On Being Thankful for Nature's Gifts

This morning, friend Amy Christensen of Expand Outdoors posed a question on her blog about gifts from nature. As far as gifts go, hers is, without a doubt, the ability to ask questions that force me to think more critically and more openly than I ever thought possible. She's certainly got me thinking before, and this time is no exception. I took some time today to reflect on those of nature's gifts I'm most thankful for, and narrowed it down those I thought were most meaningful.

Thanks to nature, I understand the true meaning of "awestruck". Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, Mount Rainier, and everything in between taught me that. The landscapes take my breath away. They awaken a longing, a sadness, buried under my seemingly silly obsessions and worries.The feeling is an addiction; as soon as I'm away, the only thing I can think of is how to get it back.

Thanks to nature, I've put a new definition to what it means to be challenged. Outdoor sports (climbing, mountaineering, wilderness backpacking and hiking) have humbled and fascinated me. I've been petrified and exhilarated all at the same time, every time. Despite the fear, I keep going back. I want to learn, grow, and accept the fear as part of being human.

Nature gives me an escape with a purpose. It's not just about being distracted from life's everyday responsibilities; television can accomplish that. It's about leaving everything else behind, immersing myself in and becoming completely aware of my surroundings. Even when I'm on a hike, I'll have to force myself to pay complete attention and to stay present. When I'm able to completely focus on the smells, sounds, and sights, it's unlike any other release.

Nature forces all of us to be creative, think critically, learn and grow. In Alaska, I was fascinated by the need for an engine block heater and studded tires on my car. The concept of building a house, a hotel, or a high rise on such a volatile landscape was incredible. The terrain constantly shifts, and if we're going to inhabit place like it, we've got to adapt. That need for adaptation is exciting, and the constant challenges fascinate me.

The kindred spirits I've found make me feel constantly thankful. Through nature, I've discovered passionate friends I never knew I could have.

Thanks to nature, I'm reminded of how small I am, and that there's more to the world than just me. Than just us. Than just my apartment, my car, my job, the noise, and the hustle and bustle of life.

If you've got gifts from nature you're thankful for, post them in the comments section and be sure to let Amy know what they are, too!