Hopewell Borough Park – A cold morning walk.

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It has been a long time since my last Walk in the Woods and I have been craving a reconnection with the natural world for weeks now. There have been deadlines, meetings and many errands as well as preparing 70+ children for their annual holiday concert at the daycare where I work part time as a music teacher. My own children have been sick- ‘Tis the Season to be Sneezin’- and the myriad of responsibilities that go along with being a human being at the prelude to Winter has had me feeling overwhelmed and depleted.

Just like cooking, some of the responsibilities and joys in my life had to simmer and so my walks in the woods were moved to the back burner as I tried to stir all the pots that were heating on my stove.  My time in the woods replenishes my spirit. The quiet, the smell, the colors and textures, the presence and absence of life in the outdoors is what coaxes me back to my true nature.

As I remember the birth of my youngest, I recall how weak and unwell I felt afterwards.  I could not sit up, yet I still kept struggling to get out of my hospital bed in order to see my little one. The nurse who was taking care of me insisted that I remain lying down.  She said “First, put on your own oxygen mask. You can’t be of help to anyone else unless you have taken care of yourself first.”

Her Words of Wisdom remain true. How often do we compromise our own mental and physical health in order to keep all the pots cooking and the house from burning down? Today’s walk was the comforting and delicious chicken soup which my mind and body so desperately needed. I spent most of my time looking for frost covered leaves so that I could blow on them and watch the ice melt, a nice antidote to all the heat that I had been feeling. It was relaxing and peaceful and exactly what I needed in order to dampen down all the fires which were burning in my life.

For this holiday season I am asking all of you to put on your oxygen mask first and do something which rejuvenates and restores you. Make it a priority to do something for the pleasure of it, not because it is something you have to do.

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Creeping Charlie (ground ivy), Glechoma hederacea, an invasive that is the bane of my flower garden’s existence. No matter how often I pull it out, this recalcitrant vine keeps on creeping back into my flower beds.

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One of my favorite things about a Walk in winter is observing the frost covered earth. This morning, the ground sparkled as if a little fairy had sprinkled glitter all over. My oldest has been talking a lot about pixie dust and flying and I wish that he had been with me this morning so that I could show him the shimmering ground. I could imagine him rolling in the sparkles and then running fast while leaping into the air in an attempt to fly. I remember that I was determined to take flight when I was a child. My brother and I made a hang glider-like contraption with some dowels and a sheet and I ran as fast as I could and jumped off our porch….. and crashed to the ground. I climbed the trees in our yard reaching more than 20 feet up by the time I was four years old (the same age as my oldest) and I can’t imagine the anxiety I caused my parents. My oldest is also a fearless climber and I am sure that the day will come when he tries to build his own wings in order to soar. But for now, pixie dust and his own imagination will take him skywards.

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Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, berries. As the migrating birds pass through there are fewer and fewer berries left behind. These berries were quite shriveled but I am sure they also will be eaten soon.

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I haven’t seen many mushrooms as of late, but these ones looks so neat covered in frost!

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Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, and Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata. These two invasive plant species are some of the last to go dormant in the winter and some of the first to awaken in the spring.

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I love how this frozen puddle looks like a topographic map! I am curious about what may have caused it to freeze in this manner. I inspected the puddle carefully and it didn’t appear to be shattered in the center. My husband is a GIS (geographic information systems) developer and I know that he would get a kick out of this ice ‘map’.

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Virginia Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana, a native edible hiding beneath the dormant Goldenrod is receiving its last bit of photosynthesis before descending into winter’s sleep.  I love this little bit of foreshadowing of what is to emerge in the spring.  It is something very yummy to look forward to!

 

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