When you search the internet for “beauty in nature,” you get a lot of results. Most of them are pictures of far off places — mountains, lagoons, rolling hills. Everyone has a different opinion of what is or is not beautiful, but I think what we can all agree on is that beauty is all around us, we just have to be paying attention.
Throughout the year we have all sorts of amazing, beautiful things come through Audubon — winter lights, birds of prey, monarch butterflies, even taxidermied animals like bats and river otters. Every once in a while we have something completely new and exciting, and this month it has been a display by the Southwestern Elementary STEAM program. For a little over a month we have enjoyed their drawings of bees and paintings of amazing landscapes as we set up for public programs or eat lunch.
While I love the pictures that the group chose to display, one of my favorite parts of the exhibit is how they chose to display it. Mixed among the trees and bees are occasional pictures of and quotes by Bob Ross, an American artist who is probably best known for his PBS program called The Joy of Painting. He’s the guy with the big smile (and even bigger hair) who teaches people how to paint gorgeous landscapes.
I was never a painter, or even an artist for that matter, but growing up I loved watching The Joy of Painting. To this day I am amazed by his ability to magically transform a blank canvas into a realistic snapshot of a mountain range or river right before my very eyes. While I loved watching Bob Ross create his masterpieces, what I loved most about his show was his positive energy and endless words of encouragement. For example, in Ross’ world, there was no such thing as a mistake, just “happy accidents,” slips of the hand that gave his paintings and the landscapes he painted a little extra pop of life.
Ross had plenty of other good sayings. For example, Ross has an amazing quote about seeing beauty, a quote that is prominently displayed alongside the Southwestern STEAM’s art display. “Look around you,” it reads. “Look at what you have. Beauty is everywhere — you only have to see it.”
I decided it might be fun to see what different people defined as beauty, so I plugged the words “beauty in nature” into the search engine on my computer and clicked on the search button. Instantly my computer screen was covered in gorgeous pictures of colorful coastlines, majestic mountains, and other amazing coastlines. Page after digital page filled with landscapes of blues and greens and oranges.
As I scrolled through the pictures, I kept hoping that I would stumble across something that looked familiar, but every picture captured the beauty of some far-off place or some exotic creature or land. Where was the beauty that I am so used to seeing every day? Where were the flowers and insects and birds?
Walking around the trails at Audubon I see beauty everywhere I go, sometimes I just have to take a second to stop and appreciate it. To the average eye, a spider’s web might not seem like much, but I promise if you take two seconds to take a closer look you will see a masterpiece. The same can be said for a bird’s nest. Sure, we’ve probably all seen a million robin nests, but have you ever stopped to study how intricately woven every piece of grass is? While most of us think of sunsets and landscapes when we think of beauty, the truth is you don’t have to go far to find beauty in nature. You just have to be willing to see it.
Margaret is a naturalist at Audubon Community Nature Center.
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.