In the state gamelands near our house, there is a flat wetland area in the middle of the forest. We call it the bog. Right now in early Spring, we spot ducks (Mallards and ones unknown to us), Canada geese, and salamanders. The little babe and I have been there twice in the past two weeks and nature moves so fast at this time of year that just in seven days time I noticed changes. Green tips of water grasses were rising next to the brown old ones. Salamanders were in the water mating. We found fuzzy pussy willows along the trail and furry caterpillar like birch catkins smashed on the gravel road. I noticed that the two geese that we saw the previous week were not there and as if waiting for their cue, they suddenly appeared in the sky behind us, loudly honking as they descended to the pond. Sometimes the little babe is in a chatty mood, but for the most part she is really good about being quiet. She doesn't run through the woods talking at the top of her lungs like I imagine (perhaps wrongly) a lot of kids do. She is good about being quiet and listening. And a lot of times she hears things that my ears don't pick up.
On another day last week, a rainy 55 degree day, the little babe decided that we needed some fresh air. So on the way back from the store, I pulled into the gravel parking lot at another entrance to the gamelands. We pulled our brims down, stuffed hands in pockets, and headed into the woods. The little babe walked in silence and I quietly sang a couple of Winnie-the-Pooh inspired rainy-day-walking-in-the-woods type of songs. (Tra-la-la, tra-la-la, etc) We spent the next hour exploring two small ponds and made some great nature discoveries. And the entire time our voices barely rose above a whisper. Despite the raindrops that fell continuously on our heads, we were both content and in no rush to head home.
Even though I've perhaps been doing it subconsciously for a while, by making nature an important part of our lives, I have recently decided that I want to encourage and cultivate the ability to just be in nature. By that I mean not rushing through a hike just to say we did it or walking in the woods, but not really paying attention to the place where we actually are. Outdoor meditation perhaps, but not tuning the world out - tuning IN to the world around you. To use those five senses that most of us are blessed to have: sight, touch, taste, smell, hear. At this time of year, this may be seeing the sparrows carrying building materials to their nests, touching the fuzzy pussy willows, tasting the small red wintergreen berries that are still visible on the forest floor, smelling the damp earth, and hearing the raspy quacking of wood frogs.
Cultivating patience. Being aware of your surroundings. Noticing details. Appreciating natural beauty. Being amazed by small wonders. Learning to have respect for the creatures around you. I think these are important. I am thankful that I have a willing partner to accompany me in this journey.
What are you thankful for today?