I had ambitions for a blog post this week about cybersecurity, passion projects, or emotional intelligence, but after twenty-four hours of being flat out from my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (which I still wholeheartedly recommend to everyone able to get it) and in celebration of Mother’s Day, I share here a simple but heartfelt ode to nature.
This morning my family took a short hike along a trail that winds through the woods behind our house. Our dog led the way, stopping often to smell the flowers and ferns and skunk cabbage. The trail follows the twists and turns along a stream that flows into a local reservoir. Today the water was moving fast – no doubt aided by runoff from the winter’s snow melt – and I stopped to listen to the peaceful sounds as water burbled over rocks and branches. My boys tossed a football, weaving around trees with fresh green leaves that served as artificial defenders.
In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we can easily forget to appreciate the natural beauty around us. Spring in the northeast of the United States is an especially vibrant time, as plants and trees awaken from their winter dormancy. Yellow forsythia bushes are usually the first to bloom around here, always a welcome sight amid the barren brown landscape. Soon yellow daffodils and red tulips blossom, followed by the flowering trees: white crabapples, pink magnolias, and then red cherries. Grass begins to turn from brown to green. Leaves pop from their tiny buds seemingly overnight.
Cardinals, robins, and finches stop by for a snack from our bird feeder. Woodpeckers drum on trees nearby. Deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and squirrels are frequent local visitors. Occasionally wild turkeys and foxes also wander through our yard. At night, we hear coyotes howling in the distance and see bats flying overhead.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Spring also brings pollen, which triggers seasonal allergies. Ticks and mosquitoes come out in full force, carrying disease. Poison ivy and poison oak grow wild in the woods and cause skin rashes or worse. Nevertheless, what a joy it is to be outside on a beautiful spring day – sun on my face, fragrant air crisp and clean after yesterday’s rain.
In truth, autumn has always been my favorite season. I love watching the leaves change color, turning red and orange and yellow, eventually creating colorful blankets on the ground. I’m always eager to put on a sweatshirt as the temperature drops in the evening, no longer sweltering from the summer heat. I get excited for the start of a new school year – back-to-school clothes, fresh school supplies, and backpacks at the ready. To me, autumn is apple picking, pumpkin muffins, and Thanksgiving.
There are plenty of reasons to love summer (camp! vacations! swimming! reading in a hammock!) and winter (snowball fights! hot cocoa! skiing! reading by the fire!). But for me, the natural beauty of spring and autumn hold something special. This year – after the traumas of the pandemic and the gift of vaccines – I am committing to experience and appreciate the beauty of nature. I am reminding myself to be present: to stop, look, and listen; to breathe deeply and take it all in; to cherish my time outdoors.