By Jeff Tome

My brain does not work when my body is still. Ideas come best when I am hiking, walking, biking or fidgeting. Sometimes I feel like a squirrelly kindergartner that can’t sit still in the circle on the carpet. This makes working at a Nature Center really good for the way my brain works.

I go for a hike at Audubon almost every day before work, and often wander out during lunch or after work as well. My goal is to hike at least a mile daily, but more important is to find my center.

There is a calm spot in the center of my heart and soul. This is the place I prefer to operate out of. This center is full of creative ideas, good at complex logistics, and able to take the big picture view of things. Everything seems simpler when I am moving through my thoughts physically and mentally at the same time.

The term “Nature Center” for me has come to mean much more than a building or the animals and exhibits housed inside. It is also a reference to how I center myself in nature in order to function at my best and, honestly, to feel and be my best.

There is so much to see at Audubon, that my decisions on where to go are based on dozens of factors, from how much time I have in the morning to what is happening outside. Reports of River Otter sightings last week sent me walking out to Big Pond several mornings. One morning, there was nothing but beautiful reflections in the water. Another morning I spooked up a pair of Sandhill Cranes, which made beautiful warbling calls as they took off into the distance.

On the third morning, there was nothing moving on the pond but geese. Disappointed, I walked away, but turned back to admire the fall leaves and their reflections in the water. At that moment, a River Otter appeared. It was swimming with its head out of the water further than I had ever seen and made a fascinating sound that was halfway between a snort and a purr. While the otter quickly disappeared, the snort-purr call lingered and faded off into the fog as the otter swam away.

Photo by Jeff Tome

Every morning on the trails is different. Some days are filled with amazing things, like otters and cranes. Other days there is only the beauty of being outside in an unpredictable environment.

That may be the best part of being outside. There is no way to know what will appear next. Will it be a River Otter swimming and snorting in the pond? Will Sandhill Cranes fly overhead? Will a Bald Eagle or owl be watching me quietly from a tree? There is unlimited potential in nature. The only way to discover it is to go outside, often.

According to comedian Nick Offerman, ‘I’m not a botanist or a birder, but I greatly enjoy all of the flora and fauna. But I’d say it’s more of a state of mind that I’m looking for. I can walk on a trail almost anywhere in any climate and say, “What a delightful walk this is.” 

That is a sentiment I can relate to. Audubon Community Nature Center has six miles of trails. Sometimes, visitors can find amazing sights, like River Otters and Sandhill Cranes. Other times, there is only peace. Either way, it’s a win.

For me, it’s a great place to start the day and center myself. Sometimes what I find fills me with jaw-dropping wonder. Sometimes it is just a delightful walk. The more I walk, the more those moments of jaw-dropping wonder occur. If those moments don’t happen, I still centered myself on a delightful walk in the woods.

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 still open from dawn to dusk but Liberty, the Bald Eagle is currently off display during the construction of the Pamela A. Westrom Wildlife Habitat. You can visit her on her Facebook page. The Nature Center is partially open, including restrooms, the Blue Heron Gift Shop, and some exhibits. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.