time of the year for camping, and this summer is no different.  Last week, my son went camping with a group in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  He hiked, cooked, and photographed the outdoors.  There were many beautiful trees, creeks, rocks, plants, and other wildlife to photograph.

Creek Scene in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

Creek Scene in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

At one point during my son’s camping trip, a mother black bear and three of her cubs walked along the outskirts of the camp.  It was quite an experience for the campers and the bears.  One of the cubs got scared and climbed up a tree.  Thankfully, the bears remained at a safe distance from everyone, and vice versa.

Rocks and Boulders in a Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

Rocks and Boulders in a Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

My son had a great opportunity for camping in the Great Smokies, and he returned home feeling even more inspired than he already was to conserve nature and protect wildlife.  I’m glad that he had a good experience and was with other campers who were responsible and who looked out for each other.

Thankfully, my son was no longer in the area when lightning storms and tornadoes swept through on the next day, however most of his group remained.  Luckily, everyone was okay.

Note: The photos in this post were taken by my son.

Dogwoods and Azaleas in Full Bloom (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

A couple of days ago, following a heavy, soaking rain in central Georgia near Atlanta, many trees and flowers are now in full bloom, particularly dogwood trees and azalea bushes.  They are really beautiful, and I wanted to share some photos of them here.  Happy Spring!

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Purple Flowers, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Purple Flowers, Snellville, Georgia, April 10, 2014

Pink Azaleas, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Azaleas, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

These are some of my photos of a few of the flowering bushes and trees in my area.  I hope you have enjoyed viewing them!

“A Wet Summer in the Blue Ridge Mountains” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View of Blue Ridge Mountains near Thunder Struck Ridge, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

View of Blue Ridge Mountains near Thunder Struck Ridge, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

Last week – the first week of July, 2013 – my son and I spent a couple of days in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.  The full day that we spent in the mountains was perfect; we hit the weather just right!  Our sunny, dry day of activities was sandwiched between two rainy, wet days – the days that we spent driving. 

Aerial View of Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

Aerial View of Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

We were blessed and lucky to have a nice vacation day that was so beautiful.  There has been so much rain in the South so far this summer that I was worried that our one summer vacation day spent away from home would be a wash, but it wasn’t.  Thank goodness; it was perfect for us!

View of Blue Ridge Mountains after the Rain, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

View of Blue Ridge Mountains after the Rain, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

It is always refreshing to get away to the mountains – they are so beautiful and majestic.  To be back with nature in it’s fully beauty and greenery is food for the soul.  With all of the rain we have had so far this spring and summer, there is an abundance of greenery all throughout the mountains.  Usually, we are concerned about the lack of rain that contributes to drought, but not this year. 

Mosses and Lichens Growing on Trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

Mosses and Lichens Growing on Trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

There has been so much rain that the mosses and lichens growing on the trees tend to look more like Spanish moss.  The moss is growing to longer lengths than usual because of the highly wet conditions.  Also, there are many more mushrooms and toadstools to be found throughout the forest, as well.

Wild Mushrooms in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

Wild Mushrooms in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

With all of the rain, the rivers, creeks, and streams have been swelling with water.  The banks of all of the rivers and creeks that we saw were overpassed, and the water was at a much higher level than usual. 

Soco Falls, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

Soco Falls, North Carolina, July 2, 2013

This, however, led to the increased beauty of the falling water at Soco Falls, a beautiful falls near Maggie Valley and Cherokee, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This summer, there was a greater volume of water spewing over the falls – the most that I have seen in my past many years of visiting this lovely natural wonder.  It is always refreshing to hear the sound of the waterfalls at Soco Falls.

It is always a wonderful treat to visit and stay in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  Typically, especially for Southerners, going to the mountains in summer is a cool, refreshing retreat from the usual activities of daily life and those hot, humid days.  This year, visitors will be even more refreshed by the beautiful greenery; cooler temperatures; abundant water from all of the rains; great opportunities for hiking, fishing, sight-seeing, swimming, horseback riding, and other activities; as well as simply enjoying the peaceful beauty of nature.

“Daffodils in January” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Daffodils in January, Atlanta, Georgia area, January 28, 2013

Daffodils in January, Atlanta, Georgia Area, January 28, 2013

In the winter that has been filled with gray days and leafless trees, a burst of yellow can be seen in many areas around Atlanta, already!  Last week, the daffodils began blooming in my area.  Alas, the warm weather intermingled with the freezing cold days have provided enough mild temperatures for these Spring flowers to bloom early again this year.  Last year, it was much the same, and I believe that the daffodils bloomed even earlier, perhaps by one or two weeks.

So, while it is refreshing to observe and enjoy the blooming daffodils, one cannot help but think that we will again have an early Spring, and much of it due, I believe, to increasing global warming.  We need more rain.  We need more precipitation.  Indeed, my son and I have even prayed for just a little bit of snow.  Already, two years have passed since the week that schools were closed and many businesses were shut down due to the snow and ice storm that was experienced here.  Not having snow here on a regular basis during winter is actually a let down for my son, and while I also miss it – being from the Northeast – I don’t miss the frigid sub-zero temperatures that sometimes accompany it.

Daffodils in January, Atlanta, Georgia Area, January 28, 2013

Daffodils in January, Atlanta, Georgia Area, January 28, 2013

Here in my home, we will keep praying for more winter, for more rain and precipitation, and perhaps, even for a little snow.  We need the rain to replenish our water tables and ground water levels.  We need the rain now so that the hot, dry, drought-like conditions of summer do not dry up our precious water.  Let’s hope and pray for more winter, more rain, and that the daffodils will return to dormancy until a true Spring arrives.

“The Grand Canyon: South Rim Views of 2002” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

All of my life, I wanted to go and see the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  From the time that I was a young girl and became informed that the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, I had to see it.  I remember begging and pleading to my parents to take a family vacation there, but they never did.  I, therefore, promised myself that I would definitely go to see it sometime before I died.

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Ten years ago, I celebrated a milestone event in my life, and part of that celebration was to go see the Grand Canyon!  I’m so happy that I did!  There are not words to describe it, really.  It is just so awesome, amazing, breath-taking, incredible!  Truly, words such as “awesome” and “wow” cannot even begin to describe the amazing natural brilliance of this incredible world wonder. 

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Upon first viewing the Grand Canyon in all of it’s incredible wonder and splendor, my first thought was, “There truly is a God.”  I thought this because I believe there is no other being in existence that could have so beautifully-fashioned and molded this breath-taking world landmark.

The Author at the Grand Canyon, South Rim, with Colorado River in Background, July 2002

The Author at the Grand Canyon, South Rim, with Colorado River in Background, July 2002

One of my wishes, now, is to take my son to see the Grand Canyon some day.  Enjoying rocks, minerals, and the outdoors, I’m sure he would be a person who would also enjoy and marvel at this splendid natural wonder.

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

I can hardly believe that, already, 10 years have passed since I visited the Grand Canyon and revelled in it’s colorful and amazing brilliance.  The photos posted in my blog, therefore, are from July 2002.  The time goes by much too fast! 

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

Grand Canyon, South Rim, July 2002

However, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to see and enjoy the Grand Canyon at least once in my life.  Thank you, God, for creating such an amazing and incredible natural wonder!