By Sarah Hatfield

The end of the year article is always my favorite, a chance to write about the past year, or the wishes for the coming one. To provide an opportunity to reflect on what has passed in order to move into the future. I’ll be honest, it’s freakin’ hard this year. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to reflect upon. I have just found my energy reserves so low for so long, most of the energy goes toward the daily functioning of life.

This is where the joy of simple things comes in. It’s all a choice, right? You can choose to be irritated that the snow is falling or be indifferent or happy that the snow is falling. It doesn’t change the fact that the snow is falling. Let me share some simple moments from the last year in hopes that you’ll find your own moments that give you the energy you need.

A snowshoe hike on Valentine’s Day, spontaneous. We are both still in work clothes, dirty from the barn and rebuilding a truck. The sun was out, there was enough snow, the wind wasn’t howling, and the Christmas snowshoes were calling. Grouse tracks, picture-perfect winter landscapes, time together.

The steam rolls off the pans in the new sugar house, the stone walls condense and start to drip. The first time we fired it up, it turned into a sauna, steam so thick you couldn’t see the other wall. With each batch, we perfected the airflow, and the sweet smell of the maple sugar season filled our lungs. Knowing that the sustenance of the maples that stand in the backyard sustains us all year. (Maple syrup and sugar are in all the canned goods, pies, and cured meats that we make throughout the year.)

The blooming of the 200+ bulbs I had planted painted the yard with yellow, purple, pink, apricot, blue, white, lavender, red, and cream. Frilled, simple, dwarf, giant. It smelled so good, it looked amazing.

Tulip Photo by Sarah Hatfield

Breaking ground on a new building at Audubon, the physical, tangible continuation of what had been a dream for so long. The people that made it all possible, from start to finish, that supported us. The mistakes, the laughter, the unknowing — it all culminated in a finished product. Honestly it seems like it was a long time ago… hard to believe it was this year. The new birds that will eventually live in the aviaries of the Pamela A. Westrom Wildlife Habitat will touch hearts, inspire the next generation of caretakers, and awe visitors with their gaze and presence.

Botanical gardens in April, walking into the steamy tropical house, and the arid jungle displays. What makes it even better is visiting with family, who get a clean bill of health from the clinic, and celebrating by eating really good food, at a restaurant. Visiting gardens that replicate other places makes me feel inspired and small. There is so much we don’t know about the world, so much still to learn.

Photo by Sarah Hatfield

Rescuing baby owls. Two fluffy clumps on the side of the road. Did they fall out of the nest or did they jump? Too little to be on their own, I am grateful to know a friend who is a rehabber. With a wooden laundry basket, the tie downs from my car, and the watchful eye of her son (who happened to own the property they were nesting in), the owls grew up in their new makeshift nest and eventually left healthy and primed for life in the woods.

That just takes me to May. I could point out a lot of other things too – the ones that made me grumble, the ones that infuriated me, that made me sad. But what I want to carry into the new year is the calm, the steadfastness, the steady move-ahead energy of the natural world, because that energy makes my world better. I want to always stop and look at the geese in a v flying over. To smell the spring blossoms. And since the energy reserves are low, focusing on the small moments is what I choose to do.

How will you enter the new year? How will what’s outside impact what’s inside? I hope you find your own way to capture the moments, store the energy, and move forward as a new calendar year offers new potential.

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 or by calling (716) 569-2345.

Sarah Hatfield is Education Coordinator at ACNC.