It’s Gratituesday! I’m thankful for sweet surprises out in the natural world this past week.
Two mornings in a row I encountered an elk herd grazing near my campsite. Majestic, serene, bigger than life, these animals seem unruffled by humans and all their noise. They tolerate our presence. They look on in what I imagine is amusement at all our accoutrements and fluff and necessary survival gear. Meanwhile they wander the forest finding what they need, surrounded by family.
Myriad numbers of squirrels crossed my path. Big fat ones, the size of cats! I’m afraid they might be getting too many munchies from the human side of the food chain, i.e., green apple flavored hard candy, (lick, lick, lick, lick, lick…) tootsie rolls, “cheese” covered corn chips, hot dogs, marshmallows, chocolate, taffy. Can you just picture their little food storage dens loaded with acorns, random candy and assorted junk food? They probably get through the winter on their body fat alone. Cute little critters though. I credit them with keeping the forest clean, the little foragers seem to love it all.
I also witnessed a variety of lizards, large and small, striped and plain, tailed and tail-less.
Butterflies visited a damp spot nearby every morning. I’m not talking your average run-of-the-mill monarch, although they are stunning. No, there were nickel-sized periwinkle blue fluttering songlets, yes, songlets. Their wings beat in a rhythm I couldn’t match and they flitted about like notes on a page, tones on a scale. Breathtaking. And the yellow butterflies were flower-petaled in their grace and color, elegant fliers with direction and purpose and no hurry to them at all. One morning a wasp or hornet of a variety I’d never seen before stopped by the butterfly watering spot. The stinger on that yellow and black sleek body was three inches long or more. Maybe it wasn’t a stinger, maybe it was a feeler, an antennae. I didn’t stick around to find out. Looked fierce enough to give it a wide path.
Did I mention the wildflowers? I need to learn their names. A snapdragon-like cluster of three-foot stems with pale blue curling petals lined our hiking path several times. And always there were ground-hugging miniature purple throw rugs of flowers. Bright yellow mini-daisies jumped out in surprising places. Even the Manzanita trees had blossoms on them, highlighting the deep brownish red of their bark. Fresh needles, soft to the touch and new-green, tipped the branches of every pine tree. There’s no air-freshener in the world that matches that scent!
Luckily nature didn’t provide too many snakes, bugs, spiders or stinging or poisonous plants. I got lucky that way. Sure there were a couple of blisters, a cold night or two, some scorching days, but all the beauties that nature provides makes time out in the mountains a cornucopia of things to be thankful for.
If it’s been a while since you’ve experienced the joys of the mountains, maybe you can enjoy Julie Andrews singing about that particular joy. If you listen closely at the beginning you can hear birds in the background. Nice touch.