The Nature Zine, Issue 2


I can’t believe it’s been a year since the first issue of The Nature Zine. Now I have a whole new collection for you to enjoy!


Issue 2 is packed full of intense stories, thoughts, poems, art, photos and an ‘interview’ from multiple contributors. I’m thrilled to share with you this next run of submissions- they are all quite inspiring. People share their fears, passion, and thoughts on exploring, connecting with and studying nature. The beautiful ruffed grouse on the cover was painted by Jay Dowd, owner and tattoo artist at Consolidated Tattoo Parlor and Barber Shop in Flint, Michigan. Jay and I have gone on a LOTS of outdoor adventures together and he spends any moment that he can out in the wilderness, so of course it was a pleasure to include his painting. I really enjoy receiving submissions from all over the states (and Canada!), so please keep them coming.

My friend Matt and I collaborated on a piece together for issue 2- never too late- as we had once discussed writing of our 6 month adventure (much of which has been described here, but we now we were able to reflect on our journey and share new aspects of it all). We essentially interview ourselves- as in we came up with a few questions and then separately wrote our responses. We waited to share them until we both completed our pieces. I then meshed them together, leaving them as they were- not letting our answers influence one another.

If you are interested in a copy, I’ll send you one for free, trade or a $1-$3 donation.  Donations just help to cover the cost of copies and shipping. Plus allow me to keep up with this very enjoyable project. I’m on a student budget so anything helps. Just use the the paypal button below or email me for other options, batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Donate for a copy of The Nature Zine

Much thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project! I’m keeping Issue One in print as well, so let me know if you are interested. Both a creative outlet and a way to share our thoughts on connecting with nature, The Nature Zine will continue on with more issues.  If you are interested in contributing, please send your stories, thoughts, and art to me or contact me for more information:  batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

p.s. wondering what a zine is? This should help.


The Nature Zine, Issue One

Earlier in the year I put out a call for submissions for the first issue of The Nature Zine.  In the spring, I set a deadline for myself- to finally complete a zine before the end of the field season.  With the contributions and support from friends, I finally put forth the effort to complete the first issue of this project.

The Nature Zine: (re)connection with the natural world  (Issue One)

The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world (Issue One)

Issue One consists of a few stories and thoughts, 3o pages in all, on adventures, childhood memories, thoughts on experiencing city and forest, and more.  For example, I used this as an opportunity to finally write out my experience of having an allergic reaction to bald faced hornets while in the middle of a forest, off trail, a couple of hours away from the hospital.  I gave away the first run of 50 to friends but have recently made another run of 50.   If you are interested in a copy, I’ll send you one for free, trade or a $1-$3 donation.  Donations just help to cover the cost of copies and shipping.  Just use the the paypal button below or email me for other options, batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Donate for a copy of The Nature Zine

Eventually, I’ll provide a pdf version but I like this only being available as a hard copy for now.  Plus, it’s fun to get mail and keep with zine tradition.

Until then, I’ll at least share my introduction:

October 2012

Welcome to Issue #1 of The Nature Zine:

Over that last few years, I’ve spent more and more time away from my usual city life.  I’ve jumped back and forth from one extreme to the next.  For a few months, I would walk out my back door and into an alley in Detroit or Flint or any other various city street I’ve stepped into from my always temporary home.  Compare this to walking out my door and into a forest, or not having a door at all.  Just climbing out of my tent and into the crisp morning forest air.  I fall asleep to the swaying rhythm of katydids and the calls of owls, woodcocks and whip-poor-wills, sometimes even the drumming of a ruffed grouse as the sun sets.

Each year I spend more of my time in the forest.  Each year I learn more and my connection grows stronger.  Sometimes I need to slow down and not just analyze, learn from and understand my surroundings but enjoy them.  Reminding myself that it’s ok to hear a bird calling and not remember their name, I can still appreciate their songs.

Out here in the forest, with all that there is to explore, I sometimes still find loneliness.  I struggle to find that balance of my love of nature and my need to be around amazing people to share vegan meals with over both thought-provoking conversations and laughter. Social validation.  I need both in my life.  But as I walk deeper into the wilderness, I fear that I am often cutting myself away from my social connections.

As I near the end of my 8-month track of living in a house in the middle of a state forest in Pennsylvania, so many thoughts rush through my mind.  How do we find that balance?  For those of us that live in the city and crave the outdoors- we miss the smell of freshly fallen leaves on a dew covered forest floor.  In the city I miss the chorus of frogs and songbirds but in the forest I find myself escaping to the city so I can shout along with friends to my favorite punk bands.  I drive back to the forest alone but as my headlights brighten my surroundings and the tree branches arch over me I feel this sense of them welcoming me home.  I step out of my car that is polluting their air and I take a deep breath, I let it all out.

For each of us, that balance differs but we must never lose our connection with nature.  In a city, I always find myself in any park nearby.  I watch the pigeons for hours with friends or sometimes alone.  I observe the squirrels and catch them stealing glances at me.  We see plants bursting through the cracks of pavement.  Become mesmerized by the way ants can clean the sidewalk in a way similar to how they make use of a forest floor.  Birds build their nests in the cracks of old buildings and bats fill the attics and night skies of cities.  We have destroyed their homes and pushed them out, and unfortunately our actions continue.  The more we ignore nature around us, the less we will notice as more and more of it is destroyed.

This zine is about sharing those connections you’ve had.  It’s about reconnecting.  It’s about sharing your fears.  Sharing your adventures.  It’s about our love and respect for both city life and the natural world.  Both can exist.

Learn. Share. Explore. Connect. Respect. Enjoy.

Stand in solidarity with the natural world,

Nessie Grace

Both a creative outlet and a way to share our thoughts on connecting with nature, The Nature Zine will continue on with more issues.  If you are interested in contributing, please send your stories, thoughts, and art to me or contact me for more information:  batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Much thanks to everyone for who contributed to Issue One.  Cover art by Amanda Blodøks.

Detroit, MI to Springfield, IL

Ok, so we didn’t exactly bike to Springfield, Illinois.

The 1st of December brought at least a 10 degree drop in temperature, gusting winds, dropping that temp even more, and it never stopped snowing.  When we originally planned to leave, it was going to be by mid-November at the latest.  I should have known by now that you can never quite gauge Michigan’s weather- but always have to remember the lake effect winds.  Planning a ride that goes due West for 10 days straight was, to say the least, a bad idea.

A few things I have learned:

  1. Don’t ride West in Michigan for hours at a time in the winter.
  2. My circulation to my feet is worse than I thought, even with 2 pairs of socks and really warm winter boots.
  3. My knee and hip joints HATE the cold weather due to previous injuries/surgeries.
  4. Biking with extra weight makes them hurt more than they did when just commuting in the winter.
  5. Sometimes I set my goals a bit too high- I need to start being more realistic.


Matt's bike during our drive to Springfield, IL.

So in the end we took the ride to Springfield, Illinois that Matt’s parents had offered us in the first place.  The weather conditions were only getting worse.  Unfortunately they also aren’t much better here.  The winds keep at a steady 10-15 mph with 20+ mph gusts.  We looked into biking across Missouri on the Katy Trail, but weather forecasts are predicting high winds and temps in the teens to lower 20s. There are too many long stretches lacking places to stay, and with even colder nights (0-15 degrees) camping is quite a risk.

We’ve decided to trek a bit further south and start biking from there. After searching for the cheapest train tickets heading South of here, followed by checking the weather, we decided on Little Rock, Arkansas.  We depart Monday night, December 13.  Have I mentioned that bikes and trains are the only mode of transportation that I don’t get motion sickness on? I hope this still stands true.

In the meantime we are soaking up all of time we can with our true friend, Christopher.  He fills us with vegan dinners and treats and we zone out to movie marathons.  Matt and I have also gone on some cold and windy bike rides on the Interurban trail they have here in Springfield and we also ride to visit Christopher at work , where we load up on treats.

I’m trying to not feel to defeated, and more so trying to be more realistic.  Winter bike tours are obviously possible, but I just don’t think it’s a good one to start with.

From Michigan to Georgia

I had a few days off of work and made my way back to Michigan. Before I even left Tennessee pretty much every day of my trip home was already jam packed with things to do. They consisted of: spending as much time with Matt as possible, getting Fender Bender /USSF things together and hanging out with Liz, riding bikes with friends, visiting my family, oh and yeah, presenting my thesis defense so I can finally get my Master’s. I had to do all of this in 4 full days with an additional 2 days of driving.

How did that all go? Excellent! Although there is never enough time to do all that I want to do and spend time with friends and family I was still able to fit lots in. My first night home I swung by The Hub where I ran into many excellent people, the Fender Bender open shop just ending. Liz and I were nearly hit by a car on our run to share a giant hug. Immediately after, Matt and I jumped on our bikes (this being our first time riding our Surly LHTs together!)- we rode to Xochimilco’s in SW and filled up on delicious Mexican food that I had been craving.

Matt with our bikes: Brown Trout & The Bumble

Liz & I spent a great deal getting things together for the Fender Bender workshops at USSF. Things went really well and I felt so inspired getting to be productive with Liz. She’s putting her all into FB and beyond. Plus providing so much love and an excellent home for Fatty Pants kitty.

Spending time with my family was also much needed. My nephew and niece grow taller everyday. As they grow taller my grandparents grow older and this aches my heart, but having everyone together felt incredible.

My beautiful niece, Izzy

All of this rush led me up to summing up my 2+ years of graduate work down to 1 hour: Thesis Defense. The Mom & Steve & Matt and others came to listen to me ramble on about bats and their wing preferences. Matt said I hit my stride. I felt confident & things went better than I expected. My thesis in its entirety is submitted. Now I just wait.

Saying good bye is always difficult but I was lucky enough to end my time in Michigan on a bike ride to Belle Isle with Matt and Liz where we met up with Andrea and her awesome dogs.  We hung out at punk beach, played with the dogs and had a picnic. Lucky for me, Andrea came back to Tennessee with me.  We camped (at the same site as my trip down with Matt, but far less water this time), hiked, netted for bats and then headed to Atlanta. Did you know that Atlanta has this incredible co-op called Sevenanda and that they have not only a Soul Veg, but 2 Soul Veg restaurants? Needless to say we spent a large portion of our day filling up on vegan food and then attempted to walk some of it off checking out the city and checking out people’s dogs and bikes at the park.

Now I have moved from the Tellico Plains area in TN to the Great Smoky Mountains.  As soon as I arrived at the Twenty Mile house in the evening I unloaded the truck, put on my headlamp and hiked up the trail to find Max & Joy.  We had a very successful night of netting- 29 bats: 2 Indiana bats which we are now tracking and found 1 tree for thus far.  Plus a handful of Little Brown Bats, Big Brown Bats, Northern Long-eared bats, Tri-colored Bats, & our first 2 Rafinesque bats of the year! yay!

Oh, the next morning before heading out to track, I looked out the house window and across the creek I spotted a black bear, just hanging out, scoping out the creek. Which also reminds be that 2 days prior while tracking out on a ridge I saw some leaves rustle, my eyes focused and I realized, as did the deer, that we were just 10 feet apart.  Next thing I knew her white tail was in my direction and she was darting down the steep edge.

Now I must end my time on the internet and go find a new place to bike!

For more photos summing up all of June, head here.

Good Zone

Leaving the wilderness and venturing into town.  Every time I think about going into town, I hear lines from Wet, Hot American Summer. If you’ve seen the film, I’m sure immediately the scene pops into your head where they all jump in the back of the truck, head into town- steal purses from old ladies, do lots of drugs and party hard only to arrive back to the campsite an hour later.  I laugh to myself often, thinking of this scene.

Ok, so me going into town isn’t quite like that. As close as I get is punching into the air with excitement and going to the library.

Normally I soak in the internet for awhile.  Last week I explored Maryville, TN on my bike and realized how different it is to ride in a town with hills. I also realized it had been awhile that I had to deal with intersections and bicycling. I rode to this rad bike shop/outdoor store.  Mark and I drove to town together and then went on our own bike rides, with plans to meet at the bike shop.  I hung out there for 3 hours in deep conversations about bikes- styles, accessories, mechanics, everything. The place has a comfortable atmosphere and the staff is beyond helpful.  I was even pointed in the direction of a co-op here in Knoxville.

& this is where I spent a couple of hours inside and outside of today.  I met up with a lady from Michigan, living in Knoxville as a high school Spanish teacher.  She’s very into social justice issues and we connected through the USSF/AMC board.  We chatted for a long time about living down here, mental illness awareness issues, and bike stuff while sitting on the curb snacking.  I filled my basket with bulk foods and produce. Their prices are totally reasonable and their selection satisfies my needs. PLUS you can bring in your own containers to fill up with bulk goods. Perfect! I know where I’ll be getting my groceries.  It’s just over an hour drive away but if I can spend my day here and support something rad, I’m ok with that.

From the co-op I was pointed in the direction of an independent cafe, a couple of minutes away, Old City Java.  The chain of connections I have made that have led me to rad places has been awesome.  It feels good to meet like minded people and find places I am comfortable being in. It’s something that means a great deal to me and makes me really enjoy my day.

In other news I need to get to putting Fender Bender things together for the events at USSF and also work on fine-tuning my presentation for my thesis defense. This is going to be a busy end half of the month but I’m really excited and inspired by the events coming up. Check out the FBD blog for what we have going on during the social forum.

I’ll be back in Michigan June 19 for a few days & I hope to see some of you then.  Bike rides aplenty!