A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

Thank you to Kathryne Rubright, Pocono Record, for a wonderful article about PEEC's 50th Anniversary: PEEC Celebrating Earth Day, 50th Anniversary with Saturday Festival




“A Love Letter to PEEC” By Carolyn Licht and Daniel White

Here is to another 50 years at PEEC…

We have actually only been hiking the trails at PEEC since 11/2000, when we bought our home just a 10-minute drive away. The vicinity of the trails was one of the main drawing points for us and we still hike them every time we take a break from the intensity of our professional lives as a Psychologist and Chiropractor in New York City, which is on most weekends from Spring thru the end of Fall and even on some occasions in the Winter months. Almost 22 years of hiking PEEC and, if you do the math, that is a heck of a lot of hikes.

For us, each time we start a hike, it is with the exuberance and anticipation of the very first time, but with the continuity of the years that give us the sense of kinship and connection to the trails and the people who work at PEEC that make it feel undeniably essential to our lives. What do we appreciate most? There is so much that it would be impossible to pinpoint just one thing but probably foremost is the healing that comes with being in nature – the antithesis of New York City. The moments of spaciousness and complete silence that gradually build into the orchestral sounds of birds, crickets, frogs, the wind in the leaves, and the rushing of water in the creeks and waterfalls. We relish sitting on the vista overlooking the Delaware River and the corn and soybean fields next to the McDade trail; watching the tumbling waters of the myriad waterfalls tucked in like hidden gems on all the trails; the shimmering smoothness of the ponds with their surfaces broken by a leaping frog or a turtle coming up on a log to capture some sun; getting caught by surprise in between a mama bear and her cub as we spot the little one climbing up a tree; and the quiet shadows and solitude of the Hemlock forests that are home to the little red efts and “hoppers” (frogs) that flourish in the undergrowth and come to the surface with the morning dew.

Albeit, we admit that we prefer the absence of people and often become quite territorial of “our” trails, but there are those moments too of human connection that brighten our moods and bring smiles to our hearts. There was the time we were walking on Tumbling Waters and seemingly out of nowhere, a little boy of maybe 2 years old came running up, wrapped his arms around my legs, looked up, and said, “I love you,” with his parents following close behind laughing. It reminded me that you can get exactly what you need when you need it most if you wish hard enough on the “magic” giant Hemlock trees! Then there was the joy of watching another little boy spot his very first bear and just knowing it was the moment in which nature became “cool” to him. And let me say, we are definitely not “cool” people in NYC but we sure feel “cool” in our well-worn hiking boots, traipsing along as the “Old Timers” who can tell you all about the trails if you need a little inside info on your journey.

The truly “cool” people, however, are the staff at PEEC, who have welcomed, guided, educated, conserved, and kept this wonderful place alive for all of its 50 years. Starting our mornings with the warm and effusive greetings of Janine Morley and George Johnson, watching Derek Scott lead a group on his “Edible & Medicinal Plant Walk”, and sharing Jeff Rosalsky’s infectious enthusiasm for all things great and small as he champions PEEC with every breath he takes in his role as Executive Director, make us feel like honorary members ourselves of the PEEC family.

And as part of this “family,” also remembering with fondness how Glenn Simpson, as an Environmental Educator at PEEC, would always appear on the trails with a rolling tide of joy and an eagerness to converse with wisdom on many esoteric subjects while also reassuring us that the forest could restore itself even after being hit with a devastating storm. It was these lessons shared that inspired the writing of a poem (see below) that has become a bit of a mantra for me as we sit on the vista and ponder how, deep down, what PEEC gives to us the most is a place to belong – a place to call home!

Here is to 50 more years and many more after that!  With much love – Carolyn Licht and Daniel White.

Where I'm From....*

 I am from nowhere or everywhere.

A seedling sprouting from the earth, pulled towards the sun,

not knowing what I will become.

I am life and death, the transitions from one thing to the next.

Beauty and darkness, fragility and strength,

the softness hidden beneath the steel.

I am me...

still searching for who I am;

not knowing where I am going or who I am meant to be.

I am me for all or none to see.

 *Licht, C.A. (2018, December 8). “Where I’m From…” The Beautiful Space – A Journal of Mind, Art, and Poetry. Retrieved from http://www.thebeautifulspace.co.uk/a-journal-of-mind-art-and-poetry.


A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

Shortly after we arrived here, we planted a redbud tree where the backyard becomes the forest. It is small even by redbud standards, maybe ten feet tall and one might unkindly call it scraggly. Some sources don’t even call redbud trees, but rather large shrubs. It has never thrived, but persisted. Today is part of that two or three weeks when its colors brighten a spring that is cold and late. A more precise name for it would be “mauve bud tree.” 

Its range falls short of us, barely encroaching upon Pennsylvania, but they are plentiful here, if not common, both wild and planted. They are in high demand for green houses across the state. Its flowers can be eaten and are often used as seasoning for wild game. It is sometimes called a spicewood tree. 

Today the vivid buds were stunning against the green of the larger trees and the bright blue sky above. I felt fortunate to see it. With the tree far from a road that itself is itself far from busy, my wife and I would likely be the only humans to see it. That made me seem important, as though I had a special responsibility to appreciate this beauty, lest it bloom unseen and unappreciated. 

Its color is not seen by squirrels, rabbits, foxes or deer, none of which can discern green from red, let alone mauve. Foxes are as colorblind as dogs. Birds can see our spectrum as well as ultraviolet, a far more spectacular view than ours, unlikely to focus anywhere for long. From all the creatures in the forest, only humans see the redbud as it appears in the photo. 

Does the redbud need my eyes, or care that it is seen? Or are the gray buds the fox sees sufficient? Or does implying or hoping for sentience in the forest a bridge too far beyond reason, if not poetry? Or is this all just philosophical meandering around the plain fact that I feel blessed to see this tree, at this time, in this place.

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

“What is the name of that flower?“ I asked. 

My wife/photographer answered, “Snake head.”

 “Yipes,” I replied, noting that it did look like a snake’s head, from the its shape to its color pattern resembling scales. 

It also has several other names, only some of which are less threatening. Chess flower, frog cup, guinea hen flower, toad lily, dropping lily and leper lily, because in full bloom resembles the bell once carried by lepers. Unlike some varieties of lilies, and despite its name, it is not poisonous. It is found all over Europe but is becoming endangered in the wild, as the damp meadows where it grows have fallen to cultivation and other developments. 

Do not confuse the snake head flower with the snake plant, a common and rugged indoor plant which resembles not a snake’s head, but its body, being long and tapered. This also has some colorful common names, most prominently mother-in-law-tongue. 

There is some debate as to whether the current wild snake heads are descendents of the original wetlands wild flower or have found their way to freedom after being planted in gardens. Such flowers are said to have “escaped.” They are sold as annuals, but some return and even multiply, especially when planted in the moist, slightly shaded areas where they thrive. 

They are the first delicate flowers to bloom in the spring. Daffodils, primroses and wolf’s bane all look tough enough to survive the last gusts of winter. Their flowers appear relatively thick. Their stems are flexible, prepared to bend without breaking. They grow in clumps, providing shelter to one another. The snake head by comparison is much smaller and appears fragile. They grow mostly as single plants, sprinkled among more hardy neighbors. 

Those other, earlier bloomers only appear hardier. The snake head blooms not long after the others, so must also be resistant to freezing temperatures and the occasional April snowfall. What appears to be more delicate and vulnerable in the forest or garden or elsewhere may in fact be very well prepared not only to survive, but to thrive.

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

This is a rainbow peeking through the trees, a rare phenomenon here. We don’t have lot of sky to see unless you look straight up, where rainbows never appear. Our weather seems not to change fast enough to make rainbows, which require droplets of rain and sunshine to share the sky. 

A rainbow is not a real object, but an optical illusion, requiring very specific events to manifest. They appear only at forty-two degrees from the direction opposite the sun, and require a human spectrum of visible light. The most rainbows I ever saw were over San Francisco Bay, where the weather changes constantly and the sky is vast and open. Only humans see rainbows. Also, black and white photographs of rainbows are impossible. 

Aristotle and Seneca studied rainbows in ways that eventually branched into both science and mythology. The science became optics and astronomy, while the mythology began with the rainbow after the flood in Genesis and continues to the present day, being used as symbols of Gay Pride and the end of apartheid in South Africa. 

The most popularly enduring rainbow symbol is the Irish leprechaun promising a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and never delivering. It is a complex myth of greed, hope that exceeds reason, and the power of self-deception. 

Rainbows are likely to remain a powerful symbol of human emotions as wide as the spectrum of colors found in them. One person, standing at the proper angle at the proper time, has a spectacular vision.  Another, arriving a moment earlier or later, or in a slightly different position, sees nothing. Their dogs think both of them are deluded. 

What are these two persons to do? They have completely different perceptions of reality. They are both correct, depending on their perspectives. They would both be wise not to defend the truth of their own perceptions, but rather to recognize the human limits of their perceptions. The rainbow both exists and doesn’t exist, balancing at the edge of reality, depending on where one stands.

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