Finding Joy in the Everyday

As an introvert, self-proclaimed homebody, and a lover of routine, quarantine life has not been as draining on me as it may be for others. However, even for me, the days and weeks of sameness, isolation, and uncertainty have taken their toll. I find myself battling my own thoughts, questioning my ability to make an impact, and feeling that I am stuck in a rut in all areas of life.

Fortunately, nature provides a much-needed boost. I know this to be true for myself, but more and more evidence seems to show that this is true in general. Spending time in nature is good for us, physically and mentally. For me, even just a few minutes outside helps me to remember that there is so much beauty, even in dark times, and that we never know what joys the future will bring.

Photo and description from the Merlin Bird ID app

A few days ago, I was struggling under the weight of a tough day and missing family members that I haven’t seen in months. After feeling particularly low, I decided to take a minute to rest on my back patio. I was treated to the usual chorus of bird songs. Then a song cut through the air that I hadn’t heard before. The unfamiliar trilling call was immediately cheering on it’s own, but also awakened my sense of excitement and curiosity. Something new to explore! My bird ID apps helped me to discovery that this new caller was likely a small warbler called a northern parula. A common bird, but one that was new to me, and one that I’ll be listening for from here on out.

It sounds almost silly as I write it, but that small moment was enough to remind me that what we are going through isn’t permanent. Each day is a new day, even when it feels the same. That day, it was a new birdsong. Last night, it was the familiar, soothing sound of a thunderstorm. Today, it was taking the time to count how many robins I spotted on my afternoon run (five). None of these were extraordinary moments, but all of them were simple joys. There’s a beautiful, living, changing world right outside the door. We just have to remember to look for it.

An Unexpected Encounter

One of my initial motivations for creating this blog was to encourage others (and myself) that exploring and appreciating nature doesn’t have to be a big production. You don’t have to climb a mountain, travel to a national park, or thru-hike the Appalachian Trail to experience the nature world (although all of those things would be amazing). It is simply about remembering to notice that bird outside your window, or maybe taking a second to appreciate those wildflowers while walking your dog.

With that thought in mind, I wanted to share my unexpected nature surprise from this evening. I went out to cut down a plant that had grown up between my deck boards (did I mention I hate yard work?), and as I pulled out one of the pieces, I met this little guy:

Now, I am no snail ID expert. I have no clue what species this is, and I don’t know anything about its natural history. I uploaded my photos to the iNaturalist app (a great tool for getting to know wildlife around you), so hopefully I’ll be able to learn more down the line. For today, it was enough to just spend a few minutes observing and enjoying an unexpected encounter.

Look closely to see the slime trail! A snail’s mucus allows it to travel on vertical surfaces or even upside down.

Did you have any fun nature moments today? Feel free to share what you saw or did in the comments. And if you happen to be a snail expert, please let me know what I found!

Noticing the Small Things

One of my original inspirations for this blog is that appreciation for nature doesn’t have to involve a big trip, overnight camping, or some extraordinary experience. We can experience the beauty of the natural world by simply taking a step outside the front door.

A couple of weeks ago, I stepped outside to bring in the trash can, and ended up falling in love with frost.

Nothing but crystallized water vapor, there is something about frost glinting in the sunlight on a bright, crisp winter day that makes me feel energized and refreshed. I ended up spending several minutes walking around and taking photos of frost in my leaf-covered yard.

An addition to enjoying the beauty, I also appreciated the line of demarcation in my front yard between the frost covered area in the shadow of my trash can, and the frost-free areas already exposed to the sun. Not exactly rocket science: we know the sun’s rays heat the surface and that frost forms on surfaces at or below freezing, but it is somehow satisfying to see these simple laws of nature carried out.

What are some of the little things in our natural world that make you smile? Have you been enjoying any winter scenery this year?