Beauty All Around Us

Last week I spent at least a half hour observing nature in my back yard. A doe and two fawns were on their way through the yard. The mother ate while the little ones played. They ran back and forth chasing each other, then returning to be close to the mother. They were so beautiful. Their coats were almost like cinnamon.

My neighbors and I have been observing three families of deer as we drive up and down the road. Depending what time you travel you really have to watch. The young ones are not particularly afraid of cars. They look, and then wander across the road anyway.

That sort of reminds me of when the children and grandchildren were small. I was always thankful that there was a large bank at Hickory Heights. It saved not only the children, but the pets. When we lived at the farm it was a different story. The sidewalk led right out to the road. I worried that the little ones would not watch for cars, but would wander out in front of one. We lost a great dog that way. Heidi saw my husband across the road by the barn and darted across just in time to be hit by a car speeding down the road. Since the stretch of road was downhill, cars went faster than they should have.

Deer are not the only animals that have been observed. One morning on my way to my volunteer station I had to wait for a flock of turkeys to cross the road. Turkeys are not the prettiest of animals, but when you get up close you notice their gorgeous feathers. One year our principal shared the wild turkey he got when hunting with the children. I eagerly invited him into my classroom since many of the children would not have the opportunity to see a real turkey otherwise. The children “oohed” and “aahed” over the beauty that they observed. Of course, that led to a discussion about hunting. Although I am not a hunter myself, I do not object to hunting when the bounty is taken home to feed a family. Animals suffer a much worse experience if they are left to die of starvation.

Summer is the lush season. Everything is in full growth at this point and is a lovely shade of green. We have had sufficient rain – actually, more than sufficient at this point – so things are really growing. I was out of town for a week and was surprised to see how my flower beds had filled in. The day lilies were in full bloom which of course means that by now they are gone. Day lilies are one of my favorite wild flowers. They are new every morning. Now that I think about it that reminds me of a Bible verse that I remember learning a while back. It was displayed on the wall at the cancer center, I think.

Years back we had many morning glories. They work the same way. They blossom for a day, and then they are gone. Nature has so many wonderful surprises for us if we are but observant. I miss the days when I could share the wonder of the nature with first my own children and then my grandchildren. The young are excited when they discover something new. Our outdoor explorations frequently led to research and artwork. I loved displaying their pictures on my refrigerator if I could get them to leave them here. Often they wanted to take things home to share with their parents.

Wildflowers are abundant. The roadside is colorful. I got excited when I spotted some sweet peas along the road in one spot. That used to be one of my favorite flowers when I was growing up. They grew on the bank by the little cottage that my aunt and uncle owned. We used to pick them to put on the dinner table.

I picked a few black raspberries the other day. They used to grow all along the road, but now there are only a few of them. When my children were very young we walked along the road and picked berries. The children could see them from the stroller and pointed them out. I would climb a bank and pick samples for the children to enjoy on our ride. Our road was not nearly as busy in those days.

I treasure the trees that shade Hickory Heights. When we first moved here there were four very mature cottonwood trees on the property. First, one began to drop branches on the porch. My husband and father-in-law took that one down branch by branch. That Christmas all of the ladies got new wooden boards that my father-in-law created. I still have that board to remind me of the tree that we lost. It is great because it has a rim on three sides. We use that when we frost and decorate holiday cookies.

Another one of the cottonwoods fell during a storm in the 1980s. They are really shallow rooted. The wind simply tipped it over. The last two trees went a few years back. I noticed that each of them lost a lot of branches whenever it was windy. The one tree had been struck by lightning several times. You could see on the bark that the lightning traveled to the ground. I also noticed that the squirrels were storing hickory nuts inside. That could not be a good sign. I worried that if either of these trees fell they would severely damage the house.

I contracted to have them removed. Each time a storm whips through here I am thankful that they are gone, but I still miss the gentle rustle of the leaves.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.