ONLY A TREE
Joe left the city a long time ago for reasons he doesnt
need to disclose. For 10 years he made his home in the Okefenokee
Swamp, living his dream the way a man oughta, happy with each
day that goes by.
is a naturalist, an ardent environmentalist and very definitely swampwise.
He is also a marvelous singer and storyteller. For a sampling of his
songs, go to http://okefenokeejoe.com.
The opening song, Swampwise, gives you a glimpse into this
extraordinary mans life.
Joes real name is Dick Flood, a noted singer and songwriter who
left the Nashville music scene many years ago and took up residence
on the Georgia side of the Okefenokee Swamp. He lived in the wilds with
the plants and animals and learned what they had to tell him. He now
has a house in the woods near Salley, where I have a cabin, and we enjoy
having coffee on my porch overlooking a stream.
of his recent albums, Okefenokee Joe focuses on his appreciation of
nature and the intertwining of animals, plants and the natural ecosystems
they all depend on. One of my favorites is Its Only a Tree.
I like it not only because it is a melodious tune sung by a fine artist
but also because it has an important environmental message.
lines remind us that the natural world is linked together in ways that
may not be obvious to humans something we should all strive to
remember. Its only a tree just one more tree, / Who cares
if it lives or it dies? / Its only a tree, what's one less tree
/ Whod miss it? Youd be surprised. Joe proceeds to
answer the question of who would miss the tree by pointing out how one
species dependency leads to the secondary dependency of another.
Whitetail deer eat the leaves of purple flowers that grow in the trees
shade, and Joe notes that if we take away the tree, the flower
grows no more / The deer must find another place to graze.
Parker, who knows many of Joes songs, was at the cabin one day
when Joe was visiting. They sang Swampy the Dog together,
and then we talked awhile about deer and trees and streams and snakes.
At Joes request, Parker went out in the canoe in hopes of catching
a snake. He soon returned with a harmless green snake he found in a
tree. Its branches reach out to all those in need. / A spider
spins its web. Green snakes are climbers and eat spiders. Interconnectedness.
As I thought
about the connections that create food webs throughout ecosystems, I
recalled other lines from Joes tree song. The otter eats
the fish that ate the dancing fly / Born in the cocoon up in that tree.
We have otters and fish in our creek, and plenty of insects. The complexity
of energy flow within natural ecosystems is remarkable one species
depends on another, which depends on another, and so on. We need to
keep these natural systems intact and contaminant-free.
and plants are so rare or lead such clandestine lives that we may only
experience them once in a lifetime, if that. Others are always present.
Still others come and go with the seasons, reappearing on a regular
basis. Some of the species in each category depend on trees for nesting
or safety or food. The ebony jewelwing damselflies flit in the shade
of trees in the swamp; bright yellow prothonotary warblers nest in tree
holes along streams; and mistletoe, sporting berries that cedar waxwings
eat, grows on trees big and small. We are fortunate to have all of those
along our tree-lined stream.
Joe uses his songs and stories to help spread his environmental message,
a message that should be heeded by anyone who appreciates the intricacies
of nature which should be all of us. Life is intertwined,
and somewhere down the line / Somehow were all connected to that
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