by Debbie M
A short essay on my personal experiences and memories of the "natural world".
| ODE TO NATURE
Some of my fondest, most “centered” moments have always come from experiencing wildlife and nature firsthand.
When I was a child living here in Northern California, I used to make up stories about the squirrels, birds, opossums and raccoons that would come into the open field behind our house. Strange, I know. I suppose it must have come from one of my favorite stories at the time, The Wind IN The Willows and, of course, all of those brilliant Disney classics with the talking animals. I just really got into anthropomorphizing animals. Not a good thing, to be sure. I was just a kid with an “overactive imagination”, as my teachers always seemed so fond of telling my parents.
I moved to the state of Washington when I was an extremely awkward preteen. I found solace from my lonely, perplexing struggles at an impossibly cliquish elementary school through the marshes near my home. Once again, my overactive imagination was allowed a bit of freedom, fueled by nature.
Puget Sound offered a considerable amount of calm, itself. My parents would take me, my sister and brother out on a ferry from Seattle nearly every weekend. I loved gazing out upon the water, allowing my mind to drift to distant thoughts and far away lands.
It was in Washington that I first encountered Native Americans, as well, on Whidbey Island. It seems a cheesy exaggeration to say this, I suppose, but I truly was in awe of them. They seemed otherworldly and yet, at the same time, so grounded ; so deeply rooted within the land and to all that was natural, valuable and real. I remember feeling so much respect for them, so comfortable with them and unjudged. There was such a sense of peace and familiarity about them. I suppose it must have been a mutual understanding and respect for the natural world. I’ve kept that feeling with me to this day.
When I had returned to California a shy, daydreaming teenager, my father would take our family nearly every summer just after the 4th of July to a cabin in the Redwoods ; Richardson’s Grove, to be specific. I loved all of those nature walks among those majestic giants, loved going to all those charming little gift shops and learning, yet again, of the local wildlife.
All of my youthful experiences with nature have finally, ultimately, inevitably led me to volunteer at the local wildlife rehabilitation center. I had hiked so many times up into the two nature reserves near that facility as a child and many years later with my own daughter, to whom I have hopefully passed on the love and respect for nature that my father had first given to me.
The director and veterinary technician of the wildlife rehabilitation center are both truly dedicated and are extremely knowledgeable of the many birds and animals that come into their care on a daily basis. It’s an amazing thing for me to be able to say that I have, thus far, encountered an enormous Great Horned Owl, a willful young squirrel, and three ravenous fledgling sparrows as well as 5 ducks of which species I have yet to identify that were hatched and raised , unbeknownst to their 4-H caretaker, illegally. I have already learned so much on my first day and it has inspired me to do so much more to both help and to educate others on the protection and conservation of these incredible creatures and of their environment.
Just recently, something deep down has reached back through my childhood and brought it front and center to my conscience and impulsively or, rather, instinctively, I have suddenly come to see nature and all of its wildlife so much clearer. I want to somehow thank it all for helping me through so much confusion, worry and stress that I’ve experienced throughout my life and for reminding me of what truly matters.
“ The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
~ Anne Frank ~