By Deb Lahey, President & CEO, Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
I’m never more grateful for the gifts of nature than during the approach to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Our Midwest Thanksgivings are accentuated by the profound season change to autumn, featuring abundant harvests, wildlife preparing for winter and leaves changing color then dropping along with the temperature. The holiday brings our relationships into focus through nature’s lens and through family gatherings.
Anticipating family time and pausing to express gratitude for one another and our blessings affirms our feelings of connectedness. In our family, it also affirms a connection to nature. Even with our children now all adults, our family gatherings and adventures usually find us outdoors in nature — playing, exploring, watching, reflecting, or running in a Turkey Trot. It just feels good to be outdoors.
Our Thanksgiving celebration and meal is generally followed by a stroll outdoors, much as we did when I was growing up in Chicago’s west side where my police officer father connected to nature through his garden. He loved growing and harvesting the vegetables, and faithfully prepared the soil for its dormant, winter rest. He did so with appreciation and anticipation of spring planting.
Wherever you spend the holiday, a nature connection is not far away. Take a stroll outdoors. You may be rewarded by hearing the distinctive trill of sandhill cranes on their migration south. This week is expected to be the peak time for these large, highflyers to pass over Chicago. Many other birds, such as robins, are gathering in groups in preparation to migrate or are busy eating as many berries as seeds as possible to “bulk up” for winter.
Notice nature. For example, watch squirrels scurrying around lawns and parks, busily stocking up on fallen seeds and nuts. Pause to notice the trees in your neighborhood. Most are nearly leafless and reveal the tangles of branches and limbs reaching skyward. Watch and listen with appreciation for nature’s stories.
Like the connections we foster with our family and friends by spending time together, our connection to nature grows stronger through the time we spend in it.
May you and your family deepen your connections and share in the abundance of nature’s gifts that we gratefully share. Happy Thanksgiving.