My husband and I took a walk at Jackson Park on Christmas Day. The weather was mild and sunny. Perfect for a winter walk. There were lots of other folks out in the park as well. I love that. Seeing friends and families enjoying their neighborhood parks during the holidays.
For me, there is a mix of anticipation and melancholy around the holidays. But I'm always a bit more blue when all the hustle and bustle is over. It's a long slog to spring from here.
In recent years I've made it a goal to get outside on winter days, to find the beauty in it as I count the days to warmer spring weather. Today I took a hike through Stigler Nature Preserve. It was chilly, and a bit cloudy, but it was a pleasant hike. And, again, there were plenty of other folks there doing the same. Walking with their children, walking with friends, walking their dogs. And a few solo hikers like myself as well.
When I arrived at the footbridge over the creek, I stopped to admire several newly built rock cairns artfully placed on top of some of the bigger rocks in the creek. I took a few photos. Then I heard a voice behind me asking "Do you like them?"
I turned to see a smiling young man and responded "Yes!". We talked for a few minutes and he explained that he had just assembled them. That he sometimes visits the preserve to build new cairns, varying the size and shape. I took a few more photos, and continued on my way.
This is one of the things I love about nature, how it connects us in a myriad of ways. In this instance, nature inspired an artist to build some rock cairns in a creek. His art becoming a part of the scenery, and shared with all who pass by.
As I continued on my hike, I felt my sense of blah start to lift. In a season of such heightened expectations, we can only be disappointed. How could I expect the holiday season to deliver all the joy that seems lacking the rest of the year? It's up to each of us to seek out what brings our spirits joy. And, of course, that will be different for everyone.
For me, I realize, more and more, it means being in nature in some way, on a regular basis. I know it won't solve all my problems, vanquish all my worries; but it helps to free my mind to see the beauty in my little corner of the world. And to want to share it. With you.
It's a difficult time of year for so many. The holidays, marketed as the season of good cheer, can also bring a multitude of sadness, grief, and loneliness into our lives. The loss of loved ones, whether through death, distance, or parting of ways, feels more profound in a season where togetherness is billed as the ultimate goal. I'm not saying we shouldn't strive for that togetherness. I crave it, too.
But if you often feel pangs of sadness during the holidays, let nature be your comfort. Get outside. Yes, even in the bitter cold; and take a walk through your local parks and preserves. Or, even, local cemeteries. Not always thought of as places of natural beauty, cemeteries are actually quite lovely. Peaceful, with paths to walk, birds singing in the trees, and benches for rest and contemplation.
My parents elected to have their ashes scattered in a river 5 hours away from where I live. I often feel myself missing having that touchstone, that grave marker, that memorial. But walking in local parks, and in local cemeteries, even though they are not physically there, helps me to feel closer to them in some way.
Today I visited my father-in-laws grave at St. Adalbert's Cemetery. I confess, it really helped to be in his presence in some way. It also helped me to feel closer to my parents, even though they are not buried there. Whatever works, I suppose.
After our visit, I took some time to traverse this historic Milwaukee cemetery. There's a lot of beauty there, though it is moments from the freeway and city traffic. And it was bitterly cold! I plan to go back on a warmer day to spend more time taking it in.
In the meantime, take heart, sad souls. Find the joy where you can this holiday season, and embrace those moments of sadness, too. After all, it means that the ones you miss are loved and well looked after in your heart.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.