Those who know me can attest to the fact that spring is my favorite time of year. I come alive at the sight of the first crocus, or hints of warmer weather. The sounds of spring scream life and vitality! Cherry blossoms are the first trees to display their colors, a harbinger of beautiful things to come. The geese return to their ponds and other watering holes; scads of people take to the walkways, bikeways, and any other ways to be outside and enjoy the springtime heavenliness. Yes, I am grateful for every glorious spring day! 🙂
In today’s world, human society has squeezed out the natural world in many ways. Through technology and other modern advances, people no longer have to work the land for their food, or cautiously venture into uncharted territory alert for whatever wildlife might lurk there (remember the Wizard of Oz: “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”) Our children grow up with a distorted understanding of where food comes from, or how our clothing is constructed, or why certain ingredients go into the substances we use every day. Go to the store and buy whatever you want. Drive the paved highways and byways to reach your destination. Who of us understands the ecological balance in this world, and our impact on that balance. Nature preserves were created both to keep certain areas protected from human encroachment, and to educate. If one takes the time to wander through a preserve, they are found everywhere, it won’t take long to begin to see the signs explaining what she (or he) is seeing. How does a bog sustain life? What kinds of life can one find in a bog, and why is it important? Do bears really live in the woods around here? What do they eat, and do they ever wander into our neighborhoods? Why are they important? Wow! I never felt a beaver tail before! They sure do make a loud noise! I didn’t know there were so many creepy crawly things living in a pond, and did you see the turtle sunning itself on that log in the middle of the lagoon? The exploration and questions are endless when one visits a nature preserve. And if you aren’t particularly in the mood to learn that day, preserves provide beautiful walks and paths through a natural setting. When I am stressed out, a stroll with my camera through a preserve refreshes my spirit and clears the brain. I am grateful for nature preserves.
This was a green tomato in Mom and Dad’s yard. I shot it earlier this summer when we were in Kentucky. I am sure that it is long gone by now, hopefully having graced a plate of salad or some delicious meal that Mom cooked up. There is nothing like fresh food out one’s own garden. The flavor and texture far surpasses veggies in supermarkets which were force-ripened in order to get it to our market shelves. The stuff that we get right out of our gardens, produce that grew and ripened in its proper time is full of flavor. Yes, rabbit and deer and birds and bugs of all sorts enjoy the veggies, too. Even so, that which is harvested from our gardens and served in our homes, is by far the best of all! I am grateful for home grown vegetables!
In addition to flowers, I love to photograph trees. These are a stand of Sycamore trees found in Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, MD. Trees are magnificent! They offer shade from the sun, something we have needed as of late. Their wood can be crafted into all manner of furniture, tools, or buildings. We burn wood for fuel, or mulch them for our gardens. One of my favorite places to read years ago, was sitting on the ground leaning against a gargantuan Willow tree growing beside a gentle stream. Well, I didn’t actually get a lot of reading done, but I was able to ponder nature’s glory while I sat there. Another tree was a Mimosa tree that my brothers and I would climb in. It grew in our back yard and one could usually find a kid or two crawling up its branches–us or the neighbor kids. Here in Virginia, there is a Weeping Cherry Blossom Tree that we pass every Shabbat on our way to shul (synagogue.) Its branches almost touch the ground, and it shades the entire yard and sidewalk. As we walk into the enclosure its branches create, the temperature drops and we stand for a few moments enjoying the coolness before we walk on toward our destination. When we get our house, I want one of those trees in our yard. There are other trees that I enjoy, each offering a particular characteristic that I like: Dogwoods, Cherry Blossoms, Oaks of all kinds, various kinds of Willows, Beechwood, Sycamores, and the list goes on. In the autumn I love to see the vivid reds of the Maples, and in the late winter to taste the syrup that is made from its sap. I am indeed grateful for trees of all kinds!
As long as I can remember I have loved seeing waterfalls. In fact, as a child camping with my family, one of the “draws” to just about any place we pitched our tent (tepee) was the allure of waterfalls. Some were magnificent, some little more than a descending trickle. But no matter, something about falling water touches our souls. Not too long ago I read a photo-essay showing that animals in the wild are drawn to waterfalls, too. One series of photos were particularly poignant. A chimp in the wild was sitting on the edge of a jungle river mesmerized by the waterfall before him. (see here for a similar story) The caption read that when it approached the falls, the chimp became excited, danced and flailed about. Once there, the chimp just sat and gazed upon the sight. Later he actually swung from vines to and fro out into the mists that billowed up from the falls. The essay noted other animals, too, that were attracted to waterfalls. Even this small koi pond waterfall can keep my attention for hours. I don’t know what it is about falling water, but its beauty mesmerizes me. I am grateful for waterfalls.