Walking along the trails at the Audubon, the ones I’ve walked so many times this summer, I take in the fresh air and the calming atmosphere of the forest. With each step through the woods, my senses are flooded with the various sights, sounds, and smells of my surroundings. I see a chipmunk scurrying up a tree and watch as it runs along a lower limb. I hear the call of a Red-winged Blackbird in the distance, the sound of the breeze traveling through the trees, and the rustling of the leaf litter beneath my boots. As I glance to my right, the rays of sun breaking through the tree canopy show the shimmering of a newly spun spider-web between two branches. As I approach the web to get a closer look, I see its creator sitting near the center, waiting patiently for its prey to become entangled in its masterpiece. Now, I’ve seen my fair share of spider-webs, but I had never noticed how intricate these delicate creations could be. Each hike through this forest leaves me with a new discovery, a memory to add to my collection. How, you may ask, does one discover new things on a trail they’ve taken numerous times? The answer to that is simple, you tune in to nature.
Tuning into nature isn’t as easy as the flip of a switch. For some, it may take time and practice, and others may have no idea what I’m talking about. Let me explain. It’s like trying to tune a radio into a specific station and the static is so thick that you can only hear the most distinct parts of your favorite song, but as your fidgeting with the dial, it starts to become clearer and clearer, until eventually you can hear the individual sounds of each instrument in the band. Although it may take time to get the sound just right, the results are worth the wait. Tuning into nature is similar. While hiking through the woods, you may hear the calls of multiple birds, unable to distinguish one from another, they all sound strikingly similar or maybe you might see a few flowers along the path, and in passing admire the beauty of the brightly colored petals. Noticing things does not just mean acknowledging the most obvious stimuli, but rather seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling the finer details. If you take the time to truly notice what is around you, you may be able to pick out the slight differences in the bird songs and notice the texture and shape of the flowers leaves.
As children, we are curious and wonder about the world around us, and as we grow older, some lose that inquisitive mindset, and for others, no matter how curious and interested they may be, they often do not notice what isn’t directly in front of them. If you are patient, calm, and curious, you may begin to see, hear, and smell things you’ve never would have realized were there. Tuning your senses and minds to become intertwined with the details of nature can make every walk through your backyard a different experience. Once you tune into nature, you are submerged into this universe that is full of things just waiting for you to discover them. Walking through the woods you may notice the elaborate, abandoned tunnels of bark beetles on an old, fallen branch, or the tiniest of caterpillars munching away on an oak leaf. A stroll along the edge of a pond might show you a Northern Water Snake, well blended in with a log, basking in the warm sun or a Monarch butterfly egg on a milkweed leaf.
I’ve met quite a few people who don’t share the same enthusiasm and enjoyment of nature as I do, and that’s perfectly okay. A hike with a good friend taught me that even those unexcited by the woods and dirt can find a new sense of appreciation if they’re given the opportunity to (and are willing to) shift their senses towards discovery. So, next time you visit your favorite nature spot whether it’s the Audubon Community Nature Center or even your backyard, try to tune in to nature. Notice, wonder, and explore the world around you with a newfound view. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells surrounding you with child-like curiosity. Experience nature and most importantly, enjoy it.
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 open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.
MacKenzie is an education intern at Audubon.