|Dewy Wingstem seen at a Nature Ramble (Verbesina alternifolia)|
I try to be a cheery person, but lately I have really felt the worries of the world weighing on me. It just feels like there has been one awful thing after another for months now. The tragic earthquake in Mexico City. Hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean. Even a tropical storm up here in North Georgia. The death of an old friend. Constant, ugly politics. Social unrest. Data hacks. Nuclear missiles. Health. Family. Good grief. All together, it has been overwhelming and it is hard to not get bogged down and filled with despair. Sometimes my shoulders hurt and I find myself clenching my teeth and needing to remember to breathe. There are days I don't want to leave the safe comfort of my snug home/nest.
|Gynandromorph (has characteristics of both sexes) Tiger Swallowtail in my own yard! Good thing I went outside that day!|
|Field Milkwort (Polygala sanguinea) from a wildflower field trip just over the NC border. A new flower for me!|
|I get a lot of happiness seeing the fine details of tiny things like this immature grasshopper. Look at its eyes and the markings on its body.|
But I come back to this time and time again. Along with my loving and supporting family and friends, one sure thing that always soothes my soul and helps me keep moving along is to put myself in nature. To take a Forest Bath, as my photo buddy Marilee would always say. When I take a walk outside in the woods or in a park or a field or our yard, and look and smell and listen to the greater world around me, troubles melt away. I can feel calm and wellbeing seeping through me from the first step on a leaf covered path. Out in the wildflower meadow, it is very difficult to hold onto those scary thoughts that want to take over my brain. The sadness, anger, frustration or fight or flight response are replaced with awe and appreciation and wonder. The endorphins course through me when I see a butterfly or salamander or rare flower or magnificent forest and I can feel the optimism and happiness push their way to the front of my brain. I start planning my next hike or trip or photo safari and feel motivated to immerse myself in the things that I love and find are most important, rather than letting those more distant and abstract worries drain me.
|A giant Black and Yellow Orbweaver spider and her egg sac at the nature center. The sack was hanging 15-20 feet away, so the size comparison is not accurate. But that was some spider, and some egg sac.|
|There are few plant activities as fun as popping the seeds of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). They are trigger activated and when you touch a ripe pod, the seeds shoot out. It is very surprising. And fun! Seen with friends in NC.|
Part of a healthy lifestyle is to be active and reduce the stress in your life. Nature walks cover both of these. Of course, most of my walking on the trail is pretty leisurely and needs to be supplemented with harder exercise from time to time. But getting out and moving, even slowly, is so much better for you than sitting at the computer or on the couch. It is good for you physically and just makes you feel alive. So I have been trying to take advantage of every opportunity for family camping trips, bird walks, wildflower field trips, rambles, nature lectures, school trail guiding and hikes with friends that I can fit in.
|Kidneyleaf Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia asarifolia), one of the spectacular flowers we got to see on the wildflower field trip to NC.|
|A tiny salamander, about 3/4 inch long form head to tip of tail. I thought it was a little worm in the wet dirt.|
|An Orbweaver spider gathering up the silk from the web she had stretched out this morning. She will digest the silk and start a new web tonight. You can see her spinnerets on her abdomen.|
|Big Praying Mantis seen on a Nature Ramble. I think her abdomen is full of eggs.|
I often prefer to walk and explore on my own, but these days I have felt a strong desire to surround myself with friends. It's nice to have people to talk to and share with. And it is especially nice to walk up to the trail and be greeted by a friendly face (or 20!). Being with other people helps remind me that there are many others who care about the same things that I do. Sometimes when we set off on our hikes, we commiserate for a moment about the latest bad news, but then we quickly move on to the purpose of the day, whether that be wildflowers, birds, insects or just exploring the trails at a new location. It feels healthy and good to be connecting, sharing, moving, and appreciating together.
|Sleepy Orange Butterfly Chrysalis seen on a Nature Ramble at the Botanical Gardens|
|The rich blues of Downy Lobelia (Lobelia puberuba)|
Because, in reality, we never know how much time any of us have to appreciate the beauty of this wonderful world. Tragedy strikes when we least expect it. So spend your time appreciating what really matters--family, friends, and this amazing world we live in.
|The vibrancy of this gruesome but beautiful scene almost took my breath away. Purple, yellow, green.|
A lucky Yellow Crab Spider has caught an unlucky Bee Fly.