During the pandemic it has been a struggle for many people to find joy in their daily lives. Working from home, self-isolating, being quarantined or worse yet, being sick with COVID 19 has kept people indoors for most of the past few months. We struggle with remaining connected to each other while being physically separated. I have struggled with disconnection and remaining focused on what is good and what brings me joy. Finding the joy in everyday can be a challenge right now. This is an easy time to lose sight of the good, the glorious and the divine in our lives.
As the days pass and the calendar pages turn, we are able to refocus ourselves on how we, as an individual, find joy and what we can do to bring joy in to our everyday lives. February brings with it a fresh air with a fun holiday like Valentine’s Day. Aside from chocolate hearts and red roses, each day brings us closer to the first day of spring on March 20, 2021. The days are getting longer and longer, even if the winter chill remains. By now you’ve watched everything that you’ve wanted to watch on the TV and read your booklist. I have. What is there left to do? Staying home anymore is getting to the point of being mentally taxing for many people. It is for me. Well, luckily for those of us in Southwest Ohio there are many opportunities to enjoy the fresh air and appreciate the beauty in our local area and to immerse ourselves in the glorious and the divine of nature.
Even on a cold day, Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve, can be enjoyed by most people. It is located outside of Urbana, Ohio. Cedar Bog SNP was founded in 1942 as the first in Ohio’s Nature Preserve system and remains one of our state’s gems. It is also a National Natural Landmark. It is 450 acres of boreal & prairie fen. The preserve has a boardwalk system that is wheelchair friendly and flat. After a snow there may be icy patches on the boardwalk, but the boardwalk is in excellent condition and easy to navigate. There is a suggested donation of $5 per adult for entrance.
Anyone can see the beauty of our Preserves in the spring, summer and fall when there are abundant flora and fauna to be seen. In the winter it can be more difficult to find the spectacular beauty that is so obvious in the other seasons. It is there though. Now, in the late winter, if you venture on to the boardwalks of Cedar Bog and you peek in to the trees and in to the leaves that are covering the ground you will see the signs of spring. One of the first wildflowers of the calendar year is pushing up into the world, bringing with it the hope of spring and warmer weather and the hopes of a new year filled with more joy.
Ironically, the first flower of spring isn’t a favorite of many. The symplocarpus foetidus, the eastern skunk cabbage, may not be as glorious as a trillium flower or a ladyslipper orchid, but its scent of skunk spray is distinctive and its deep red bloom is striking. Torn leaves and the flower itself share this skunk oder, but you need to be fairly close to the plant to smell it. This plant melts its way through the winter snow and ice and is part of a small group of thermogenic plants. It’s scent brings early insects to it for pollination thus starting the new life cycle that we associate with spring. From a plant that is less than celebrated comes the first sign of spring and all of its glory.
Why would an eastern skunk cabbage bring someone joy? It is a sign, available in the fens of the Cedar Bog SNP that changes are coming, spring is around the corner and we can hope for warming temperatures and greener days. Finding joy in something nontraditional may seem odd, but these eastern skunk cabbages, to me, are symbolic of the tenacity that all things in nature have, that we as people have, and the beauty that is all around us if we are able to focus ourselves and see it. Our state nature preserve system offers us all access to nature and the gloriousness that she offers. Life is short and stressful. We should all take advantage of the celebrations waiting to be had – especially in our own backyards.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene