Peace of Nature

Inner turmoil
ends when I see you
 
Swirling storms
calm with your words
 
Floundering spirits
stand strong when you guide along the way
 
Worry dies
when I look into your eyes
 
Confusion clears
when your voice hits my ears
 
Pain becomes
pleasure when your heart touches mine
 
And it does.
 
When I see the leaf sway and hear the singing voice of the breeze and the bird pointing the way to the eye of the storm,  my heart lies safely embraced in the heart of Nature.
 
The heart, voice, eyes, guidance, words and vision of Nature keep us whole.

 

The warmth of the sun

A green leaf, singular, still
While all the others sway in the breeze
This one is motionless, peaceful in the shade of the trees
For it, the chaos around holds no great thrill.

Sun shines down on some
Others are cloaked in shadows
Creating an effect of color that grows and grows
Reminding me once more of the vibrant times yet to come.

Though the wind ‘round us blows
The still leaf is undisturbed still; the others yet sway
Each has its own fate and its own way
Each with its own secret only it knows.

They know all is one
That still and swaying are the same
Even when our thoughts refuse to be tame
We can still feel the warmth of the sun.

Still breeze, thrilling trees
Some shadows to my toes came
They blow and sway and know their own way
One and the same, they cannot tame
the warmth of the sun.

 

3 great ways to enjoy Nature in Summer

A beautiful pond in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Visit a park and soak in the serene beauty of the natural landscape all around you.

Now that Summer is upon us, don’t just turn on the air conditioning and crank up the video games. Get outside and connect with Nature!

That doesn’t mean mowing the yard. Take the family or nudge a friend off the couch and go do something fun. Going outside is good for your physical and mental health. Getting immersed in Nature is also soothing to the spirit, and it is a sure way to dissipate stress. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking, and hopefully moving to your door.

Visit a Park

We in Ohio are blessed with a plethora of parks to choose from…Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Metroparks, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Hamilton County Park District, and the Columbus and Franklin County Metroparks are just a few of the great places to choose for your next outdoor adventure.

Take a hike to a waterfall

My favorite summertime activity is to check out places with waterfalls. Yes, the flow is sometimes less during the less rainy parts of summer. However, the feeling of coolness and the sounds and sights of rushing water in summer is just soothing and refreshing to me. If waterfalls might tickle your fancy, here are a few trails you might explore to see small waterfalls.

Go Geocaching

Maybe you want some fun and games thrown into your outdoor time. You could try geocaching. All you need is a handheld GPS (Global Postioning System), and the coordinates to a geocache, which you can find on multiple websites, including Geocaching.com.

Any of these will get your blood pumping, allow you to feel the breeze in your hair, and let you feel the sunshine on your skin. The most important thing is to get started. Go out the door and enjoy some Nature today!

 

Things we learn from Nature

Sunrise over a sharon conglomerate outcropping

Every day is bright and sunny when we look beyond the clouds.

Walking through a long grass meadow one morning this week, I was amazed at the brilliant colors of the plants and animals in the morning light.  Equally amazing were the crisp and clear sounds of the birds all around.  All the world, at that moment, was right.

Soon afterward, I returned to the house, energized about life.  Then, my own reality overtook that dose of ultimate reality I had just experienced.  Couldn’t find a matched pair of socks.  Bit into my fried egg sandwich and got covered in runny yolk.  Started to floss my teeth and realized there was only about 3 inches of floss left in the roll.    All very petty complaints, I know.
None of these experiences  meant anything in the grand scheme of things.  But in that moment, when I knew the rest of my day would be filled with meetings, phone calls, deadlines and the pressures of working to save nature one peice of land at a time,  these little things really got the best of me and zapped my energy.
I went from flying with the eagles to feeling like I had been knocked flat in a matter of minutes.  Then, I remembered once again that there was a much bigger reality in Nature.  These meaningless things couldn’t harm my soul nor could they dampen my spirits for more than a moment.  Right outside the real world kept on going regardless of my little woes.
Whenever little or big things block our paths, Nature usually has a lesson we can use to brighten things up and move on.  Here are a few of my favorites.
  1. There are some things in life we can’t control
  2. Ever stand in a forest during heavy winds? The groan of tree trunks straining against the winds is awesome.  The cracking of large branches and the sharp sounds of limbs breaking as a falling tree hits them is terrifying when you hear it up close.  Leaves are torn from the trees.  Animals take cover.  There is nothing a human can do except take cover and wait it out.  None of us would be stupid enough to grab the trunk of a windthrown tree and try to hold it up.  It can’t be done.

    Why is it then that we think we can control everything in our own lives? We need to use our brains and realize that sometimes, all we can do is wait out the storm and then enjoy the calm aftermath.  And that is okay.

  3. Everything is part of a cycle
  4. We have four seasons. They go on in about the same pattern year after year, lifetime after lifetime.  We know that spring wildflowers emerge after the cold of winter has passed. We know that the cool and wet rains will give way to warm and dry days of summer. We know that the leaves will turn and birds will fly south in fall as the natural world goes dormant in preparation for winter.  We know it will all start again in spring.  We know this without question.

    Water flows in a cycle as well.  Evaporation forms clouds.  Clouds rain down on the land.  Rainwater soaks in or runs off into streams which lead to rivers that ultimately flow back to the ocean.  Some of the water evaporates and goes through the cycle again.

    Creatures are born, consume other creatures or plants, die, and become nutrients for yet more life.  Nothing in Nature is wasted because everything is cyclical.

    Think about that and seek out ways to apply it in your own life.

  5. Even small things are important
  6. Sometimes I go to the forest for solitude.  The trees are huge silent companions.  They stand like giant wise beings simply keeping their own counsel and living after their own Nature.  But, sit long enough in a forest and you will realize that even when you are alone with these giants, active animal life surrounds you and life is small.  The leaf litter is alive with bugs and worms and all forms of life.  The huge trees are covered with birds and bugs.  Bees and other insects fly by.  The seemingly significant trees are really just the backdrop for real life in the forest.

    The immense bulk of living things in the world are small and seemingly insignificant.  They are invisible to us in our daily lives.  Yet they matter in ways we don’t always realize.  Ants, for example, are important in the lifecycle of the large white-flowered trillium.  Without ants, these beautiful wildflowers can’t spread.

    What small things can you observe in your life that might be more important than you first realize?

  7. Diversity is important
  8. The gypsy moth invasion passed through our area in the late 1990’s.  Many oak trees were killed within Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  However, other species of trees were largely unaffected.  Now, the emerald ash borer is causing mortality among ash trees in Ohio.  Maples and oaks and cherries and tulip poplars are doing just fine.
    If our forests were monocultures, either of these individual events or the scores of other stressors out there would have decimated our forests.  However, Nature has inherent  resilience through diversity.  It amazes me how diverse the world is.  There might be 60 or more spring wildflowers in an old growth forest like Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve.  Each of them fills a valuable niche in the ecosystem.  If a disease or predation removes one of the species, another generally is able to fill the spot and keep the system healthy.

    However, when we mow Nature down and replace it with lawns, single species crop fields or other low diversity systems, one disaster can wipe it all away.  Humans and their thoughts and activities are the same way.  If we reject those who are different from us, we weaken the whole fabric of our collective being.  If we all thought and acted the same, we would all be weaker.

The great cycle of life and Nature is in charge, but we all have a role to play in Nature and in life.  We are all important even when we feel powerless, small, or alone.  Even if our teeth are unflossed,  our favorite shirt has egg yolk on it, and our socks are slightly mismatched.  There are many lessons in Nature and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

What lessons have you learned from Nature?

 

6 reasons to hike daily

A small waterfall in Sand Run MetroPark, Summit County, Ohio

Lots of little surprises await you along the trail.

Who doesn’t love a good hike? Fresh air, singing birds, sunshine. What’s not to love? But are you a fair weather hiker? What about the dreary overcast days? What about drizzle and snow and cold? Mud? What fun is that?

There are lots of good reasons to hike in Nature every single day. If you take on the habit of hiking, whether the weather is sun or rain, here’s what you might stand to gain:

 

 

  1. Deepening connection to Nature
  2. People are part of Nature.   We don’t always remember that, but it is undeniably true. Putting your feet on a trail and immersing yourself in your local wilderness will automatically put you into a place of innate comfort.   The more often you visit natural settings, the more you will feel the connection to Nature. Daily hiking will give you a much more holistic view of the world and yourself.  Try it.  Feel it.   You’ll love it. You’ll love you more than you already do.

  3. Friends you’ve never met
  4. When you casually hike, it is most likely to be on a nice day when the benefits are obvious. The people around are more likely to be causal hikers as well. There may be many hikers crowding a popular trail like the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They are probably mostly very nice people you would love to meet and talk with. However, when you hike regardless of weather, rain, snow, cold, warm, you are more likely to meet other people who are devoted to Nature. Beyond this sort of “natural selection,” the trails are less crowded and more relaxed on less attractive days. That provides an easier opportunity for conversation with friends you haven’t met yet.

  5. Better Physical Health
  6. We always hear statistics about how cardiovascular health is improved though exercises such as walking or hiking. It just makes too much sense to ignore this fact. Get outside and get healthy. You’ll lose weight and have more energy.  Your heart will thank you.  Your loved ones will thank you.

  7. More Brainpower
  8. It is impossible to be surrounded by nature for any length of time and not learn something about your environment or yourself. Usually you learn about both on a hike. You might see a wildflower you’ve never seen before. Maybe you will be curious about what trees are around and you will develop an interest in tree identification. Maybe you will see an insect like a walking stick or leaf litter beetle and you will observe it and learn why it happens to be in that particular spot. Maybe you will reflect on Nature and realize why you are in the particular spot you are in life. Over time these reflections will add up and will influence your thinking in other areas of life. A walk in the woods is a serious education.

  9. A regular chance to Recharge and Unwind
  10. Life is always moving at a faster pace in human society. Smart phones, PDA’s, the internet, and other technology keeps us “always on.” There seems to be a prevailing attitude that we must do things better, faster, and in more volume to get ahead in the world. Let me tell you, nothing that is not in accordance with Nature can last long. The Tao Te Ching points out that high winds do not last all day, yet it seems like our society requires us to run faster and faster with fewer and fewer breaks not just all day, but day in and day out. Take a close look at Nature. It keeps going at its own pace regardless of our disdain for all things slow.

    The pace of ants climbing on tree trunks has not increased. The number of wingbeats per minute for a ruby throated hummingbird has not increased. They go on living as Nature or God intended.

    Water flows no faster in a natural stream than it did a century ago. A leaf falling from the top of an oak does not reach the ground any faster in these hectic times. Why would people be any different?

    We aren’t. An unnatural pace cannot be sustained. Whatever is contrary to Nature will not endure. That is a universal law that we cannot ignore. Use some of your finite time each day to observe the infinite Nature while hiking and maybe, just maybe, it will allow you to unwind, relax, and attune your body and mind to the natural pace of life once more.

  11. Unpredictable Fun!
  12. If you go to a gym or walk on a track, or swim in a pool, you will get plenty of exercise. Walk on a treadmill, ride your stationary bike. Good exercise, certainly. Nothing wrong with that. Except there is no real excitement to it. Get outside and Hike! You never know what is around each bend in the trail. You might have to straddle a mud hole, dodge a falling branch or evade a snake on the trail. On the more pleasant side, you might see a vibrant bird, hear the haunting tune of the woodthrush in the woods, be entertained by the chattering chipmunks, stumble upon a sleeping fawn, or be dazzled with the intricate flower of an orchid along the trail. Every trail is different every day. There is always something new to see. Animal tracks, scat, newly pecked holes of a yellow-bellied sapsucker in a straight line across a tree trunk.

There is no better way to know yourself and Nature than by hiking every day through all the seasons. I know of no better way to improve your life and your health. Make the time and your life will shine. Now Get Outside and Enjoy! Here are some ideas for great hikes in Ohio.

 

Beavers construct ideal habitats for bats

“Forest that was both flooded and subjected to beaver logging supported the highest bat activity”- via BBC – Earth News – European beavers construct ideal habitats for bats.

A swimming beaver by naturalist William Hudson

A swimming beaver by naturalist William Hudson

In a paper published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, it is shown that reintroduction of beaver is associated with significantly higher amounts of bat activity. Pretty interesting fact. It makes sense.

What is most interesting about this to me is the concept that if you modify one part of a system, other parts are also impacted. Sometimes this is intentional, like in the case of thinning cuts designed to increase timber production. other times this can be an unintentional side effect, like using DDT then finding out that it harms the reproduction of Eagles.

The cascading effects of our activities are far-reaching and difficult to predict with any degree of certainty. When beaver were over-harvested and eliminated from our area, did that also create a dip in the bat population over time? Does a decrease in bat activity change the population of flying insects? Probably.

What do the now more numerous bugs eat? What impacts flow from that? How do we know?

Think about your everyday activities and what they may impact. Go outside and observe Nature. Think about why a plant or animal is in the place where you observe it. There is usually a reason. Things are not random in Nature. There is an underling logic to the apparent chaos. It is just so complicated it is hard to ferret out the exact connections.

Just because it is hard to see the connections does not mean they don’t exist. Think about it, observe Nature, and think about it some more.