Vail Daily column: Appreciate the ordinary
March 18, 2017
Did you know there's a wildlife safari right outside your window? I watched it the other day, marveling at how much I must miss simply by not looking. I had opened my window to let in some of that fresh, spring air and within minutes, I saw four different species of birds. It's so easy to get jaded and forget that we see extraordinary things every day, but even when you find yourself facing sadness and struggle, finding beauty in the ordinary can reinvigorate and inspire us. My challenge to you this spring is to look outside of yourself, find something new and beautiful and to find someone to share it with.
I know this sounds a little bit odd, but I've always found beauty in rocks. And no, I'm not talking about sparkling diamonds and precious gems (although I appreciate these too, of course). I'm talking about the ordinary rocks that we see throughout our valley. The slate that shows up as gray, blue, purple, even green layers streaking through the highway road cuts has a beauty all its own, although its varying shades can be confusing to amateur rock hounds. Interspersed with chunkier blocks of limestone, the shale crumbles effortlessly in your hand, and it's easy to feel strong and powerful as you crumble rocks with your fingers.
But as the shales and limestones crumble and erode, they combine with decaying plant and animal matter to form the foundation for those tiny little spring sprouts. Watch for them. There's no green so amazingly brilliant and full of life such as that of the very first spring leaves. Whether you are watching the first unfurling of the aspen leaf or the persistent pushing of an annual wildflower, that magical merging of sunlight and chlorophyll creates a color that defies description.
What if you're not a visual person? Maybe you're more in tune with the musical side of things? Boy, are you in luck right now. As we get closer to spring, each day brings new songs to the skies around us. Woodpeckers are busy establishing territories, rhythmically hammering out a clear statement of intent — this tree is mine. Other birds sing their songs in a riotous chorus, competing for an audience of females and for the best corner of land. Even late into the night hours, great horned owls can be heard singing the same songs of their daytime compadres, simply a couple of octaves lower.
And if you're a more sensuous person, then perhaps it is the textures in nature that draw you in. The soft brush of a willow bending against your leg as you hike past, the feel of your bare feet sinking in the mud or the fuzziness of a stray down feather might call out to you. Take the time to check out the willow and aspen flowers right now; those fuzzy little caterpillars that dangle from the bare branches are actually soft flowers, complete with a fuzzy parachute to guide each seed gently through the air. Feel the softness and wonder how nature makes such perfection.
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When I was a child, I always looked for sparkly rocks, convinced that I was on the verge of discovering the only true diamond on our school playground. And though I never struck it rich, the excitement for me was really in the journey, that moment where I first saw a sparkle, when youth and idealism combined in a perfect storm of beauty, discovery and potential. See if you can recapture a little of that sense this spring. Find the potential in the river as the waters rush by to their new home, sending rays of sunlight scattering as the waves ripple over rocks and past ducks. There is beauty everywhere, but especially here. Just look for it.
Jaymee Squires is the director of graduate programs at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. Spring is her favorite season and she is already excited watching it unfold.
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