Hello, 2021! What a beautiful new year we have ahead of us full of fresh starts, goals to be achieved, and memories to be made. Every day is precious and should never be taken for granted. When I want to feel gratitude, I seek it in the nature that surrounds me.
Just the other day before 2020 ended, my parents and I woke up early to go for a family walk around town. Although the views of Everglades City at sunrise are incredible to us, we decided to switch it up for once and drive a few miles down the road to walk the boardwalk at Kirby Storter Roadside Park. The park is located on Highway 41 in Ochopee, about 15 miles east of State Road 29. When we arrived, I slid out of the truck and turned to face the right. In front of me, I gazed upon the bare cypress trees standing far from each other in the tall grass. The chill of an early winter morning blew against my face as I reached to pull down my hat over my ears. As we began our trek down the boardwalk, we were greeted by a large group of small birds singing their sweet songs and gliding back and forth from tree to tree. One became so absentminded to our presence that it nearly ran straight into me. I stopped in my tracks startled and amazed to be so close to one that I felt the wind rolling off its wings against my nose.
In the distance, I could hear the constant sound of cars zooming past us on highway 41. It truly saddens me that people are in such a hurry to get where they’re going that they never think to stop and enjoy the little things that make life good. The innocence and beauty of the bird’s songs mixed together with the sound of traffic felt very off-putting, so I began to escape further with my parents into a swamp dreamland until the only sound we could hear was nature itself. The winter wind howled gently through the cypress trees, and the grass began to turn to the swamp where the water flowed so peacefully. The water was so clear you could see straight down to the bottom of the swamp floor, and the greenery beneath the surface swayed with the water flow.
My gaze immediately snapped up towards the sky as I heard the piercing cry of a Red-shouldered Hawk glaring and circling above us. I could tell he was warning the other creatures nearby of our presence in their swamp. Every inch and step of the boardwalk led to unique and different views of the Everglades that I’ve never seen before. Seeing the cypress stand strong against the gentle rush of swamp water gave me a new appreciation of my favorite trees. The winding boardwalk finally reached a dead end. I looked over the railing into the reflection on the water. The view held the reflection of the sky, trees, and clouds overhead, while being surrounded by a frame of bright green lily pads. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. My imagination pictured me diving into the reflection and traveling to another world of nature where I could walk and run and discover.
Instead, I awoke from the imaginary dream and walked over to the bench where my dad sat and sat next to him. On the bench across from us, my mom was resting with her legs propped up against the railing. Together, we closed our eyes and meditated. Just the three of us, alone in the Everglades, our favorite place to be. It’s moments like these that we feel so grateful to live where we can easily escape the reality and stress of life. What better way to be one with nature than to escape into it once in a while to not only find your appreciation for it but find the gratitude of life itself. We began hearing voices of visitors coming down the boardwalk towards us and decided it was time to head back to the truck. I stopped before the end and hugged a cypress tree because I felt so grateful for it. Every tree you see may not know you personally, but they love you so much that they produce oxygen daily to see you breathe. If that’s not true love mixed with magic, I don’t know what is. I’m a firm believer that nature can heal your attitude and soul. If you haven’t already walked the boardwalk at Kirby Storter Roadside Park, I highly recommend that you do it! If it’s a bit too far from you find another boardwalk or nature trail. Go for a walk with nature and I promise you the fresh air and beautiful views will bring you joy.