On this last day of 2022, I am lingering in the parting hours–leaning close to all I have savored in nature–like the incense of smoky vanilla caramel wafting from the cracks in the puzzle bark of a centuries-old rufescent ponderosa pine on a sunny day.

In the spirit of all that is wild, sensory, and miraculous in nature, I am offering random bits of my published writing like puzzle pieces of the bark of a ponderosa. I hope the snippets might take the completed form of a magical kingfisher guiding our spirits forward into 2023.

“To be a naturalist, you need not go far. You need not be a scientist or a full-time observer. You need only to be curious and open-minded. Naturalists are never bored and often delighted. They have a purpose that does not require an assignment or justification. Their “work” is to head into the field ready to notice all that unfurls — from ferns to the spiraling notes of a Swainson’s Thrush.” — “Why We Need a Naturalist Renaissance”

“Often, I stopped to apply the art of wide and close focus. I took in the entirety of cottonwoods, ponderosa pines, and Douglas firs rippling against a lazuli sky. Then, I opened my senses to the nearby. A Hammond’s Flycatcher quipped a three-part song from a perch on a lichen-encrusted branch. A goldenrod crab spider crouched in a daisy’s center, and a western tiger swallowtail butterfly swayed like a yellow leaf above the singing creek.”– “Why We Need a Naturalist Renaissance”

Dr. Matthew Betts, director of the Forestry Biodiversity Network at Oregon State University is a curious naturalist. I was humbled to saunter, study, and wonder with him in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. (Photo, Marina Richie)

“I breathe in the exhalation of oxygen from the photosynthesizing forests. I thank the great trees for sweeping our excess carbon from the air. I hold up my hands, spread my fingers like leaves, gather the sun’s energy, and take the first step.” — “Step Away, Step In, The Nature of Beauty on the Appalachian Trail

“No one involved knows what’s in store ultimately, but what they do know is how it feels to gaze up into a living ash tree as winds lift clusters of winged seeds and send them spinning into a waiting forest.” — “Suite of Life”

“To be a northern metalmark is to live on the edge — literally. Where two habitats meet, they sip nectar from radiant flowers within sun-dappled glades on forest slopes, and only where red cedar grows in calcareous soils formed by limestone.” — “Hidden in the Details

Northern Metalmark Butterfly, photo by Chris Galloway, AT Journeys, Fall 2022

“Maybe humanity would flower
if we took cues from the insect pollinators

Gathering sweet kindness on the wing
Bumblebees bearing gold pollen from bloom to bloom

Or the rescuer who risked his life,
the taxi driver who values even pigeons” — “The Worst Shooting on the New York City Subway, A Landay Poem”

Bumblebee in native hollyhock in our yard (Marina Richie photo)

“….a canopy of buckeye, sugar maple, basswood, yellow birch, and ash pattern the sky. A fluting song of a wood thrush filters through the leaf-struck sunlight. The understory brims with shade-loving plants, from the medicinal blue cohosh to mayapples. Within this haven of a Tennessee cove forest just off the A.T., life is both lush and fragile.” —“Suite of Life”

“It’s no secret that the peaks and rivers of Northeast Oregon are magnificent, but there is a lesser-known wonder. This corner of the state is poised to weather climate instability better than most other places. Why? There are still intact forest headwaters holding and filtering waters — vital to fish and farmer alike. The remaining big trees and ancient groves are storing tons of carbon dioxide, and sheltering wildlife and the human spirit, too.” —Opinion Wallowa Chieftain, “Choose forest protection over biomass energy”

Wild forest of Oregon’s Blue Mountains (photo Marina Richie)

“Coming home, I embodied the migratory female belted kingfisher, flying north with my newfound strength and wisdom gained from my flight away without a mate. Coming home, I carried my father’s steadfast belief in me. Pursuing the red belt mystery, I chased down a few female powers of my own, like independence, fortitude, and even bravery.” — Halcyon Journey, In Search of the Belted Kingfisher

“The belted kingfisher is a bird of quickening and calm. The bird that mates below a rainbow urges us to chase desires, care for family, excavate the recesses of dreams, fears, and spirit, and to be on the lookout for fleeting beauty.” — Halcyon Journey, In Search of the Belted Kingfisher

Happy New Year- Time to turn toward 2023. In gratitude to all who find beauty and daily miracles in nature–Marina


Note, I update this page regularly: Halcyon Journey Book News and Calendar.

Matt Drury measures the “Dave Richie” white ash tree in a forest cove near the Appalachian Trail close to the Tennessee and North Carolina border–find out more about heroic efforts to protect ash trees in the backcountry from the emerald ash borer. See “Suite of Life”.