|Avalon Pond, Everett Crowley Park.|
our yard, with two of our three parrots sitting on me...at the same time, I'm scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed on my iPhone.
I come upon a post in a group I belong to, "The Best Reasons for You to Walk in a Park," by Erin Acton. Now it turns out Wednesday was "National Take a Walk in a Park Day" (yes, there is such a day, I looked it up, there are plenty of websites dedicated to the topic.) I start reading the blog post, watching her video, and it start to resonate with me.
I'd been having a bad week, no, make that a bad week-and-a-half up to that point, one of those weeks where nothing seems to work or go one's way. It was starting to get depressing. But Erin's well-sourced suggestions about how a walk in nature, getting out in nature, can really help alleviate stress, struck a chord in me.
Not that I didn't know that already, but it's like I needed a nudge, a reminder, that taking a few hours out of the day to go for a walk, aside from the physical health benefits, offers larger benefits for the soul.
It's like I forgot what Henry David Thoreau wrote in his treatise, "Walking" on the matter:
“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day, at least... sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements."
|Thoreau and Emerson had it right.|
So I packed up my camera and tripod, and headed off to Everett Crowley Park, a 40-hectare park barely a five-minute drive from where I live, less than 500 metres from busy SE Marine Drive in Vancouver. I've been there before, but hadn't visited since 2008.
It has changed a little; there is an additional trail that has been cut, parallel to an existing one. One of the things I do remember is a lookout along the Vista Trail, which provides a view of the Fraser River, less than a kilometre to the south. When I was last there eight or nine years ago, that portion of the river was all trees and other greenery; it's now all buildings and development along the shoreline. A bit sad, since I don't necessarily agree that's "progress." So far, the walk wasn't really lifting my spirits as I'd hoped it might.
But, I persisted on and a few minutes later down the trail, the magic of nature started to re-emerge.
I heard a woodpecker hammering away on a tree nearby. I located it, high overhead. Then I heard a chirping in the brush near the trail, the unmistakable sound of a hummingbird. Never managed to spot it, though.
Then still higher overhead, a hawk glided by, returning in the opposite direction a few minutes later.
Further along the trail, off to the left about 30 metres away sat a hawk on a tree branch. Of course, the bird flew away before I could get set up to shoot some photos, but it was still magical.
Eventually, I made my way over to Avalon Pond at the northeast corner of the park. There were always ducks there - usually mallards - and I'd even seen a heron there, once, high up in a tree.
The mallards were there...and so were a pair of mated buffleheads.
|A male bufflehead patrols the pond.|
Buffleheads are really cool diving ducks. Smaller than mallards and very unique looking. Plus, it's just a cool word to say - "bufflehead."
Try it. Say it out loud a few times. It almost sounds like the kind of insulting name Bugs Bunny would call Daffy Duck in the old Loony Tunes cartoons.
But it's not - it's the common name for Bucephala albeola. A friend of mine calls them "saddle shoe ducks," which gives you an idea of what they look like, if you didn't already know.
Anyway, I tried shooting some photos and video from a trail that ran alongside the pond, then found a spot at one end where I could sit down a log, set up my tripod in an easy-access position and took the better part of an hour watching them swim and dive back and forth among the mallards. I even got a few good shots.
Letting go, breathing - really breathing - I could feel a sense of peace and perspective start to take root in my being. I noticed some of the songbirds flitting about in the bushes around me. I spotted several hummingbirds and out of the corner of my eye a larger bird dodging about in the hardwoods 50 yards away (maybe a pileated woodpecker?)
That two hours I spent did wonders for me - other responsibilities kept me from a four-hour sojourn as Dr. Thoreau prescribed - got me back on the rail properly, which I was in danger of falling off (and with the fall, could a potential train-wreck be far off?)
Walking back to my car, doing some shopping for groceries, talking with people I met - it all just seemed better, following my walk.
While I enjoy watching the visitors to the birdfeeders in our yard immensely, sometimes a walk rewards one with different kinds of benefits. I resolved not to let it get to this point again, to take time to re-connect with nature via a walk in the woods, not just from my living room window.
And next time, I don't think I'll wait another eight years to go back to that little park that can offer such a balm for my soul.
|Trail map for Everett Crowley Park.|