Indulge me in a story for a sec.
For one of my jobs, I lead a youth conservation crew (think trailbuilding, planting, restoration work, and the like), and today was one of our “conservation education” days. That can mean a whole host of different things, but today it took the form of an epic bushwhack: my naturalist coworker and I took my crew out into the hinterlands of Oxbow Regional Park and turned them loose, first to ever-so-silently track an elk herd (we saw no elk, but we sure saw a lot of sign), then to trek up to some amazing lava cliffs complete with caves and bushy-tailed woodrats.
Because of the deluge of rain this week, our trek turned out to be way more intense than my coworker or I had planned. A mellow scramble turned into a mudslidestravaganza. We jumped many creeks, scrambling over precarious logs or catching each other as we tried to stick the landings of our leaps. We clambered up slopes hand over foot, practically on all fours, hauling ourselves up by fistfuls of sword fern. At one point, I had to grab one of my crew members who started slipping irreparably down the steep and muddy slope at the base of the lava cliffs we were skirting.
Luckily, everyone stuck with it, found the fun in it, and emerged at the end of the day muddy, battered, tired… and euphorically happy. It was a veritable rite of passage: team building through wilderness adventure juuuuust this side of totally out of their comfort zone. It was awesome.
So by the time I left work, much later than I usually do, I was already feeling pretty damn grateful that this kind of thing gets to be my life.
Then the Springwater, that lovely, nature-y multi-use path. Today was the first day, both this morning and then this evening, that I actually heard frogs in force, not just a frog here and there but a veritable chorus of frogs, fervently looking for mates, making the evening hum with music. I unclipped my foot from my pedal and stopped for a second to listen; then, from just a bit further away: coyotes. First one yip, then a response, then a whole chorus of coyotes to complement the chorus of frogs, one mass throaty hum underpinning the high notes of carnivores.
I stood there for a good, long while, letting it all wash over me. This is my commute! This is my way home! This — this flat-out amazingness — is what I get to see and hear, simply by virtue of the way I travel through the world to get where I need to go!
And then! Can I even handle any more? Maybe a few hundred meters down the trail, right after I re-clipped my foot and set off again, I came up behind not one but four deer in a neat little group. I slowed; they trotted with their little white butts and swishy black tails down the trail in front of me before, one by one, they all sprang — it looks so easy! — over the garish orange “emergency” fence that’s been along the trail for months now, designed to keep people (read: campers) out of the natural area.
Truly, it was magic. And I feel so, so grateful that this is my life, that my mode of transportation gets me out into this, that my work keeps me out in this, that so many waking hours of my life get to be spent outside.
So that’s all. Just feeling grateful. Thank goodness for my bike and my amazing job.