The past two months, my view has been markedly different than it is this morning. Outside, at least several inches of snow cover the ground. The sky is grey, blanketing the woods surrounding our house with an introspective mood. A week ago today, I was boarding a plane, leaving Johannesburg for New Hampshire.
The summer months in the Southern Hemisphere start around late October early November. Since moving to the US eighteen years ago, I have often visited my family during mid-summer, usually in December/January. However, the past two years have disrupted what has traditionally been an annual return. When finally, my husband and I were able to travel, we grabbed the opportunity to go. I've been writing a book since mid-2020, and my husband was already telecommuting. The stars had aligned, and we could travel together and stay for a more extended time in South Africa than we have usually been able to in the past.
One of the things I have always enjoyed about traveling to different places is the new or expanded perspectives it provides about the world. Even though I was born in South Africa, I have not lived there for eighteen years. I am more of a tourist now, which in some ways, presents its own unique lens into the country of my birth. When we visit, I am reminded of the incredible beauty of the landscape. From the high altitude of Johannesburg and the high-veld storms to the sea-level vistas along the Cape peninsula, they offer a stark contrast to the forests of white pine trees that are found throughout New Hampshire. I love these contrasts, for they each offer the soul something entirely different. One of my early introductions to wildlife was in the large preserved Kruger National Park. A massive game reserve of over two million hectares, it offers protection for hundreds of wildlife species. Visiting preserved places such as these is one of the most soul-nourishing things I am fortunate enough to do. It's why I love living in the woods.
Like all the other species on the planet, human beings need space to roam, to breathe, and to feel the heart open and expand. Among many issues, the Covid pandemic has highlighted humans' need to be connected with Nature. We are made of the elements, and like a magnet, we are drawn to them in Nature. I've returned from this sojourn feeling refreshed, centered, and refocused.
Traveling far away is not the only way to get out and be in Nature. According to Google, in the United States, there is a vast network of National Parks - 423 of them with a reach of over 80 million hectares! If you like camping, many national parks maintain public campsites. There are botanical gardens and arboretums. There is a national wildlife refuge system and education and rehabilitation centers. If like me, you love birds and bird-watching, there is the National Audobon Society with a list of trails and more. You can even join a local birding chapter.
I've included a few pictures from my recent trip that I hope may inspire you, discovering places near you to get outside and connect with Nature.