Nature’s Gifts and Surprises

As the last day of 2012 dawns, I am reflecting upon the many gifts and surprises of Nature. Fortunately, I recorded some of these in writing or with my camera. Others were so fleeting that, as Ann Zwinger wrote, they stayed “only long enough to be remembered.”

Almost three years ago, I chose the following quote by Ann Zwinger to be the theme of my blog – always something new to discover. In her book Beyond the Aspen Grove, Ann observed, “There will always be something new to discover: a minute moss never found before, a rabbit eating birdseed with the birds on a hungry November day, a bittern that stays only long enough to be remembered.”

Nature surprised me many times this year. I’ve selected four of my favorite discoveries to share today as 2012 draws to a close.

Red Fox Pups (as described in my blog on June 10, 2012)

In the afternoon, I spotted three fox pups just by driving down a shady street in an old Colorado Springs neighborhood. The juvenile foxes were fending for themselves, at least for a while, as no adult foxes were in sight. The adults were probably away from the den hunting for food for their fast-growing pups. One pup was lounging in the cool grass, while the other two reminded me of periscopes as they poked their heads out of two different holes in a broken sidewalk. A space under an old sidewalk had become a home for this family of red foxes.

Red Fox Pup

The Volunteer Peach Tree

One mid-summer morning, I noticed a soft orange globe in the middle of our backyard aspen grove. From my kitchen-window vantage point, I was too far away to clearly see the object. Going outside to investigate, I laughed out loud as I discovered a beautiful, velvety peach growing on a very spindly tree. A squirrel must have taken a peach pit from our compost and dropped it in the shady aspen grove, not an ideal place for a peach tree to grow. But grow it did. My husband and I waited for the peach to ripen for about ten days, then plucked it for an afternoon snack. Yum!

Ripening Peach

A Great Blue Heron

September is the month for prospecting for the shimmering gold of autumn aspen leaves. Less showy, but also beautiful, are the russet and orange colors of the cattails, grasses and willows. While hiking north of Woodland Park between a meadow of tawny grasses and a ponderosa forest near Manitou Lake, a pale blue shape in a pine tree caught my eye.  Perched on a branch of a ponderosa was a Great Blue Heron! The long-legged heron looked so out-of-place, yet it really wasn’t, as the lake was nearby. I simply had never seen a Great Blue Heron in a ponderosa before.

Great Blue Heron perched in a Ponderosa

An Early Valentine

Yesterday, my husband and I took advantage of a partly cloudy Sunday afternoon to look for waterfowl and white-tailed deer at Fountain Creek Regional Park. The ponds had already frozen over, so we didn’t see the ducks and geese we’d expected. We did see a small herd of white-tailed deer, instead of the mule deer that we usually see on hikes in Colorado’s foothills and mountains. As we circled around one of the snow-covered ponds, a heart shape appeared at the pond’s edge. Someone had brushed away the snow to create an unexpected Valentine – a symbol of love that seemed to embrace the end of this year, and the beginning of a new one.

Snowy Valentine on icy pond

Photo Credits: All four photos by Melissa Walker

One Response to “Nature’s Gifts and Surprises”

  1. dianeelliottlee says:

    I so enjoyed walking through each of your nature surprises with you in this blog Melissa. I am reading Ann Zwinger’s book finally. Both of you keep me in touch with all the glory and mystery of the natural world that God has given us to enjoy. Thank you for this past year of articles. I, for one, hope we all get to continue on this journey with more nature writing from you.

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