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The Husky is now in its winter hangar and we dislike having to drive so far to enjoy flying Fire Horse. The hangar is dark and cold but the runway is long and plowed, so it’s the responsible thing to do. Good judgment is smart!

Minimize Risk

Most of us have an intuitive understanding of danger, hard-wired as we are to avoid loss or the possibility of loss. That can be a good thing unless it unreasonably restricts what we might otherwise safely enjoy or when the fear itself is larger than fact.

How real is the danger?

Basic risk management involves recognizing the true nature of a threat: Listen to instinct; know what’s happened to others; train for it and preplan. Then compare the potential cost to the potential benefit; do it formally or informally, but do it.

Know your personal style

This seems on its surface to be only about piloting but for almost forty years aviation management practice has been making  its way into the board room, operating rooms, and into the family circle. It began with a tragic accident.

Avoid risk with good decision-making

Seeking the sky, Husky heads into deep winter on a longer, wider, safer runway

In 1977 on Tenerife in the Canary Islands two fully loaded 747s careened into history when they collided on the runway. This deadliest of accidents was the final link in a chain of irony, confusion, coincidence, and bad luck. From it grew the NASA training program that pilots know as crew resource management and business professionals recognize as participative management and employee involvement. The FAA now introduces pilots to their own dangerous attitudes with the chance to modify them before they result in an incident or accident.

Smart people doing dumb things

As a passenger you might fear equipment malfunction or violent weather, but most aviation accidents are entirely avoidable if you address failures of communication, leadership and decision-making that cause them.  In other words the path to most accidents starts before the prop ever turns. Stick with me here because the same dangerous attitudes can also ruin your business or your family. Life has costs, potential legal and liability hazards, financial pressures, human factors, public relations challenges, technical breakdowns, emotional facets, operational perils, and more. What you believe turns into how you act and that can create danger. Know yourself to manage that risk, the first step to improving how you interact with the most important people in your life.

Five Hazardous Attitudes

As pilots we’re taught to identify dangerous thinking along with a prescription for each to avoid trouble before it starts. Do you recognize any of these in yourself?

  • Anti-authority: rejects advice, doesn’t follow the rules, and is proud of being a non-conformist—better to listen to the voice of experience or remember that the rules are there for a reason.
  • Impulsivity: acts first, thinks later—slow down and think before you act;
  • Invulnerabiity: believes it can’t happen to him or her,  that they carry a special shield of invincibility—remember that the worst really can happen to them;
  • Machismo: is the show-off, the pilot who declares, “If you think that’s good, watch this!” And yes, it’s not just men but women too—in the interests of safety and responsibility substitute pride in following guidelines and obeying rules;
  • Resignation: gives up too easily when confronting a challenge and is willing to leave it to fate—be like The Little Engine That Could and say instead, “I won’t give up. I can do this!”

Never risk a higher value for something of lesser worth!

Attitudes like these may cause less dramatic or violent outcomes, but they also result in loss of respect and opportunity. Cut corners, hurt feelings, lack of respect for others, arrogance, self-importance, failure to anticipate unintended consequences–they break other things that could help us run more successful businesses, have happier families, or live more satisfying lives.

Make every risk to benefit trade count! Among the greatest treasures of life are interpersonal peace, personal pride, getting the most from effort spent, earning respect, enjoying life, gaining happiness, having a loving home. Let’s be smart and don’t trade them for anything that’s less valuable.

Wishing you wind beneath your wings

John Skattum in this month’s Air Facts Journal says you know you’re a pilot when you start pre-flighting your car. It’s true! But flying isn’t the only way to learn good management practices about the rest of your life; if it’s not flying, find something that works for you. As for me, I’ll always choose safety over convenience. The hangar may be dark and cold but the runway is long and plowed. Spring will come!


Meijer Botanic Garden, rooted in a royal past

In the Far East, Asia Minor, Europe, and Meso-America the first botanic gardens emerged from royal pleasure gardens. In the modern sense of it, a idea for a botanic garden developed during the Classical era from the cultivation of medicinal herbs, later to include monastic gardens and orchards. During the Renaissance formal secular gardens attached to universities emphasized teaching and research conducted by professors and their students. In the past two centuries increased access to the rest of planet Earth has led to public gardens as collections of living souvenirs of exploration and travel. Visiting any one of them is your chance to enjoy a “royal afternoon” or learn firsthand the landscape of a far-away place.

From one of the newer public gardens, here is some of what can be seen at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Public gardens in the United States were developed along with the country

In the United States the first such gardens were founded near Philadelphia in the late 18th century. The farmer-statesmen who founded the nation including Washington, Jefferson, and Madison all supported the creation of a national garden which eventually came to be in the early 19th century (1820) in the middle of Washington DC.

The Huntington

The Huntington’s Cactus Garden

As individual and unique as their environment

When I first moved from Michigan to Florida I was astonished at the variety, even the oddity of so many of the native plants. Plants adapt to survival requirements so the difference between temperate Grand Rapids and subtropical Miami was significant. Stunningly weird plants grew side by side with the magnificent, the gigantic, and the nearly invisible. Plants that eat insects, some that mimic their pollinators, look dangerous to eat, with bark that peels like sunburn or flowers that smell like rotting flesh (there’s a Corpse flower at the very end of this post waiting to surprise you) or others whose smallest parts could poison an army–they and others turned my ideas of trees and flowers completely upside down.

Leaving Miami for a return to roots

Miami is a crossroad of the plant and animal worlds where luxuriant life meets the challenges of harshest survival. I grew beautiful flowers on my windowsill and had colorful crotons in the yard. At first I learned hundreds of plants by their common names. It’s better to spend that effort learning genus and species names as they’re unique to one plant type, a surer way to identify them, so I relearned them all by taxonomy. Some roll off the tongue like liquid silk and others still stumble their way out my mouth. When I returned to the Midwest, I chose to learn the plant names that way and it’s saved lots of trouble at the nursery.

A few of the finest American gardens

I’ve been thinking a lot about gardens after enjoying for the very first time with my high school classmates Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (Grand Rapids, MI opened in 1995)–it won’t be my last visit as I didn’t see The American Horse with its amazing 500 year journey from daVinci to western Michigan and so much more to explore there. The opening slideshow above includes some of those memorable moments and vistas.

Though it was never my intention to collect gardens, it seems to have happened anyway. While it’s not a definitive or world list, in addition to the Meijer my favorites are Longwood Gardens west of Philadelphia (founded 1798) which provided many butterfly favorites here in Richwood Valley; Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum (Boston – 1872); both The New York (1891) and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (1910) for a cool escape from summer-hot Manhattan; Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, FL – 1938) where once I had a key to the side gate for student groups and regular meetings of Friends of the Everglades (I wrote about FTBG and its butterflies along with iconic Marjory Stoneman Douglas in a 2013 post–the first photo is still in my top ten; Huntington Botanical Gardens (east of Los Angeles in San Marino – 1906) known familiarly just as The Huntington for photo sessions and happy family afternoons. Farther afield is Mexico City’s Chapultepec Forest (Bosque), one the largest city parks in the world; nearer is Canada’s Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario, at the west end of Lake Huron. These are only a few of many great gardens in North America. Use the links to check them out.

Living museums of knowledge, art, and pleasure

Dedicated to the collection and display of specimen plants, botanical gardens are living museums that afford the chance to see rare or exceptionally beautiful plants cultivated for your knowledge and pleasure. These institutions contribute to scientific research and conservation but offer the general public other values too. By grouping plants by their historical-cultural, climate or species types, they are of great interest for backyard landscape design along with tourism and recreation.

The Huntington

The Huntington’s Asian Gardens

A fine botanical garden may be close enough for your visit. Spend a satisfying afternoon enjoying what’s offered and you will surely want to return as they change with the seasons and mature over time . . . and to satisfy curiosity, here’s the Corpse flower with its terrible smell.

Corpse Flower

Corpse Flower

Another Mighty Midwestern Winter

Another Mighty Midwestern Winter

Cold-hearted beauty

When first snow fell in November Winter said, “Four months, maybe five and it’s over.” We’re saying, “About time!” Weeks of deep cold, painful cold, frost on the windows and ice on the walks, Midwestern winter be gone!


Another mighty Midwestern winter and still below zero

By mid-February the first crocuses should poke through mulch where earliest sunrays fall, but not this year. Twenty-four below zero one night, nineteen below the next. Last night it was minus nine Farenheit, warmer than four other nights this week but bone-chilling for sure. This is the Midwest after all. We’re used to it. We have the clothes for it. Long-johns under dresses and layers five sweaters deep.


Road salt camouflage

Yesterday I stopped at the carwash to see if there was still a white car underneath the grey road salt and brown sand. Then I drove home at twenty miles an hour to keep it clean for one day longer–in vain.


Spring, where are you?

Somewhere in the mid-South, Spring is making first feints, getting ready to move north along the rivers and plains, spreading life-giving warmth into Wisconsin and Minnesota. While we’ve been distracted by Midwestern winter, the sun is growing stronger and the days are measurably longer. Perhaps we’re tougher now than in November but it does seem a little warmer. Finally!

Oh winter, you are beautiful and mighty! Go now and leave us memories of your loveliness to cool us through the heat of summer.

A NOTE: What inspired this reverie? Nightly news from New York City spends a great deal of time bemoaning winter. TV meteorologists exaggerate normal winter weather as if a mighty winter is intentional abuse from Mother Nature. In the Midwest we endure the worst while New Yorkers whine. Weather is weather. Get over it! Be strong. Embrace the beauty. It’s good for you!


Landscapes by common understanding are large in scope and scale. When we think landscape we think big and it’s no less so for the photographer behind their lens. Regular readers know that I’ve been thinking a lot about the big melt, anticipating, hoping that it would happen soon or even eventually. Night temperatures are still single digit but the sun is getting stronger every day. This morning I found first evidence that the big melt is underway . . . finally!

This photograph shows a small scale landscape with all the elements of larger ones. In this Lilliput world there is a moss meadow with grass blade trees, falling water, base rock, an ocean creek, and a glacier mountain hollowed out by rising warmth as frost comes out of the ground. Bigger is not always better. I like this small, simple scene–serene, focused, uncomplicated, natural. What a beautiful way to say farewell to winter and welcome spring!

This image does fair justice to the ice crystal cavern at center right. To get it right I blended five images, not bracketed shots for exposure but to capture color in the ice. I added a vignette centered on the crystals along with a wide gaussian blur on the edges to draw your eye into the recesses of that cave and your thoughts. Do tell what you think of it please.

The Big Melt