Pay attention: Nature's putting on a free show.

Too often I forget to pay attention, but not today.

We live in a lovely old farmhouse on about 20 acres on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. It's about 200 yards from my kitchen door to where we park our car, and as I step outside, to the east—when it's not foggy—I can see Wright's Ridge of the Massanutten Mountain Range, just a quarter of a mile or so across the one of the river bends. Because of its shadow, the sun has not yet reached our yard at 8am.

On either side of the walk, my flower beds now at the end of April are filled with late daffodils, irises, and tulips; soon my alliums will be blooming and the daisies will get taller. The “Knockout” rose Daddy gave me will provide a riot of color all summer. The weeds will get ahead of me if I don't work on them soon.

Heading down towards the barn, the four different types of maple trees are now in full leaf, each offering a different shade of green to reddish brown. I walk under the old Catalpa tree‘s dense canopy, then step under an oak tree's leafing branches. The poor sickle pear tree next to the drive bloomed its heart out this spring, even though it is old and gnarled and has a hole straight through the trunk, where goodness knows what has sought shelter. Let's just say I wouldn't stick my hand in that dark hole.

Gazing out over the yard, the white-trunked sycamores mark the edge of the river, just out sight below the bank. I can smell its dank, fresh, river scent, even an eighth of a mile away.

The scent of the lilac bush is my last sensory treat before reaching the car and heading out for an appointment.

I've made this walk thousands of times in the 30+ years we've lived here…far too often, rushing and distracted, I forget to pay attention and miss not only the visual treat, but also the calming effect that Nature has on me. I'm determined to be better at paying attention whenever I'm outside. When I do, it puts problems in perspective and reminds me how lucky I am to be alive.

ACTION STEP: The next time you go outside…or even look out the window… take just a moment to really see and appreciate something in your  natural surroundings. It can be as large as a mountain or the sky, or as small as a leaf or a patch of moss growing between two bricks or stones. By making a habit of this, you will be amazed how much more connected you will be to Nature a year from now.

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