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Gratitude in Alexandria: Huntley Meadows Park

Gratitude in Alexandria expresses gratitude for a natural environment that is easily accessible to all - the wetlands at Huntley Meadows park.

In an area where construction is the norm, the Huntington Metro station services hundreds of work and casual commuters each day, and the plethora of retail establishments keeps everyone well stocked with enough groceries, pet supplies, mattresses, tires, art supplies, clothes, and more, it is no small feat when nature tries to compete for peoples’ attention.

Nature is beautiful in its many forms, but in today’s modern society that emphasizes the next push of technology, software, and apps, it becomes second banana, or even last banana, to material goods that promote temporary happiness in our lives.

I’ve been living in Alexandria, Virginia for nearly nine years and admittedly, I have not paid much attention to nature either.  Not because it is not beautiful or majestic or breathtaking, but quite simply, because I’ve been very busy earning a living and trying to get my creative pursuits off the ground.

Well, let’s just say that life has a clever way of getting you to reprioritize and focus on what is most meaningful.  For me, that turning point came in May of 2006, when I gave birth to my first daughter. 

Ever since then, I have officially stepped off the treadmill of gloom that has been my corporate pursuit of financial happiness.  That change in thinking and lifestyle has posed some problems along the way, but overall, it has improved my life in many ways.

One of the most positive outcomes of quitting my job and having my two daughters has been a different perspective on life and a sincere appreciation for nature.  Our area within southern Alexandria offers many, many opportunities for people to admire nature in its many forms. 

Today, I’d like to express my gratitude for one of the loveliest, most serene, most intriguing nature habitats I’ve ever seen – the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park off of Harrison Lane.

My daughter had the great fortune of having taken a class at Huntley Meadows earlier this year.  Along with my youngest, who thankfully, was in her pre-walking stage at that time, I tagged along and learned a thing or two about the wetlands.

Since then, I have visited the wetlands a few times, most notably in mid-October, along with my cousin from Colombia who is studying biology and knew way more about the wetlands than I did!  The two of us with my youngest in tow in her protective stroller took the loveliest walk along the boardwalk. 

There was little talking, but plenty of gasping as we encountered a snake, lots of interesting animal scat, and the most gorgeous explosions of colors within the foliage.  With every step we took, I took a mental photograph and captured it in the files of my mind, labeled as “nature’s postcards.”  The fall colors really have a way of beautifying nature, and this was certainly the place to be.

I recall with fondness the great education my daughter received during her class, but as the adult, I think I got the better deal. I listened intently to Miss Mel and Miss Brooke who seemed to effortlessly recite facts and trivia knowledge about the muskrats, beavers, egrets, and even the fascinating phantom bugs that could be barely seen with the naked eye.

I loved listening to Miss Mel’s sharp, loud, commanding voice, which clearly indicated she was well rehearsed in the fine art of public speaking and teaching.  Miss Brooke wasn’t too shabby either, effectively engaging a bunch of kids through demonstrations of modeling (of the animals), photos, and live samples of the things we were studying each week.

I am so grateful for all the things I learned from Mel and Brooke and the many other volunteers and staff at Huntley Meadows.  They don’t mind getting the usual boring questions about how to identify poison ivy.  They are really good about indicating the best way to follow the trails.  Their enthusiasm is gripping! Their knowledge is bountiful!

I love the wetlands because it is the perfect non-denominational setting to connect with God and animals along a cleverly built wooden boardwalk that provides easy access to many the nature observer. 

On any given day, you’ll see photographers with their elaborate equipment trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive animals.  You may also see schoolchildren rowdily pointing at the turtle families that always congregate along the fallen logs within the muddied waters.

Whether you marvel at the beauty of the natural environment itself or the education given freely by the wonderful staff and employees, you will have plenty of things to be happy about at Huntley Meadows Park.

I’m grateful not only for the fact that the wetlands exist, but also because their location is perfect for me, allowing my family and many other families easy access to the tucked-away treasures of the wetlands.  I’m also grateful for the time and dedication of the people at the park who are always willing to explain, inform, and educate.

The next day you have a day off from work or the kids have off from school, please consider paying a visit to Huntley Meadows park.  A good walk within the splendor of nature is a great way to recharge your batteries!

What are you grateful for today? Whatever it is, I hope you’ll express it in the comments.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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