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Sunday the temps climbed into the 60’s (farenheit). Then Monday they crashed into the 20’s. Sometimes nature plays cruel jokes on us. But the reality is that winters along the Great Lakes are usually unpredictable and brutal. A planned trip to the reservation for hiking was scrapped because I just wasn’t ready for the bitter cold. But Rich and I wanted to do something–anything–to get out of the house. I don’t know when we hit on the idea of going to the Cleveland Zoo, specifically the Rainforest, but remembering that Monday’s are free we took five minutes to grab camera, bundle up, and head out the door. And what better place to visit on a bitter cold Cleveland day than the tropical rainforest! When we entered the building we encountered steamy warmth, a waterfall, and lush foliage. Ahhhh. What a treat. As we walked through the forest, the colors and sounds of animals from faraway lands in recreated habitats piqued our interests and sated our curiosity. This was more than an entertaining excursion to ward off winter-time blues however, it also proved to be a learning expedition as we discovered the ways animals and plants of every kind create an ecosystem across the globe, and how a rainforest in South America is crucial to life in Cleveland, OH and everywhere else. Fascinating. We also saw sobering displays of how we humans are destroying this ecosystem. By the time we departed the rainforest and headed back into the cold cold north country, our spirits were not only lifted, but we were more committed than ever to supporting conservation efforts. It was a good day of learning and enjoyment. I am grateful for the Cleveland Zoo Rainforest and all zoos that treat animals humanely while also educating the public about the quantum world of which we are a part.

 

Several things went wrong during the day. I was experiencing a bad case of the doldrums and feeling rather cross. The temperature outside was cold, and I don’t care for cold weather. My husband was preoccupied with the business of paying bills, making phone calls, etc. Blech…. not the best of days for me. I tried to be cheerful and chirpy but it kept coming off as snippy and persnickety. I kept telling myself that I should be grateful for being alive, living in a warm apartment with someone who loves me, and on and on, but to no avail. I was in a rotten mood! When that happens, oftentimes I need only change the environment or activity to eradicate the “blues.” Richard, recognizing what was happening, suggested a drive out to the country. So we bundled up, I grabbed my camera and we headed out the door. We drove to Chagrin Falls, OH, parked the car and started walking. The briskly cold air, holiday bunting still strung everywhere, cheerful crowds (Chagrin Falls is somewhat of a touristy quaint village near Cleveland), and late afternoon sun still shining lifted my spirits almost immediately. Strolling through the village, along the stream and even down to the falls, helped me to realize how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful world. If one is “stuck” in a bad place, change the place to lift the mood. That is not to say one doesn’t experience life changing tragedies and losses. Just that for me, on this particular day, a simple stroll along a stream that meanders through a quaint village was enough to clear the fog in my brain and remind me of the benefits of living a grateful life. I am grateful for the ability to change my perceptions by doing something as simple as taking an afternoon stroll along a beautiful stream.

When thinking about those things in life for which I am thankful, sometimes the most obvious are the things most overlooked.  For instance, water.  For those of us who have running hot and cold water in our homes, or bottled water within arm’s reach, or lakes and rivers and pools to play in, it is easy to take water for granted.  Years ago I had the privilege of spending a few weeks in Nicaragua where water was in short supply.  I was amazed at the many ways the Nicaraguan people found to conserve water.  From washing clothes to taking showers to cooking, every activity that involved water was thought out.  No one wasted water the way we do here in the US.  I forget the lessons I learned in this small, Central American country, but when I think of water and gratitude, I am humbled because I remember Nica and I know how much we take this essential life-sustaining resource for granted.  I am most grateful for water.

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