For more than a month now, I have been walking to work, home for lunch, back to work, and home again each day — even some days through drizzle.
I truly thought that, like breaking any bad habit or building any good one, that I would dread these small journeys or would try to find excuses not to walk. Surprisingly, that hasn’t been the case. I truly look forward to this new daily ritual, happily leaving my car parked in my driveway, saving on gas and propelling myself to work on my own two feet. Even on days I may have a meeting elsewhere, I have walked at least part of the day.
Along the way to work, I get to make small discoveries of nature’s beauty. As I’ve stated many a time in these columns, fall is my favorite season, and I absolutely love spending time outdoors in nature. I can tell a difference in myself on days when I get to be outside and days I don’t. I treasure the gifts God blesses us with in the intricacy and design of His creation.
After the rains this weekend, I have noticed several outcroppings of mushrooms in my yard. I am still working to try to identify them, just to satisfy my curiosity. I wouldn’t eat any mushrooms without an absolutely positive identification that they are safe and edible for cooking (not poisonous or inducing visions of talking unicorns). No matter their poisonous or non-poisonous characteristics, I am drawn to these clusters of fungi because of the buttery-nuttiness of their color and the amazing layers of the lamella (gills) beneath the mushroom cap.
Splashes of red catch my eye throughout my strolls. The vibrant red, almost lacquered finish of magnolia seeds are absolutely breath-taking. I do not think that such color and shine can be fully captured in any nail polish or car paint. The fact that these gorgeous seeds burst forth from a relatively unattractive, but protective pod called a follicle is all the more amazing. I love passing the large magnolia of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
I also love the gorgeous red berries of the dogwood tree. In the fall, the dogwood leaves redden, making the berries all the more striking. The Town of Halifax is blessed to be adorned with dogwood trees up and down King Street in our residential areas. In the commercial and government blocks, King Street has lovely dwarf holly trees that produce a deep orange berry. I haven’t paid close enough attention to know if these berries will redden closer to winter, but for now, they are a lovely autumnal orange.
In my walk past the magnolia tree at St. Mark’s, I also pause to note the intricate, lacy pattern of light green lichens and more sparing clumps of dark green, velvety moss growing on the brick garden wall surrounding the church. When my daughter was little, she loved to hold my hand and walk all the way around the perimeter of the wall, finally reaching a pillar at the corner nearest our house and jumping off onto the sidewalk.
When I arrive in our one-block commercial district of King Street, I admire the care taken to restore the buildings and the creation of our mural park, now a space for citizens and visitors to enjoy art and nature where once a dilapidated building sadly couldn’t be saved and had to be removed. A particular business owner always takes great care with the little touches that make a place feel warm and comfortable. Along the exterior of a business that will soon be opening, she constructed window boxes and currently has them filled with bright yellow mums that seem to radiate sunshine and make you smile.
I truly love my walks, and I thank God daily for the natural world that restores my soul. I enjoy walking by myself, to think, to pray, to be grateful. I chose to take pictures on yesterday’s walk in order to share my observations in this column. However, I usually don’t try to capture images; simply being outside in creation is just right. As Toni Morrison said, “At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”
In the dark hours of the morning before my walk when I let Sunny go outside, I was greeted by a tree frog, so tiny he fit upon the head of a screw. His surprising appearance thrilled me beyond reason, and I am still smiling now thinking about the miracle that is bound up in this tiny creature, his eyes, his skin, the pads of his toes, and his little beating heart.
Nature reminds us that in everything, even the smallest things, there is life and beauty. We just need to take notice.