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The Nature Trail

Jan 31, 2008
There was a year when my life was especially troubled, and I began to walk a nature trail each day. I walked many miles, for my health supposedly, but in reality I went to think out all the thoughts that troubled my head and to find a little peace. That path became healing to me.

For some reason I walked the same path every day. There were other paths and directions I could have taken, but I chose instead to always walk to one particular spot and back again, about six or seven miles. This path taught me more about nature than I had learned before in my whole life. I'm sure there are many naturalists who learn by traveling the world and seeing different environments, but for me it was for the very reason my path was always the same that I learned so much.

You see, no matter how inclement the weather, I walked. One day I was far away when a sudden, serious, storm rolled in and I looked up to see a funnel cloud above me. I took shelter in a ditch under an old train bridge but I still got soaked to the skin because the wind blew the rain under it in sheets. I also walked on beastly hot late summer days and in winter when I had to break a path through a foot of snow. I was stubborn and would go out every day and I started to like all weather. This is how I learned the subtleties of the changing seasons and the habits and cycles of the animals and plants.

That same path, day after day, monotonous at first: same trees, same plants. But then I started noting little changes. If I had not walked the same path, I don't think I'd ever have noticed that when tree leaves fall face up the rain spreads on them, but when they fall face down, it beads. Or that the last week of May is when the first lightning bugs come out. In June I see the first green dragonflies. The thistle doesn't bloom until late July. In September I can pick wild apples and listen to the Canada Geese honk as they fly overhead. I got better at spotting animals, too. I learned which times of day they come out, and where to look and how to be still. At first I saw the easy ones: a rabbit or two, sometimes a ground hog. But then I learned certain sunny days bring the hawks out to spiral on thermals high in the sky in wingless flight, and that the bluebirds like the edges between forest and meadow to build their nests, that in winter the rabbits always come out in the first hour of snow fall, and even where foxes are likely to come out at the beginning of night.

So start walking the nature trail whenever you can. Get out of the house during the weekends and holidays and explore the beauties of nature. Make your life beautiful and better. Mother nature is calling you. Why don't you respond?
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