Week of December 31, 2023 – January 6, 2024

Catherine McLaughlin, Environmental Educator at Baltimore Woods

by Catherine McLaughlin, Environmental Educator

The final day of the year, at least according to the Gregorian calendar. When many people create resolutions for the new year like being more active or getting quality sleep in. As we close the year we look back on what we did. We see all the things we wanted to change at the forefront and want to work at those – good for us for wanting to grow. However, I want to look back to what made us happy, what made you smile and laugh, what changes did you make this year that made it better than the year before, or even what traditions have you kept that you want to continue.

My biggest resolution this year was traveling and exploring nature alone more. There is a beauty of observing the same place and area for a long period of time, you learn who is there, you might have a fond tree or bird that hangs out with you in the garden. It’s interesting to know what each of us calls home or a familiar spot. For myself it’s a landscape much like Baltimore Woods, while others in my family have desert soils or tropical forests in other parts of the country. We have a connection with our environment just by being near it and we grow that deeper connection by actively cultivating our appreciation each season.

I had the chance to experience a different landscape and travel up to Acadia National Park for the first time this year. I drove up on my own (or well, does my dog count?) and had the chance to experience this beautiful place at my own pace. I could choose my own adventure and let my feet take me anywhere. I was only gone a few short days, when I returned, however, I could see the changes between the nature I had left behind to what I returned to.

Back in Central New York, it suddenly seemed quieter with the colder season. Squirrels had started to settle in for winter. The trees appeared to be completely bare as they had lost all their leaves. Now these changes would have happened if I was here or not, but that short trip away made the difference more noticeable. We grow used to the minor everyday changes around us as if they were background noise, but we would notice them if we took a moment to listen and watch. I think seeing the wonders of other places allows you to appreciate your own nearby nature in different ways.

In the new year I want to be able to live slowly, meaning take the time in our busy lives to simply exist. To absorb the sunlight and enjoy the everyday moments we have right in our own homes and backyards. Will you choose to join me in taking a moment, to live slowly, and just be with your surroundings this year?  And yes, travel as well to see new sights and freshen the eyes to what we see every day.