It took me a lifetime to realize what I'd been longing for. As a child, a young adult, and a grown woman, I longed for something. I can remember stepping outside at night, on some warm, breezy, summer evening, and feeling a longing, a sadness even, stirring inside me. In my teenage years I thought I was yearning for love. Teenage angst and all. But now, decades later, I realize that what I have been yearning for all along has been a connection to nature. Near as my backyard, a neighborhood park, the local nature preserve, the view from a Lake Michigan pier, the sound of a Robin singing at dawn, and again at dusk.
Waxing nostalgic, I recall childhood days spent at my grandparents cabin near Amery, Wisconsin. We would fish from the dock or go out in the fishing boat with my dad. We'd swim in the lake, or go for a walk down the dirt road and wander in the woods. We slept on the enclosed front porch of the cabin and would wake to a view of the lake. To the sounds of American Robins singing in the trees. That glorious early morning wake up song. To this day the song of a Robin is an all-time favorite. No matter where I am, in the city or in the woods, the Robin sings and I listen.
This is not to say that I have ignored nature until now. On the contrary, I have traveled to many parts of the United States and marveled at the glorious landscapes. The mountains, deserts, rivers, streams, woodlands and swamps. I have camped in the mountains of New Mexico, and hiked in the Badlands of South Dakota. Reveling in the beauty of these places. But still, the longing.
I fell in love. Got married. Still the longing. We have pet birds. Many of them. It makes it a challenge to travel far from home. We started backyard birding. I was amazed at how many different wild birds show up in our urban backyard. Amazing. I wanted more. I discovered that our local city parks have birds. All different kinds of them. During migration season even more. More amazement. The exploring began in earnest, every weekend, and any day off, different parks and preserves, in search of birds.
But then, some days, you don't see many birds. And I began to notice other things. The color of the leaves on the trees. The different shades of blue in the sky. The sound of a river flowing. The buzz of a bumblebee on a flower, the vibrant colors of flowers in bloom, or the textures and shades of decaying plants and leaves in the autumn and winter. I began to notice that each season had more beauty than I'd realized before. It's not that I was blind. I just didn't get it. My perspective changed. My view through the lens changed. And the longing was finally identified.
I didn't have to travel across country to appreciate nature. To connect with nature. Nature's beauty is right here. It doesn't mean I won't travel. That there aren't other places I want to see. Adventures to seek. But I've learned an important lesson. Like Dorothy, I needed to go home again. The power had been with me all along. I traded ruby slippers for well worn hiking shoes, opened my eyes, and took a deep breath of the Wisconsin around me. There's no place like home.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, and nature lover. I've been keeping closer to home these days, and truly discovering the beauty that lies in The Park Next Door.