Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unexpected Treasures

“I love to think of nature as an unlimiting broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only will tune in.”  ~ George Washington Carver

You know that almost magical feeling of walking out in the woods in the early morning?  The air is crisp and cool.  The early sun is casting odd shadows, its rays coming in sideways and deflecting off of every tree leaving striped patterns of light and dark throughout the forest.  There is usually a gentle breeze that plays with my hair.  It is the kind of serene setting that makes me breathe in deeply and smile.  I’ve heard it said that nature is God’s art.  That makes sense to me.  Nature has the most complicated textures, most true colors, and most unique patterns imaginable, down to the most microscopic detail.  Greater still, it is all in motion, alive and inviting.    

You know that feeling that you get on a really good run?  The kind of run that ends with a wish that you could just keep going?  Today was not that kind of run.  =)  I had a long way to go and I wasn’t feeling it.  However, I decided that I was going to enjoy myself regardless so I set out looking for things that I could appreciate.  I didn’t have to look far.

I soon came across a long black snake just off the trail.  He was about 4 feet long.  His head was so far away from his tail that I momentarily contemplated touching the tip of it.  I decided against it after a female runner raced past, greeted me with a friendly hello, saw the snake, and ran screaming down the trail and disappeared into the woods.  The snake and I were so shook up that I didn’t think it would be fair to risk scaring him any further.  I left him alone, disappointed that I had left my cell phone in the car.  He had some well-designed but subtle markings and I would have loved to have a picture of him.  I see at least one snake almost every time I am out on the trail.  They don’t scare me anymore.  I’ve become desensitized to their presence because of all the encounters I have had with them.  I know the areas to expect them.  I respect that they are wild animals and I usually stop to get a look but rarely ever bother them other than to move them off of the road if I know other people are following close behind me.  Most of the snake species are startled to see me and race off into the woods or the lake, but the black racers seem to be sleepy snakes.  Maybe they are just very confident.  They don’t get in a hurry and they aren’t too anxious about my approach.  If they are resting beside the path they may slowly creep off and into a low lying tree branch.  If they are on the path, they are usually so long that they touch both sides of the trail.  I just jump over them and keep running.       

Today was an especially neat treat because there were several turtles out.  I usually see them sunning on logs out in the lake but rarely ever are they on the trail.  After I left the long black snake I ran about ten feet before I saw a very large turtle crossing the path.  He was HUGE!  I wondered how old he was.  In general, the rule is the larger the turtle species the longer their lifespan.  Sea turtles can live up to 230 years while spotted turtles can live up to 70 years.  I don't know the particular species of this turtle, but I think it is safe to say that he must have had a LOT of great grand-turtles.

After leaving the turtle, I began looking for my next object of appreciation.  I came across a patch of wild blackberries just off of the side of the path.  Ecstatic!!!  There were only a handful of ripe berries left but they were a tasty juicy snack and I felt revitalized. 

After my snack I ran a little further into an area of the trail by the lake in which the ground covering is very thick and lush.  Every few steps I would be startled by a great rustling noise to my left or to my right.  The vegetation was too thick to spot the cause and despite the great ruckus I imagine it was caused by small creatures, probably a squirrel or a lizard.  Or a bear.  Whatever.  I was not sticking around to find out.

The prettiest thing I saw today was a patch of the forest in which the overhead vegetation is so dense that you cannot see the sky.  It is just a massive green canopy.  The sun never sees the ground in this particular spot so when you enter it you can feel a distinct drop in temperature, a welcome coolness that I found immensely refreshing.  Hanging from several of these branches were single leaves, each suspended by a sole strand of spider silk.  Each leaf looked a lot like a butterfly frozen in mid-flight.  They were suspended about eye level so I ran through them, the thin veil of leaves tickling my face.  I looked back to find that not a single leaf had fallen to the ground.  The strong protein fiber of the spider silk did not break.  The bright leaves were just swaying slowly back and forth.  This was much to my satisfaction as I wanted to leave this beautiful area undisturbed.     

Before I knew it my run was over.  My conclusion:  God is an excellent artist.  He loves to share His creation with us and watch us enjoy it.  He wants us to make the most of the talent He has given to each of us.  He knows that life’s race is like a marathon.  Like the volunteers who hold out cups filled with cool refreshing water to marathoners as they run, God’s "nature art" is meant to refresh us as we are moving along life’s path.  It is meant to make us breathe in deeply and smile, even if the particular stretch of life that we are on happens to be difficult. 

Now it is time for me to get back to work.  What's that you say?  Yes, it WAS a difficult but rewarding run, thanks for asking!  Yes, I DO deserve a pink champagne snocone!  What a great suggestion!  I think I will. 

Live life on the run, friend!  =)     

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