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Nature Notes July 2008

READ IT HERE • WEB ONLY STORY  When Every Day Is The Best Day! by Ken Leinbach, Urban Ecology Center Executive Director What a great day to be alive!  It’s pouring rain like cats and dogs outside my window and I can’t wait to get outside!  As a kid I remember the great regattas when the street gutters became our fantasy world and popsicle sticks became elegant racing canoes.  We navigated rapids, waterfalls, eddies and the dreaded maple leaf dam.  Now that was living! What a great day to be alive!  The wind is howling and the sleet is pounding on our windows and I can’t wait to get outside!  Ice is forming fast on the roads – the perfect condition for skate sailing, a game we invented in rural Michigan that involved skates on our feet and as many umbrellas as we could carry.  Worked great going down wind (I bet we exceeded 30 miles an hour!) and was great work going back.  What a great day to be alive!  The sun is shining without a cloud to be seen and I can’t wait to get outside!  Grab the magnifying glass; put on the sunglasses and carefully burn, with the focused energy of the sun, the image of a tree into the cedar shake.  Some 35 years later, Mom still has this gift hanging in her home.  As a kid, you just live. Life is what it is without a whole lot of philosophizing.  As an adult, you have more choices, more ability to create what the “is” is.  Over the past year I have struggled a bit through a form of mid-life crisis and questioning, looking for deeper meaning and purpose.  As I ponder my 45 years of experiences, I reference my youth, when every day, no matter what the condition, was the best kind of day and I just have to smile.  There is no need to overthink this existence. It’s much better to just get out and be a part of it!   What a great day to be alive!  The beech tree is rustling in the wind with branches bending to the southwest and I can’t wait to get outside!  Our acrobatic kites were always at the ready and off we’d go to play with the elements! The secret, I’ve found, is finding joy in any of Mother Nature’s gifts.  Not sure where to start?  Let us help you.  Next time it’s raining, come to the Urban Ecology Center and check out the new aqueduct system that brings rainwater through a series of mounted gutters into the pond. It’s way cool and you might want to bring a popsicle stick or two for a race (many thanks to Pragmatic Construction for donating time and materials to construct this work of interactive art).   If it’s sunny, stop by and we might be making cookies in the solar oven, our solar panels will be humming with electricity and recently I’ve rekindled a passion for solar art with a magnifier (You won’t believe what a four foot diameter fresnel magnifying lens can burn!).  Wind’s up, come fly a kite, and if you don’t have a kite, one is always on the ready at the Center.   When one is connected to the natural world, every day has something worth getting out of bed and going outside for, be it meteor showers, butterfly migrations, northern lights, hummingbird courtship rituals, visits from the snowy owl, the blooming of the pasque flower, the running of the red horse suckers, etc., etc., etc.  These things happen all the time, right here in our neighborhood, whether we pay attention or not.  It is so very easy to let the drama of our lives keep us from noticing.  However, noticing and appreciating these events and cycles can heal some of the hardships and drama of life. What a great day to be alive!  The beech leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear and I can’t wait to get outside!  Time for the big hunt!  Off we’d go with sacks in hand to seek the elusive morel mushroom and the more prolific fiddlehead ferns.  Just a few made for a delicious omelet. If we hit the jackpot, it meant spending the morning threading the stems of the mushrooms together for air-drying, making enough preparations for delectable omelets all year. Next year, when the beech tree leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear, come hunt with us for morels. Ginger, on staff, found some this spring right here in Milwaukee.