Rewards of the simple life.

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life."
~John Burroughs

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking and being thankful for my simple life. It's amazing what having a garden - big or small - can do for your spirit. Sometimes you need to be quiet in nature, in a secret, covered place. And I've not only found this in my backyard, but also at the Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve, which is only 25 minutes from my house.

When I left Nashville, I never thought I'd find another place like Radnor Lake, with its glass-like lake that was a centerpiece for the mulch-covered trails that winded around it. It was my haven in the city (a city that seems like little more than a town now, compared to Dallas…). I've lived in Dallas for almost 4 years, and not until 2 months ago did I discover what I was missing nearby. Cedar Ridge Preserve is like Radnor times ten - with multiple trails and prairie flowers and exotic succulents and birds and cattails and rocky paths winding down cliffs to lead you to bridges over the clearest creeks filled with sandy stones. My friend Bonnie took me there the first time, and we did a trail run that left me practically crippled for a few days but after that, I could not get enough. I've gone back 4 or 5 times now, mostly just by myself to have some quiet, simple time alone in nature.

Sometimes I walk; sometimes I run. On a running day recently, I needed to let off steam and went barreling down the hills at full speed, leaping on my toes down the railroad-tie steps and dodging rocks that could twist an ankle if I wasn't careful. And then, almost involuntarily, I suddenly came to halt when I saw a brilliant flash of blue just ahead on the trail. A bluejay. Fluttering from one tree limb to the other, he welcomed me to his little neck of the woods. I started walking ahead again, slowly, and he was gone.

I continued to meander down the mulch path between the towering trees with limbs that through the years have bent and crisscrossed one another as if to form a cathedral ceiling. The light crept through the "windows" and covered me and the ground with dots of light. It was the best church I had experienced in awhile...

I walked on, and came upon a clearing in the trees, a space where everything opened up to blue sky and the cool breeze hit my face as I found a pocket of sun. I stopped. I stood there with my face pointed upward, letting the sun wash over me. I breathed in deeply to the scent of evergreens and fragrant jasmine. I listened…and there were no sounds from people or cars or interstates. Just the trees peering down on me from up above, waving and showing off their new spring leaves with a swish-swish-swish. It was an August Rush moment.

Sweaty and happy, I finished the trail and made my way to the butterfly garden to cool off. I meandered the gravel path amongst the wildflowers and found a solitary bench in a back corner under a tree. I sat and held my knees to my chest, closed my eyes, and was thankful for a place like this so close to my concrete jungle. It was put here to be enjoyed. It was put here as a reward for those who stop long enough to see the beauty of simple life.