This past Sunday, my nine-year-old grandson (Jack) and I visited a nearby nature preserve, our first visit to this location. Most of us conjure an image of raw, unblemished wilderness with the term “preserve.” Not so this Harvest Square Nature Preserve, an approximately 70-acre parcel donated by the developer of an adjacent commercial property. The Preserve includes two lakes totaling 17 acres. The lakes are borrow pits that furnished fill for the commercial construction. The term borrow is a bit of a misnomer – the developer removed the fill permanently. The action does not constitute borrowing.
Yet I digress. Man-made as they are, the lakes are rapidly naturalizing. As we exited the car, a great blue heron rose from the larger lake’s shore and flew into the mature trees southeast of the lake. We noticed that a small creek east of the lake had recently over-flowed its west bank into the lake. Evidenced suggested that such an overflow occurrence is not rare near the active beaver dam along the creek. Small wonder the trail we traversed is named Beaver Dam Trail! Thus, critters and flora of all stripes routinely exchange between lake and stream. Cattail rushes line the east and north lake shore where the trail led us. Other wetland-related vegetation, from grasses to blackberries to young ash and willow provide human-impenetrable cover 10-15 feet tall. Small birds flitted among the late winter seed-sources. We watched a pair of mallards foraging along the west shore. We saw beaver-gnawed sapling stumps along the north shore. I could go on and on about the magic, awe, and wonder inspired and enabled by the simple act of excavating fill for a shopping center, and then having the foresight and land ethic to create a grandfather and grandson-friendly preserve. How simple… how exquisite!
Inspirational contemporary poet Kathy Parenteau authored Oh Mighty Oak:
Stand tall oh mighty oak, for all the world to see,
your strength and undying beauty forever amazes me.
Parenteau speaks through pleasant verse of storm clouds, winds “high and restless,” suffering loss of a limb or two, yet growing stronger for the pain and strain. She suggests of the oak that “we could learn so much from you.” She prays for the same perseverance and the strength to face each day with hope whether the skies are blue or storm-darkened. Parenteau concludes that each day is a gift and every moment is to be treasured. “It’s the simple things we take for granted that become our ultimate pleasure.”
Yes, we can draw ultimate pleasure from the simplest of nature’s blessings. Whether fortuitously or deliberately, the developer left a stand of upland hardwoods bordering a cultivated field (33 acres still farmed under the donation agreement). The relict stand includes a few of its own mighty oaks, long-term witnesses to all that has touched this 70-acre parcel over more than a century. Grandson Jack and I covered the entire preserve. We enjoyed every moment, including accumulating loads of clayey mud as we traversed the open field (covered in last summer’s corn stubble and now sprouting winter rye), searching for arrow heads and finding none. Jack and I could not have better spent several hours. I cherished our time appreciating nature’s healing power as it transforms a borrow pit to magic, and exploring the diverse habitat encompassing just 70 acres. We both found inspiration from our venture.
Parenteau described her own inspiration: “I wrote this poem many years ago when I was grieving my grandfather’s death. He was a published poet and the light of my life. I saw him as that oak tree. He was always so strong and his faith never wavered. He taught me so much about life and love and family, but most of all about Christian faith. He will be forever missed but someday I will meet him in heaven and until then this will always be my tribute to Caleb Fowler, the greatest man I ever knew.” I pray that Jack will carry his memories of me and our shared ventures forward as life unfolds for him.
I urge you to find pleasure in simple things. Nature’s simple things are rich with beauty, awe, magic, and wonder. Watch for them in your life and work. Share them with the people you cherish. You will live on only through the seeds you sow.