I have always considered myself a Roadside Naturalist.
Some roads are noted for their wonderful views, such as California’s Big Sur Coastline and the 17-Mile Drive outside of Monterey. But even roads like I-5 can let you find a gorgeous tree in pink splendor or Highway 395 can drive you past autumn colors. The noted artist Christo even planned his Umbrellas Exhibit—in both California and Japan—along common roadways. No matter where I go, if I pay attention, I can usually find some glorious aspect of Nature to appreciate.
In fact, Nature and Solitude are such rejuvenating forces that I used to take Nature Solitude Treks every spring. The frequency of those trips, however, stopped when I moved into administrative work and no longer had May as a regular time off. And then I had a series of major surgeries starting in 2006 and my chances to get out into Nature dwindled even further. I still valued Nature and sought it out, just with less planned intention.
This spring, I finally took another Nature Solitude Trek, this time traveling over 6500 miles and stopping at national parks and wildlife refuges along the way. I did not complete major hikes or camp out under the stars. In fact, most places I visited I made sure had scenic drives as part of their layouts and options. It is amazing how much Nature you can enjoy, literally, along the side of the road. Some of those roads were bumpy unpaved dirt roads while others were interstates, and still others were county back roads. But they allowed me to get close to Nature, even though I cannot walk very fast or very far anymore.
Below are some of the photos taken from the car that show the Nature I encountered along the many, many roads I traveled on this trip. It was a glorious time. And not one flat tire or speeding ticket!
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
CAPITAL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, NEEDLES SECTION, UTAH
COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
GARDEN OF THE GODS, COLORADO
PIKE’S PEAK FROM COUNTY ROAD, WOODLAND PARK, COLORADO
BOSQUE DEL APACHE WILDLIFE REFUGE, ARIZONA
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA
SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS
(Actually two little trips before and after my big driving trip in Spring 2014)
This trip immersed me into the overwhelming and rejuvenating power of Nature and Solitude. In today’s world, when we are urged to see multi-tasking as an expectation, when the Internet and social media bring us news and oddities alike in the blink of an eye, and when reality shows focus so often on people doing stupid things rather than on a delight of Nature, my escape into Nature was a real treat. This trip confirmed that the best way to approach Nature is as a child excited by the ant and butterfly alike, curious about birds and squirrels and whatever catches her eye. This trip reminded me of the power of wonder and mindfulness to help keep me balanced and spiritually aware. As a result of this trip, I remembered some simple truths that can help me lead an engaged, wonder-filled life, no matter how hectic my life gets:
- Don’t multi-task your life away. If something is so unimportant that you need to be doing something else at the same time, why do it at all?
- Slow down and look around. You will never notice the natural wonders around you if you just keep rushing to the next item on your to-do list.
- Be like a child and capture the wonder of each moment—it is the only way to build memories.
- Express your gratitude and appreciation for nature, life, relationships often.
What truths about life help keep you grounded and sane?
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SOME QUOTES ABOUT NATURE, WONDER & LIFE
“Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.” Basho
“ah, sweet spontaneous earth…” e. e. cummings
“We need the tonic of wildness—we can never have enough of nature.” Thoreau
“The spirits of the road beckoned, and I could do no more work at all.” Basho
“Silence alone is worthy to be heard.” Thoreau
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Omar Khayyam
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” W. B. Yeats
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Emerson
“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” Betty Smith
“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” Franz Kafka
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Goethe
“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.” Charles Chaplin
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” Socrates
“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” G. K. Chesterton
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” Aristotle
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” Buddha
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G. K. Chesterton
“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” Neil Armstrong
“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” Albert Schweitzer