Wordless Wednesday: Lilypads

Lilypads

Lilypads and hills

Lilypads II


Reminiscing about Napa Valley. Taken in May 2012.

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Humbled by nature


It seems strange that I should feel optimistic in fall, when all around things are changing and falling and landing softly on the ground.

But I do.

We went on a little field trip to a local park over the weekend — and I’ll be showing you the photographic mementos of that trip tomorrow! But for today? I was standing beneath these too-tall trees, craning my neck as far back as it would go. And it was not enough.

Just like the redwoods, it’s impossible to take in the enormity of nature until you’re standing beneath it. Quiet. Humbled. That’s been the theme of my 2012: Humbled By Nature. (Catchy — sounds like a band or something.) I’ve been waxing poetic about the great outdoors since we went to California in May, and I haven’t stopped thinking about Yosemite.

I’m finally learning, at 27, that my happiness directly correlates to the amount of sunshine on my skin. Fresh air in my lungs. New sights, smells and scenery to enjoy. Whether my camera is glued to my palm. And to my surprise, I like being outside. Even when I’m wearing inappropriate footwear.

Though I’m really getting better about that. I’m in sneakers most of the time — a fact that would horrify my once-fashionable and often barefoot self. But it’s not easy to scale hills, walk beaches and sunflower fields, skid on ice or scramble over rocky shoreline in flats or sandals.



Guess I really am growing up.


Just another day at Yosemite


What could I possibly say about Yosemite National Park that far more talented people haven’t already offered?

That’s how I feel thinking about Yosemite: speechless. Tiny. Powerless. A speck in the universe — one small person, a woman trying to hold up her chin in the shadows of something so much larger than myself. Of all the places we visited in California, all beautiful, it was Yosemite that made the biggest impression on me.

In the weeks since we returned home, I’ve found myself incessantly Googling the park and its waterfalls. I wrote a column about it for the paper. Yosemite is now my screensaver. My precious photos are stacked in folders so I can look at them often, remembering our all-too-brief time in the park. It flashed by in an instant.

Once we made it to Yosemite Valley, a perilous drive on our tour bus from Tioga Pass, Spencer and I practically ran from our group to see Yosemite Falls. I’m a wee bit obsessed with cataracts . . . and I guess that’s an understatement. I’m a waterfall chaser. If there’s rushing water to be found, I will seek it out — and photograph the heck out of it (see: my long-standing fascination with Niagara Falls). I’m most happy standing by the roar of falling water with spray dusting my shoulders.

So how did Yosemite Falls measure up? Very, very well. After walking an easy path up to the base of the lower falls, I could only stand in awe. It’s cliche, I know, but sometimes you can’t look up into the face of Mother Nature and think anything but, “Wow.”



I’m not outdoorsy. I hate bugs, can’t bear the thought of using the restroom outdoors, need a clean bed and pillow on which to rest at night. I don’t swim or hike or climb things. Generally speaking? I’m pretty lazy. I don’t like getting sweaty and am pretty annoying when I’m hot and thirsty.

But put a waterfall sighting within my grasp and I’ll be bumping tourists off paths through sheer determination alone.

Waterfalls aside, Yosemite is a truly magical place. Just driving around on a bus left me awestruck, staring out the windows at scenes like this:



I mean, really.

I’m going to be honest with you: since returning home to Maryland, I’ve thought about why I live on the East Coast. My answers are vast and varied, starting and ending — most importantly — with the fact that Washington, D.C., is my home. The only place I’ve ever lived. The only place I’ve ever known, and where my family and friends are. It’s where I work. Where I’ve started my career. Where I’ve built relationships. It’s where Spencer is.

But sometimes when we travel — taking in other vistas, other views — it’s easy to imagine yourself somewhere else, doing something else. Like building a camp and squatting illegally in a national park, say. Living off the land. Photographing streams. Scaling cliff faces and wandering the Sierra Nevada — a miniature (and female) John Muir.

Sometimes places call to you, grabbing your hand and refusing to let go.

I’ll always remember holding Spencer’s hand as we walked to the base of that waterfall. And my heavy, heavy heart as we turned to go.



Seeking green spaces


Spencer gets the credit for really introducing me to the woods.

Growing up in rural Western New York, my boyfriend has fond memories of playing on the family property and appreciating the great outdoors with his family. While I was eating ice cream and watching Nickelodeon as a kid in suburban Maryland, Spence was disappearing behind trees and digging up the backyard. He likes to camp, builds stuff (like bonfires) — and I consider him pretty rugged. Me? I’m more of a whiny, wilting flower.

Though air conditioning and running water are my friends, I’m coming to appreciate the splendor of being outside. Of stepping out of florescent lighting and getting real sun on my skin. Of turning off my phone (okay, who am I kidding — putting my phone on silent) and soaking up the moment. Working a standard 9-to-5 office schedule, I don’t get moving much . . . so when the weekend rolls around, I get antsy if I’m cooped up the whole time. I like slathering on sunscreen and wandering out with my camera.

So we go to parks now. Spencer introduced me to walking through Southern Maryland, my home of more than two decades, and we’ve found places I never knew existed. All that greenery helps me step beyond my own head — part of some much-needed perspective. I love walking through green spaces now, even seeking them out. When Lu took my sister and me to Washington Square Park in Manhattan weeks back, I could barely take in all the gorgeousness.

Sunlight and nature? They make you feel alive. Took me a while to learn what others have known forever, but sometimes that’s the way with me.


Lu and me in Washington Square Park


Spence in his favorite woods