Do you ever get caught up in your mind’s obsessions about work, an argument you had with your significant other, a family issue, etc.? The impact these ruminations have on our psyche is not good. That’s where mindfulness comes in. As you open yourself up to be in the present moment, esp outside in nature – notice the fragrance in the air, the bird in the tree, the sensation of your foot steps on a pebble or the dirt. Doing so, you begin to separate from the drama, the “stuck” feeling, frustration or other negative emotion of your thoughts. You broaden your perspective and open up to the newfound energy from your immediate experience here and now - the awareness of just “what is” all around you. Just like you’ve been missing out on what’s in nature, you’re probably missing out on what’s happening to the loved ones in your life. Your nephew or niece, son or daughter, or grandchild has a new toy they want to share with you. Your loved one wants to seek your advice on a work issue. Your friend needs your shoulder ….. The more we open to the present moment, the more we experience what’s truly important. When you come back to your earlier rumination, it feels a lot less “dense” or heavy, less significant, or of less importance overall. In fact, you may have discovered an entirely new approach to the problem you hadn’t had the “room” to discover before.
Yesterday, I was out walking my dogs between rainstorms. I committed to being present for them– knowing they would enjoy this time after being cooped up in the house during the storms. Rather than rushing their joy because I had another agenda, I just let them be dogs – taking in every scent they could along the way. As we walked, enjoying the present moment, I began to get a “feeling” that something was about to happen in nature. As I walked, I could hear Cedar Waxwings nearby. We circled the block and on the sidewalk before me, in front of house after house, was berry “debris”. Still listening for the Waxwings, I wondered “Do Robins and Waxwings eat the same berries? Do they ever forage together?” And nature responded. One or two houses down, amidst the quiet of this day, I could hear the fluttering that could only be birds – LOTS of them - softly flying among leaves around the tree. I looked up to see an entire flock of Robins flying in and out, grabbing berries, arguing between themselves. I stood for the longest while, enjoying this moment with nature – Robins doing what they need to do to survive, eating as many berries as possible until they were satiated and grew quiet and still. And there among them? Cedar Waxwings of course! I was elated! I decided to take advantage of their current “food coma” pause after the big meal to run the dogs home, grab the camera and get back to the scene. And when I returned, there they still sat – looking plump and content. What beautiful birds….
Had I been ruminating, had I not been in the present moment with the dogs, I likely wouldn’t have noticed these beautiful birds. Lifted by their beauty and these precious moments with them, I felt ‘lighter’, grateful for nature’s beauty and the opportunity to experience it. The rain may be coming back but the dogs and I had had our moments in the fresh air – and returned home refreshed.
What might you be missing in your life? Take a moment to be in the present moment - wherever you are. Breath in the fresh air. Listen for birdsong. Walk the dogs. Do whatever it is that lifts your heart. You can learn more about mindfulness and the benefits of the present moment from Oprah and Jon Kabat-Zinn here.
And if you should see a Cedar Waxwing or Robin in distress this time of year, please call your local wildlife rehabilitator or facility. Often these birds ingest fermented berries and as you can appreciate, “drinking and flying” don’t mix well. Working in wildlife rehab, I have encountered “drunk” Cedar Waxwings who just needed some time to ‘sober up’ and safely fly again. As always, thank you for caring for your local wildlife …. and enjoy the beauty of the winter season and all of its surprises!
As I mentioned in part 1 of this blog series, I’m a big fan of the gift of time together. So whether you take one of these ideas or simply use them to inspire your own, the important thing is to just go have fun together! And don’t forget, it’s always lovely to give the gift of a donation to one of the causes that your Valentine supports. The non-profit can always use your support, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
Here are my TOP 10 ideas of the perfect day spent with your nature-, bird-, or animal-loving Valentine. There’s likely so much to explore together in your local area.
Idea #1: Plan a picnic in a local park or at the beach. You can even create a picnic theme – maybe it’s a typical lunch, or perhaps it’s just dessert. Either way, YUM!! (Too cold? Grab some blankets, hot cocoa and picnic in your car in a nice setting!)
Idea #2: Are you near a rocky shoreline? Tidepooling is a fun activity that gives you the benefit of that salt air, and satisfies the need for new experiences – no two tidepools are alike. Explore the creatures you find within...
Idea #3: Fancy a hike? There are typically ample parks around your area. Ground covered in snow? How about bundling up and snowshoeing (rent them if you don't have them already) out amidst nature...
Idea #4: Enjoy being out on the water? How about a guided kayak tour, a sailboat excursion, a whale watch, or even Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) lessons
Idea #5: Plan a trip to the local Botanical Gardens – explore what’s in bloom, what birds are visiting, and just generally enjoy being together among the beauty
Too cold for outdoor activities where you live? No problem! Here are a few for indoors:
Idea #6: Take a walk through an Arboretum enjoying what's growing inside
Idea #7: Find an IMAX, library, local Audubon Society or related gathering or MeetUp of birdwatchers, nature lovers, and others to enjoy a special program on nature
Idea #8: Visit a museum celebrating some aspect of nature, or rent a movie (Netflix, Redbox, or elsewhere) to explore a nature topic of interest together.
Idea #9: Visit a winery in which you can look out onto gardens even during winter, while snuggling over a nice glass of wine
Idea #10: If all else fails, plan for a drive in nature, complete with snacks for the ride(!), exploring a new location and enjoying the scenery. The important thing is that you’re together doing it. So make the most of this special time -
Other things to notice when planning your activity:
Are there migrating birds, whales, seals, or other animals in your area this time of year? You will see different birds in your area, depending upon the season. Some are there only a short time, others year-round. Are any of the animals changing in some way this time of year?
Now, some of you are bound to be thinking, “I want to go bigger”. Good for you! You’re definitely into planning and if you’re going to plan it by this Valentine’s Day, I would suggest you need to start working on it ASAP. Otherwise, certainly a “promise note” of surprise this Valentine’s Day for a future trip is just as exciting – and allows the two of you to plan it together. See part 3 of my Valentine’s blog for some "big" ideas based on my own personal experiences.
Meanwhile, if you’re sticking closer to home, enjoy planning your day! Relax and unwind in nature together. And enjoy the inspiration from my own nature experiences featured in my Valentine’s cards, products, and photographs for this and many other occasions.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, here’s wishing you and your special someone a wonderful Valentine’s Day…
I’ve created some special products this year just for Valentine’s Day, but I’ll come back to that in a second. For every special occasion, I’m a big fan of giving the gift of time. Valentine’s Day is no exception. We get so busy in our lives that it’s easy just to go to dinner somewhere and call it a night. What takes more time is to plan something unique for your loved one – something that is specific to their interests and involves quality time together. I’ve put together a Gifts list of just such “experience” ideas. You can be a thoughtful partner this Valentine’s Day and every day - planning out special days or outings for the nature/animal/bird lover in your life. I’ll cover an example list of such activities in part 2 of this Valentine’s Day blog.
So back to the new products this Valentine’s Day….
I’ve created part 1 of this blog with a Valentine Gifts list of ideas for your nature, bird, or animal-loving Valentine. If you fancy a physical gift reflective of their interests, there are a variety of subjects across landscapes, animals, and birds. So while I have a pillow that features a zebra, you can also create a pillow of a garden, a particular bird, or many other animals.
Herein a list of gifts to get you started:
Idea #1 – A heart-shaped ceramic ornament they can hang anywhere and all year long
Idea #2 – A custom luggage tag or nature-themed neck tie to remind them of you wherever they go
Idea #3 – For the ladies, a beautiful scarf to enwrap her in a picture from nature.
Idea #4 – To give them a different kind of ‘warm’, a flask to carry their favorite libation
Idea #5 - To protect your beloved’s treasured electronics while taking along a bit of nature: a cellphone, ipad, laptop cover or sleeve
Idea #6 – To keep the treasured jewelry you’ve already gotten them: a wooden jewelry box
Idea #7 – To light up their world: a candle or lamp – hanging, lamp shade or table/desk lamp
Idea #8 – A custom wine-carrying box to surround their favorite bottle of wine
Idea #9 – A big floor pillow you both can use to snuggle up together and watch your favorite videos
Idea #10 – The “coziest” gift of all: a nice warm blanket for snuggling up together – this Valentine’s day and many more to come!
You can get Valentine cards and more ideas, such as shot glasses, BBQ aprons and teapots, in my Collections and Storefronts, below:The next step is to add to your physical gift an actual ticket or a customized handwritten or printed “representation” of an escape or nature activity/experience you’ll gift them with for Valentine’s Day. I’ll hook you up with those ideas in part 2 of this Valentine’s Day blog. Until then, remember:
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir
Happy shopping and Happy Valentine's Day!