Swapping presents with nature
Dec. 21, 2001
In the very oldest file drawer of our memories lie the records of our opening presents at Christmas. The remembrances were engraved there by intense exhilaration that pervaded those special moments. It may be that we go through life seeking out moments that return us to that state of excitement.
The outdoor enthusiast finds such moments in the woods and waters and skies that call out to him or her endlessly. Once the fortunate have tasted the striped candy canes and the chocolate chip cookies and the warm apple cider of nature's hearth, the treasures of wild places draw us back again and again to a fireside strewn with gifts.
Having pursued and found far more of these presents in far more places than I merit, I can say without reservation that they are among the priceless blessings of my life. And they are countless; scores ever awaiting those who would venture forth and unwrap them.
Often it's the big gifts we go for first – a hike in the Appalachians, a 10 pound bass, a trophy deer, a battle with a giant marlin. On these quests we begin to notice the little gifts – hickory tree leaves that blind us with a golden glow, flowers the size of match heads that pop up in thawing February leaf mold, spiders and their webs, foxfire.
This gift business, as Christmas so appropriately reminds us, has another side to it. It's the giving side. Gift getting, as one of life's highlights, rates up there a little short of gift giving. Thus outdoor lovers who reach a degree of maturity in their pursuits are rightly moved to give something back. When one stops a moment to consider a Christmas gift list for the outdoors, the possibilities are many.
We can push for game management strategies and laws that enhance many forms of wildlife and preserve wild places. We join the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Ducks Unlimited and other groups that raise money and put it to work for the betterment of wildlife.
We can take a youngster, a future benefactor of nature, hunting or fishing or hiking or canoeing or camping, and thus foster an eventual caretaker. We extol the virtues of the outdoors through conversation and writing to help build a "fan base" for nurturing wildlife.
Wiping nature's face
A stream side trail or woods road cleared of refuse thoughtlessly left by careless visitors is a small gift we can give wild places and those who will linger there. Likewise, being careful ourselves not to leave trash or scars on the faces of the outdoors is a practice that shows our respect and qualifies as a gift to nature.
Christmas, with its flurry of giving and receiving gifts, reminds us of the Supreme Gift, and likewise a host of other gifts that come our way. One of my favorites among the many, is the part of this world we call nature, with its wonders that we cannot count in an entire lifetime. The spiritual origin of nature's great gifts kindles reciprocation.
Gift-giving season is a good time to take stock of nature's bounty, and its components that could use a helping hand from us, the ones who have received so much.
Note: Autographed copies of Otha Barham's book of 55 true outdoor stories, "Here Where We Belong." are available for $11.22 each from Old Ben Publications, 3100 38th Street, Meridian, MS 39305. Add $1.85 shipping – $0.50 each additional copy – and Mississippi residents add $0.78 tax. Phone 482-4440 for local pickup or delivery.