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Nature, outdoors were bright spots of 2020

2020 was the year nature never closed while everything else did.

Nestled in the front of my Christmas tree there is a new ornament that I got just for 2020. It is a COVID ornament, but not the spiky COVID ball or the Santa with a mask on. My 2020 ornament is made of recycled steel and features two people hiking.

The things I most want to carry away from this year are things that have been ingrained on my heart since childhood. Nature is bigger than our human problems. The outdoors is mostly free to explore and never closed. Nature provides a steady stream of amazement that cannot be replicated inside.

The hiking ornament represents my best memories of 2020. We explored every rock city we could find in the spring when everything closed down. My kids and I climbed up steep crevasses between rocks, clambered up boulders, and leaped off the tops of rocks with a joy that only comes when exploring a brand new place.

Finding new places to explore was one of the best parts of 2020. We found wildflower sanctuaries nestled next to baseball fields with some of the richest wildflowers in the area.

Creeks were explored with willful and wet abandon, regardless of the temperature. We skipped rocks and designed creek engineering projects and learned how to dry wet boots.

I rediscovered the pleasure of biking with my daughter and logged hundreds of miles on the bike this year. My favorite times with her this year were mostly on a bike, talking about the world from her perspective and mine as we biked further and faster over the year.

The bike rides after dark with a headlight were some of the best and something I plan to continue as long as the bike trail is free of ice.

I believe we choose the memories we wish to keep by revisiting them, reliving them, and relishing them. These are the memories that I am choosing to keep from 2020: the joy of exploration, the excitement of new places, and rediscovering the joy of biking.

Thinking and rethinking about things grooves memories deep into the mind. I want the memories of the good times to settle deep into my memory. Other things will never be forgotten, regardless.

It will be hard to forget the social distancing, the masking, and the isolation. It will be hard to forget the raw nerves of people who are together too much of the time. The challenges of 2020 will not be easily forgotten.

I will not forget learning that my sister had COVID. The restless nights of worry after emergency room visits won’t disappear because I am focused on the good things. The frustration of only being able to help from a distance won’t disappear because of the enjoyable bike rides. Worry and anxiety create their own paths in the brain and don’t disappear easily.

What will last, though, is the eternal ability of being outside to wash away those problems for me. It’s hard for worry to rule the heart when lying next to a pond while a River Otter catches and crunches fish fifty feet away. Anxiety is easily startled out when a sandpiper flies out from nearly under your feet with a frightening “Squork!”.

Now, heading into 2021, I am working to empower the good memories: the exploring, the biking and all the rest, and work to make more memories of good outdoor times in the coming year.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is partially open, including restrooms, the Blue Heron Gift Shop, and some exhibits. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling 569-2345.

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