Several years ago I took my parents for a short walk in the woods. This was a couple years after they downsized from a house in the country to a smaller, more manageable home in a more developed area. My dad kept looking up at the trees and reveling in how huge they were. He must have mentioned how tall they were a dozen times. I think it had been a bit of time since he had been surrounded by trees and it showed. He kept staring up in wonder while speeding through the woods. The walk didn’t last long, since he was a bit beyond his speeding years by then, but I will never forget how much he truly enjoyed the forest that day.

I looked at the forest that day through my father’s eyes and it changed the experience. My wife and I walked that trail almost every day, so the trail was familiar and comfortable and, frankly, not so amazing to me. I hadn’t looked at the trees with that kind of wonder before. My dad brought a change in perspective that changed the way I viewed the trail.

A change in perspective takes something familiar and forces you to look at it in a new way. This past year has caused a lot of change in perspective. There have been a lot of changes in the world and my life that forced me to leave my comfort zone and adapt, readapt, and then change some more. It has been a year to shift perspectives, re-examine beliefs and look at my place in the world.

It reminds me of one of the first times I shifted perspective, from being scared of the dark to embracing it. (Insert your favorite “embracing the dark side” joke here.) The dark wasn’t just scary to me as a child, it was terrifying. I was the kid who wouldn’t go down the hall to my room unless the light was on and who stared at the wood grain on the closet doors and saw only monsters at night. It was a pretty big deal for me to not be scared anymore.

Photo by Jeff Tome. A forest can be more interesting if you walk with someone who is amazed by it.

I embraced the dark wholeheartedly. I started walking the eleven acres I grew up on in the dark. The change in a familiar landscape at night was fascinating. Trees and fields and trails that I knew intimately all looked different in the dark and moonlight. It was the same place, yet somehow not the same. The darkness added a sense of mystery to familiar haunts.

Nighttime hikes continue to be one of my favorites. I love camping trips partly for the excuse to get out and see what the place is like in the dark. The change from familiar to unfamiliar changes how I see the world.

Audubon put together another project that is changing that perspective again. This spring, Audubon Lights will light up almost half a mile of Audubon’s trail with spotlights, lasers, and other lights, thanks to a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and sponsorship from FSC.

That changed my perspective yet again. Now, I look at trees for how they could hold the light. Trees like aspens, maples, and pines reflect the light in interesting ways compared to dogwoods and alders. Ponds turn lit trees into reflecting Monet landscapes in the dark. The Nature Center, surrounded by trees and ponds, turns the backyard pond into a reflecting pool of light.

I walk the trails now with a different perspective. My minds’ eye tries to capture what the landscape will look like painted with a shifting color palette of light capturing the beauty of the landscape or with lasers shifting on branches. There’s dozens of ways that I have had to reimagine the landscape as we merge light and dark together.

Come down and see how our Audubon Lights team did as we tried to recreate the darkness at Audubon by painting it with light. Audubon Lights runs Friday and Saturday Nights from March 26 through April 10. Reservations are required and can be made online.

There are so many ways to look at the world, but it usually takes trying to look at the world through someone else’s eyes to see the world in a new way. It’s been fun to recreate the dark world of night with lights, changing how I see the world. I hope it changes how you see it too.

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.