Take a Breath and Connect

Growing up, the outdoors was my playground. Fortunately I had a mother who didn’t overreact if I was covered in mud, ran off to scamper up a tree, jumped into a stream after a crayfish, got stung by a bee, or walked through poison ivy on my way to pick violets and bluebells. She allowed me explore my world and taught me appreciation for everything in nature. Every rock, plant, bug, animal, fallen leaf, the sunshine and breeze had importance and spirit. On sunny days we would close our eyes, letting the warmth and contentment soak into our faces. When I was a toddler, we would take long walks through the fields and woods. She would glow with pride and excitement when I spotted deer or a bird and we would sit quietly and observe everything we saw. One of the things I am most thankful for in my life is my mom. Of all the lessons I’ve learned because of her, the one I am most grateful for is that we are connected to nature and there is endless reward in living and appreciating that connection.

Once, when I wasn’t older than four, I caught her trying to sneak out of the house before sunrise escaping on a morning adventure. Well, once she was caught, she had no choice but to take me with her. We walked through the field behind our house, across a stream, through some woods, all the way up the hill through another field. The field grass had been cut and baled and in my mind those hay bales were enormous. As we walked we caught sight of something shuffling around a hay bale down the hill. My mom picked me up so I could have a better view and there as quiet as mice, we watched Mr. Skunk take his own morning stroll. This was a pretty normal thing; walks outside, spying on animals, chasing grasshoppers, picking flowers.

On summer nights, my mom and I would walk outside and she would hold her finger to her lips so we could listen to the Spring Peepers chirp. We would giggle at the deep gurgling croak from the bullfrogs. Sometimes the great-horned owl, the master of the night, would shout to the darkness. The breeze at night whispered secrets in our ears and we enjoyed the stillness. During the day, I picked flowers and played in the stream, searching for crayfish and newts under any rock I could lift.

As the leaves changed colors our walks were less sneaky. The fallen leaves crunched beneath our feet causing chipmunks to scoot across the path and squirrels to run up a tree. If we stopped and watched, those squirrels would crawl back down and continue to gather nuts. It made me laugh at how little they cared if we knew where they stored the treasures they were saving for winter. The smell in the air was unique to only then. The fall produces a light, dry, and sweet scent that you can actually taste as well as inhale.

In the snowy winters we would hang suet and watch the winter birds shine against the white snow and bare trees. I would hold my glove out as it snowed to catch snowflakes and examine their intricate designs. I crept up to old logs and boards left of the ground and as quickly as I could, lift them and look underneath to see if I could spot a field mouse hiding in its tunnel. As winter finished its cycle, I knew to keep my eyes peeled for the first robin, a sure sign of Spring.

IMG_6531Spring is my favorite season. The smell of heavy moist dirt when the ground thaws is delicious! Purple crocuses would break through the thin ice crust that remained on the ground. We watched in awe as the red tailed hawk soared though the sky screeching at whatever would listen. I knew we would soon plant the garden and that meant catching salamanders! Perhaps my favorite things of all were the buds on every tree and bush that steal the show with brilliant greens, whites, pinks, purples, and yellows. Spring is adventure and playful. It symbolizes growth and transformation. Even the animals and plants play with pure joy.

We are passing through another Spring in the glorious cycle of seasons and I find myself staring at trees about to burst with new leaves and flowers. I search the sky for the red-tailed hawks and a few nights ago I heard frogs chirping in a wet area. Where I live now, I don’t have the same drastic change of seasons as I so fortunately had growing up. I have to search a bit harder to find the signs of change and new beginnings in nature. Now I search for whale spouts and an increased activity from the hummingbirds. My mom lives on the opposite coast and while we aren’t able to take the walks together with as much frequency, I still hold her hand on every adventure and I am illuminated with a connection to nature because of her.

As I pass through my favorite season defined by transformation and rebirth, I reconnect to playful childlike joy and dance through the days with admiration of Spring and all it symbolizes, all newness it brings, all growth it produces. So maybe tomorrow, instead of just passing through your day, can you pause at a tree about to burst with color or gaze into the sky at the soaring red-tailed hawk? Take a breath to reconnect to nature and to honor whatever might transpire for you this season.