Sunday starts spectacular. A sixty degree spring day with an invitation from a good friend are enough to coax me out of my fair weather nature lover hibernation, back into the warmth and outdoors that I love. It’s been months. Our destination is Akron Falls Park in Western New York for some hiking. This was a favorite place when I was in high school. Nearly forty years have passed since I’ve been, so I’m looking forward to seeing what may have changed since my friends and I had time to sprawl out on blankets next to our cars, soak in the sun and chat the day away.
The half hour drive to the park is a treat in and of itself. I choose a route where the less trafficked rural winding roads are a perfect excuse to turn up the music and enjoy. The farmers are out on the tractors and that fresh smell of spreading fertilizer fills the air. I don’t mind the unmistakable smell, my nostrils accept all that my open window has to offer, just as my eyes appreciate the wide open space set out before me in beautiful patterned fields.
When I arrive at the park, it seems much smaller than I remember. I meet my friends and a hiking group at our predetermined spot and after polite introductions our stroll begins. Akron Falls, the namesake signature forty-foot waterfall that highlights the park begins the trail. The water is gushing today, still overflowing from the torrential rains that fell in the days before, which allows for a mighty view and scenic photo backdrop. After group shots and selfies, we continue on our path bordering Murder Creek, the source of the falls. We hike for a bit, puddle jumping and straddling the mud-soaked ground. To the left of us are small tree-laden cliffs that send down mini waterfalls of their own, producing glistening streams over black shale and creating pools at our feet. Moss has made its pretty carpet over the fallen trees, and we have fun identifying and admiring the new spring growth including trout lilies, coltsfoot, wild ginger and white and purple flowers.
Since this is my first hike of the season and I am accustomed to facing a computer Monday through Friday, I take a rest and settle on a perfect perching log on the edge of the trail, content to let my group go on ahead without me as I sit and observe. The passing hikers are friendly and many have dogs, so I have the good fortune of getting some pets in with the exchanged pleasantries. There are many families out today. Across the creek is a park with a playground in close proximity to the creek. Squealing children delight on the swings, walking the chains into twists and letting them go until they spin. And boys, both little and big are heaving rocks both little and big into the water, somehow a nature must for humans I’ve decided, that I will never grow tired of watching.
I like to sit in nature to slow my world down and reconnect with my five senses and beyond. It is an extra perk to see people take time to fish, bend over to pick up sticks and play. There must be a small airport nearby, as occasionally a Cessna makes its way above my head. As if to mimic, far away in a field through the trees I can see several small remote control planes scatter themselves about. When a Dad walks by side by side with his little girl’s small fist wrapped around his pinky, it makes me happy. When he picks her up and places her beside him on the railing of a small nearby bridge with his arm securely wrapped around her to enjoy the creek view, it makes me happier because I can feel the love he has for her in the moment.
Before long, our group returns to that same bridge where I rejoin them. I’m told that I just missed the legend of how Murder Creek got its name, which I am in a way pleased about since the father/daughter silhouette is still etched in my mind. We head back to our starting point saying our goodbyes and my being grateful for a wonderful start to my hiking season.
As I take the same relaxing route back home through the countryside, one of my favorite songs, Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” comes streaming through the radio. The timing is exquisite as his gentle voice sings, “In your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches,” at the precise moment I pass a small chapel with a sign out front. “Love always perseveres.” I smile in agreement, thinking back to all of the families I saw today, thanking my friend and saying to myself, “Ah yes, and so does nature.”
Mary Clista Dahl has been exercising her passion for pouring out her heart and soul on paper from the moment she first held a pen in her hand. Her desire to promote joy, love and compassion through the written word, combined with a perpetual calling to help, have become the foundation for her life’s work, Capture Life Writing. A people and nature lover, Mary receives most of her inspiration by connecting with the outdoors and others. After more than thirty years of assisting college students with their life and career paths, she is transitioning to her idea of heaven on earth, spending time with friends and family and playing at the nature preserves and beaches of Florida. Besides taking nature walks, her greatest joys come from being a Mom, encouraging others and being a lifelong listener of the most gratifying statement ever, “Have Mary do it, she likes to write.”
Photos by Mary Clista Dahl
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