Frogs (And More) Among the Palmettos

My friend Ruthann Panipinto was sure that Palmetto State Park, east of San Antonio in Gonzales County, would be a great place to visit. She really wanted to see if we could find a cottonmouth there, which involved neither bravado nor fear on her part. It was simple curiosity and love for those misunderstood pit-vipers. Ruthann has answered many snake relocation calls from fearful homeowners. She has captured and moved many venomous snakes and freed some that were stuck in glue traps, too. We both would welcome whatever reptiles and amphibians we might see. And so, we decided on March 29 as a good day for a road trip.

And if we didn’t see reptiles and amphibians (herps), Ruthann would be delighted with the plants that would now be flowering there. She remembered from a previous visit that there were lots of red buckeye with deep green compound leaves and upright clusters of red flowers. In addition to buckeyes, a couple of flowers – baby blue eyes and blue-eyed grasses – were blooming among the palmettos.

Blue-eyed grass

We started our walk at 2:30pm and within minutes we heard a gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) calling. That call is what allowed me to identify it, because the trill of one species (versicolor) is slower and musical, like a bird call. The other gray treefrog species (Cope’s gray treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis) has a faster raspy-sounding trill. If you see a gray treefrog without hearing the call, you won’t know which of those species you are looking at, because their appearance is nearly identical. Either one of them is a lichen-gray frog about 1.5 inches long. To add to the confusion, they can change color so that the gray has a little green in it, or the upper part of the frog may change to completely green.

We heard the frog, but finding it was something else entirely. Ruthann looked in nearby branches – it is a treefrog after all, and we usually find them hugging a branch or the trunk of a mid-story tree. The frog called again and Ruthann resumed her search, but these treefrogs are masters of ventriloquism. It seemed to be close and everywhere at once. Finally she found the frog, a little lump on a branch about eight feet above the ground.

Gray treefrog, hidden in the branches

We moved on, imagining that at nightfall, when frog breeding really ramps up, the choruses of frog calls might be pretty impressive. And within a couple of minutes, Ruthann spotted a green anole. Another critter capable of shifting color and blending in beautifully with the green palmetto fronds. At the moment he was mostly green, with what Ruthann aptly described as a little “blue mascara.” The anole’s eyes are partly covered with a little turret of powder-blue skin that shifts position with the lizard’s line of sight.

Green anole

We saw dozens of green treefrogs hugging the palmetto fronds, trying to get a little rest before night fell. These were not gray treefrogs that had shifted to green, they were a different species, a little less toad-like in form and with the most beautiful lime-green skin. A dark-bordered white stripe begins on the upper jaw and extends down the side of the body. Their beautiful golden Kermit-like eyes have pupils in a horizontally-flattened shape, like those of most frogs and toads.

Green treefrog

There was plenty of bird life above us. Ruthann was hearing parula warblers in the treetops, and we saw a red-shouldered hawk and at least one crested caracara. Wrens, northern cardinals and other birds were calling from within the forest above and the expanse of dwarf palmetto that stretched out around us.

As we walked along one of the trails, a couple of park staff approached on a Gator. They stopped ahead of us, intently focused on something at the edge of the trail, a sure sign of something Ruthann and I would want to see. It was a young cottonmouth, no doubt surprised to be surrounded by admiring humans. We were happy to see that the park guys were very protective of the little snake, and we took a few photos while explaining that we would never harm the cottonmouth. We watched the pretty little reptile turn back and slip under the palmetto fronds.

Juvenile northern cottonmouth

We talked with the park staff for a while about the local ecosystem and wildlife, and they said that they do sometimes see timber (aka “canebrake”) rattlesnakes in the park. That would be a wonderful thing to see, though we did not forget that we were already privileged to see some beautiful and fascinating species.

As the afternoon progressed, our discoveries included a Texas ironclad beetle. It looks like a cream-colored beetle that was splattered with black paint, and its claim to fame is that its exoskeleton is really, really hard, justifying the name “ironclad.” Internet sources such as the Field Station of the University of Wisconsin say that you would not kill it by stepping on it. Please don’t try that out in the field – this is a harmless, attractive beetle that just wants to go on its way munching on lichens as it roams around tree trunks or fallen branches.

Ironclad beetle

After a break, we returned to the trails as evening approached. One small squiggle caught our eyes, motionless on the crushed granite trail. A baby plain-bellied watersnake, born just last year, hoped that we would not notice a squiggly “twig” lying on the ground, even though the twig had scales and a somewhat banded pattern. I took a photo or two of this “twig” and then Ruthann scooped him up, now a fully animated snakeling struggling to get away. Nothing doing! Ruthann had to examine and talk to the scaly bundle of cuteness before releasing him to go on his way.

Along the Palmetto Interpretive Trail there is a water tower built nearly 100 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corp; its pump still pulls water out of the ground to help supply the swampland. A little after 7:00pm we found a luna moth sheltering under the stones at the base of the water tower. I can remember a time or two when I have found luna moths, and each time the beauty and form of this large moth have been irresistible.

Most of the luna moth’s life is spent as a green caterpillar. When it emerges from the pupal stage as a mature moth, it will complete its life in a very short time, so short that it does not even have a functioning mouth to eat. Females release a pheromone to attract males; they take flight in the darkness and some time after midnight they find each other and mate. During flight, the long trailing hindwings are said to interfere with bats’ ability to find them by echolocation.

Luna moth

This might be a difficult night for flying. As sunset approached, the breezes became strong winds, making the tops of the trees sway drunkenly back and forth. Gusts sometimes carried dust and grit through the woodland, and it occurred to me that we might wind up dodging falling branches. The sky became rosy and golden, giving this palmetto swamp a magical sort of glow.

The Palmetto Interpretive Trail at sunset

As the swamp was enveloped in darkness, we put our headlamps on and continued walking. The winds subsided for a time, and then periodically swept through the woods again. When the trees and palmettos quieted, the frogs began calling.

Frog calls represent males advertising themselves to females for breeding. When a female approaches a male, he gets on her back in a piggy-back sort of position known as amplexus. Then, as the female lays eggs, the male fertilizes them. Different frog and toad species have different calls, so that often the call allows us to identify the amphibian, much as bird calls help us identify birds.

Against a background of the accelerating “grick-grick-grick-grick” of cricket frogs, the gray treefrogs began to call. I mentioned that it is hard to locate the frog (though it must be easier for female frogs, since that’s the point of the call). Their voices seemed loud in the close darkness.

Cricket frogs and gray treefrogs

Then the green treefrogs began to call, with overlapping sounds a little like the honking of ducks. Sometimes it was almost as if they took turns, a few minutes for gray treefrogs and then some time for green treefrogs to be heard. Sometimes they overlapped.

Green treefrogs and cricket frogs, with the occasional gray treefrog

I usually describe it as “magical” to stand in the midst of these frog choruses in the darkness. Sometimes it comes near to being overwhelming if you are right in the middle of it, or at least the word “immersive” would apply. If you get the chance, give it a try, and although you may want to search for the frogs, you owe it to yourself to try turning off flashlights and headlamps and simply letting all that frog communication wash over you.

A gray treefrog located during the night chorus

As it turned out, Ruthann was right. Palmetto State Park had been a wonderful place to visit, a beautiful and unique pocket of wetlands next to the San Marcos River. The reptiles and amphibians we saw were species that we can easily see in other places, but if you look and listen as if doing so for the first time, they are amazing. And experiencing them in this palmetto swamp made it even better.

Hunting and the “Honorable Harvest”

(I wrote the following as I was working on a book on mindfulness in nature that is now in the editorial process at Texas A&M University Press. I wound up not using it, but I do think it has some useful things to say.)

Before there was agriculture there was hunting and fishing, and there are still communities whose food primarily comes from the fish they can catch and animals they hunt. For many other people, hunting and fishing are not necessary for subsistence but are activities that provide a break from everyday life and an opportunity to spend time in nature. While the number of sport hunters may be falling, in Texas there were 1.25 million hunting licenses issued in 2017,1 and ranchers still make money off deer leases. Fishing and hunting can reflect a very wide range of motivations, attitudes, and relationships with the natural world. As a result, hunting in particular elicits a polarized range of views. A 2014 nationwide survey of U.S. residents found that 87% of respondents agreed with hunting as a way of obtaining food, but only 37% agreed that trophy hunting was acceptable.2

Catching fish and hunting game can be done sustainably and honorably, according to a set of informal guidelines drawn from Native American beliefs and practices. Robin Wall Kimmerer describes the Honorable Harvest as guidelines that are not written down but are simply acted upon in daily life. Her listing of the guidelines is as follows:

“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer. Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need. Take only that which is given. Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share. Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2013, Braiding Sweetgrass, P. 183

Imagine if these ideas of the Honorable Harvest were printed within each year’s Outdoor Annual, published by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, to promote a sustainable and respectful harvest in which each angler or hunter comes into the field as a member of a community, rather than as a stranger with neither kinship nor responsibility to that community.

Many already approach these activities with a strong emphasis on respect and sustainability, including many middle-aged and older hunters. An example is Brad Chambers, a friend who is a naturalist and a hunter who only shoots what he plans to eat. He told me about the intensity of his attention and focus when he is hunting, saying that at those times he notices much more than when he is just walking in the woods. While in a blind with his binoculars he’s watching all the wildlife, not just game species. Brad, who shares my interest in reptiles, remembered a time he was sitting very quietly on a log while hunting. A brightly-ringed coralsnake emerged from that very log and foraged for food while Brad no doubt sat in amazement and delight. Coralsnakes are secretive and shy, and an opportunity to watch one in this way is a rare treat.

Harry Greene is another hunter, also a retired professor and acclaimed author and researcher, who thoughtfully explores the implications of being a “born-again predator” in a chapter of his book, Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art (2013, University of California Press) He came to subsistence hunting during retirement after studying rattlesnakes and other predators during a long career in the field. Spending hours in a blind near a pond in central Texas, carefully waiting for an opportunity for a shot that will kill a deer quickly and with minimal suffering, he thought of the ambush predators he has studied. “Can I be as effective as the natural-born killers who have long held my interest, let alone carry out the task with equal grace?” (Pp.106-107). To be an omnivore – to eat meat at least sometimes – involves either subsidizing an industrial meat production that Greene finds repulsive or else taking on the role of predator. 

Now we have a younger generation of hunters who may not have grown up in hunting families and might at first have had no interest in hunting. Like Harry Greene, many of them are deeply concerned about industrial meat production, with its antibiotics, crowding of livestock, pollution of nearby land and water, and the energy required to transport animals for processing and then shipping of products.3 For them, it is more environmentally friendly and healthier to eat what they hunt. And these hunters, like some in the older generation, are likely to have a close connection to the land, appreciating and caring for the whole community of plants and animals, not just the game that they hope to bring home. Perhaps they will be among those who carry on the tradition of the Honorable Harvest.

1 Thompkins, S. There’s Safety in Numbers for Texas’ Hunters. San Antonio Express-News. (accessed 10/29/20)

2 Byrd, E., Lee, J.G., & N.J.O. Widmar. 2017. Perceptions of Hunting and Hunters by U.S. Respondents. Animals, 7(11), 83.

3 Kuipers, D. 2020. Field to Fork. Orion, Vol.39 No.3, Pp. 30-35.

Goodbye, Winter

At LBJ National Grasslands yesterday, new green growth emerged from the soil everywhere. In this ecotone, this blended margin between prairie and woodland, what had been the sandy brown floor was now turning green. In some places it was hidden beneath last year’s grasses, and in other places around trees and shrubs the scattered green was unmistakable. In areas that were recently burned, where the soil now had the most contact with the bright, warming sun, the new growth was strong. 

It was March 19, the last day of winter. Tomorrow the Northern Hemisphere would be angled toward the sun just a bit more, reaching the vernal equinox. It would be the first day of spring. I spent most of the day at LBJ National Grasslands to say goodbye to winter in the biggest, quietest place I could wander through.  

It was bright and sunny, as if the weather had already passed the equinox and was intent on spring. I soon shed the hoodie I started my walk with, as the breeze warmed a little and the sun was higher in the sky. By the end of the day I would have a mild sunburn and no regrets for having walked and sat in so much sunshine. 

Limestone shelf at the top of an arroyo

I started up on a ridge where limestone lies beneath shallow soil. In places, erosion exposes the limestone from an ancient sea bed filled with small oysters. I walked around one spot where water had exposed a small limestone shelf and eroded back under it. This was at the top of one of those places where the land drops away from the top of the cuesta or ridge and forms a long arroyo down the hillside. Big junipers, hackberries, and woody shrubs fill these places where the land concentrates rainfall.  

On the top of the cuesta, prairie grasses grow where the soil is deep enough. In shallow soil, even in areas with bare limestone, you can find clumps of cacti such as the grooved nipple cactus with stems like rounded domes covered with spines. There are also prickly pear cacti whose pads in winter are colored in shades of faded brick red and pink. Elsewhere up on the ridge there are clumps of compass plant. I love those long deeply notched leaves that feel as if they were cut from stiff sheets of sandpaper.  

Mexican plum

A couple of hours later I was in the Cross Timbers woodland below the ridge, visiting a small pond. The breeze stirred ripples on its surface. The sunlight glittered brightly from the tops of those ripples, so that the pond’s entire surface seemed covered in sparkling jewels. When I let my focus soften, it was like a very fast twinkling of a field of stars. Even in simple places like this, the rest of the world drops away and there is only the pleasure of this moment in this spot. How we all long for such a refuge, and here it was. 

The stars in the water, only poorly represented in the photo

Throughout the winter the sulphur butterflies persist and dance across dormant prairies and sunny glades, but today more insect life was awakening. In one spot I began to see orange butterflies. At the edge of a clearing, two of them encircled each other and seemed to catch an updraft, swirling straight up to the crowns of the surrounding trees. When one landed, I saw that it was a goatweed leafwing. Their deep orange wings are scalloped, edged in ashen gray and the forewing and hindwing come to points. Their interesting name is based on description and natural history. The host for their caterpillars is “goatweed” or croton, and when closed the wings look just like a dead leaf.  

A goatweed leafwing

Finishing in this part of the grasslands, the practical but unimaginatively named unit 71, I drove to a couple of units near Alvord, including one of the beautiful and fragrant pine groves, and ended up in unit 30, one of my favorites. I let myself in through one of the green Forest Service gates and looked across the prairie and savannah toward the oak-juniper woodland. 

The prairie in “unit 30,” looking upslope

Here was that wonderful down-sloping prairie with little bluestem, Indiangrass, and flowering plants scattered throughout. Then the trail reaches the trees and turns sharply, losing itself in junipers, post oaks and other trees. The woods frequently open into little prairie patches as well as a few little ponds. I know the features of this part of the trail and I enjoy each walk there. I thought about why the places within LBJ National Grasslands have such an attraction for me, these “same old” trails. But the affection for the place holds. Walking here is visiting old friends, so why would I tire of it? And when I walk through spots in the grasslands that are new to me I usually see familiar landscapes, just arranged differently. Some of the appeal for me is the sense of being able to spread out, to be unconfined in grasslands and woods that keep on going. 

A nine-banded armadillo, oblivious to my nearby presence

So goodbye to winter, and welcome spring! I’m ready for frog calls and purple coneflower, and those spring evenings with distant thunder. And eventually I’ll come to miss the earth tones of dormant vegetation and quiet winter afternoons. In time I will welcome winter back again. 

Ready for Spring

As I drove through a northern part of LBJ National Grasslands, last year’s grasses were burned off along with some of the low growing brush. At the ground, some tree trunks were blackened, but the bark of the bigger trees protected the living tissue underneath. The trees will be fine. So will the grasses. The living roots below ground were already starting to send green shoots up within the charred clumps of little bluestem and Indiangrass. After all, what burned was just the dead stems and leaves of last year’s growth. What was pushed back was, hopefully, the growth of woody shrubs and tree seedlings. These ecosystems were built with periodic fire as an important ingredient. Without it, the shrubs and seedlings would grow into thickets, closing off open areas and replacing the meadows and pockets of prairie in this place.

The Forest Service had done well, lighting fires that would move across the land quickly so that it did its job with little real damage. Larger wildlife would move out of the way and most smaller animals would shelter in burrows or climb higher in trees. They would plan the burn when fuel loads would not be too high and wind conditions were right, keeping the fire within certain boundaries. With a well-planned burn, the fire would not linger long enough to become very big or hot. 

I walked a trail northeast of Alvord through areas cleared out by fire and looked at the green shoots beginning to emerge here and there where fire had burned last year’s growth to black stubs. Not only were grasses re-growing, along the surface of the soil – much more exposed than usual – new green growth was beginning everywhere. Spring is just days away (or already started, by meteorological reckoning).

Tiger beetle

A little movement caught my eye. A small wolf spider was scampering over soil and bits of wood on the trail. “Welcome, little survivor,” I thought. A fluttering spot of yellow bounded along the ground. The little butterfly, perhaps a clouded sulphur, had also made it through the fire or the wind had carried her in from nearby fields. Altogether in my walks in two areas of the grasslands today I saw sulphurs, variegated fritillaries, and a very dark swallowtail. At another point on the trail a small insect flew ahead of me, always landing back on the bare sandy soil of the trail. Sure enough, it was a tiger beetle with a metallic green head and thorax and a brushstroke of iridescent red on the wing covers (the elytra). It appeared that the invertebrates were doing pretty well after the burn.

Nine-banded armadillo

Somebody else may have noticed how well the invertebrates were doing. As I came around on the trail, I saw an armadillo about thirty feet away, busily rooting into the soil looking for anything edible. These tough, chunky mammals have a sort of leathery armor over their hips and shoulders, connected in the middle by nine bands of the same stuff (thus their name, “nine-banded armadillo”). Bony deposits are embedded in this modified skin, even on their foreheads and tails. They are very strong, as anyone who has tried to pick one up can attest. 

Armadillos need these attributes, because they are not gifted with strong eyesight or attentiveness to their surroundings. I approached the little beast quietly and downwind, moving mostly when he had his snout in the ground. Periodically he stopped to look around and sniff the air and then returned to the search for insects and grubs. I got within six feet or so, with no intention of doing anything more than taking a photo. At some point he figured out that I was present and ran off, sometimes bounding into the air with all four legs like a deer. It might seem like a parody of gracefulness, but he was fast and had a sort of armadillo-style agility.

Like Texas’ national forests, the national grasslands in our state are maintained in the belief that many different uses of the land are appropriate. These uses include mineral extraction along with recreation, hunting and fishing. We can walk and study nature on what’s left. I got my first reminder that this is a “multi-use” area when the path opened on a big cleared area with gas storage tanks and some sort of building. Nearby, a wide, bulldozed corridor led into the distance with signs saying, “Warning, natural gas pipeline.” Oil and gas extraction sometimes seems like the pre-eminent use of this place.

The other reminder of the multiple uses of the grasslands happened as I finished the walk back to my car. From the pine grove camping area came several loud shotgun blasts. Hunting is allowed on the grasslands, although what I was hearing seemed unlikely to represent hunting in any competent sense, as the shotgun was discharged sometimes four to six times in rapid succession. After a pause, more shots. I wondered if it was safe to get to my car. I decided that I must be hearing some sort of target practice and chose to believe the target was not in my vicinity. I have not had this experience before, but I have passed hunters with shotguns on the trail. When visiting, we should all keep in mind that hunters (and I suppose wild target shooters) may be present.

My last hour in the grasslands on this day was spent a little distance away, in a unit that had not been burned. I wrote this in my journal:

“I’m sitting at the top of a big rise, under a blue sky with a half-moon above and to my right. There is a light breeze, a little cool and a perfect balance to the warm sun behind me. It’s such a nice spring warmth that it’s hard to believe that in twelve hours it will be blustery, cold and raining. In my shade it is 68.9ºF and 59% relative humidity. 

“It’s quiet and peaceful – a sunny refuge with post oaks, butterflies and cardinals for companions. There’s a post oak in front of me with a trunk so thick that I was reminded of the baobab tree. A cardinal flew into it and is in the high branches – “cheer, cheer, cheer” – and when he faces me there is a bright crimson dot in the branches. 

“To my right is a huge oak with twisted arms, right out of a scary story. Along the trail a pair of small sulphurs, swirling together in figure-eights nonstop across the ground.”

The twisted branches of a post oak

I’ll be back soon, watchful for armadillos and butterflies and curious about the new spring growth of grasses and flowers after the burn. Frogs will be calling soon, especially if we get some rain. There’s a lot to look forward to.


Look at what’s going on around us. World events, greed, cynicism, hate and disinformation squeeze our capacity for hope into a narrow thing, almost hidden away. And yet hope is essential. We have to believe in the possibility of good things and good people. We must have some expectation that things could get better, and that our actions could make a difference sometimes. We have to believe that there will be a flower among the thorns and that somewhere in our numb, angry or sad feelings there are moments when we will smile. Without hope, we would sink into despair. Hope keeps us from giving up, from spiraling ever downward. If we are lost to despair, everything gets worse. 

Hope is a belief or an expectation, even if it sometimes exists below our awareness. Where does it come from? It doesn’t depend on thinking that a steady stream of good things will happen, or else hope would only belong to the naive and the lucky. Life is rarely like that. Hope sometimes appears when things are looking grim, and can get us through hard times. How is it that when we’re confronted with hardship, sickness and conflict, we can experience hope?

Does it depend on faith? Not religion, necessarily, but a belief in the future even without evidence. A belief in the world’s capacity for good, sometimes when there is evidence all around us that the world can be cruel and corrupt. By “the world,” I mean human societies and governments. 

We have to be able to stand with one foot in the world of bad news and the other in the world in which people are good and kind. We have to face corruption, greed and incompetence in order to oppose it where we can. Standing a little in that world, we do our best to learn how and where bad things happen in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe as possible. 

But planting the other foot where we find good things is essential. If we are completely immersed in a world dominated by lies, cruelty and such things, we risk losing our perspective, becoming cynical, and slipping into despair – we lose hope. We have to remain some of the time in a place where our reality is shaped by things like kindness, generosity and peace. 

I’m thinking of the person who does not sugar coat the problems of the world, but keeps looking for and noticing good things, nurturing and holding them in a place where they will not be overwhelmed by the bad news of the world. Where does that ability come from? I think such people are mostly made by experience, not born to be “immune” to troubles and worries. My training and experience with families and young children inform this opinion.

I think this ability to keep finding positive things in a difficult world is more likely to be present if we have had experiences early in life with a mostly trustworthy, loving world. It happens when we have had attuned caregivers, usually (not always, for we are all imperfect) meeting our needs and showing that they care. Such a person might be a parent, grandparent, or someone else with whom we live or spend a lot of time. As babies and toddlers, we still have moments of frustration and rage, and we might overwhelm our caregivers occasionally. But afterwards, they welcome us back and heal the breaks in our relationship. 

There are people with a capacity for hope whose start in life did not include relationships like that. I’m sure that somewhere, later on, they had a teacher, relative, foster parent, or other important person who was steadfast, caring, and able to do their part to rebuild a relationship when it gets torn. These are the things we need to make sure to do for each other now. (If you are interested in how people who had early difficulty can later develop secure attachments, read this article by Dr. Hal Shorey.)

Regardless of what happened in the past, at times like these we can use a little nudge toward hopefulness, an idea or two about finding hope. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  1. Stay close to those significant people who help you keep standing with one foot in what’s good. These are the trustworthy ones, those who really listen, reach out, forgive, make amends, and accept who you are. No matter how much people like me seek solitude, we are wired for relationships, and those relationships are the engines of hope.
  2. Figure out how to budget your time so that you spend some of it in what’s beautiful and good in the world. Nature, art, time with friends, projects that contribute to what’s generous and good. Remember the difference between the distraction that comes from fun and the sustenance that comes from what is really good. (If you’re working very many hours, caring for children or those who are sick, there may seem to be no time for this. If that is the case, even a little bit of time spent in this way may make a difference.)
  3. Find some time for quiet and stillness, time to reflect or at least to rest from the constant barrage of sounds and images we are confronted with. For some people, learning meditation or yoga can be helpful. 
  4. Find time and energy for self-care in whatever way you can. You could consider the first three ideas above to be self-care, but there may be specific problems needing to be resolved. Any improvement with such problems will free up emotional energy needed for hopefulness.
  5. Remember that when you are stressed, tired and discouraged, the way you think about things is affected. It’s helpful to step back from your thoughts and conclusions and see them as your perception of reality and not reality itself. How you see your situation can be colored by the weight of what you are carrying. A more hopeful view may become visible once you recognize this.

(A version of this post first appeared on the website for my activities as a Licensed Psychological Associate.)