Many of my photographs are taken at the North Chagrin Reservation in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. I have expressed gratitude for birds, trees, ponds, frogs, you name it, and most of my photos that illustrate gratitude are taken at this special place! Tonight I am grateful for the reservation itself. It is a place where one can go to stroll along paths through woods and fields. There I hear the cacophany of numerous bird species, each bird vying for attention or jockeying for position in the “pecking order.” I walk, listen, watch, touch and inhale the forest. It has become a sacred place for me to run to when I need a respite from the work that I do. Whether spring, summer, fall, or winter, the reservation compels me to be more mindful, to observe more closely, to listen more intently, and to watch more alertly. I am indeed grateful for the North Chagrin Reservation.
Despite the fact that the day was dampish cold and dreary, the urge to go to the woods was overpowering. So even though I was still wearing a knee immobilizer and using a crutch (the result of a slip on the ice a couple of weeks ago), I packed up my camera and persuaded my husband to drive me out to a nearby nature reservation; my favorite retreat. I had no illusions. This was not a photography outing even though my camera hung by my side. I simply needed to connect with the natural world after being sequestered inside for weeks as I healed. But for me, the most healing places to be are in the woods. Here I walked slowly and softly. Listening. Breathing. Noticing. Soaking the experience into every part of me that I could. Despite the terrible lighting and photographic conditions, I shot a few frames “just because.” Mostly, however, I simply chose to “be.” Even though physically unable to wander from the beaten path deep into the woods (something I am wont to do, much to Richard’s chagrin), just being in these wonderful woods fed my soul and renewed my spirit. I am grateful for this walk in the dreary woods. I am renewed.
Life for the past three and a half years has been filled with demands, deadlines, and all the stresses that go with graduate studies. Too often I have gotten lost in the whirlwind of expectations and “busyness” of completing assignments, papers, presentations, and making the grade. Today that is behind me. I find myself relishing the freedom of nothing to do, at least for this grace time before starting a new job. Throughout these years however, when I felt burned out “to the max,” I discovered that running away to the woods for a brief respite where I could walk, listen to the sounds of nature and silence, and clear my brain of all things academic was the best medicine for all that “ailed” me. This year the snow came early, so my walks have been through the snowy woods. To my delight, I found once again that snow not only adds beauty and mystery to a scene, but a quietness that calms one’s thoughts while at the same time injecting a sense of wonder and awe to the moment. Wow. Something so simple as a walk through the woods on a snowy day brings peace and contentment that no amount of education or material gain can match. I am grateful for quiet walks in the snowy woods.
- Snowy walk (canibringthedog.com)
- Woods on a snowy evening (southerntiersnapshots.wordpress.com)
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (thevandalstriumphant.com)
- Tracking the Snowy Owl Migration in Real Time (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Metal, Wood, Stone (stillwalks.wordpress.com)
- Snowy Egret and Blue Heron (bobzeller.wordpress.com)
- Another Snowy Walk In The Woods (barreldistortion.wordpress.com)
Here in a city on the Great Lakes, spring is slow to arrive. Even so, buds are beginning to open revealing colorful blossoms that proclaim Spring is HERE! After a long, cold, seemingly endless winter, signs of life, rebirth and growth are everywhere. The days are getting longer and we have all but forgotten the snow of a few weeks ago. The birds, too, are returning from their winter migrations, always a welcome sight . . . and sound. This is the first American Goldfinch I’ve seen this year, and then only as I scrambled through brush and briar in search of new sites and treasures. Its bright yellow plumage, a spring-time and early summer phenomenon during the mating season, is but another indication of new life and color emerging from the drabness we see and feel by the end of winter. Yes, I am grateful for spring!
Richard and I love to stroll along wooded paths enjoying nature at its most pristine . . . or at least as pristine as we can get in this urbanized world with designated parklands laced with maintained pathways throughout. Nonetheless, those pathways allow us to step out of our hectic-paced technological jungles into a world of fresh air, arching trees and a buzz of natural activity that provides a feast for our eyes and music for our hearing. Even when I wander alone along the paths, my flagging, fatigued spirit is refreshed. Not all pathways are that refreshing, but all seem to offer newness, possibilities, growth, and expectation. Having walked many paths in nature and in life, I have come to welcome the newness of what lies ahead, whether it be a cup of hot chocolate by a roaring fire at the end of the trail, or a new community or adventure in life. Yes, I am grateful for paths.
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.
We just returned from a glorious vacation where our travels took us through beautiful landscapes. We were both mesmerized and humbled by the beauty of the natural world. We thanked our Creator for not only the beauty that greeted our eyes, but also the intricacy of the ecological balance in nature that sustains this beauty. I am humbled and grateful for nature’s splendor,