“As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.”
John James Audubon
In my mind, one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to yourself or to another is the delight of an acquaintance with Nature.
Making Nature’s acquaintance requires just one easy step; you must step into her presence.
You might step outside your door to marvel at a tenacious flowering weed growing in a crack between stones.
Or you might step into an immersed experience of woodland, field, mountain, shore, or sky.
From carefully examining the tiniest blades of grass by your toes to pondering the awe of a star-filled sky, the never-ending surprise of the natural world can quench the spirit thirsting for reminders of the wonders of life.
With only minimal planning, we decided that a hike this weekend to someplace new would be a refreshing retreat. I read about an Audubon sanctuary in Westport, MA on Buzzard’s Bay, not too far from home. So off we went.
At Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, I learned that John James Audubon himself had spent time there visiting friends in the 1840’s. One hundred and forty years later, descendants of Audubon’s friends sold much of that farmland around Allens Pond to Mass Audubon, thereby preserving over 600 acres and making it available for public enjoyment. I'm grateful for the work of those who preserve the land for us and future generations.
So there I was, walking the land that Audubon himself had walked.
There was a magnificent coastal salt pond and its marshes, dense shrubland, sand dunes, ocean waves, and woodland streams providing habitat for a wide variety of birds and animals.
I was amazed by thick walls of glacial stones that had been built years ago to form divided pastures where grazing animals could take refuge.
We walked the Beach Loop with its bayberry, beach plum, salt marsh sparrows and shorebirds. The route was at first mown grass, then sand and rock, then dirt trails. The songs of birds, the lapping of waves on the shore, and the smell of salt air awakened the senses.
We came upon a young girl taking thoughtful photographs with a large digital SLR camera.
Good, I thought; a budding photographer who will show others what she knows of beauty and discovery. Good, too, for the family who brought her there, encouraging her firsthand observations..
Then, in my memory, I was carried back to happy times shared together with my own family on the New England coast. Cherished times.
I was also brought back to warm summer days when I taught professional development art classes on the shores of Buzzards Bay to hundreds of dedicated classroom teachers so they might in turn gift their students with pride of place. We need caring stewards of the land.
I was brought back to seaside painting excursions as a teenager with my own art teacher.
And I was brought back to treasure-hunting on the beach with my mother as a little girl.
It all begins by stepping into Nature's presence.
Once home, kissed by the sea breeze, warmed by memory, and enlivened by the walk, I felt as though my day had been well spent. Somehow, it answered a call I didn’t know was calling until I stepped outside.
Now, dear one, turn away from your computer and at the very least, go gaze out the window at the natural world--your incredible home in this immense universe--and marvel at this wondrous experience called your life.
To visit the Mass Audubon Allens Pond website, click here.
For Audubon Centers and Sanctuaries in the U.S. nearest you, click here, Audubon.org