Kris August

Celebrating the Interconnectedness of Life

Exploring Summer


Summer always brings out a feeling of adventure and exploration for me. It has often been a time of traveling and seeing new places and learning new perspectives. With family in north-central Arizona, I have frequent opportunities to visit and am learning about that woodland ecosystem of piñon-juniper and ponderosa pine. On a recent hike in the Granite Mountain Wilderness, we encountered some breathtaking vistas and invigorating pine air, with fascinating and familiar plant life.


I love the rounded granite rock formations and boulders found all over the Prescott area. Here there were several common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plants happily growing among them. Mullein was introduced from Europe over 300 years ago and is found throughout North America. Yarrow (Achillea millefolia) a native North American, was also thriving along the path.


Ponderosa pine with its longer needles (3-7”) in clumps of 3, towers above the other plant life (up to 120 ft), while alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) with their distinct scale patterned bark draw attention to eye-level.

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Below that, bushy scrub oaks (
Quercus turbinella) with tiny holly-looking leaves (~1”) dot the landscape, some stretching taller with thickly gnarled trunks. Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) are distinctly different, having larger, strongly lobed, deep green leaves (2-5”).


Noticing these similarities and differences in the plants around me brings a mindfulness to the experience that not only improves my botanical knowledge, but also helps my brain to let go of other thoughts. Because it is something I really enjoy, spending time like this in calm, focused curiosity is an excellent form of self-care too!

What do you enjoy so much that it pulls you into a state of calm focus?