Thoughtful Thursday: Nature

October 24, 2013

Thoughtful ThursdayBoy oh boy do I love autumn foliage.

There are a lot of things I like about the house I now live in, but this red maple tree in my front yard may be my favorite.

(The color of the sky is accurate, but the leaves are even more vibrant in person.)


Before I lived in this city, I lived in the epicenter of foliage, the kind of destination to which leaf peepers make pilgrimages. And my house was surrounded by trees on all sides. It was glorious. There are a lot of things I don’t miss about that place, but at this time of year, I do miss the leaves.

I grew up in a place with no foliage whatsoever. Many trees weren’t deciduous, and the ones that did lose their leaves in autumn just seemed to turn brown. In high school biology class when we were learning about the leaf cycle, the teacher pointed out that the new girl had just moved from New Jersey. We all clamored around her, bombarding her with questions about the foliage. It was as if she’d just moved from Jupiter.

There are two things I really love about winter. #1: Walking outside in the morning after a big snowfall and trying to identify the animal tracks. In my previous locale, I did not love the snow that stuck around for months and months, and mostly I vastly prefer winter in my current city where the snow almost always melts instantly (and where we sometimes get days in the 60s or 70s). But, it was wondrous when I lived in the forest and tried to track all of the visitors who’d passed through my driveway that morning. Deer, rabbits, birds, squirrels, mice, beavers, woodchucks. There were some animals that I almost never saw, but they all left their mark. I loved solving the puzzle of the footprints, and I loved imagining them walking/running/hopping around my driveway while I was asleep.

#2: Super giant snowflakes. I’ve never seen them in this city, and only a couple of times in my last home; really only a handful of times in my life. My first time was during my first year of college, when I moved from a place where it never snows to a place where it snows plenty. One January day I was sitting in sociology class, and I looked out the window and there were marvelous, enormous snowflakes. Really enormous — some were as large as an inch in diameter. They danced through the air. It was like a cartoon version of snow. Everyone kept watching them dance. Even the students who came from snowy places were mesmerized. Our poor professor and Durkheim just couldn’t compete.

In the spring, daffodils are my absolute favorite. My appreciation largely stems from learning Wordworth’s poem as a child. When Burrito and Tamale were small, instead of telling them nursery rhymes, I’d recite poetry. When I was pushing them in the stroller in the spring, any time we’d pass daffodils, I was compelled to recite the whole poem. There are other flowers I enjoy too, but there’s something unique about daffodils that “my heart with pleasure fills.”

And in the summer, even though I grew up very close to the ocean, I don’t particularly care for the beach. I don’t like sand, I don’t like hot weather, I don’t like bathing suits, and I am unimpressed by flat coastlines. I do like the sounds of the waves, and I enjoy watching the surfers, but what really floats my boat are the hills and lakes of the Pacific NW. I shot the photo below just a few blocks from my house at the time; when I would come around a bend, or over the crest of the hill, and be confronted by a view like this, it got me every time.


What are your favorite aspects of nature?


9 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Nature”

  1. Sara Says:

    I grew up in Wisconsin, where we had two seasons: Winter and Road Construction (aka, Summer). You would be unreasonable to be surprised at snow any time from the end of October to the beginning of May. (My birthday is the end of April. It has snowed on my birthday. My sister’s is at the beginning of May — it has snowed on HERS). And then you get three months of HOT and HUMID. (Which actually, I prefer over OMG SO COLD MY BRAIN HAS FROZEN). But spring and autumn each lasted about three weeks before the Real seasons.

    When we moved to the Netherlands, it was the opposite — the two seasons there are Spring and Fall, with about three weeks of summer and three weeks of winter. I found I adore beautiful clear crisp fall days, and loved that it snowed only every other year and rarely got below freezing. The lack of summer, though, I found tough.

    Heidelberg so far seems to be much better: we moved in January and we got about a month of wintry-snow, which was beautiful and picturesque. We had 6 weeks of hot summer — even to satisfy my longing for real summer — and now we’ve been having a relatively beautiful autumn. Some days it rains, but when it doesn’t, it’s lovely. We’re hoping this weekend it won’t rain and we can go out and enjoy the changing leaves.

    (I’m not sure this will work, but let’s see:

    I snapped this on the way to get Gwen from daycare a few days ago.)

  2. ana Says:

    I also grew up in a place without deciduous trees (but I know all about pine cones and other coniferous tree detritus), and then moved to a place without seasons whatsoever (hot and slightly-less-hot)…so I am completely enamored with all things spring and fall! Love seeing the tulips and daffodils peak out, the cherry blossoms and pear trees in March and April (allergies notwithstanding), and the changing colors in October.
    I actually do love the beach in all its forms, just staring into the ocean is calming like nothing else for me. Walking along the beach, playing in the waves—that is my element.
    Snow—used to be exciting when I first moved away from the south. But living in the city, its only nice and clean for a few hours and then its dirty and disgusting. I do enjoy watching the snow fall or walking in a flurry.
    What I really truly miss right now is stars in the sky. I’ve lived in a big city for many many years with enough light pollution to obliterate even the larger stars. My kids have never seen stars.

  3. So much to love in this post. Sounds like you have lived in some gorgeous places — especially your current one :-).

    I’ll go with seasons, too.

    Fall: these colors. I was pointing them out to the kids today. They seem especially vibrant this year, but I bet they are often like this.

    Winter: ummmm….I don’t like to be cold. But there is a charm about coming home from a day of family sledding, starting a fire in the fireplace and drinking hot cocoa.

    Spring: crocuses in the early spring (maybe even winter) and the air of promise, of rejuvenation.

    Summer: sleeveless tops, flip flops, warmth, being outside more.

    I agree with Ana about missing seeing stars in the sky.

  4. St. Elsewhere Says:

    The chirping of birds, the shades of leaves, the splurge of colour…some of my favourite flowers, and how they silently propogate colour.

    I love the flight of birds, and the running squirrels.

    And the sweet fragrance of my favourites – tuberoses, Arabian jasmine and night-blooming cestrum.

    And most of all, that everything changes. And that it is too obvious to want to be feeling something else when the environment gets harsh.

  5. St. Elsewhere Says:

    And the changing sky…and the shades of blue and black and the stars!

  6. Cat Says:

    Asking what I like about nature is like asking which is my favorite cookie. The answer is all of them. I probably like flowers the best for outdoor nature (especially perennials that come back all by themselves), but tend toward leaves and branches for decorating themes in my home.

    I’m in WI and we get enormous snowflakes a couple times each winter. We were driving to IL one night when those big flakes were coming down and catching the light of the headlights. It was so mesmerizing it was almost dangerous to be driving. They also tend to be slippery when they land on pavement, do doubly dangerous. But they’re so beautiful!

  7. strongblonde Says:

    my favorite thing about nature is watching the seasons change. i love autumn the best. it is always like a surprise to see which trees will change first. always a memory game for me to try to remember what color they turn. i love the crisp air, the smell of the leaves, the crunching of them under my feet. i love the air smelling of apples, the taste of cider and donuts. i love football. the only thing that i don’t like about autumn is halloween (except i DO like the candy!).

    funny thing is that i am missing 3 weeks of my favorite season trapped in an area where i have to watch out for snakes and spiders, where the temperature reaches 100 daily, and where i’m in the middle of the jungle 😦

    can’t wait to get home and properly appreciate nature again!!

  8. Elana Kahn Says:

    Smells. There are certain outdoorsy smells that I just love (and some I hate, too…go figure.) I also love the pure beauty of it – trees, flowers, even a well manicured lawn. Algonquin Park, Canada and Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA are probably the two most beautiful places on earth. 🙂

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